Two teams and two players have really demonstrated their strength as of late.
New York Yankees (46-27, 1st Place AL East, +3.5 Game Lead)
I never like giving the Yankees credit, but the way they have played this year with 20+ different IL stints is nothing short of impressive. Guys like D.J. LeMahieu, Luke Voit, and Domingo German have all stepped up in their roles as a big reason as to why the Yankees have possession of first place. The Yanks battled against the 2nd place Rays in the Bronx this week. New York entered the series with a .5 game lead on the Rays, and after the sweep they are now 3.5 games up. They absolutely wiped the floor as they outscored Tampa 21-4 in the series.
Tanaka took the mound on Monday’s game and had no problem striking out ten in what was a complete game two-hitter. Two of the Yanks three runs came from a two-run homer off the bat of D.J. LeMahieu in the 3rd inning, and it was smooth sailing there on out. Giancarlo Stanton played in his first game since April 1st on Tuesday as the Rays looked to bounce back. New York took the second game 6-3. Stanton went 0-4 with two strikeouts in his anticipated return. However, newly-acquired Edwin Encarnacion launched his first homer as a Yankee in the 8th inning, which resulted in a 6-3 victory. Game three was one that the Rays would love to forget about. Reigning CY Young winner Blake Snell struggled big time, pitching through only 1/3 of an inning after 39 pitches and six earned runs. Gary Sanchez ripped his 21st homerun of the season in the 12-1 victory, good for the 2nd most in the American League. Now winners of five in a row and seven of their last ten, the Yankees are heating up yet again.
The Yanks kick off an important four-game series against the Houston Astros tonight, as they look to retain first place in the AL East. Green, Paxton, Tanaka, and Happ are slated as the Yanks starters for the weekend. Sunday night’s battle against Justin Verlander should be their toughest battle of the weekend. The Yanks were only able to put up three runs against Verlander in a 4-3 loss on April 8th in Houston.
Los Angeles Angels (38-37, 4th Place AL West, -10 GB)
The Los Angeles Mike Trout’s have not been in the postseason since 2014. I’m not saying that this is the year they do it, especially because the two wild card teams will probably need 90+ wins to make the playoffs, but they look pretty decent thus far. Mike Trout may be having the best season of his career. He’s slashing .299/.462/.651. That’s good for an OPS of 1.114, which would mark the highest of his career come season’s end. Not to mention he has also hit 22 homers and driven in 56 runs, both which rank 1st in the AL. Trout has a decent supporting cast this year, as guys like Tommy La Stella and David Fletcher have blossomed to be fantastic players.
Winners of seven out of their last ten, the Halos took to Toronto on Monday to face the Blue Jays. Toronto put up a run in the bottom of the 1st, but the Angels quickly pulled away as they put up seven runs in the second frame. Reigning AL ROY Shohei Ohtani smacked a three-run homerun in the 2nd inning. As if a 9-1 lead after five innings wasn’t enough, Trout hit his 20th homerun in the 6th inning, in solo form, to make it 10-1. The Halos took the first game of this four-game series north of the border 10-5. Game two provided miniscule offense as the Angels won 3-1 behind 7 and 1/3 innings including six punch-outs from Tyler Skaggs. Game three was all LA once again. Michael Nelson Trout was at it again going 3-6 with a grand slam and two-run homer in a career-high seven RBI evening. Trout accounted for seven of the Angels 11 runs as they bested the Blue Jays 11-6.
The Angels, now ten games back of the Astros for 1st place in the AL West, will be looking for the four-game sweep tonight in Toronto. The Angels will travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals Friday night in a three-game series over the weekend. When Mike Trout is in his groove, he’s the most difficult man in baseball to stop. He could very well be on his way to winning his 3rd MVP award in six seasons.
Waiver Wire Targets
Scott Kingery (37.5% owned/ESPN)
Scott Kingery was not even guaranteed a roster spot in the beginning of the year, and right now he is one of the hottest hitters in baseball. With Maikel Franco’s power surge to start the season, Kingery was not seeing much playing time with just 35 plate appearance through the end of April. Since Odubel Herrera was put on administrative leave by the Phillies after his alleged domestic violence dispute, Kingery has taken advantage of his increased playing time. On the season, Kingery has a .338/.377/.662 slash line, good for an OPS of over 1.000. Through 62 plate appearances in June so far, he is hitting .339 with six round-trippers and 12 RBI’s in the seven-hole. With Kingery’s playing time only increasing, claim him before anyone else gets a chance.
Framber Valdez (13.3% owned/ESPN)
Valdez will be making his 3rd start of the season tonight against the Yankees. Valdez was initially rostered as a bullpen pitcher, but since the ‘Stros entered him into the 5th slot of their rotation he has pitched 13 innings with 15 K’s and three earned runs in that time. It’s a tough task to pitch well against the Yanks, but if Valdez is able to contain them there is a good chance he remains in the rotation. If Valdez pitches well in New York Thursday night, he is worth a roster spot on your fantasy baseball team.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.