We’ve made it to the 20th week of the season, and if you’re still reading this column that means you’re still contending — in one way or another. So, congratulations!
With several teams having pinned their ears back in the hunt for the playoffs and several more having mailed it in for the rest of the season, opportunities for players are changing. Playing time is changing. Productivity levels are changing. With the increased fluidity at this point in the baseball season, fantasy managers must heed the words of the late, great martial arts legend Bruce Lee: “Be water, my friend.”
Water can flow. Fantasy managers should roll with things and stand pat if their teams are in good shape. Or water can crash. Managers should be aggressive on the waiver wire, because at this point of the year there’s not much worth saving your budget for. Go all out for the acquisition that could make a difference in the standings, whether it be one category or several. Don’t be afraid to make a splash. Pun intended.
Six teams play just five games this week while six more will take the field every day. That leaves a massive gap of fantasy potential between someone like Davis Schneider with just five games and Jose Caballero with seven.
FIVE GAMES: CHC, CIN, CWS, MIN, PHI, TOR
SEVEN GAMES: ARZ, KC, NYM, SEA, SD, STL
Investment Rating System
Nolan Jones ($$$): The Rockies play six games at home this week and Jones should start most, if not all of them. Jones has posted a .276 batting average with 11 home runs and seven stolen bases this year and has the potential to be a contributor in nearly every offensive category. Even with a hard contact rate that could stand to improve (23.6%), Jones is still slugging .500 on the year.
Mike Tauchman ($$$): Tauchman should be rostered in every league 12 teams or larger. He’s the everyday starting center fielder and leadoff man for the Cubs. He’s not going anywhere. Tauchman posts average, counting stats, modest power and speed. He’s a boring, but solid contributor to any fantasy squad.
Ramón Laureano ($$): Once upon a time, Laureano was regarded as a top name on the trade market. It’s been all downhill since 2019 for Laureano as he went from a sought commodity to being designated for assignment by the lowly Oakland Athletics. Luckily for Laureano, he was cheap enough for the Guardians to scoop him off waivers and give him a chance at regular playing time in the Cleveland outfield. Perhaps the change of scenery will reinvigorate Laureano, who has shown his stolen base potential with nine swipes this season.
Oscar Colás ($$): Colas has been largely disappointing this season after getting some prospect hype entering the year. Since the deadline, he’s received regular playing time in the White Sox outfield and should continue to see regular at-bats the rest of the way as the Chicago front office evaluates him.
Mauricio Dubón ($$): With Chas McCormick out for a brief period, Dubon will step into center field. He’s shown that he can be a viable bat in fantasy leagues given regular playing time. If McCormick sees an IL stint, he should play every day while his teammate is on the mend.
Kole Calhoun ($): Purchased from the Dodgers by the Cleveland Guardians, Calhoun is getting a chance to play every day, at first base of all places. The veteran lefty is a cheap stopgap option but likely nothing more than that for fantasy purposes.
Davis Schneider ($$$): Davis Schneider has been everything the Blue Jays thought Austin Martin was going to be in his first few weeks in the majors. Since being called up, Schneider has batted .409 with two home runs and five RBI, starting in four of the Jays’ last six. Though he may be a short-side platoon bat after he cools off, he’s forcing Toronto’s hand with his scorching hot bat this week. He may earn regular playing time before the end of the fantasy season.
Ji Hwan Bae ($$$): Ji Hwan is Bae. A stolen base prodigy in the first half of the season, Bae was a pleasant surprise for a lot of fantasy managers until he landed on the injured list in early July. Now making rehab starts in the Pirates’ minor leagues, Bae could be back soon. Keep an eye on Bae’s rehab starts. If he runs in the minors, fantasy managers should expect him to swipe bags in the majors as well. He could be a huge steals contributor down the stretch. Getting in early before he returns from the IL should keep his price nice and low for savvy managers.
Trevor Story ($$): Finally back from an extensive IL stint, Story has cracked the starting lineup in each of Boston’s contests since his return. The most encouraging sign for fans has been the willingness to run. In four games, Story has attempted to steal twice, earning his first stolen base of the season on Friday night against the Tigers. The bat is off to a slow start, though, with Story going just 3-for-16 in four games since returning. Small sample size, of course, but fantasy managers will want to see the power in action before they invest too much FAAB. Still, he’s a super interesting pickup and could potentially be a name fantasy champions remember for years to come.
Ezequiel Duran ($$): Duran has been thrust into full-time burn after the injury to Josh Jung. Duran has quietly had an outstanding season, batting .276 with 14 home runs. A 30.3% hard contact rate has contributed to his success while an adjustment in average launch angle has significantly reduced his ground ball rate from a season ago. With a full-time role, Duran can shine in fantasy lineups down the stretch.
Michael Massey ($$): The breakout that fantasy pundits were hoping for in April could still potentially happen this fall. Massey has posted a .270 xAVG, indicating that his .223 batting average should improve. His hard contact rate and ideal plate appearance rate show promise, but with a BABIP of just .261, Massey will need some better luck to hit his ceiling in August.
Ji-Man Choi ($): A power threat in the middle of the Padres lineup, Choi has started six of the last seven for San Diego. The only issue is that he’s hitless since the beginning of August. Maybe this is the week he turns that around?
Jordan Diaz ($): Diaz has earned regular playing time in Oakland, beating out Jonah Bride for the starting third baseman job. Diaz has an extremely high hard contact rate (35.7%) and has translated that into eight home runs in 172 plate appearances. If he can continue his power surge, he becomes an interesting streaming option for those seeking a corner infielder.
Mitch Garver ($$): Garver has started four of the Rangers’ last five games behind the plate heading into the weekend. The veteran catcher is batting .272, nearly a career-best (.273, 2019), and has recorded a .359 BABIP. It appears the average may be unsustainable, but the 27.9% hard contact rate and the 14.1% barrel rate are marks that he has sustained for full seasons before, meaning the power could pop down the stretch.
Ryan Jeffers ($$$): Jeffers appears to have finally overtaken Christian Vázquez as the primary catcher in Minnesota. Batting .285 with an .881 OPS, Jeffers has been batting in the middle of the Twins lineup consistently, starting five of the squad’s last six games entering the weekend. Jeffers is a strong option at second catcher, and could even justify an add in some 12-team, one-catcher leagues.
Kyle Higashioka ($): With Jose Trevino shut down for the season, Higashioka is going to get at-bats. The question is, can he be productive enough to warrant a fantasy roster spot in two-catcher leagues?
Eury Pérez ($$$$): On the off chance that every other manager in your league is asleep at the wheel, check if Pérez is somehow still on the wire. And if he is, empty your wallet.
Cole Ragans ($$$): Where was this guy in Texas? Buried in the bullpen and performing relatively poorly to boot. The key return to the Royals in the Aroldis Chapman trade, Ragans is looking like a front-end rotation arm in his audition with Kansas City. In his last two starts, Ragans has gone six innings in each, allowing a combined two runs (one earned) on 11 hits while recording 19 strikeouts. Ragans’ revelation may have a lot to do with the introduction of a slider into his repertoire. Ragans has thrown his slider 25 times in the two starts combined, and recorded a combined eight swings and misses while posting a 44.0% CSW% on the pitch. We’ve seen young arms in the Royals’ rotation make a difference in the home stretch of fantasy seasons before — Brady Singer’s second half last season was magical — so perhaps Ragans can be the guy this year.
Chase Silseth ($$$): Silseth has deserved a victory in all three of his starts, and earned pitching wins in two of them. Since joining the Angels’ rotation, Silseth has allowed just four earned runs in 17.2 innings pitched while ringing up 26 strikeouts. With a 13.5% swinging strike rate, including a phenomenal 21 swings and misses in seven innings against the Mariners on August 6th, Silseth can help teams in need of strikeouts and should have a decent shot at getting wins as well. He’s a must-add in anything larger than a 12-team league.
Emerson Hancock ($$): The vaunted Mariners’ prospect has been called up and looked as advertised, forcing hitters to drive the ball into the ground with a sinker-slider repertoire that generated 64.3% ground balls. Though he likely won’t produce the exciting strikeout numbers of the three pitchers listed above, Hancock could still contribute with ratios and win potential.
Kyle Wright ($): He will continue to be listed here until he returns to the majors. He’s off on a rehab stint and should be back soon. The Braves are rolling out Yonny Chirinos every fifth day. They’ll definitely make the shift to Wright as soon as he’s good to go. Grab him before your leaguemates remember he exists.
Matt Brash ($$): We’re still touting Brash. His slider is devastating and he’s been solid out of the bullpen for the Mariners. He will be beneficial for ratios and strikeouts and could even vulture a save here or there.
Erik Swanson ($$): Even if Jordan Hicks is going to be the closer until Jordan Romano comes back, Swanson is still very much a viable bullpen option with how effective he has been this season. He can help out with ratios while snagging a save here and there.
Beau Brieske ($): The Detroit Tigers are getting a little willy-nilly with their late-inning bullpen. Instead of just giving Alex Lange all the save opportunities, the Tigers are splitting them between a bunch of guys. Brieske is one of them, and likely the most exciting. He’s recorded a save in two of his last three appearances and owns a WHIP well below 1.00. That’s enough for me to snatch him if I’ve got a spot for an RP.
Mike Baumann ($): The long reliever for the Orioles, Baumann has come in out of the bullpen pretty much any time a starter can’t complete five innings. He’s stolen several wins so far this season and could be a cheap way to boost one of the most volatile categories in the game down the stretch. With Cole Irvin joining the rotation, Baumann could piggyback every sixth day, and maybe get an appearance or two in between as well.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)