Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Bats are cracking, gloves are popping and fantasy baseball stocks are on the move.
It might not be Major League Baseball as we’ve always known it, but MLB is back. Teams are tuning up in abbreviated exhibition schedules, and the standings will start moving for real on Thursday night.
Whether you’re drafting, scanning the waiver wire or uncovering a trade target, now is the time to know which direction players are headed. The following three fantasy hitters are all trending up.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
It seemingly took forever and a day for Aaron Judge to shake a rib injury that surfaced last September and manifested as a fracture this spring. But if his Summer Camp slugging is any indication, the power-hitting outfielder has finally put the ailment behind him.
His bat is too hot to touch. He homered twice Sunday night, then left the yard again on Monday.
“I think once he got to start swinging the bat and got confirmation that it felt all right, the ramp-up has gone really well for him,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters. “We’re seeing it obviously in the results, in the typical really good Aaron Judge at-bats.”
Judge will always come with some injury risk (he hasn’t topped 120 games since 2017), but this power surge reminds how rich the reward can be. The 162-game pace for his career includes 45 homers, 101 RBI and 119 runs. Value him accordingly in drafts or trades.
Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
Was Yoenis Cespedes even on your radar at the start of draft season? Judging by his average draft position of 274, per FantasyPros, probably not.
He better get there quickly. While it’s impossible to say how much he can provide after missing all of last season and playing just 119 games the previous two years combined, his upside is interesting enough to make him flier-worthy in every format.
“Right now he’s as strong as you can probably count on with him,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “… As far as the athleticism and what he’s shown [in the outfield] in the different drills and stuff that we’ve done, he’s looked really good. He looks like the outfield Cespedes that we all know.”
A healthy Cespedes can be a fantasy juggernaut. He has twice delivered 30-plus homers, twice knocked in at least 100 runs and once paired 23 homers with 16 steals. His ceiling is too high to ignore.
Cesar Hernandez, Cleveland Indians
A free-agent pact with the Indians could be Cesar Hernandez’s ticket back to fantasy relevance.
Granted, he never offered a ton of it, but in 2018, he supplied 15 homers, 19 stolen bases and 151 combined runs and 60 RBI. Those are notable numbers—and he might have a chance to do better (in terms of pace, that is) in Cleveland, where manager Terry Francona seems prepared to slot him into the leadoff spot.
“Last year was a little bit of an aberration for Cesar Hernandez,” Francona told reporters. “He can get on base and he can run. He’s not going to lead the league in stolen bases. But he can hit from both sides, he can walk and he can run the bases.”
If Hernandez is doing all those things while hitting ahead of Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana, he will deliver a tremendous return on his minimal cost (ADP: 258).