The playoff season began yesterday for many fantasy baseball leagues. If you were fortunate enough to make it to the postseason, it’s not time to sit back and hope the team that got you here has enough left in the tank to win it all. (Speaking of playoffs, check out fellow MLFS contributor Joe Iannone’s post on trades that could still happen for MLB teams hoping to make it to the postseason.) Trophies are not won by being reactive, so be proactive and give yourself the best chance to win your league. You no longer have the benefit of a long season to wait for your players to work out of their slumps, as a cold streak now could mean the end of your fantasy season. I’m not saying to start Travis Snider – who is hot at the plate right now and I’ll get to later – over Mike Trout – who is incredibly cold (1/19 with 0 runs, 0 home runs, and only 1 RBI at the time of this writing) during the past week, but Snider should be considered over your other outfielders or in the utility role on your team because of his hot bat. Guys that are hot right now and seeing the ball well – regardless if they have had a good fantasy season to this point or not – should be on your radar for the playoffs. Often times the team that wins the championship isn’t the one with the players that had the best seasons, but the one with the players that were on hot streaks at the right time. Since it’s likely that the trade deadline for your league has passed, the only way to acquire players is via waivers/free agency. I looked at players in Yahoo! standard leagues that are ranked in the top-20 over the past week, and that are also owned in less than 50% of leagues. Considering three of the four players I found are not only owned in less than 50% of leagues, but actually less than 10%, these guys are likely available in your league as well. One final caveat before I get to the players: all of these guys are risky plays since you’re banking on a hot streak continuing, so keep that in mind when setting your lineup. Sometimes you need to gamble in order to win, but don’t be reckless. Do the research and weigh your options before deciding to start any of the players below ahead of guys already on your roster. Let’s get into my list, but first, please note that all stats are courtesy of FanGraphs.
Travis Snider (ranked 4th, 9% owned): Snider is hitting .263/.337/.433 with 10 home runs (HR) and 32 runs batted in (RBI) through 106 games for the Pirates. These numbers don’t jump off the page, but his current line is above his career average of .244/.308/.403, and a huge improvement from his line of .215/.281/.333 just last season. But Snider isn’t on this list because of what he’s done this season, he’s on here because of his performance over the past seven days. His line from the past week is .423/.483/.885, with 11 hits in his last 26 at-bats, including three HR, three doubles, five runs scored, and seven RBI. This production came against two clubs with good pitching staffs in the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals, so it’s not like Snider was beating up teams with poor pitching. If you need power help, Snider might be your guy.
Carl Crawford (ranked 8th, 37% owned): Crawford has played in just 75 games this season for the Dodgers, as he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He’s hitting .259/.293/.351, with four HR, and an Isolated Power (ISO) of just .092. You don’t care about any of those numbers though. You care that over the last week, Crawford has gone 11 for 25, hitting .440/.462/.480, with four runs scored, three RBI, and four stolen bases (SB). In the six games that he’s started in the past week, he’s had multi-hit games in four of them, to go along with a SB in each of the last four games he’s started. If you are worried that this production is due to his .524 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), don’t be. Over this same time frame, of the balls he puts in play, 38.1% of them have been line drives, meaning he’s been creating a lot of his own “luck.” Crawford doesn’t offer much power, and his ISO in the past week (.042) is actually lower than it is for the season, but he’s been an on-base machine and hits 5th for one of baseball’s better offenses in the Dodgers. Look to add Crawford if you need help in the runs and stolen bases categories.
Jon Jay (ranked 16th, 8% owned): Unlike Snider and Crawford, Jay is actually having a solid year at the plate, in addition to being on a hot streak. Jay is hitting .304/.373/.401 in 105 games played. His slugging percentage is so low because his power has been down this year, even though it’s never really been high. He only has three home runs and his ISO is .097, lower than his career ISO of .106. He has been hitting for average this season and that hasn’t changed over the past week, as Jay has gone 9 for 18 for a line of .500/.640/.778, including two doubles, a HR, five runs scored, and six RBI. His on base percentage is being aided by five hit by pitches. This gives him 14 on the year, most in baseball, but he’s still doing some of it on his own, as he has a current nine game hit streak. The Cardinals play the Reds in their next series and face Mike Leake, Alfredo Simon, and Johnny Cueto, three pitchers capable of slowing Jay down, but the Cardinals then play the Philles and get Kyle Kendrick, David Buchanan, and Jerome Williams, three pitchers capable of feeding his hot streak and swinging a playoff matchup in your favor.
Jonathan Schoop (ranked 20th, 4% owned): Schoop had only played in five MLB games prior to this season. Through 100 games played this year, he’s hitting just .219/.256/.360, but does have 12 HR, to go along with 38 runs scored, and 33 RBI. His line over the past week looks much better however, as he has gone 6 for 17, to hit .353/.353/.941. Schoop also has three HR, four runs scored, and 5 RBI in the last seven days, and his .300 BABIP shows that he hasn’t been getting “lucky.” It is concerning that he hasn’t drawn a single walk in a week, but with only four strikeouts, it isn’t overly concerning as he’s the type of hitter to put the ball in play. Schoop hits 9th for the Orioles and while this isn’t ideal, the O’s are in the top-10 for runs scored, batting average, and slugging percentage, making Schoop basically a second leadoff hitter in a powerful offense. He also brings the added advantage of playing second base – a position that lacks multiple top-tier fantasy producers – so unless you have one of the top guys (Jose Altuve or Robinson Cano), Schoop may actually be a better option than you currently have on your roster. The O’s also have a favorable schedule coming up, as they face the White Sox and the Cubs, teams that they could easily score a lot of runs against.
Here are three pitchers who are ranked in the overall top-30 in Yahoo! standard leagues over the past two weeks and are owned in less than 50% of leagues.
Mike Fiers– ranked 9th (2nd pitcher), 39% owned
Jake Odorizzi– ranked 20th, 46% owned
Pat Neshek– ranked 28th, 24% owned