NL FAAB 9/8
I'm filling in for Jan Levine this week - he'll return next week after the holidays conclude. I apologize for the late filing. Please let me know if there are any other players in the comments you'd like for me to cover.
Scott Baker - At first the Cubs indicated that Baker would relieve, but instead he started Sunday against the Brewers, throwing five shutout innings. I was all over Baker in the endgame this year, thinking I'd get four months of him. Alas, his rehab from Tommy John surgery took longer than scheduled. I still like him next year as a cheap option if his stuff recovers. He's worth watching this last month - check the radar readings to compare from his pre-injury numbers, if not the actual results. The jump to the NL should help someone that was once a crafty starter. Mixed: $1; NL: $3.
Stephen Fife - Fife will work out of the bullpen on this tour of duty for the Dodgers, though given their lead in the NL West, he could still pick up a spot start or two. I'd be hesitant to use him in those situations, unless it's a home start against a weak opponent, despite his 2.72 ERA (3.95 FIP ERA). A 5.09 BB/9 rate and an average fastball of only 89.4 mph portend future sorrow. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Johnny Hellweg - If Fife's ERA was a mirage, then Hellweg's 3.15 ERA at Triple-A Nashville is an apparition writ large. Working with a 5.82 BB/9 walk rate (accompanied by a mere 6.40 K/9 rate) is unsustainable. That he had achieved the bare minimum requirements for a quality start against the Cubs on Saturday doesn't move the needle at all for me. Caveat emptor. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Jeff Locke - The Buccos recalled Locke from his mental health sojourn to Altoona, hoping that he could earn back that rotation spot. It hardly seems fair to grade him based on a start against the Cardinals, even if the Cards didn't have Allen Craig's services handy. But he issued four more walks in five innings. Walks aren't the be-all, end-all, but they're pretty telling, and they're also especially toxic when they don't come along with a bunch of strikeouts. I'd rather have Baker, Wacha and obviously Petit among this bunch of starters. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Yusmeiro Petit - While I was busy patting myself on the back for taking a chance on Petit in NL LABR, I quickly followed with the rejoinder that I didn't snag him in six other leagues where he was available. His first two starts at the major league level and his Triple-A numbers showed that he could be competent, but it's hard to buy in to a guy that's tried and failed at the big league level multiple times. But this is the franchise that rescued Ryan Vogelsong's career out of the blue - they're good with pitching, they have a great ballpark, and the opponent, the Diamondbacks, have faltered down the stretch. He won't approach a perfecto again, but I'm willing to believe something real is there. Mixed: $5; NL: $15.
Burch Smith - Smith got a rough introduction to the major leagues when injuries struck the Padres this spring. He recovered well there, posting a 3.39 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 65:17 K:BB in 61 innings at Triple-A Tucson, one of the toughest tracks in the PCL. Smith throws reasonably hard (92.6 mph average fastball in the bigs). There's some debate whether he or Robbie Erlin belongs in the rotation, or perhaps both if the Padres want to preserve some of their starters, but he should get four-to-six more starts over the stretch run. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Michael Wacha - Wacha came up huge Sunday, shutting the Pirates out over seven innings. He's cemented his rotation spot over the returning Jake Westbrook the rest of the way. His outing, and the recent strong starts from Joe Kelly, illustrate why the Cardinals are such a scary team. One pitcher goes down, another starts to struggle like Lance Lynn, and voila, they have another guy ready to step up. This seems to happen everywhere except shortstop (and catcher whenever Yadier Molina is banged up). Nobody else, at least in the National League, has anywhere close to this sort of depth. Mixed: $5; NL: $15.
Jake Westbrook - Westbrook is back, but his rotation spot is gone, having been claimed by Michael Wacha. He didn't exactly do much to refute that decision, getting rocked by the Pirates in a relief session Friday. Barring another injury, he's not going to be of much use for us the rest of the year. Mixed and NL: No.
Frank Francisco - Francisco finally returned from the DL over the weekend and picked up the win Sunday, retiring two batters in a tie game in the 8th inning, with the Mets scoring in the ninth. With Bobby Parnell still on the DL with a return not near, Francisco could pick up an odd save or two if LaTroy Hawkins is unavailable. Mixed: $0; NL: $1.
Jason Grilli - The Pirates have said that Grilli isn't yet ready to close, saying he needs to improve his command. That may be true, but he's not that far off. The bigger issue now is getting the Pirates' starting rotation to the final stretch. Charlie Morton got hurt Sunday, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett got roughed up this week, and Jeff Locke is still working his way back. Nonetheless, this is your last chance in leagues that allow September trades to get any sort of discount on Grilli. Go get him. Mixed and NL: All that you've got, if he's a free agent.
Chang-Yong Lim - Lim is a 37-year old reliever that had Tommy John surgery in July last year. He wasn't expected to return until 2014. This will be a good trial period for him to work on getting his velocity back up, and start to recapture his control. He's a potential back-of-the-bullpen deep sleeper for 2014, though he likely won't do anything for us this year. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Roy Oswalt - The Rockies are working on building up Oswalt's arm strength out of the bullpen, which means it will be too late before he can help us this year, and perhaps for the rest of his career. I come not to bury Oswalt, though, but rather praise his career. Let's ignore his Steve Carlton Retirement Path and remember his excellent years on the Astros, where for the longest time he overcame the notion that short right-handed starters couldn't succeed in this game. Mixed and NL: No.
Kevin Siegrist - We put so much emphasis on saves and sometimes holds in our game that we can overlook some other relievers that are getting it done. Siegrist is exactly one of those pitchers that gets overlooked, but it's time to tip our hat to him and his 0.56 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 32 innings so far this season. He has allowed just one homer over that stretch, too. Numbers like that have hidden value in innings cap leagues - if you're looking for strikeouts but have a finite number of innings remaining, he's gold. Mixed: $0; NL: $1.
Rob Brantly - Jeff Mathis is nobody's idea of a long-term solution behind the plate, so it behooves the Marlins to try to see a little bit more if Brantly can play, even if the season-long results reply in the negative. The only reason to not do so is if they're concerned more about the development of their young starting pitchers, and if Mathis is better suited to help in that respect. Even then, however, it still might be in their best interest to give Brantly more on-the-job training in that aspect of his game. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Zach Walters - Unless and until the Nats are eliminated from the NL Wild Card race, Walters is unlikely to get much playing time down the stretch. Moreover, he's incredibly unlikely to usurp Ryan Zimmerman at third base in the near, medium or long-term future. But anytime a 23-year old (he turned 24 on Thursday) slugs .517 at Triple-A, he's at least worth watching to see if there's anything interesting. The Magic 8-Ball points to his 20:134 BB:K ratio and says "probably not." Mixed: $0; NL: $1.
Dee Gordon - Gordon could get some spot starts, but his days as a starter and thus fantasy regular are gone, at least with the Dodgers whenever Hanley Ramirez is healthy, and even if he's out, given Gordon's fielding woes. I think that he needs a change of scenery to fully realize his stolen base specialist potential. Mixed: No; NL: $1.
Josh Rutledge - Rutledge started Sunday for the fourth time in the last six Rockies games, going 2-for-3 with a walk, albeit in a losing effort. He's one of the many, many busts among the middle infield class this season, but the opportunity at least is still there for him in September. Many mixed leaguers are still trying to get by with the likes of Pedro Florimon (I might be speaking personally here) and other lesser lights - Rutledge could be a boost over those, especially if you're hoping to sneak in an extra homer or two. Mixed: $3; NL: $10.
Billy Hamilton - Since his promotion from Triple-A Louisville, Hamilton has had four pinch-run appearances and four stolen bases, scoring three runs. He has yet to bat in the major leagues. He's the modern-day Herb Washington. Is that worth a playoff roster spot? Can he be trusted to begin next season as the starting center fielder assuming that the Reds cannot re-sign Shin-Soo Choo this offseason? I'd argue in the affirmative for the first question, and in the resounding negative for the latter. He's exactly the type of player that pitchers can blast the bat out of his hands, so his walk rate in the minors won't translate. Take a look at Dee Gordon for an idea of what bodes for Hamilton at the major league level. Mixed: $3; NL: $10.