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MLB Barometer: Who the (Heck) Are These Guys?

Howard Bender

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog RotobuzzGuy.com or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.

With the MLB season nearing its end and the playoff races coming down to just a small handful of teams, fantasy rosters are looking uglier and uglier with each passing day. Between the injuries we've seen with numerous big stars, players getting rest before they hit the playoff circuit, and the insane number of September call-ups we've seen, fantasy owners who are still in the hunt - whether it's the close of your roto season or the playoffs in your head to head league - are sifting through a bunch of names on their waiver wire reminiscent of that early scene in Major League where the fans greet the Indians roster announcement  with a hearty, "Who the ^%#! Are these guys?"
 
It's just been one of those years again where you have to put your trust in a rag-tag group of no-names to help you take that final step towards the Promised Land. The guys who took you this far are done. Carlos Gonzalez and Starling Marte can't swing a bat, Jacoby Ellsbury has a fractured foot, Albert Pujols is nowhere to be found, Matt Harvey is done for the year, and Jose Fernandez has officially been shut down. Top draft picks and big-time sleepers are suddenly on the bench in keeper leagues and on the waiver wire in redraft leagues.
 
For the most part, your best course of action for filling in these now glaring holes in your roster is to just keep looking for who is swinging the hot bat; for whichever pitcher is due for the easiest match-ups. There's no more worrying about who can sustain their current level of production for the rest of the season, which guy is for real and which guy isn't. If he's hot right now, grab him. The moment he cools off, drop him like a stack of yesterday's newspapers. With only about two weeks left in the regular season, it's really all you can do to survive.
 
Here are a few names I'm looking at adding and dropping this week:

Rising

Josh Fields, RP HOU - If you're still looking for saves, as many of us are, then the official announcement this week by Astros manager Bo Porter that Fields will be his closer for the duration of the season was probably music to your ears. On the waiver wire in so many leagues, Fields has now converted three straight save opportunities and will be Porter's go-to guy for work in the ninth. Over four appearances in September, Fields has given up two runs (in two separate games), but that doesn't seem to be an issue for the Astros, nor should it be for you. Obviously you don't want someone trashing your ERA, but adding a few saves over the next two weeks could make all the difference in your standings. He also has a 7:2 K:BB over his last seven appearances, so he should also provide you with a little bit of help in strikeouts too.

Denard Span, RP WAS - If you're looking to gain a boost in runs scored, then you should be scouring your waiver wire for leadoff hitters. And based on some of the recent ownership percentage reports, Span is just sitting there waiting patiently for you to make a waiver claim. The Nationals leadoff hitter is currently in the midst of a 25-game hit streak that dates back to August 17. Over this streak, he is batting .387 (41-for-106) with two home runs, seven RBI, 18 runs scored and five stolen bases and is showing no sign of slowing down, as evidenced by the number of multi-hit games we've seen here in September. Specialists like Span can be tough to come by this late in the season, so grab him while you can.

Yan Gomes, C CLE - Getting strong production from your catcher position in September can be a tough task. The position is incredibly taxing and by the time some of these guys get to September, they're spent. But if you're looking for a little bit of help and a nice boost in batting average and on-base percentage, then Gomes makes for an excellent addition. He doesn't play every day, but lately he's been in the lineup more often as the Indians use Carlos Santana in their DH spot to give his body some rest. So far, in the 10 games here in September, Gomes is batting .387 (12-for-31) with one home run, five RBI and eight runs scored. His rate stats have actually been superior all season long and here in the second half, he hasn't finished a month with an OBP lower than .361. If you've been just getting by with some of the more well-known but recently unproductive backstops out there, then you might want to consider the switch here.

Kole Calhoun, OF LAA - Though he's always had that dreaded “fourth outfielder” label, Calhoun has been playing like a starter since he received the full opportunity in August. His numbers from last month were solid, batting .259 with five home runs, 14 RBI and 14 runs scored over 85 at-bats, but he's turned it up even more here in September thanks to  a major spike in his line drive rate which has pushed his BABIP through the roof. Over just 47 at-bats (yes, a small sample size, but this late in the year they're all small sample sizes), Calhoun is batting .383 with a pair of home runs, 13 RBI and six runs scored. He's been performing well for a month and a half now, so expecting more of the same for the next two weeks certainly isn't out of the question.

Danny Valencia, 3B BAL - Joining the ranks of the unknowns this week is a former major league starting third baseman whose time in the bigs had seemingly come to an end. Valencia, a former starting third baseman for the Twins, has very much been enjoying his time spent with the Orioles recently and is locked in to the DH spot for as long as he's swinging such a hot bat. Since joining the lineup regularly back on August 27, Valencia is batting .463 (19-for-41) with three home runs, eight RBI and five runs scored and should stay entrenched as the designated hitter while the Orioles continue to fight for a playoff berth. You might not see such strong batting average totals over the next two weeks, but so long as he is contributing in the counting stats, he'll be a good source of help here at the end.

Staying the Course

Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP NYM - This is more of a warning than anything else, especially if you are concerned with your ratios over the final few weeks of the season. Streamers might want to avoid Dice-K, despite the fact that he is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 9:4 K:BB in two starts since joining the Mets rotation. Let's not forget who we are talking about here and let's not forget the excessive walks and overblown ratios that he has provided as recently as the outing prior to these last two starts. He's taking on a depleted Phillies team his next time out, but it's at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park and he's sporting a 54.8-percent fly-ball rate right now.

Falling

Alfonso Soriano, OF NYY - The guy who has been the most productive member of the Yankees and the reason that they are even in contention for a wild card spot missed Saturday's game with a sprained thumb and is likely to miss more time on top of that. But even if they do keep him in the lineup, how effective is he going to be swinging the bat over these next two weeks? We've already seen what hand injuries have done to the likes of CarGo and Starling Marte, so keeping him active with a thumb injury at this point isn't helping anyone but your competition.

Matt Joyce, OF TB - He went from being one of the hottest hitters in the majors, batting .350 (21-for-60) with three home runs, 11 RBI and 11 runs scored for the month of August, to one of the coldest right now, batting .034 (1-for-29) with absolutely no contribution to any of the counting stats here in September. He was already sitting against lefties, but now in this cold spell and the Rays looking to hang onto their playoff spot, he's not even in the lineup regularly against right-handers either. Without the regular playing time, it's going to be tough for him to heat back up and if you're in the middle of your fantasy playoffs, that's just not going to cut it.

Martin Prado, 3B ARI - Another ice cold player losing time recently is Prado as he is currently batting .178 (8-for-45) with just three RBI and three runs scored and starting to sit in favor of rookie call-up Matt Davidson, who the Diamondbacks want to give a strong look at before closing out the season. The D-Backs are wondering if they need to pursue a third baseman in the offseason, so with the playoffs not happening, Davidson is going to continue seeing more audition time here.

Brian McCann, C ATL - Quick and simple, the Braves are headed to the playoffs and resting McCann for a championship run is a must. Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird and recent call-up Christian Bethancourt are all seeing time behind the dish as the Braves are in little or no danger of losing their grip on the NL East title.

Nick Franklin, SS SEA - While he's been slumping since the All Star break (.1717/.253/.329), Franklin is now finally starting to lose playing time. He was out of the lineup Saturday, his fourth time in seven games, and could be spending even more time on the bench while Dustin Ackley takes his place at the keystone. If you've been suffering through Franklin still, you're really going to need a replacement and fast.