Fantasy Baseball: Boston's lineup wakes up, offering new pickup options

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Fantasy baseball analyst Scott Pianowski highlights Thursday's big headlines. For his breakdown of Chicago Cubs intriguing rookie Christopher Morel, click here.

I don’t think the 2022 Red Sox are going anywhere, not with that messy pitching staff. But it’s fun to see the offense finally showing up. Boston is on a 8-2 streak over the last 11 days, all of it driven by offense. The Red Sox have 71 runs over that stretch.

You know who the big kids are in this lineup. Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts have been great all year, and Trevor Story is on a monster tear (eight homers, three steals in his last 10 games). These guys are going to dent the Monster with regularity.

Perhaps there’s room for deeper options to join the fantasy fun. Alex Verdugo ripped four hits Thursday and is a .333/.371/.455 stick over the last week. I’ve always felt he could be a .285-20-85 type of player. Christian Vazquez hasn’t shown much power, but a .279 average at catcher is a plus, and this lineup should offer run buoyancy.

Christian Vazquez and Alex Verdugo are both worth a closer look in fantasy baseball leagues. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Christian Vazquez and Alex Verdugo are both worth a closer look in fantasy baseball leagues. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

And although Enrique Hernandez does not have the skill set of a typical leadoff hitter, he’s still parked in the No. 1 slot more often than not. And despite a puny .200 average and .268 OBP, Hernandez has been a run producer — 24 scored, 20 driven in. If he stays healthy, I still expect 100 runs here.

Verdugo, Hernandez, and Vazquez have all been added 500 times or more in Yahoo leagues Friday morning as I assemble this piece. Location, location, location.

The case for Johnny Cueto

I don’t know where the Johnny Cueto story is going, but it’s nice to have him back.

The White Sox need Cueto, to be fair. Dallas Keuchel can’t miss anyone’s bat these days. Lance Lynn is on the injured list. Vince Velasquez has an ERA over 5, pushing him out of the rotation last week.

Cueto’s worked six innings in both of his starts, and hasn’t allowed a run yet. He dodged eight baserunners against the Yankees, but was more efficient against Kansas City. It hashes out to four walks, 12 strikeouts.

Cueto’s fastball is actually up a tick from last year, though his swinging-strike rate is at an all-time low. When he has to work in the zone, batters make contact. But there’s also something to be said for guile, and Cueto’s bumped his chase rate through these two starts.

Maybe the 36-year-old Cueto belongs in the conditional streamer pile for the moment. The Cubs are a neutral draw Saturday. After that come the Rays and Dodgers, matchups that worry you. The shallow and medium-mixed crew can watch Cueto from the sidelines, but I’ll maintain an open mind in my deeper pools.

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Christian Walker, David Peralta slugging in Arizona

I don’t spend much time auditing the Arizona lineup. The Diamondbacks are one of those teams that was basically eliminated from playoff contention on Opening Day. Arizona is 19th in runs, 29th in average, 20th in OPS. Other than Daulton Varsho — the glorious catcher-eligible producer who isn’t burdened with everyday catching — there isn’t much gold here.

But maybe I’ve undersold a couple of guys. Christian Walker and David Peralta are modern hitters, take-and-rake guys, batters who will strike out a ton but still produce respectably. Although Walker is batting just .204 and Peralta is at .226, we have to see the whole picture. They both have a bunch of walks and notable power, which is why Walker’s OPS+ sits at 119 (100 is league average) and Peralta checks in at 117.

Walker has 12 homers, and has batted cleanup all year. Peralta doesn’t do much against lefties, but if you can skim him against the right-handed world, we’re looking at a .250/.323/.518 hitter, an asset for anyone’s lineup.

Walker is rostered in about a third of Yahoo leagues. Peralta lags at a modest eight percent. Eight of Arizona’s next nine opponents are right-handed, for what it’s worth.

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