Well, it looks like we’re out of catchy titles and silly ledes involving bad puns, which can mean only one thing: baseball season is coming to a close. It’s devastatingly sad for some, a huge relief for others, and completely irrelevant to those of you who accidentally ended up here looking for help with your fantasy football team.
This week we’ll take a look at some of 2018’s strong finishers, so this won’t be a deep-league column per se. Or will it? Many of these guys were available at some point this season in all but the very deepest of leagues, due to stretches of poor performance, starting in the minors/looking like they didn’t have a place to play, injury, or what have you. Fantasy experts and cold hard numbers alike tend to disagree on whether or not an impressive finish to one season is a predictor of success in the next, and there is no magic formula to assure us whether or not a big September will mean anything next April. But if nothing else, I like to look at who’s been thriving at the end of each year while it’s still fresh in my mind and make a note of players that I think have a chance at being undervalued the following season.
Jonathan Villar. Villar was dropped in just about every one of my leagues, deep and shallow alike, after crashing and burning with the Brewers this year. He’s found new life in Baltimore, though, hitting .298 with 4 homers, 12 RBI, and a “it’s clear I have the green light 24/7”
12 13 steals over the last 4 weeks. You’ll be aware of that heading into your 2019 drafts, but your league-mates who drafted him this March, gave up on him in June, and stopped paying attention to their team altogether in August, probably won’t be.
Tommy Pham. After looking like one of the bigger early-round 2018 busts, Pham has quietly put together quite a nice stretch after A) leaving whatever toxicity he was experiencing in St. Louis, B) arriving in Tampa Bay, C) fracturing his foot, and D) recovering from fracturing his foot. He’s ranked third in 5×5 value for AL hitters over the last 4 weeks (.400 average, 5 HR, 15 RBI, and 3 steals). No, it’s not like he’ll be completely under the radar next year, but much like Villar’s situation, some fantasy owners who gave up on Pham mid-season may not realize just what a nice run he’s put together to close out 2018.
Luke Voit. I kept starting to grab him in one or two of my shallower leagues in August, but just couldn’t pull the trigger because he’s, you know, Luke Voit. But over his last 79 at bats, he’s hitting .279 with 8 homers and 16 RBI, which would have been a nice power boost in any league of any size. He’s not exactly inked in as a fixture of the Yankees lineup for years to come, but it’s worthwhile to note what a solid impact he’s made in a high-pressure environment at a high-pressure time of year.
Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez had a great start to the year, a great finish, and produced a lot of pretty horrible pitching in between. But we’re here to talk about the best pitchers over the last month or so, and over the last four weeks Lopez’s 5×5 numbers rank third in the AL for starting pitchers, behind only Blake Snell and Justin Verlander. (He has 5 quality starts over that time, with 0.79 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 36 Ks in 34 innings). Lopez may always be a wildly inconsistent player who shows flashes of brilliance, but his insanely strong finish will have me keeping a slightly closer eye on him heading into 2019.
Jose Leclerc. I don’t even know what to say about how good this guy has been, but he hasn’t allowed a run since the last week of July, and I don’t really like mentioning him at all because I want him all to myself next year. Since I don’t want to overpay for a closer, though, I guess I just have to hope he’ll be at least slightly under-drafted next year even though his numbers on the season will be fairly eye-popping and may not escape the notice of anyone, even those who tuned out during the second half of 2018. And the fact that I mentioned him at some point during the season in this column and suggested that others pick him up, but somehow did not do so myself in my AL-only keeper league? One of my bigger regrets of fantasy baseball 2018, that is.
Corey Knebel. Given the year that Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress had, it’s feeling like the Brewers bullpen is going to be spectacular for real-life baseball in 2019, but horrible for fantasy. Or at least shallow fantasy – while I may be wary of committing too much to any one of these guys, but that often means there could be potential deep-league bargains lurking. Anyway, don’t look now, but Knebel hasn’t allowed a run in about a month, and has 21 strikeouts in his last 11.3 innings. Just saying.
Amed Rosario. I don’t own him anywhere, so this one surprised me: over the last 28 days, Rosario has the seventh best 5×5 hitter value in the NL. He’s batted .340 over that time, and is finally making some real progress on the base paths with 7 steals.
Adam Frazier. Frazier’s numbers over the last month or so don’t rank him nearly as high as the other hitters on this list, but he’s been hitting well for a while now and definitely seems to have secured himself a regular role with the 2019 Pirates. I figured that Frazier would collapse once he was in the lineup every day, but he’s held his own. I’m still a bit skeptical about how he’ll fare as a regular over the course of a full season, but that won’t stop me from making him a speculative deep-league target in 2019 (and the fact that he’ll qualify at both 2B and OF doesn’t hurt either).
Luis Castillo and Robbie Ray. Not sure what to make of this, but two guys who many of us LOVED coming into 2018 and had relatively disastrous, fantasy-team killing first halfs, are ranked (as of Monday of this week) as two of the top three pitchers in NL 5×5 value over the last 28 days. (The third, by the by, is Razzball love child and deep-league poster boy Trevor Williams). Castillo has a 1.09 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 34 Ks in 33 innings over that time, while Ray is rocking a 1.55 ERA. 0.90 WHIP, and has 39 Ks in 29 innings. Ugh, why did I write this column? Why did I have to look at the numbers? Now I want both of these guys on multiple teams next year. That may or may not end poorly, but at least they should both come at a bit of a discount as compared to their 2018 prices.