After a disappointing first half Norichika Aoki has really turned it on, resulting in a +46% spike in ownership which made him this week’s most added player. Most fantasy owners invested in the Royals’ outfielder expecting a high average, lots of runs scored, and a steals total somewhere in the twenties. But prior to the All-Star break, Aoki was hitting a ho-hum .260 with seven steals (four caught stealing) and only 36 runs in 306 plate appearances. On top of that he suffered a groin injury and was promptly released by many frustrated fantasy teams. The 32-year-old right-fielder’s recent play has made some of those same teams turn around and pick him right back up though. In his last eight games he has recorded eight runs scored, six runs batted in, and five steals. Regaining his role at the top of the lineup for the first-place Royals, Aoki should continue to see good counting stats moving forward. In leagues as shallow as ten teams Aoki is a worthwhile add during his current hot streak. Here are this week’s other big adds and drops in 2014 fantasy baseball…
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We discuss Jarrod Dyson a lot in this column. He’s truly what cheap steals are all about. In limited plate appearances he is able to get on base and swipe bags. Not an ideal player to own in weekly leagues, but he can be a huge boost in the steals department for fantasy players in leagues with daily roster moves. So while the Prince of SAGNOF has gotten some love here both in the preseason and throughout the year, he’s getting the lede today just in case you forgot he’s out there (and he probably is with 7.2% ownership at ESPN). Dyson’s 27 steals have come in just 226 plate appearances this season. That’s a steal about every 8 plate appearances. After finishing up the series at Minnesota today, Dyson and the Royals head out to Colorado and Texas. The Rockies have allowed 68 steals, which is middle of the pack in the major leagues in that category. However, their caught stealing percentage (15%) ranks dead last in baseball. Here are some other steals picks for 2014 fantasy baseball…

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Jake Arrieta ($8,000) takes on the Mets and their 90 wRC+ against right-handed pitching today. That mark ranks New York 26th in baseball while Arrieta continues to surprise in 2014. The Cub righty has posted a 9.22 K/9, a 2.37 BB/9, and a miniscule 0.33 HR/9 this season. That includes his recent clunker in Colorado. The 28-year-old has always had “stuff” but he’s been able to put it all together this year with his new team in Chicago. The stories of J.D. Martinez and Arrieta are a reminder that players can make adjustments to be successful in the majors when given the opportunity. This start is valued at $12.5 and ranks sixth on the Stream-o-Nator today. At $8K, he makes for an affordable number one starter while players like Jon Lester will cost you quite a bit more. On the topic of Lester, it may be wise to avoid him today. Not only will he cost almost $12K, but outside of Jason Heyward, the Braves have hit lefties well. Their 106 wRC+ against southpaws ranks 8th in baseball.

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If you’re at all interested in how valuable a power-hitting middle infielder might be, take a look at Javier Baez and his +93% jump in ownership this week. Like any big call-up there is some helium to sift through, but once we get past the hype and the temporarily high-pitched voice, we are left with a very talented player – the type that can impact fantasy teams down the stretch. This has been well-documented, but Baez has typically struggled early on with each promotion to a new level. He also has a lot of swing and miss in his game which we’re already seeing with 12 strikeouts in his first 29 plate appearances. On the positive side, he’s made the necessary adjustments at each level (most recently his June/July surge in Triple-A) and with that swing and miss comes elite bat speed and home runs. Baez can also steal bases by the way. He swiped 16 in 104 games with the Iowa Cubs prior to his call up. As a top prospect he should have been long gone in keeper leagues, but owners in redraft leagues as shallow as 10 teams should be acquiring Baez for the stretch. There’s more upside in his bat than any you’ll find on the wire, and it’s my guess that as the calendar turns to September, we’re already going to see less strikeouts and more slugging. Here are the other big adds and drops for this week in 2014 fantasy baseball…

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Sam Fuld already has four stolen bases since his trade to the Athletics. He’s seeing time batting second in the A’s lineup now that Coco Crisp has returned from injury, and should continue to get enough playing time in the outfield to make him relevant as a speed play in most fantasy leagues. He’s basically owned nowhere with less than 2% ownership on ESPN, so he’s likely available as a play in leagues that make daily roster changes. Fuld is getting on base at a .347 clip this season and he’s only been caught three times in 19 stolen base attempts. His 16 stolen bases have come in only 262 plate appearances. That’s a rate of one steal for every 16 plate appearances. In the A’s lineup he’ll have opportunites to score runs, but outside of that and his steals he’s not going to bring much to the table as a .260 hitter with no power (hence the appearances in these SAGNOF columns). We’re getting closer to the finish line here folks and we need to get the stats where we can. Give Fuld a look this week against the Braves, who are tied for 8th in baseball with 73 stolen bases allowed. Here are some other steals picks for this week in 2014 fantasy baseball…

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Several aces take the mound today, but with Clayton Kershaw costing $14K and David Price $12.5K, I’m going to save a few bucks and use Johnny Cueto ($9,900) as my #1 starter. Not only is his price much more reasonable which allows me to buy a few better hitters, but Cueto gets a nice match-up against the Marlins. Cueto has been dominant this season with a 2.04 ERA and a strikeout for every inning pitched. The 28-year-old right-hander is coming off of a complete game against the Indians. He actually faced the Marlins in the previous start, striking out nine while allowing only one earned run and one walk in seven innings pitched. I’d expect similar success again today. The Marlins are in the middle of the pack in terms of wRC+ against right-handed pitching (91) but their strikeout percentage against righties (24.1%) is the worst in baseball.

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Despite his recent clunker, Marcus Stroman was the most added player on ESPN with a 49% jump in ownership. It’s well deserved, as the 23-year-old right-hander has put together a nice season for the Blue Jays. After spending the first part of 2014 yo-yoing between the minors and a brief role in the Jays bullpen, Stroman has a 3.49 ERA (3.30 xFIP) with a 7.9 K/9 and 2.09 BB/9. Those are solid numbers from a rookie, and while it was speculated that he could be hurt by the long ball, he’s managed to keep his HR/9 at a nice 0.58 rate. He’s not a big guy, but if you’ve seen him pitch this year you’d agree he’s got good stuff. The Toronto faithful have even made this cool hat. Like all rookies he’ll have bad days like this past Sunday, but sandwiched between two bad starts were three beauties. Prior to that start he had strung together 21 innings with only one earned run and 20 strikeouts. He hasn’t walked more than two batters in his last five starts and he hasn’t given up a homer in six of his last seven. It’s possible the Jays will be careful with Stroman moving forward so keep an ear to the ground for news of a possible innings limit. Outside of that I’d roster Stroman in all forrmats despite Sunday’s hiccup. He’s right there with fellow rookies Jake Odorizzi and Kevin Gausman and I’d actually prefer Stroman over both at the moment. Here are this week’s other big adds and drops in 2014 fantasy baseball…

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Two of the smaller pieces that stand to gain value after Thursday’s massive trade deadline are Tiger center fielders Ezequiel Carrera and Rajai Davis. The two will see all of the starts in center now that Austin Jackson has been traded. Davis should see the majority of playing time between the two speedsters, but Carrera could still be good for SAGNOF in some deep leagues or AL-only leagues. The 27-year-old had stolen 43 bases in the minors prior to his call up and while he only played a handful of games with the Indians last season, he stole 43 bags in the minors in 2013 as well. Meanwhile Davis started in center and led off both Friday and Saturday. The Jackson trade was really a big boost to Davis owners, since playing time had been his biggest concern and now he’ll get a shot to play every day in center.

For those looking to gamble on Carrera it’s worth mentioning that he bats left-handed while Davis bats from the right side. This could shift Davis’s value in the wrong direction should he begin to yield starts with right-handers on the mound. I don’t think it happens, but it’s worth keeping an eye on if Davis slumps. Carrera could also see a few starts for defensive reasons, as Davis posted a -3.8 UZR in left prior to the trade and center field isn’t exactly easier to play. However, Davis came up in the minors playing center field so expecting Carrera to play over him for defense is still a bit of a stretch. All in all, it’s just a situation worth monitoring if you’re a Davis owner or play in a deep league (15-team+) where Carrera is readily available. Here are some other steals options for this week in 2014 fantasy baseball…

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If the weather cooperates today, I’m hoping Stephen Strasburg ($9,300) comes through as my ace in DFS games. There’s a chance of storms for this match-up with the Phillies, so start at your own risk. That said, the Phils own a wRC+ of 84 against right-handed pitching. That’s good for 28th in baseball and Strasburg should have little trouble against them. In his last start against the Phillies, the 26-year-old right-hander gave up two earned runs while striking out nine batters in just 5 2/3 innings pitched.  That was part of a recent string of four starts with at least eight strikeouts. He’ll have a tough time sealing the win with Cole Hamels on the mound for the Phils, but the strikeout upside here is enough for me to want him as my SP#1 this week. He’s ranked #1 on the Stream-o-Nator today at a $24 value.

If you are new to DraftKings, use our promo link to get started. New players that click on that link will get a free contest ticket with a first time deposit (only new users eligible). The winner of the contest gets entry into our $500k Showcase with a $100k top prize. Also, if you haven’t tried the DFSBot via Rudy, check it out: it compares projected values to actual DFS prices for the day. Here are some other picks for DraftKings contests on 8/3/2014…

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It’s nice to feel good about a call now and then. This week’s most added player was Austin Jackson (+42%). He was one of the first players in this column to get the “treasure” label back in early June when he was one of the most dropped. Back then I said, “It looks a little bleak now, but I still think Jackson gets to double digit homers and 20 steals by the end of this season. I’m not going crazy over him, and if you have better options please start them. However, he’s not a straight drop for a hot schmotato and it might be wise to inquire with a Jackson owner before the buy-low window closes.” And that’s me quo-, you get it. I’m not so sure about the homers and steals, but Jackson’s hitting for average and accumulating counting stats.

The 27-year-old outfielder has been starting regularly and leading off for the Tigers. In July, he’s hitting .351 with a .385 OBP, 18 runs scored and ten runs batted in. Should he continue to lead off, Jackson will be a nice source of runs scored from this point forward. Steamer projects him for another four homers and five steals. I think he could easily pass that steals mark with the Tigers being more aggressive this season.

Here are this week’s other big adds and drops for 2014 fantasy baseball…

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