By Sam McPherson
There are several milestone moments in every MLB season that impact the fantasy baseball world, and September 1 was another one of those moments. That’s the date MLB teams are allowed to expand their active rosters from 25 players to 40 players, giving teams a chance to look at inexperienced, young players and plan ahead for next spring.
With just four weeks left in the MLB season, it’s crunch time in fantasy leagues. If you’re in a head-to-head league, the playoffs may have already started. Bragging rights are on the line, no matter what position you hold in the standings. Roster expansion impacts these situations as a veteran player on a non-competitive MLB team could find himself losing playing time to the new kid on the block. Just like that, your fantasy team takes a hit you never saw coming.
Whether you pick up one of these rookies to put in your lineup or you merely shop on waivers for a replacement that is actually playing every day, it’s important to be aware of how roster expansion alters your fantasy team’s potential. This is no time to start losing at-bats or starts, because every missed game could end up being the difference between first and second place in the league.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Welington Castillo, C, Baltimore Orioles: It’s hard to believe a catcher hitting .300 with power (18 home runs) would be available in a lot of fantasy leagues, but a quick check of your waiver wire will let you know if Castillo can be had for the home stretch in your league. He actually is hitting .376 with ten HRs since the All-Star break, so he may have slipped under the radar. Grab him if you can.
2. Shin-soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers: He is as good a stop-gap option in the outfield as any that’s available, and if you’ve lost a regular to a season-ending injury, Choo can help you stay competitive. His numbers (18 HRs, 65 RBI 12 stolen bases, .262 average) don’t jump off the stat sheet, but one thing he does very well is score runs (84 in 125 games). If that’s a category in your league, Choo is the guy you need right now.
3. Lucas Giolito, SP, Chicago White Sox: His MLB debut for Washington last year didn’t go well (6.75 ERA, 1.781 WHIP) , but after another season’s seasoning in the minors, Giolito looks legit now. He has a 2.25 ERA in three starts for the ChiSox, covering 20 innings. With 18 strikeouts and only four walks, his control looks very good. If you need quality starts, take a chance on him.
4. Blake Parker, RP, Los Angeles Angels: The Halos could be charging toward a postseason berth, and Parker seems to be the man in the ninth inning for them now. He’s 32 years old, and you’ve never heard of him, right? Cheap saves come from random places, and Parker proves that rule. With the lowest ERA of his career (2.10) and the highest strikeout rate of his career (11.3 Ks per nine innings), the saves are available if you want them.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Adrián Beltré, 3B, Texas Rangers: He’s been shut down for the year due to a hamstring problem. It was a short season for Beltré, as he also missed a good chunk of time to start the year. In between, the 38-year-old superstar collected his 3,000th hit and delivered a .315 average along with 16 HRs and 66 RBI in just 80 games. Imagine if he’d been healthy the whole year!
2. Yoenis Cespedés, OF, New York Mets: We know it’s hard to believe, another Mets player being ruled out for the year. Cespedés has a bad hammy, too, and his season lasted just 81 games overall. With a .292 average, 17 HRs and 42 RBI, it has to go down as a disappointing season for those that drafted him with higher expectations.
3. Michael Fulmer, SP, Detroit Tigers: Speaking of high expectations, last year’s American League Rookie of the Year hasn’t won a game since July 15, and he’s got elbow issues. Despite making the All-Star team, Fulmer has been a bit of a letdown this year with just 10 wins and a 3.83 ERA. His 1-6 record since the All-Star Game‚ and that 5.33 ERA in the 49 innings since then, indicate he’s really injured.
4. Ivan Nova, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: Another pitcher that has had a bad second half (2-6, 6.38 ERA), Nova’s arm may just be tired at this point. The reality is, though, he just doesn’t strikeout enough batters (just 6.1 Ks/9) to be on your fantasy team for a full season. Nova also has just one win since July 18, and you need better starting pitching down the stretch if you want to win your league.