First, a big welcome to all the finalists and semi-finalists. Week one of NFL games is in the book which means we are deep into playoffs for the only fantasy sport that matters. We are at the point where anyone is droppable in redraft leagues and a hot bat or solid stream (or disaster stream) can be the reason you keep playing or start ranking players for 2024. Once we make it this far, I barely look back farther than two weeks, and rarely beyond the upcoming weekend.
Arenado had a terrible start to the season, slashing just .239/.281/.319 with just two dingers through the end of April. Then he looked the Arenado that we know and love, posting an OPS over .900 for the next three months. But August saw the perennial gold-glove-winner regress almost back to his early season form and slash just .253/.295/.414. He hit just four long balls and drove in only ten runs for the month. And he has looked even worse to start September with a .216/.275./.243 line with zero homers and just one run batted in.
The decision value chart has been one of my favorite data visualizations lately and it fits pretty well with Nolan’s season performance.
Arenado still has very strong contact ability, so I won’t bother with that chart, but the decision value chart above really illuminates his struggles to begin and now to close out the season.
Obviously, in keeper or dynasty leagues, you are not going to drop Arenado, but he has spent the last two weeks providing almost no counting stats, while dragging down any ratios you could possibly score. If Arenado is on your roster, you are still playing despite him, not because of him.
Chris Sale has made six starts since missing almost all of June and all of July due to injury. He has earned just one win, and that came against the Royals, who own MLB’s worst record. He has a 5.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over that six-game span. Even though he has topped 90 pitches twice, he has hit five innings just twice and has not gone beyond that mark. If that inefficiency continues, wins will be hard to find and quality starts clearly out of the question.
On the bright side, Sale has struck out 35 batters over those last 27.2 innings and walked eleven. He also is scheduled to face the Yankees at home this week and I would consider using him for that game. However his following start lines him up to face the Rangers in Texas, and I am not taking that risk even with the Rangers’ current skid.
Much like Sale, Rodon has spent his fair share of time on the IL this season. Much like Sale, Rodon has struggled to pitch deep into games, having hit the five-inning mark in just half of his past ten starts. (He did go six innings once.) Rodon has not provided strikeouts at nearly as high of a rate as Sale though. Much like Sale, Rodon also faces a desirable opponent next. He is currently set to face the Pirates this coming weekend.
If Rodon was cut in your league after his terrible outing against Detroit last week, you could do a lot worse than streaming him against Pittsburgh. If you are still alive and have held Rodon on your IL for most of the year, this game is his time to shine. This is the chance for Rodon to redeem himself in the eyes of his fantasy managers. (Might take a bit more to do so with Yankee fans.)
Wicks was the Cubs’ first-round selection in the 2021 draft and made his debut on August 26, 2023, versus the Pirates. The 6’3″ southpaw has acquitted himself pretty well so far. He’s posted a sparkling 1.99 ERA and 1.06 whip through four starts. Wicks went just five innings in each of his first two starts, picking up wins in both, and topped six innings in his next two, nabbing one more win and two quality starts. That even includes a nice turn in Coors where Wicks yielded just three hits and a walk.
The caveat with Wicks so far has been uninspiring strikeout totals. After racking up nine punch-outs in his debut against the Buccos, Wicks has tallied just six Ks over his last three starts, covering 17.2 innings, and carries an underwhelming 26% CSW. Overall, he has a 15:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 22.2 innings. It is worth noting that he had 99 Ks in 91 innings between AA and AAA before his promotion.
Wicks is currently projected to face Arizona this weekend and then has a juicy matchup against the Rockies at Wrigley tentatively set for 9/23. I think using or streaming Wicks for the Arizona game is a fine plan if you need an extra start this weekend, but that Colorado game is the real target.
DJ Stewart, Outfielder, New York Metropolitans. 12% Rostered
Every year there are guys that get a chance at a full-time gig down the stretch thanks to their team selling off veterans at the trade deadline. Last year we saw Joey Meneses light the league on fire for a couple of months. This year it seems we have DJ Stewart.
Stewart has all the earmarks of a AAAA player. He’s carried an OPS right around .900 for each of his past three minor league seasons. And while he had appeared in nearly 200 Major League games with 26 homers to his credit prior to this season, he had struggled to produce a batting average above .200.
Stewart may have found his groove though. In 126 at-bats this season he is slashing .266/.347/.633. That slugging percentage is absurd, but Stewart has produced an elite barrel percentage, hard contact rate, and exit velocity. He’s almost certainly not going to keep up the 40-homer pace, since he’s also carrying a ludicrous homerun/flyball rate that is more than double the league average, but the Mets still have a strong lineup with Alonso, Lindor, and Nimmo at the top, and I think Stewart will provide some helpful power for fantasy managers chasing a championship.
Tommy Pham was traded from the Mets to the D-backs at the onset of August (one of the reasons DJ Stewart has gotten a run) and has hit .261 with 19 runs scored and 25 driven in, while also chipping in six homers and seven steals since then.
On the season, the veteran outfielder has produced hard-hit percentages and average exit velocities within the top ten percent of major league hitters. He also has an elite chase rate on outside pitches and above-average walk and whiff rates.
Even at the ripe old age of 35, which is near geriatric for a professional athlete, Tommy Pham is still producing above-average numbers across the board. Whatever you need for your late-season push, some speed, some power, Tommy Pham can provide, and he’s available in 75% of leagues.
That’s it for week 24 of DLR&F. I want to thank everyone out there for reading these articles over the course of the season. I hope Lucas and I have helped some managers navigate through some tough times and difficult decisions this season and I wish you good luck in these final weeks!