A few of the players in this season-ending edition of the Deep League Report are better than the kind of players typically seen in this column. Rest assured, all of the players listed in this column are either available in my deep home leagues or were acquired via FAAB on Sunday. It’s the last week of the season and you can’t roll your FAAB dollars over to next season, so don’t be afraid to place some big bids. Time to get this ball rolling for the last time this year.
AL-only position players
In my deep AL-only home league, I released Miguel Montero on Sunday and picked up Perez. Montero’s salary was $3 and my bid on Perez was $3, making this a lateral move with regard to the salary cap. I would have preferred to activate Russell Martin off my reserve list, but his $16 salary made that impossible under our salary cap unless I ditched a pitcher with a double-digit salary—something I was not willing to do considering the tightness of the W, ERA and WHIP categories. Perez should get a little more playing time than Montero over the season’s final week. Perez has a better chance of driving a ball or two into the seats than Montero, too. It’s not a huge upgrade, but it was the biggest upgrade available. I’m in a tight race and I have an outside chance at gaining a point in HR. There’s no reason for me to do anything besides go for Perez here. Since there’s only one transaction window left this season in leagues that haven’t already seen their last window close, bid as much as you can within the constraints of your budget, your salary cap and your other acquisitions.
I released Mike Napoli in my deep AL-only home league Sunday since he is nursing an ankle injury, and is unlikely to do much more than pinch-hit a couple of times before the season ends. The player at the top of my list as Napoli’s replacement was Valbuena. I bid $7, which was the most I could have bid under our salary cap, considering that I also wanted to release A.J. Griffin at $6 and activate James Paxton at $10. I didn’t get Valbuena, losing out to my BP colleague Mike Gianella and his $8 bid. I had one possible point to gain in HR and nothing to lose in AVG, which meant that I could benefit from the one thing that the veteran infielder does well (hit homers) while being insulated from the thing he does most poorly (hit for average). As it turns out, I had a bad night Monday. with my team hitting below the Mendoza Line, while the team behind me in AVG hit well over .500, narrowing the gap in that category enough to put it back in play. If you need HR and are safe in AVG, Valbuena is a good pickup. Just make sure that you’re safe in AVG first. You can’t take your FAAB with you, so bid what you can as long as it doesn’t interfere with other transactions you’re trying to make or violate your league’s settings.
My second choice behind Luis Valbuena for Mike Napoli’s roster spot was Davis. I got Davis at $7, hoping that the Astros clinch everything they care about clinching sooner rather than later, resting regulars and letting rookies like Davis string a few starts in a row together through the final day of the regular season. Houston probably won’t catch Cleveland for home-field advantage, but they likely will clinch a higher seed than Boston by Wednesday. I’m hoping for Davis to get some playing time and run into a couple toward the end of the week. Bid what you can, leaving yourself enough to acquire whatever other players you need to get yourself over the finish line.
Acquired by the A’s from the Dodgers in mid-August in exchange for some international bonus pool money, Hatcher wasn’t expected to do much more than provide a few solid if unspectacular innings out of the bullpen. In September, however, the 32-year-old righty has been nothing short of spectacular. In 13 innings, he has posted a 0.69 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP with nine strikeouts and four walks. He probably hasn’t turned into a new, better pitcher than he’s been throughout his career, but there’s less than a week left in the season for his performance to regress. Don’t grab him in keeper leagues expecting that performance to carry over into next season. In redraft leagues, bid a few of your remaining FAAB dollars on him in you need to gamble on some solid relief innings to help you gain or secure a point or two in ERA or WHIP.
In 30 innings spanning five starts, Mengden has put up surprisingly good numbers with Oakland, posting a 3.30 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP with 18 strikeouts and five walks. The mustachioed 24-year-old has a favorable matchup on the last day of the season, too, against a Rangers team riddled with injuries that will have been eliminated from playoff contention. His stuff isn’t world-beating, but if you could use a start on the final day, Mengden is probably as good of an option as you’ll find in deep AL-only leagues. If you need to gamble on a starter, bid what you can muster on Mengden while leaving yourself as much as you need to fill out the rest of your roster for the final few games of the season.
By any metric, Anderson has had a poor 2017 season. His line speaks for itself: a 7.15 ERA and 1.81 WHIP in 45 1/3 innings with 32 strikeouts and 18 walks. However, he is currently scheduled to make his final start against the Yankees on the last day of the season, a day on which the Bronx Bombers almost definitely will be resting their regulars in advance of the wild card game. If you are desperate for a starter and maybe for a win, consider the veteran lefty. Use the majority of your remaining FAAB on all of the other players you need, leaving only a buck for Anderson. You might need to gamble on Anderson, but you don’t need that roll of the dice to cost more than the minimum.
NL-only position players
A September call-up to the Padres was Villanueva’s reward for a solid season in Triple-A. The 26-year-old hit .296/.369/.528 in 454 plate appearances with 20 homers and four steals while mostly playing third base. The Pacific Coast League is quite hitter friendly, though, which takes a little bit of the shine off that line. Villanueva has performed well in his first exposure to the majors, posting a .368/.368/.842 line in 19 plate appearances with three home runs and no steals. That’s not nearly a large enough sample size to project his 2018 line, but it should be enough to make sure that he gets a decent number of starts through the end of the season. You shouldn’t have to bid more than $3 to get him, but if you can go higher and don’t need to spread your FAAB dollars around elsewhere, then by all means, go big. You can’t take your FAAB with you.
Here at the Deep League Report, we don’t usually see players as well-known as Pederson. Then again, players with a profile like Pederson, an athletic 25-year-old outfielder entering his third full season and pegged at around $19-20 by the Player Forecast Manager (PFM) at Baseball Prospectus, usually don’t perform this poorly over the course of a full year. He has hit .210/.329/.401 with 11 home runs and four stolen bases over 316 plate appearances, earning a demotion to Triple-A in mid-August to work on his swing and clear his head. His stat line didn’t get any better in Oklahoma where he posted a .169/.225/.323 line with three homers and one steal in 71 plate appearances. The Dodgers recalled the center fielder Sept. 5 and he hasn’t played much since. It’s not clear if he’ll make the playoff roster, and if he does, he probably won’t be starting, even against righties. What he will probably do, once his team’s playoff seed is solidified, is play most of the rest of the games while the playoff starters get ready for the postseason. Bid as much as you can afford, leaving as much as you need for the rest of your bids.
Like Pederson, Heyward is a much more prominent player than the ones usually featured in the Deep League Report. Heyward has struggled for longer, though, coming up on two years now. To be fair, Heyward has been better this season than he was a season ago in most categories, with a better AVG, OBP, SLG and more HR. His glove is still excellent and it keeps him in the lineup most nights, something which makes him worthwhile in deep NL-only leagues even if he isn’t the player he was a few years ago. And if you’re looking for a sign that he’s hitting well right now, he did homer Tuesday night. If you need an everyday player in the outfield, bid as big a chunk of your FAAB as you can while leaving minimal amounts to use on the rest of your bids.
He’s 27 year old, his fastball tops out in the low 90s and he hasn’t struck out more than a batter per inning since he was in High-A in 2014. Chris Stratton is not a prospect. He is, however, a major league starter right now, and he’s scheduled to start in his pitcher-friendly home park against the Padres. If you need a start during the final week of the season, that’s about as good as it’s going to get in the free agent pool in deep NL-only leagues. Bid whatever you have left after you get your other bids in.
I really liked Ramos as a cheap late-game buy in deep NL-only leagues coming into this season. That pick didn’t turn out too well since the 24-year-old allowed way too many baserunners, posting a 4.6 BB/9 and yielding more than a hit per inning. He struck out way more than a batter per inning, but the baserunners he allowed led to an inflated ERA and an even more inflated WHIP. The Phillies sent him down to Triple-A in late June, leaving him there until early August. His performance in August was about the same as it was over the first few months of the season, but since Sept. 1, he has been a completely different pitcher. This month, he has posted a 1.93 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP over 9 1/3 innings with 15 strikeouts while allowing only four hits and three walks. If you’re looking for a reliever on a hot streak to rack up a few strikeouts or put a zero up on the board over the final weekend of the season, bid a few bucks on the Venezuelan righty.
Signed by the Reds as a minor-league free agent in February, Deck McGuire had a great season in Double-A, posting a 2.79 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP with 170 strikeouts and 57 walks in 168 innings. That performance earned the 28-year-old a September call-up. He has one start left and it falls on the last day of the season against the Cubs. Since Chicago is likely to have clinched the division by then, this could be a good matchup for McGuire. If you need a start over the last weekend of the season in a deep NL-only league, bid what your budget and your other needs will allow.