Is it just me, or has anyone else already started worrying about which players are going to burn them the most in 2018? Grey has already mentioned how the sudden late-season production of guys like Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson will probably dupe folks into buying into them next year with a sense of false promise. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, but I’m already imagining and stressing over the bad relationships I will probably enter into during my 2018 drafts and auctions, and trying to figure out if there’s anything I can do to avoid them.
The gentleman who I feel has strung me along the most, given me a handful of fun times over the last couple of seasons, but ultimately disappointed me to the point where I’ve decided it’s probably time to break up for good, is Yoenis Cespedes. Even after a spotty, injury-plagued 2016, I put a lot of eggs in his basket this year as my go-to NL power/average guy. Cut to mid-August, and dude has fewer homers than (among a million other people), Paul DeJong and Scooter Gennett (and now Ces has pitched fewer innings than Scooter to boot!) He’s been one of my biggest busts of the year, and yet, after seeing him hit 4 bombs over his last 7 games, I can feel my head starting to turn in his direction once again. I’m already wondering if he’ll be a value pick next year, and worrying that if I don’t stock up on as many shares of Cespedes as I can get my hands on, he’ll pull a 2017 Giancarlo and lead the way to 2018 victory for everyone else’s fantasy teams. Am I the naïve girl falling for the jerk who’s mistreated her before, and will again? Or the wise woman ready to give a great guy the final chance he deserves before ultimately walking off into the sunset with him?
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Only time will tell, but the one thing I want to keep in mind between now and April is not to put too much stock into a burst of production in August or September. That being said, I won’t fully discount it either. I’ll consider it, combine it with whatever additional knowledge I have regarding injuries, team situation, underlying statistics, and the like, and make the best decision I can. I still might make the wrong decision, either about Yoenis Cespedes, or many of the other real-life humans whom I’ll be deciding whether or not to go into pretend baseball battle with – but at least I’ll know I’m making as close to an educated decision as possible, rather than just falling for any guy that gave me a few moments of fun in late summer 2017.
As long as we’re talking about late summer fun, let’s look at some fellows who might be floating around on waivers in your NL and AL-only fantasy baseball leagues:
Austin Barnes. No, he doesn’t play too much, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing for a catcher in a deep NL-only league… if you don’t have a great option, at least go with someone who’s not going to hurt you. I was surprised to see that he’s still just 7% owned in CBS leagues – he may not provide a ton of production, but a .290 average with 6 homers and 4 steals isn’t valueless in a deep league. Plus, Barnes is getting more at bats, at least against lefties, and I have to think he’ll continue to, especially if Yasmani Grandal continues to struggle and/or needs more rest days as the Dodgers prepare for a playoff run.
Daniel Descalso. He’s quietly chipped away at Brandon Drury’s playing time in Arizona, and has now started five of the last six games for the D-Backs. He’s never going to be an accomplished slugger, but anyone batting sixth in that lineup/ballpark on a semi-regular basis, deserves at least a glance in the deepest of leagues.
Juan Lagares. Lagares is off the DL (again), and Jay Bruce is in Cleveland, so Lagares should play against lefties and/or get some late defensive replacement innings. Obviously he’s more of a defense guy than a good hitter, but he was on a tear before he got hurt (again), so he could be a better-than-nothing type option in a deep NL-only league.
Stephen Vogt. He’s evidently ahead of schedule recovering from his knee injury and should return soon; he might be worth an add in a 2-catcher NL-only league, at the least. His .217 average on the year is downright ugly, but he does have 8 homers – and we haven’t really gotten a chance to see how much good the change of scenery (not to mention being in a much better lineup, in a much better hitter’s park) will do for him.
Chad Bettis. I picked him up and started him at home against Atlanta the other day in an NL-only league where I have nothing to lose. Bettis may have been thinking more about the fact that he was pitching in the major leagues for the first time after a long, grueling battle with cancer than the fact that he was helping my already-pretty-much-out-of-the-running fantasy baseball team, but either way he was impressive, throwing seven shut-out innings. It should be noted at this juncture that his numbers are, to put it simply, quite awful (3-year average 4.70 ERA/1.41 WHIP, and he’s never been a K guy). But he’s rested, refreshed, and probably as happy to be playing baseball as anyone in the game right now, which probably counts for something.
Matt Harvey. He’s been picked up over the last few days in a couple of my NL-only leagues, as he is officially in the rehab start phase of his recovery from whatever officially sent him to the DL. It sounds like he could theoretically be back at the end of August. Personally, I’m not going to go near him in either a re-draft or a keeper league, but if his potential impending return intrigues you, don’t let my past baggage with him stop you from giving him a call.
Austin Pruitt. His overall numbers still don’t look great (5.07 ERA/1.45 WHIP), but he now has three quality starts in a row for Tampa Bay, and his K/BB numbers aren’t at all ugly — 45 K/13 BB in 55 innings. (His lifetime minor league stats are quite similar with a much larger sample size: 449 Ks/103 BBs in 544 innings). His CBS ownership has gone from 6 to 11% over the last week, so if you want him and he’s available, get him while you can.
Yusmiero Petit/Keynan Middleton. For our weekly ugly bullpen mess that only matters in deep leagues, we turn to Anaheim. Cam Bedrosian is probably not available in your league since we all assumed he’d close once Norris lost the job — but since Scioscias will Scioscia, why should anyone be surprised that Petit and Middleton both have saves over the last week? Middleton’s was of the shaky variety, while Petit’s numbers on the year are way better than I would have guessed: 2.36 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 75 K/13 BB in 68 innings. Andrew Bailey’s return from the DL could complicate things even further, but right now it seems like Bedrosian then Petit are the guys that should be owned.
Juan Minaya. I guess we can’t mention messy bullpen situations without touching upon the Tyler Clippard-less White Sox… and that bullpen was messy enough with Clippard still in it. The unofficial consensus of deep-league saves speculators points towards Minaya, followed by Jake Petricka and Gregory Infante as the guys to own. Plus I’ll also mention Aaron Bummer, because how can you not mention a guy named Aaron Bummer, even if you’ve never heard of him before today and are super sad that he’s not prominent enough to made him the lede of your article for the cheapest title ever. This all reminds me, once again, how the approach a fantasy owner comes up with for handling closers and saves – and how one deals with obtaining them during the season — can be one of the biggest strategy differences between shallow and deep leagues.
Nicky Delmonico. The 25-year old utility guy has started six of the last seven games for the White Sox, including hitting in the 5th spot as the DH after the return of Avisail Garcia. He’s hitting .381 with a .480 OBP over the last five games, so he may continue to play more often than not for the time being. If you need to plug a hole in your lineup, you might want to grab him sooner rather than later, since who knows when the magic spell will suddenly wear off.
Chris Rowley. He may be back in the minors by the time you read this, but he had a nice start for Toronto on Saturday in his MLB debut (1 earned in 5.1 innings, 5 hits, 3 Ks and 1 BB), and his situation is unusual enough to be mildly interesting. He’s 27, was undrafted out of West Point, and didn’t pitch at all in 2014 or 2015. He’s not a strikeout guy (215 K in 262 minor league innings), but he pitched well in high A in 2016 and continued to impress the Blue Jays brass in AA and AAA in 2017. Not a ton of upside here, but perhaps a guy for the pitching-starved to keep an eye on.