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Opportunity Knocks: MLB fantasy transaction analysis June 8 - June 15

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Summarizing all of the fantasy relevant transactions and trends that took place last week. We also take a closer look at Giovanny Urshela, who has taken over the third base job in Cleveland.

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries, Trades, Promotions, Demotions from June 8 - June 15...

AL East:

  • Blue Jays recalled RHP Scott Copeland to make a spot start on Wednesday and he made a nice impression (7 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, 4 K). Low 90's sinkerballer with an average slider and changeup. And now he's returning with news that Aaron Sanchez is headed to the 15-day DL.
  • Orioles placed RHP Miguel Gonzalez on the 15-Day DL which opens a rotation spot back up to RHP Mike Wright in the short term.
  • Orioles selected the contract of OF Nolan Reimold. Could be a sleeper to watch as the once promising outfielder is fully healthy for the first time in over three years and has an opportunity to contribute with the lack of production the O's have received in LF this year.
  • Rays placed RHP Jake Odorizzi on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain and recalled RHP Matt Andriese from AAA. John gave him a Grade C+ heading into 2015, noting a solid 4-pitch mix that plays up his 88-92 MPH fastball due to strong command and pitch sequencing and profiles as a back of the rotation type.
  • Yankees activated SS Brendan Ryan from the 15-day DL and optioned INF Jose Pirela to AAA.
  • Yankees placed LHP Andrew Miller on the 15-day DL which means setup man Dellin Betances will take over the closer role.
  • Yankees optioned OF Ramon Flores to AAA and recalled once highly regarded prospect OF Mason Williams from AAA. He has opportunity to see some extended playing time with Jacoby Ellsbury still on the mend. John dropped him to a Grade C in the 2015 book, noting he hasn't hit well in two years with dwindling power but has improved his baserunning and is a solid defensive outfielder with a chance to stick in a reserve role.
  • RHP Ivan Nova began his rehab assignment which likely means Adam Warren's rotation spot is in jeopardy.

AL Central:

  • Indians called up 3B Giovanny Urshela who has a golden opportunity to try to stake his claim to the third base gig with struggling 3B Lonnie Chisenhall demoted. Batting .250/.333/.348 with a HR in his first six games. More on him below.
  • Indians also called uber-prospect SS Francisco Lindor from AAA. Lindor was batting .281/.348/.399 down at AAA. John had him as one of his a Grade A prospects in the 2015 book.
  • Tigers demoted struggling RHP Shane Greene to AAA. Good thing they have RHP Justin Verlander ready to step in. He made his season debut on Saturday (5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K).
  • Twins optioned SS Danny Santana to AAA which has opened the door for INF Eduardo Escobar to see regular playing time at shortstop. Escobar has a respectable .328 wOBA over his the last 14 days.
  • Twins placed OF Aaron Hicks on the 15-day DL and called up uber-prospect OF Byron Buxton to the majors. Buxton, another Grade A prospect from the 2015 book, was hitting .283/.351/.489 with 6 HR and 20 SB in 59 games at AA.
  • Twins also recalled hulking young 1B Kennys Vargas from AAA. 

AL West:

  • Athletics optioned RHP A.J. Griffin to AAA. With the current Athletics backend starters performing well, Griffin serves as the go-to depth option if needed opines A's Nation.
  • Here's a well kept secret. Mark Canha has posted a .448 wOBA over the last two weeks of play and has been seeing time in the two-hole in recent A's lineup cards.
  • Angels called up 3B Kyle Kubitza from AAA and DFA'd OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis. John gave him a B- in the 2015 book, noting solid gap power and ability to draw walks and while not a future star has a chance at being a productive regular down the road.
  • Mariners DFA'd Rickie Weeks and recalled RHP Danny Farquhar. The M's also sent OF Justin Ruggiano outright to AAA.
  • Rangers activated 1B/OF Kyle Blanks from the 15-day DL. He makes a nice play against LHP as he typically bats cleanup.
  • With uber-prospect SS Carlos Correa up in the bigs, the Astros sent down SS Jonathan Villar as the corresponding roster move. Correa has been batting in the two-hole versus lefties.

NL East:

  • Braves activated OF Kelly Johnson from the 15-day DL and optioned OF Joey Terdoslavich to AAA. Johnson boasts a surprisingly strong .344 wOBA and .244 ISO against RHP this year. Something to keep in mind if the Braves face any gas cans this week.
  • Braves called up LHP Dava Eveland and DFA'd RHP Trevor Cahill.
  • Marlins activated RHP Mat Latos from the 15-day DL and he looked like the Latos of old on Saturday (7 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 11 K).
  • Marlins called up former opening day second baseman Derek Dietrich from AAA. Dietrich was hitting .260/.357/.458 with 7 HR at AAA.
  • Marlins also recalled RHP Steve Cishek from AAA.
  • Captain Kirk is back on the Mets. They reclaimed OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis off waivers from the Angels.
  • Mets activated 2B Dilson Herrera and C Travis d'Arnaud from the 15-day DL and optioned C Anthony Recker and INF Danny Muno back to AAA. Both Herrera and d'Arnaud homered yesterday so that's fun.
  • Mets also activated RHP Bobby Parnell who underwent Tommy John surgery 14 months ago.
  • Nationals placed 1B Ryan Zimmerman on the 15-day DL, opening up increased playing time to Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson.
  • Nationals called up OF Matt Den Dekker. They also transferred OF Nate McLouth to the 60-day DL.
  • Phillies recalled once-promising OF Dominic Brown from the minors and optioned 1B/OF Darin Ruf to AAA. Brown has hit .257/.307/.352 with just 2 HR at AAA this year.
  • Phillies signed journeyman RHP Kevin Correia to round out their rotation while optioning youngster RHP Severino Gonzalez to AAA. Correia shut down the Pirates in his first outing, to the dismay of many DFS players who stacked the Pirates on Wednesday.
  • So, over the last 14 days, Phillies rookie 3B Maikel Franco has posted a .508 wOBA. He takes on LHP Wei-Yin Chen tonight a flyball pitcher who has allowed the 3rd most home runs to right handed batters. You can thank me later when he separates you from the pack at third base.

NL Central:

  • Cardinals placed RHP Lance Lynn on the 15-day DL with a right forearm strain. This has opened the door for LHP Tyler Lyons to grab an interim spot in the rotation. Lyons has made 4 starts on the year posting a strong 23-6 K/BB ratio in 18 innings despite a 5.00 ERA.
  • Cardinals placed LF Matt Holliday on the 15-day DL with a right quadriceps strain. As a result, Randall Grichuk has started each of the last five games with Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos in a platoon depending on the handedness of the opposing pitcher.
  • Cubs optioned OF Junior Lake to the minors.
  • Cubs signed RHP Rafael Soriano. He's expected to join the team in July.
  • Reds placed SS Zack Cozart on the DL with torn ligaments in his knee. He's done for the season. Tough break. Reds recalled SS Eugenio Suarez to take his place.
  • Reds released RHP Jason Marquis and called up 3B Chris Dominguez.
  • Brewers recalled 2B Scooter Gennett and optioned INF Luis Sardinas to AAA. Gennett spent three weeks at AAA where he hit .307 and looks primed to turn around his early season slump.
    NL West:
  • Diamondbacks called up RHP Allen Webster from AAA. He was acquired in the Wade Miley trade with Boston in the offseason. He picked up the win in his D'backs debut versus the Giants.
  • Giants placed OF Hunter Pence on the 15-day DL.
  • Unless you live under a rock, you likely heard of RHP Chris Heston throwing a no-hitter for the Giants last week. But, had you heard of him prior to this year? Here's a detailed report John did on him back in May.
  • Padres sent struggling 2B Jedd Gyorko to AAA as well as OF Abraham Almonte. The Padres activated OF Wil Myers and the artist formerly known as B.J. Upton from the DL.
  • Rockies activated OF Corey Dickerson from the 15-day DL, to the dismay of any RHP that has the misfortune of facing him at home this week (career .486 wOBA).
  • Rockies also optioned RHP Eddie Butler to AAA and activated RHP LaTroy Hawkins from the DL.

Opportunity Knocks - Let's get to know a little more about these following players...

Kevin Pillar - CF - Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are the hottest team in baseball right now and perhaps the hottest hitter on the team in the month of June has been Pillar. Over his last two weeks, he has batted .381/.400/.548 (.408 wOBA) as the team's starting center fielder. This was supposed to be Top-100 prospect Dalton Pompey's job to lose at the beginning of the season, remember? Instead, Pompey is back in AAA while former 32nd round pick Pillar has quietly started 63 of 64 games this year for Toronto. What's his story?

Despite his lowly draft status out of Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills, Pillar moved quickly through the minors, making his MLB debut in 2013, just two years after he was drafted. He hit over .300 at every level he played at with average power and an aptitude for stealing bases. John rated him a Grade C in 2014 noting he "runs pretty well and has average tools across the board" and while lack of plate discipline got the best of him in his initial MLB trial, "with more adjustment time he could be a useful reserve.

The overall numbers he's posted to date (.252/.288/.362 with 4 HR in 251 PA) still back up that of a useful reserve than an everyday player but his recent success at the plate looks encouraging. He has improved his strikeout rate (16%, down from 23%) and walk rate (4.8%, up from 3.3%) in 2015 and was a victim of low BABIP for the first two months of the season which has corrected itself of late. Pillar has also improved his line drive rate (20%, up from 16%) and is getting the green light more often this year on the basepaths, going 9-for-10 in stolen base attempts. Ultimately, with Pillar getting everyday playing time for the Blue Jays, he should be on your fantasy radar, especially if he keeps up his hot streak at the plate. I wouldn't rule out him finishing the season with something like a .275/.310/.400 line with 10-12 HR and 20-25 SB.

Mike Bolsinger - RHP - Dodgers

One would think the Dodgers rotation ERA leaders would feature aces Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw at the top but that isn't the case, with Bolsinger sandwiched between the two with a nifty little 2.25 ERA on the season, working with a fastball that barely touches 90 MPH. He's also posted an impressive 3.56 SIERA backed up by a solid 23% strikeout rate and 56.5% groundball rate. What's his story?

Well, he was a 15th round senior out of Arkansas in 2010 picked by Arizona and never rated high on Diamondbacks prospect lists. Prior to his first MLB trial with the D'backs in 2014 in which he posted a 5.50 ERA in 52.1 IP, he missed the cut in John's 2014 book. The Dodgers acquired him this offseason simply by purchasing his contract from Arizona. So, yes, how he has pitched his first 8 starts with the Dodgers has been an unexpected revelation to say the least.

Digging deeper into the numbers from last season, you saw a pitcher with a 4.01 FIP, 3.31 xFIP, 3.49 SIERA, 20.2% strikeout rate and 7.1 % walk rate, all promising indicators of future success if you account for regression in his .355 BABIP and 15.9% HR/FB. That's exactly what has happened and a huge reason why is because Bolsinger throws an absolute hammer of a curveball. It's an easy plus pitch for him and Bolsinger has leaned heavier on his plus curveball more than ever this year as he now throws it more than he throws his fastball. Even with the increased usage of the pitch, opponents still struggle to make contact (.165/.232/.205, 32.1% K rate). He's also scaled back the number of straight fastballs he throws, leaning heavily on a cutter that averages 87.5 MPH according to FanGraphs. He's essentially a two-pitch pitcher that pitches off his dynamite curveball, generating plenty of wiffs with the pitch while also inducing plenty of weak contact with his cutter (61.1% GB rate).

Will he keep up this level of dominance and post a sub-3 ERA? Likely not, but most projection systems now view him as a solid mid-rotation starter who should pitch to an ERA in the mid-3's the rest of the way. He's definitely worth a pickup if he's available in one of your fantasy leagues. He's also a steal in DFS baseball at the moment, especially on FanDuel, who had him priced at just 6.4 K yesterday.

Giovanny Urshela - 3B - Indians

As mentioned above, the opportunity has presented itself for Mr. Urshela to start at third base each of the last five games for the Indians with Lonnie Chisenhall demoted. I figured I'd give him a writeup since John had him pegged as one of his "SLEEPER ALERT!" prospects in the 2015 book.

John gave him a Grade B- coming into the year: "I’m really surprised this guy doesn’t get more attention, but Urshela seems almost unknown outside of Indians circles. Signed out of Columbia in 2008, he’s made steady progress through the system and had a fine 2014 season in Triple-A, posting a solid +120 wRC+. His home run power is to the pull side but he can pepper some singles and doubles the opposite way to keep the pitchers honest and his strikeout rate is notably low. His defense at third base is excellent: range, hands, and arm strength all rate at least above-average and he is far more reliable on routine plays than many young infielders. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the range for shortstop but at third he’s a quality asset. I’m not sure how he fits into Cleveland’s plans, but I like him a lot."

Urshela stands in at 6'0", 195 pounds and bats right handed. He likely hasn't received much hype because he doesn't hit for premium home run power, projecting as more of a doubles hitter that might put out 15-20 home runs over a full season. Like John said, he's always shown impressive contact rates and has kept his strikeout rates below 15% at every level he's played at. While he doesn't have a standout bat, he could provide competent production for the position, perhaps as soon as this year as he doesn't have anything left to prove at AAA. Combined with his strong defensive reputation, he has a chance to stake his claim to the position full time. The likelier scenario is he ends up the right handed half of a platoon with Chisenhall if/when he returns. Also, keep him in mind as a punt play on DFS sites this week as he's currently minimum salary on both FanDuel and DraftKings.