I am filling in once again for Vlad Sedler, who officially has had the longest wedding planning plus honeymoon period of anyone I know. All the readers will be happy to know that he will be back next week in his rightful spot writing the Barometer.
I love football, anyone who knows me knows that I do. I love and look forward to football Sundays and there is no team that I am more of a diehard fan of than the San Francisco 49ers. For those 16 games a year (plus hopefully playoffs, come back soon Navarro!), I am glued to the TV if I am not at the game rooting on Kaep and the boys. But this is a fantasy article and when it comes to fantasy, I just don't think baseball and football even compare. In baseball, we get games every single day, new valuable players emerge to pick up each season and injuries can be dealt with so much easier with bigger rosters and fuller waiver wires.
As the baseball season comes to its final quarter, there is no way to deny that fantasy football takes over on web sites as well as radio and TV shows. It makes sense, football is absolutely the king and draft season in every sport is where the talk and strategy goes. The timing is just disappointing because the best part of the fantasy baseball season, the sprint to the finish, gets lost in the football shuffle and news cycle. There is no doubt that people spend less time and energy on their baseball teams as football begins or their baseball teams fall out of contention. It should be remembered that there is still nearly a quarter of the season left, which means there is a lot of time to still make a move in your league. Also, that opportunity to make a run grows as the sports attention of your competitors gets split with football.
End game strategy in baseball can be very tough to figure, but at this point of the season, you have to really spend the look deeply at your league's category by category standings (or overall standings in a national contest if lucky enough for those to still matter) and see where you can gain points to make a run at the money (of the pride if you play for that!). The last quarter of the season is all about category management and can be "gamed" well with the right players and mindset. If you are dominating your league in wins and strikeouts, but struggling in saves and still battling in ratios, it is time to bench your fringe starters and use all of your closers week to week. You still want to throw your elite starters of course to aid your ratios and not totally tank in wins and K's, but even a elite middle reliever can suddenly have a lot of value since you do not need the wins you count on from starters. If you can throw a Brad Boxberger (check out that cat's numbers if you aren't familiar with him…wow!) or Dellin Betances in place of your 5th or 6th starter, you will protect your ratios, maybe sneak in a save or two and not be hurt by the lost win opportunities. It can be strange to sit a starter you have relied upon all year for a middle reliever that went undrafted, but at this point of the year, who cares? It is all about maximizing your points. It is very important to remember that winning a category by a few or by a bunch still gets you the same amount of points. Any category you are dominating in presents a big opportunity to not worry about it and suddenly focus on only putting up stats in the other nine categories. I am always bugged late in the season when I see a team up by 20 saves in their league and still using 2-3 closers week to week.
On offense, managing categories is extremely important too to try and max out your possible points. The easiest categories to game at this point of the year are of course homers and stolen bases since we often own or can add players who specialize in those categories. If you can't move up or down in homers or are leading your lead comfortably, it is now time to sit guys like Brandon Moss, Khris Davis or Mark Reynolds for guys who can help you in stolen bases or batting average or whatever you need. While it can be odd to sit Brandon Moss for someone like Jarrod Dyson, it's all about what gains you points, nothing more. On the flip side, if you are set in batting average, but need homers, there is nothing wrong with adding a struggling guy like Jon Singleton to try and catch some power lightning in a bottle, as you are able to stomach the .185 it may come with.
Above all, do whatever you can to make that late run. It is often surprising to me just how much teams can gain in the last 6 weeks and I know I have been passed late in the season by a team that I thought was finished in mid-August. There will be changes in roles (especially among the non-contenders) and call-ups in September and that all scream opportunity. Hell, the NFL will be there in October, enjoy the end of the baseball season and finish what you started.
Enjoy the pennant races and fantasy league races and thanks for letting me ramble on during Vladdy's absence.
Chris Carter, 1B/OF, HOU - I almost wrote about Carter last week, but have to do it this week since he just keeps raking. Carter has been on just an insane power binge with 16 homers since July 1st. Of course we all knew Vernon (his legal first name) had power, but the really impressive aspect of his hot run is that he is hitting .311 with a 1.047 OPS in his last 148 at-bats. Carter will always strike out too much to hit for much average, but for a guy that was hitting .184 starting July, the turnaround is truly remarkable. Carter has already matched his 29 homers from 2013 and while he will clearly not maintain his pace of the last seven weeks, Carter should hit 35 bombs and has an outside shot at a 40-homer season. Not too shabby for a guy dropped in many leagues in May and June.
Corey Dickerson, OF, COL - Dickerson was a tough guy to evaluate this year in drafts due to the glut of outfielders in Colorado. It appeared that it would be Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon to get the at-bats against righties (with Drew Stubbs vs. lefties) and when Blackmon broke out of the blocks huge, Dickerson was dropped in many leagues as he only started six games in April. Well, Dickerson been flat out exceptional since May started, compiling 15 homers with a .325 batting average and a .963 OPS since May 1st. Dickerson has even been hotter recently, hitting .417 with four homers over his last 48 at-bats. He has taken advantage of Coors Field, no doubt, with a .371 batting average at home, but he has not been bad on the road, throwing up a .820 OPS with eight homers over 154 at-bats. In addition, Dickerson has been solid against lefties, albeit in a limited 58 at-bats, hitting .318 with a .882 OPS. Dickerson owners have scored a stud either late in the draft or even in waivers this year and he continues to pay dividends as he looks to be getting even better as the year goes on. He will not be a late rounder in 2105 drafts.
Robinson Cano, 2B, SEA - Sure, Robbie Cano is a stud (don't ya know?), we all are aware of that and he was drafted early (ADP 11.3 in NFBC live drafts) in every draft this season. However, through the first four months of the season, Cano had only hit seven homers and had three separate months where he went yard only once. Cano has found his power swing so far in August and has four homers through only 50 at-bats to go with a .360 batting average and a crazy 1.135 OPS. In fact, Cano's OPS has gone up every single month so far this season, so maybe he just needed to get used to new surroundings? Cano is not going to be near his power numbers from Yankee Stadium (no one is surprised by that), but he appears to be on the rise right now and even with his lower than usual power numbers, just his .332 batting average on the season so far is providing a ton of value for anyone who drafted Cano.
Kyle Hendricks, SP, CHI - Whatever you do, do not confuse this guy with Kyle Kendrick who you should not pick up or trade for unless whoever makes the deal tosses in his Survivor wife in the deal. Hendricks has been great since earning his call up to the majors on July 10 after the Cubs traded 40% of their starting rotation. The Newport Beach, California native had a bit of a bumpy debut (four earnies over six), but has reeled off six straight gems since then allowing no more than two runs in any of those starts. Hendricks does not strike a lot of guys out with only 29 K's so far in his 48.2 innings, but he also has limited his walks well with only five walks total in his last five starts. His ability to limit hits has kept his WHIP under 1.00 and has made up for his lack of whiffs. Ride this hot hand here for now.
David Robertson, Closer, NYY - Robertson has flown a little bit under the radar this year, but he deserves credit for how strong he has been this year coming into an extremely pressured-filled spot. Can you imagine the New York media if Robertson had struggled in trying to replace the legendary Mariano Rivera? Instead, Robertson has filled Rivera's justifiably gigantic shoes extremely well. Robertson had a disastrous five earned run performance against the Twins on June 1 that raised his ERA on the season to 4.50. Since that implosion, D-Rob has not blown a save, converting 21 consecutive save opportunities and since that game he has a 1.26 ERA with an impressive 39 strikeouts over 28.2 innings. Robertson has stepped into the role held by an absolute legend of the game and answered the call in a big way and should be considered among the top five to seven closers in drafts entering 2015.
Hitters: Stephen Vogt (C, Oakland), Adam LaRoche (1B, Washington), Chase Utley (2B, Philadelphia), Alex Gordon (OF, Kansas City), Kole Calhoun (OF, Los Angeles), Oswaldo Arcia (OF, Minnesota)
Pitchers: Alex Cobb (SP, Tampa Bay), Hector Santiago (SP, Los Angeles), Tyson Ross (SP, San Diego)
Not Falling For It: Cliff Pennington (SS, Arizona), Eric Stults (SP, San Diego), Jhonny Peralta (SS, St. Louis)
Ian Kinsler, 2B, DET - Kinsler was having a strong season, but has fallen on hard times lately as the Tigers have also hit the skids as a team. 2014 was looking like a dream season for Kinsler at the All-Star Break as he was hitting .303 for a first place team while his previous team, the Rangers, have had a disastrous season after he badmouthed them following his off-season trade. Kinsler has been anything but dreary since the All-Star Break, hitting .221 with dead zero homers in 131 at-bats. In addition, he has only drawn four walks over the same stretch. If Kinsler can right the ship, he would be in line for a very nice overall season, but there is no doubting he looks lost right now and the sample size of his struggles is growing by the day.
Josh Hamilton, OF, LAA - The Angels have taken over first place in the AL West (No, I don't want to talk about it), but with very little help from Hamilton. Hamilton tore ligaments in his thumb in April, but was able to return at the start of June and it was thought that he may struggle a bit at first, but the rust would then wear off. He was just ok in June and July (.263 average and a .710 OPS), but he has fallen off a cliff so far in August. He is hitting a mere .189 in his last 53 at-bats with only three RBI. Further, he has missed the last two games after requesting a day off on Sunday after striking out seven times in the first two games of the series against the Rangers. Manager Mike Scioscia called it a "mental break" and noted that Hamilton doesn't look confident at the plate and is not attacking the ball. Hamilton is hitting in the middle of a very solid lineup and is set up to succeed in Anaheim, but has been a disappointment all year, especially recently since he should finally be healthy now.
Ryan Braun, OF, MLW - Coming off his extended PED suspension in 2013, Braun was a tough guy to project for the 2014 season. Of course, he looked good in spring training, which caused his ADP to rise to the top six OA by the time the NFBC March drafts took place. Braun has not been terrible, but he has definitely been a disappointment for where he was drafted with only 15 homers and a .275 average. Of late, Braun has really started to slip and is hitting only .207 with one bomb over his last 58 at-bats. After hitting over .300 in April and May, Braun has only hit a mere .249 since June 1, which is not what anyone expects from Braun. There is a lot of buzz that Braun's thumb is not healthy and he is playing hurt, but whatever he is doing, he is starting to not only not help fantasy owners who drafted him the first round, but he is now actually starting to hurt them.
Jason Hammel, SP, OAK - No one thought I was finishing this assignment without weighing in my good buddy Jason Hammel. Apparently, Hammel was bummed about my lack of a whipping boy in Oaktown since Jim Johnson got released (finally, nice 2.06 WHIP Jimmy) and decided to fill that role. Hammel has been nothing short of a nightmare since joining the A's in a 4th of July trade. Since donning the green and gold, Hammel has a 1-6 record with a sparkling 6.75 ERA that he has paired with a dazzling 1.875 WHIP. Hammel had an ERA under 3.00 with Chicago and clearly not all of his struggles can be attributed to moving to the tougher league. It feels like Hammel has reached the point that he is now pressing with his new team and trying to make up for all of his struggles with one great start. After a bit of a bounce back in his first two August starts, he was pummeled last week against the Braves, allowing three homers and five earned runs before getting yanked after only three innings. All three of the homers he gave up were really bad mistakes that Braves hitters pounded. The A's will skip Hammel this week with two off-days, avoiding the Angels (no, I still don't want to talk about it). The A's score a lot of runs (well, they used to) and play in a great home park for pitching, so it should be a nice situation for Hammel, but it is clearly not working and with Jesse Chavez lurking in the bullpen and Drew Pomeranz in Triple-A, it is hard to see Hammel lasting much longer in the rotation without a very rapid and extreme turnaround.
Trevor Rosenthal, RP, STL - Rosenthal was the fourth closer off the board in drafts in March coming off his electric 2013 late season and post-season performance. For fantasy purposes, Rosenthal has fulfilled his obligations as a saves compiler very well with 36 saves to date on the season. The saves have helped to cover up for just how poorly he has pitched, especially of late. Rosenthal's WHIP before the All-Star Break was not good at 1.37, but has gotten to a brutal zone since the break at 1.66. Rosenthal has given up way too many walks on the season with 33 of them in only 56.1 innings. He has still struck out a ton of guys and does possess an 11.7 K/9 ratio on the season. His issues with base runners have started to catch up with him and after getting pulled mid-inning after three walks on Sunday, Rosenthal blew a save on Monday night. His leash, once as long as almost anyone in the league, has now been shortened considerably and Mike Matheny has to be at least considering using Pat Neshek and his exceptional 0.86 ERA and 9.8 K/9 as his closer, at least for a little bit while Rosenthal straightens out his issues.
Hitters: Derek Norris (C, Oakland), Jimmy Rollins (SS, Philadelphia), Jean Segura (SS, Milwaukee), Coco Crisp (OF, Oakland), Alex Rios (OF, Texas)
Pitchers: Rafael Soriano (RP, Washington), Marcus Stroman (SP, Toronto), AJ Burnett (SP, Philadelphia)
Not Falling For It: Julio Teheran (SP, Atlanta), Buster Posey (C, San Francisco), Todd Frazier (3B, Cincinnati)