And just like that, Tommy Pham has joined the 20/20 Club for the 2017 season. With his 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, K, 2 SB
line Thursday against Cincinnati, Pham went yard for the first time since August 30 and also managed to inflate his batting average ever so slightly to an appetizing .306 by tacking on a double for good measure. He does have six hitless games in September, but the run production has been there for Pham even during phases when his bat hasn’t been super sharp. But the fact that Pham is tied with Jose Altuve for the fifth-best OBP in the majors—combined with his speed on the base path—is part of why he remains valuable even when he has an otherwise unsuccessful night at the dish. For example, with those six mentioned games in which he collectively went 0-11 this month, Pham still drew five walks to finagle three runs and a steal. I love players that use their entire skill set to manufacture scoring opportunities for their team in real life and for themselves in fantasy. Anybody who’s hitting excellently for average while also stealing like a boss and providing power in no small supply gets a two-thumbs-up in my little black fantasy book. Use Pham with confidence in roto and points formats during the playoffs.
Now, on to some other notable hitters and their outings Thursday:
Aaron Judge (OF, NYY) – 3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI. His name is popping up more and more with these late-season bursts of power, which is a pleasure and a relief to see. Nobody wants a freakish phenom to become a tale of two halves, easily written off as a fluke that pitchers adjusted to. He continues to chase the McGwire mark of 49: six homers as part of an 11-hit September has him in good shape to threaten to maybe tie it. Anyway, keep using him in your fantasy lineups, because he’s finishing the year on a better note than his late-summer slump led us to expect. Last night bumped his RBI total to 96, and he’s scored a whopping 112 himself, too.
Avisail Garcia (OF, CHW) – 5-5, 2 R, HR, 7 RBI, BB. Good thing I promoted him in the list of Top 150 hitters yesterday, because Garcia made my endorsement of him look that much better with this perfect outing at Comerica Park. A pleasantly symmetrical 22-55 (.400) batting average in September has sent his season mark to a scintillating .333. For those of you paying attention, that’s second-best league-wide among qualified hitters, with only perennial AL MVP contender Jose Altuve beating him out with a .348. Eight-game hit streak, and he’s hit safely in 12 of 13. Seventeen homers, 77 RBI, and 67 runs are not hurting your cause, either. When you factor in the 10-day DL time he’s done, the stats are that much more impressive. No reason to bench him during your playoff run.
Yoan Moncada (2B/3B, CHW) – 4-5, 5 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB, K, SB. These were just at-bats Nos. 136-140 for Moncada’s MLB career, so a 4-5 night inflating his average like crazy shouldn’t be surprising. What’s disappointing is that said average was only chilling at .207 before the offensive burst brought it up to a deceptive .229. Now, the good news is that he’s been improving on the shoulders of a six-game hit streak this week. Not sure how much a guy who was a .179 hitter on September 9 can be trusted in the fantasy playoffs, though. Run-scoring is more his forte if you’re going to use him, as he occupies the White Sox 2-spot regularly.
Kyle Seager (3B, SEA) – 2-4, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, K. Seager has started September on a positive note: he’s hitting .286 with eight XBH already that include six homers (three in the last four games…!), as contrasted with a .223 August that saw him net extra bases just seven times. Seattle is well in the thick of a hotly contested AL Wild Card race, so expect to see the Mariners call upon its most experienced hitters to really step up as we wind down the regular season. Seager has hit safely in 11 consecutive and has ratcheted up the RBI production of late to have 14 already in 15 games. I’m bullish on Seager being good for several more homers to close her out, but he hasn’t left the .250s in BA since July so expect that to continue. I’m more on board with Seager now than I have been in a while: he’s been a steady occupant of my Hitter List, but I did feel he largely underwhelmed this year based on expectation. He’s an ideal guy to throw in the CI (1B/3B) spot if you’ve got one. I’m going with a B+ rating for him as a full-on fantasy starter at the hot corner.
Yonder Alonso (1B, SEA) – 3-4, 3 RBI, BB, SB. It was just his second steal of the year, so don’t get too excited beyond the bonus you get from this surprise. Unfortunately, Alonso has homered just three times as a Mariner: he’s just .258 with five homers in the second half, period, regardless of the team he was playing for. The fact that he was .275 with 20 jacks before the break means that you’re likely bummed out by what he’s done—or hasn’t done—lately. Thankfully, he’s still dependable to not tank you in average in the short term: he’s .290 in September. I want to get more excited about him, but the counting stats have certainly suffered. I would absolutely bench him against LHP away from home, and perhaps even against lefties just in general. He’s a suitable, if not a great, UTIL play at this point.
Nelson Cruz (OF/DH, SEA) – 4-4, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI. For the love of all that is holy, Cruz. Apparently, you wanted to better your batting average by beating up on the Rangers’ pitching staff. It’s sitting at a palatable .289 since he’s gone a robust 15-48. He’s also scoring more runs from cleanup recently than you might expect, so that’s a plus (seven in his last three games). Unsurprisingly, the Mariners DH is top-5 in the league in RBI with 109. Slot him without fail into your lineup as part of your assault on this week’s opponent.
Anthony Rizzo (1B/2B, CHC) – 3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, K, 2 SB. Before yesterday, Rizzo had stolen just four bases since May 1 despite swiping four in April. He just kind of dropped off in the speed department, so Thursday was a welcome departure from his norm this year. One thing I am digging about Rizzo right now is how his September average of .286 almost exactly reflects his season mark of .280. For whatever reason, with all the uncertainties that a season’s ebb and flow can bring, along with BABIP’s lack of predictability, seeing that kind of mirrored consistency pleases me. The bad news is that Rizzo’s power took a brief break, but hopefully this bomb at the expense of the Mets awakens his slugging to conclude the year. I mean, he’s not a 32-homer guy by accident. Hard contact hasn’t been an issue. I’d like the distribution of his RBI to be a little more spread out, but it’s tough to be choosy when a dude has plated 106 of them over the course of the year. He should be just fine as your locked-in 1B, but hell, the 2B eligibility doesn’t hurt. Also, they’re playing St. Louis, and the Cubs love turning it on against the Cards. Get some.