To quote John Candy from the movie Rookie of the Year “This is it folks, this is what it’s all about. One week, there is no tomorrow. This is for the Whooole magilla, for the Whooole ball of wax, the Whooole kit and caboodle, the Whooole enchilada, the Whooole shootin match. This is for Aaall the marbles”. 25 weeks have come and gone. Congratulations if you are one of those teams still standing in H2H or sitting at the top of the rankings in your points or rotisserie league. It’s been a fun ride, but there is still one last hurdle.
The final week of the season can be cruel and unforgiving. Some ML teams that have nothing to play for will be giving some of their unknown quantities a chance to show what they can do. Other teams that have or are close to clinching things might decide to give some of their veteran players a rest or reshuffle the rotation in order to line things up for the playoffs. Finding a 2 start pitcher this week could be dicey, especially when dealing with a top of the rotation arm and more so if that pitcher is on a playoff bound team.
Unlike other weeks where you could skip a day or set your lineup the night before, there is no doing that now. Every day is important and anybody can be given a day off at any time. On Wednesday, I had 7 hitters on one team that were given the day off. No amount of waiver moves can plug that leak, but this is an example of what owners could have to deal with. If a player is not producing, if a guy on your bench is just there to give you depth, if you are not in a keeper or dynasty league, then every player that is not producing or not part of your regular lineup is expendable. In essence, your final week is like playing DFS (daily fantasy sports). Use those spare players to shop the waiver wire for the best possible options each day if you don’t have a strong regular player at a particular position. Check your lineup daily; 6:30 is the optimal time. Stream those pitchers if the circumstances call for it. And, most important of all, go with your gut. If your gut instincts have gotten you this far, don’t stop now.
One final note. There may be better players available to you depending on the depth or type of league you play in. Search your waiver wire looking at what players have done over the past 30 days, 14 days and 7 days. Do some comparisons with your current roster. You might be surprised at what you find.
OF Rusney Castillo (Red Sox): He should get plenty of playing time over the final week as the Red Sox want to know what their new toy can do. I wrote about Castillo when he was first signed and have recommended him as a player to stash. He batted .282 over 39 minor league at bats with 1 home run and 2 stolen bases. This is more of a speculative grab as he’s not a hot player, has limited experience in the states and hasn’t played every day for quite some time. The upside is intriguing though, and with so little on him as far as scouting reports go, it will be hard for pitchers to prepare against him. This could be lightning in a bottle or just a bottle rocket. Watch him over the weekend and make your own decision. I grabbed him in one league, but even I’m not sure if I am going to use him.
OF A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks): Another earlier suggestion as a player to stash, but unlike Rusney, I can fully endorse this pick up. Over the past two weeks, Pollock has looked like the man we all loved the first two months of the season. Pollock is filling up the stat sheets in all 5 fantasy categories and should be a lock for everyday playing time. Again, just like Rusney, I own Pollock in several leagues and he WILL be in my starting lineup.
3B Daivd Freese (Angels): Third base has been a black hole for some owners this year. If you are one of those that have played mix and match filling the position this year, Freese might be your best option on waivers for the final week. Not counting last night, Freese is on an 8 game hitting streak. Over that time he is 10 for 27 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs. He’s batting .353 for the month of September hitting 5th in the batting order. His hot bat and place in the order mean RBI opportunities, but with only 2 runs scored over the past 8 games you might have to look elsewhere for run production. Freese isn’t the best fantasy option in the world unless you get him at the right time; that time is now.
OF Oswaldo Arcia (Twins): Another guy with an unimpressive bottom line so his hot streak might go unnoticed. From September 6th, Arcia has raised his batting average from .216 to .231 (not including last night). In the past 7 days he’s gone 10 for 23 with 2 home runs, 6 RBIs and 4 runs scored. I wish I could say his strikeouts have improved over this time, but I can’t. His high K rate make him a risk to regress at any time which makes him more of a matchup play in my opinion. For the final week the Twins have a home series against the Angels and then a 4 game road series against the Tigers. I’d look to start him against the Angels depending on the matchup. The Detroit series you can play by ear as the Tigers are in a dog fight with the Royals for the top team in the division. If those 2 teams are close come next weekend, the pitchers could be a little more dialed in which could make for a tougher matchup for Arcia.
OF Lorenzo Cain (Royals): Cain is doing now what he has done all season, hitting for average. That may not seem like much, but never turn your nose up at a guy hitting close to .300 for the season. Over the past 2 weeks he has averaged a home run, stolen base and 3.5 runs and RBIs. Nothing eye-popping, but solid production with little downside. Sometimes all it takes is a steady bat in that fourth outfield slot which is exactly what Cain is. The Royals will be battling the Tigers for the top seed in Central all the way until the end so don’t expect Cain to slow down now. It may be crunch time for you in the game, but it’s crunch time for him in real life. That’s a good motivator for anyone.
1B/OF Steve Pearce (Orioles): After his last cold streak and minor injury that briefly took him out of the lineup, Pearce may be available. He’s looking to finish the season strong hitting .359 in September. Pearce has been on fire the past 6 games with 4 multi-hit games (10 for 20) with 4 homers, 9 RBIs and 6 runs scored. While he’s a much better hitter at home, he could be in line for a big week on the road. The Orioles face off against the Yankees and Blue Jays. If this were 2 years ago I might feel differently, but this year neither team has much to fear on the mound. It’s been a Cinderella season for Pearce who will probably turn back into a pumpkin in 2015. Until that clock strikes midnight, have one last dance with the princess.
SP Josh Collmenter (Diamondbacks): It has been a roller coaster ride for Collmenter in 2014. He was OK in April, very good in May, forgettable in July and August, trustworthy in August and a machine in September. Since his 4 inning disaster against the Marlins on August 17th, Collmenter has 5 solid games pitching 6 or more innings and has allowed no more than 2 earned runs in any of those games. He’s done that by keeping the ball inside the park, allowing only 1 home run in his last 5 games. The strikeout totals are not impressive, but don’t let that sway you. His ERA and WHIP alone can be a valuable asset this week given the fact he’s a 2-start pitcher. Arizona is on the road early next week and his first opponent is Minnesota (nice ballpark and fairly easy lineup). His second start is against the Cardinals. While the name should strike fear into you as a fantasy owner, if the Card’s have their division locked up by then you could see a good number of regulars on the bench. If that happens and Collmenter is facing a roster of second-rate players, it could make for a strong start so play that one by ear. Will Emerson & Tommy Landseadel usually cover pitchers on Sunday and Monday. If either of them recommend Collmenter, the odds increase in your favor.
RP Drew Storen (Nationals): His ownership should have been high even before he took over the closer role, but considering he’s available in 50% of Yahoo and 60% of CBS leagues, maybe some of you didn’t get the memo. OK, maybe that ownership level is on par considering it’s the end of the season and not everyone is paying attention, and this I take offence to. Storen has converted his last 6 save opportunities and holds an ERA for the season of 1.23. It’s a sin that he is so widely available. I don’t care if you are in the playoff hunt or not, the fact that you are out of it does not mean you should not pick up Storen. You should want him even more; by not picking him up, you are handing one of those playoff teams a top closer for the final week. For this, you should be ashamed of yourself (and I feel an article about this brewing). If Storen is available, regardless of your position in the league, add him to your roster.
Deep League Specials
2B-3B-SS Wilmer Flores (Mets): The Flores we are seeing as of late doesn’t resemble the one we saw in the minors. This version is hitting for power and stringing together multiple multi-hit games. The Mets have enough confidence in him that they have been batting him in the middle of their lineup (hitting 5th on most nights) so even if the power doesn’t show itself again, he will still have RBI opportunities. As a middle infield option he makes a great play, and could even have some use in 12 team leagues depending on your situation. Over the past week he is hitting over .350 which obviously won’t last, but we only need another week.
SS Brandon Crawford (Giants): I’m not a Crawford fan and his career numbers scream replacement player, but I can’t knock what he has done lately. He’s hitting an unrealistic .452 is September with 1 home run and 12 RBIs. Just what the Giants need as the chase the Dodgers for a division title and you chase a fantasy championship. You normally look for someone who isn’t hitting near the bottom of the order, but at this point you shouldn’t care where a guy is hitting, only that he is hitting, Period. In standard 12 teams leagues I’m sure you can find a better option, but in 14 team leagues or deeper, especially those that use a MI slot, Crawford could make a decent play. The Giants have a road series verse the Dodgers next week but are then home against the Padres for 4. Those 4 games are the ones I would want Crawford for if his hot hitting continues.
Since ownership on CBS and Fantrax is usually higher than Yahoo,
some of these players may be available in your league.
OF Leonys Martin (Rangers): Martin has been on a tear the past few weeks batting .375 with one homer and 6 stolen bases. He’s only scored 6 runs over that time which is slightly low, but the average and especially speed could come in handy if you lack a stolen base threat on your roster. Martin is available in 40% of leagues, and those are obviously the leagues that don’t realize he is hitting .300 since August.
OF Torii Hunter (Tigers): Considering he’s batting .285 on the season with 79 RBI, he shouldn’t be available in almost 40% of Yahoo leagues. If he is available it’s a crime. If for some reason he is available and you need convincing other than his obvious season stats, here is what he has done over the past 2 weeks. One home run, 6 RBIs, 9 runs scored and a batting average of .373 (and a .867 OPS if you use that instead of AVG). Hunter is hitting second in a hot Tigers lineup and will provide steady production with a very good batting average. He may be 39, but he’s playing like a 29-year-old kid. Hunter’s batting average is 20 points higher at home which is where the Tigers finish up next week. With games against the Twins and White Sox, you should be licking your chops and thanking your lucky stars if he’s out there.
SP Carlos Carrasco (Indians): With a 2.65 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, it is a mystery why he is available in 46% of Yahoo leagues. Since his start on August 10, Carrasco has allowed more than 1 earned run just once. That’s 7 of 8 games allowing only 1 or no earned runs. Six of those eight games he has gone at least 6 innings, 7+ in three of them. Zero earned runs in half of those games and 7 or more strikeouts in 5 out of 8. An off game at Detroit is his only blemish (they kind of have his number), but he doesn’t face the Tigers again. Next week Carrasco is a 2-start pitcher with home games against the Royals and Rays. The Royals have been playing well, but Carrasco has been pitching like an ace so I would have no fear in starting him both games if he’s available. If Carrasco is out there, I’m sure you’ve got a worthless player to jettison from him.
The following players could be getting a few days rest over the final week.
Be prepared and start looking for an adequate backup if you don’t already own one.
OF Matt Holliday (Cardinals): If this is your first year owning Holliday, you could be in for a rude awakening come the end of next week. His creaky back has acted up several times this year (as it has the past few years) and he has already been given off days here and there. With the Cardinals close to clinching, a few days off could be coming to give their aging star a break before playoffs begin. This is not an if scenario; Holliday will miss a few games next week, it’s almost a virtual guarantee. Having a spare outfielder or scouting the waiver wire in advance is advised.
1B Albert Pujols (Angels): The Angels have clinched the west in the American League and are only a few games away from taking home field advantage for the playoffs. Recently Pujols has been suffering from a slight hamstring injury, and you can bet that the Angels will not take any chances given his past health issues. The Angles have a number of young talented players on their roster, so expect Pujols to miss a few games between now and the end of the season (especially next weekend). C.J. Cron could be the main beneficiary here and could make a nice plug and play option.OF
Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees): Ellsbury exited Fridays game after 4 innings with a hamstring strain. He is slated to have an MRI but until that time, remove him from your lineup. Even if things come up clean, The Yankees are not playing for anything and it is doubtful they will take a chance with their multi-million dollar investment (like they are foolishly doing with Tanaka on Sunday). Plan on a replacement for Ellsbury for next week regardless of what the injury reports say since most of Ellsbury’s value relies on his legs being healthy.
OF Alex Rios (Rangers) and 3B Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals): These two should not come as a surprise but still deserve a mention. Rios has been out for over 2 weeks with a thumb injury and probably won’t be back this season. Even if he does return, I would not count on much given his struggles and the fact that he will probably be on his way out once the season is done. Zimmerman could return next week, but it’s doubtful the Nationals will pressure him into full-time duty with the playoffs on the horizon. Both players can be dropped in redraft leagues (if you haven’t done so already).
OF Jason Heyward (Braves): Atlanta’s playoff hopes are all but over, surprising to say that considering the high hopes for the team coming into the season. Heyward’s season was kind of “mehh”, not bad but nothing special overall. He recently injured his thumb so he has missed the past few games. With Braves out of contention, they have no need to rush Heyward back and more reason to sit him a few games over the final week even if he does deem himself healthy. If you have daily moves keep an eye on this, but if you have weekly lineups I would sit Heyward.
Every Veteran Player Next Weekend: Regardless of whether it’s a playoff contention team or one of the bottom feeders, many major league teams have a tendency to sit some of their big stars in one of the two final games of the season and let the kiddies play. In leagues that have weekly lineups, there is not much you can do other than cross your fingers and hold your breath. Leagues with daily roster moves need to pay extra close attention next weekend as those guys who you love and depended on all year might just be watching from the bench. Keep note of when games start, add some players to your watch list in advance and be prepared for a quick pickup should the need arise.
Good Luck to all of you in your H2H matchups and those of you fighting for those final points in your rotisserie and points leagues. If you need more helpful links, be sure to visit Fantasy Rundown daily as they keep you up to date with the best links from the top sources.