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MLB Barometer: Tough Decisions

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 or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

With time running short on your fantasy season, there's little time to waste. You need to stay on top of who's hot, who's not, who's seeing the playing time and who's ready to be let go. If you're playing in a redraft league, you have to be ready to make some tough decisions. There's no sense in holding onto a guy who isn't performing and while it's difficult to part with a big name, a guy you've been waiting for to come around, you have to do what is best for your team. If Starlin Castro or B.J. Upton aren't performing or if Jose Bautista is going to be lost for nearly all of the remaining games, then you need to cut bait and find players who will get the job done. You can't be afraid to ditch a big star if he's been a train wreck. It would be a disservice to your team if you held onto him any longer.
Keeper league owners have a bit tougher of a time as the underperforming stars tend to shorten up your bench and kill your depth. Cutting them isn't an option and injuries become a bit harder to overcome as you stash away star players you know you'll be holding onto next season. If you are only making weekly moves, then you have to be much more selective with whom you pick up each week, carefully making sure that they are not only going to be worth you wile, but that they will outperform that player on your roster whom you just had to cut. Daily moves are often easier here as your mixing and matching can simply be limited to whoever is hot and from which side of the plate he bats. It's almost like a month's worth of daily fantasy games.
So no matter which style of league you play in, the pick-ups at this time of year have to be on-point. They have to be specific to your team and tailored to where you need the most help in the standings. No need to pick up a power bat if stolen bases are where you can move the most, and no need to hold that fourth closer if you already have a 15-save lead over the guy behind you. Really take the time and study your position in the standings. The last thing you can afford to do now is waste a roster move and fail in an opportunity to make the squad better.
Now let's hit the risers and fallers this week.


Roy Halladay, SP PHI - If you've been playing fantasy for a while, it'll seem a bit weird that a player of Halladay's stature even has to be listed in this section. But with a disastrous season lost due to injury, Doc just isn't the marquee name he once was and few people are even aware that he's starting today (Sunday) for the first time since May 5 when he was shelled for nine runs over just 2.1 innings and landed on the disabled list with major shoulder surgery looming. Well, here we are three months down the road and the Phillies have decided to try out their former ace as expected starter Tyler Cloyd was needed in an 18-inning marathon Saturday. He's made just two rehab starts at the lower levels so far, and while his command doesn't seem to be altogether there just yet, he's got a 3.00 ERA and eight strikeouts over 12 innings. Should he do well in his first start, there's the likelihood that the Phils leave him in the rotation to see whether it will be worth picking up his option next year or not. A determined Halladay auditioning for a job next season could be a strong asset down the stretch here.

Travis d'Arnaud, C NYM - The Mets brought up their catcher-of-the-future when John Buck need to go on paternity leave and opted to keep him up even when the veteran backstop returned. He's been seeing some regular work, and while his bat hasn't caught fire yet, he's shown some strong plate discipline with more walks than strikeouts in his 15 at-bats. It's tough to bring him on just yet, as you don't want to carry him through this initial learning process, but if you have some room to stash him and see if he heats up, he could prove to be one heck of an asset in September.

Jedd Gyorko, 2B SD - While the batting average may leave little to be desired, the sheer power numbers we are seeing from Gyorko cannot be ignored. Eight home runs with 15 RBI just in the month of August are huge, but when you take into consideration that the Padres have had all but six of their games at home this month, it becomes even more impressive for the rookie infielder. His power is coming mostly against right-handers, but he's batting .290 versus southpaws and 20 of the team's remaining 33 games will be against struggling opponents looking to audition some of their young, unproven talent.

Brian Dozier, 2B MIN - Here's one of those names that leaves fantasy owners scratching their heads when they really start thinking about cutting a veteran star for someone who is just simply hot right now at the tail-end of the season. Dozier is 26-years old and in just his second season in the big leagues. He was never one to hit for a high average, he had limited power and minimal speed. But Dozier's contact rates have been outstanding this season, he's not swinging through a lot of pitches, and he's managed to show a reasonable amount of improvement throughout the year. Things have really blossomed for him here in August as he's hit safely in 19-of-24 games this month and has even flashed a bit of power with four home runs while posting a .279 batting average. He's the Twins primary second basemen right now and they plan to let him finish out the season as such. Another strong month could lock him into a guaranteed job next year, so you know he's motivated.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF MIN - Another motivated man on the Twins, Arcia has just made it back from a minor wrist ailment to head back into the outfield full-time. The 22-year old left-handed hitter has been a favorite of manager Ron Gardenhire's all year long and will be granted every opportunity to prove that he belongs in the outfield again next season. Prior to the injury, he had hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games with four home runs and six RBI, including a stretch where he hit homers in three straight. It'd be nice if he could throw some sort of speed element into his game, but at this time of year, you can't expect guys on your waiver wire to have it all anyway. With regular playing time, he will not only help boost your power, but he should also maintain a string batting average.


Jose Fernandez, SP MIA - With everything he's done this season, it's a shame to see Fernandez in this section right now. He's got a 2.30 ERA with a 165:51 K:BB over 152.2 innings and has peripherals equally sexy to his base numbers. However, the Marlins are capping him at 170 innings this year which means you've got maybe three starts left from him. It hurts a bit less in roto leagues, but if you play head-to-head and are in the playoffs, you'll be losing one of your better hurlers.

Dane De La Rosa, RP LAA - The closer's life can be short-lived and while De La Rosa had the job for a bit here in August, the Angels have obviously see enough out of Ernesto Frieri lately to give him his job back. De La Rosa moves back into his set-up role and unless you play in a league where holds count, his value is minimal, once again. Could he land a save opportunity here and there still? Perhaps. But you can't bank on ‘perhaps' at this stage of the game.

Joe Mauer, C MIN - After putting together a fantastic comeback season, things appears to be getting cut short due to a recent concussion. He was placed on the 7-day DL on August 19 and hasn't even been able to do even the simplest of cardio work yet which doesn't exactly scream promise, does it? He'll be re-evaluated back at Minnesota but it doesn't look good for him this week. And since the Twins aren't going to the playoffs, there's the added risk that the team just shuts him down.

Edinson Volquez, SP SD - It was tough to believe that Volquez had lasted in the Padres rotation as long as he had, but finally now, after allowing 15 earned runs over his last 10 innings (three starts), the Padres have yanked him from the rotation and sent him down to Triple-A Tuscon. Perhaps they're hoping he can help push their minor league club towards the PCL playoffs, but his days of helping the major league club are long gone.

Bruce Chen, SP KC - For those who are familiar with Chen, you knew it was just a matter of time before the wheels fell of the wagon here. Chen had been outstanding in his new relief role and was then mystifyingly dominant when re-entering the rotation. He's given up 13 runs over his last two starts (nine innings) and has seen his command disappear, posting just three strikeouts to six walks. Knowing his history, he's not even someone you can feel comfortable with playing the match-ups as he can continue to blow up against even the weakest of opponents.

Recent/Future Call-Ups to Watch

Tyler Skaggs, SP ARI - Having traded Ian Kennedy, the Diamondbacks are going to need some pitching help in September and while the young southpaw has just a 5.12 ERA over 38.2 innings this season, he remains the team's best option to close out the year and prove that he'll belong in the rotation next year.

Matt Davidson, 3B ARI - Though he hasn't seen consistent playing time, he could be one to watch once the calendar flips to September. Eric Chavez is still hurt and the team needs to see if they can stay in-house for the position next year. He's proven to be a sound defensive option and has developing power (16 HR, 31 doubles in Triple-A). He'll just need to fix that plate discipline and cut back on the strikeouts.

Josh Vitters, 3B CHC - While Donnie Murphy has been filling in admirably at third, the Cubs are going to have some tough roster decisions to make this winter and former the first-rounder is one of those tough decisions. He's been hurt most of the year, but has been playing well upon his return, posting a slash line of .295/.380/.465 with a .216 ISO and an 11-percent walk rate through 88 at-bats for Triple-A Iowa. If they are going to keep him on the roster, then they're going to need to see 60 or 70 at-bats from him in September.

Andrew Lambo OF PIT - He was brought up briefly, sent back down and brought back again when Starling Marte killed his fantasy owners with a trip to the disabled list. He was a bit of a disappointment in his early minor league years and a wrist injury in 2012 didn't help his stock either, but 32 home runs between Double and Triple-A are tough to ignore. His strikeouts have been a problem and he may not hit for a strong average, but if he can show some of this power at the big league level, he's going to make for a very helpful waiver claim.