Closing Time: Randal Grichuk heals up, heats up

Randal Grichuk (right) has been hot to trot in June (AP/Eric Christian Smith)

If we go by the highlights only, Randal Gruchuk had a pretty good night Monday at Houston.

Check out this titanic blast, which probably left a dent in the stadium. Over the train! And then applaud this game-saving catch, denying George Springer a three-run homer. Get out the shaving cream and the Gatorade, it’s time for a post-game interview. Swanky stuff and a fun night for a kid from Rosenberg, Texas.

But if we go by the seasonal numbers, Grichuk isn’t having much of a year. He’s at .194/.272/.448 over 46 games. He’s hit nine homers, which is nice. Two steals. His OPS+ is a mere 93, where 100 is league average.

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So I understand why Grichuk sits at 10-percent owned in Yahoo leagues. The overall stats are ugly. And heck, maybe some are stumbling over his name (it’s Grich-ick, accent on the first syllable).

But let’s recognize the story flipped in June. Grichuk has a .279/.338/.662 slash working this month, with seven homers in 68 at-bats. His strikeout rate is down 13.6 percent from his horrendous April. Arbitrary endpoints? Not quite. Remember, Grichuk missed all of May with a balky knee — an injury that surely had something to do with that aborted takeoff (.435 OPS in April).

Grichuk looked like a possible star during his 2015 breakout (.877 OPS, 17 homers in 323 at-bats) and he had plenty of positive moments the last two years, even if he never found consistency. He’s still just 26. Maybe it took him a while to adjust to American League life, and for his body to be right.

I can’t guarantee you the story lasts for three more months, but I know plausible upside when I see it. Grichuk is healthy now and punishing baseballs. Try to find room for him on the back of your roster. Given what he’s done in June, that ownership tag doesn’t make sense.

• The case for Enrique Hernandez (Kiké for short) isn’t perfect, but he’ll help some fantasy teams. He’s conked 13 home runs in 184 at-bats. He qualifies at second, short, third, and outfield in the Yahoo game. He crushes against left-handed pitching (career .874 OPS). And he’s on a good run right now, against everyone.

Hernandez hit two home runs Sunday against the Mets (the Dodgers took BP most of that afternoon), then hit another dinger Monday against the Cubs. He’s ripped six homers over the last 13 games, with a .341/.396/.773 slash. Like Grichuk, Hernandez started the month with an ugly slash line. But he’s become a trusted player for Dave Roberts in LA.

If you prefer to only use Hernandez when the lefties come calling, the schedule is here to help. Three of the next four opponents are set with a southpaw starter. Hernandez is owned in a modest 13 percent of Yahoo.

Matt Duffy doesn’t offer a ton of category juice — four homers, five steals — but he’s turned into a useful piece in Tampa. He’s hitting .318, qualifies at two infield spots. Lately he’s been locked into the No. 2 slot in the order. That .366 OBP is also useful in hybrid formats.

We’ve seen The Duff take on fantasy value before — check back to 2015, when he hit .295 with a 77-12-77-12 line. He wasn’t caught stealing that season. It’s possible Duffy is headed for a sneaky career year in his age-27 campaign. He’s unclaimed in 82 percent of the Y.

• If you’re looking for a Wednesday streamer, and maybe a temp-to-perm guy, Ivan Nova might be your man. Here’s another story of a player who’s been much better lately, rebounding from injury.

Nova had a good strikeout/walk ratio but not much else into June, and he needed time off with a finger injury. But he’s been solid in three starts since activation: 19.2 IP, 12 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 19 K. His last turn (eight scoreless against Arizona) is one I’m not sure how to calibrate — Patrick Corbin struck out 12 that day; maybe it was a case of a friendly zone. But we’ve seen Nova go on useful runs before, and the Mets (26th in runs) are an unthreatening match.

Whatever your Nova needs may be, he’s free to add in about three-quarters of Yahoo leagues.

Starling Marte is a good fantasy play in any format, but get ready for a possible ascension. He shifted to the leadoff position Monday against the Mets, and came through with a 4-3-1-1 line. Most importantly for us, he swiped a couple of bags. It’s not like Marte was reluctant to run in the middle of the lineup, but a rabbit mentality makes more sense at the front of the order.

The Pirates are just 15th in runs and 15th in slugging, so they need all the help they can get. Marte’s had two seasons with exactly 30 steals, and he’s had two years where he hit the 40-plus mark. Health permitting, I think this is a year he gets into the high 40s, perhaps beating his career best of 47.

Josh Bell slotted second Monday and hit his fifth homer, an opposite-field fly that barely cleared the wall. Favorable, sure, but it also showcased impressive power, Bell getting a home run on a ball he didn’t crush. For the moment, the versatile Josh Harrison is Pittsburgh’s No. 3 hitter.

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