Batter’s Box: The Jackson Thrive
For a team that’s chasing home field advantage throughout the playoffs, 30-year-old OF Austin Jackson has been consistently delivering clutch hitting in under-the-radar fashion for Cleveland all summer long. With a 4-5, R, RBI evening in Anaheim, this is the type of low-profile yet still valuable outing Indians fans have been getting accustomed to seeing from Jackson while the rest of the country focuses on the crazy power surge that has swept the league. Jackson has just seven homers through 250 AB, but he’s a high-AVG guy who has scored 22 runs since the beginning of August. Even though the counting stat totals for a short season don’t leap off the page in a cursory scan of free agents, it’s worth noting that Jackson’s BA of .316 is better than that of dark horse AL MVP candidate Jose Ramirez. He’s settled nicely into being the 2-spot hitter for the Tribe, and the RHB figures to draw several more starts against the Angels and Mariners while his streaking bat is hot.
Now, on to the rest of the league for some notable hitting efforts:
A.J. Pollock (OF, ARI) – 3-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB. Pollock picked a hell of a time to turn in his first multi-homer game of the year. Most leagues are in the midst of either their semifinals or the championship round itself, so this was some timely power from a guy who’d gone yard just 10 times prior to Tuesday. It was like Pollock knew he magically and instantaneously had to be better upon being reinstalled at leadoff for Arizona, and he was their whole offense in a 6-2 loss. Pollock, whose ceiling is being a top-20 caliber fantasy superstar in 5×5 and points formats, has struggled throughout his career to remain healthy and that has likely curbed his appeal to the less patient owners of the world. As he’s only played in 103 games this yet still has 65 runs and 19 SB, you can see what his potential could be if he managed to be around for 150+ games like he did in 2015. That said, use him this week to help ice your title-flavored cake.
Jose Reyes (2B/3B/SS, NYM) – 4-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, K. I’ve been speaking Reyes’ praises for several weeks now. He’s hitting .293 in the second half, .323 in September, and his line drive rate and HR/FB ratio are spiking nicely to conclude the regular season. It had seemed as though the callup of Amed Rosario might put Reyes’ playing time in question; but he’s been a versatile switch hitter and recently too valuable to exclude from the lineup, so 2B and 3B appearances have been peppered in to keep him relevant in 2017, his 34-year-old season. He is an ideal candidate to fill any sort of CI/MI spot on your roster, and he’s been decent this year against Stephen Strasburg so the worries there are minimal for Saturday.
Jed Lowrie (2B, OAK) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI. Owners have to be loving what Lowrie’s been doing over the past couple of weeks: he’s up to 15 RBI in September after launching a grand slam and an RBI two-bagger to come out on top of Detroit 9-8 Tuesday, and he’s averaging .364 this month to boot. Lowrie is owned in 33.4% of ESPN leagues but just 17% of Yahoo leagues, which strikes me as one of the bigger and more puzzling differentials I’ve seen in a while. Regardless, his bat is as hot as you could hope for during the fantasy postseason. He is tied with Marcell Ozuna for 37th-best wOBA since the All-Star break, and he is on pace to set a career high in homers (needs three) while also already having accomplished his personal best in runs with 82. I wouldn’t call him keeper material, but he could come in handy these next several matchups. He has eight hits, eight RBI and three runs in 36 at-bats against Texas pitching so far this year, and Oakland starts a four-game set with the Rangers tomorrow.
Trea Turner (2B/SS/OF, WSH) – 2-4, 2 R, RBI, BB, 2 SB. Anyone who was arguing that Turner didn’t deserve consideration as a top-20 fantasy player upon return from his injury must be out of their minds. It’s understandable if some thought he might be scared to get HBP again and that that might have screwed with his mechanics or psyche at the plate, but Turner hasn’t skipped a beat since getting back into the Washington lineup in late August. It remains the unsolved mystery of 2017 as to whether he would have claimed the steals title had he been able to stay healthy, but it was hardly his fault. Anyway, his day at the office Tuesday got him back on track after a rough series against the Dodgers. I like Turner to swipe another base for you by the end of Sunday, especially if he can get back in the routine of earning walks to boost his OBP. He’s a weapon even when he isn’t hitting, and a .277 average this month with 12 runs scored round out the case for him as a solid play in the coming days.
James McCann (C, DET) – 2-5, R, 3 RBI, 2 K. McCann has produced two triples—his only two of the year—in his last three games. He rests Wednesday before becoming a contributor to Detroit’s cause of playing spoiler in an upcoming series against the Wild-Card-hunting Twins. No homers in September thus far, but McCann is averaging a torrid .321 this month. He’s admittedly alternated good games with hitless ones over the past week, but if he can find some consistency down the stretch, he’ll be a No. 2 backstop who’s more than serviceable to close out your season.
Alex Presley (OF, DET) – 4-6, R, HR, RBI, K. The likelihood that you would have had Presley starting on your roster of late is pretty low, but the guy’s recent exploits deserve a mention. He’s hit safely in all but two games during the month of September, and he now has five XBH in the same span with Tuesday’s explosion. A .322 average, even across just 205 AB, is not something to take lightly. He’s scored seven of his 24 total runs since the turn of the month while averaging .393: he’s a backup OF that’s going to boost your team BA and probably cross the plate a few more times from Detroit’s 2-spot. He’s probably only relevant in 14-teamers or deeper, but again, worth a look if you’re hurting.
Nicholas Castellanos (3B, DET) – 1-4. The important takeaway is that he managed to keep a 17-game hitting streak going. Castellanos has 18 RBI in September to go along with 30 hits that include nine doubles and five homers. The plate discipline is nice to see, as he’s only struck out seven times in that span. He stole a base on Monday, too, so owners can plug him into lineups and confidently hope for the best. A guy with an OPS of 1.139 over the past 30 days is a no-brainer to start every single chance you get.
Justin Bour (1B, MIA) – 2-5, R, HR, RBI, 2 K. It’s OK if you forgot about Bour as playoffs commenced. When a guy is still on the 10-day DL a week into September, it’s easy to be in blinders-on contingency mode and have a reactivation slip past you. But the good news is that Bour is not rusty. He’s already got nine RBI and six runs in his 10 games since returning, and going 13-36 while doing so is looking pretty attractive right now. He’s a sneaky play from the heart of Miami’s order with four consecutive multi-hit games. Enjoy the fast one you pull on your opponent if you can pick him up: Bour is owned in just 41% of Yahoo leagues and 33.7% of ESPN leagues because most people wrote him off for the year.
Zack Cozart (SS, CIN) – 2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI, K, SB. A rare steal for Cozart came Tuesday to lift his season total to three, probably making unexpectant owners happy. His season average has stayed at .300 or above despite a handful of hitless performances this month: he’s got 15 hits and a .268 average since September began. The counting stat production has been solid, however, as Cozart has converted his 15 hits and five walks into 12 runs and 14 RBI. Also remarkable is his uptick in power, since he’s only got 23 homers for the season but six of those have happened in the last two weeks. I highly recommend starting Cozart as your season winds down. I’ll be interested to see how he closes the week out against Boston, but he has been solid against St. Louis pitching this year. Oh, and as a little Easter egg for those who have read down this far in the article, the Reds activated Billy Hamilton today, so be on alert for his name in Cincy’s lineups as well.
Dexter Fowler (OF, STL) – 3-4, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. That’s three straight multi-hit games for Fowler and back-to-back with homers. I’d avoid underestimating his run production if your opponent happens to own the Cards’ .266 hitter who seems interested in turning it on late against divisional rivals to close out this week. He’s not as widely owned as you might think, so depth at OF is attainable with a late-season pickup of Fowler. Tuesday also marked him reaching the 20-double mark for the fourth consecutive year.