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Over the years, owning Pedro Alvarez in Fantasy has been an unending and often unpleasant elevator ride. When he signed with the Orioles in spring training, it looked like an opportunity to resurrect a career that had fizzled in his final two years with the Pirates. By the end of May, Alvarez was still batting below .200 with only three home runs, and it looked as if he might never be useful to Fantasy owners ever again.
As Alvarez saw fewer and fewer starts, he began to take advantage of the opportunities he did get. Since the All-Star break, Alvarez has once again been a staple in the Orioles' lineup. He has continued his hot hitting with regular play, batting .294 with nine home runs in 71 plate appearances since the break. Six of those home runs have come over his last seven games.
During his second-half hot streak, Alvarez has struck out in 21 percent of his plate appearances, which is less than normal, but not dramatically so. Though it didn't pay off in the form of a high batting average, Alvarez did manage to mitigate his tendency to strike out in his final two years in Pittsburgh. During this season in general, and his recent stretch in particular, Alvarez has combined his more selective approach with a heightened level of power.
It's rare for a 29-year-old to break out, but there are some signs suggesting that this is exactly what is happening with Alvarez. If you're not skeptical of Alvarez's ability to hit for power and average, you could still be scared off by his playing time, as he is still playing little against left-handed pitchers. In a Fantasy landscape that features few reliable first basemen, Alvarez is worth a shot as a replacement for any owner who wants to spell a struggling Eric Hosmer, Mark Trumbo or Kendrys Morales. The Orioles are projected to face six right-handed starting pitchers this week, so there may not be a better hot-hand play than Alvarez, whether you use him at first base or third base.
Fernando Rodney, RP, Marlins (30 percent owned)
After a surprisingly robust first 13 weeks of the season, Rodney's Fantasy value has been in freefall ever since getting traded to the Marlins. The biggest hit came when manager Don Mattingly confirmed that incumbent closer A.J. Ramos would keep his job, but more recently, Rodney has looked shaky even as a setup option. Heading into Sunday's series finale at the Rockies, Rodney had allowed eight earned runs in his previous 6 1/3 innings, as his control faltered badly.
That made Rodney's save on Sunday -- his first as a Marlin -- all the more surprising. Ramos has had struggles of his own lately, but according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Rodney was given the nod on Sunday because Ramos has been dealing with a jammed finger. With Ramos possibly needing to miss more time with the injury, Rodney can be added to the list of save sources available on waivers in many leagues.
Owners should give priority to relievers firmly entrenched in a closer's role, such as Tyler Thornburg, Cam Bedrosian, Brandon Kintzler and Jake Barrett. However, if they are unavailable, Rodney could be a useful short-term option for saves.
Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox (51 percent owned)
Benintendi's first week as a major leaguer was not especially eventful, and it likely ranked as a disappointment for his Fantasy owners. Red Sox manager John Farrell has been sitting Benintendi against lefties, and the team faced four southpaw starters last week. When Benintendi did play, he performed respectably at the plate, going 5 for 13, but he did not notch an extra-base hit.
This week, we will get to see what Benintendi can really do. The Red Sox are scheduled to go up against five right-handed starters, and only Zack Greinke qualifies as an ace among them. During his time in the minors this season, Benintendi showed a tantalizing combination of contact skills, power and speed. We have yet to see how much of that mix Benintendi can bring to the majors, but this week should be a good test. Even if you don't feel confident in starting Benintendi this week, now is the time to pick him up and stash him. If he puts a good week together, very soon, it could be too late.
Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (32 percent owned)
Even though the Yankees are carrying three catchers, the early returns indicate that playing time shouldn't be a problem for Sanchez. The 23-year-old backstop was recalled on Tuesday, and he proceeded to start in four straight games, the first two of which were as the Yankees' designated hitter. Sanchez not only recorded a hit in each game, but he doubled in each of his last three games.
At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Sanchez cut back on his strikeout rate, racking up 45 Ks in 284 plate appearances. While he showed a little less power than the year before, Sanchez's ability to steal bases was on display, as he swiped seven bags in eight attempts. His well-rounded skill set deserves a bigger stage in Fantasy, as he is still unowned in more than two-thirds of CBSSports.com leagues. With four or five starts a week, including his time at DH, Sanchez could help owners in just about any two-catcher league.
Jharel Cotton, SP, Athletics (1 percent owned)
With Sonny Gray (foreram) and Jesse Hahn (shoulder) both on the 15-day disabled list, the Athletics will need to add two starters this week. According to the Bay Area News Group, one of their vacancies will almost certainly to go to Cotton, whom the A's acquired in the deal that sent Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers.
Cotton's high ERA/low WHIP combo telegraphs the sort of pitcher he is likely to be in the majors. He has no problems getting strikeouts and has good control, so he keeps the bases relatively clear. Cotton hasn't been stranding many runners, though, because he allows too many home runs. Strong flyball tendencies have gone a long way towards imperiling Cotton's ERA, but he also allows a high pull rate on flies. That's a trait he shares with Josh Tomlin and Jered Weaver, a couple of pitchers who can be volatile due to the long ball.
Cotton could have more appeal than even Tomlin, because he has the potential to be a far superior strikeout pitcher. O.co Coliseum also provides Cotton with an excellent home park for limiting the impact of his flyball tendencies. At minimum, owners in AL-only leagues should be adding Cotton for the coming week.