September roster expansions and call-ups put a lot more players in the free-agent pool in deep AL-only and NL-only leagues. These players aren’t necessarily going to be any better than the ones filling the pool earlier in the season, but there are more of them. In the AL this week, there’s a lot of speed while, in the NL, there are a lot of pitchers who can post big strikeout numbers. Welcome to the September call-up edition of the Deep League Report. Time to get going.
AL-only position players
He won’t be starting every day or anywhere near it, but Greg Allen can help your roto team down the stretch in deep AL-only leagues. The 24-year-old outfielder is essentially a one-trick pony at this point in fantasy, but it’s a pretty good trick. In 2015 and 2016, he stole 45-plus bases in the minors. In a season shortened by injury and his call-up, he stole 24 bags. He’ll mostly be used as a pinch runner and a defensive replacement with a few spot starts here and there, but he could nab enough bases in that time to have a positive impact on your team. And if Cleveland clinches the division early, Allen could get a run of starts while the team rests their starters for the first round of the playoffs.
It’s September, which means that it’s time for Terrance Gore to get called up, pinch run nearly every night and steal a bunch of bases in Kansas City. The 26-year-old outfielder is about as one-dimensional as speedsters get considering that the Royals barely let him back, but he’s also a virtual guarantee to take off every time he’s on base. Gore is likely to rack up 5-10 steals by the end of the season while not contributing anything in any other category aside from a few stray runs. If that could help your team, spend a couple of FAAB dollars on him.
He’s a more well-rounded player than the other two guys profiled in this section, but speed is still Tony Kemp’s carrying tool. The 25-year-old utility player was having a great season in Triple-A, hitting .329/.375/.470 with 10 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 552 plate appearances. He doesn’t have a clear path to playing time in Houston’s stacked lineup, but he should get some starts once the team clinches, which could happen soon given their lead on the field. Once that happens, Kemp’s ability to play in the infield and the outfield could lead to a decent number of starts. Bid $1 in deep AL-only leagues with an eye toward the playing time he could get in a week or two.
After a solid season in Triple-A where he had a 3.40 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP with 119 strikeouts and 29 walks in 148 1/3 innings, Aaron Slegers is getting a well-deserved shot in the Minnesota rotation. He did well in his debut, allowing two earned runs with three strikeouts and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old might have to keep up performances like this to avoid being sent to the bullpen. Spend a buck of your FAAB in deep AL-only leagues and hope that he sticks in the rotation.
Sometimes players just go on a roll for no discernable reason. Andrew Albers is on one of those rolls. The veteran lefty has a 3.43 ERA in 21 innings across four starts with 16 strikeouts and five walks, although his 1.38 WHIP and his peripherals suggest that he’ll probably start allowing runs at a faster clip any day now. If you need innings in a deep AL-only league, bid a buck or two on Albers and hope that the good times keep rolling for a little while longer.
The Yankees’ bullpen is deep, so Ben Heller probably won’t see too many high-leverage innings in September. That doesn’t mean that he can’t help your team in deep AL-only leagues, though. The hard-throwing righty earned his call-up by posting a 2.88 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in 56 1/3 innings with 82 strikeouts and 21 walks. That kind of strikeout rate can help any team, even if the walk rate is high enough to make a roto owner worry. Don’t bid more than $1, but if you need bullpen help and some strikeouts, Heller is a legitimate option.
NL-only position players
For the last few seasons, J.P. Crawford has been the Philadelphia’s best prospect by a wide margin. He ranked No. 4 overall on the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects list this season, his second year in a row in that spot here at BP. He struggled this season at the start, eventually landing on the DL with a groin injury that may or may not have been responsible for his first-half struggles. He was significantly better in the second half, earning his September call-up. The Phillies will play the 22-year-old nearly every day for the rest of the season, splitting his time between shortstop, second base and third base. He could hit for average, hit for a little power and steal a few bases, making him worth $4-5 in redraft leagues. Bump that up a few bucks in OBP leagues since the Phils’ shortstop of the future has showed good plate discipline throughout his minor-league career.
The injuries to Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes and the trades of Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson have left the Mets’ outfield in a state of flux. It looked like Travis Taijeron was in line for a decent amount of playing time in right field until they signed Nori Aoki, who was released by the Blue Jays at the end of August. Now it looks like it will take an Aoki slump to make Taijeron the starter in right, something which isn’t too hard to imagine given Aoki’s performance this season. Taijeron is a decent hitter with some power, hitting .272/.383/.525 in Triple-A at hitter friendly Las Vegas with 25 home runs and two steals in 533 plate appearances. Bid $2-3 on the 28-year-old as a bet against Aoki, maybe a buck or two more in OBP leagues.
Starting the season in Double-A, Brian Anderson hit .251/.341/.450 with 14 homers and one steal in 361 plate appearances, earning a promotion to Triple-A where he hit .339/.416/.602 with eight homers and no steals. That performance earned the 24-year-old third baseman a September call-up with the Marlins, who have been running Derek Dietrich out at the hot corner most days since they lost Martin Prado to injury. Bid $3-4 on Anderson in deep NL-only leagues, adding a buck to that in OBP leagues.
Other Options: O’Koyea Dickson, Mike Freeman, Kris Negron
The Dodgers are expected to use pitching prospect Walker Buehler out of the bullpen in September and possibly into October. He sports two 70-grade pitches, an upper-90s fastball and a curveball that can be thrown for strikes or below the zone as a chase pitch. His walk rate in the high minors left something to be desired, so his WHIP might not be much help in deep NL-only leagues, but he should strike out significantly more than a batter per inning in relief as the Dodgers try to figure out if Buehler belongs on their playoff roster.
It seemed like Wilmer Font’s pitching career was over with only 3 1/3 innings pitched in the majors, the last of which came in 2013. The Dodgers picked the 27-year-old up off the trash heap this season and sent him to Triple-A where he was outstanding. He posted a 3.42 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP with 178 strikeouts and 35 walks in 134 1/3 innings with Oklahoma City, reestablishing himself as a pitching prospect, or at least as a potentially useful pitcher for anyone who feels uncomfortable using the term “prospect” for a 27-year-old who debuted in the majors in 2012. He probably won’t start for the Dodgers, instead working out of the bullpen as a multi-inning reliever. If he can sustain the strikeout rate he showed in Triple-A, he’ll provide plenty of value in deep NL-only leagues. Bid $2-3 and watch the strikeouts pile up.
Dillon Maples rose quickly through the Cubs system this year, starting the year in High-A with stops in Double-A and Triple-A before his promotion to the majors this past week. The 25-year-old posted an excellent 13.9 K/9 in Triple-A, although his 5.5 BB/9 is worrisome. If your bullpen is thin and you need strikeouts in a deep NL-only league, bid $1 on Maples and hope he doesn’t blow up your team’s WHIP.