Monday, September 16, 2013
Bits: Nationals continue to tear it up
By Eric Karabell
The hottest team in the National League, much to the chagrin of the suddenly vulnerable Cincinnati Reds, is the Washington Nationals. The Nats have won eight of 10 games and 19 of 25, and among the key hitters in the surge to contention have been third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, outfielder Jayson Werth and shortstop Ian Desmond, each owned in 100 percent of ESPN standard leagues. Of course, they're not the only players putting up good numbers, and fantasy owners still playing for something should notice two others batsmen.
Outfielder Denard Span boasts a 26-game hitting streak, one shy of the major league best for this season, held by Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer. Span has his batting average up to .284, and while he didn't score a run or steal a base in Sunday's 11-2 romp over the pitching-poor Philadelphia Phillies, he scored two runs and stole three bases Saturday. Span is hitting .320 since the All-Star break, and while he is on ESPN's most-added list, he remains available in roughly half of ESPN leagues. Span is batting .341 against the Miami Marlins this season, and the Nationals face the Marlins later this week (after facing the Atlanta Braves).
[+]Enlarge Brad Mills/US PresswireWilson Ramos ranks fifth among catchers on the Player Rater over the past 30 days.
Catcher Wilson Ramos, meanwhile, continues to have a monster second half, among the best for his position. Ramos homered among his four hits in as many at-bats and knocked in five runs Sunday, and now has 13 home runs and 49 RBIs in only 54 games since coming off the disabled list in July. That's pretty good! Ramos, who has started 23 consecutive games behind the plate -- no catcher has a longer streak in 2013, even Yadier Molina -- is available in two-thirds of ESPN standard leagues, and looks like a potential 25-homer bat and top-10 backstop in the future.
Box score bits (NL):San Diego Padres outfielder Will Venable became the fourth member of the 20-homer, 20-steal club Sunday, stealing his 20th base, to go with 22 home runs and a surprising .274 batting average. Venable probably won't hit .274 in 2014; that's tough to do with 27 walks against 106 strikeouts and in Petco Park half the time. But as a late-round 20/20 option, sure, go get him. Padres right-hander Burch Smith earned his first big league win Sunday, striking out 10 Braves over seven shutout innings of three-hit ball. Smith thrived in the minors the past two seasons and does bring strikeout potential. Consider him a spot-start option next weekend at home. Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Matt Davidson hit his first big league home run Sunday. Davidson has played sparingly, but he hit for power in the minors after being a first-round pick. Dynasty-league owners should consider stashing Davidson for 2014 and beyond. Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon led off Sunday, singled twice, drew a walk, scored a run and stole his ninth base in 31 games. Oh, if only this guy could hit enough to earn a starting role. Unfortunately, Sunday is probably not the start of something big. Hanley Ramirez sat this weekend because of a back injury, but is expected to play this week. In case you missed it, San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence finished arguably the greatest offensive week of the season with two home runs Sunday. Pence hit six home runs and knocked in 19 in his past six games. He already has reached a career best with 21 stolen bases, and his next home run, should he hit one, will be a career-high 26th.
Box score bits (AL):Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila cranked a pair of home runs Sunday, giving him 11 in a disappointing season. Avila, who also had a four-hit game earlier in the week, was a fantasy standout in 2011, but has dealt with injuries since. That said, he's hitting .412 in September and is readily available in ESPN standard leagues. Los Angeles Angels right-hander Ernesto Frieri earned a two-inning save Sunday, and has permitted one run and only three walks in his past 16 2/3 innings. He's pretty safe now. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus got a deserved day off Sunday, but he homered Friday and Saturday after coming off the disabled list for an oblique injury. Rasmus has 20 home runs and a .275 batting average this year, and is available in nearly half of ESPN leagues. Cleveland Indians first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher homered twice Sunday, giving him his ninth consecutive 20-homer campaign, which is quite a feat. Fantasy owners might be disappointed in the overall numbers, but there's also a price to pay for consistency and reliability. Swisher can be added as a free agent in a quarter of leagues. Oakland Athletics right-hander Jarrod Parker was scratched from his Sunday outing because of an illness, but is expected to face the Angels on Monday night. Parker, who hasn't lost in more than two months, should be activated by fantasy owners for his pending two-start week.