- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Once upon a time -- and it was really only two seasons ago -- Austin Jackson was a desirable fantasy option when he scored 99 runs for the Detroit Tigers in 129 games, hitting .272 with 12 home runs and eight stolen bases. It was a bit disappointing, because in 2012, Jackson was a borderline top-10 outfielder, hitting .300 with better numbers across the board. But still, this was a good player. Then he was dealt to the Seattle Mariners, and regression set in. Jackson wasn’t even a top-60 outfielder in this season’s average live drafts, and he’s currently 45th at the position on the ESPN Player Rater. Now he’s a member of the Chicago Cubs, having been acquired Monday night before the deadline for postseason roster eligibility, and it’s easy to see how he can become relevant.
The Cubs haven’t found a regular right fielder since Jorge Soler went to the disabled list with an oblique injury, and this is a further reminder to Soler owners to move on. Jackson could slot in there or in center field for Dexter Fowler, or perhaps he’s used more as a defensive option, since catcher Kyle Schwarber has been handling left field and Chris Coghlan really isn’t a right fielder. It could also affect how Javier Baez is used, since his best shot for playing time figures to be at second base or third, depending on whether Kris Bryant moves to right field. Regardless, expect Joe Maddon to be creative. Jackson is not one of those right-hander hitters inept against right-handed pitching, and he’s capable of stealing bases, though his career-best remains 27 swipes, as a rookie in 2010. If you’ve got a waiver spot or FAAB dollars left in your NL-only league, go for it. It’s not likely it’ll be better spent later in September.
I continue to be interested, perhaps foolishly, in how Jackson replacement Brad Miller will fare in his role as Seattle’s new center fielder. While Jackson is an established player, generally safe for a .270 batting average and modest steals, Miller figured to be a middle infielder with good pop -- someone who could develop into a 20-homer option. So far it hasn’t happened. Only 25, Miller hits left-handed and is one home run away from double digits in homers and stolen bases, his 12th of the latter coming Monday night. Hey, that’s valuable, especially with shortstop eligibility. Soon, Miller will add outfield eligibility. It’s not a stretch to say Miller could be a usable middle infield option in 10- and 12-team formats and better for fantasy than the departed Jackson. Rookie Ketel Marte is the Mariners’ new shortstop.
The other trades Monday – and there shouldn’t be more until the offseason – also involved outfielders and were a bit less exciting, though they could offer injury insight. The top NL West teams acquired help, neither of whom should be fantasy relevant. The Los Angeles Dodgers picked up Justin Ruggiano from the Mariners, while the San Francisco Giants got Alejandro De Aza from the Boston Red Sox. Ruggiano used to be one of my faves, a sneaky contributor in home runs and stolen bases, and he was hitting well at Triple-A Tacoma. He’s basically Yasiel Puig (hamstring) and Enrique Hernandez (hamstring) insurance. Those guys should miss another two weeks, at least. De Aza is safer and more productive, and his acquisition could mean Hunter Pence (oblique) is nowhere near a return to action, which is a bigger fantasy problem. I’d add De Aza before Ruggiano, but don’t expect many at-bats. Jonny Gomes also went from the Atlanta Braves to the Kansas City Royals, where he can pinch hit against left-handers, but that doesn’t help us much. We don’t need clubhouse guys in fantasy!
AL report: Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado started his first big league game at shortstop Monday, teasing his fantasy owners, but don’t expect this to be a long-term thing. J.J. Hardy is expected to return to the lineup this weekend. Still, in leagues with one game triggering eligibility, this matters. At the plate, Machado hit two singles in five at-bats and had a home run taken away by an incredible Kevin Kiermaier catch. … The Orioles also used catcher Matt Wieters at first base, for the third time this year. It didn’t help in a 6-3 loss. Wieters homered once in August. Perhaps he’ll return to top-10 catcher status in 2016, but he’s not showing it this year. … New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was absent from the lineup yet again, as his bruised shin continues to be a problem. Greg Bird continues to handle first base, and perhaps Alex Rodriguez will get a chance as well. I’m not expecting Teixeira to contribute for another week, at least. … More eligibility interest: Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder notched his 16th game there Monday, in San Diego, closing in on the 20 he’ll need to be eligible there in 2016 drafts. It matters. … Remember the last time we saw Texas Rangers prospect Jurickson Profar in a game? It was 2013. Rumor is Profar will get a September call-up, but more to pinch hit and run for others. Don’t get too excited. Profar’s career has been derailed by shoulder woes. … Cleveland Indians right-hander Danny Salazar outdueled Toronto Blue Jays lefty David Price, striking out 10 over seven innings. Salazar continues to thrive, as he’s the No. 17 starting pitcher on the Player Rater for the season. I’m thinking he might end up there for 2016 drafts as well.
NL report: Make that 19 consecutive winless starts for Atlanta Braves right-hander Shelby Miller. He was moved up a day due to Mike Foltynewicz being scratched for illness and tossed seven innings of one-run ball. And we’re still waiting for the Braves to score. Miller’s owners are frustrated, but he’s got a top-10 ERA. Keep the faith. … Make that six stolen bases for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. It might not seem like much, but no backstop has achieved more. … The St. Louis Cardinals scratched right-hander Carlos Martinez from Tuesday’s start, and young lefty Marco Gonzales will finally make his season debut. Yes, we’ve been talking about this fellow for months, but he’s battled injury and command issues in the minors. There are far better options for Tuesday. … Remember when everyone loved Dodgers slugger Alex Guerrero? That was in May. He whiffed as a pinch-hitter Monday and is hitting .229 with a .254 OBP. Perhaps he’ll thrive next year -- somewhere else with regular at-bats -- but don’t bet on it. … The San Diego Padres think so much of rookie outfielder Travis Jankowski they bat him ninth, after the pitcher, but he had two hits and his first stolen base Monday. He sure can run, if you need help there. … Giants outfielder Marlon Byrd doesn’t get much credit, but he’s hitting .286 for his new team with 17 RBIs in 10 games. He’s knocked in three or more runs in four of his past five contests, and he’s readily available in ESPN standard leagues. … I’m thinking Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Brad Ziegler will cede closing duties today to anyone else, but probably Daniel Hudson or David Hernandez. Ziegler was lit up for four runs in losing Monday’s game, and over two days, he has permitted 10 hits and seven runs while retiring seven hitters.