The Proof Is In The Peripherals: September 19-25

In the words of Billie Joe Armstrong, wake me up when September ends.  I'm in the worst part of the year for any fantasy owner  -- eliminated from head-to-head league playoffs and not close to first place in my 5x5 leagues.  Now I'm just playing out the string, putting in time, rotating my daily lineups in a futile hope that it'll be nothing but five-hit games and no-hitters for my players over an entire 10-day span and I'll somehow roar into first place Rocktober-style.

If you have somewhat more realistic dreams of a fantasy championship, try some of these roster adds or drops on for size...

* Ells Bells.  Players with Jacoby Ellsbury's speed simply don't post a .143 BABIP for weeks at a time, yet that's what the Yankee outfielder has laid on his fantasy owners' doorstep in the month of September (heading into Thursday's play) like a dog that happily brings home a dead squirrel.   As you might expect, that tiny BABIP has led Ellsbury to post an ugly .141/.164/.250 line with one homer, five runs, three RBI and two steals over 67 September plate appearances, putting a sour end to an otherwise fine first season in New York.

There seems little doubt that the sprained ankle Ellsbury suffered in late August is still bothering him, and had the Yankees not been playing for their postseason lives, I've gotta believe Ellsbury would've gone to the DL to fully recover.  Instead he's trying to tough it out, and without power nor the ability to beat out grounders, he's only hurting both the Yankees' lineup and your fantasy roster.  If you've got Ellsbury on your roster for a head-to-head league final this week, get rid of him entirely --- his ankle isn't getting any better playing virtually every day, so there's little chance he suddenly returns to form. 

* Extranori-ary.  I threw Nori Aoki under the advanced metric bus back in June and it was the right move at the time, as he continued to struggle (especially in terms of fantasy value) until the end of August.  Then, suddenly, he exploded.  He was already having a nice September before his absurd 11-for-13 stretch over his last three games; in classic powerless Aoki fashion, nine of those hits were singles and the other two were doubles, but still, am I seriously nitpicking 11-for-13?  Come on, Mark!

Now hitting a cool .423/.492/.519 in 59 September PA, Aoki has suddenly put himself very much in the conversation as a last-minute secret weapon for your fantasy pennant race.  If you have an outfielder who, say, plays for the Yankees and is nursing a bum ankle, now might be the time to cut this hypothetical person and pick up Aoki.  He's not giving you much aside from average (zero homers, six RBI, four runs) but at this time of year, you have to ride the hot hand. 

Aoki's September BABIP is a whopping .468, and while that's clearly not going to last, he's also been walking (10.2% BB rate) more often than he's been striking out (8.5% K rate) this month.  His early-season swoon was partly related to the fact that Aoki was uncharacteristically swinging and missing more than he was taking free passes, but he's been getting back in form since --- his walk rate has topped his strikeout rate in every month since May.  A productive Aoki is a valuable fantasy asset, and if you're willing to risk trusting the Royals' hot-or-cold offense for a couple of weeks, Aoki is a decent bet to help your average and run totals.

* Peave Of Destruction.  The Giants traded for Jake Peavy to replace Matt Cain in their rotation, but instead Peavy seems to literally be becoming Cain.  I dunno if this is a Cage/Travolta Face/Off situation or what, but Peavy has taken Cain's mantle as the guy who puts up ace-level numbers while outperforming rather middling advanced metrics.  In 10 starts as a Giant, Peavy has a 2.16 ERA, despite a 6.89 K/9 that explains much higher ERA predictors like a 3.71 SIERA and 3.76 xFIP.  He's not getting any major BABIP or strand rate help, and his batted-ball rates are about the same as they were for his 2014 Boston starts, so I can't figure out...

...oh, wait a second.  I have some breaking news.  Turns out it's a lot easier for a pitcher to keep baseballs inside AT&T Park than it is at Fenway, as Peavy has a 2.7% home run rate with the Giants, compared to his 12.2% homer rate with the Red Sox.  While this could change depending on clinching situations or not, Peavy's final two regular season starts will be at Dodger Stadium (another pitcher-friendly locale) and then at home against the Padres, a gimme if there ever was one.  Peavy is somewhat surprisingly still available in 35% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, so by this point, why fight the Cain wave?  Pick up Peavy and enjoy the benefits.

* Middle Of Nowhere.  I end this week's column with not really a warning about Will Middlebrooks, since I imagine any fantasy manager with a brain jumped ship on him ages ago.  I just wanted to point out Middlebrooks' incredible wRC+ for the month of September --- it's 2.  That's right, two.  2.0.  As in, one less than three, one more than one.  That is what Middlebrooks produced over his first 51 September PA.  Sadly, he got two hits on Thursday night, so our fun can't continue.  He's probably all the way up in the double digit wRC+ by now, laughing it up.

You wonder how much patience the Red Sox have left for Middlebrooks given that they're still waiting for him just to stay healthy, let alone have a breakout season.  If Boston does cut bait, I'd keep an eye on Middlebrooks' next destination to see if he has any post-hype prospect sleeper potential.  He's absolutely the proverbial 25th player you draft on your 25-player roster next spring, yet maybe a change of scenery is all that's needed to turn the lightbulb on for this guy.  In the meantime....a 2 RC+!  Great scott!  I mean, like, I could probably have do that in 51 Major League plate appearances, and I was once cut from a house league baseball team.




RotoAuthority League Update: Last Mile of the Marathon

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

The Race for First Place

1. E-Z Sliders 102

2. Men With Wood 90

Every fantasy league is different. In some of my leagues, there are as many as three owners who could still very easily take home the title this season. Well, things won't be as exciting this week in the RotoAuthority League. With just a week to play, some may still view it as premature to announce the 2014 RotoAuthority League champion. I feel rather confident, however, in stating that E-Z Sliders will take home the title this season. 

If that proves to be the case, it would certainly make for a worthy champion. For my money, no owner acquired more value on Draft Day. Oddly enough, during the season this owner made the second-fewest acquisitions in the league and just a pair of trades. Contrast that with likely runner-up Men With Wood. This owner has showed up and then some throughout the daily grind of the MLB season. All told, he's made over 230 moves, 60 more than any other team in the league. There are many ways to skin a cat, and there are many ways to be successful in fantasy baseball.

The Race for Third Place

3. Smell the Glove 86

4. Guitar Masahiro 82.5

Commissioner Dierkes has been fighting off Guitar Masahiro for weeks now, but he only needs to hold him off for one more week to get his money back with a third place finish. Both owners are close in innings pitched, so there's no advantage on either side there. I still don't see the order here changing over the next seven days, but stranger things have happened.

The Race to Avoid the Bottom Four

5. A Century of Misery 76

6. Pulling Brzenk 65.5

7. The Jewru 56

8. Brewsterville Bruins 55.5

9. Spirit of St. Louis 48

10. The Bombers 45

11. Gramma Nutt Crushers 38

12. Cobra Kai 36.5

While some may feel safer than others, at this point the majority of the league only cares about avoiding the bottom four and a boot from the league. I've opted to place my squad in this group because my chances of third place are all for naught at this point. Pulling Brzenk too is languishing in the middle of the standings but at least will be back next season. Likewise, next year's invitations for the Brewsterville Bruins and the Jewru look relatively safe now, but I'm sure those owners will breathe a tad easier once the standings are finalized in a week. The clock is ticking for newbies Spirit of St. Louis, the Bombers, and Cobra Kai as well as a veteran in the Gramma Nutt Crushers. I'd like to wish good luck to all of these owners fighting for their fantasy lives over the randomness that is one week's worth of games.

Standings as of Sunday, September 20th




Closer Updates: A’s, Cards, Nats, Phillies, Rays, Royals, Red Sox, White Sox

If you’re still checking for fantasy updates at this point in the season, you are either dedicated to winning the consolation bracket or ready to take home a fantasy championship. Either way, sit back and get comfortable. It’s time for some closer updates…

Boston Red Sox – After pitching sparsely over the past month, Koji Uehara is back in action for the BoSox (26 saves, 2.56 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 11.2 K/9). Because he’s a little rusty, expect Edward Mujica (6 saves, 4.03 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 6.4 K/9) to continue to get save opportunities in the near future. That being said, do not be surprised if Koji sneaks in and snags a couple of saves while Boston starts to play for next season.

Chicago White Sox – Earlier this week, Jake Petricka (13 saves, 2.83 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) blew a save and further endangered his grip on the closer’s role. After Zach Putnam (2.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) earned his fifth save on Tuesday, it still remains unclear who exactly has the gig. Look for this to be fluid over the next two weeks, with Petricka barely ahead of Putnam.

Kansas City RoyalsGreg Holland (42 saves, 1.57 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) has returned to the mound for KC and will be good to go moving forward. Assuming that he remains healthy, Holland should be back to form and can be a solid closer the rest of the way. However, Wade Davis should remain a strong RP to own given his season numbers (3 saves, 0.82 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 13.2 K/9) and position as Holland’s handcuff.

Oakland Athletics – In the past week, Sean Doolittle (21 saves, 2.20 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) has returned to the fold and reclaimed his closer role. Manager Bob Melvin reiterated as such, so look for him to be the man to own in Oakland for the rest of the season. Sorry for those hoping that Eric O’Flaherty, Luke Gregerson, or Dan Otero were going to emerge from the A’s former closer committee.

Philadelphia Phillies – After Jonathan Papelbon was suspended for seven games because of a Michael Jackson impression, look for the Phillies to turn elsewhere for saves while he serves his time. The first option? Ken Giles. He’s been a force this season (1.08 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 13.0 K/9) and might be able to keep the gig after Papelbon returns to action.

St. Louis Cardinals – With manager Mike Matheny stating that he’d prefer not to use closer Trevor Rosenthal (44 saves, 3.31 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) on back-to-back days, Pat Neshek (6 saves, 1.41 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) has just become a much more valuable commodity. If Matheny sticks to his word, look for Neshek to have a couple of save opportunities over the Cards’ final stretch run.

Tampa Bay Rays – After struggling recently, Joel Peralta (16.88 ERA and 3.00 WHIP in the past fortnight) might be on the hot seat in Tampa. If these struggles continue, look for Brad Boxberger (2 saves, 2.29 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) and Grant Balfour (12 saves, 5.34 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) to steal a few save opportunities.

Washington Nationals – The Nats have continued to roll, despite some uncertainty at the back end of their bullpen. Rafael Soriano has been inconsistent (6.10 ERA and 1.74 WHIP over the past month), to say the least, and Drew Storen (7 saves, 1.23 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) seems to have a lead on the job right now. Don’t forget Tyler Clippard (1 save, 2.06 ERA, 1.01 WHIP), who remains in the mix too. Either way, keep in mind that this situation remains a dynamic one and change can happen at any point.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




Stock Watch: Late September Hope

I was thinking to myself that the end of the season is truly the mirror image of its beginning. 

Then I realized how obvious that idea is and I felt kinda dumb.

I guess breaking it down won’t do it much good, but maybe it’ll help a little. We’ve got about two weeks of games left at this point (more like 11 or 12 games actually), and instead of making our waiver wire picks based on a small sample size we hope to extrapolate into a large one, we’re making picks based on a nice, large sample…and hoping they work out over a stretch of 12 games.

And I thought the era of two Wild Cards was supposed to give us hope in late September.

The good news, though, is that there are things we can know about and can predict: things like quality of opponents and tendencies of parks. The sorts of things that help fuel those epic late-year drives…and the collapses that are their all-too-frequent corollaries. Stock Watch won’t be a perfectly exact science this week…but it ought to do you better than random guessing.

But no promises.

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned in Yahoo! Leagues)

Javier Baez (47%) will wreak havoc on your batting average—but that power is here to play. Consider him a situational pickup for those who’ve give up average or who are so good they can handle his sub-Mendoza line.

Adam Eaton (46%) is playing good and stealing bases. His schedule is pretty mixed, but those games in Detroit don’t look as bad as they used to.

Russell Martin (46%) is way better in real baseball, but he’s got plenty of fantasy value. The Brewers’ and Reds’ pitching staffs should see to that. Jordy Mercer (31%) is another Pirate who could have a good end to the year.

Lonnie Chisenhall (42%) doesn’t have any schedule-related extremes that should keep you from picking him up if you need 3B help. He’s not as good as the beginning of the season, but he’s not useless either.

Kennys Vargas (40%) has too many games in Minnesota (which should help his team score runs but depress his homers), so if you’re looking for homers look elsewhere—but, then again, Vargas has a lot of power and isn’t facing any pitching that still scares me. Call him a maybe, I guess.

Dioner Navarro (40%) is a great potential source of homers. All the rest of his games are at home, at Yankee Stadium, or in Baltimore. But mostly at home. Pick him up. Adam Lind (31%) should also enjoy the last couple weeks of the season.

Kolten Wong (34%) is a must for anyone interested in speed or second base. Why do I keep talking this guy up? Because he’s playing the Brewers and Reds at home (hitters’ park, bad opposing pitchers) and finishes the season in Arizona (extreme hitters’ park, terrible opposing pitchers). You don't have to be good to hit with a schedule like that! Pick up any Cardinals you see.

By the way, why is Steve Pearce (34%) still on the waiver wire? Seriously.

James Paxton (47%) should be owned just about everywhere—he’s picked up right where he left off at the beginning of the season. He should rise above some relatively tough matchups.

Brandon McCarthy (41%) has been great and should also get two more starts after today’s: at home against a (probably) resting-the-veterans Orioles and then against the Red Sox.

Henderson Alvarez (40%) is another guy starting today who should get two more starts: his are against the hapless Phillies and against the, again, probably resting-the-stars Nationals at the very end of the season. Jarred Cosart (30%) gets those same matchups.

Bartolo Colon (38%) should be pitching the last game of the year against the Astros. At home. Got to like that. 

Jake Odorizzi (37%) is really good. But that’s tempered by the fact that his last couple starts are nothing exciting.

Derek Holland (35%) not only looks good for this year, but I’d be getting ready to draft him for next year.

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

James Loney (28%) shouldn’t be prevented by his schedule to keep doing what he does.

Juan Lagares (27%) looks like he’s emerging as a steals threat. Also, most of the rest of the Mets’ games are on the road. Not that he’s a power guy, but it should help. Travis d’Arnaud (25%) should also be happy to be playing on the road for a while.

A.J. Pollock (23%) has just been great since coming back. Arizona’s got a hitting-favorable schedule, but I’d have been recommending Pollock anyway. 

Drew Stubbs (22%) is just the guy for your team…through Sunday. This series at home against Arizona is just the time to use Stubbs. Then let him go, because the Rockies finish the year on the road in San Diego and Los Angeles.

Lorenzo Cain (22%) keeps on stealing…when he plays.

Oscar Taveras (21%) is another Cardinal to take advantage of.

Yusmeiro Petit (29%) doesn’t seem to have much left to prove. Roll him out there.

Don’t use Jorge De La Rosa (23%) tonight, but his next start will be in San Diego; then he should get the season’s last game in LA, against a Dodgers team that will (presumably) be preparing itself for the playoffs. A sneaky-good pickup, if you ask me.

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned)

Guess who Jon Jay (17%) plays for. Yeah, the Cardinals. Go for it.

Avisail Garcia (17%) is an interesting see-what-you-have kind of play.

Conor Gillaspie (15%) doesn’t have the time to help your batting average, but if you’re needing a third baseman to do no harm, he’s your guy.

Mike Zunino (14%) and Mark Reynolds (13%) offer power-at-all-costs. Same as always.

Oswaldo Arcia (11%) has been relatively productive lately; home games could cost him homers but help in other areas.

Gerardo Parra (9%) and the Brewers have a pretty good hitting schedule for the rest of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they produced decently—which is usually a lot to ask at this level of ownership.

Jose Ramirez (6%) is finding favor with the Indians, plays both middle infield positions and steals some bases. Cool.

Chris Owings (6%) should benefit from Arizona’s favorable schedule for hitters.

If Jarrod Dyson (5%) can steal bases off the bench for Kansas City, he probably can for you too, if you’re desperate for speed.

Trevor Bauer (14%) has a couple of okay starts left…I guess I’m not that excited, but this is the level at which excitement is usually unwarranted.

Shane Greene (12%) should have three starts left. So if you need quantity, he could be your guy. The Blue Jays, Orioles, and Red Sox could be easier opponents, though.

Jeremy Hellickson (10%) gets the White Sox and Indians. Could be worse.

Odrisamer Despaigne (7%) has two starts left, both against the Giants. His next one is at home, so he’s worth using for that. See how hard the Giants are fighting for the Wild Card before making a decision to use Despaigne in the less-friendly game at San Francisco next week.

Drew Pomeranz (5%) is supposed to get a spot start against the Phillies on Saturday. That’s the sort of thing to watch for and take advantage of.

Run Away (Seriously, Don’t Pick These Guys Up)

Brandon Belt, Michael Morse, and Angel Pagan all look like they could help a shallow league team…but they can’t. After today’s Arizona game, the Giants will be doing nothing but play in pitchers’ parks in San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Stay away from Giants hitters.

For the same reason we like the Blue Jays’ hitters, we have to stay away from their pitchers—even the highly talented ones like Marcus Stroman. Save Blue Jays pitchers for next year.




RotoAuthority Unscripted: A Second Base Cage Match

This is an article about old versus new. This is an article about years of production versus what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? This is an article about season-long performance and predictability versus unexpected hot streaks. And I don’t know how it’s going to end. 

Yes, you guessed it. This article is about Chase Utley and Luis Valbuena.

I suppose a bit of context is in order. In the RotoAuthority Silver League, I entered the month of September (or at least I exited August) with a pretty sizeable lead of 14 points in the standings. I kind of figured on coasting into championship, since the lead hadn’t changed much in at least a month or two.

Boy, was I wrong.

Hat tip to the owner of Tanaka Flocka Flame for shrinking that lead to 3.5 points, despite being without their name-inspiring star. So, I’m not exactly coasting like I expected to. Desperate might not be quite the right word…but maybe it is.

My hitting needs some more work, as I can conceivably pick up points in Runs, HR, and RBI—and I need to not lose them in AVG and SB. Which brings me to my dilemma.

Assuming for the moment that I don’t have the flexibility to drop anyone else, am I better off taking the surging Valbuena over the slumping Utley?

Let’s take a look.

Round 1: Recent Performance

In the last 30 days of 5x5 stats (R/HR/RBI/SB/AVG)
Valbuena: 18/6/10/1/.292
Utley: 6/0/11/2/.189

Obviously, it’s an easy win for Valbuena—that’s why we’re having this conversation, and that’s why his ownership is up from 4% (in Yahoo! leagues) on August 27 to today’s 23% number. He leads my waiver wire with those 18 runs scored and six home runs—though Oswaldo Arcia beats him on the latter account in plenty of free agent lists, I suppose.

Notably, it’s not a knockout, as Utley bests Valbuena in RBI and steals. Plus, while the batting averages would be nice to switch retroactively, is there any indication they’ll continue? And it’s not like runs scored are the most predictive stat in the world.

Winner: Valbuena. On to the next round.

Round 2: 2014 Season

On the season, 5x5 plus some more: (R/HR/RBI/SB/AVG/SLG/OBP)
Valbuena: 499 PA 61/16/48/1/.245/.329/.440
Utley: 617 PA 69/11/76/7/.273/.342/.414 

Utley runs up huge advantages in RBI, steals, and average—making it harder for me to believe Valbuena really will out-average Utley over the rest of the season, but Valbuena does noticeably better in power. Some of that difference—especially in RBI—can be chalked up to a big difference in plate appearances, so that makes Valbuena’s runs total even more impressive compared to Utley’s. Looking a little further under the hood, we can see that Valbuena’s got a strikeout percentage of 20.8%, compared to Utley’s 13%; Valbuena’s BABIP is sitting at .286, while Utley’s is .297. So, over any relevant stretch of time, it seems likely that Utley will outperform Valbuena in batting average, but I’m comfortable enough predicting that Valbuena will hit for more power. Call this one for Utley, but by perhaps less than it seems.

Winner: Utley

Round 3: Career Track Record

Uhh…yeah. You don’t need the stats to back this up, but I’ll give you them just so you can be reassured that I’m not lazy. Well, not that lazy, anyway.

Again in the (R/HR/RBI/SB/AVG/SLG/OBP) format.
Valbuena: 205/45/170/6/.228/.309/.374
Utley: 921/228/884/136//286/.370/.489 

I told you. Considering his shorter career, Valbuena’s career numbers are perhaps more relevant than Utley’s, but that doesn’t make this fight any less daunting for the upstart. It also gives us even more to worry about in the batting average department.

Winner: Utley But enough about the past. What about the future?

Round 4: Schedule and Teammates

Anyone who’s played fantasy baseball for more than a week or two has figured out that player performance has a bit of variation from week to week and month to month. With about two weeks left to go (is that it?) we have to take the context of the games each player will be playing into account.

Also, anyone who’s played fantasy long enough to start a second season knows that runs and RBI have about as much to do with the player generating them as they do his teammates helping him along—or getting in the way. 

On the season, the Cubs’ current roster of players has only generated about 3.0 more WAR than the Phillies…but they’ve done it with nearly 1000 fewer PA, because so many Cubs players have come up from the minors recently. Despite the gap in PA, the Cubs have actually hit 24 more homers than the Phils, and the squad has a .311 wOBA compared to the Phillies’ .297 mark. If you’re starting to think of this in degrees of badness, I’ll agree…but the degrees are relevant: the Phillies are a lot worse.

How about their place in those lineups? Valbuena has been bouncing around the top of the order in the last week, recently behind Jorge Soler and the recently-returned Anthony Rizzo, and in front of Welington Castillo. Chris Valaika, Javier Baez, and Chris Coghlan have also been batting in front of or behind Valbuena. Uh…keep in mind this is about degrees of bad, though things look a lot better with Rizzo back. 

Utley’s team has been a lot more stable, so it’s more fruitful to look at his season-average lineup slot: typically third behind Jimmy Rollins and Ben Revere and in front of Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd. So it’s no surprise that Utley has more RBI by a wide margin. The lineup-context makes things look more salvageable for Utley in this, now very extended round.

But how about the schedule?

Well, I profiled the Cubs’ and Phillies’ schedules in the same article. Let’s see how they look: about Philadelphia, I said, “You don’t want any part of their lineup.” For Chicago, however, I suggested that “Cubs hitters could be sneaky-good, with a slate of bad pitching staffs to face in the last month.” But that was on the month. Half the month is gone. So, who are the Cubs and Phillies really facing?

Cubs: Home (9): Reds (2), Dodgers (4), Cardinals (3); Away (3): Brewers (3)

Phillies: Home (3): Braves (3), Away (9): Padres (3), A’s (3), Marlins (3)

Wrigley Field (park factor of 0.894) has been the one of the worst parks to hit in this year, and while the Phils’ Citizens Bank Park is also pitching-friendly (park factor 0.917) it’s still friendlier to hitters than the Friendly Confines has been. The Cubs’ three games in Milwaukee are also in a pitchers’ park…while the Phillies get games in the hitting Death Valley that is San Diego, but get some good news: Oakland and Miami have, somewhat surprisingly, played as hitters’ parks this year. Park-wise, I’ll give this to Utley.

Unfortunately for both players, though, their schedules feature games against four of the top five pitching staffs in the NL (two series each, of course). The Cubs and Valbuena get a reprieve in the form of Reds and Brewers games, while the Phillies have to take on the Padres at home and the A’s.

Recapping a long Round 4: The Cubs’ lineup is a little better, and their schedule is a little easier. The Phillies’ home park is less unfavorable, and Utley hits near players that are at least sort of producing within his bad lineup.

Winner: Tie! I know, I know, we all hate ties, but this one does seem to be pretty close, with the most relevant information being that neither player is in a good situation.

Final Winner: Chase Utley

Yes, champion fends off the challenger in this cage match. Valbuena has put up a great month so far, but should we be surprised? There was a reason I said Cubs hitters could be “sneaky-good” this month...but Valbuena actually hasn't. In fact, he put up his impressive 30 day numbers almost entirely in the last couple weeks of August. Go figure. Maybe his "hot streak" has already cooled off.

After getting really excited to pick up Valbuena (he just about had me after Round 1), I have to say I don’t really recommend it. I’m sticking with the more consistent—albeit slumping—Utley.

Feel free to second-guess me when the rest of my lead slips out of my fingers….




RotoAuthority League Update: A Fortnight to Go

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

The Race for First Place

1. E-Z Sliders 102

2. Men With Wood 92

Is it still premature to declare a champion? I'd hate to jinx the E-Z Sliders, but it sure looks like this club will be drinking Yoo-hoo in a couple of weeks. Led by stellar weeks from Carl Crawford and J.D. Martinez in hitting as well as Mike Fiers and Jacob deGrom in pitching, this squad has all but locked up first place. Team MVP Jose Altuve continues to pave the way offensively, as he picks up multi-hit games seemingly everyday. Meanwhile, Tigers aces Max Scherzer and David Price have once again put in strong campaigns to help lead a strong staff. Given the stratification of the categories in the standings, this double-digit lead with two weeks to play is nearly - but not quite - insurmountable. I'm sure I'll have more kind words to say about the excellent job this owner has done managing once the league championship is officially decided.

Men With Wood isn't going down without a fight, but this squad is simply running out of time at this point. Mike Trout has changed his game this year, but he's still the best in the business. In addition, Carlos Santana and Shelby Miller have begun to turn around their disappointing seasons. Where this owner has really shined, however, has been on the waiver wire. Chris Young has been very productive in pinstripes while Carlos Carrasco has been lights-out down the stretch. As usual, this diligent owner has found a good number of gems from the free agent pool this season. It looks like there's too much ground to make up for this owner to take home the trophy, but that doesn't take anything away from another successful season for Men With Wood. This will be the third time in the past five seasons this club has finished in the money, a truly impressive performance.

The Race for Third Place

3. Smell the Glove 83.5

4. Guitar Masahiro 80

5. A Century of Misery 74

6. Pulling Brzenk 63

Little by little, Guitar Masahiro continues to cut into Commissioner Dierkes's lead in the race for the final spot that receives a payout. While I feel confident declaring E-Z Sliders the inevitable league champion this season, this race is still too early to call. These two clubs are neck and neck in innings, but it's worth noting that Guitar Masahiro is next-to-last in strikeouts. Accordingly, this owner could pass up some teams simply by volume if other bottom-dwelling clubs fail to reach the innings maximum. We have a race on our hands then, but I still view Smell the Glove as the more likely to finish in third place. Like Men With Wood, that would prove to be Dierkes's third finish in the money in the league's seven-year history.

The Race to Avoid the Bottom Four

7. Brewsterville Bruins 56.5

8. The Jewru 56

9. Spirit of St. Louis 47

10. The Bombers 46

11. Cobra Kai 40.5

12. Gramma Nutt Crushers 39.5

I'd hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there's now a clear line between eighth place and ninth place at this point. It looks like the veteran owner of Brewsterville Bruins will live to see another day after spending much of the season in last place. First-time participant, the Jewru, also would be safe if the season ended today, but it sure hasn't been a kind year for the other newbies to the league. After all, Spirit of St. Louis, the Bombers, and Cobra Kai may all be one-and-done as owners in this league. Finally, one of the league's most successful owners, the Gramma Nutt Crushers, will unfortunately have to say goodbye in a couple of weeks.

 Standings as of Saturday, September 13th



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: September 12-18

For the first time since I started playing in multiple head-to-head leagues, I've finished outside the playoffs in BOTH of them.  Ouch.  Finishing ninth behind an eight-team playoff field is tough...but finishing eighth in a six-team playoff field is even tougher, especially when you consider that up until the last day, I thought I was completely safe.  You see, I'd forgotten that it was only six teams, not eight, in the playoffs, which is especially stupid since I'm the commissioner of this league.  Yeesh.  On the bright side, I'm only three points out of first place in a roto league, so there's still hope that I can take down a title and not make you all feel like you've wasted your time in taking fantasy advice from a man who can't even win a single league.

Some September pennant race pickups and avoids for your pleasure...

* Captain Eo.  A lot of people jumped off the Nathan Eovaldi bandwagon when his hot start gave way to some midseason struggles.  Just yesterday, he allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over just four innings (and only one strikeout) in a loss to the Brewers, so right now, Eovaldi's stock couldn't be much lower.

Ergo, it's a great time to check him out as a last-minute streaming starter!  Eovaldi has had some rough outings in recent weeks, yet going by the advanced metrics, it's hard to figure out why this is the case.  Entering Thursday, Eovaldi had a 1-6 record and 5.37 ERA over his previous 10 starts, a number inflated by a .352 BABIP and 60.2% strand rate.  Were it not for this poor batted-ball luck that's leading to extra runners crossing the plate, Eovaldi would be having a pretty good stretch -- he'd posted a 3.17 FIP and 3.52 xFIP over that 10-start period, with a 7.21 K/9, 1.99 BB/9 and only a 6.9% home run rate.

Eovaldi has only a 6.56 K/9 for the season, and since he hasn't been able to miss many bats, he's been prone to a bit of ERA inflation thanks to balls falling in (.318 BABIP).  He won't help your strikeout total, he might not help your win total given how hit-and-miss the Marlins are as a team...and still, since the metrics clearly show he's pitching better than his ERA indicates, he could well deliver an excellent start the next time out.  If you have a rotation slot to fill in the final weeks, you could do worse than rolling the dice on Eovaldi to see if he can live to his peripherals.

* Shel Game.  You might look at Shelby Miller's second half and say, "aw man, the poor guy's been unlucky."  Miller has a 2.97 ERA in 57 2/3 IP since the Fall Classic, though he has only a 2-1 record to show for his work.  Just another reason why pitcher wins are a meaningless stat, right?  Exactly!  And don't get me started on RBIs!

Now that I've shored my up sabermetric cred, I'll note that a) pitcher wins ARE indeed meaningless other than in a fantasy context, and b) Miller has actually been lucky to even have two wins, given what the advanced metrics tell us about his second half.  The right-hander has a 4.53 FIP and 4.33 xFIP over those 57 2/3 innings, with a .194 BABIP and 82.6% strand rate keeping his real life ERA from ballooning.

Miller had a good April ERA-wise, though I warned you off him back in May due to some ugly peripherals that included control issues, allowing a lot of homers and a lack of strikeouts.  To paraphrase Meat Loaf, two outta three is still kind of bad -- Miller has since cut back on the walks (2.65 BB/9) in the second half, though the dingers (10.8% HR rate, higher than the league average) and strikeouts (5.77 K/9) are still problems.

Despite his current 15-inning scoreless streak, I'd be very careful with how I deploy Miller down the stretch.  He's a good pick for his next start against the Rockies on Saturday at Busch Stadium (Colorado has scored the fewest away runs of any team in baseball this year) but that, some strategic benching might be in order depending on how his next few opponents shake out.

* Panik Room.  For more than a season, second base stood out as a major problem area for the Giants, a glaring weakness in a lineup that otherwise looked pretty playoff-ready.  All of the hand-wringing about the keystone position went away, of course, after the Giants called up Joe Panik and the rookie proceeded to start cracking out the base hits in a poor man's version of how adding Marco Scutaro helped the 2012 Giants to a World Series.

It's way too early to be talking about yet another parade down Market Street, however.  Panik has undoubtedly been a great find for fantasy owners who took a flyer on the rather unheralded middle infielder, as he has a .316/.363/.383 slash line and 25 runs scored over his first 223 Major League plate appearances.  The problem with Panik is that he only has one homer, 16 RBI and zero steals, so his average is his only major contribution in a 5x5 sense, and even that could be a product of a .354 BABIP.

Panik qualifies in most leagues as both as second baseman and shortstop, and given the lack of offensive depth at either middle infield spot, even an empty average could help you over the last two weeks of the season.  I'd try to have a backup option in place in case Panik comes back to earth, since without that nice batting average, he isn't providing much value to your lineup.  I'm trying really hard to avoid making a lame "don't panik" joke, but it's just so tempting.




Closer Updates: A’s, Brewers, Mets, Nats, Padres, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins

As we creep further into the fantasy playoffs, it’s time to check on the closer situations once again. Fortunately for those fantasy managers desperate for saves, there are a number of potential pick-ups that could steal you the saves category. As always, stay tuned for some insightful updates below and good luck down the final stretch.

Boston Red Sox – Unsurprisingly, Koji Uehara (26 saves, 2.64 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) has been removed from the closer role and Edward Mujica (4 saves, 4.00 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) has inherited the ninth inning. If Mujica cannot handle the gig, which is unlikely (he has 45 career saves), Junichi Tazawa (3.09 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) would be the first alternative.

Detroit TigersJoakim Soria is back in the majors after dealing with a left oblique strain. Although Joe Nathan (30 saves, 4.85 ERA 1.52 WHIP) is still the closer (and just earned his 30th save), Soria could still have some value down the stretch run. With the Tigers neck-and-neck with the Royals, look for the pressure on Nathan to grow even more over the next couple weeks.

Houston Astros – With Chad Qualls (17 saves, 3.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) day-to-day with an injury, interim manager Tom Lawless recently chose Josh Fields (4 saves, 4.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) as a temporary fill-in. Although Fields isn’t the greatest reliever/closer, he may provide a little value if Qualls remains injured. Another option is Tony Sipp (4 saves, 3.43 ERA, 0.87 WHIP), who earned the save over Fields and Jose Veras (1 save, 4.42 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) on Wednesday night.

Kansas City Royals – After working through an injury, Greg Holland (42 saves, 1.60 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) seemed ready to return to the ninth inning for KC and, as they push toward the playoffs, the Royals were hoping that he could continue his stretch of dominance. However, Holland is still not ready to return and some sources report that he’s scheduled for another MRI today. His replacement? Stud reliever Wade Davis (3 saves, 0.71 ERA, 0.82 WHIP), who may still be a strong non-closing reliever to own if you’re looking for some RP help down the stretch even if Holland returns soon.

Milwaukee Brewers – Despite an unbelievable start, Francisco Rodriguez has begun to show some signs of wearing down (1 save, 12.00 ERA, 2.67 WHIP in the past two weeks). With the Brew Crew in the midst of a Wild Card chase, look for manager Ron Roenicke to go with whomever he feels most comfortable with in the ninth. If K-Rod is looking good, there will be no issues. If he stumbles, recently-acquired Jonathan Broxton (7 saves, 1.72 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) is a possible candidate for a stolen save (or two).

Minnesota TwinsGlen Perkins (33 saves, 2.88 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) has been dealing with a shoulder/neck injury and could be passed over for some save opportunities in the short term. If that happens, Jared Burton (2 saves, 4.63 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) is the first reliever to benefit, followed closely by Casey Fien (1 save, 3.79 ERA, 1.16 WHIP). Burton has 9 career saves and should be a dependable replacement for Perkins until he returns to full health.

New York Mets – Over the past week, Jenrry Mejia (2 saves, 7.71 ERA, 3.86 WHIP) has been underwhelming for the Mets. If these struggles continue, Jeurys Familia should take a few save opportunities. Familia has been outstanding this season (5 saves, 2.06 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) and Mejia’s recent performance might give him just the chance to close.

Oakland Athletics – With Sean Doolittle still injured, the A’s have been going with a closer-by-committee approach. Although the pecking order has shifted a bit, it still seems that the relievers to own are Eric O’Flaherty (1 save, 2.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP), Luke Gregerson (3 saves, 2.25 ERA, 0.98 WHIP), and Ryan Cook (1 save, 3.64 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) – in that order.

San Diego Padres – With Joaquin Benoit (9 saves, 1.58 ERA, 0.82 WHIP) still fighting through a shoulder injury, Kevin Quackenbush (2 saves, 2.61 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) remains the reliever to own in San Diego. If Benoit doesn’t bounce back to form shortly, Quackenbush will remain a valuable commodity in fantasy leagues.

Washington Nationals – Another transition in the past week has been the Washington Nats bullpen, which has pulled Rafael Soriano (2 saves, 9.64 ERA, 2.57 WHIP in the past two weeks) from the closer role and switched to a closer-by-committee approach. The first candidate for saves is Drew Storen (1.29 ERA, 0.96 WHIP), who already has 3 saves in the past week. Another potential replacement is Tyler Clippard (1 save, 2.13 ERA, 1.04 WHIP), but Storen should the first choice in DC.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




Stock Watch: The Exciting Part

Stock Watch, like the baseball season itself, is nearly at an end. And like the baseball season, Stock Watch is just now getting to its most exciting point.

Okay, maybe not if you’re stuck with the hopeless task of dragging your team from eighth place to seventh, but if you’re desperately trying to claw into first place or beat your first week’s playoff matchup, yeah, we’re reaching the climax of the season.

Yesterday, we talked about the strategy of just trying to get through the week (also, I made oblique references to Duran Duran, but not as many as I’d hoped) and I’ll stand by that idea for anyone in the playoffs…and pretty close to it for roto leagues too. (You keeper leaguers are on your own, as usual.) But just in case you feel the need to do things like plan ahead, check out our September Values feature for a look at some players who have the chance to overperform their talent thanks to the parks they’ll be playing in or the quality of their opponents.

Wow, between those last couple articles, I guess you don’t need Stock Watch at all. I guess I’ll call it a season….

All right, enough fake self-effacing. I wanted to think of a clever transition between useful past articles and the fact that keeping Stock Watch up-to-date was still relevant, but this was the best I could come up with. So before my creative writing skills are tested (any further) past their limits, let’s just move on to the players.

Shallow Leagues (Owned in 30-50% of Leagues)

Collin McHugh (49%) continues to dominate. He’s probably owned by everyone who reads this column, but seriously, tell your friends or something.

Javier Baez (49%) and Mookie Betts (47%) might be part of a pretty bright shortstop future, but they’re also part of a pretty bright present. Baez isn’t hitting for average, but he’s producing power and speed, and the Cubs get to face the soft underbelly of NL Central pitching this month. Betts is doing everything that Baez is…but also hitting for average. In my mind, these guys should be universally owned. Plus, both play an extra position in Yahoo! leagues.

Dustin Ackley (45%) is another middle infielder producing power and speed over the last month. He’s not exactly a prospect anymore, but he’s producing.

Kennys Vargas (45%) might be next year’s Matt Adams-type—that is, he didn’t really get much attention before coming up, but just didn’t stop hitting and forced us to think seriously about him in the draft. Anyway, he’s hitting for power and average, and Minnesota’s Target Field may depress homers, but has actually increased scoring this year—by a lot.

James Paxton (45%) isn’t generating a ton of strikeouts, but he’s pitching quite well anyway and gets to enjoy one of baseball’s best pitching parks.

Jake Odorizzi (45%) has kept his WHIP under 1.00 for the last month—which is particularly important since giving up too many walks is his only real drawback.

The success of Kyle Hendricks (41%) continues, and it continues to surprise me. I don’t like the Cubbies’ schedule for pitchers this month almost as much as I do like it for their hitters, but there it is: Hendricks has been awesome.

Brock Holt (41%) is scoring and stealing like crazy. A great option for a shallow bench, since he plays just about everywhere.

Bartolo Colon (40%) will get to enjoy a nice schedule and (unless his turn in the rotation is really unlucky) a bunch of home games.

Brandon McCarthy (38%) keeps on pitching really, really well for the Yankees.

Jed Lowrie (38%) is off to a pretty good start since returning from the DL.

I mentioned Kolten Wong (36%) yesterday for his good matchups this week, but those should continue all month. Love the Cards’ schedule for hitters.

Dioner Navarro (34%) is hitting better than most catchers, and yet is not widely owned.

Nick Castellanos (33%) isn’t doing anything truly special, but racking up Runs and RBI anyway. It’s good to play for the Tigers.

Medium Leagues (Owned in 20-30% of Leagues)

Brad Miller (30%) is finally showing some of why he seemed to have offensive promise before the season.

Scooter Gennett (28%) is not the reason for the Brewers’ offensive malaise; he’ll still help your average, and maybe Runs and RBI. 

Luis Valbuena (28%) is cheap power at 2B and 3B. Who needs Kris Bryant anyway?

Juan Lagares (28%) has stolen nine bases in the last month and actually hit the ball too.

Jarred Cosart (27%) has gotten amazing results without dominating through strikeouts. Naturally, I’m skeptical, but sometimes it takes awhile for hitters to catch up to my disbelief.

Miguel Gonzalez (25%) has pretty much the same story as Cosart, plus his team is coasting into the playoffs. Who could have predicted we could say that about the Orioles in this lifetime, let alone this year?

Travis d’Arnaud (25%) might have to hit in the Mets’ CitiField, but he should still be owned—at the least—in every two-catcher league. And he might be better than your catcher in single leagues too.

James Loney (24%) must be a favorite here, but hey, consistent average is hard to find. For what it’s worth (not much) he hit for power last month too.

Drew Stubbs (22%) has a little power, a little speed, and a Colorado home park. How is he not more loved than this?

Derek Holland (22%) has been great in two starts since coming off the DL. Pick him up. Now.

Jacob Turner (21%) keeps hitting while playing all over the diamond. Not a ton of playing time, but he’s batting nearly .370.

Oscar Taveras (21%) is finally hitting!

Dillon Gee (21%) and Jon Niese (20%) pitch for the Mets. They have a bunch of home games. They don’t have to be that good to be good for your fantasy team.

Tsuyoshi Wada (20%) will have an uphill battle against tough NL Central hitters…but man, has he been good so far. Keep an eye on him, as this month is likely to be a good test of his staying power.

Deep Leagues (Owned in Under 20% of Leagues)

Kendrys Morales (19%) might have finally busted out of his season-long funk: he’s hit five homers and sports a respectable .255 batting average in the last month. Maybe don’t sit out till May next year….

Jon Jay (19%) has been hitting for a huge average for the last month. With a favorable schedule, he could even keep it up.

Steve Pearce (19%) is the Orioles’ latest Chris Davis. Okay, maybe without quite so much power, but also without the whole hitting .200 thing.

Drew Hutchison (19%) has struck out nearly a batter per inning in the last month. But yeah, pitching in Toronto is still scary. Tom Koehler (18%) has done pretty much the same thing, but he gets to pitch in the NL East. Bud Norris (17%) is another whiff-per-inning guy, and he might give the best possibility for wins out of this trio.

Joe Panik (18%) now has a .400 average in his last 100 AB. Not ignorable, even if it’s not sustainable.

Jordy Mercer (17%) has provided more-than-customary power in the last month from the middle infield and hits in a potent Pittsburgh lineup.

Lorenzo Cain (17%) is for those who need an influx of steals.

A.J. Pollock (17%) was hitting great. Then he went on the DL. Now he’s back. It’s only been two games, but he’s hitting great. Not convinced? Ask RotoGraphs.

Yusmeiro Petit (17%) just dominated. Again. Maybe the onetime-prospect-turned-journeyman-turned-reliever-turned-emergency-replacement-for-Time Lincecum has finally found his footing in a Major League rotation. It’s certainly worth a roster spot to find out.

Kevin Gausman (13%) could be a very good source of both SP counting stats. Can’t really say the same for ERA and WHIP.

Josh Collmenter (11%) has been really, really good lately. He’s a pick-up-and-drop option, though, because Arizona pitchers have very little shelf life until they become deadly to your team—they spend the whole second half of September in hitters’ parks, mostly against good-hitting teams.

Arismendy Alcantara (11%) can’t hit the Mendoza line, but he can smack five homers in a month. You know it: Cubs schedule.

Tyler Flowers (10%) also hit five homers in the last month. Hey, second catchers don’t grow on trees.

Jordan Schafer (10%) is hitting over .300 with seven steals in the last month.

Oswaldo Arcia (8%) has smacked eight homers in the last month. He hasn’t hit for any average, but that much power is worth a look.

Odrisamer Despaigne (7%) hasn’t been any good lately—but he should be getting more starts in San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles for the rest of the season.

Ender Inciarte, Jose Ramirez, and Jarrod Dyson (all 5%) have been good steals sources in the last month.

Jonathan Schoop (5%) has hit a bunch of homers and plays 2B/3B.




RotoAuthority Unscripted: All You Need is Now

So you made it into the playoffs. Nice. I suppose. Too bad your work ain’t done yet. Playing three straight weeks of sudden-death may add excitement to the season’s last month, but it also adds a significant element of luck…which means you should sit tight, cross your fingers, eat a chicken dinner every night (Wade Boggs style, for you kids who don’t know) and make sure not to touch the white lines when your run off the field, because there’s nothing you can do, right? 

You know that’s not right. (Except the chicken dinners part—go ahead.) With luck comes the opportunity to make your own, assuming you’ve got any roster flexibility at all. If you don’t, well…maybe stay away from those white lines after all. But most of us have some players we can drop, space to pick someone up for a week—or a single game—just to take advantage of the matchups. Which means taking advantage of the real-life matchups and the matchup your opponent offers.

Now, let’s back up a moment, because our roto-style readers are starting to feel their eyes glaze over with all this playoff talk. Wake up! This stuff applies to you (us) too. Not quite as heavily, to be sure, but our time is running out too and that means that playing matchups (and categories) for super-short-term gain is what we need to be doing. So pay attention and use the elements of this article that you can. The other stuff, well by this time you should know what to ignore in my writing by now. 

First step in the playoffs: get to know your opponent. This is sudden death; you aren’t trying to do anything so abstract as pick up an average of 3.5 RBI per week to make up a point and a half in the category by season’s end. You just need to beat this one opponent, this one time. (Uh…that’s not you, roto-leaguers.)

Here’s a for-instance for you: I’m in a playoff matchup against a team that’s lost the SB category only once all year. The only question is how a team with Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton lost the category that one time. Anyway, what did I do? I dropped Rajai Davis and picked up Adam Dunn. If I need steals next week, well, hopefully Davis is still there. But my team hasn’t made it to next week yet, and there’s no guarantee it will. Yet.

So check out your opponent and see what their strengths and weaknesses are before making your moves. Then, it’s time to get down to business.

Another thing you should do in the playoffs (but maybe not in roto formats): quit speculating on guys who might produce in the future. Joc Pederson? Gone. George Springer? Dropped. Your next start is in Colorado? Out. (Just kidding. Colorado is on the road all week—so bench or drop their hitters!) If you ain’t helping this week, you’re hitting the waiver wire. All you need is now.

Who’s worth your attention this week, then? Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups around the league, with an eye on guys who might actually be available.

Starters

Collin McHugh starts today at Seattle, Jacob deGrom pitches at home against the Rockies, and Yusmeiro Petit takes on the Diamondbacks in San Francisco. I love those guys for right-away pickups.

Roberto Hernandez and Dan Haren get to take on the Padres in Los Angeles. It might not be Petco, but it’s still a nice combination for the pitchers.

Jake Odorizzi is just generally underowned, but don’t get scared off when you see “@NYY” as his matchup—that just isn’t what it used to be.

Tanner Roark gets to take on the Mets in New York, which is a truly sweet matchup. Actually, CitiField is so pitcher-friendly that I’d consider picking up his opponent, Bartolo Colon, as well as Jon Niese, who pitches later in the week. (But it’s always better to get the guy pitching against the Mets first.)

Jason Hammel will be taking on the Mariners in Seattle, and later Sonny Gray and James Paxton will face off in a hopefully-epic pitchers’ duel in that same pitching-friendly park. I guess Grey isn’t available, though.

Hector Santiago will face the Astros in Los Angeles, which should be a nice opportunity for strikeouts.

Relievers

If your matchup says that saves are an attainable win for you this week (and not a totally assured win), make sure there are no closers left on the wire for your opponent to pick up. Jenrry Mejia (52% owned in Yahoo! leagues) may be available, as could Neftali Feliz (49%), Chad Qualls (37%), Eduard Mujica (24%), and Jake Petricka (22%). If these guys are on your waiver wire and you lose the saves category, you won’t be able to blame the machines….

Hitters

It’s here that your particular matchup will be most influential, because the hitters you actually need might be very different to the hitters that are actually good. But here are some guys who could be primed for decent weeks. (As much as can be guessed, anyway.)

Mookie Betts (45% owned) has games against Baltimore and Kansas City, is playing hot, and is eligible at SS and OF. Is that really worse than the guy you’re running out there? Maybe it isn’t.

Lonnie Chisenhall (40%) scared me off with games in Detroit in the second half of this week…but then I remembered how much trouble the Tigers’ pitching staff has run into, and the fact that their park is very hitting-friendly. Keep him away from David Price and Max Scherzer, but it’s a good week to have him. Plus, he’s hitting better this month than he was earlier in the second half.

Chase Headley (40%) also does okay, with games against Tampa Bay and in Baltimore. With the Orioles’ weak staff and the Rays being more or less ready to let the season to run out, these matchups are better than they look at first glance.

Russell Martin (40%) plays against the Phillies and Cubs all week, which makes him a pretty nice option for an emergency catcher—or even a replacement for your starter if he’s got tough opponents this week.

Jed Lowrie (38%) gets to play in Chicago (AL) until Thursday…but let him go after that, as he’ll be in Seattle.

Kolten Wong (35%) and Oscar Taveras (21%) get to face the Reds and Rockies. That. Is. Nice.

Adam Dunn (35%) returns to his former and homer-friendly park in Chicago. A great option if you expect to be in a fight for home runs. Like Lowrie, he gets to play in Seattle after that, so be ready to use the drop button.

Dioner Navarro (33%) doesn’t have great matchups, with the Cubs and Rays—but both should be easier opponents than they have been at other parts of the year. And he’s red-hot right now. And he gets to play all week at his launching-pad home park.

Luis Valbuena (28%) and all other Cubs have great matchups: all their games are on the road against Toronto and Pittsburgh—two of the better parks for hitters and two of the worst pitching staffs in the game. Arismendy Alcantara (12%) will kill your average, but he brings power and a little speed.

Juan Lagares (25%) doesn’t have awesome matchups (playing at home this week), but you don’t care how he hits. Just how he steals, which has been a lot this month. And the Mets need some kind of excitement for the home crowds. Lorenzo Cain (17%) can give you some steals too.

Steve Pearce (19%) will be against the Red Sox and Yankees, all on the road.

Good luck this week—you’re gonna need it. And when you head over to the waiver wire, remember: all you need is now. 




RotoAuthority League Update: 3 Weeks to Go

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

The Race for First Place

1. E-Z Sliders 97.5

2. Men With Wood 94

Well, it's safe to say we have a legitimate race for the title at this point. Once again, Men With Wood made incremental gains in the standings to trim away at the lead held by E-Z Sliders. Given that there are only three weeks remaining, one can quite easily analyze each category in the standings and determine both the ceiling and the floor for each team in the league.

Let's start with the current leader, E-Z Sliders. This squad could still gain a point each in R and HR on offense as well as a point each in SV, ERA, and WHIP in pitching. Oddly enough, the wins category could ultimately decide this title, as E-Z Sliders could actually net two additional points in the Wins column. Accordingly, the high-water mark for this club is roughly 104 points. On the other hand, it's possible this squad loses a point each in R and HR and potentially two points in WHIP. It follows then that this team has a floor around 93 points. At the very least then, we can safely say E-Z Sliders has locked up second place at worst.

What about the best and worst case scenarios for Men With Wood? This club has dominant leads in R, HR, and SB; as such, this squad can really only gain a point in AVG offensively. Due to the way the pitching categories shake out, however, this owner still has a chance to win the league. Specifically, Men With Wood could gain a point in SV, K, and ERA as well as two points in WHIP. The ceiling for this club then is about 100 points. On the flip side, Men With Wood could lose a point each in RBI, ERA, and WHIP. Ultimately, though, if this owner doesn't take home the title this season, it can truly be chalked up to bad luck - at least to a certain extent. After all, not only does Men With Wood have just three points in the category at the moment, but this squad could acually fall to the bottom of the Wins column and lose two points, assuming the Bombers and the Gramma Nutt Crushers reach the innings cap. Therefore, the floor for this club is roughly 89 points. That should still ensure second place, but E-Z Sliders remains the favorite at this stage in the game.

The Race for Third Place

3. Smell the Glove 80.5

4. Guitar Masahiro 77.5

5. A Century of Misery 74

Both Guitar Masahiro and my squad made slight gains in the standings this week, but Commissioner Dierkes still would finish in the money if the season ended today. The power categories are particularly key for Smell the Glove, as the Commish could gain a couple points each in HR and RBI. I actually don't see a ton of room for upward movement in the standings from Guitar Masahiro. It's worth pointing out, however, that the ERA and WHIP categories are very closely stratified. If the pitching staff for Guitar Masahiro is lights-out down the stretch, this owner just might be able to finish in the money. Along those same lines, I'd really need luck on my side with my pitching results going forward, but there's still a slim chance my club could rise to third.

The Race to Avoid the Bottom Four

6. Pulling Brzenk 63

7. Brewsterville Bruins 59

8. The Jewru 56.5

9. The Bombers 50

10. Spirit of St. Louis 49

11. Cobra Kai 42

12. Gramma Nutt Crushers 37

Other than the Brewsterville Bruins and the Jewru swapping spots, this is precisely the same order of the standings as we saw last week. It's worth noting that the Bombers are in slightly better shape that what this seems to suggest. After all, this club has accrued the fewest innings pitched in the league. On the other hand, the Jewru has the second-most innings in the league. Accordingly, those squads could easily switch places at that ever-pivotal eighth place spot in the standings. Unfortunately, time's running out for the Spirit of St. Louis, Cobra Kai, and Gramma Nutt Crushers.

Standings as of Saturday, September 6th.




The Proof Is In The Peripherals: September 5-11

As we continue to reduce our sample sizes due to the ever-decreasing amount of time left in the fantasy baseball season, let's look at whose advanced metrics still stand out as unusual...

* Going Gonzo.  One of my favorite statistical quirks when looking at a small sample size is the pitcher with a perfect 100% strand rate.  This doesn't mean they're not allowing any runs (i.e. a solo homer or something) but it means they're enjoying a whole lotta luck when pitching from the stretch, and sure enough, such inflated strand rates clearly lead to inflated peripherals across the board.

Over the last 30 days, five pitchers have a strand rate of 90% or better: Jarred Cosart (92.9%), Felix Hernandez (93.8%), Matt Shoemaker (95%) and both Miguel Gonzalez and Jason Hammel have the perfect 100%.  I already discussed Shoemaker a few weeks ago, and King Felix's fantasy credentials speak for themselves, but are any of the other three worth a late-season pickup?

Cosart has pitched brilliantly since coming over to the Marlins, yet his 0.65 ERA over the last 30 days is belied by a 2.66 FIP, 3.79 xFIP, only a 4.55 K/9 and zero homers.  Even accounting for the fact that Cosart has been very good at avoiding the long ball over his short big league career, the lack of home runs stands out as a stat that is almost sure to rise before the season's end.  As for Hammel, while he's turned things around since his very rough start to his Oakland career, his last 30 days reveals a 2.40 ERA but scary peripherals like a 5.49 FIP and 4.44 xFIP.  Both of these change-of-scenery pitchers don't need to be on your roster.

That brings us to Gonzalez, whose hot streak has lasted well beyond just the last month.  Over his last 63 innings, Gonzalez has an even 2.00 ERA, which has brought his overall season ERA down to 3.38.  The knock on Gonzalez from a fantasy perspective is that he's been playing with fire peripheral-wise all season long --- 4.93 FIP, 4.48 xFIP, 4.36 SIERA, a 6.42 K/9 and a big strand rate (84.2%) and generous BABIP (.273).  With so little coming in the strikeout department, Gonzalez's fantasy owners are always left holding their breath to see if his advanced metric can hold out for another start.

That's over the full season, however, and it seems like Gonzalez has really turned a corner since July.  I kind of like him as a an under-the-radar rotation option for September, in part also because he'll have a good shot at earning wins given the Orioles' terrific lineup.  I'll go out on a limb and predict he'll allow at least ONE baserunner to score during September, but otherwise, give Gonzo a go.

* Captain Puig.  When you're in a tight pennant race or in your league playoffs, one of the toughest decisions you face is whether or not to bench a star player who's in the midst of a big slump.  On the other hand, you don't want some stiff dragging down your lineup...but then again, this star's performance earlier in the year was a big reason you're battling for your league title in the first place.

Case in point, Yasiel Puig.  He was putting up MVP numbers until about a month ago, and over his last 111 PA he has a measly .192/.279/.222 slash line with 11 runs, four RBI, one steal and zero homers.  Yeah, it's like Puig was doing nothing but facing Jarred Cosart for the last month.  Puig's .253 BABIP over that stretch has certainly played a role, though his near-total power outage is also of major concern.  He was similarly powerless during a June slump, and while his .188 ISO for the season is only a bit less than the .215 ISO he posted during his phenomenal breakout in 2013, I'm pretty sure Puig owners expected more than just 13 homers this year.  (Consider that he had 19 in only 432 PA in 2013.)

Consider this: even with his last month, Puig's BABIP is still .356 for the season.  It could be that his slump isn't necessarily a slump but simply a big course correction.  Also, it's possible Puig could simply be tiring from the rigors of his first full Major League season.  As you can tell from those weak recent numbers, Puig isn't contributing much 5x5-wise when he's slumping (besides scoring runs...he's walking at the same rate as his season average).  I'd certainly consider sitting him against left-handers, as the right-handed hitting Puig has actually been a reverse splits guy this season, as shown by his .717 OPS against southpaws and a .906 OPS against righties. 

Though Puig has less than two full seasons under his belt, he's been awesome enough when in top form that you really have to get Puig back in the lineup at the first hint that his cold spell is over.  If he homers or even has two straight games with multiple hits, I'd start him again and keep him starting for the rest of the season.  Until then, however, you should bite the bullet and explore your OF bench candidates.  On the bright side, if your backup catches fire and leads you to victory, you can both win your league AND brag about being a genius manager for having the guts to bench Puig.  You can just omit that you read about the strategy in ths column....or wait, that won't work.  This column is read far and wide in fantasy leagues the world over.

* Added Val-ue.  Earlier this season, I dropped Carlos Beltran in order to pick up Luis Valbuena.  Talk about a move I never thought I'd make in fantasy baseball.  Yet as so often happens in this crazy game, a journeyman can suddenly emerge as a one-year wonder. 

Now, Valbuena is only 28, so it's not like his 2014 couldn't be a hint at a late breakout.  Still, with a career .654 OPS through his first 1500 career PA, Valbuena's .248/.328/. 448 slash line this season was quite the surprise.  He's hit new career highs in homers (16), RBI (48), runs (55) and holdonaminute, 16 homers?!   That's not a typo.  If anything, Valbuena has been becoming more of a power-centric player as the season has gone on; six of his homers have come over his last 110 PA, and he had a .460 SLG to go along with a .240 BA and .303 OBP in that stretch.

Ironically, even though the Cubs apparently won't be calling Kris Bryant up this September, they'll still have a power-hitting third baseman in the lineup.  Bryant's extended stint in the minors is what makes me bullish on Valbuena as a fantasy option for the rest of the year, as he apparently won't be losing his job anytime soon.  Valbuena is owned in only 23% of Yahoo fantasy leagues and is eligible at both second and third base, making him an intriguing piece for your playoff infield if someone else is underachieving.  If you need to create roster space, well, you might want to finally give up on Carlos Beltran.




Closer Updates: A’s, Astros, BoSox, Brew Crew, Giants, Jays, Nats, Padres, Redlegs, Tigers

Another week toward the major league playoffs means an inch closer in the direction of your personal fantasy championship. If you’re still in the hunt, a scavenged save might be just the push you need. As always, we’ll explore a few different bullpen situations that have developed over the last week and discuss some potential pickups for your squad.

Boston Red SoxKoji Uehara hasn’t been used much over the past two weeks (0 saves, 3.1 IP, 18.90 ERA, 3.30 WHIP) and it seems that he may be getting some rest down the stretch. In his absence, Edward Mujica (3 saves, 4.21 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) is most likely to scavenge any saves in the BoSox bullpen moving forward.

Cincinnati Reds – Earlier this week, Aroldis Chapman’s top setup guy was sent to Milwaukee. Now, Jumbo Diaz (that’s right) should be the Reds’ eighth inning guy (3.24 ERA, 1.00 WHIP). If Chapman gets any rest down the stretch, ol' Jumbo is a good candidate for the occasional save.

Detroit Tigers – This just in… Joe Nathan (29 saves, 5.04 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) is still the closer in Detroit. Joakim Soria (17 saves, 3.58 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) looks ready to return to the major leagues soon and he’ll become a factor in the bullpen immediately. As always, a great pitching performance from Soria (or anyone really) could supplant Nathan as the closer.

Houston Astros – Last week, Tony Sipp (2 saves, 3.21 ERA, 0.86 WHIP) scavenged a save from Chad Qualls (16 saves, 3.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) – who has been dealing with some minor injuries over the past month. However, Qualls’ job is safe for now and it now appears that Sipp might be the Astros’ second option.

Milwaukee Brewers – Earlier this week, the Brewers traded two players to be named later to Cincinnati for Jonathan Broxton (7 saves, 1.86 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) – who will be a setup guy for Francisco Rodriguez (39 saves, 3.00 ERA, 0.97 WHIP). With Broxton under contract through next season, and K-Rod a free-agent-to-be, he could be the Brew Crew’s closer in 2015. However, he will not get the ninth anytime soon.

Oakland Athletics – With Sean Doolittle still out, the committee in Oakland includes Eric O’Flaherty, Ryan Cook, and Dan Otero. Over the past week, Otero has pitched the best (3.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2.10 WHIP) and might be the first option next time out.

San Diego Padres – After falling to an injury to last week, Joaquin Benoit (9 saves, 1.58 ERA, 0.82 WHIP) will likely be out for at least another week. In his absence, Kevin Quackenbush (2 saves, 2.58 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) will be getting the save opportunities and is a great opportunity for late saves.

San Francisco Giants – Late last week, manager Bruce Bochy stated that several different candidates would get save opportunities throughout the rest of the season. This committee includes Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo. Of the group, Romo (2.08 ERA, 1.15 WHIP over the last two weeks) is the most likely candidate to fight for his old job back.

Toronto Blue JaysCasey Janssen (20 saves, 3.82 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) is still the closer up north, but Aaron Sanchez looks like he might get a save opportunity or two in the final weeks of the season. He’s had a strong season (1.59 ERA, 0.57 WHIP), but Janssen has the support of manager John Gibbons.

Washington Nationals – Believe it or not, Rafael Soriano (2 saves, 6.00 ERA, 2.67 WHIP) has stumbled a bit in the past week. If he doesn’t get it together, manager Matt Williams might experiment with Drew Storen down (1.41 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) the stretch. However, it’s probable that Soriano will pitch through any issues.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




Stock Watch: You Have But One Choice

Stock Watch: You Have But One Choice

Whether you need to shore up your lineup after getting hit with an injury, you need more pitching to rack up innings, or your stagnant team needs a desperate high-reward play, there’s only one place for you to turn: the waiver wire. So good luck with that.

That's why Stock Watch is here to help you out.

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

Can I join a league in which Jacob deGrom (49%) is still available? Seriously, a young pitcher with gas, who gets to pitch in Citi Field?! Get this guy on your roster before I have to use another interrobang.

Angel Pagan (47%) is healthy again and helps a little in steals and average—a relatively tough combo to find this late in the season. (Unless you're picking up part-time Kansas City outfielders, but that's another story.)

Casey McGehee (46%) has (somehow) contributed in batting average all year long. With a friendly schedule going forward, I guess he can probably keep it up for September.

Danny Salazar (46%) just likes this part of the year. He’s tearing it up again, like he did last year, and his season stats are masking it from those searching the waiver wire for new talent. Unless they set their player list to "last 30 days." So get him before they do.

Speaking of which, Kyle Hendricks (44%) has been awesome. With his low strikeout rate and a tough schedule coming up, I’m not particularly impressed…but the results have been too good to ignore.

Collin McHugh (43%) has too good of an ERA to be unowned in so many leagues. Somebody’s missing out. Many a quality season has gone useless while we all wait for regression that doesn’t come—or at least takes a long time.

Russell Martin (43%) is having an awesome year, and pretty quietly. I don’t know why he’s suddenly so good (and I didn’t look it up), but I do know he’s playing in a high-caliber offense and that the bar is pretty low at catcher.

Brandon McCarthy (42%) is another guy who shouldn’t be doing so well. Mostly because he waited until after I gave up on him. But, yeah, he’s been great since joining the Yankees. I wish my writing improved so much after moving to New York….

Jake Odorizzi (41%) is far from consistent—but he’s also the guy on the waiver wire most likely to deliver a string of truly dominant starts and carry you through the playoffs. That’s an upside play I’ll gladly make.

Lonnie Chisenhall (39%) isn’t the batting average dynamo that he looked like earlier in the season (BABIP happens), but that doesn’t mean he can’t help a fantasy team anymore.

Jed Lowrie (38%) is back off the DL, in case you want to take a chance on his little-bit-up-really-really-far-down season. That 2B/SS eligibility does come in handy, though, and sometimes all the more so in shallow leagues.

Carlos Carrasco (38%) has been crazy-good since returning to the Indians’ rotation in mid-August. I’m always intrigued when an ex-prospect shows some unexpectedly-good performance.

Kennys Vargas (37%) is pretty good. Certainly better so far than the similarly-first-named guy he replaced in the Twins’ lineup.

Kolten Wong (33%) can still provide some speed in the middle infield, and the Cards have a great schedule for hitters this month.  

Marcus Stroman (32%) is way too good to be available in so many leagues. 

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

Gregory Polanco (28%) is back from the minors. It seems reasonable that he could shake off his slump and help you and the Pirates. Good if you need some upside.

Tsuyoshi Wada (28%) has rocked so far for the Cubs, seriously impressing their management. I mentioned before that Chicago’s schedule is a worry for me, but that hasn’t kept me from owning Wada in a couple leagues.

Dioner Navarro (26%) has a pretty respectable batting line for a catcher. What? That’s praise—sort of.

Drew Stubbs (24%) is giving owners power and speed. It had been awhile, but this was his profile back when he was getting drafted as a number two or three outfielder. And his playing time competition is hurt. And he plays for Colorado! Pick him up and use him in every home and Arizona game. Bench him for the others if you want, but pick him up.

Oscar Taveras (22%) has a little hitting streak, but that’s not why I’d keep an eye on him or pick him up; the Cards have a great hitting schedule, which could be just what the top prospect needs to kick-start his Major League career.

Dillon Gee (22%) and Jon Niese (21%) will get to enjoy plenty of home games and starts against weak-hitting opponents. September should be a good month for the Mets’ pitchers.

Jonathan Villar (21%) is back up with the Astros. I don’t know if he’ll play everyday, but he could still give you some steals, in a sort of Eric Young-in-the-infield sort of way.

Yusmeiro Petit (20%) has been too good out of the bullpen to ignore in the rotation. You’ve got to take a chance on a guy doing that.

Steve Pearce (20%) is going to sit out a couple days, but keep an eye on him; if he isn’t too hurt, the Orioles’ new acquisitions shouldn’t be much threat to his playing time.

Mookie Betts (20%) is heating up and plays shortstop and outfield.

Justin Turner (20%) plays all the infield positions and is hitting over .320. That's...pretty impressive, even in less than 300 AB.

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned)

Colby Rasmus (19%) makes some sense if you’re in need of power—but mostly if you’re desperate. He could lose some playing time down the stretch to Toronto’s September call ups.

We might as well admit that Lorenzo Cain (18%) is a speed/average threat, since he’s got 24 steals and a .298 batting average this late in the season.

Jon Jay (18%) offers little besides average, but if that’s what you need, his favorable schedule makes him a good source of it in deep formats.

A.J. Pollock (17%) is back! He was producing across the board when he got hurt and could really help you out in the last two weeks of the season, with a bunch of games at home in Arizona.

Conor Gillaspie (17%) is still hitting for average. Still!

Hector Santiago (16%) makes this list again. Why? Because he deserves it. Not pitching bad (an admitted worry with Santiago), getting strikeouts, and playing a favorable schedule for the month. Just for the rest of the season, I’d take him over plenty of pitchers who are more talented and reliable.

Bud Norris (15%) could be helpful if you need some wins and have innings to spare, pitching as he does for the heavy-hitting Orioles.

Shane Greene (15%) just got beaten badly by the Red Sox, but he’s still striking out nearly a batter per inning.

Josh Collmenter (13%) isn’t that great—but I do like his chances to produce in the next two weeks, with some favorable matchups in parks and opponents.

Arismendy Alcantara (13%) isn’t consistent, but if you can handle the average (or you’re punting it), he provides power and speed in the infield and outfield.

Derek Holland (11%) pitched well in his first start of the season. He’s an intriguing high-risk, high-reward guy. I literally just picked him up in a league in which I’m hovering around eighth and ninth place and need to take some chances.

Tyler Flowers (8%) has been my go-to replacement catcher as I’ve dealt with injuries to Yan Gomes and Brian McCann, who were pretty much the only catchers I drafted this season. But anyway, Flowers can fill in for you too.

You don’t have to truly believe in Odrisamer Despaigne (8%) to enjoy his brand of low-strikeout, low-run starts. Pitching in San Diego, expect more of the same and own this guy.

Jimmy Nelson (7%) is another high-reward type, as the top prospect for a contending (albeit stumbling) Brewers team.

Andrew Heaney (5%) just came back up for the Fish. Upside? Totally. Plus the Marlins have a pretty favorable schedule, thanks to in-division opponents like the Phillies and Mets.




RotoAuthority Unscripted: Prospect Paradise

Well, September has arrived, bringing with it new beginnings that are really endings: school begins for millions of children (mostly out on the West Coast); the carefree days of summer come to an end. In popular imagination, fall begins; the oppressive heat in my apartment comes to a blessed end (or not). The real pennant race steps up throughout baseball; the mad hopes of teams like the White Sox and Rays come to an end (or should).

But what does this have to do with your fantasy team? Well, September is the beginning of Major League rosters expanding: prospects will be promoted to the big leagues, ending…well, ending their minor league careers, I guess. Well, for now. Anyway, sometimes these prospects end up spending a lot of time on the bench learning little more than how to collect paychecks and how to form lifelong chewing tobacco habits from their baseball elders.

And sometimes they pop up and a superstar is born. Whether it’s a stud outfielder who shows up and rakes for a month or a future ace who pitches like one for six starts or so during your fantasy playoffs (or stretch drive), this is the time when rookies make the biggest impact.

So who’s coming up? And will they be any good? (‘Cause I can totally predict accurately a single month of baseball involving established big leaguers, let alone guys who just showed up….) 

Actually Promoted

Joc Pederson, OF, LAD

Joc just got the call and is already owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues…and 33% of CBS leagues. I did my part to move that needle in Yahoo! formats, picking him up on three of my four teams from that provider. (I don’t think he’ll last to me in CBS this week.) This is a speculative investment: the Dodgers have a notoriously crowded outfield, and while Pederson might be one of their top three outfielders by talent, he certainly isn’t by paycheck; Los Angeles might feel compelled to let Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier “earn” their money.

But maybe not. Either the Dodgers will lose some games and start to feel the pressure to win in order to make the playoffs, in which case other considerations might matter less. Or they might get off to a great start in September and coast into a playoff berth (they’ve got just a two game lead on the Giants as I write). In that case, maybe they’ll want to really see what they have in the person of Pederson. It could happen. It might not, but Pederson’s minor league stats make me excited to take the risk: in case you didn’t click the link above yet, he batted .303/.435/.582 in the minors (hitters’ park and league, yes…still the best in the PCL, yes—he won the league MVP) with 33 homers and 30 stolen bases. Now that is some upside. 

Maikel Franco, 3B, PHI

News is that Franco is getting the call today for Philadelphia. Franco can’t lay claim to a monster season in the minors like Pederson can (seriously, his batting line is .257/.298/.427 with 16 homers, which is not excused by park or league effects) but he’s got some things going in his favor too. First of all, his hitting has picked up recently, batting .338 since June, so that’s good.

Perhaps more importantly, the hideously-bad-at-hitting Phillies have no reason whatsoever not to let Franco start all month and see what the 22-year-old can do. Their games don’t mean a thing (at 15 games back in September, even Ruben Amaro knows they aren’t winning the division) and I actually had to go to the Philadelphia depth chart to see who Franco’s competition is at third. Apparently, it’s Cody Asche. Franco is owned in just 3% of Yahoo! leagues and 26% of CBS leagues. 

Daniel Norris, P, TOR

Norris might be a top prospect, but that probably won’t stop him from pitching out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen this month. He’s certainly someone interesting to watch for next year, and keep an eye out for any suggestion that he’ll get starts in September. For now, though, he probably doesn’t have any fantasy value in redraft leagues.

Dalton Pompey, OF, TOR

Pompey (the Toronto outfielder, not the Roman general, relation unknown) was also called up and could eat into the playing time of Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus as the Blue Jays have fallen from contention. Still, it’s a crowded outfield and Pompey isn’t the only guy Toronto has called up. So keep his name in mind, but don’t rush to the waiver wire just yet.

Some More Guys to Watch:

Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC

Apparently, Bryant isn’t getting the call so that the Cubs can delay his service clock. After hitting 43 homers in the minors, you’d think there was no place to go but up…but I guess the Cubs are content to wait till next year….

Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE

I picked up Lindor in a keeper league with NA slots as soon as Asdrubal Cabrera was traded, but it’s starting to look like he won’t be making a splash this season any more than Bryant will. With the service clock looming, the whole “nothing to play for” narrative could be keeping Lindor down as long as Cleveland gets adequate play from Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez.

Noah Syndergaard, P, NYM

Word is that Syndergaard could get a call up…if the Mets can figure things out with their roster. So at least he’s more “maybe” than “no,” though that doesn’t tell us if he’d get starts and fantasy value, or scattered innings out of the bullpen. He’s one to keep a really close eye one, though, since he could have serious value for a Mets team that gets to pitch in friendly parks this month.

Archie Bradley, P, ARZ

Bradley—who I thought had been eliminated as a September call up candidate—still might make it to the Show this year after all. He will be playing in the Arizona Fall League, but I guess it’s still up in the air whether or not he pitches for the Diamondbacks. I’m inclined to think not, but I’ll still be keeping tabs on the top prospect.

Andrew Heaney, P, MIA

Heaney already came up this year, so it wouldn’t be a classic cup of coffee if he returned to the Majors for September. With the Marlins perhaps retaining a Quixotic hope in making up 5.5 games and slipping into a Wild Card berth, they might lean on Heaney to improve their staff. Or not. They’re not one of the most predictable organizations, so keep checking in on Heaney, I guess.





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