12-team mixed leagues (must be available in at least 50 percent of CBS, ESPN, or Yahoo leagues)
Rhys Hoskins (1B-OF)—Phillies
Available: 33% CBS, 61% ESPN, 55% Yahoo
— MLB (@MLB) August 24, 2017
Honestly, what more do you need to see from Hoskins? The 24-year-old is hitting .283/.406/.755 with eight home runs, 13 runs scored and 19 RBIs in 64 plate appearances, and is now tied with Carlos Delgado and Trevor Story for the most home runs in baseball history through the first 15 games to begin a career. I’ve had a complicated relationship with Hoskins throughout his minor-league career, which I detailed in last week’s Expert FAAB column. I’m not convinced he’s a legitimate burgeoning fantasy superstar just yet, but the power and patience (10 walks and just 11 strikeouts in 15 games) are very real. If he’s somehow available, you need to pick him up right now.
Byron Buxton (OF)—Twins
Available: 37% CBS, 46% ESPN, 40% Yahoo
My esteemed colleague Mike Gianella and I covered the 23-year-old outfielder’s recent offensive surge extensively in the latest Flags Fly Forever podcast. Since Aug. 1, he’s hitting a staggering .300/.333/.538 with nine extra-base hits (four home runs), 15 runs scored and 13 RBIs in just 90 plate appearances. The gains he’s made in the batting average department are worthy of a lengthier discussion, and it’s easy to gravitate toward that as the biggest change in his profile. However, from a fantasy perspective, it doesn’t have a major impact on his long-term value. Fantasy owners should be much more excited about his recent outburst on the bases. Over the past month, he’s evolved into one of the most efficient base stealers in the game, swiping eight bags without getting caught, and is up to 22 on the season. The broader point I’m attempting to illustrate here is that Buxton can still be a viable mixed-league asset no matter what his batting average is, if he continues to steal bases. It’s shocking that Buxton is available in this many leagues, especially given the lack of legitimate stolen-base threats in the game. –George Bissell
Matt Moore (SP)—Giants
Available: 53% CBS, 79% ESPN, 72% Yahoo
Who’s ready for a Moore renaissance? Don’t look now, but the enigmatic lefty has posted three consecutive quality starts, fanning 19 batters in 20 1/3 innings. More importantly, he’s issued just six walks. Moore’s success can partially be attributed to scaling back on his four-seam fastball, relying instead on a sinker and changeup that have been veritable groundball machines. With many fantasy owners casting Moore aside in a “fool me once” sort of way, now could be the time to swoop in and reap the benefits, especially if Moore can continue to tinker with his pitch mix and maintain the gains enjoyed in his last three starts. This week he’ll be the primary beneficiary of a pair of solid matchups, starting with a date in San Diego, followed up by a home contest against the Cardinals. Embrace the risk.
Jerad Eickhoff (SP)—Phillies
Available: 45% CBS, 79% ESPN, 59% Yahoo
Sure, it’s more fun to dream on that custom Maserati, but sometimes all you need is that trusty Volvo to get you to your destination. Since returning to the Phillies’ rotation after a DL stint to nurse a strained back, Eickhoff has given the Phillies eight perfectly serviceable starts, striking out almost a batter per inning with an ERA a whisker above 3.50. Is it sexy? No, it almost certainly is not. However, with a remaining schedule chock-full of Braves, Marlins, Mets and A’s (oh my), Eickhoff could help you cross the finish line of the 2017 season. –Mark Barry
15-team mixed leagues (must be available in at least 75 percent of CBS, ESPN, or Yahoo leagues)
Kevin Kiermaier (OF)—Rays
Available: 63% CBS, 85% ESPN, 84% Yahoo
After missing two months with a fractured hip, the 27-year-old defensive wizard has flashed the intoxicating power and speed combination that has enticed prospective fantasy owners for years. In addition to swatting a pair of home runs off Marcus Stroman, he also swiped his 11th base of the season Wednesday night. In six games since returning from the disabled list, he’s hitting (10-for-25) with five extra-base hits (three home runs), six runs scored, six RBIs and a steal.
The Rays offense, littered with a collection of “three true outcome” hitters, is inherently streaky. However, Kiermaier is firmly entrenched atop the lineup after a myriad of alternatives fizzled in his absence. With a three-game series coming up against a righty-heavy Cardinal pitching staff, which owns a 5.03 ERA since Aug. 1, there should be plenty of runs scored in St. Louis. At a minimum, Kiermaier is someone fantasy owners in deeper formats should consider streaming this weekend.
Nicky Delmonico (1B/DH)—White Sox
Available: 66% CBS, 80% ESPN, 80% Yahoo
One of the few Sabermetric 1.1 tentpoles that has never fallen is Voros's Law: any player can hit just about anything in around 60 at-bats.
The 25-year-old has surpassed even the most optimistic prognosticators expectations since his call-up on Aug.1, hitting .315/.425/.589 with six home runs, 15 runs scored, 12 RBIs and a pair of stolen bases in just 87 plate appearances. Simply put, he’s been an on-base machine, walking nearly as many times (13) as he’s struck out (14) through his first 21 games. The plate discipline has been impressive, and it insulates plenty of risk in OBP formats, but there are some clear warning signs in his profile going forward.
The most notable revolves around his batted-ball data. As Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs noted earlier this week, Delmonico’s recent surge hasn’t been fueled by hard contact:
“The outfielder possesses a pedestrian average exit velocity of 82.9 mph through his first 59 batted balls tracked by Statcast,” wrote Sawchik. “He’s barreled just 5.1 percent of those balls in play, another pedestrian figure.”
What’s most likely to happen? It’s the core question every forecaster must consider when evaluating a clear outlier like Delmonico. Based on his scouting reports and a pedestrian minor-league track resume, there’s very little reason to believe his hot start will continue, especially from a power standpoint. However, his on-base and pitch recognition skills will give him an opportunity to survive at the major-league level. The White Sox have entrusted him with the DH role and he’s hitting in the heart of their lineup. I don’t think Delmonico is a budding fantasy superstar, but he’s done enough to merit consideration in deeper formats over the final month of the season.
Curtis Granderson (OF)—Dodgers
Curt Granderson nearly hit one into the Allegheny. 2-1, Dodgers.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 24, 2017
What if I told you that Granderson’s batting average didn’t matter? Sure, he was brutal for two months to begin the year, but he’s hit .246/.382/.585 with 18 home runs since June 1. With fantasy superstar Cody Bellinger on the disabled list and Joc Pederson languishing in Triple-A, the playing time is there in Los Angeles right now. It could evaporate once Bellinger returns, but the Dodgers have the depth to platoon him down the stretch and avoid matchups against tough lefties and give him an opportunity to mash righties. If you’re in a deep mixer, he could be a difference maker, especially in an OBP format. –George Bissell
Blake Snell (SP) Rays
Available: 63% CBS, 90% ESPN, 79% Yahoo
It’s nice to be charitable. In his first extended run in the big-league rotation, Snell took those words to heart, giving up free passes at a rate even Bill Gates would find impressive. A slight refresher at Triple-A Durham helped the southpaw reset, and he has clearly improved since returning to the Rays’ rotation. In his past six starts, Snell has averaged 2.3 walks per nine and has only failed to pitch into the sixth inning once. He hasn’t set the world ablaze with his paltry strikeout totals during that stretch, but his 10.1 percent swinging-strike rate hovers right around league average, so the strikeouts could be looming with a little sequencing luck.
R.A. Dickey (SP)—Braves
Available: 64% CBS, 77% ESPN, 78% Yahoo
For anyone who has regularly checked out my weekly Starting Pitcher Planners, you know that I’ve written off Dickey on more occasions than I care to count. Much to my surprise (and delight), the 42-year-old hurler has been pretty good since mid-June. In his past 12 starts, Dickey has tossed at least six innings 11 times, striking out around eight batters per nine innings, while walking fewer than three in 75 2/3 innings, en route to a shocking 2.74 ERA. Wait, what? I understand if you’re still skeptical, and I am a little bit too. There’s just something about trusting a knuckleballer over the age of 40 that feels like eating week old potato salad. (Editors Note: Gross) Having said that, Dickey has been really good for a while now, and should be on your radar despite that ringing endorsement. –Mark Barry
The Deep League Specials (must be available in at least 90 percent of CBS, ESPN, or Yahoo leagues)
Delino DeShields Jr. (OF)—Rangers
Available: 77% CBS, 86% ESPN, 85% Yahoo
I’m reluctant to put DeShields in this space, because I’d advocate picking him up in shallow mixed leagues too. It’s mystifying that he’s so widely available given the lack of stolen-base threats in the game. I was extremely skeptical of his playing time and stolen-base upside back in April. Those concerns turned out to be valid. However, with just five weeks left in the fantasy season, I’m less concerned about his long-term forecast and more willing to invest a roster spot on his stolen-base potential.
The 25-year-old outfielder has led off for the Rangers in each of his 13 starts since Aug. 1, hitting .296/.387/.407 with four extra-base hits (one home run), 11 runs scored, three RBIs in just 64 plate appearances. More importantly, he’s a perfect 6 for 6 in stolen-base attempts during that span. DeShields is one of just eight players to eclipse the 25-steal plateau this season and has an outside shot at 40 steals if he continues to garner everyday at-bats down the stretch. He needs to be owned all fantasy leagues. Go pick him up right now. I’m serious. –George Bissell
Tyler Glasnow (SP)—Pirates
Available: 68% CBS, 96% ESPN, 81% Yahoo
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Glasnow was atrocious over 54 1/3 big league innings this season. He walked way too many dudes, gave up a bunch of homers, and didn’t strike enough guys out to make up the difference. The Pirates optioned the giant righty to Triple-A in early June, and the “b” word that rhymes with dust followed him to Indianapolis. Following the demotion, Glasnow tweaked his mechanics, opting to throw exclusively from the stretch. It has clearly worked so far.
In 13 starts, the 24-year-old has tossed 81 1/3 innings with 122 strikeouts (!) and a 1.99 ERA. That’s good. More importantly, he has only walked 29 batters leading to a nifty 0.96 WHIP. Obviously, Glasnow has dominated Triple-A before and received a rude awakening upon taking his talents to Pittsburgh. However, with his new adjustments, there is a real reason to believe that the uber prospect could maintain a semblance of this top-level of production upon re-joining the big club. As soon as
the Pirates gain another year of team control Glasnow gets everything ironed out, he should be back in the Pirates’ rotation, and he could be a sneaky, impact guy for the stretch run. –Mark Barry