Last call for AJ Smith-Shawver before his first start

Even the best lists can use the occasional upgrade. Here are five players who can improve your fantasy life…

Jones is officially binging, having gone four multi-hit games in his last six while stealing a base in three straight games. He started his year hitting an obnoxious .356/.481/.711 at Albuquerque with a dozen homers and five interceptions in 39 games. Somehow he’s kept up the pace since joining the Rockies.

We shouldn’t have to hard-sell you a scorching home-hitting puncher in Coors, should we? GOOD. Go and get it.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B, Cincinnati Reds (14%)

Just in case you thought the Reds were done improving their roster with elite prospects after the Elly De La Cruz call… well, no, they definitely aren’t. Encarnacion-Strand can’t be far behind. It’s a potential high-impact bat you can add ahead of the possible post-promotion frenzy. If you need a helping hand, he’s your man:

Encarnacion-Strand is currently cutting .352/.408/.716(!) at Louisville with 15 home runs, 12 doubles and 39 RBIs. Last year he hit 0.304/0.368/0.587 and he broke the fence 32 times in 122 games across two minor league levels.

Its arrival, whenever it occurs, will be a problem for Tyler Stephenson in terms of playing time, but that’s a small concern. Encarnacion-Strand should be hidden by someone in your league before his debut.

At 24, Wiemer is probably getting a bit older to continue calling himself “Joey.” But that’s really one of the only negatives we can identify at this point in his breakout season. The injuries created a path to playing time for Wiemer and he took full advantage of the opportunity. After Wednesday’s performance of four hits and two home runs…

…he’s up to eight bombs on the season with nine interceptions. He also leads a nine-game hitting streak. Wiemer is coming off a year in which he hit 21 home runs and slid 31 sacks (on 34 attempts) at high minors, so he has an extremely fantasy-friendly profile. It won’t hit for average, but it can deliver various other fantastic goodies.

If you happen to play in a fantasy league that uses on-base percentage instead of (or in addition to) batting average, then Noda should probably be on a list already. He hits base at a clip of .415 for the A’s while batting at or near the top of the order and his career minor league OBP is .407. He’s also played four multi-hit games in his last five games, so he’s been scorching hot at the plate lately. Noda hit 25 home runs at Triple-A last season and 29 the year before at Double-A, so there’s pop in his profile, too.

Smith-Shawver is fresh from graduating from high school in 2021 as a two-sport Texas Tech commitment, a developmental prospect that had never focused all year on baseball. He opened this season at High-A Rome, away from the big leagues.

And yet here we are.

This weekend, the 20-year-old right-hander will make his MLB debut against the Nationals in a relatively friendly game.

It’s been an incredible climb up the system for Smith-Shawver, who’s been just terrific at every stop. He struck out 45 in 33.0 minor league innings this season and 103 in 68 2/3 IP the previous year in the Carolina League. His fastball/slider combo was devastating. Any fantastic manager looking for wins and K’s should give him a test drive.

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