Fantasy Baseball: Ezequiel Duran makes his move, and more from Monday's MLB action

·5 min read

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but the Rangers gave up on a former prospect in June.

Willie Calhoun was designated for assignment last week and ultimately landed at Triple-A Round Rock when all of baseball passed on him. Calhoun isn’t a lost cause at age 27, but he’s a long shot at best given what’s transpired.

The hot prospect is dead. Long live ... the next hot prospect. Enter: Ezequiel Duran.

Ezequiel Duran making his move in fantasy

To be fair, calling Duran a hot prospect is overdoing it mildly. He did show up on the and Baseball Prospectus ranking lists this spring, but barely in the top 100 (MLB had him at 83, BP at 99). He pushed onto the radar with solid showing in A-Ball last year (.267/.342/.486, 19 homers, 19 steals), but he wasn’t in the Rangers' immediate plans.

Things perked up nicely in the first two months of 2022. Duran hit the ground running in Double-A — .317/.365/.574 slash, with seven homers and seven steals over 45 games — and earned a double-jump to the majors. He’s looked the part through nine games with Texas: .333/.351/.556, with two homers and a stolen base.

Texas Rangers third baseman Ezequiel Duran (70) is making a fantasy impact
Ezequiel Duran's fantasy impact is already being felt. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The steal came in Monday’s win over Houston, and it’s the interesting angle to Duran’s fantasy value. His sprint speed is in the 96th percentile; there’s major bag potential if he can learn the craft. Texas is one of the rare MLB teams that like to run these days. Duran showed plenty of category juice in the minors, and perhaps that can quickly carry over to the big leagues.

I’m a sucker for versatility, and Duran checks that box. Yahoo managers can set him at second, shortstop, or third base. He’s started nine straight games. Coincidentally or not, the Rangers' offense looks better with Duran in the mix — the team is on a three-game winning steak, scoring 24 runs over the past three games.

Duran is still widely available in the Yahoo game, currently tagged at 16 percent.

Swanson and Braves piling up the runs

Don’t look now, Mets — something is gaining on you.

Atlanta’s reeled off 12 straight victories, the latest a 9-5 victory over Washington on Monday. The Braves slugged their way to this win, clubbing five homers and making the most of just 10 hits.

Dansby Swanson hit one of those homers, and he’s taken off since being promoted in the lineup 19 games ago. Dig that .372/.430/.539 slash, with three homers and three steals. He’s scored 16 runs, driven in 15. Maybe it’s time for a career season at age 28.

One downside to Atlanta’s win was an injury to Ozzie Albies. The keystone star fractured his left foot and is surely headed for the IL. Orlando Arcia is the fill-in, and likely to slot low in the order. But the way Atlanta is crushing the ball right now, the team should be able to withstand Albies’ absence.

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Things aren’t as rosy on the Atlanta mound, especially concerning struggling right-hander Ian Anderson. He only lasted four innings against Washington, with his ERA swelling up to 4.81. The strikeout rate is down, the walk rate is up. A 1.46 WHIP is not playable in any format.

Anderson has lost a tick off his fastball velocity, and his change has been a minus pitch this year after grading out positively the two previous years. Oddly, Anderson is doing fine in the platoon disadvantage — lefties have a modest .635 OPS against him — but he’s getting pounded by the right-handers (.296/.361/.493). And as we all know, it’s a right-handed world.

Anderson is a borderline option against the Cubs later this week, and you can’t go near him against the Dodgers in the following week.

Lane Thomas is back in circle of trust

I had Lane Thomas circled on my sleeper list entering 2022. He was given a 35-game leadoff trial at the end of 2021, and the results were a smash: .253/.343/.487, seven homers, 29 runs, 24 RBIs, three steals. I expected him to get a good slot to open the fresh season.

Alas, the Nationals buried Thomas in the lineup in April, and soon enough he wasn’t even a full-time player. He was slashing a paltry .285./.237/.241 as recently as April 28.

But the Nationals eventually gave Thomas another shot at a good batting position — he’s batted first or second since June 3 — and the results speak for themselves. A three-homer game got it started, but Thomas has been doing a little of everything — socking line drives, drawing walks, scoring runs. It adds up to .395/.458/.744 over 10 games, with 14 glorious runs scored.

Everyone knows the catbird seat in the Washington lineup — the slots right in front of Juan Soto. It looks like Thomas will be parked here for a while. His seasonal numbers are still uninspiring, which is why Thomas is rostered in a mere four percent of Yahoo leagues. There’s a profit opportunity here.