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Behind the Numbers: Stretch-Drive Help

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

With the calendar turning to August, most fantasy owners are doing at least two of the following:

• Making deals to plug holes as the playoffs (head-to-head) or end of season (Roto) approaches

• Looking toward next year (keeper leagues)

• Preparing for fantasy football drafts

Being in multiple leagues, I'm doing all three, so this week I thought I'd touch on a hitter and a pitcher in each division who could be of surprising help these last couple months. In some cases, we'll dig deep, but because we know you play in all types of leagues, many of these players are already owned. That would require a trade, but there's still value to be had.

NL West

Hitter: Tommy Medica (OF/1B - SD)

It's pretty clear by now that Yonder Alonso (.217/.259/.349) is a bust, as was the entire deal involving Mat Latos. I don't blame the Padres for continuing to trot Alonso out there given his pedigree, but whether at first base or left field, Medica is likely to be out there. Headed into Tuesday's action, Medica is 8-for-12 with three home runs and two walks in his last three games, taking his line from .248/.295/.407 to .280/.329/.490. The 26-year-old has always been a bit old for his level, but last year in Double-A, Medica broke out to the tune of .296/.372/.582 before an impressive 19-game stint in San Diego in which he batted .290/.380/.449. Just take a look at how inept the Padres have been at Medica's primary positions:

First base: .225/.276/.374, 11 home runs

Medica as a first baseman: .304/.350/.500, four home runs

Left field: .241/.328/.403, 12 home runs

Medica as a left fielder: .270/.357/.541, two home runs

Carlos Quentin's LF numbers are awful (.457 OPS in 102 AB), so most of this production has been from Medica and Seth Smith, but Smith is now in right.

The Padres have nothing to lose by playing Medica every day and seeing what he can do. Look at it this way: both Nelson Cruz and Jose Abreu each have more home runs than the top three Padres' home run hitters combined.




Pitcher: Brett Anderson (SP-COL)

With a 1.39 WHIP, it hasn't always been pretty for Anderson this year, but now that he appears to be 100 percent healthy, he looks more like the Anderson of five-plus years ago. In his last three starts, Anderson has a 1.33 ERA and 18:5 K:BB in 20.2 innings while continuing to post impressive ground ball numbers - 59.7 GB% for the year. While he probably cannot maintain a .22 HR/9, Anderson's repertoire could allow him to have success in a tough pitching environment despite a fastball that has dipped to 89.7 mph on average, a full two mph below even last year. Anderson has shown improved command and deception to offset the decline in velocity, as his swinging-strike percentage is at a career-high 9.2 percent while hitters are swinging at a career-high 33.1 percent of pitches outside the strike zone versus last year's 28 percent. I just won the FAAB bidding for Anderson in my NL-only league and expect he'll be a nice upgrade over the guy he replaced - Cliff Lee.

NL Central

Hitter: Josh Harrison (3B/OF-PIT)

Pedro Alvarez is on the bereavement list, but either way, Harrison is an everyday player, with or without Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen (rib) both healthy and available. Harrison will play third base for now, but could also see time in the outfield and at second base the rest of the way. After five homers in his first 87 games, Harrison has five in his last eight and is up to .304/.342/.497 for the season. He's even swiped 13 bases, and given he was as utility guy for a good part of the year, Harrison would probably make my list of NL-only most valuable fantasy players relative to draft position. I'd like to see his 5.4 BB% improve and I do think his .340 BABIP comes down a bit, but at a minimum, Harrison should be good for .280-plus, decent power and a handful of steals the rest of the way. Harrison has posted sub-.300 OBP's with a sub .250 BA in is pre-2014 MLB time, but he did manage to hit .317/.373/.507 in Triple-A last year. At 27, he probably has the Pirates thinking about non-tendering Alvarez after this season.

Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks (SP-CHC)

The Cubs have already sold their best pitcher, but they still have a budding No. 2 starter in Jake Arrieta, and Hendricks is giving them some hope for a solid home-grown back-end of the rotation starter. In four starts for the big club, Hendricks has as 2.05 ERA in four starts, and though one came against the punchless Padres, he's also shut down the Dodgers and Cardinals in back-to-back starts. Hendricks' K:BB is a pedestrian 17:7 in 26.1 innings, thus the limited ceiling, but in 452.1 minor league innings, Hendricks' K/9 was solid at 7.7 and his BB/9 was elite at 1.6. He averages just 88 mph with his fastball, but other guys with upper-80s “heat” have done just fine this year as well - Mark Buehrle, Dallas Keuchel, Jered Weaver, and Jason Vargas. Vargas is a good comp, he with the 6.1 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 to support a 3.69 ERA. That's probably about what to expect from Hendricks the rest of the way, and perhaps with guys like Javier Baez and (likely) soon, Kris Bryant getting the call, perhaps the club will even give him some runs.

NL East

Hitter: Steven Souza (OF-WAS)

The Nationals have a few pretty good outfield prospects, including Michael Taylor (.313/.396/.935, 22 HR, 34 SB in Double-A), but it's Souza getting the call. With a red-hot Denard Span in center flanked by Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, one wonders where the playing time is going to come from. Souza will be the fourth outfielder, a backup first baseman and a pinch-hitter, and perhaps that's enough in deeper formats. His Triple-A numbers were impressive of course: .354/.435/.601 with 18 homers and 24 stolen bases. Souza posted a .953 OPS in Double-A last year, so while he's already 25, there's enough potential in his bat to give him a look. Looking ahead to 2015, Adam LaRoche likely will leave as a free agent, shifting Ryan Zimmerman to first and making Anthony Rendon the full-time third baseman. He's a big guy at 6-foot-4, so second base isn't an option, making 2014 a likely audition for some team looking to fill a hole on the cheap next year.

Pitcher: Ken Giles (RP-PHI)

Giles is a stretch to have value this year outside of holds leagues, but there looks to be a slight chance that Jonathan Papelbon is traded this month. Antonio Bastardo could be another option, but he's left-handed, isn't an overly hard thrower (91.2 mph average fastball), and he too had been rumored to be a trade candidate. Giles, meanwhile, was promoted from Triple-A in June and possesses a 1.71 ERA and impressive ratios in his 21 innings - 13.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9. Giles is just 23 and averages 97.1 mph with his fastball, and though he has some control issues in Triple-A this year (9:8 K:BB in 13.2 innings after a 3.0 BB/9 in Double-A), Giles has shown good control this year with the big club. He's a power arm with a closer mentality who could see his chance come before Papelbon exits as a free agent.

AL West

Hitter: Dustin Ackley (OF-SEA)

In over 1,800 career at-bats, this former No. 2 overall pick is batting just .247/.312/.360, further cementing the Mariners as an organization that can no longer develop young talent. In his last 14 days, however, Ackley finds himself batting .375/.386/.589 with a couple of home runs. Ackley's BB% trend is fairly troublesome, however:

2011 - 10.6
2012 - 8.8
2013 - 8.7
2014 - 6.0

For a guy without a lot of power, you want to see quite a bit more plate discipline than that. He's swinging at more pitches than ever both inside and outside the strike zone, and his 6.2 swinging strike percentage is the highest of his career. That said, Ackley was a very highly-regarded prospect, so who's to say he's not finally coming into his own in his fourth big league season. I tend to put more weight on the 1,700-plus at-bats he had prior to this recent run, but for a guy who's still 2B-eligible, Ackley could be of help down the stretch.

Pitcher: Shawn Tolleson (RP-TEX)

Joakim Soria has already been traded, and there are rumors that the Rangers could also deal Neal Cotts in a waiver deal this month. Cotts is presumed to be next in line behind closer Neftali Feliz, so keep Tolleson in the back of your minds in deeper formats. A back injury derailed his career with the Dodgers, but Tolleson has resurfaced in the AL West, spinning a 3.31 ERA in 45 games this year with an 8.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9. We've seen better numbers, but a 1.6 HR/9 has really impacted Tolleson's overall numbers this year. That said, Tolleson hasn't allowed a home run since June 25, posting a 2.70 ERA in those 13.1 innings with a 13:8 K:BB. The walks and homers could be Tolleson's downfall, but there's an outside shot his fantasy value could skyrocket later this month.

AL Central

Hitter: Adam Eaton (OF-CHW)

The big thing with Eaton right now is that, while he's reportedly been playing through some minor injuries, he's playing every day. An elbow injury limited Eaton to 66 games for the Diamondbacks last year, but he's played in 91 already this season. Eaton is batting .446/.492/.518 over his last 12 games, taking him to .309/.376/.407 with 12 stolen bases for the season. He's homered just once in 366 at-bats however, as a mere 1.6 percent of his flyballs have left the yard (one in 63). Eaton was at 6.1 percent last year and is at 4.7 percent for this career, so he should at least accidentally hit a couple more down the stretch, but he's better served helping your team in the AVG, runs and SB categories. Eaton has walked in 8.8 percent of his plate appearances versus 6.1 percent last year, and batting ahead of Jose Abreu is going to net him plenty of runs. I think we'll see a little more pop in his bat at some point, but that may not happen until 2015 and beyond. Still, a nice fill-in if you need a solid three-category player.

Pitcher: Danny Duffy (SP-KC)

Duffy has overcome both personal issues (2010) and Tommy John surgery (2012) to finally become an established big league starter at the still relatively young age of 25. The past several years have seen Duffy struggle with his control, and this year is no exception, though Duffy's 3.5 BB/9 is a major improvement over the marks he posted the last few seasons. Duffy has his velocity (93.4 mph average fastball) up to his pre-surgery levels, though it's still a bit surprising to see his K/9 at a pedestrian 6.9. Duffy has some other warning flags, including a 34.9 GB% and .239 BABIP, but Duffy has the stuff to pitch out of plenty of jams, and if he can harness his control further, good things lie ahead.

AL East

Hitter: Mookie Betts (2B/OF-BOS)

For a guy that didn't even reach Double-A until this season, it's been quite a run for the 21-year-old Betts. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Betts has batted a combined .342/.429/.530 with 11 home runs and 30 stolen bases. At 5-9, it's unlikely Betts is going to hit more than 15 homers in his prime, but that should come with an excellent batting average, and with more walks than strikeouts this year (43:55 K:BB in the minors), it's easy to see Betts hitting at the top of the order ahead of a bunch of high-priced home run hitters. As for this year, Betts' path to everyday playing time is cloudy at best. He's started just one of the team's previous four games, bowing out of outfield duties in favor of studs like Jackie Bradley (.589 OPS), Brock Holt (overachiever) and Daniel Nava. We know Yeonis Cespedes is going to play every day in left, but hopefully we'll see Betts out there more the rest of the way. Simply on talent, I'd have to bet money that Betts and Cespedes see the most at-bats the rest of the way, but hopefully John Farrell agrees.

Pitcher: Wei-Yin Chen (SP-BAL)

An oblique injury limited Chen to just 23 starts last year, but he's been healthy enough to make 21 already this season, posting a 3.76 ERA. Chen's 6.5 K/9 is down from last year's 6.8, but he's made huge strides in his control, posting a 1.5 BB/9 in 124.1 innings to help mitigate his usual 1.3 HR/9. Chen has a 2.53 ERA in his last five starts, and he's allowed more than three runs just once in his last 11 starts. With an average offense, solid defense, and an improved bullpen (Andrew Miller), Chen should have a fair amount of support the rest of the way, but he'll have to do a better job limiting the long balls. It was the Mariners admittedly both times, but Chen was homer-free in his last two starts, so there's hope.

Anyone else you'd add to the list?