- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
It’s a tiny bit sad that as the Philadelphia Phillies sent their longtime ace and best player to the Texas Rangers for a reasonably exciting haul, the move was overshadowed by a trade that caused some tears and then ended up not happening. But still, in the world of fantasy baseball, we can only deal with official results. Left-hander Cole Hamels is moving to the American League, following Kansas City Royals right-hander Johnny Cueto in that regard. If you’re in an AL-only weekly league, Cueto comes more highly recommended than Hamels. Certainly the home ballparks –- and outfield defenses –- play a role, but Cueto has better numbers and has for years.
That’s not to say that Hamels will suddenly struggle. He tossed a no-hitter in his last outing for the Phillies, and his track record is admirable. He’s durable, he strikes hitters out, and even in the overwhelming warmth of Arlington, Texas, it's unlikely that his impressive ERA and WHIP will suddenly blow up. Hamels will be fine, and he’s worth the waiver claim in AL-only formats, especially as a second option after Cueto. Hamels should start getting more run support now, at least!
While it’s always risky to rely on prospects turning into great major leaguers, it appears the Phillies did well here; however, fantasy help is not coming in 2015. Don’t focus on what the Phillies didn’t receive, but on what they did. Catcher Jorge Alfaro has big-time power, perhaps a Salvador Perez-type future, as he has a similar arm and lack of plate discipline. Outfielder Nick Williams should hit the big leagues at some point next season, and his future as a potential five-category fantasy producer also looks bright. Pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff boast upside as well. But neither these players nor veteran lefty Matt Harrison figure to aid fantasy owners in 2015. Williams is the one I’d invest in first for dynasty formats. Pitchers are always dangerous, and so are catchers, especially ones that need to work on their defensive skills.
Meanwhile, there was another rather large trade Wednesday, with the Los Angeles Dodgers acquiring right-hander Mat Latos, left-hander Alex Wood, right-hander Jim Johnson and outfielder Michael Morse. For Latos and Wood, little changes. Latos has pitched well the past two months and comes recommended for fantasy. Just forget about his first Marlins outing. He’s past that. Wood’s WHIP is a problem, and there’s no reason to believe it will suddenly get fixed in Los Angeles. Morse isn’t likely to see enough at-bats to matter, unless there’s another deal. However, the loser in fantasy value is clearly Johnson. He was the Atlanta Braves closer, after all. He will not close in L.A. My guess is right-hander Arodys Vizcaino, the eighth-inning fellow, moves into the saves spot, so go add him. Johnson joins Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen in going from really valuable in fantasy to free-agent material, through no fault of their own.
Meanwhile, there are two other potentially big names for fantasy owners here. One is Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, moving from the Dodgers to the Braves. Olivera, 30, might not be promoted to the majors anytime soon, since he’s on the DL with a hamstring injury, and because Adonis Garcia is looking competent at third base and Jace Peterson has been a reasonable second baseman, but at least now his path to playing time is clearer. It was murky with the Dodgers. Still, while he's worth investing in for dynasty formats, I wouldn’t expect much from him in 2015. The other possible big name is speedster Jose Peraza, a middle infielder who was hitting .295 for Triple-A Gwinnett with 25 stolen bases. The Dodgers don’t have room for him right now, but he’s probably next season’s second baseman, and he's capable of leading off and stealing many, many bases. One final note: With the Dodgers picking up several starting pitchers, it sure looks like right-hander Mike Bolsinger, a Derek Carty fave for DFS purposes, is getting pushed aside.
NL report: Before we get to what happened on the field Wednesday -- and things certainly did happen -- Dodgers ace lefty Clayton Kershaw had his start pushed back to the weekend due to hip soreness. As of now, there's no reason to panic. He still has a 29-inning scoreless streak. … While the New York Mets didn’t win Wednesday and apparently did not make a big trade, first baseman Lucas Duda did swat three home runs, each of the solo variety. Some might be disappointed by Duda’s season, and it might not match 2014, but a 30-home-run season is still within reach. … St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday left his game early after re-aggravating a quad injury, and this one could be serious. More information is due out Thursday, but if Randal Grichuk is still available in your league, he’s probably going to be a regular. Stephen Piscotty will also get many at-bats, and he should hit, too. … It’s another day in the Chicago Cubs' closer saga, with Hector Rondon handling things Wednesday. Every day the carousel turns. Maybe they deal for Craig Kimbrel. At this point, it’s clear that even manager Joe Maddon isn’t quite sure who saves games over the weekend, so I’m not chasing names. … Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Welington Castillo homered twice off Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez, giving him double digits in the category for the season. Castillo also homered Monday. You could do worse for your second backstop.
AL report: Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki made a successful debut with a home run, three runs batted in and three runs scored Wednesday, and he did so from the leadoff spot. If he remains in that lineup spot, Tulowitzki will still hit, but probably won't knock in many runs. And don’t expect stolen bases. Still, expect terrific numbers. … Blue Jays right-hander R.A. Dickey allowed two unearned runs over eight innings, lowering his ERA to 4.27. It was 2.57 for the month of July. That’s progress, and it's interesting for standard league owners. … One of these days Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber will begin a 10-game winning streak. He dominated the Kansas City Royals, allowing one ninth-inning run. Buy low if you can. … It may also be time to buy low with Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. He fanned 10 Tampa Bay Rays over eight innings, allowing one run. His previous outing was terrific as well. I’m still skeptical. … I’m glad I dealt for Chicago White Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera three weeks ago. He added three more hits and is hitting .381 in July. … Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts won’t play for at least a week as he’s on the 7-day concussion DL. Hopefully he’ll be back soon. Looks like Jackie Bradley Jr. will handle center field, with Rusney Castillo in right. It’d be nice to see Castillo start against right-handed pitching before buying in. … What’s up with Minnesota Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks? He had three more hits Wednesday, his fourth consecutive multi-hit performance. And he’s not striking out. I’m intrigued now, especially if he runs more. … Houston Astros first baseman Jon Singleton hit his first home run of the big league season, but until his slugging percentage rises well above his on-base percentage -- it’s currently lower -- it’s tough to look his direction in fantasy.