A good rule of thumb for anyone covering any sport is to make sure that every time you get a chance to use a John Candy quote from Rookie of the Year, you do so. And as we slide into the final week of the fantasy baseball season, I think of that final, climactic scene and hear in my head Candy shouting, "This is it folks, this is what it's all about. One game, there is no tomorrow. This is for the whole megillah, for the whole ball of wax, for the whole kit and caboodle, for the whole enchilada, for the whole shooting match. This is for all the marbles." So in our case it's one week and not one game, but the message is loud and clear. This is it. Win or go home. It all ends here.
The amount of coaching I can offer is fairly minimal at this point. You know what you need. You know which categories you're lagging in. If you have waiver claims available to you, use them to bulk up on those categories. If you're in a roto league and can steal a point in runs scored and/or stolen bases, then find yourself some available leadoff guys or any other guys who set the table rather than clear it. If you're in a head to head battle and your opponent has bulked up on relievers, bulk up on two-start pitchers. He may get the saves and ratios, but you can dominate in strikeouts, wins and quality starts. And perhaps you get a little lucky and your team has a better WHIP. Either way, if he leans one way and you can't match him, then beat him the other way.
Just be smart about this final week. If you need to take some risks then take them. Do whatever it takes to win. But if all you need to do is toe the line, then don't go all crazy here in the final week and make unnecessary changes. The last thing you want to do is over-think things and blow it. Be smart. Play the odds. Focus on the match-ups and each player's situation and you'll do just fine.
Here are a few guys whose stock may be rising and falling here in the last week:
Josmil Pinto, C MIN - While most people tend to treat their catchers as afterthoughts this late in the season, you can get a little bit of an offensive boost here from Pinto. With Joe Mauer done with a concussion and little need to see what Chris Herrmann or Ryan Doumit can provide, Pinto gets a golden opportunity to perform here on the big stage and he's making the most of it. Through 15 games (57 plate appearances), Pinto is batting a mean .377 with three home runs, nine RBI and nine runs scored. Sure, he's being aided by a hefty .415 BABIP, but you should also take note of his better-than-average strikeout rate, his ability to draw a walk and the patience he's shown at the plate (just a 43-percent swing rate). His minor league numbers indicate that the average should stay fairly high and he's got some decent power potential. Target Field may not be the best place for power totals, but two out of his three homers have come at home and he's pushing the ball to all fields.
Jason Grilli, RP PIT - Between shaking off a little bit of rust and another Mark Melancon meltdown, Grilli found his way back into the closer's role for the final week of the Pirates season. He gave up a few runs in his first few outings back, but has since made three scoreless appearances and notched his first save since July 21 this past Saturday. And best of all is that, since he's been back, Grilli is sporting a 8:2 K:BB through six innings, so that strikeout rate he started to lose in July right before landing on the DL is bouncing back. If someone in your league dropped him, you should put a claim in if you are in need of some relief help here in the final week.
Pedro Strop, RP CHC - Depending on the depth of your league, there's more relief help available here at the end as the Cubs want to give Strop a look in the ninth inning so they can evaluate their bullpen situation before the close of the season. Though his overall ERA doesn't exactly scream "use me in your bullpen," Strop has outstanding stuff, a great strikeout rate and is now coming off of four straight scoreless appearances with one save and six strikeouts with no walks. He's got mid-90's heat with a fantastic slider he uses for an out-pitch and should see a few chances over this final week.
Chris Owings, SS ARI - This one is a little bit for now and a little bit for later. Owings has been solid at shortstop for the Diamondbacks during this brief call-up, batting .303 with three RBI, two runs scored and a pair of stolen bases over 39 plate appearances. He's shown quality plate discipline so far and is capable of giving you a bit of a boost in runs scored and steals. But while shortstop is his natural position, the Diamondbacks are going to move him over to second base this week to test his versatility. If eight games are enough in your league to add eligibility, then he's liable to have some nice value playing both middle infield spots. Get what speed you can get from him now and if you're in a keeper league, think a little about your future as well.
Robbie Erlin, SP SD - The 22-year old southpaw has thrown three quality starts over his last four outings and is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 17:6 K:BB over that span (25 innings). His final start of the season comes against a mid-level offense in Arizona, but the start comes at home where Erlin has a 2.08 ERA with a 23:4 K:BB over 26 innings. The strikeout rate isn't exactly the thing upon which fantasy dreams are built, but if you're looking for a somewhat off-the-radar type guy to stream this week who won't kill your ratios and has high upside, then Erlin makes for a sound choice.
Staying the Course
Matt Adams, 1B STL - Two weeks ago I suggested that, if he was available, you should pick up Adams while incumbent first baseman Allen Craig was out with a foot/ankle injury. Since that article, Adams is batting .395 (17-for-43) with five home runs, 12 RBI and 10 runs scored. It's probably unlikely that he's still available, but if for some crazy reason he is, Craig is not expected to return for the remainder of the regular season and Adams should keep on mashing.
Edward Mujica, RP STL - And control for saves and ratios in your head to head match-up can turn on a dime just like that as here in the final week of the season Mike Matheny has relieved Mujica of his ninth inning responsibilities. It might seem odd given the fact that the Cardinals are now heading into the playoffs without a closer, but with Trevor Rosenthal, John Axford and Kevin Siegrist in the bullpen, they should at least be covered for the week and can then make another assessment.
Manny Machado, 3B BAL - It's not easy for a 21-year old to maintain such lofty hitting totals as Machado was providing for an entire year, especially when you're not used to playing at this level for this long a period of time. This is Machado's first full season here in the majors and his drop-off here in the second half is quite evident. July was a brutal month for the youngster, but it appeared as if he was going to rebound the rest of the way with such a strong August performance. But here we are 20 games into September and Machado is batting .176 for the month and is now batting .235 since the All Star break. He's going to be a huge asset in the long run, but until he builds up that big league stamina, you might want to think about benching him this week.
Hisashi Iwakuma, SP SEA - There is no doubting that Iwakuma has been a huge asset for fantasy owners all year long, but with 211 innings logged, the Mariners are talking about keeping him on the bench for the final week of the season. For those of us who have grown reliant on the Japanese hurler, this is a huge bummer as he was slated to face Kansas City early in the week. The decision hasn't been made just yet, so if he gets the start you'll obviously want him active. But if they shelf him, you're going to need to take a fishing trip on the waiver wire if you don't already have a viable substitute on your bench.
Jose Iglesias, SS DET - While he hasn't exactly been lighting up the stat sheet from an offensive perspective, Iglesias has been a fairly stable middle infield component since coming over to the Tigers. But a recent hand injury, the result of being hit by a pitch, has kept him out the last few games and the latest reports says that he's nowhere near ready to come back as he hasn't even taken any ground balls. Deeper league owners using him will obviously have to replace him, possibly for the week, but this should also affect your decisions if you were thinking about streaming in any ground ball specialists for Detroit such as Rick Porcello. Ramon Santiago should fill in, but his work with the glove isn't quite as strong as Iglesias'.
Dodgers Position Players - Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasiel Puig are all likely to get a serious amount of rest this week as the Dodgers look to get everyone as close to full health as possible with the playoffs looming. If you own any of them, you're probably going to have to find immediate replacements if you want to maintain your place in the roto standings or are in need of an offensive push in your head to head match-up.
Best of luck to all of you here at the end of the season and thank you to all for such kind words throughout the season. I hope you found the MLB Barometer to be a valuable resource throughout the year and you were able to use the information to your advantage.