As of this upcoming Sunday, there will be exactly 3 weeks left in the MLB regular season. 3 weeks?! Where did the time go?!
Gone now are those hot summer nights watching my Braves slowly melt into mediocrity like the ice cubes watering down my delicious Caipirinha. Gone also are the days of rolling out of bed before my day job (*gasp*), turning on the afternoon tilt, and typing up my next brilliant turn of phrase as a fledgling fantasy baseball writer.
Alas, summer has just about left us. Now, all we have left are the dreams of having the stones to draft Kareem Hunt in the 3rd round. Really messed that one up.
Enough with the football talk! For now….Friends and fellow nerds. Now is the time. Now is the time to make those championship moves. Now is the time to win the damn thing! With that in mind, here’s a quick anecdote from my league.
This past week, I watched with joy as Luis Castillo, aka my boy, threw his final start of the 2017 season. An 8 inning dazzler against the Brewers in which he gave up 1 run on 4 hits and struck out 10. What a way to go out. Later that night, I told my league in our chat how much I was going to miss the dude this season. He had been a great waiver wire find for me for a good portion of the summer.
One league mate commented on how high we will all have to reach for him next year. We keep 10 in this league, so I commented that no one may have to reach because I may keep him.
“Keep him?!” the league mate said. “I would have dropped him already. Flags fly forever!”
I hate this particular league mate not because he’s a bad guy. In fact, he’s awesome, and I’d grab a beer with him. No, I hate him because he’s won three tiles in a row. And I hate him because…he’s exactly right. FLAGS FLY FOREVER. Drop who you have to drop. Stream who you have to stream. Get the damn thing done, and bring home the title.
With that being said, here are a few players I think you should be watching over these last three weeks:
C Welington Castillo, Baltimore Orioles
What seemed like another ho-hum season from Castillo has turned into a monster 2nd half including an impressive .371 average in August. In fact, in the entire second half combined, he’s posted a very usable 11 HR/24 RBI/20 R line to go with a .368 average. That has vaulted him all the way up to #8 on the ESPN Player Rater, and now is the time to jump on board with the blazing hot catcher. Pre-hot second half, Showalter had him in a timeshare with Caleb Joseph. However, as Castillo got hot, Buck obviously decided to take the hot hand approach which has led to more opportunity for Gordon Ramsay’s signature dish.
Let’s hope this continues.
Note: Upon this writing, Castillo was scratched from his Friday night start. The Orioles have not released why. This is the 2nd straight game they’ve rolled with Joseph. Uh oh…
Pro tip: If Welington is starting against a lefty, rock and roll in all formats including DFS! He has obliterated lefties this season with 6 HRs and a .372 average. Proceed!
P Garrett Richards & Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels who were formerly the California Angels but then became the Anaheim Angels but then something else and now who even knows
I include them both in the same blurb because they find themselves in very similar circumstances. Both missed almost all of last season because of Tommy John surgery. Both have slowly worked their way back this year and are now making starts. Brief starts but starts nonetheless. The big difference here is that Richards actually could have returned earlier but was struggling with a strained bicep. Regardless, it’s been awhile since either was healthy.
That being said, I could see both being somewhat useful in the correct spots down the stretch. Be very careful, though. Richards scares me more because they’ve been treating him with super padded, extra careful gloves. He’s barely sniffed the 4th inning so far as he builds his stamina in hopes of regaining full strength for 2018….where he will be turning 31. He’s always been a game-manager, so if you need Ks, this isn’t your guy. All in all, if we see any kind of life in this last month, there could be 2018 value here as a late round flier.
On the flip side, Heaney gives me a little more optimism both now and in the future. He’s younger, doesn’t have the injury history of Richards, and has actually flashed some decent K/9 numbers in his 4 starts since coming off the DL. That being said, he’s been blown up in 3 of those 4 starts. It’s going to be a rocky road, but I think you can stream him against a weaker opponent like Oakland where he can rack up those valuable strikeouts. Just make sure you’ve got a comfortable lead in ERA and WHIP before you do so.
P Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
You may have cursed him and his family after a disaster start to the season, but he has totally turned it around here in the 2nd half. 6 of his 8 starts since the break have been quality starts, and he is coming off of a torrid August where he posted a 2.63 ERA. Also, after giving up a dreadful 11 homeruns in the month of May alone, he has given up just 2 since the break TOTAL. Here’s his second half line: 2.73 ERA/0.97 WHIP/55 K with a .213 AVG/.252 OBP against!
The homeruns are down, the strikeouts are up, the walks are down, and his xFIP is at a cool 3.08 for all you nerds out there. This is legit, folks. Something has clicked, and the home stretch only features one start that makes me wince, which is a road date with Toronto later in September. That is, of course, assuming the Yankees stay on track with their rotation. Tanaka has turned a corner, and I’m on board.
OF Delino Deshields Jr., Texas Rangers
Need steals? Look no further than your local waiver wire. After being demoted last year because he couldn’t hit the side of a barn, he has seemingly put it all together this season at the top of the Rangers’ lineup. If you are one of those top of the lineup truthers and think every single guy who leads off is valuable, then why haven’t you picked up DeShields?
Anyway, you already know there’s zero power in that bat, but he posted a nice .292 AVG in August to soften the blow. That pairs nicely with his .318 mark so far in September. He’s also got a .357 OBP on the season, and as Moneyball taught us, it’s all about getting guys on base! “Of Shields” is hitting, getting on base, and stealing when he’s there. This is the multi-category kind of guy who can quietly put you over the top down the stretch. He’s only owned in 19.4% of ESPN leagues, so get him while you can!
It’s ROOKIE TIME!
OF Victor Robles, Washington Nationals
He was surprisingly called up on Wednesday by the Nationals, and suddenly one of the top 10 prospects has made his MLB debut at the age of 20. I, like many others, didn’t expect this, but it’s hard not to pay attention when a guy with 70 speed gets called up to the show. He absolutely torched the minors this season as he slashed a .324/.394/.489 line with 11 steals at AA in 158 plate appearances. And that was after he raked in High-A before earning the promotion to Harrisburg.
Did I mention he did this as a 20 year old? Do you know what I was doing when I was 20? WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS WITH THE UCLA BRUINS ON NCAA 2007. Don’t ask.
Anyway, the skinny is that Robles has a big fat question mark when it comes to playing time. That means I’m probably out on him in 2017. Sure, Bryce Harper is out indefinitely, but the Nats seem ok with trotting out Jayson Werth, Michael Taylor, and Howie Kendrick every night. #DustyBaker. But seriously…there’s no reason to rush his development, so I don’t blame them. The Nats probably just want him to learn what it is to be a big leaguer. Just look at the video below for proof of how professional the Nats clubhouse is:
OF Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers
He was called up by the Dodgers as soon as rosters expanded to join a club that’s gone 134-2 this season. He’s a bit older than Robles at 21 (CHUG-CHUG-CHUG!), and he provides depth to an outfield that already includes Puig, Chris Taylor sometimes, and now Curtis Granderson. Verdugo, like Robles, hit very well in the minors this season as he posted a .314/.389/.436 line at AAA-Oklahoma City. Also like Robles, however, he will probably struggle to find consistent playing time. IF he does happen to do something with his at-bats and suddenly makes it worth rostering him, make sure to tell all of your league mates that I am a freaking genius and totally told you to monitor his situation.
OF Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves
JUST KIDDING HE DIDN’T GET CALLED UP. He’s still a freakin’ stud and rustles my jimmies. I can totally see him being the Moncada of the 2018 draft though. A couple of dudes reaching in like…round 11 to nab him only to look silly by mid-July when he’s still at Gwinnett.
SS/2B Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves
Here’s a guy who is actually up and doing…well…ok at the major league level. I’ve personally been very disappointed with his meager 2 steals, but at least he’s giving you a solid batting average to soothe the pain. I can get down with the .280 average and .341 OBP he’s put up so far.
Also, he’s now been moved up to 2nd in the Braves order. That may carry about as much weight as being named the Browns starting QB…ENOUGH FOOTBALL GAH!….but I think it is worth paying attention to as we turn over every rock to find value in the last three weeks. Bottom line: if he starts stealing, his value sky rockets. The other pieces are there. Now, we just need the whole thing to come together.
P Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds
Just here to remind you that he had a great 2017 season. He’s going to be the 2018 version of preseason-2017 James Paxton. The hype train is just now leaving the station, y’all. Oh, and to provide some actual, usable fantasy advice, I like Dillon Peters as a streamer down the stretch.
Before I go, I leave with you another anecdote. Rays pitching prospect Brent Honeywell wants to be a major league ballplayer real bad. Many guys do. Especially when they are on the cusp of making their debuts like Honeywell. Brent has gotten a little salty though. Recently, he has used his Twitter account as a passive aggressive shade-fest.
Not only has he jumped on the #FreeHoney hashtag from the fans (to free him from Durham I guess), but he’s now retweeting minor league call-ups of his top prospect brethren. They get promoted as he continues to sit in Durham, and he’s making no secret about how he feels. It’s actually pretty funny in a sad kind of way.
Mysteriously, Honeywell got suspended 4 games last week by Durham. Coincidence? The Bulls didn’t really go into details as to why, but I feel it could have something to do with his attitude. There’s no moral or lesson I want to impart on you all. I’m just enjoying the tweets. And I like Honeywell and hope to see him in the majors soon.
FLAGS FLY FOREVER.