Happy Labor Day All,
Although the NFL is around the corner and school’s about to be back in session, September baseball is here! We’ve seen the next wave of prospects get called up as rosters expand and playoff races both in real life and fantasy are tightening. What a year it’s been for middle infielders – if you spent a high pick on Fernando Tatis Jr., Bo Bichette, and/or Jonathan India, we thought we were sitting pretty and had a middle infield spot locked up. As with every season, there are the inevitable busts, but thankfully there are new players that step up and contribute to balance out the fantasy landscape which keeps us coming back for more:
Gunnar Henderson – Orioles: Gunnar’s made an immediate impact with his big league club, hitting a hot .400 in 15 at-bats entering play Sunday, chipping in a homer and steal. He’s hitting in the middle of the O’s lineup, and making highlight reels in the field. Gunnar’s just the spark the Orioles need to sneak into the playoffs as the Orioles pitching has been solid of late (can’t remember the last time I said that)! Henderson only needs a few more starts at third base to have eligibility there next season and he may even see enough time at second base to qualify there in 2023. If he can grab third base eligibility, I’m even more excited to draft him next year, as third base has been a wasteland outside of Austin Riley, Manny Machado, and a first-half Rafael Devers. A .270, 25/15 in a full season’s worth of at-bats is within reach next year for Gunnar Henderson. Giving Rougned Odor less playing time is definitely addition by subtraction!
Vaughn Grissom – Braves: Grissom shows no signs of slowing down as he has a 18/4/12/.313/.367/4 line in 83 at-bats while striking out around 17% of the time. Although Ozzie Albies is set to return in a week or two, I still think the Braves get creative with Grissom’s playing time and start utilizing him in the outfield when he’s not giving Dansby Swanson a breather at short. I’m not sure who gets drafted higher next year, Henderson or Grissom (probably Henderson as of now and likely depends on how they both finish their seasons), but would gladly have either one as they both possess a solid hit tool and are power/speed threats. The Braves have favorable matchups as they are slated to play the A’s the next couple games and have a couple series with the Nationals left. The Braves aren’t likely to rest their regulars too much as they try and overtake the Mets for the NL East crown.
Oswald Peraza – Yankees: The Yanks are under some serious pressure, as their division lead has whittled down to a mere 4 games entering play Sunday. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson have not been playing well and are shells of their former selves. Peraza had an 18/33 season in the Minors so far, and Peraza should be just the boost the Yankees need especially at the bottom of their lineup and Peraza should help turn the Yanks lineup over to Aaron Judge more efficiently.
Jonathan Aranda – Rays: Aranda isn’t a top prospect like Henderson and Grissom are, but he’s one of those sneaky-good, underrated players the Rays have produced throughout their system for years. He’ll mostly play second base with Brandon Lowe out. Aranda won’t wow you with any particular tool, but can spray the ball around the park, has solid pop and on-base percentage, can play all over the field, doesn’t have any particular split weaknesses, and is overall a tough out. Unfortunately, for now, he’s better off rostered in leagues where you can make daily moves, and unless the Rays make some moves in the offseason, it doesn’t seem like there will be a full-time position for him to play next year.
Esteury Ruiz – Brewers: Like many others, I was surprised when Ruiz was assigned to AAA upon his trade from the Padres to the Brewers. Ruiz has received a September callup, but isn’t likely to make much of an impact outside of pinch-running and as a late-game defensive replacement. If the Brew Crew can make some moves in the offseason to assure Ruiz of a full-time spot, I’ll have him on my watch list next year, as the speed is 80-grade. Speaking of 80-grade speed, Vidal Brujan was called up by the Rays, but similar to Ruiz, he likely makes a bigger real-world impact on the Rays than helping our fantasy squads down the stretch.
Spencer Steer – Reds: Came over to the Reds in the Tyler Mahle trade. Steer’s definitely more of a deep-league or NL-only play, but a guy who can play every day with some power and high fly-ball rate who calls Great American Ballpark his home is worthy of a flyer. The Reds have said he will play regularly, especially since Nick Senzel has yet another ailment and Jose Barrero has been struggling.
Michael Massey – Royals: Massey’s about 30 at-bats away from exhausting his rookie eligibility, and has cooled off in August. He’s got a 7/1/9/.283/.356/2 line, but a 15.7% barrel rate has caught my attention. He’s got good power, especially for a guy his size, and he’ll play every day down the stretch barring injury as the Royals view him as their starting second baseman entering 2023. Massey has had solid OPS numbers throughout his minor league career.
Have a great holiday!