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Raisel Iglesias has been something of a puzzle for Fantasy owners since the beginning of the season. The 25-year-old Cuban impressed in his first stints in the Reds organization, namely in last year's Arizona Fall League and in spring training this year. Once the season began, Iglesias was something of a letdown, posting a 5.53 ERA in seven starts and two relief appearances through the end of July and putting up middling strikeout and whiff rates over half a dozen Triple-A starts. At both levels, he looked vulnerable to extra-base hits.
August has been a different story. On Tuesday night, Iglesias held the Royals scoreless for seven innings, and though Aroldis Chapman's blown save cost him the win, it was his fourth quality start in four tries for the month. In each of those starts, Iglesias has compiled a ground ball rate of at least 57 percent after having induced grounders on only 38 percent of hit balls through the end of July. After having mastered the Royals, Iglesias now sports a 2.10 ERA in August.
It's no coincidence that Iglesias has dramatically improved as a ground ball pitcher. Over his last four starts, he is averaging a 1,922 rpm spin rate on his sinker, as compared to 2,166 rpm for his prior appearances (per TexasLeaguers.com). Just as a lower spin rate correlates with more frequent grounders, it is also associated with fewer swinging strikes. Sure enough, Iglesias' pre-August whiff rate of 12 percent has shrunk to 8 percent this month. However, because he has been so effective at getting called strikes, Iglesias has not seen a discernible dip in his strikeout rate, even with a three-strikeout effort against the whiff-averse Royals.
Iglesias is currently the most added player in CBSSports.com leagues, but at 49 percent, he is still underowned. He can provide strikeouts as well as prevent runs, and with relief eligibility, he's becoming a must-own in Head-to-Head formats.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (67 percent owned)
Even though Lindor was a consensus top prospect, Fantasy owners didn't treat him as a must-own option when the Indians called him up for his debut in mid-June. Within his first week in the majors, only half the owners in CBSSports.com leagues bothered to pick him up and for good reason. Lindor didn't hit for much power in the minors and he looked to be only a mild contributor in the batting average, on-base percentage and stolen base categories.
Lindor has been exceeding expectations since the All-Star break, as he has put up a .347/.381/.471 slash line. While he still isn't walking much (6.4 percent second-half walk rate), Lindor has improved his plate discipline, but the most dramatic recent change has been in his reduced pull rate. Whereas Lindor pulled 38 percent of his hit balls in the first half, he owns the majors' eighth-lowest pull rate in the second half with a 28 percent mark.
It is highly unlikely that Lindor can maintain his post-break .382 BABIP rate or .347 batting average for long, but his all-fields approach should serve him well going forward. While his relative lack of power keeps him from being a must-add option, Lindor is now worth using in just about any Rotisserie league.
Travis Jankowski, OF, Padres (1 percent owned)
Now with the Rangers, Will Venable is out of the Padres' outfield situation, but the bulk of his playing time won't go to Melvin Upton, who started Tuesday night against the Braves and slammed two home runs. Instead, it is likely to be claimed by rookie Travis Jankowski, who will be recalled from Triple-A Tucson on Wednesday. Though he has never appeared in the majors, Padres general manager A.J. Preller told reporters that Jankowski is "a guy we're not going to let come up and just sit on the bench." Preller hinted that Jankowski could platoon with Upton, and as a left-handed hitter, he would receive the bulk of the starts in center field.
Jankowski has little power, but over the course of his minor league career he has posted low strikeout rates, and this season, he has been walking in more than 11 percent of his plate appearances. He also has 32 stolen bases, and two seasons ago, he racked up 71 steals in the California League. Jankowski had a poor 2014 campaign, but he was limited to 46 games due to a broken wrist.
If Jankowski were a middle infielder, he could be relevant to a wide swath of mixed league owners despite his lack of power. However, as an outfielder, his combination of batting average and stolen base potential can only take him so far. He is a must-own in NL-only leagues, and owners in deeper mixed leagues should find it worth their while to give Jankowski a try.
Kevin Jepsen, RP, Twins (10 percent owned)
Earlier this season, Jepsen was part of Kevin Cash's closer mix with the Rays, but so far with the Twins, he's been serving strictly in a setup role. With Glen Perkins around to nail down saves, there was little reason to expect Jepsen to do much ninth-inning work, but now Perkins is having neck issues and is scheduled to get an MRI. Especially since Perkins had his 2014 season cut short with due to a similar problem, it now seems highly plausible that Jepsen will be getting saves chances again soon.
There is still a lot of uncertainty around Jepsen as a saves candidate. Perkins may not miss much time, and even if he does, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Casey Fien and Trevor May could share save opportunities with Jepsen. Also, since joining the Twins at the July trade deadline, Jepsen's velocity has been down, and he has struggled with command. Still, if you had to settle on one of these pitchers as a handcuff for Perkins, Jepsen would be the most logical choice, given his prior closing experience and recent use in the eighth inning.