We’re almost into mid-September, which means the fantasy season is growing a little long in the tooth. It’s a stressful time for those of us still alive in H2H land — the fantasy baseball playoffs can be a depleting time for both your liquor cabinet and your liver functionality. It doesn’t help, then, that this is the time of the year when managers — especially those of teams out of contention — like to mess around with their starting rotations. I don’t blame them; it makes perfect developmental sense for the White Sox, or any other team, to move to a six-man rotation in order to see what they have in arms like Andre Rienzo or Erik Johnson. But as a weekly leaguer, this sort of rotation shuffling can be maddening if you’re trying to gauge the two-start landscape. This is all to say that now, more than ever, it’s imperative that you check and re-check the probable pitchers prior to locking your weekly lineup. Good luck in the playoffs, my friends.

As always, probable pitchers are subject to change. For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

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This is always painful, but it’s also necessary. What follows is a look back at my preseason prospect rankings — a self audit, if you will. To be clear, this isn’t a re-ranking or anything, but it should suffice to remind all of you that I am mostly stupid. Please keep in mind that these guys are very early in their careers, and there is plenty of time for each to either figure it out, or get figured out. Anyway, let’s cut to it. Here’s the list as it appeared back in February:

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The Arizona Fall League has announced its preliminary rosters, and as usual, this year’s AFL is loaded with high impact talent. Offensive headliners include Byron Buxton, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Jorge Soler. On the pitching side of things, we’ve got Kyle Crick, Alex Meyer, Andrew Heaney, and Marcus Stroman. I’m leaving out plenty of other notable prospects, too. These rosters are always a welcome relief for us prospect enthusiasts who fear the onset of the withdrawal symptoms that inevitably come with the baseball off-season. The AFL should keep the nervous twitching and general malaise at bay, if only for a little while.

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Weekly leaguers, you’re here to read weekly league advice, of course. But let’s begin this week by broadening our horizons with a little daily league chatter. If you’ve been paying attention to JB throughout the season, you know that we’ve teamed up with DraftKings to offer exclusive Razzball contests all year long. As JB mentioned on Wednesday, next week’s contest is our last of the year, and it’s a good one. 50 entries, $10-per, six get paid, and the winner pockets a few Benjamins. If you haven’t given it a shot yet this year, I highly recommend you join our game next Friday. It’s quite fun — you have my word on that. More details to follow. Now for the two-starters.

As always, probable pitchers are subject to change. For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

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Back in May, I wrote a Courtney Hawkins fantasy. You can read it here. At that point in time, Hawkins was at High-A Winston Salem knocking homers at a good rate, but he was struggling to make contact, striking out more than 50% of the time he stepped to the plate. Near the end of the writeup, I said this: “The Sox must be thrilled with the huge power Hawkins is showing, but if the K’s continue at this rate, they’ll need to consider bumping him down the ladder to a level where he can more easily focus on approach and pitch recognition. There’s plenty of time for him to improve in that regard, and for fantasy baseball purposes, I truly hope he doesn’t go the way of the Donkey. Either way, though, he’s a fascinating dude to follow.” So here’s our Courtney Hawkins update, almost four months later: .182/.252/.407, 19 HR, 9 SB, 38% K-rate in 95 games at High-A. In other words, the whiffs continued, and the White Sox never demoted him. Hawkins is an extraordinary athlete with enormous upside, and I rarely am one to question a team’s development strategy, but it bothers me that the Sox have allowed their 19-year-old prized prospect to struggle so severely all season long. He won’t be ready for Double-A next spring, and I’m beginning to worry that this 1st rounder might never realize his potential.

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Instead of relegating him to bullpen duties, the Cardinals have opted to send Jake Westbrook to the disgraceful list. In a corresponding move, they’ve called up Carlos Martinez from Triple-A. As of the time of this writing there’s been no official word, but it appears likely that Martinez will claim Westbrook’s spot in the starting rotation. That’d make C-Mart the probable starter for Monday, putting him in line for two starts next week. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I’ve not been shy about my unhealthy adoration for Martinez. The 21-year-old is flat out filthy — 4-seamers at 98; 2-seamers with unreal sink at 96; deceptive change in the mid-80s. If he can shore up his location, he brings as much K-potential as any pitcher in baseball, and that’s not hyperbole. I listed Martinez as a first tier guy below, even considering the tough match-ups. If you have a chance to watch him pitch next week, please do. It’s truly something to behold. The rest of your two-starters are below.

As always, probable pitchers are subject to change. For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

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Javier Baez | SS, Cubs | Born: 12/1/1992

I realize I’ve been a little Javier Baez-centric lately (see here and here), but I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m also not going to apologize for the fact that I already wrote one of these posts on Baez around this time last year. No, I’m actually going to take this time to write a few hundred more words on him because he’s pretty much the hottest thing going in Minor League Baseball, and y’all need to take note. Baez is beasting right now. There’s no gentle way to put it. For the past month the 20-year-old has been drilling lasers all over Southern League ballparks, and in many cases, out of said ballparks. Since being promoted to Double-A Tennessee in early July, Baez has posted 28 XBH (14 HR) in 185 PA for a slugging average of .631, which is an insane figure for a middle infielder.

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For the past few seasons, Jose Abreu has been regarded as Cuba’s best offensive talent. The 26-year-old slugger has spent the past decade playing pro ball in Cuba where he routinely was at the top of the league in AVG, OBP, SLG, RBI, and HR. Well, it now seems he’s played his last game in Cuba, as reports earlier this week explain that he has left his homeland and has begun the process of becoming a MLB free agent. At 6-3, 250, Abreu is a large man with next to zero defensive appeal. He’s a 1B/DH type, so he’d fit best with an AL club, but scouting reports suggest he has enough glove to get by at first, so don’t rule out the NL entirely. Wherever he signs, it’s gonna be for big money and an immediate big league opportunity. Abreu is an MLB-ready masher, and at age 26, there’ll be no reason to start him in the minors. If all goes as planned, he should be occupying a regular MLB role by Opening Day 2014. There’s upside here in the neighborhood of .300 AVG and 30+ HR. It’ll be interesting to see how early he’s off the board in mixed league drafts next spring.

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Did you guys see that Clint Eastwood movie, “Trouble with the Curve”? No? Yeah, me neither. It got a 52% on RottenTomatoes.com, which is pretty awful, so I think it’s safe to assume we didn’t miss much. Anyway, I’m thinking the whole flick would’ve gone over better if it had just looped this clip from the Little League World Series over and over again:

Bhahahahahah. I laugh, but I’m sure my effort wouldn’t have been much better. Your two-starters are below.

As always, probable pitchers are subject to change. For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

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Right about now is when I expected to start hyping the arrival of Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. The 26-year-old Cuban defector reportedly signed with the Phillies in late July, and we covered his potential fantasy impact here and here. Given the nature of the contract and all the money involved, there was plenty of incentive on the Phillies’ part to push Gonzalez through to the bigs as quickly as possible in order to get him accustomed to performing on a MLB stage. He was set to be your savior for the H2H playoffs, your last-ditch effort at a late-season roto push. He easily would’ve been top-two on this list by now, provided he hadn’t already surfaced in Philly. Alas, folks tend to tread carefully when there’s $60 million on the table. Reports suggest that some concerns popped up regarding Gonzalez’s elbow, and as of today, he remains unsigned. Whether it’s with the Phillies or elsewhere, M.A.G. figures sign for a much more reasonable sum ($60 mil was a little ridic).

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