I shall open this column by quoting September 1st Grey: “I’m not enthused by the guys headed to the majors this September.” I agree completely – I thought there would be a lot more intriguing under-the-radar call-ups to discuss, both for NL or AL-only help over the next few weeks, or to grab with an eye on next year in keeper leagues. Instead, I’m reminded that keeping one’s head in the fantasy baseball game can be less fun and more chore-like with each passing day as we inch towards October.
In September, there’s a lot more inventory, but less of value. Veteran players on non-contenders are getting rested more often, as are young studs on playoff contenders. Starting pitchers are hitting innings limits. And since expanded rosters mean that there’s often no need to officially DL players, it can be hard to tell who is going to get at bats at all, and who is pretty much done for the year. If you’re still actively managing a fantasy team in a deep league at this time of year, there may be more names than ever to choose from on waivers… the tricky part is finding anyone who might actually help your team over the next three and a half weeks.
Now, just since I started writing this, news has arrived that J.P. Crawford and Luiz Gohara have reached the show, so things are getting at least a little more interesting. Meanwhile, here’s this weeks handful of guys who may still be floating around in the deepest of leagues:
Jeimer Candelario. I was surprised to see that Candelario is owned in just 6% of CBS leagues, now that he’s up with the Tigers and it appears that he’ll get a solid look at third base this month. As I write this he’s played three games since his recall, has a hit in every one including a three-hit game Monday, and has already raised his average from .179 to .239.
John Hicks. After a nice series in Colorado last week, Hicks started two of the four games the Tigers have played and gone 0 for 6. But I’ll mention him anyway, since he qualifies at catcher (as well as first) and, if he can manage to put a few more decent games together he’s definitely a guy who could provide deep-league help. Tuesday evening update: he’s back! Hicks has already gone deep against the Royals. Later Tuesday update: Damn, Hicks has now gone deep twice against the Royals. Grab him if you want him!
Scott Alexander/Mike Minor. Kelvin Herrera has missed a few days with a forearm strain, and Brandon Maurer finally had a full-fledged implosion Monday (5 hits and 3 ER in 2/3 of an inning), so we turn to Kansas City for this week’s just-in-case bullpen guys for anyone scrapping for any desperation save they can get over the next three and a half weeks. Alexander finished Monday’s game for the one-out save, after Minor had pitched a clean eighth to set up Maurer on Sunday. Both are left-handed and neither feels like a closer-in-waiting, but we’re talking about looking for scraps here. For what it’s worth, Alexander’s numbers on the year aren’t bad (2.19 ERA/1.25 WHIP, 49 K/22 BB in 58 innings), and Minor’s are approaching excellent (2.86 ERA/1.02 WHIP, 75 K/18 BB in 66 innings). Also, Maurer might still get the next save op even after blowing up Monday, so he could actually be a decent (and by decent, of course I mean decent for anyone desperate in a deep league) add himself if he’s sitting around on waivers. Also also, this could all be completely moot if Herrera’s injury turns out to be nothing, as the Royals now claim. Sigh.
Kyle Gibson. Gibson is this week’s really bad pitcher who is suddenly pitching well enough to take notice of if you’re in dire need of a starter in a deep league. His last three starts for the Twins weren’t just quality, they were Quality Starts with a capital Q: if you combine them, 19 2/3 innings, 19 hits, 3 earned runs, and 20Ks vs. 2 BBs. After facing the Royals on Wednesday, he’s scheduled to get the Padres next week.
Yolmer Sanchez. He’s been playing a ton due to White Sox injuries, and is hitting .375 with 4 homers over the last few weeks. Jose Abreu is back, and Yoan Moncada isn’t far away, so Sanchez’s playing time may dry up in a hurry. I wish I’d picked him up three weeks ago in one of my deep AL-only leagues where I have a couple dead spots on my roster and need all of the at bats I can get, but I may still grab him just in case I can squeeze a little more production out of him.
Martin Maldonado. I feel the need to mention him, not just because he had a two-homer game on Monday, but to send him a shout out of love and support after the way he was treated during said game. Yes, Maldonado has been struggling at the plate, but you’d think going deep twice might signal that he might be heating up. Yet after hitting the two bombs, dude was not only removed for a pinch hitter, the pinch hitter he was removed for was Ben Revere. Really?
Nori Aoki. Now that the dust has settled in the disaster that has been the Mets 2017 outfield, Aoki appears to have a pretty steady gig in the season’s final weeks. He has 5 hits, 3 runs scored, and 3 RBI in his three games with the Mets, and his numbers on the season surprised me (hitting .278 in 86 games, with 5 homers and 6 steals). That’s enough to at least take note of in the deepest NL-onlys. Meanwhile, Travis Taijeron is a nightmarish 1-16 since his August call-up, and it remains to be seen how many more chances to crack the lineup he’ll get.
Dillon Peters. Peters is a 25-year old lefty whose CBS ownership is already up to 15% after his stellar debut against the Phillies (7 innings, no runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts). He’s a ground ball guy, not a flamethrower, but was rocking it pretty good in the minors this year: 1.57 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 55 K/17BB in 63 innings. His next matchup is a toughie against the Nats Wednesday, which I’m going to try to watch some of just in case there’s anything to see here.
Johan Camargo/Rio Ruiz. Camargo is coming off the DL after he somehow hurt his knee running on to the field about a month ago. He had been holding his own at the plate before he got hurt with a .292 average on the season, and should get some playing time at third base (though he also qualifies at short in most leagues) as the Braves close out the year. Ruiz, meanwhile, has been playing third of late and while his season average is still just .213, he’s hitting .333 with a homer and four RBI over his last five games. Keep an eye on both of them if you’re chasing at bats.
Jake Thompson. He’s not done much to impress at the big league level this season (4.50 ERA/1.58 WHIP with 11 walks and 21 Ks in 26 innings), but finally had a great start in his last outing against the Marlins (1 earned in 6 innings, 3 hits, no walks and 7 Ks). Any in-depth look at his numbers gives zero reason for optimism, but there’s always the chance that he’s so motivated to prove to the Phillies that he belongs in their future plans, that he manages to put together a couple more quality starts in 2017.
Sean Rodriguez/Max Moroff. Moroff is only hitting .218 in the majors this season, but he did have a big game on Monday, with a double, a homer, and 4 RBI. I wouldn’t count on him having too many more 4 RBI games, but he should see at least semi-regular playing time at second for the Pirates with Josh Harrison sidelined with a hand fracture (side note: boo; I was counting on a nice September from Harrison in a few deep leagues). Rodriguez will likely continue to play more as well — in 92 at bats, his average is even uglier (.172), but he does have 5 homers, and could knock a few more out now that he is healthy and back in Pittsburgh.