Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez has been a ton of fun to own in fantasy this season, as he enters the weekend the No. 10 hitter on the ESPN Player Rater, quite a feat for a 12th-round choice on average in ESPN live drafts. Gomez is also leading the entire National League in Wins Above Replacement and just a hair behind Mike Trout for overall honors, a testament not only to his offensive breakout, but defensive prowess.
It was that defensive ability that might have seriously injured the valuable Gomez on Thursday, when he robbed Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips of extra bases on a leaping grab at the center-field wall, but fell awkwardly and hurt his knee. Gomez told reporters, “The doctor says he doesn't think it's something bad, but the way I feel is different. I feel a lot of pain." Tests Friday will determine how much time Gomez will miss, but fantasy owners should prepare themselves for disappointing news. Gomez has 18 home runs and 30 stolen bases, but perhaps what’s most surprising is the .289 batting average. Gomez is a career .254 hitter.
The nightmare season for the Brewers continues, as first baseman Corey Hart never played, Ryan Braun played some before accepting a suspension and Aramis Ramirez has hit a mere five home runs. Logan Schafer replaced Gomez in center field, but he hasn’t done much in 2013. Milwaukee scored one run Thursday, thanks to a Khris Davis home run. Davis, a right-handed hitter with perhaps more power than originally believed, and modest plate discipline, also homered Tuesday at Texas, and last week in San Francisco. That’s three blasts in five starts. He’s not starting every night, but that could change and while he has looked a bit overmatched so far, striking out in a third of his plate appearances and seeing few pitches, he’s a guy to watch. Eight of his 12 hits have gone for extra bases, five of them home runs.
In terms of available outfielders to potentially replace Gomez, Robbie Grossman, Will Venable, Darin Ruf, Jon Jay, Kole Calhoun, Christian Yelich, Justin Maxwell, Corey Dickerson, Oswaldo Arcia, Michael Saunders, Juan Lagares, L.J. Hoes, J.B. Shuck, Gerardo Parra and Jonny Gomes are all among the top 50 outfielders on the Player Rater over the past 15 days, but are also available in more than half of ESPN standard leagues. Of that group, Venable offers the best power/speed combination, though as with Gomez in the past, batting average is generally a problem. It’s mid-August, take what you can get!
Box score bits (NL): The St. Louis Cardinals and fantasy owners welcomed back Yadier Molina on Thursday. The top catcher on the Player Rater when he was hurt, and now just a hair behind Joe Mauer and Buster Posey, Molina is healthy after a short DL stint for a knee injury. He went hitless in five at-bats. Ignore that performance and activate Molina immediately. … Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn permitted eight hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings Thursday, as his ERA rose to 3.89. The inconsistent Lynn is tough to figure; he has won 13 games and has a solid strikeout rate, but his ERA and WHIP aren’t special. By the way, Lynn has the best run support of any NL starting pitcher. … Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay threw six innings for the organization’s Gulf Coast League team Thursday, allowing three runs, six hits and three walks. Thursday’s numbers tell us little; Halladay did not have great velocity or command. Regardless, do not expect Halladay to pitch in the majors in August, and there are no guarantees in September. … New York Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler fanned 12 San Diego Padres over six innings Thursday, needing 115 pitches to do so. We know the guy is good, but 115 pitches for a rookie in his 11th start? It seems unnecessary. I think he makes roughly five more starts. … San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt homered again Thursday, his fourth in a week. He also has hit safely in 10 consecutive games. This isn’t a top-10 first baseman, but he should be owned in a lot more than a third of ESPN standard leagues. And he shouldn’t have to worry about playing time!
Box score bits (AL): Los Angeles Angels infielder Chris Nelson bashed two home runs Thursday, knocking in five. Resist the urge to add the guy, even though he’s playing regularly. His infield teammate Grant Green, however, who singled and doubled, is more interesting for fantasy purposes. Green has five hits in two games and middle-infield power upside. … New York Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes fell to 4-12 Thursday, allowing three Angels runs in six innings. Talk about a guy who needs a new home. With his fly ball rate, though, it needs to be San Diego. … Speaking of fly balls, the Yankees signed Mark Reynolds Thursday, probably to platoon with Lyle Overbay at first base. Reynolds was terrific in April, hitting .301 with eight home runs. From May 1 on, he hit .186 with seven home runs. Don’t bother. … New Royal Emilio Bonifacio started at third base Thursday, but the team expects Mike Moustakas, who has hit better of late, to return from a calf injury Friday. Bonifacio singled and stole his 13th base, incidentally, but he’s not likely to play regularly. … Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb came off the DL Thursday and tossed five excellent innings, allowing one run and three hits. Cobb hadn’t pitched in two months since a line drive struck his head, and it’s great to see him back. Activate him for next week. … Another exciting youngster is Oakland Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray. A beautiful spot starter option against Houston Thursday, he fanned nine in eight shutout innings. Gray is worth keeping even against better offenses.