The end of the season is upon us, and with just three series left for each team, I figure it’s a good time to switch to a bit of an experimental format that focuses on each team’s final slate of matchups and highlights the guys you must start, the guys to consider starting under certain circumstances, and the desperation plays based on who they’ll face and where we expect them to hit in the lineup on any given night. I’ll then refresh this article on Wednesday as we head into the final series of the season.
Let’s get some basics out of the way regarding how to interpret these rankings. None of this stuff should come as any major surprise, but it never hurts to provide background:
- Ronald Acuña Jr. – I wonder if he gets an extra off day here and there to stay fresh, but 4 games of Acuna is worth 12 games of someone on the wire.
- Ozzie Albies – The hottest player on the team has a cool 1.261 OPS over his last eight games.
- Austin Riley – It’s hard to remember that he was merely average in fantasy in the first half, isn’t it? Now he’s hitting a home run every three games.
- Matt Olson – Atlanta’s all-time single-season home run king, surpassing Andruw Jones, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Mathews. That’s the kind of season he’s having.
- Michael Harris II – We’ve seen him hit sixth twice in the last five games, and he even led off once when Acuna was out. Hitting sixth would be a big plus for his RBI totals.
- Marcell Ozuna – He plays every day and hits in a good spot in this juggernaut offense.
- Eddie Rosario – He’s one of the league’s most mercurial players, and he’s ice-cold right now (.184/.200/.211 in his last 12 games). That being said, this is possibly the softest non-Coors schedule in the league, so if he shows signs of life and you’re desperate to get some RBI in a five-outfielder format, then sure.
Do Not Start
- Sean Murphy – Plays every other day.
- Travis d’Arnaud – Plays every other day.
- Orlando Arcia – Why isn’t Vaughn Grissom here? Or Braden Shewmake? Or someone who is actually interesting?
- Gunnar Henderson – Caught the strikeout bug over the last week, but should come out of it just fine and in time to take advantage of the home schedule next week.
- Adley Rutschman – He’s a top-three fantasy catcher for 2024. Maybe higher.
- Anthony Santander – Runs hot and cold, like most power hitters. Benching him against the Guardians could be fine if you have another option or aren’t that desperate for power, but I want him for the seven home games.
- Ryan O’Hearn – I don’t like him for this series against the Guardians, but seven home games against the Nationals and Red Sox should help him close out the season nicely. He might sit against Sale, but that’s about it for next week.
- Cedric Mullins – It’s been a disappointing second half, but should get a few opportunities to steal bases if that’s what you’re after, and the schedule for left-handed hitting is quite good for them next week.
- Austin Hays – His aggressive approach lends itself to streakiness, but he hits in a favorable spot in the lineup for a good offense. Just don’t expect many homers or steals.
Do Not Start
- Heston Kjerstad – Interesting prospect, but now is not the time to roll these dice.
- Jordan Westburg – The playing time just isn’t there.
- Rafael Devers – The only true star on this team right now.
- Justin Turner – He’s probably the most surprising player in the top ten at first base or third base.
- Masataka Yoshida – Sits against southpaws, plus he’s stopped running and never had much power. His only saving grace is that he’s batting fourth against righties.
- Alex Verdugo – He rides the pine against lefties now, but he does lead off against righties if you’re very desperate in a points league.
- Adam Duvall – If you’re in dire straights for a home run, Duvall can hit home runs. Just don’t expect him to do anything else besides hurt your ratios.
- Ceddanne Rafaela – Despite the poor approach and high strikeout rate, Rafaela leads off when he plays and is slugging .500 in his last nine games, so in the right matchup he could help out with a home run or steal.
Do Not Start
- Triston Casas – Injuries are dumb.
- Bobby Dalbec – 34.2% strikeout rate in the minors will not translate well in the majors.
- Trevor Story – If he gets a start this weekend against Chicago, he could steal a base.
- Spencer Steer – He’s hitting well in September and can fill in at every position except shortstop. He’s not the best hitter on this team, but he’s probably the most useful in fantasy right now.
- Elly De La Cruz – The struggles continue, and he probably needs the offseason to really figure this out. If you only care about stolen bases, though, Elly can help you.
- Jonathan India – Leads off now and has talent, but we haven’t seen much of it since his return from the IL.
- Noelvi Marte – Looks pretty comfortable at the dish lately despite the lack of home runs and steals, and the schedule isn’t so bad for a righty.
- Christian Encarnacion-Strand – Sits too often, but could do something nice when he does play, particularly against St. Louis.
Do Not Start
- Jake Fraley – Maybe he goes a little something at home against Pittsburgh, but the road schedule is brutal and loaded with lefties.
- TJ Friedl – Same as above.
- Tyler Stephenson – There are better streamers.
- Will Benson – Too many lefties, and hits at the bottom of the order.
(v KCR, @ SEA, @ ARI)
(v SFG, @ COL, @ SFG)
(@ MIA, v STL, v CHC)
(v LAA, v OAK, @ COL)
(v ARI, @ TOR, @ KC)
(v NYM, v PIT, @ NYM)
(@ SDP, @ MIL, v CIN)
(v SEA, @ LAA, @ SEA)
- Marcus Semien – Second base is brutal so be glad you’ve got a good one.
- Corey Seager – 2022 was an anomaly caused slightly by the shift and mostly by horrible luck.
- Adolis García – The strikeouts are WAY up in September, but the overall talent is too much to ignore.
- Josh Jung – He’s striking out quite a bit, but the power is definitely there still and he has a hit in each of his first three games since coming off the IL.
- Evan Carter – The power upside is limited, but everything else is running pretty smoothly. The strikeouts will come down with time (in fact, they already have started to fade).
- Jonah Heim – He’s playing more and we’ve seen flashes of Heim finding his mojo again, but the ratios are still lagging.
- Mitch Garver – He’s cooled down considerably of late, but you may not have many better options at catcher. I also did not like seeing him batting seventh on the last lineup card.
- Nathaniel Lowe – He doesn’t hit the ball very hard right now and 55.1% of the time he hits it on the ground.
Do Not Start
- Robbie Grossman – The ride is over. It was fun while it lasted.
(@ TBR, v NYY, v TBR)
- Bo Bichette – He’s too good to sit, though the abrupt red light on the base paths has been frustrating. Just three stolen bases on the year will force me to deeply reevaluate his overall fantasy upside.
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – It’s a lost season for him in some respects, though seeing him appear as a pinch hitter on Thursday gives hope that he’ll play through the rest of the season.
- George Springer – It’s been a fairly lukewarm September for Springer, so those of you in three outfield formats may have better options on the wire.
Do Not Start
- Davis Schneider – Wow, the magic just evaporated. He’s 0-28 with 12 strikeouts and one walk over his last seven games. We knew this was a luck-driven hot streak, but this kind of fall is still unexpected. The remaining schedule is pretty tough, too.
- Matt Chapman – He just looks hopeless out there right now. He’s on my bench in my finals in a 16-team league.
- Daulton Varsho – His fantasy relevance is completely gone now.
- CJ Abrams – Out of nowhere, the Nationals stopped giving Abrams the green light as often. He’s not entirely useless without his speed and there’s a good chance he gets some chances to run again when the Nationals try to find a way to win some games against Atlanta, but my expectations are tempered a bit.
- Joey Meneses – He has a 142 wRC+ over his last 10 games with 12 hits while batting third or fourth. Meneses tends to run hot and cold so get it while the getting is good. Once it wears off, it’s an immediate cut.
- Domonic Smith – In OBP leagues, there’s an angle to squeeze him in against right-handed pitching.
- Lane Thomas – He’s looked really rough since returning to action on September 9, hitting .130/.183/.333 over 13 games. He’s hit a few home runs and stolen a few bases, though. Shallower leagues may have better options out there.
Do Not Start
- Keibert Ruiz – There are better options right now.
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