Are you worn down yet? Have you had enough of the baseball season that you’ve changed your focus to football? We’re 140 games into a 162-game season. The fatigue is real. But that’s what makes winning so amazing. To last the entire season, to persevere through the gauntlet that is the MLB regular season and to come away from all of that victorious — there’s no better feeling. Okay, so there’s a couple of real-life things that are better than that. But in the fantasy baseball world, THERE’S NO BETTER FEELING!
So what are the things that you need to do as a fantasy manager to get there? With only 20 games remaining, fantasy managers must be tactical and deliberate about the categories that they target aggressively in order to make up ground on their league standings. For me (in the one league that I’m still in contention), I’ve run away with stolen bases, pardon the pun, with 35 more than the next closest team. But I am within just a small handful of runs and RBI of the leaders in each respective category, so I’ll certainly be looking for counting stats as opposed to speed. So as you make your FAAB bids this week, think about the things that you can accomplish in such a small timeframe and make a plan to make it happen. You got this!
Every team in the majors plays at least six games next week as the season begins to wind down, while more than half of the league’s teams play seven games.
SEVEN GAMES: ARZ, BAL, BOS, COL, CWS, MIA, MIL, MIN, NYM, NYY, PIT, SF, TB, TEX, TOR, WAS
Investment Rating System
Ji Hwan Bae ($$$): A speed specialist, Bae has slowed a bit on the basepaths but is still in decent position to score runs at the top of the Pirates’ order. The opportunity for everyday at-bats, and the opportunity to hit in front of a decent core of bats in Pittsburgh.
Nelson Velázquez ($$): Velazquez had the series of his career against the White Sox this past week, hitting a home run in each of the three games as the Royals took two out of three games from their division rivals. With a 31.9% hard contact rate and .397 xWOBA, Velazquez seems to have enough pop in his bat and make consistent enough contact to sustain his .636 slugging percentage down the stretch.
Travis Blankenhorn ($$): Blankenhorn has been a starter for the Nationals as they work their youth into their lineup on a more regular basis. Blankenhorn, a former third-round draft pick with the Twins’ organization, smacked 23 home runs in 455 AAA plate appearances, displaying that his 55-grade raw power could translate to game action. With a 34.8% hard contact rate through his first few games, it’s been on display in the majors as well.
Lawrence Butler ($$): Butler has shown the ability to destroy a baseball, and does so frequently with a 31.0% hard contact rate and 31.0% ideal plate appearance rate as well. With four home runs in just 24 games in his MLB career, Butler may remind fantasy managers of a young Josh Bell. If he continues to get at-bats in Oakland he has a solid chance to contribute to power categories.
Nick Pratto ($): Quietly returning from the IL this weekend, Pratto was a solid add in OBP leagues, but that’s about it.
Aaron Hicks ($): A veteran hitter in the middle of a very good Baltimore lineup, Hicks went 6-for-16 in four appearances this past week. With excellent lineup protection, Hicks should see plenty of pitches to hit and continue to have RBI opportunities.
Jordan Lawlar ($$$$): Small sample so far, but Lawlar has one hit and three strikeouts in seven plate appearances. That doesn’t mean anything. Lawlar batted .358 in Triple-A before being called up to the majors, smacking five home runs in 80 plate appearances. He’s a legit five-tool kid who could blossom quickly, but at just 21 years old fantasy managers may have to be a little bit patient. The risk is worth it this late in the season.
Luis Rengifo ($$$): Rengifo has picked a heck of a time to break out — waiting until both Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout were both out with injury to really flourish. Hitting career highs in BABIP, barrel rate and HR/FB rate have led Rengifo to career bests with a .264 batting average and .444 slugging percentage. His improved power numbers this season have surprised several and could make the difference for power-needy teams down the stretch. The position flexibility is nice too.
Alex Kirilloff ($$): Back from a stay on the IL, Kirilloff should be thrust into regular playing time in the Twins’ lineup. With a career-high .353 BABIP, Kirilloff has turned a .229 xAVG into a .270 batting average with a .355 OBP this season. He’ll be in the middle of a Twins lineup that lines up against seven right-handed starting pitchers this coming week.
Elehuris Montero ($$): With seven games at home this week, pretty much any regular Rockies bat is in play. My favorite (and one of the most widely available) of the bunch is Montero. Batting 8-for-27 in the month of September, Montero could be flashing some potential here at the end of the season. Hunter Goodman, Brendan Rodgers, and Charlie Blackmon are also possible adds with the Rockies playing all seven games in Coors this week.
Ryan Jeffers ($$): In two-catcher leagues, if Jeffers is available, he’s likely the best-hitting catcher out there. His .368 OBP is extra-appealing in leagues that use that as a category.
Joey Bart ($): With Patrick Bailey hitting the IL, Bart has gotten regular at-bats in San Francisco. Though Bart has underwhelmed those who had high hopes for the once-touted prospect, he is at least putting the ball in play in his small sample so far this season. It’s ugly. But it’s at-bats, which in a two-catcher league could make a difference.
Austin Wells ($): Fantasy managers should probably be looking at Wells to fill in as a second catcher in two-catcher leagues. With just two hits through his first five games, it’s possible that he just isn’t a good hitter. He did bat .254 in Triple-A and posted a .261 average in Double-A a year ago, so there’s at least some hope that he may grow into the game at the MLB level.
Ryan Pepiot ($$$): I don’t get a ton of chances to say “I told you so.” But last week, Pepiot was one of my top targets. Those who scooped him were rewarded with a second stellar outing in a row as Pepiot went seven innings allowing just one hit while ringing up three strikeouts. He’s been accurate with the four-seamer this season, earning a 32.6% CSW on the pitch while his changeup has been located perfectly as well. Nearly 90% of Pepiot’s changeups have been in the bottom half of the zone, putting up a 17.0% swinging strike rate on the pitch and a .168 opponent-expected batting average against it. He is projected to face a tough Padres lineup on Wednesday with a two-start week against Detroit and San Francisco to follow.
Hunter Greene ($$$): Scheduled to appear on Sunday against the Cardinals, Greene will be making his first start since taking a second trip to the IL in August. With a super-high ceiling, Greene could be a league-winning pickup in the final stages of the season. Back in the first half of the season, Greene flashed his ace potential with 38 strikeouts over 24.1 innings while allowing just eight earned runs. His next two starts come against the Mets and Pirates, and neither of those lineups seems inspiring at this point of the year.
José Quintana ($$$): After posting quality starts in seven of his last eight outings, Quintana has become the ace of the Mets’ staff. Since his return from the IL on July 20th, Quintana has posted a 3.00 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, with 39 strikeouts. Despite his solid outings, Quintana has earned just two pitching wins without much run support from the Mets’ lineup. He’s not flashy nor is he exciting, but he’s effective. A boring veteran is what most fantasy squads need at this point of the season.
Hyun Jin Ryu ($$$): Speaking of boring veterans, Ryu has been limited to between 75-80 pitches per start but has still managed to perform well for the Blue Jays. He’s allowed just six earned runs over his last 25.0 innings pitched, earning three wins while ringing up 23 strikeouts. If he gets through five innings in his start, he’s been in a good position to get a win, largely thanks to a strong Toronto lineup backing him. Given the choice between Quintana and Ryu, I would take Ryu for strikeouts and wins and prefer Quintana if in need of improved ratios.
Reese Olson ($): With back-to-back solid starts against the White Sox, he’s shown that he can perform against lackluster lineups. His next two projected starts will come against the Reds (in Detroit, though) and the Dodgers. He’s definitely a dice roll.
Javier Assad ($$): In six games since joining the Cubs’ starting rotation, Assad has posted a 2.09 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and a pair of wins. Though his strikeout numbers are relatively low, his ratios have made up for them so far. Beware the 4.06 xERA, though. He may be due for some regression.
Zack Thompson ($): Thompson hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in an outing since July, posting a pair of wins across his last three starts. With upcoming starts scheduled against Philadelphia and Milwaukee, he’s a risk. But with a decent strikeout rate (26.4%) and CSW (30.7%), he could be worth the dart throw.
Tanner Scott ($$$): The Miami Marlins have given up on trade deadline acquisition David Robertson in the ninth inning and turned to Tanner Scott. He’s been outstanding since taking over as closer, earning a win and three saves over his last four outings. With a 33.7% strikeout rate and a 35.2% CSW, Scott has emerged as an elite reliever that could swing the tides for save-needy squads in the final few weeks.
Michael King ($$): Domingo Germán is done for the season. Luis Severino just hit the IL. It’s Michael King’s time to shine in the rotation. The Yankees will need him to eat innings down the stretch due to their lack of options. Though he’s still only around 70 pitches, King has been extremely efficient in his slow build-up process including a five-inning victory in his last outing where he only allowed one earned run. King has solid potential and will be more expensive next week if he continues to perform well.
Trevor May ($$): The Athletics are winning close games, and May is getting a chance to save games. He’s a fine closer but hasn’t had much opportunity all year. If Oakland keeps edging their opponent, May should continue to cash in on ninth-inning opportunities.
Tyler Kinley ($): Kinley has surpassed Justin Lawrence as the closer in Colorado. The Rockies aren’t exactly a great team to target for saves, but there’s at least a chance to get a couple down the stretch. Might as well scoop a closer when you can.
Bryan Shaw ($): Closing games for the Chicago White Sox is a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. This week it’s Shaw. It feels desperate, but maybe the Sox grab a couple close wins over the Royals and Twins this week.
Shintaro Fujinami ($): His stuff is amazing when he can locate it. It’s a risky play, but Fujinami has the potential to rack up the strikeouts and even snag a save opportunity or two with Félix Bautista hurt and Yennier Cano’s workload being limited as the Orioles approach the postseason.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)