The big news from last week was the promotion of star Atlanta Braves prospect Ronald Acuna, and it had quite an impact on the Bronze Points Salary Cap Challenge game. 137 teams claimed Acuna this week, far and away the most we’ve seen in a week to this point in the season. Another 66 claims were used to pick up Mitch Haniger. All told, a whopping 761 New Player Claims were used this week, an average of just over one per team. The players who were claimed and dropped themselves were not surprising, but the volume of roster turnover is noteworthy as we turn the calendar to May. We only get 18 total claims throughout the season, and many of us are ahead of the pace.
Let’s take a look at all players who are owned by at least 40 percent of teams overall and/or 40 percent of teams in the Top-100 to see if we can highlight any players who we should consider picking up or dropping as we head into Period 7:
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Well, that was quick. Gary Sanchez has already bounced back from a horrific start to claim his rightful position as the top fantasy catcher. Contreras hasn’t quite gotten there yet, but he should be joining Sanchez among the elite in short order.
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Molina promptly went out and scored two points over a six-game span, taking the air out of the balloon a bit for his owners. All players will obviously have plenty of minor slumps, and Molina remains a solid option. Owners of Molina and Grandal have made out pretty well so far, but I would still not recommend either over Contreras for the long haul.
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Gallo has been the most popular first baseman from Day 1, and I expect that to continue for the foreseeable future. Freddie Freeman’s price is likely too high for people to continue to jump on board, though his ownership did surpass that of Cody Bellinger this week. Matt Olson has fallen out of this category. His recent performance has been lackluster and owners have found other options.
FIRST BASE TARGETS
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Hanley Ramirez was pretty terrible last week, and he is still fourth at the position in points. Not bad if you ask me. Brandon Belt hasn’t homered in a week but has reached base 17 times in his last seven games. That will play nicely. Smoak and Alonso have been in and out of this space. Their up and down play is great if you can time it correctly. If you can’t, not so much… C.J. Cron makes the list with 17 hits and six home runs over his last 12 games. I don’t think the power is much of a fluke. Cron has always had pop, and we could be looking at a 25-home run season if he can get 500 plate appearances.
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I need to know about the five owners in the Top 100 who don’t own Ozzie Albies. I’m not making fun; I’m actually quite jealous. He’s dirt cheap and has the second-most points of any hitter. He’ll obviously regress to some level, but that level should still make him well worth his price. Altuve is still hitting at an elite level, but the homers and steals are simply not there yet. A 20-20 season is no longer looking like a sure thing. Yoan Moncada, meanwhile, continues to put up the points. Owners who dropped Moncada early are likely regretting it.
SECOND BASE TARGETS
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I own Javy Baez, and I hope he keeps this up forever. That said, his at-bats are often cringe-worthy, and I’m terrified the other shoe is going to drop at any minute. Lowrie is in the Hanley Ramirez group of injury-prone veterans who fantasy players refuse to buy into for fear of jumping on right before the injury bug bites. Hernandez is a solid if unspectacular option. D.J. LeMahieu is off this list because he is currently on the 10-day Disabled List, but he may return just in time for a Colorado home week.
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Not a single member of this group is a top-ten third baseman through the end of April. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. It’s probably something about patience, but I know nothing about that, so it’s lost on me.
THIRD BASE TARGETS
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Meanwhile, owners of players in this group are loving life. When you have a player who is productive, cheap and has low ownership, you’ve hit the motherload. The first four on this list are power hitters who don’t provide much else, but the power should buoy their production in Points leagues. Asdrubal Cabrera wins this week’s “Wait, he has HOW MANY POINTS?!?” Award. In case you are not sure how I came up with the name for this award, I give it to the player’s whose stats I glance at, then immediately follow that with a double take and exclaim, “Wait, he has HOW MANY POINTS?!?” Anyway, I do not buy Cabrera long-term, but he is off to a very impressive start, and there are worse scenarios than leading off for the Mets. Still, I can’t believe it’s 2018 and we’re about Asdrubal Cabrera in fantasy. I also can’t believe he’s only 32. What a world.
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Correa, like Gary Sanchez, got off the mat after a slow start and is now producing as expected, trailing only Didi Gregorius, who joins the ranks of the somewhat popular. I’m going to start a Go Fund Me page for fantasy owners who want me to breathe life back into players by having me talk about how terrible they are. It sure worked for Trea Turner last week.
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Trevor Story is my favorite add of this group for this upcoming week. Story is an ideal fourth shortstop if you can spare to lose a little flexibility at other positions. As mentioned earlier, Colorado has a six-game home week coming up. It is their first such week of the season and will not be their last. If you want a little more consistency, Xander Bogaerts is your man. He started out red-hot before getting injured. He returned last week and scored 18 points in his first three games back in the lineup. He should easily be a top-10 shortstop going forward.
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Wednesday’s breakout is why you usually have to keep guys like Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. The only thing worse than playing a slumping star is sitting him when he regains his form. The rest of the studs have been great all month. This group includes Mookie Betts, who already has a pair of three-homer efforts this season. I guesstimated on Twitter last week that Acuna’s ownership would be about 50 percent this week. It is already up to 57 percent overall and 77 percent in the Top 100. Jump on before it’s too late. Benintendi is the most popular and worst of Boston’s incredible outfield group. If only there was a player or two in his range who you could replace him with…
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I wasn’t referring to Tommy Pham specifically, but he fits the bill as well. Pham does a little bit of everything, and so far he’s doing most of it better than Benintendi. But the player I was referring to is A.J. Pollock. Each weekend, I think about adding a lot of players. But this past weekend, I really thought about adding A.J. Pollock. Ultimately, I did not. I went to sleep Monday night pretty tired from the weekend. When I woke up on Tuesday, I saw a highlight of A.J. Pollock hitting his ninth home run of the year. I thought it was strange because I could have sworn he had six home runs, not eight. And I was right. He hit his seventh, eighth, AND ninth home runs of the year on Monday night. I immediately started punching myself in the face, a move Ken Giles would unceremoniously steal from me and make famous just hours later. I see you, Ken Giles. Pollock is not going to end the season with 50 homers, but he doesn’t have to in order to be a good play here. I do not love his schedule next week, but he should obviously be given strong consideration. Kevin Pillar is similar to Pollock in that they have a very well-rounded skillset but have disappointed before. I suspect Pillar will continue to fly under the radar and can be a very good source of production as well. Nick Markakis is the antithesis of a typical Points player, but he is in the middle of a very potent lineup and could rack up over 100 RBI and hit .300.
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As you can see, there are a ton of pitchers who are highly owned, either overall, among the Top-100, or both. Many of them are pitching twice this week or are pitching twice next week. This has the potential to impact the standings quite a bit over the next ten days. It might be better to wait a week and see how the standings shake out between now and then rather than pick up a middling option this week.
STARTING PITCHER TARGETS
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As of this writing, there are not a lot of pitchers who are not on this list that I recommend for next week. A lot of the scheduled two-start options are not worthy of a New Player Claim, especially for those of us who have been less than judicious with claims so far. I think the best roster suggestion I can up with is claiming Dylan Bundy or James Paxton for a Mike Clevinger, for example. Those are the sort of moves that are fine in and of themselves, but you don’t want to play for May. If you run out of New Player Claims by the All-Star Break, it will be tough to compete for the remainder of the season.
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Some new players join this group this week, and with good reason. Brad Hand, Brandon Morrow, and Brad Boxberger have all performed nicely thus far in 2018, Hand’s Monday blown save not withstanding. I would caution against Hand long-term, though. The Padres seem to be in rebuilding mode, and I would imagine that involves trading Hand to a contender at some point, likely in a setup role. I still do not fully trust Boxberger, but he has been solid and the Diamondbacks are for real. I may just end up dying on that sword.
RELIEF PITCHER TARGETS
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I know I have been talking about going easy on the claims and all that, but Diaz is hands down the best replacement for someone who just lost Kenyan Middleton. Salary be damned. I’m 94 percent sure Diaz will now blow a save either Wednesday or Thursday thanks to my ringing endorsement.