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As the calendar hits August, Fantasy owners should realize we are in the stretch run of the season! Whether you’re trying to make up a few points in your Roto league or need a couple of more wins to seal a playoff berth in your head-to-head league, this is the crucial point of the season. A key pickup or drop, as you will see later in this article, could be enough to give your team the push it needs. Many of the players mentioned are owned in thirty percent or less of leagues, making them highly available for your playoff push. Let’s get started with The Watch List.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the clock has struck midnight on Chris Carter. Many of you out there likely drafted Carter
and envisioned a legit 40 home run threat. Even I drafted him in a league and have given him far too many chances to turn it around. Just as you get ready to drop him, he hits a home run and you start thinking about one of those classic Carter hot streaks we know he is capable of. Give it up. Carter still strikes out in one-third of his at bats, and his Isolated Power (ISO) sits at .200, the lowest it has been since he became an everyday player. His BABIP is also a career worst, which explains his .181 BA, and his hard hit percentage is at its lowest since 2011. He has had a total of nine plate appearances since August 1, is now part of a three-way platoon at first base and seeing the least amount of playing time. Carter should only be rostered in very deep roto formats for those hoping he goes on a huge power surge. Everyone else? Cut him.
Luckily for you, this article showcases hitters who have performed well as of late and could replace Carter in your lineup. One option has been a player who can be dubbed as the Fantasy Swiss Army Knife, Yangervis Solarte. The reason he can be called that is because he has eligibility at every position aside from catcher and shortstop. Solarte saw his 11-game hitting streak, in which he had 19 hits during that stretch, snapped last night. Since July 18, he has slashed .348/.384/.536, with two home runs, two triples, three doubles, eight RBIs and 10 runs. Just as he can be used at a multitude of positions, he can also help in all five categories. Solarte is under-owned due to a rocky first half, but Fantasy owners should look to pick up the poor man’s Ben Zobrist and use him at a multitude of positions.
Similar to Solarte, Derek Dietrich, can be used at a multitude of positions, having eligibility at second, third and the outfield. Dietrich has batted .275 with seven homers on the year, but he has hit three of those home runs since July 25. The Marlins seem content to use Dietrich in left field while Marcell Ozuna sits in Triple-A. Speaking of Ozuna, he is another name Fantasy owners should monitor, as he is batting .313 with four homers in the minors, and we all know his potential if he is called back up to the majors. For now, Dietrich is receiving playing time and could add some depth to those in need of a middle infielder in deeper formats.
Remember just a couple years back when Domonic Brown had a hot month and took the league by storm? He ended the 2013 season with 27 homers, but has yet to look the same ever again. In 2013, he hit 12 home runs in May and another six in June, showing that when he is on he is capable of doing a lot of damage. He has looked that way again, batting .320/.346/.680 with three home runs since July 30. His hard hit percentage is similar to what it was during his hot stretch of 2013, and Brown is once again spraying the ball to all fields. It is easy to look at Brown and say he is just another flop, but you do not need him to be great all year for him to help you in Fantasy. If you add him and he hits five homers over the next month, great. If not, you cut him lose and what did it really cost you? Brown is one of the best low risk, high reward pickups and he will cost you next to nothing to add him.
Speaking of flops, it is easy to look at the Yankees’ Chris Young in disgust. I mean, I am a Met fan, so trust me, I know how easy it could be. But did you know he has the fifth highest OPS against lefty pitchers in the entire league, at 1.088? The names ahead of him Nelson Cruz, Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Donaldson, and Alex Rodriguez who have all given elite performances this year, and Young is right there with them. For those who like to go even deeper, he has the fourth highest Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) against lefties, at .458. This year he is batting .358 with seven homers against lefties and could be extremely valuable in Fantasy. If you play in a league that lets you set your lineup daily, then Young should be on your roster. You could simply bench him when he faces a righty (as he usually sits anyway) and still get elite production when he goes against a lefty. Those in weekly leagues should keep him on the bench and use him in a week in which he sees a number of lefties. Also, for those who play DFS, Young is extremely valuable.
Did you think Carter would be the only player I’d advise dropping? Nope. Welcome to the drop list, Doug Fister. This one hurts, as I have been a Fister supporter since his days in Seattle, but the truth is, he has not been effective this year. Fister has never been a big strikeout guy but that number regressed again this year to a mere, 5.02 K/9. It was hard to see his BABIP remaining at the .262 it was last year, and the jump to .312 has clearly hurt him. Last year, Fister posted a too good to be true ERA of 2.41, despite a 3.93 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and 3.85 Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP). This year, his 4.60 ERA is on pace with his 4.60 FIP and 4.50 xFIP. The Nationals will put Fister in the bullpen for the time being, and there is little reason for Fantasy owners to hold onto Fister any longer. I cut him weeks ago and I encourage Fantasy owners to do the same.
One potential replacement for Fister is youngster Aaron Brooks. No, not the basketball player (but I am a fan of him too), the pitcher on the A’s. Brooks has only started two games but he has looked strong in each, going at least seven innings and allowing no more than five hits and one run in both. As a starter he is striking out 7.53 batters per nine and limiting base runners by only allowing 0.63 BB/9. He will not blow the ball by anyone, but he has enough of a velocity difference from his fastball to his curveball and changeup to be effective. He also has the benefit of pitching in a very friendly home ballpark and could reap the benefits by keeping the ball in the park. Brooks should be on Fantasy owners’ radar as a solid flier, useful on two-start weeks or in good matchups.
Man, things have gotten ugly in Seattle. Fantasy owners were clamoring for Fernando Rodney to be removed from the closer role for Carson Smith. Now, we may see a switch back, as Smith has struggled mightily in his last six appearances. In that Stretch, Smith has posted an 18.00 ERA, 5.76 FIP and 6.71 xFIP, with three loses, one save and one blown save. Yeah, it has been pretty awful. The rookie is likely hitting a wall, as he has already thrown more innings than he did in all of 2014. Rodney has not been much better over that stretch, posting a 5.40 ERA, but given how long it took manager Lloyd McClendon to pull Rodney from the closer role, do not be surprised if he is quick to reinsert him. Another name to keep an eye on is recently recalled, Tom Wilhelmsen. Fantasy owners will want to keep a close eye on this situation going forward.
If you have any questions make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio