ROTISSERIE: September speculations, 2019

This article appeared in the August 21st issue of Sports Weekly.

Trying to make up ground in September requires fantasy owners to speculate on risky or unheralded players. After all, most proven performers already are rostered in the majority of leagues. So are the top prospects that might get an audition in September.

The key is to take targeted, educated risks. This could include overlooked young bats or lightly-hyped prospects, as well as players with emerging underlying skills.

Here are several speculative options that could provide some overlooked value to your fantasy roster in September.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Hitters

Shortstop Willy Adames of the Rays is not producing at a high level, but that is starting to change. Adames has slashed his strikeout rate so far in August. In addition, Adames’ power skills have blossomed since the beginning of June. He has 11 HR during the last two-and-a-half months. At age 23, we cannot dismiss this growth. Adames could be in store for a big September.

Former first-round pick catcher Mike Zunino has sabotaged the batting average of his owners so far in 2019. He finally appears to be making strides with his bat in August though. His .966 OPS this month is by far the best of any month this year. He also is striking out at a much lower clip. With some of the best raw power of any backstop in the game, Zunino’s recent surge could net some good results in September.

Ehire Adrianza of the Twins is a utility type that could provide you help with your batting average down the stretch. He has produced a .325 BA during the past month, a mark that has been supported by strong plate skills and a high rate of line drives.

Pitchers

White Sox starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez finally is starting to tap into the upside that made him a top pitching prospect a few years ago. Lopez has improved his command from a mediocre 2.2 strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) during the first three months to a solid 2.9 K/BB since the start of June. He is throwing a lot more swinging and first-pitch strikes too, which supports his command gains.

Reliever Nick Anderson of the Rays has been lights-out since being traded from the Marlins. He has posted a filthy 17/0 K/BB in 7 innings since the trade. He is firmly Tampa Bay’s plan B for saves now and could give you a few saves in September when Emilio Pagan needs a rest.

Former top starting pitcher prospect Hunter Harvey has revitalized his career while pitching out of the bullpen for AAA Norfolk. He had a 35/8 K/BB during his last 26 IP there. While Harvey’s chronic health woes make it unlikely he will ever stick as a starter, his recent recall to the Orioles—and the open Baltimore bullpen—could give Harvey the shot to make an impact to its bullpen in September. He is worthy of speculation in very deep leagues.

Yankees’ starting pitcher James Paxton was horrible in July. He posted an ugly 5.68 ERA and 1.70 WHIP that month. Those results were due to a high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) more than shaky underlying skills. Indeed, Paxton has been able to convert his strong skills into solid results so far in August. He could be setting himself up for a strong September.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Hitters

San Diego centerfielder Manuel Margot quietly has been one of the game’s best bats since the start of June. He has delivered 7 HR and 6 SB during that period. In addition, his 16 percent walk rate since June 1 is one of the best in the game. He also has cut down on his strikeout rate. In addition, Margot’s OPS has increased in three straight months.

Overlooked prospect Josh Rojas of the Diamondbacks was traded to his hometown team in the deal that brought Zack Greinke to the Astros. While he was not on any prospect lists heading into the 2019 season, Rojas showed above-average pop and speed this year at Triple-A. He also made contact at a very high rate. Rojas’ ability to defend all over the diamond could help him get an extended look with Arizona down the stretch.

Rockies’ Triple-A outfielder Sam Hilliard has a good shot to receive a call-up to the majors in September. Hilliard consistently has displayed an intriguing power/speed package in the minors. Hilliard’s high strikeout rate likely will prevent him from delivering a good batting average, but the rest of his tools are good enough to cover up that weakness.

Triple-A wonder boy Ty France will get a shot to play almost every day for the Padres after the recent injuries to the Padres’ infield. France produced at a historical level in the minors before this recall. Even if we attribute some of his production outburst to a more hitter-friendly baseball, France owns the tools to produce at a high clip for the rest of the season. And at age 24, he is young enough to show further growth as he heads into 2020.

Arizona’s Wilmer Flores could be a dart throw worth speculating on in September if you play in a deep league. He has been saddled by injuries to this point, but his bat has looked potent since returning from the injured list. He has put up elite power results in August while maintaining a low strikeout rate. He also qualifies at both first and second base in most leagues.

Pitchers

Milwaukee’s Adrian Houser has made the most out of his recent rotation opportunities. Houser has posted an elite 4.8 K/BB over the past month while keeping the ball on the ground at a high rate. He has been very dominant against right-handed hitters too. Houser’s strong underlying skills give him the potential to produce a near-3.00 ERA down the stretch.

Rockies’ reliever Jairo Diaz could be Scott Oberg’s replacement for saves in the Colorado bullpen after Oberg went on the injured list with a blood clot issue. Diaz has posted an 11.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 over the past month. At the same time, his rate of swinging strikes has soared, which suggests his spike in strikeouts can stick.

San Francisco starter Tyler Beede is another former first-round pick that is worthy of speculation, even if his surface stats might suggest otherwise. Behind Beede’s ugly 6.32 ERA and 1.63 WHIP during the past month is a solid 31/8 K/BB in 31 innings pitched. He also is generating swinging and first-pitch strikes at very high rates, so we cannot dismiss his underlying surge.

Padres’ pitcher Dinelson Lamet has looked like an impact arm since returning from an elbow issue. Lamet has produced an electric 12.1 K/9 during his last 40 innings, helping him to deliver a 2.50 ERA so far this month. Lamet is another intriguing play for September if you can stomach his spotty control.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.