Keppinger: Mr. Safety Dance
The O's continue to patch the holes in their tires with the kind of material no one can be blamed for thinking is a shoddy store brand. But if shoppers don't compare ingredients, they won't realize just how much they can save.
It's the most intense spot-starting time of the year, and perhaps the most popular name added for those seeking innings (or actual contributions in fantasy categories) is this swingman. The Boston Red Sox are shadows of their former 2012 selves, too, as far as scoring runs are concerned. Johnson has been riding a wave of luck, but he's rolling with it, and he gets K's.
Fantasy owners are right to hop on the scorching Smoak. The switch-hitter has made some critical adjustments that have yielded these fantastic results. Whether he carries them into 2013 is a different story - and something those closing out 2012 don't have to worry about right now.
Roto managers have flocked to Moss because of his hot batting average, but it's a mark he wouldn't sustain for long stretches. Thankfully, there's less than a week left in this season, and he's capable of producing through its conclusion. And thankfully, he pops 'em out frequently - 20 times in 246 at-bats this season - so he's likely to make a significant donation to the cause.
Those seeking pitchers who can make a fill-in appearance may have missed out on their best chance at a W if they didn't nab Pettitte. He's continued his unbelievably good post-retirement pitching since his activation from the DL for a fracture in his left ankle. Folks should've grabbed him then.
Pettitte hasn't been nearly as effective on the road, where he'll face the Toronto Blue Jays, but his opponent is missing a vital piece and has been sputtering in September.
Estrada was pretty much cruising before the Washington Nationals thrashed him on Monday. No team presents an opportunity to rebound from a bad outing quite like the Houston Astros do, however. And, Estrada will do his toiling at Miller Park, where he's been distinctly better this season.
When he came off the DL, where he spent two and a half weeks for a knee injury, in late August, Doubront continued the shaky pitching that was increasingly causing his rotation spot to be in jeopardy early in the month. Lately, he's been a real pain to hit (.141 BAA in his last three), though.
The opponents from that stretch are comprised of the Yanks, the BoSox and the Orioles. He just happens to be facing the last of those opponents again in his next outing. Caution: Walks have still been a big problem, and Baltimore seems to make magic happen on nearly a daily basis.
Perhaps the lone constant in the lineup of the team that refuses to go away - every year - has been hot. Which is saying something considering that he's batted .332 this season. The drawback to owning Keppinger, of course, is that he rarely provides homers or stolen bases. Lately, he's made his mark in one of those areas, though.
Don't expect the bopping to continue, but expect this to be one of the safest bats to own as the season comes to a close. It doesn't hurt that Keppinger bats in a run-producing spot in the Rays' lineup.
The Snakes called up this prospect near the beginning of the month, but at this time of year, players like this slither through the cracks. His playing time was initially going to be short-lived because Chris B. Young (strained quad) wasn't going to be out for long. Young aggravated his injury, however, so Arizona has been forced to rely on the youngster.
Roto players have probably been a bit late to the party, considering the recent cool stretch Eaton has endured. What's been extremely encouraging is his control of the strike zone in this limited exposure. Fantasy owners should still consider riding him in the final several games.
Nothing says "recyclable" like an old dude who qualifies only in the outfield. Ibanez can be of assistance: He's popped 18 round-trippers in 368 at-bats this season. But he's also batted .234 and is a complete liability against southpaws. Nothing about his year suggests that he's reliable in the final week. Keep a player in tow to rotate if possible, or jump at the first sign that he's cooling off.
Home runs will cause any player to pop up on the fantasy free-agent radar very quickly. Yes, even if they're the first two in the 262 at-bats of your big-league career, if the window of stats folks are examining is narrow enough.
Power has never been a part of the 5-foot-9, 190-pound 24-year-old's game, and it doesn't project to be, at least any time soon. He puts the ball in play with some authority, at least. He's likelier to steal a base for you than to hit you another dinger, though, and the theft doesn't have an especially favorable probability. The diverse eligibility is nice, at least.
Some tinkering - a simple soft-toss session that focused on protecting the outside corner and bringing his feet closer together in the box - allowed Nelson to start clicking. The crack of his lumber is much louder nowadays.
He's typically much better at home, at least with his clip, and will have eight more games there. That precedes a three-game trip to Chavez Ravine next weekend and a trio of contests at Chase Field - nice schedule. Deep mixed leaguers might find him on their cheat sheets for next spring at this rate.
For a spell, his position was "RP," which prompted many to drop him. A rough August caused him to get the boot, but his walk issues are back under control, and, as Nick pointed out, the righty has regained confidence in his fastball. Don't let someone else grab him.
A mystery change to his approach helped McLouth rediscover the across-the-board talent that once had him as a viable fantasy resource. By the looks of things, his hacks have a smoother path to the strike zone.
His base thievery gives you more reason to hope he'll continue his raking. He's hitting atop a sometimes-awesome lineup that's making a postseason charge.
In a year where Rizzo continues to figure out left-handed pitching and the rigors of an up-and-down full-season performance, he's finishing strong and hitting the ball with more punch (25.0 liner rate, compared to 13.4 in his sample last year).
Sure, the competition is thinned out a bit thanks to roster expansion. He still struggles versus southpaws, and his swing tends to get long once in a while, which increases his slump risk. But he's using Chicago's garbage time wisely and has the goods to be a mixed-league CI next year.
Forsythe still relevant
KFFL's Forsythe information has been just as voluminous as Aoki's. He's had a few 0-for-4s and 1-for-4s of late, so he probably won't carry a team on his back anymore. He remains a useful MI piece, though.
Maxwell is the latest beneficiary of Houston's rebuilding effort. He's been a toolsy tease heading into this season, and he's landed in a perfect home park to accentuate his right-handed pop.
He strikes out way too much to be relied on for a helpful BA over a full season, but little runs like this displayed under minimal pressure help those in need now. There's power-speed allure, chiefly in single-universe leagues, for next year's drafts, depending on whether he wins a starting gig.
He has an outing Saturday against the Houston Astros, which is the likely predicator for his widespread waiver love. Those solid numbers above came against the Astros, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. Correia squares off at the New York Mets next week and most likely the Atlanta Braves to wrap up his season.
This year has been typical low-K, great-control Correia with more grounders and a heavy side of luck on his opponents' in-play clip (.268). Play the good matchups (preferably not the Bravos), thank him for his service and forget about him for mixed leagues next year.
Be careful. He visits either Colorado or Arizona next. You may want to wait until Chicago hosts Houston in the final series to deploy him next. The homer problem that plagues him doesn't bode well for those spots.
Even with the .243 BAABIP he's logged, the cutter he's embraced this year has given him more mixed-league credence, and he's netting the first strike in more at-bats this year than in the past. Fly-ball pitchers often give up lower in-play clips anyway. It's been a true growth campaign that might make 2013 look a lot like 2010.
That 77-pitch Friday return against the Chicago Cubs reminded people he existed. It was likely enough for St. Louis to roll with him in their rotation. He lines up to visit the Houston Astros and host the Cincinnati Reds. Of course, when Carp is active, the schedule doesn't matter. Play him.
Young getting wiser
A few weeks ago, he was percolating. Power defines his fantasy value. The newest Yankee killer is clubbing more liners (per Fangraphs, a career-high 22.3 percent on the year), taking more walks and simply, at a gaudy level, displaying the reason we would consider drafting him in the first place.
Not much else to say but to keep clicking his name.
Following a brief demotion, the O's brought Britton back up when rosters expanded. The southpaw now induces more K's, thanks to a 10.2 swinging-strike percentage and more confidence in and use of his four-seamer and slider. These are alluring developments when paired with his already noteworthy grounder inducement and should make him useful for the rest of 2012 and potentially beyond.
Diamond Market informed you two weeks ago of Griffin's impending return to the rotation. He's been fortunate this year (84.6 LOB percentage, .217 BABIP), but the right-hander's craftiness and his ideal pitching environment will make him a solid mixed play anyway.
Despite speculation he asked out of the lineup, Young was sat Tuesday against a righty, per Jim Leyland, partially due to his poor history against Justin Masterson. Don't worry, Young has matured and has been carrying his fantasy owners of late as he's shown more adult tones to his game, chiefly going the other way more frequently and with more precision.
He's still repulsed by taking a walk, but his live bat is sizzling and deserves lineup confidence.
For the second straight week, Gomez was running through the minds of picker-uppers. An altered batting stance, molding skills and his presence in the SB column will keep him relevant - maybe high-level - for the remainder of the season.
Estrada a peripheral heartthrob
The Brew Crew is going with a youth movement in its quintet. Estrada's drool-inducing peripherals (9.51 K/9, 1.92 BB/9) are backed up by a normal 71.7 left-on-base percentage and a healthy 10.1 swinging-strike percentage. He's a tantalizing talent worth riding the rest of the way.
Most are probably grabbing Bailey for his Friday effort versus the Houston Astros, but they might not have noticed his good run of late, including his last outing, coincidentally versus the Astros. Some thought Bailey was fatigued until this stretch. Maybe he still is, but recently, he's leaned on his changeup and two-seamer more; in those 20 1/3 innings, he has just one walk.
A veteran of this space, Colvin has exploded this season into a mixed league asset. Coors Field, innate power skills, maturing plate discipline and approach - he actually might still be available in your league.
Weeks crippled many fantasy teams in the first half and was dropped by many of them. His last month-plus has reminded folks how potent he can be on a streak, and he's 9-for-26 to start September; he's probably finally over the lingering effects from his 2011 ankle injury that clouded his spring performance.
He'll be a risky proposition for 2013, but he's close to power-speed gravy for the next few weeks.
Six of those fell under the textbook definition of quality starts, and the most runs he gave up in any of them was three (twice). The crafty southpaw has proved to be more than just a matchup start, and though he'll probably be overvalued in next year's drafts, he's a solid lineup force now.
by Nick Minnix, KFFL.com
Catch some pop
Tim covered the Friars' 25-year-old infielder in the Friday edition of Diamond Market and espoused on the right-handed hitter's developing power.
San Diego, one of the league's hottest teams (even on offense - seriously), probably won't be able to come up with an excuse to keep Forsythe's lumber out of the lineup as this campaign draws to a close.
This right-hander was an entrant a couple of weeks ago, and perhaps part of the reason for his rapid resurfacing is his outing against the Houston Astros, scheduled for Saturday. Mostly, however, it's because Kendrick, 28, has been pitching out of his gourd.
Tim covered the basic reasons that Kendrick has been a thoroughly improved hurler in the second half of 2012. He's thrown strikes 69 percent of the time during this hot stretch. The opposition's less frequent contact and trouble squaring up on his pitches has fueled this run.
If Kendrick loses some aggressiveness, or batters begin to discover a better plan of attack - or both - the good times will end. You can't know when that'll be, though.
Aoki is a repeat offender in the top 10. Fantasy owners seem to label him "expendable" when he's not hitting well, but they (or others in their leagues) have come back when he picks it up again. Much of this might be a lack of familiarity, or a lack of faith considering the performance of other batters recently imported from Asia.
The left-handed hitter has come up with some big hits lately to drive in runs for the surging Brew Crew. The leadoff man isn't in position to do that frequently, but he should be making it clear that he's worth holding until this campaign ends.
Tim has been a man on a mission, but apparently he isn't succeeding. Only you can prevent forest fires ... and make these moves.
We're three starts into Griffin's return from the disabled list, and the 23-year-old righty picked up right where he left off. His .238 BABIP and 86.5 LOB percentage seem unfair, but his 4.82 K/BB is putting him in a good position, regardless.
Lo-Cain has been sizzling for a little more than a week. Thank goodness, since he's missed virtually the entire first half and hasn't been completely dependable since returning.
But alas, roto players' timing couldn't be much worse. Cain suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring on Thursday. He could miss the rest of the season, or close to it.
Not much foresight on Forsythe
Gregerson has been the reliever Bud Black has relied upon most often, and practically exclusively for the past three weeks, in the ninth inning. The Friars have been without Huston Street (strained calf) for more than a month.
Although Street has suffered a setback in his recovery, it occurred weeks ago, and at the beginning of this past week, Closer Hot Seat covered his progress. He's now very close. According to reports, he's tested the calf in PFP. He hasn't gone 100 percent, but he's close.
If Street gets through this weekend without a hitch, fantasy owners will probably run out of Gregerson love.
Lately - at least throughout the highlighted stretch - Donaldson has demonstrated the kind of walk and strikeout rates he exhibited in the minors. Is the stocky backstop-turned-infielder in the midst of a breakthrough?
We can answer that question, for certain, only in hindsight. In the meantime, the playoff-hungry A's will continue to depend on him at the hot corner. Donaldson is a threat to go deep in any plate appearance, and if he has C eligibility in your two-catcher league, you'll probably hang on.
This seems about right. Nolasco is a headache for most mixed leaguers to roster, but he's a fine free-agent find when he's rolling. Two complete-game shutouts in his last three starts (the other was a seven-frame, one-run effort) will put him on roto radars quickly.
The Washington Nationals have been none too thrilled with Nolasco lately, but fantasy owners hope to be. The streaky meatbanpll tosser could fall apart in his next turn, or he could he could keep pulling some Kyle Kendricks. The 68 percent strikes put Nolasco in that class for the noted stretch. The history of burning folks puts him in the "don't get too comfortable" bin, though.
No one should've seen this left-hander coming. He was rocking a 5.79 ERA at Triple-A Tucson when the Friars called him up. The southpaw, 25, may have difficulty maintaining his attractive 8.51 K/9; it exceeds his best marks in the minors by just a bit.
But hold your horses. A Fangraphs writer documented Werner's superb start against the Los Angeles Dodgers (his third), pointing out how well he varied his pitch speeds. SD's pitching coach was gushing about the starter's command in that tilt, too.
None of Werner's offerings is special, but his slider and changeup are effective. The Padres may have found another someone they can work with, as long as he continues to paint corners and pitch unpredictably. Which isn't exactly easy.
Wise has continued to play - seemingly regularly - since the ChiSox brought in the New York Yankees castoff for depth. He subbed in for Alejandro De Aza, who missed time with a bruised ribcage, last month.
Wise, 34, swats an occasional dinger and will net his owners some steals. He'll also, presumably, grab some pine again once Adam Dunn (strained oblique) returns to the lineup. The Big Donkey has been out for more than a week because of the ailment, though. The South Siders continue to label him "day-to-day," but even the mildest strain in the trunk takes some time.
Fantasy owners, again, may not have the future in mind when making this pickup, but if they're making changes daily, guess it can't hurt.
So, yeah, when I said last week that you should be "expecting some stumbles the rest of the way" ... that's a bit tempered now. Anderson's stuff has looked crisp in his first two starts after his completed rehab from Tommy John surgery. He's walked only two so far.
He gets a sometimes-dangerous Boston Red Sox lineup Saturday but could make visits to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and Angel Stadium after that. When he's active, he's elite. No reason to move away from that down the stretch.
To be fair, at 26, Ciriaco could still be on his way toward finding his power niche, and he can knock for extra bases. But for someone who doesn't leave the yard much, Ciriaco doesn't make much contact (74.8 percent connection rate, 13.0 percent swinging strikes this season) or boast attractive plate discipline (1.9 walk rate) to offer evidence he'll sustain this.
He's been super-aggressive at attacking strike-zone offerings and puts the ball on the ground (51.3 percent) or a rope (27.4) often enough to keep up high BABIPs. But the .405 he's logged this year? Lofty. Like, Jeff Spicoli-riding-a-10-foot-wave lofty, brah.
What Ciriaco lacks in plate awareness, though, he makes up for in his place, in many games, atop a still-effective lineup that's willing to test him the rest of the way given Boston's injuries and overhauls. He'll chip in a few thefts, too, and his eligible positions make him worth carrying, even if he cools, in deep formats.
His opponents in that stretch: at Miami Marlins, at Milwaukee Brewers, vs. Washington Nationals, vs. New York Mets - a mostly favorable stretch. That's not to say Kendrick hasn't grown as a hurler. The righty, who turned 28 this past week, has refined his sinker, induced a career-high 8.3 swinging-strike percentage and pushed his K/9 up to 6.45. It was 4.63 last season. The control, while a bit worse than usual at 2.94 BB/9, is still good enough to back up his work.
He's still safer as a matchup play than a cemented arm, but there are faint signs he's moving closer to the latter for this year and beyond.
The useful plug-in mixed piece has nearly matched his homer total from last year (16 in 464 at-bats in 2011, 15 in 247 this year). His platoon employment has been even more dramatic, and it's aided his output if not his AB total. The natural progression of Moreland, who turns 27 next week, has added more boom, as well.
After a hamstring cost him more than a month of action, he's finding his groove. Normally a play versus right-handers and in Arlington, he deserves more confidence for weekly lineups regardless of destination.
The up-and-down masher is once again heading toward his apex. Three of those homers have come in his last two games. He started spraying pitches to all field sectors this summer but soon enough landed in another prototypical slump. At least his power kept coming in bunches during his down time.
Fantasy pickers have re-embraced him during his latest run. He's still a hacker, but he's taking advantage of fastballs more frequently (sticking with his strengths, after all) while showing hints of maturity. The lefty's clips to center (.384) and left (.431) back that up.
He's constantly at risk of violent swings between putting your team on his shoulders and leaving you to shoulder him on the bench. The potential the former holds is enough to take the chance he keeps this up on your squad, not one of your competitors'.
The force is strong with Lucroy
Don Mattingly said Belisario and Brandon League will share closer duties while docs tend to Kenley Jansen's irregular heartbeat, which may end his campaign. Belisario posted a 1.53 ERA in the first half but was stumbling at the end of July. Since the calendar flipped, he's allowed just two earned runs in 11 appearances and looks like Mattingly's preference to stand in for Jansen.
Substance abuse problems halted Belisario's 2010, and visa issues erased his 2011 opportunity. He was suspended 25 games to start this season because of a positive test for cocaine. The 29-year-old has rediscovered his closer-like fastball and K/9 while also inducing plenty of ground balls.
He probably won't come on for every opp, but it'll be the majority. Hop aboard.
Some have been lucky enough to jump on the Go-Go express nearly a month after he first rose to featured territory here. As predicted, he slowed a bit this month, but he's recovered and kept up the power-speed combination that's emerged this year. Changing his stance has brought him to the next level. The fact he'll still try to take second frequently gives him cushion to remain on rosters even if his streakiness swings back in the negative direction.
In his MLB debut at Petco Park against the Atlanta Braves, the 22-year-old gave fantasy owners a glimpse of the hype many have chased over the last few years. Kelly looks to have the power back in his formerly strained elbow, and you know what they say about Pads pitchers.
His next start? At Colorado - dangerous park, shaky lineup. He has the talent to overcome those surroundings. How much risk can you take on there? Stream away, and don't ignore the possibility for more over the last month.
Lucroy was rolling before a fractured hand halted his breakout. Well, since returning from the DL, he's still smashing. A seven-RBI effort Thursday probably brought on a late-week surge of waiver grabs, but it's good that many are rediscovering the preseason sleeper, who has the goods to keep this up.
The Boston Red Sox's new closer should be owned everywhere. What are you waiting for?