The fantasy season is starting to reach crunch time, so let’s begin the week with two players who have recently taken on more prominent roles…
David Murphy | OF | Rangers | Owned: 12% Yahoo! and 13.3% ESPN
From 2008-2011, his first four full seasons as a big leaguer, the 30-year-old Murphy posted a 115 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers with a 62 mark against southpaws. His split this year is 129/145 thanks to some serious BABIP (.529) love in a very small sample (53 PA) against left-handers. It’s not the most sustainable performance, as you can tell.
Murphy is and almost certainly always will be a platoon bat, but his fluky excellent numbers against lefties this year have him in the lineup almost everyday now. He’s started a dozen of the Rangers’ last 14 games and 15 of the last 18 overall, hitting .353/.400/.544 with seven doubles and two dingers during that stretch (75 PA). That sparkling performance against left-handers is masking his continued improvement against right-handers, which includes a .202 ISO that is his best in four years. Grab him, platoon him, profit.
Carlos Villanueva | SP, RP | Blue Jays | Owned: 25% Yahoo! and 9.3% ESPN
As you all know by now, injuries have taken a very serious toll on the entire Toronto team, not just the pitching staff at this point. Villanueva, 28, started the season as a swingman type but was eventually pushed into the rotation in late-June. He’s made nine starts since, pitching to a 3.02 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 53.2 innings. Villanueva’s strikeout (25.2%) and walk (7.0%) rates as a starter have been better than they were as a reliever (24.7 K% and 14.4 BB%), the opposite of what you’d usually expect. Four times in nine starts has he whiffed seven or more, six times six or more.
Villanueva has always been a four-pitch reliever, which helped with the transition back to starting — he started 21 games for the Brewers from 2007-2009. He does have a decent-sized platoon split and he will definitely give up the long ball (12.5 HR/FB% and 1.14 HR/9), so I don’t consider him an every-start fantasy guy. Villanueva’s next three starts are coming at the Orioles, at the Yankees, and at home against the Orioles (again), and those two games against Baltimore seem like solid bets to extract some value. The wins may be hard to come by, but you can grab some strikeouts as well as an ERA and WHIP boost from the right-hander in the coming weeks.