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Bits: A tribute to Helton, Pettitte, Rivera

9/23/2013

As the 2013 baseball season enters its final week, it seems an appropriate time to pay tribute to the once-productive players that occasionally carried fantasy teams but have already announced their intention to retire. On Sunday, Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton knocked in four runs while New York Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte tossed seven terrific innings of two-hit, two-run ball. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, with 44 saves this season, will also be stepping aside after next weekend. And don’t forget San Diego Padres outfielder Mark Kotsay! OK, perhaps you already have.

But with Helton, Pettitte and Rivera, whether the first two end up in the Hall of Fame or not -- Rivera’s clearly going as soon as eligible -- fantasy owners should remember the good times, and they were very good times. Helton was a top-10 fantasy option for several years, in part due to the luxury of playing half his games at Coors Field, but he wasn’t exactly miserable on the road, either. Helton averaged 35 home runs, 118 RBIs and a .340 batting average over his first seven seasons. Imagine that today. This season, it’s Miguel Cabrera doing this and that’s it. Helton is among the top-20 first basemen for the past 30 days, so in a deep league, one can do worse this final week.

Pettitte is expected to make one more start, Friday in Houston against the worst team in baseball, and those with something to play for and still using spot starters will want him active for that one. Pettitte, with 255 career wins, isn’t being discussed without current merits, after all; his ERA over the past month, in seven outings, is 2.40, and the Astros strike out quite a bit. Pettitte is available in more than 75 percent of ESPN standard leagues.

And then there’s Rivera. Well, what more can be said about him? Now 44 years old, he missed nearly all of the 2012 season with a knee injury and came back as strong as ever. He’s No. 5 on the Player Rater among closers. His next save will be his 45th, a number he’s topped only twice in 19 seasons. And unlike too many closers this month that have been grossly underused -- like Texas Rangers right-hander Joe Nathan -- Rivera has been asked to get more than three outs on several occasions, including Sunday when he earned five outs. Others piled on a lot more strikeouts, but this is the best closer in fantasy history, too. Let’s enjoy his final week as well.

Box score bits (AL): Astros outfielder Chris Carter smacked his 29th home run Sunday. Sure, the guy strikes out a ton and will never win a batting title, but in a league in which only 10 hitters have 30 home runs, he’s worth owning regardless. … Detroit Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos hit a pair of singles Sunday while batting ninth and playing left field. Castellanos, who hit 18 home runs at Triple-A Toledo, could see more playing time the final week with the AL Central all but locked up. … Tampa Bay Rays prospect Enny Romero made his big league debut Sunday with 4 2/3 shutout innings, allowing one hit and four walks to the Baltimore Orioles. He didn’t win, but Romero, who had a strong season at Double-A Montgomery, is the latest young Ray to watch for dynasty formats. He might also make another start this week. … Los Angeles Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun keeps hitting for power, thus he’s worth a look this final week. Calhoun homered Sunday, his eighth in 51 games. … Minnesota Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia homered and knocked in six runs Sunday. Arcia sure doesn’t walk much (23 walks, 113 strikeouts), but should be a 20-homer threat next season. … If this was it for Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez, it was worth it. King Felix fanned 10 Angels Sunday, the first pitcher to ever do so in a four-inning outing. Hernandez, pitching for the first time since September 2 due to back woes, lowered his ERA to 2.99 and has 210 strikeouts, currently fifth in baseball. That should be enough to make him the No. 2 pitcher in 2014 drafts, after Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw.

Box score bits (NL): Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons smacked two home runs in Sunday’s win, giving him 17 on the season. Simmons, a defensive whiz hitting .246, is still worthy of fantasy attention for the power; after all, only seven middle infielders have hit 20 home runs this season. Simmons is close. … Not a bad week for San Diego Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner. Early in the week, he nearly threw a perfect game in Pittsburgh. On Sunday, Cashner allowed one unearned run against the Los Angeles Dodgers, fanning seven in seven innings. Cashner’s durability might always be questioned, but the skills can’t be. Consider him a potential top-30 starter in 2014. … There was one closer change over the weekend, as the Chicago Cubs finally let right-hander Pedro Strop have a chance to close (after hinting at it for months), but keep an eye on the St. Louis Cardinals. Right-hander Edward Mujica, with 37 saves and a sub-1.00 WHIP, hasn’t been sharp of late. Look for Trevor Rosenthal or John Axford to get a save chance, or perhaps more, this week. I’d pick Rosenthal. … Arizona Diamondbacks third base prospect Matt Davidson can look forward to many more series at Coors Field. On Sunday he blasted a three-run home run and batted in four. Davidson has legit power, and should get a shot to win a starting job in 2014.