Jim Thome (ESPN: 2.5 percent owned; Yahoo!: 8 percent owned)
He has been in the league since Jack Morris was a relevant figure, not just the center of a Hall of Fame debate; his career has taken him from the AL to the NL, back to the AL back, to the NL, back to the AL, back to the NL, and now back to the AL; and though it all Jim Thome does one thing: Mash taters. That’s his reputation, and it’s not wrong, but those in OBP-based leagues will also enjoy his penchant for drawing walks by the bushel.
The move to the AL is a huge win for Thome and for anyone that was considering picking him up. The first reason is the most obvious: playing time. I appreciate any time a player at the end of their career can go home, but I never got the sense that was what Thome was intending to do when he signed with the Phillies this offseason, which made the move something of a puzzle. Unsurprisingly, Thome saw almost too little playing time to be a useful fantasy asset — a strained back did cost him the better part of six weeks, which largely accounts for his missed time — though he did manage five home runs in just 30 games. As the Orioles’ primary DH, Thome will see plenty of time and will do so in a home park with a 125 home run park factor for lefties, which is the second major reason that this trade was a win for Thome. The Orioles also have six games left in NuYankee (155 left-handed home run park factor), tied for the most in any non-Camden park. If he stays healthy, Thome will have the chance to put up a second half that fantasy owners will want.
That health piece is not a given with Thome, who has had long standing back issues like the one he had in May and early June. Add in the fact that he’s unlikely to be eligible at anywhere but a UTL spot and he does have serious downside. That said, one more appearance at first base would be Thome’s fifth, which would give him eligibility there in some leagues, marking the first time since 2005 that he had eligibility at any non-UTL position. ZiPS says Thome will finish the season with 13 HR, I think a healthy Thome gets closer to 20 than that, but expectations of anything more than that are probably too high. As mentioned above, Thome holds additional value to OBP leagues, but still, he probably has to fit a specific need at this point to be useful to the majority of players.
Tyler Moore (ESPN: 7.2 percent owned; Yahoo!: 3 percent owned)
Using standard scoring, the Nationals had two of the 15 best outfielders in baseball last week, but the biggest name wasn’t among them. Bryce Harper is the best of the bunch, there’s not much room to argue there, but Michael Morse had the type of week that many owners had been pining for as he hit .484/.500/.710 with a pair of home runs in the week from June 25 to July 1. Morse has been a solid producer in the past, so it’s not too much of a surprise that he had a week of crushing the ball. Tyler Moore’s .381/.458/.714 with his own pair of home runs was more surprising than either Morse’s success or Harper’s Folly, but it was far from unprecedented.
Playing time has been an issue for Moore, as he’s played just 26 games since April 29, but when he is on the field, he has been productive. In the 17 games he has started, Moore has hit .353/.441/.647 with four home runs, but with a set outfield of Harper, Morse, and Rick Ankiel/Roger Bernadina, he’s clearly the odd man out. Even Adam LaRoche has remained healthy, which could have been another path to playing time for Moore, but he has been snakebit by the fact that his teammates haven’t been. Actually being healthy isn’t usually the Nationals’ problem and it isn’t really now, but it’s fair to wonder what Moore could do if he were given a month of starts.
At the end of the day, this is the rub for Moore. I’m less worried about his .400 BABIP than I am about the fact that he can’t get into the squad when things are thin and Jayson Werth may only be 3-4 weeks away from returning to the team. Once that happens, Moore will basically be left hoping for pinch-hitting appearances, and that’s just not good enough for fantasy players. For NL-only players looking for a fill-in for the next week or so, Moore might be an ok option, but the Nats’ crowded outfield is just a barrier I can’t see Moore surpassing long term.
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