As we head into the All-Star break, a couple interesting teams have stood out and are ready to prepare themselves for a playoff push in the second half of the season.
San Diego Padres (45-45, 3rd Place NL West, 14 GB)
When you see that the Padres are 14 games back you wouldn’t be too optimistic about them. However, they are just two games back in the Wild Card race. They have proved that they are a young team that flashes potential daily. Even though they are .500, they have a promising young core that could be a threat in the NL West in years to come.
Fernando Tatis Jr. has cemented himself as a prospect with five tools. He has an OPS over 1.000 as well as 14 bombs and 33 RBI’s. While he was injured for a bit, he still shows that he’s able to gets hits as he flaunts his .327 average. Eric Hosmer’s consistency was a big problem last year, but he looks to be back to his old self this season hitting .287 with 13 round-trippers and 62 RBI’s.
The Padres made another splash in free agency this offseason signing Manny Machado. Although he had a rough start to the season, he caught fire in June hitting .314 with 11 homers and 29 RBI’s in the month alone. Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe have been two of the biggest home run getters this year. Renfroe has mashed 27 bombs while Reyes has hit 25. These two power bats provide a lethal middle of the lineup and make this a pretty dangerous group of hitters from top to bottom.
Although their pitching continues to be a problem, they look like they’re headed in the right direction with Chris Paddack’s skill set. He’s flashing a 2.84 ERA and 9.51 K/9 through 15 starts. If they keep a lead to the 9th frame, Kirby Yates is almost guaranteed to secure the save. He leads the league with 30 saves and has an ERA of 1.15. If that isn’t impressive enough, his K/9 is 13.85. These are fantastic numbers for the rookie as he and Tatis Jr. may be the pioneers to a new wave of talent in San Diego.
The Padres took on the Dodgers in LA this weekend, and the earthquake was not the only tremor that the Dodgers had handed to them. The Padres went into LA and took three of four games. In game one they faced All-Star Game starting pitcher Hyung Jin Ryu. The Padres were only able to muster five hits in the game as Ryu went six scoreless with 5 K’s. Home runs by Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger sealed the game as the Dodgers would take the first game 5-1.
Game two was a fantastic pitching matchup as Eric Lauer went up against Clayton Kershaw. Lauer pitched six innings giving up one and striking out six. On the opposition, Kershaw went seven frames punching out nine and giving up one run. Tied 2-2 going into the 8th, Hunter Renfroe hit a go-ahead homer to put the Padres up 3-2. Kirby Yates came in during the 8th inning, securing a five-out save which was good for number 28 on the year.
Chris Paddack took the bump in game three pitching a scoreless 5 2/3 innings. All three of the Padres runs came from the long ball. A Hunter Renfroe solo homer was the first run scored in the game which came in the 7th inning. In the next frame Manny Margot came up big with a two-run home run to give the Padres a 3-1 lead. Kirby Yates closed it out in the 9th for yet another save.
The series finale came on Sunday and it provided a bit more offense. Fernando Tatis Jr. smacked a lead-off homer to begin the game and would also go on to his another in the 5th inning. He finished 2-4 while collecting four RBI’s. Manny Margot hit another homer as well in the 2nd inning, giving the Padres an early lead. Max Muncy and Justin Turner each hit solo home runs of their own, but they fell short to the Padres yet again, 5-3.
The Padres will boast only one All-Star in Tuesday’s mid-summer classic in Kirby Yates who is perhaps the game’s best closer. The Padres will pick back up on Friday against the Braves at home.
Washington Nationals (47-42, 2nd Place NL East, 6 GB)
The Nationals did not look like they had it all together in the beginning of the season. With a quick injury to Trea Turner that sidelined him for six weeks, the Nationals came out of the gate at snail’s speed. With loads of talent in the NL East, it seemed as though the Nats were not going to have much of a chance with the Phils and Braves being the favorites in the division. Max Scherzer has continued to be one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. He is also backed by a lineup that is criminally underrated.
After losing Bryce Harper to the division rival in Philly, the Nationals had a massive hole to fill. After acquiring Patrick Corbin in the offseason, the Nats were still considered one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Their lineup was a bit of a work in progress with young talent getting a chance to shine. Juan Soto became one of the hottest names in baseball after his performance last season, and he continues to show why slashing .300/.406/.537 this season. Hitting in the middle of the lineup, he’s given many RBI chances with guys like Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon hitting in front of him.
Anthony Rendon is the most underrated player in all of baseball. He’s hit over .300 each of the last three seasons and he has had an OPS of over .900 in that span as well. We rarely hear his name because Nolan Arenado takes away his attention as the NL’s best third baseman. This year he has an OPS of .997 as well as a .304 average with 20 homers and 62 RBI’s, good enough to earn All-Star recognition. This team has a solid roster top to bottom, and they have a great chance of making the playoffs where they currently sit half a game up in the wild card race.
The Nats are 15-5 in their last 20 and they wrapped up the first half with a home series against the Royals. Trea Turner had a great showing on Friday’s matchup going 3-7 including a lead-off homer in the first inning. Young star Adalberto Mondesi went 3-6 on the night for the Royals, including a double, triple, and a stolen base. He had two RBI’s on the afternoon as well. Ryan Zimmerman went 3-6, hitting all doubles. The game was tied up going into the 11th inning, where the Royals scored three runs to secure the 7-4 victory.
Game two was all Washington as Max Scherzer took the mound. The top four hitters in Washington’s lineup went a combined 7-15 on the evening. Juan Soto contributed to that stat line going 2-4 with two RBI’s and Kurt Suzuki’s two run homer was all Scherzer needed as he threw seven scoreless with 11 punchouts. The Nats got the 6-0 win and the shutout. There was some Déjà vu on Sunday for the Royals, as Patrick Corbin also went seven frames with 11 strikeouts. Brian Dozier and Hansel Robles each hit solo home runs in route to a 5-2 Nationals win.
Anthony Rendon and Max Scherzer will represent the Nationals in Cleveland for Tuesday’s All-Star Game, but Max Scherzer pulled out of the event with a back injury. Washington will return on Friday for a weekend series in Philadelphia against the division rivals.
Waiver Wire Targets
Christian Vazquez - Boston Red Sox (35.5% owned/ESPN)
The Red Sox catcher has caught fire this season and has been one of the most consistent bats for the team. Hitting .299 on the season, Vazquez is also hitting for power with 14 bombs. His 41 RBI’s have helped him get moved up in the batting order, and he has capitalized in that opportunity. With very few good catchers in the league, Vazquez ranks as the 7th ranked catcher in fantasy baseball. He is an immediate starter on many fantasy rosters.
Sonny Gray - Cincinnati Reds (33.8% owned/ESPN)
The Reds starting pitcher is an All-Star. Who would have ever imagined this after his abysmal stint with the Yankees in which many people thought his career was over? With a 3.59 ERA, he remains a bit inconsistent. However, in his last start he went eight innings and struck out 12 against the Brewers. His strikeout rate is the highest in his career and he has an impressive WHIP of 1.18. He’s an all-star for a reason, and he needs to be on your fantasy baseball roster.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.