As the season winds down, there are likely very few free agent players who can be grabbled by your team for a last minute push, and chances are even making a trade would be tough to do, even if allowed at this juncture.
So, I will spend the last couple of weeks looking at some players I think might still be out there in shallower leagues, but who also might make interesting picks for the 2013 season. Which of course means if you can swap for them now, or pick up during the off-season in a keeper format.
Let's start with a trio of local players, going first with catcher George Kottaras, just recently an Athletic. Still just 29, Kottaras has never really had an opportunity to start, and with Derek Norris on the bench the backstop might still be in largely a platoon role. Still, since being in Oakland--not necessarily a hitter's paradise--Kottaras is .222-5-16 over 50 at-bats, posting a killer .578 slugging average and .878 OPS. Kottaras has a solid enough 88 walks to 134 strikeouts (.324 OBP) and .221-23-81 numbers over 552 career at-bats. That is just abourt a season full, and they point to nice production with a regular full time gig.
Looking to the other side of the bay, let's take in the Brandons, starting with Brandon Belt, the Giants first baseman. In his first full year in the majors, Belt started pretty slow, hitting .278-0-5 over just 36 April at-bats, then .203-0-9 over 64 in May. In June Belt's power finally kicked in with .296-4-15 numbers but in July the 24-year old relapsed with .186-0-4, but since has kicked it into gear with .349-0-7 and then .368-1-4 totals over August and September, respectively. Belt has .272-5-47 totals with 23 doubles and 48 walks to 93 whiffs (.360 OBP). I have said this before--and it will likely come up again in this column--but the third year is when guys like Belt really get the hang. Look out for him to kick it up a level next year.
Next there is shortstop Brandon Crawford who is already among the best defensive shortstops in the game. Too bad that only matters in venues like Scoresheet and Strat-O-Matic, but Crawford has surpassed expectations by hitting .248-4-41, with 23 doubles over 386 at-bats. Crawford has bumped his OBP to .306 although his walk to strikeout numbers dipped from last year (23/31) to 29 walks and 81 strikeouts. Still he has patience, and is a line drive hitter and I would expect, again going into a full third season, Crawford will establish himself with numbers around .260-8-65 with potentially ten swipes. In an NL only format you should be able to score him for a couple of bucks, meaning the $7-$10 he earns will be handy. Better, I think he will get even better--and consistant--as he moves into his fourth and fifth seasons.
Lorenzo Cain was pegged as the Royals center fielder of the future when he was acquired by Kansas City as part of the Zack Greinke swap, but spent 2011 largely in the minors, and then spent a lot of this year on the DL. After hitting .269-2-7 over 52 minor league at-bats Cain came to the KC and has hit .260-7-28, although his .239-2-8 August was a struggle, he has .270-7-27 second half numbers with nine swipes (no CS). Cain will get a full 2013 as the center fielder on a team that is seriously on the rise.
I am not too sure if Mark Reynolds really belongs on this list with the rest of the younger guys, although Reynolds is still just 29, but the dude is red hot of late, with .318-9-17 totals over the last two weeks with a convincing 10 walks to 13 strikeouts, and an incredible OPS of 1.399. For the season Reynolds is suddenly .234-21-59 with 23 doubles (now that seems to be a trend) and though he has 63 walks--not to far from last year's 75--the third baseman has dramatically reduced his strikeouts to 131, 60 less than last year, and also good for a .352 career high OBP.