Nolan Jones is having a moment. Cleveland’s rookie lefty swinger is off to a 7-for-13 start in the majors, with a homer and eight RBIs. He’s also drawn three walks. The Guardians didn’t want to overwhelm the rookie right away — he’s slotted sixth or seventh most days — but perhaps that could move up, eventually.
Jones’ minor-league story has been meandering; he was drafted as a high school kid in 2016, seen ups and downs. One year, a hand injury kept him down. He didn’t play at all in 2020, the pandemic year. The three main prospect boards had Jones ranked between 36th and 52nd on their clipboards before 2021, but then Jones had a messy season at Triple-A (.238/.356/.431).
He wasn’t considered a prospect heading into the fresh season.
Ankle and back problems kept Jones out of action for several weeks this year, but when he was healthy at Triple-A, he raked (311/.417/.500). He’s always had a plus batting eye. He doesn’t project as a major power source, but maybe Jones could be a 15-to-18 homer guy in the majors. He’ll steal a base if you leave it unattended.
Jones qualifies at third base in Yahoo, and he’ll quickly pick up the outfield tag — that’s where Terry Francona is using him. Jones was actively added in Yahoo the last 24 hours but is still around in about two-thirds of leagues.
A new closer emerging in Texas
When the Rangers moved Joe Barlow out of the closer role last week, we were left with a cast of thousands to choose from. Dennis Santana, anyone? Jose Leclerc, anyone? Matt Bush? Anyone have a phone number for Jeff Russell or Francisco Cordero?
I wondered if lefty Brock Burke could sneak into the gig, with those tidy ratios (1.12 ERA, 0.97 WHIP). But it’s been a different lefty, Brett Martin, stepping into the job. Martin now has three saves in four days, finishing off the Twins twice, then setting down the Athletics on Monday. All of them were ninth-inning, three-out handshakes.
Martin’s seasonal numbers are fine — not outstanding, but solid. There’s a 2.89 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP. His strikeout rate is slightly below one per inning, which is not ideal for a closer. He’s also walked 10 batters over 28 innings. At least he’s only allowed one homer this year.
In the save chase, possession of the gig is most of the battle. Martin has the job to lose now — it’s just a matter of if the 27-year-old can keep the momentum going. I’ve added him for one of my save-desperate teams.
You can do the same in about 83 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Could Yandy Diaz be more than just a batting average filler?
I never really know what to do with Yandy Diaz, one of those players who is more important to his MLB team than he is to fantasy managers. Sure, we love a .307 average. But Diaz has just three homers, only one steal. His elegant BB/K rate is more impressive on the actual field than in the fantasy game — unless you play in an OBP format, that .418 number doesn’t really get you extra juice when it’s attached to a modest 39 runs. He’s knocked in 23 for the year, over 264 at-bats.
Diaz might be best employed as a DFS filler and for teams that need batting-average help. He’s hitting .360 over the last month (over .500 in July), and he’ll always have more walks than strikeouts. The Rays bat him leadoff semi-regularly. Diaz qualifies at first and third base. If you can focus on when Tampa Bay faces a lefty, that’s where the sweet spot is — his slugging jumps to .493 (it’s 117 points lower in the platoon deficit).
You can decide how much of this glass is full, how much of it is empty. Diaz currently rosters at 30 percent in Yahoo leagues.