Here we are, everyone! And by everyone, of course I mean the few souls out there who still have something to play for in a deep league over the next week and a half. And by here, I mean my last NL/AL only column of the season.
It’s been quite a year. I have much more to say about it, and I probably will over the next few months. While everyone is off playing fantasy football, enjoying the holiday season with family and friends, and generally braving the long winter months ahead, I’ll be hunkered down, obsessively thinking about and occasionally sharing my thoughts on the fantasy baseball season that is behind us, as well as the shiny new one that lies ahead of us in 2018.
But for now, I need to clear my head a bit. I’m still having trouble processing the fantasy seasons that Ryan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez have had, and am not sure when I will be able to move on from the burn I’m feeling, as I think this is literally the first year in the last five or six that I haven’t owned both of them in at least one NL-only league. Thinking about the way they treated me in the past, all while watching them wine and dine their current owners with more home runs and quality starts than they know what to do with – well, as with any nasty breakup, it has not been easy. But, it’s time to move on… and if nothing else, I can spend the winter daydreaming about who my 2018 imaginary fantasy baseball boyfriends will be (look out, Zack Godley, I may be coming after you!)
And, if you are one of the lucky ones soldiering on in a deep NL or AL-only league over the next ten days or so, here are some fellows that are owned in only a few percent of leagues… but who, if all the stars somehow align correctly, could end up giving you that magic stolen base or 3-RBI game that puts you over the top.
Austin Hays. Started his fifth game in a row for the Orioles Tuesday, even though they were facing a righty, and Adam Jones has returned (from “general soreness”… which sounds incredibly pitiful, but you gotta at least give the O’s credit for not making up a fake injury!) Hays is now hitting .316 (6 for 19) with a homer and 5 knocked in, so who knows, if he’s good enough for Buck Showalter’s lineup, perhaps he’s good enough for yours.
Joey Wendle. How can I not mention a guy who had only five at bats on the season, but proceded to hit a grand slam (his second MLB homer) to give Oakland a win against the Phillies on Sunday? In his other start, he had a couple of hits and an RBI against the Astros, so you’d think he’d be rewarded with at least a couple more chances in the coming week and a half… maybe lighting will strike again.
Pedro Alvarez. Well, you know it’s the last week of the season when we’re talking about Alvarez, whom I honestly didn’t realize was currently active on a major league roster. On Monday, Alvarez not only homered, but reached base five times for the first time in his MLB career. I don’t think we’ll be seeing that again, but if he gets a handful of at bats he could be a potential lottery ticket for anyone desperate for a little late-September power.
Alen Hanson. I had a thing for Hanson a few years ago when he was an up-and-coming Pirates prospect, thinking he might become a useful Dee Gordon-type for fantasy purposes. While it’s looking like he won’t ever be able to hit consistently at the major league level and may be running out of chances, he has been getting a little playing time for the White Sox lately. He’s one of those guys that may have a couple more steals in him in 2017 — he’s 4 for 8 (plus 3 walks) of late, and had a 2-steal game over the weekend.
Ubaldo Jimenez. Just typing his name feels like a bad idea, but I gotta throw it out there after his last start where he somehow managed to strike out 10 Yankees in 5 innings, giving up just three hits, a walk, and one earned. It looks like he’ll remain in the rotation to close out the season, so there’s that. I got nothing else positive to add on this topic, but as the late, great Nell Carter would say, gimme a break, I’m keeping this to guys who are 4% owned or less this week!
Norichika Aoki. Allright, I just mentioned Aoki a couple weeks ago, but was a little surprised to see he’s still just 2% owned in CBS leagues. He’s playing pretty much every day for the Mets, and has been on fire (in a good way, as opposed to pretty much every other fire the Mets have had to put out this year) – he’s reached base in all 16 games he’s played as a Met, and has a .333 AVG/.419 OBP with two steals over the last week.
Jordan Luplow. When I originally wrote this, it looked like Starling Marte might be done for the year due to a bad finger, but he’s back in the Pirates lineup Tuesday. It seems unlikely that he’ll play every day from here on out though, so Luplow should get at least a smattering of at bats. He’s 0 for his last 7 as I write this and is now hitting .213 on the season, so don’t get too excited… but he’s got a little pop (23 homers in 414 ABs in the minors this season), which could emerge at any time, as power is wont to do.
Travis Jankowski. I’m not ashamed to admit that early this spring, I really liked Jankowski as a sleeper pick for steals in deep NL-only leagues. Okay, I’m totally ashamed, but at least I feel like everything is coming full circle now that the season is pretty much over and he was recalled from AAA on Monday. Jankowski may not play much, and even if he does could go 0 for the rest of the season – but he’s also a guy who could steal 2 or 3 bases next week, if you’re looking for that kind of thing. (Note while we’re talking about the Padres outfield: if you’re in a slightly deeper league and desperate for power help, you may not have noticed that Hunter Renfroe is back with the big club, and the first thing he did upon returning was to hit a 3-run bomb to beat the D-Backs on Monday. Just sayin’).
Brett Phillips. He may not see a ton of playing time for the Brewers next week, since as long as they are still alive for the wild card, they may be more concerned with the whole postseason chase thing, than seeing what they have with Phillips. He’s looked great over his last few games when he’s had the chance though (4 for his last 12, plus a couple of walks, and two steals over his last five games). If he gets a few more starts, he could stumble into a productive game or two.
Jimmy Sherfy. Sherfy is a bullpen guy for the D-Backs who might be worth keeping an eye on, either for the next couple weeks or perhaps for the future. Sherfy hasn’t allowed a run yet in eight MLB innings (which actually makes me think he may be due for a minor implosion as soon as I submit this; we’ll see). He’s given up just two hits and one walk and has managed to pick up both a win and a save. In AAA this year (PCL league, FWIW) he coverted 20 of 23 save opps with 10 walks and 61 strikeouts in 49 innings.