Your fantasy baseball league’s playoffs are right around the corner, so the last thing you want is to be stuck with a dud for the stretch run. Recognizing the trends now will keep you one step ahead of the competition, and one step closer to winning your league’s championship. Keep reading to find out who’s been spending some extra time in the sun and why they need to be scooped up off the waiver wire.
(Suggested players are all under 60% owned in ESPN and Yahoo! fantasy leagues)
Justin Smoak, Mariners: Long regarded as a bust, Justin Smoak has finally proved his doubters wrong. After being acquired by Seattle as part of the 2010 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Texas, there were a lot of expectations put on the young switch-hitter. There was no question he possessed a good amount of power, hitting 47 HR in his first three seasons, but not once had he ever registered a batting average over .235. This season, though, his bat has awoken, part of that due to his much improved plate discipline. He’s already walked 44 times in 343 plate appearances, which puts him on pace to shatter his previous high of 55 free passes in 2011 (in 489 PA). His .273/.370/.438 slash lines would each represent a new career-high and he’s been noticeably hot over his last seven games, going 11 for 26 (.423) with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 7 runs scored. The future of the Mariners infield looks extremely promising, with Kyle Seager, Brad Miller and Nick Franklin looking to hold down the fort for a long time, but first base is still the one position in doubt. Kendrys Morales is 30-years old and has a $13.5 million option this coming year, so ideally the M’s would like to go forward with the younger Smoak, making him a prime candidate to receive a huge chunk of playing time going forward.
Robbie Grossman, Astros: Since being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on July 26, the Astros outfielder has been on fire. In those 10 games, the 23-year old from San Diego is 17 for 36 (.472), has scored 10 runs and stolen four bases. He’s rewarding his owners with some bonus pop, too (his minor league season-high in HR is only 13), smacking 3 HR and driving in 9 runs. Finding an available combination of speed and power this late in the season is not easy to come by, so he’s well worth a look in most fantasy formats while he’s hot.
Mike Moustakas, Royals: It took a few months, but Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer finally starting hitting. You got to give a ton of credit to George Brett, who was K.C.’s interim hitting coach for a while, for helping Hosmer break out of his season-long swoon. Hosmer started clicking at the plate a while ago, but now his teammate, third baseman Mike Moustakas, is following suit. From May 14 till June 21 Moustakas did not see his average climb above the dreaded Mendoza Line once, but since then he’s been making steady gains, bringing his average up to .233. That’s still pretty awful, but knowing that at one point it had dipped all the way to .148, gives me reason to believe he’s slowly turning it around. While he probably won’t hit .300 the rest of the way, he’s shown tremendous strides in the power department, hitting 5 home runs in his last 97 at bats, while chipping in 15 RBI in the process. Hitting at the bottom of the Royals order won’t allow him many run-scoring opportunities, but if he continues to make contact, he will be a sneaky source of power for the remainder of the season.
Brian Dozier, Twins: The middle infield positions have not been too kind to owners this year. Going into the season, most of us knew that the 2B and SS crop would be a little lacking. Hopefully you stocked up in the draft or via trade or free agency early on, because lately it’s become slim pickings. The trade deadline has either passed or is quickly approaching in most leagues, so finding a serviceable middle infielder on the wire may be the only way to solve your problems at the position. The Twins’ Brian Dozier (who qualifies at 2B/SS) has been a welcome surprise this season, providing power (10 HR) and speed (9 SB) to a lineup desperate for that. While he’s only hitting .246 for the year, his bat has been very hot in the last week, going 11 for 32 (.343) over a 7-game stretch. He’s also scored 6 runs, homered once and driven in 7 runs during that period. The Twins play five games against the struggling White Sox this weekend, and will have the benefit of doing so without having to face their ace, Chris Sale.
Neil Walker, Pirates: The Pirates everyday second baseman has either struggled or been hurt for a large portion of the 2013 campaign, but it looks as if he’s finally turned the corner. Unbelievably, the Pirates now have the best record in baseball, and Walker has been a big part of their recent ascent to the top. In his last 12 games the Pittsburgh native has hit .395 (17 for 43), including three 3-hit performances. Although he’s flashed some decent power over the last few years (12 HR in 2010, 12 in ’11 and 14 in ’13), you shouldn’t expect those types of numbers going forward. What you will get, assuming he’s healthy, is a guy who plays nearly everyday near the top of a hot lineup. The Bucs weekend series in the thin air of Coors is very appealing for fantasy purposes.
By Seth Klein (@SethDaSportsMan)
Seth is a writer for FantasyTrade411.com, specializing in fantasy baseball, basketball and football. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, but has been a die-hard New York Giants, Knicks and Yankees fan since birth. He has been playing fantasy sports since 1999 and has since developed a real knack for daily streaming and “working the wire”, which can be attributed to his keen analysis of in-season trends. He is also a writer for BucketsOverBroadway.com, a New York Knicks website, and you can find him gracing the airwaves on @ThaSPORTSKRIB, a weekly podcast dedicated to sports. Seth attended the University of Arizona, where he majored in “tardiness”, and is now a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist. Feel free to send all your fantasy sports questions to Seth on Twitter: @SethDaSportsMan