Playing for keep(er)s

The fantasy baseball season is winding down. Perhaps your league has 1 or 2 more head-to-head weeks before the playoffs start. Maybe you still have a shot to make the postseason. Maybe, like me, you would need a lot of help to get into the playoffs.  For those of you in standard leagues, the trade deadline has come and gone.  I am a big fan of customizing your leagues trade deadline.  With teams fighting for playoff spots a deadline shifted to the week before the playoffs can lead to a much more active deadline.  If you play in a custom league (which more people are these days),  you may be better served to make some deals and land some assets you can use next season. Here are some possible targets in keeper leagues that I would be looking to land.

Injured Studs

Owners at the top of the standings usually are fortunate to own a few stud hitters.  Several elite bats have hit the DL, many for the remainder of the season.  If you can send pieces that fill that gap you could land a great upgrade for next season.

Troy Tulowitzki: Tulo was putting up insane numbers before his 2014 was derailed by injury.  In 91 games, the Rockies SS had 21 HR to go with a  .340 average.   Tulo is always an injury risk, but he is the top SS in fantasy when healthy.  His owners are likely looking for a hefty return, but could a package with resurgent Starlin Castro, maybe another solid hitter and an arm land you an elite stud for 2015?  Certainly worth kicking the tires.

Carlos Gonzalez: Cargo is another fragile player in Colorado.  And another who can be elite when he is healthy.  Certainly laboring through 2014, playing in only 70 games before season-ending surgery.  He is a legit 20-20 outfielder with a 0.300 average.  There are plenty of over-achieving OF that you might be able to send in a package to a frustrated owner.

Paul Goldschmidt: Goldy is the guy I would love to land.  He is a 30 HR, double-digit SB and .300 average 1B.  Could you deal a package of Jose Abreu and some other pieces to land Goldy?  The uptick in average and ability to steal bases would certainly be worth the temporary loss of power if your team is already packing their golf bags for 2014.

Hanley Ramirez: I pegged Hanley to be the top SS in 2014, and while 12 HR, 12 SB in 100 games does not put him at the top of the rankings, the 30-year old is a player to target.  The Dodgers have a great lineup, and Hanley will always have ample chances to drive in runs and score.  He won’t steal 50 bases again, but he could approach 25 HR again, and power from your SS is not easy to find in fantasy.

Future Studs

Many young players were starting to make noise before injuries brought their value down.  Now is the time to land these future studs.

Michael Wacha: We all remember what Wacha did in the postseason in 2013, and he was looking like a future ace in 15 games in 2014.  Sure, his record was a meager 5-5, but his ERA was under 3, his K/9 was over 8.  The Cardinals will win games, Wacha will put up solid peripheral stats, and while the injury concerns are real, he is worth the risk.

Manny Machado: Machado is a Gold Glove 3B and was on pace to set a career high in HR (12 through 82 games).  Baltimore has revamped their offense, and Machado will benefit.  This may be the last offseason to land one of the top 3B of the next 5 years.

Gregory Polanco: Polanco demolished minor league pitching and was living up to all the hype when he first hit the majors.  The expected adjustment came, and Polanco is now hitting 0.250.  He does have 6 HR and 12 SB.  Polanco will be a staple in the Pirates OF and for a rebuilding fantasy team a great anchor in your outfield.

Wil Myers: Myers may be coming back this week, so time is short to land him in a deal.  If he shows some rust, make a quick offer.  He has 25-30 HR power, speed to swipe double-digit steals.  Perhaps his one shortcoming is that he plays in an often weaker Tampa Bay lineup.

Sonny Gray: Gray started the 2014 season with 10 consecutive quality starts.  He has given up 12 runs over his last 16.2 innings.  Could he be showing some signs of wearing down?  Is his owner concerned about skipped starts or more poor outings in the fantasy postseason?  Gray is an ace already, and one you should target.

Struggling Youngsters

Xander Bogaerts: There has been talk all year around Boston about the struggles of Xander Bogaerts.  Stephen Drew was signed to play SS because Bogaerts was not playing like Ozzie Smith.  Now Bogaerts is back at SS, but after blowing a sure double play the other day, the neigh sayers are back.  Let’s remember that Bogaerts is only 21 years old.  Let’s remember that he had just over 300 plate appearances above AA before this season.  He may not be the next A-rod, but Bogaerts should be the SS of the future in Boston and a very good fantasy play.

Bryce Harper: Earlier this year I wrote about the fragility of Harper and how owners might be leery to own him heading into the playoffs.  Then he showed his injury potential and has played in 63 games this year.  He has shown his immaturity in questioning his managers lineup decisions.  Let’s not forget that he is the same age as Xander Bogaerts.  I own Harper in a league where I can keep him forever, and I plan on keeping him.  He has immense power.  He plays every game hard.  He is just fun to watch.  And he is a player that I think you can legitimately get from his owner if his owner is in the hunt.

Good luck in your playoff push and in any last-minute deals you are able to pull off.