While all attention right now is on the deadline deals -- and indeed, some will have an impact on who you're adding and dropping in Fantasy Baseball -- games are still being played. And in those games, several forgotten Fantasy assets have shown they're worth remembering.
I'm talking mainly about Brandon Lowe and Marcell Ozuna, who have had their share of ups and downs over the years. But at their best, they're genuine difference-makers further bolstered by the hitters around them. And they appear to be at their best right now, with Lowe going 5 for 11 with two homers and a steal in a three-game series at Houston, and Ozuna connecting for four home runs during a three-game series against Milwaukee.
But let's begin with an even more forgotten asset, one who hasn't played all year because of an elbow injury. After quietly rehabbing in the minors over the last week-plus, Trevor Story is on the verge of returning.
Trevor Story SS
BOS Boston • #10 • Age: 31
We don't know exactly what day Story will rejoin the Red Sox lineup, but a report over the weekend said it could be when the team returns home Friday for a series against the Blue Jays. It's true that the former Rockies standout disappointed the past couple years given his history as a first round-caliber bat, but he was still a deserving starter in all formats, contributing plenty of home runs and stolen bases while mostly falling short in batting average. And who knows? Maybe the UCL damage in his elbow, not enough to require full-blown Tommy John surgery but rather an internal bracing procedure, helped contribute to his premature decline. It started before he left Colorado, after all. You shouldn't count on first round-caliber production again, but for a middle infielder, Story's upside is significant.
STL St. Louis • #21 • Age: 26
Nootbaar's struggles to elevate the ball have contributed to a disappointing first year as a full-time starter, but he just wrapped up a July that should serve as a reminder how good he can be. His two home runs Friday were his fifth and sixth for the month to go along with a .309 (29 for 94) batting average and .416 on-base percentage. He's been the fifth-best outfielder in points leagues during that stretch -- behind Cody Bellinger, Kyle Tucker, Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna -- and is verging on must-start status again in that format thanks to his ability to take a walk. He bats in the upper third of the lineup most every day, which is of course valuable in all formats, and you may recall that this was about the point when he burst onto the scene last year.
Brandon Lowe 2B
TB Tampa Bay • #8 • Age: 29
In 50 games before landing on the IL with an inflamed back, Lowe hit .205 with a .696 OPS. In 20 games since returning, he has hit .286 (18 for 63) with a .939 OPS. This includes a 5-for-11 performance over the weekend that saw him homer twice and steal a base. All three of his hits Sunday left the bat at more than 106 mph. In other words, he's again looking like the Brandon Lowe from 2020-21, who was one of the true second base standouts thanks to his incomparable power production at the position. The back issues have been recurring since then, which might explain the statistical downturn, though it's also true that streakiness has defined the 29-year-old's time in the majors. In any case, he's on the right side of streaky now, and the biggest question is if he can work his way in against lefties more.
ATL Atlanta • #20 • Age: 33
Ozuna's season has been one of extreme highs and lows. First was the .085 (5 for 59) batting average in April. Then came the two-month stretch in which he hit .304 (59 for 194) with 15 home runs and a .943 OPS. Then, right about the point when we were all beginning to trust him, he endured a 14-game stretch in which he hit .082 (4 for 49). So who foresaw him hitting four home runs this weekend, driving in six runs while scoring seven? Not those in the 13 percent of leagues where he was dropped during his 14-game skid. It's been a roller coaster for sure, but given Ozuna's everyday spot in one of the best lineups in baseball, he deserves more patience than your league-mate showed him.
Jake Burger 3B
MIA Miami • #36 • Age: 27
Exactly seven players have more than Burger's 25 home runs this year, despite his inconsistent playing time. Of them, only Max Muncy is within even 50 at-bats of him. He's 92nd percentile in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, and when you reduce it to singular batted-ball events, only Matt Olson and Giancarlo Stanton have hit a ball harder than Burger. He is, by every measure, a transcendent power hitter, which is notable now that the playing time is becoming more consistent. The White Sox have opened the door to him playing second base, and he's now picked up eligibility there in addition to first and third base. He's homered four times in his past five games and has started 19 straight. There are major batting average concerns given how much he strikes out, but his .254 xBA is much higher than his actual .214 mark.
PHI Philadelphia • #61 • Age: 26
Sanchez didn't look like anything special coming out of Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he had a 4.35 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, but so far, he can do no wrong in the majors. He put that hypothesis to the test Sunday, no-hitting the Pirates over five innings to bring his ERA down to 2.66 and his WHIP down to 0.91. His 55 percent ground-ball rate speaks to his ability to avoid damage on contact, but that ability was evident in the minors as well. More notable is that he's issued 1.5 BB/9 during his time in the majors compared to 5.3 BB/9 at Triple-A and 4.2 BB/9 over his minor-league career. That sort of about-face still seems too good to be true even nine starts in, but if it is true, Sanchez might be able to make another Ranger Suarez-level impact.
Brooks Raley RP
NYM N.Y. Mets • #25 • Age: 35
Adam Ottavino might have seemed like the obvious choice to take over as closer for the Mets if anything happened to David Robertson. But now something has happened to Robertson -- he's been traded to the Marlins -- and it turns out someone else has gotten the save chances since (two, to be exact). That someone is Raley, a left-hander who was part of the Rays' closing committee last year. Notably, his latest save Sunday came with Ottavino working the eighth. Raley then went on to record all three ninth-inning outs via strikeout. The decision may have to do with practicality more than skill. Ottavino isn't guaranteed to return in 2024 and, thus, may soon follow Robertson out the door. Nonetheless, it appears to be the decision the Mets have made, which makes Raley a prime pickup for saves.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #60 • Age: 24
The White Sox traded Kendall Graveman to the Astros on Friday, and conveniently enough, a save chance came up that very same day. It went to Santos, which made for a helpful tip of the hand, but then Scott Merkin, beat writer for MLB.com, actually used the word "closer" to describe him, adding this from pitching coach Ethan Katz: "He's been the talk around baseball. People are very curious about him. We get a lot of good feedback from other teams." That description may be an exaggeration given that Santos has been a bit hittable by closer standards, but at least until Liam Hendriks (elbow inflammation) is healthy, he would appear to have the role all to himself. That said, if you're choosing between him and the Mets new closer, Brooks Raley, I'd pick Raley.