Giancarlo Stanton's season done? 

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
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Giancarlo StantonAP Photo/Morry GashGiancarlo Stanton suffered facial lacerations, facial fractures and dental damage after being hit.
Thursday night was an oddly dark one around the major leagues as several players were hit by pitches and forced to leave games, with the biggest name being potential National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The excellent Miami Marlins outfielder was struck by Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers in the face and taken off on a stretcher, and while our first, second and third thoughts should go to Stanton's health, certainly this is also going to affect the Marlins and fantasy owners. It seems unlikely that Stanton, who entered Thursday as fantasy's No. 3 option on the Player Rater, is going to play again this season.

Stanton, who doubled in two official at-bats and raised his batting average to .288, was ruled to have swung at the pitch that hit him below the left eye, giving him a laceration. The Marlins, who lost and fell to three games under .500, remain nominal wild-card contenders in theory, but even then they don't figure to rush their star player back. It would be great for everyone if Stanton could play again and continue his season power show. He leads the NL with 37 home runs, with 10 in the past 30 days, and 105 RBIs, and he had stolen a pair of bases the past few days. Sorry, folks; prepare to do without him. Outfielders available in more than half of ESPN standard leagues that have shown recent power include Oswaldo Arcia, Steve Pearce, Dayan Viciedo, Chris Heisey, Colby Rasmus and, believe it or not, Gregor Blanco. The Marlins will likely use Enrique Hernandez, Jordany Valdespin and Jeff Baker. Pass.

Bounce back coming for low-OPS players? 

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
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Allen CraigAP Photo/Steven SenneAllen Craig's .615 OPS this season is a career low. Should fantasy owners trust him in 2015?
None of the 152 hitters qualified for the batting title have a lower OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) than Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, but he wasn't really expected to aid a fantasy team this season. However, several others near the bottom 10 of this category were. I have thoughts on them, so here we go:

Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers: His OPS is a weak .600 after his single in three at-bats Wednesday, though he did steal his 18th base. Put simply, Segura has been terrible -- just as he was the second half of last season. So when a young player has two starkly different halves of baseball, which one do we believe? I didn't think Segura would be quite this awful, but it's always the second half. No power. No plate discipline. Big 2014 bust.

Allen Craig, 1B/OF, Boston Red Sox:

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Will Wright, Pedroia ever be top-50 again? 

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
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It seems a bit outrageous now, but a few seasons ago New York Mets third baseman David Wright and Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia were regarded as late first-round picks in fantasy drafts, deliverers of five-category goodness and viewed as secure, reliable options. On Tuesday, these guys were shut down by their respective teams for the duration of the season due to injuries that surely helped diminish their statistical upside. The question now, other than how contending fantasy squads replace them the final two weeks, is will we ever see Wright and Pedroia deliver top-50 numbers again?

[+] EnlargeDavid Wright
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsDavid Wright had career lows in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs this season.
The answer to the first question is rather simple: It's not going to be overtly difficult to replace their numbers the rest of the way. Wright, whose left shoulder had been bothering him for months and those watching him regularly could see it in his play and actions, had actually hit a bit better of late but still hadn't homered since July 11. He finishes his worst big league season with eight home runs, eight stolen bases and a .269 batting average that lowered his career mark to .298. A third-round choice in ESPN average live drafts (22nd overall), Wright is the No. 16 third baseman as of Wednesday.


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Michael Cuddyer homers in return 

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
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Michael CuddyerJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesMichael Cuddyer is hitting .328 with a .936 OPS but has been on the DL three times this year.
No player has a higher batting average with more than 600 at-bats since the start of the 2013 season than Colorado Rockies outfielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer -- you can look it up! -- so fantasy owners certainly welcomed his return from the disabled list Monday. Cuddyer played first base against New York Mets lefty Jonathon Niese, giving Justin Morneau a day off, and he homered in his first at-bat of what ended up a 3-2 loss. It will be interesting to see how Cuddyer is deployed in the final three weeks of the regular season, as the Rockies have a crowded situation, and they certainly don't seem to owe the free-agent-to-be playing time.


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Juan Lagares running wild 

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
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Juan LagaresDavid Kohl/USA TODAY SportsJuan Lagares has eight steals in his past nine games and sports a nice .282 average.
New York Mets outfielder Juan Lagares entered this season known mainly for his elite glove work as opposed to anything he has shown at the plate, but so far his September play has been extremely valuable for fantasy owners looking for an edge in stolen bases. On Sunday at Cincinnati, Lagares stole second base three times against three different right-handed pitchers, giving him 12 on the season, but a superb eight of them have come over the past nine games. That's right, nobody is running more in September than Lagares, and he's still available in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues.

Lagares, an absolute joy to watch defensively in center field, is hardly an ideal choice for a leadoff hitter, as he's drawn 19 walks this season against 84 strikeouts in more than 400 plate appearances, but it appears this recent alteration in lineup duties is the main impetus for the adjustment in fantasy relevance. And you know what, we're OK with that! Lagares, 25, might have some more development left as a hitter, but he doesn't possess much power and his current batting average of .282 is certainly being propped up to some degree by a high BABIP. Plus, as noted, he doesn't get on base much. Still, Lagares walked twice Sunday. It's never too late to learn a new skill!


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What to expect from Michael Wacha 

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
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Michael Wacha Mike McGinnis/Getty ImagesMichael Wacha has compiled a 2.79 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in his 31 career appearances.

St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha never really had a chance to help fantasy owners much in his return to the mound Thursday, but that shouldn't be a problem moving ahead. Wacha tossed 50 pitches in three innings in what ended up being a crucial 3-2 win over the plummeting Milwaukee Brewers, and his teammates and management seemed overjoyed by how good he looked. Wacha, on a strict pitch count, broke 97 mph with his fastball, which he kept low in the zone, and was a bit spotty with curveball and changeup command, but he showed no ill effects from the shoulder woes that kept him out since mid-June. And next week he's scheduled to make two starts, at the Cincinnati Reds and at home against the Colorado Rockies, two lineups he should handle in those places. Michael Wacha, one of the heroes of the 2013 second half, is back.

Wacha is near the top of ESPN's most-added list and should be, for while there's tremendous pitching depth this season, he could be a real difference-maker over four or five starts. He debuted last season at 21 years old and dominated the final six weeks (2.11 ERA, 51 Ks in 47 innings), but to be fair, isn't the most experienced guy. Can he pitch like that again? What about the shoulder woes? The Cardinals claim he wasn't rushed back to the rotation because there's another pennant race going on -- there always is with the Cardinals -- but the time off was used to strengthen his balky shoulder, his core and lower body. The assortment of pitches Wacha throws, well, there was little questioning it Thursday, and one can see how there's a future ace looming.


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Dickerson could be top-10 OF in 2015 

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
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Corey DickersonThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesCorey Dickerson smacked two home runs Wednesday, upping his OPS to .946 for the season.
Colorado Rockies hitters obviously hold a special place in the hearts of fantasy owners due to playing half their games in a wonderful offensive palace, but it is mildly interesting that only two Rockies finished last season among the top 50 options on the ESPN Player Rater and only two are likely to do so in 2014. Have Rockies hitters become a tad overrated? Perhaps, but next year is shaping up nicely if you want to be optimistic about health. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki remains a wonderful, if brittle, talent, but who's the No. 2 Rockies player off the 2015 board? We've been presuming it will be outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, a top-five overall pick this year who succumbed to injury, but Corey Dickerson, who homered twice Wednesday and has been really good in his truncated season, could bring more value.

Gonzalez will have his streak of four consecutive 20-homer, 20-steal seasons end this year, but he's only 29 years old, and can surely return to prior heights. He was hitting .300 every year, and while CarGo's going to miss his fair share of games each season, my gut tells me he's arguably a third-round pick next year, a top-10 outfielder. Dickerson likely deserves similar attention, though.

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Fantasy impact of Carlos Gomez injury 

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
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Carlos GomezMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesCarlos Gomez has had at least a .280 average, 80 runs scored, 20 HRs and 65 RBIs in each of the past two years, after never having done so before.
The Milwaukee Brewers and fantasy owners received tough news on the left wrist injury suffered by awesome outfielder Carlos Gomez, one that could keep him out of action the next two weeks, if not more. Fantasy owners wisely love Gomez, who entered Tuesday as the No. 10 option on the season Player Rater and seventh among all hitters with a .282 batting average, 21 home runs and 29 stolen bases. Gomez is eighth in the majors in stolen bases, and the top seven options have combined for 38 home runs. He has 21. Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is the only other player with as many as 20 home runs and 20 steals. While Gomez was hitting .219 over the past 30 days, which won't be missed, the six home runs and nine stolen bases will be.

For those needing every last bench spot in re-draft formats, yeah, if you need to drop Gomez, go for it. It's a wrist injury and there's little guarantee Gomez will hit upon return, or if he will return at all. Look around the league at other guys getting shut down left and right. Sure, the Brewers are a contender, but they might not be in a week. We could see Gomez pinch run, but since it's September and rosters have expanded there's no need for players to be placed on the disabled list, so don't look for the asterisk in our game. There are three-plus weeks remaining in the season. Those in their head-to-head playoffs, in which the season could end this weekend, also will be looking for every available edge. The truth is nobody knows when Gomez can play again, but the Brewers do have outfield depth and Gomez is a major part of their future, so I'm guessing no matter how many games the Brewers lose, he won't be rushed. Gerardo Parra handled center field Tuesday and he's a reasonable pickup in standard leagues. Parra homered Monday and stole a base last week and is on pace to reach double-digits in each.


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Call-ups with potential fantasy value 

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
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Alex GuerreroBrendon Thorne/MLB/Getty ImagesNeed some help at second base? Dodgers call-up Alex Guerrero could be your man.
The first day of September doesn't merely highlight the opening of the final month of regular-season baseball, but it's time for an influx of young players to join the league as rosters expand. The top teams will promote prospects but probably not play them much. The bad teams will be more likely to see what the kids can do.

My colleague Christopher Crawford wrote about some of the more interesting high-impact call-ups, several top prospects among them, but in addition to those fellows I have some others to add to the potential fantasy mix

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Surprises abound on leaderboards 

August, 29, 2014
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With a month of games to go in the regular season, the races for individual statistical honors are still up for grabs and in most cases they feature some surprising names. That's part of the fun of it for me. Anyone could have predicted Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to lead everyone in home runs or Los Angeles Dodgers ace lefty Clayton Kershaw to set the pace in wins and ERA, but how about Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz, Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Wily Peralta and … have you seen the NL batting race? It's fun! Let's share a few thoughts on the races.

AL batting champ: In March, I actually predicted Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano to win this title, and he's close, a tad behind Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, Detroit Tigers first baseman Victor Martinez and Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. Two of those fellows are 35 years old and Cano is 31. Don't forget the old guys in drafts! And all four of these players are probably in my top 25 next season as well.


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Add Yadier Molina now 

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
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Yadier MolinaFrank Victores/USA TODAY SportsYadier Molina generated a .751 OPS in 325 plate appearances this season prior to a thumb injury.
The St. Louis Cardinals had to be hoping that when superb catcher Yadier Molina was lost for a few months with a thumb injury, they could merely remain within striking distance of the NL Central lead. Mission accomplished there. The Cardinals are NL wild-card leaders, and the Milwaukee Brewers certainly didn't pull away in the division. Plenty of fantasy owners, however, moved on from the 50th overall pick and No. 2 catcher in ESPN average live drafts. Well, now it's time to become invested in Molina again!

Some will be cautious -- worried that a thumb injury suppresses power -- and while that certainly can be true, I view a blanket statement like this as total guesswork. We can't judge all thumb injuries the same. Perhaps Molina, now rested from his long break and not as fatigued in comparison to most backstops who have been grinding it out five or six days a week in that span, is ready to become the hitter he was in previous seasons.

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Non-closer RPs to consider adding 

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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Dellin BetancesNoah K. Murray/USA TODAY SportsDellin Betances has 113 strikeouts in 76 innings this season; he may be the Yankees' closer in 2015.
Saves aren't everything. Sure, the most popular relief pitchers in fantasy leagues are the ones who pitch the ninth inning with small leads for that very statistic, but as we approach September, it's time for many fantasy owners to take another look at their league rules and their team needs.

Does your league have a pitcher starts limit? One of mine does, and I'm a tad over the pace of 200 for the season, meaning it was time to search for some top-notch pitchers that neither start nor finish games. They're out there. Plus, instead of going down the stretch with a starting pitcher who ruins ERA and WHIP, safe innings are often preferred, even without the win potential.

Here are 10 of the best non-save relievers, and all are available in plenty of leagues.

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Can you still trust in Chris Davis? 

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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Chris Davis Rob Carr/Getty ImagesChris Davis hit his 22nd homer Monday but is still hitting just .190 for the season.
Baltimore Orioles first baseman/third baseman Chris Davis entered Monday as the No. 23 player on his own team over the past 30 days on the ESPN Player Rater, well behind the injured Manny Machado, but also after relievers T.J. McFarland, Brad Brach and Tommy Hunter, and the not-so-great Delmon Young. That certainly tells a story, and it's why the first-round pick from a few months ago is also among the top-10 most dropped corner infielders. From 53 home runs and a strong .286 batting average to ... this.

Davis homered Monday, and just like the similar Pittsburgh Pirates corner infielder Pedro Alvarez, who also hit a baseball over a fence Monday, I can't tell you if it's the beginning of something great and you should be a bit more patient before sending him to free agency or if it's simply a one-day reprieve. Personally, I'd wait on both of them. Some would say a team that chose Davis in the first round probably isn't in contention any longer, but I know that's not true. A fantasy team, regardless of sport, can mess up a first-round pick and make up for it. It's tougher when that fellow is hitting .190 for the season, and .162 since the All-Star break, but still, Davis does have 22 home runs. He's contributed something.


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Options for Sean Doolittle owners 

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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Sean DoolittleMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesSean Doolittle has 80 strikeouts, 20 saves, a 2.28 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in 55 1/3 innings this season.
A near-top 10 closer for the season on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater hit the disabled list Sunday with an intercostal strain in his side, opening up an opportunity for saves in the Oakland Athletics bullpen. Yes, lefty Sean Doolittle has done quite a bit in his breakout season, saving 20 games with a 2.28 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and ridiculous strikeout-to-walk rate (80-5!), but it wouldn't be a stretch to say we don't see him again the rest of the regular season. These oblique injuries generally take at least three or four weeks to heal and by then, who knows what's happening with the A's or likely replacement Luke Gregerson.

Gregerson, the former San Diego Padres setup man acquired prior to the season for Seth Smith, is a veteran right-hander with saves in five of his six big league seasons, and he's enjoying his own pretty special season statistically. Since I never believe a setup man is incapable of closing simply because he hasn't proved it before -- had Doolittle proved it? -- I see many saves coming Gregerson's direction. The A’s could also keep their setup alignment the same and opt for another pitcher, like lefty Eric O'Flaherty, to step in for saves, but I still expect Gregerson to get a look at times. Oakland has been coy about its new ninth-inning option thus far, and thanks to lefty Scott Kazmir getting pounded Sunday night by the Los Angeles Angels there was no save chance. But, I doubt Ryan Cook, O'Flaherty or anyone else find their way into regular saves. Gregerson is more than capable, so add him right away in all formats.

As for whether fantasy owners should simply release Doolittle

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Wil MyersKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsWil Myers has struggled in his second season, including a .177/.239/.274 slash line versus lefties.

It's difficult to tell if Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers would be owned in roughly half of ESPN's standard leagues, and be one of the most-added players over the past week, had he not won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2013. It might sound unfair, but Myers is hitting .221 and he missed nearly three months with a wrist fracture that was not dealt with surgically. I like Myers and think his future -- starting next spring -- is bright, but this sure seems like a case of name value affecting a player's ownership, and awards tend to feed that beast more than most factors.


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