Batter’s Box: To the Victor Go the Spoils

Everything Scott Chu thinks you need to know about Sunday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

Since becoming the leadoff man for the Tigers back on Aug. 9, Victor Reyes (OF, Detroit Tigers) is hitting .329 with three home runs and six stolen bases, including Sunday afternoon’s line of 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB. The former Rule-5 pick’s plate discipline isn’t great, but he has multiple hits in more than half his games in September and should be able to steal another base or two this week. I like him as a streamer in leagues where he’s still around as the Tigers still have seven games left (most teams only have six), and four of those games come against the White Sox, who are without Lucas Giolito and who allow plenty of stolen bases.

With this being the final week of the season, perhaps the best thing I can do for folks out there is send you over to my colleague Ben Palmer’s excellent Hitters to Start and Avoid for this week. He does a great job with this piece every week, but I know it’s especially helpful to anyone still battling it out for the final week of the season.

In addition, I’ll post my top five teams with regard to stolen base opportunities for the remainder of the season:

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (3 vs. CHC, 3 vs. CIN).
  2. Colorado Rockies (3 @ SF, 3 vs. MIL).
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (5 @ WAS, 3 vs. MIA).
  4. Toronto Blue Jays (3 vs. BAL, 3 vs. TB).
  5. Miami Marlins (4 @ NYM, 3 @ PHI).

If you’re looking to close the gap in stolen bases, I’d look for available speedsters on these teams or at the very least keep my hitters on these squads in my lineup (even though in some cases the hitting matchup itself is not ideal). Garrett Hampson, who is somehow available in more than 90% of ESPN leagues, stands out as a stellar streamer for stolen bases and has five over the past 15 days. His teammate Ramiel Tapia doesn’t play every day but should he find himself in the lineup, he’s an OK bet to steal as well. Jon Berti of the Marlins has a little speed and has a good matchup for steals to close out the year, but keep in mind that he’s facing really tough pitching over that stretch. There are other guys out there as well, but these three are available in a ton of leagues and I’d absolutely be reaching for them if I needed a few more stolen bases.

By the way: Let me know if you’ll be heading out to First Pitch Arizona this October! Our very own Nick Pollack is one of the featured speakers, and several of our staff will be going to partake in the nonstop fantasy baseball action. We’d love to see you out there.

Eric Thames (1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. The Brewers have one of if not THE best hitting schedule remaining, and I’ll take whatever pieces of their lineup I can get. Thames is a platoon bat but has seen plenty of action lately and is worth a plug into your lineup when the Brewers face a righty.

George Springer (OF, Houston Astros)—3-5, 3 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI. Despite playing in fewer than 120 games, he’s set career highs in home runs, RBI, batting average, OBP, and slugging. He’s currently the 14th-best outfielder on ESPN’s Player Rater too. Expect plenty more fantasy goodness in this last week of the season as the Astros have a fairly favorable schedule for right-handers.

Yordan Alvarez (OF, Houston Astros)—4-4, R, 2 2B. His 189 wRC+ since June 9 (the day he was called up) is the best in baseball. His ADP of 33 in the 2 Early Mocks was earlier than Manny MachadoKetel Marte, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr./strong>.

Seth Mejias-Brean (3B, San Diego Padres)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. I’ve honestly never heard of Mejias-Brean, and from a brief bit of research, I can safely say he’s not fantasy-relevant in any format now or in the future. That said, he did hit a walk-off dinger, and that’s pretty neat. Good for him.

Marwin Gonzalez (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-4, R, 3 RBI, BB. He’s not an overly exciting player for fantasy purposes, but with just the Royals and Tigers left on the schedule, the versatile switch-hitter should be an excellent plug-and-play for anyone needing a streamer to close out the year.

Aledmys Diaz (1B/2B/3B/SS, Houston Astros)—3-4, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. Back-to-back three-hit performances should net him a few more starts down the stretch, but he’s really just a desperation play in very deep leagues or in DFS. Playing time is sporadic, and his performance is fairly ordinary, though he does get a bit of a boost in points leagues because of his above average walk rate and very low strikeout rate.

Ronald Guzman (1B, Texas Rangers)—3-4, R, 2B. After being quite bad all season, he’s been surprisingly strong in September, slashing .333/.412/.556 in 51 plate appearances. He doesn’t start enough to consider in most leagues, but in an AL-only or as a Hail Mary in a daily 15-teamer when the Rangers face a righty? Sure, I guess. I probably wouldn’t, though.

Sam Hilliard (OF, Colorado Rockies)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. The 25-year-old rookie is on a five-game hitting streak, and the Rockies still have one more home series on the schedule (this weekend against the Brewers). He could be fairly useful for that series, if nothing else, as he’s put up a 144 wRC+ in his 60 plate appearances thus far. His 35 home runs and 22 steals in Triple-A are pretty cool, though it only amounted to a 107 wRC+ (which takes into account the production of his peers, highlighting the fact that it’s a very offense-first league).

J.D. Martinez (OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. His .302 batting average, 35 home runs, and .941 OPS almost feel like a disappointment for some reason, probably because of just how amazing he’s been at the plate the past several years. On the plus side, this is his second season of 140-plus games played after battling through injuries in 2016 and 2017. He’s still outfield-eligible for 2020 and should be a top-15 outfielder in 2020, at a minimum.

Jurickson Profar (1B/2B/3B/SS, Oakland Athletics)—3-4, 2B, RBI. His eight walks to nine strikeouts this month is very promising; however, the rest of the production has not been so good. He’s droppable for the final week if you need a certain stat, as Profar doesn’t really excel enough at producing any one thing to retain niche value.

Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-4, R, 3 2B, 3 RBI, BB. With the great schedule coming up for his final week, Rosario’s best fantasy season should get even better. He also has multiple hits in five of his past eight games, so hopefully he can carry that hot bat through the end of the regular season.

Christian Vazquez (C, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. He’s been the best catcher in fantasy over the past 15 days per the ESPN Player Rater and even has two steals during that time. If he’s available in your league (which is about 40% of leagues), scoop him up. He’s also surprisingly been the fourth-best fantasy catcher on the entire season despite not having the full-time gig until well after the season started.

Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Since the start of September, he’s been walking more (8.8%), striking out less (12.5%), and has become the locked-in No. 3 hitter for the Rangers. Their remaining schedule isn’t ideal for lefties, but it’s not so scary that you need to cut him. His 20 home runs in just 77 games has him firmly on my radar for 2020, where he could easily become a 30-home run hitter if the Rangers afford him the playing time in an already lefty-heavy lineup.

Nelson Cruz (DH, Minnesota Twins)—2-3, 4 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. And with that, the old man has his fourth 40-home run season and fourth 100-RBI season in six years. Since the start of 2014, he has 20 more home runs than any other player and is third in RBI. Don’t be afraid of his age or DH-only eligibility—this guy is still an elite hitter.

Yasiel Puig (OF, Cleveland Indians)—2-3, R, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. He hit .500/.538/.625 last week and still has a series on the South Side coming up. Additionally, he should be able to get another steal or two to add to the 18 he already has, as neither the White Sox nor the Nationals have been all that good at holding baserunners.

Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. His 33 home runs are a career high, oddly enough, and he’s done it in just 101 games. He also has an incredible six home runs in his past nine outings. Look, the power is incredibly real, there’s no doubt about that—the problem is his unwieldy strikeout rate, which currently sits at 35.8%, which in turn crushes his batting average. In OBP leagues, he makes up for it with a double-digit walk rate, but in batting average leagues, he can be a real drag between the slumps, strikeouts, and injuries. There are 40 home runs in that bat if he ever plays 140 games, but he’s averaging just 112 games over the past five seasons, and that includes 46 games in the minor leagues (about 11.5 per season). If you do happen to roster him right now, though, he’s 100% starter worthy. He could hit four more bombs this week.

Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. Combo meal for the 37-year-old! His stat line looks basically the same as it did in 2017 and 2018, and 2020 should be no different. He’s a great bargain in fantasy drafts.

Austin Riley (3B/OF, Atlanta Braves)—0-4, 3 K. Since the start of July, he’s slashing just .163/.215/.327 in 107 plate appearances with a 42.1% strikeout rate. He was awesome when he was first called up, but that’s why wet blankets like me were so worried about his incredibly high strikeout rates—major league pitchers will find the holes in your swing eventually, and when they do, it can get ugly. Hopefully he can regain his groove by the time 2020 rolls around, but don’t wait up in 2019. He should be on the wire.

Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—0-3, 2 K. Just when it looked like he’d give fantasy owners a strong finish to the season, he goes on an 0-20 skid with 10 strikeouts. The Phillies have eight more games left on their schedule, which is tied for the most along with the Nationals, so most owners will likely be stuck with him and will have to just pray he finds some more hits. The Nats and Marlins aren’t ideal matchups for a power hitter such as Hoskins, but he’s still a talented hitter and likely better than most alternatives.

(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

  • Bryan says:

    Is now the time to add Kyle Tucker for the final week with some of the Astros receiving rest these last few games?

    Also would you rather own Hampson this week or Lux? I’m leaning Lux because Dodgers also might rest a lot of guys and have incentive to get Lux more PAs.

    Thoughts? Thanx!

    • Scott Chu says:

      Hey Bryan!

      1) It’s hard to firmly back Tucker as an add, even though I really like his talent. He played exactly three times last week and one of those appearances was just as a pinch runner. Also, there’s still a battle for the #1 seed in the AL between them and the Yankees, so I’m not sure how much resting they’ll get. I can’t imagine the Astros wanting to roll into New York 4 times for the ALCS in mid-October. If you add him, it should only be in a daily league and you will have to carefully watch the lineup cards to make sure he’s in there.

      2) Hampson. In his last 11 appearances (10 starts), he’s slashing .421/.463/.711 with three home runs and five steals. He also has one last series in Coors coming up and prior to that he egts the not-that-great Giants pitching staff. Lux is probably a better player overall, but that’s not what matters right now—Hampson has the better opportunity.

  • AC says:

    Scott, heading into the last week of the championship (5×5 H2H OBP) with commanding leads in R and OBP, narrow leads in RBI (+7) and SB (+2, largely thanks to Hampson/Mercado) and tied in HR. Added Hiura, Starlin Castro and Grisham today, and I have 2 more moves left to make, though I might need to save 1 for pitching. If you could add a hitter for Wednesday-Sunday, would you chase Hilliard and/or Thames in place of Conforto (who should face 2 LH SPs vs ATL over the final weekend) and/or a potentially superfluous pitcher? Thanks for all the advice over the season!

    • Scott Chu says:

      Yo AC! Give me Thames over Hilliard. The Rockies are throwing three VERY sub-par right-handers (Chi Chu Gonzalez, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman) for that series and it just SCREAMS Thames.

      • AC says:

        Thanks, Scott – of course, there’s always the possibility I’ll need the SB more, and if so I’ll turn to Victor Reyes for the reasons you mention above.

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