If you’re a fan of an out-of-market team like I am, you can appreciate the effort it takes to see your team live and in-person. For me, this past weekend meant driving over 1,000 miles each way to catch my Braves taking on the Diamondbacks for three games in Phoenix. A quick check of the map will tell you that it’s actually a shorter distance from Dallas to Atlanta than it is out to the desert, but when you’ve got parents who are season-ticket holders to the D-Backs, the logistics make it much easier to go west, young man.
This was the first time in a few years that I had gotten to see the Braves play, and there was plenty to chop about. Over the course of the series, Heyward, Freeman and Justin Upton all went yard, but the highlight of the series was seeing Craig Kimbrel set the franchise’s all-time save record (155) on Friday night (he subsequently blew the save the next night). Paul Goldschmidt also hit a mammoth shot on Sunday to help the D-Backs take two of three, so the stars were definitely out and shining bright.
Fantasy owners don’t need me to expound on the exploits of these guys. We all know how good they are. Fortunately, there were a few other developments that caught my eye that owners in deeper fantasy leagues need to know about. The three players below all had their moments in this series and have all flourished since being brought up to their respective big league teams. They deserve a little illumination and we’ll be the ones to give it to them.
Chase Anderson, SP: Five starts. Five wins. That’s all Anderson has done since being brought up from AA-Mobile a month ago. Now, Anderson did toss a clunker against the Dodgers in his second start (5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER) but I’ll counter that with a gem he turned in at Coors Field on June 3 (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 K). Fact is, despite their awful start, the Diamondbacks have been playing better baseball as of late and Anderson is both a reason why and standing to benefit from it. In case you haven’t noticed, Arizona still sits sixth in the NL in runs. A team ERA of 4.40 (next to last in the NL) has been the main reason behind their cellar dwelling status in the NL West, but if Anderson can give them numbers like he has (3.14 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), he gives the D-Backs a great shot to win every fifth day.
So why has a guy who’s started this strong gone so under the radar? Simply go back to last year and Anderson’s numbers at AAA-Reno. A 5.73 ERA and 1.59 WHIP make it hard to trust any pitcher, let alone one who had never pitched in the majors. One of the major culprits was his 3.4 BB/9 rate. But in his five starts for Arizona, Anderson has brought that number down to 2.2 per 9. This is important considering he has been prone to the gopher ball (5 in 28.2 IP), not surprising when you call Chase Field home. Ensuring those long balls remain solo shots will be crucial for Anderson going forward, but he makes for a good matchups play and starter in NL-only leagues right now. Ride the hot hand as long as you can.
Tommy La Stella, 2B: At this point, the book on La Stella is pretty well-known. Ben Bruno gave you a good idea of what to expect from the Braves young second baseman, and for the most part I concur with him. If you’re looking for HR or SB from a middle infielder, La Stella just isn’t your play. But there is value to be had here, especially if your league uses OBP. La Stella never had a season in the minors with an AVG under .293 or an OBP under .384, and in a handful of games with Atlanta, he’s continued that trend (.357 AVG, .400 OBP). The key to unlocking his full fantasy value comes in how the Braves choose to deploy him.
Atlanta has a huge hole in their lineup. Heyward is locked into the leadoff spot, and most days you’ll find Freeman, J. Upton, Gattis and Johnson occupying the 3-4-5-6 spots. But the 2-hole has been a nightmare for the Braves all season long. Optimally, you want another guy with a strong OBP to set the table for those run producers. Fredi Gonzalez has stuck with B.J. Upton and his .209/.283/.338 triple slash through thick and thin, and there’s been a whole lot of thin so far. It’s time to move on. La Stella needs to be hitting second for the Braves sooner rather than later. You’ll have to keep a close eye on the situation. La Stella did get bumped up to fifth this past Thursday at Coors Field, but that was an afternoon game with a lot of regulars sitting. When, not if, but when La Stella does get the opportunity to hit higher in the lineup on a more permanent basis, his potential for runs and even RBI to an extent jumps exponentially and so will his value. File this one away for future use, owners.
David Peralta, OF: In yet another case of burying the lead, Peralta was the one guy who caught my eye more than all the rest. I’m not sure it’s possible to be any more unheralded than Peralta was when he was called up from AA-Mobile on June 1 to replace the injured A.J. Pollock, but all he’s done is record a hit in eight of 10 games including five multi-hit games and drop a triple slash of .333/.333/.487 in that time. The only thing better than Peralta’s start to his big league career is the circuitous route he took to get there.
Peralta actually started out as a pitcher in the Cardinals’ farm system in 2006, but numerous shoulder surgeries derailed the young Venezuelan’s career until he was released in 2009. Upon realizing he would never be able to pitch, he made himself an outfielder and worked the independent circuit until an Arizona scout caught wind of him and signed him last year. Pollock’s injury opened the door for the 26-year old and he’s made the most of his opportunity.
Normally with players getting a recent call-up, I’d point you in the direction of minor league stats as justification of what to expect. While Peralta had a productive year in the D-Backs system in 2013 and a strong start in 2014, I lean more toward the eye test in this instance. His compact swing and ability to spray the ball will serve him well, but he does have some legitimate power as well. His first big league home run came off Aaron Harang this past Sunday and it was no cheapie. He took the Braves’ starter to the deepest part of Chase Field with a 427-foot bomb.
Peralta has shined while both Pollock and Mark Trumbo have been out of the lineup and will continue to get his opportunities until July when Trumbo is expected back. Even then, Peralta looks to have played himself into a regular role with the team as discussions about who will be moved to make room for Trumbo are centered around Ender Inciarte and now Cody Ross. But with the state of the Diamondbacks outfield in flux for the short-term, Peralta is certainly worth following as he continues to impress in the desert.
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