One of this season’s top-10 outfielders in fantasy was traded on Thursday, the final day before individual postseason eligibility can be attained, while another who is currently tied for the American League lead in stolen bases also switched teams. If that wasn’t enough, a reliable, consistent second baseman switched leagues, and one of the top starting pitchers of the era was on the move, as well. Phew! This was better than the July trading deadline.
Regardless, how all these fellows fit into their new teams will be among the many intriguing things to watch this first weekend of September. Justin Upton is a member of the Los Angeles Angels now, his salary dumped by the rebuilding Detroit Tigers team. To make room, the Angels moved Cameron Maybin to the Houston Astros, where playing time could be a bit more problematic for him. That won’t be a problem for Brandon Phillips, moving from the Atlanta Braves to the Angels. Oh yeah, Justin Verlander is an Astro now, too.
For the Angels, Upton will play left field and hit in the middle of the lineup, and there’s every reason to believe the fine statistics he’s been providing will keep going in the final four weeks. Upton is on his way to likely career highs in home runs and runs batted in, and his OPS has never been better. The Angels start a weekend series Friday in Texas against the Rangers, and we’ll have to see what the lineup looks like since Maybin and Ben Revere had been leading off. Outfielder Kole Calhoun has handled the role in the past, as has third baseman Yunel Escobar, who could come off the DL any day now.
It could also be Phillips, long an underrated fantasy asset who continues to hit for average and provide double-digit home runs and stolen bases. Phillips isn’t necessarily a top-10 second baseman, but the consistency and reliability is there, even at 36 years old. Plus, he’s added third base eligibility now. The Angels could bat Calhoun and Phillips at the top of the order, which makes a difference. As for the Braves, they’ll go with Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz to replace Phillips, which won’t send shock waves through the fantasy world.
For the Astros, Maybin might find it difficult to earn regular at-bats since he could be in a left field platoon with rookie Derek Fisher, who bats from the left side. Even if Maybin plays, it’s unlikely he’ll get a spot at or near the top of the mighty lineup, and that could affect the stolen base output. It’s worth noting that Maybin isn’t the most durable fellow around, and since the All-Star break, with 79 plate appearances, he’s hitting .197, albeit with four steals. His value goes down with this move.
Verlander’s overall numbers don’t impress, but they’re also quite irrelevant. The 34-year-old has pitched considerably better of late, with eight or more strikeouts in four consecutive starts, one of which came at Coors Field. His second-half ERA is 2.41, roughly half of what it was in the first half. Which half will you believe? Verlander is owned in all leagues, and should be, and we should expect him to keep thriving, as he knows he’ll get to participate in October baseball. We should all be so lucky. Whom the Astros bump from the rotation matters to fantasy owners, because Brad Peacock deserves better and Mike Fiers probably doesn’t, so watch to see what the Astros announce.
For the Tigers, it would be nice if the shedding of All-Star caliber players opened up playing time for top prospects, and this is the weekend, we’ll see quite a few young players promoted around the sport. But in Detroit’s case, we’ll be watching the likes of Alex Presley, Mikie Mahtook and JaCoby Jones start in the outfield. Perhaps soon Jim Adduci and Tyler Collins will join in. Yawn. Same goes for the rotation sans Verlander. Not much to see here.
The Tigers prospect many want to see is corner infielder Jeimer Candelario, acquired from the Cubs last month, and his opportunity could come this weekend. Don’t be surprised if struggling Miguel Cabrera doesn’t finish out his season, as it’s hard to believe he’s been healthy while having the worst season of his legendary career. Cabrera, No. 13 in ESPN ADP, is the No. 386 option on the ESPN Player Rater and a leading contender for bust of the year.
Here are other players and situations to watch this weekend.
Rookie alert! Rosters expand Friday, so look for teams good and bad to add minor leaguers, although as is generally the case, there doesn’t figure to be great initial fantasy impact. Even if Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford plays regularly, can he be expected to be better than your current options? At the same time, when a kid comes up, it might mean a veteran doesn’t get to play as much playing time. If the Braves really do promote teenager Ronald Acuna, who is likely to be awesome, then Matt Kemp might not play. A lot of people are relying on him.
Regardless, look for Crawford, Cleveland Indians catcher Francisco Mejia and outfielder Greg Allen, Colorado Rockies infielder Ryan McMahon, Texas Rangers second baseman Willie Calhoun, Oakland Athletics first baseman Renato Nunez and a bunch of pitchers from the Tampa Bay Rays' Brent Honeywell to the Los Angeles Dodgers' Walker Buehler to get a chance to play in the big leagues. Any and all could be future stars, but probably not in the calendar year 2017.
Ranger danger: Future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre, fifth at his position on the Player Rater for the past 30 days, left Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury, and that doesn’t bode well for his weekend participation. If Beltre needs to miss time, Joey Gallo can move to third base, and that could pave the way for Willie Calhoun at-bats -- or it could mean more Ryan Rua.
Wild, wild-card races: It’s a good thing that nearly every AL team thinks it can still contend for a playoff berth, and it means players want to play. Perhaps we see key Minnesota Twins Byron Buxton (hand) and Miguel Sano (shin) sooner rather than later. It also means we will see struggling players not willing to sit even if they’re hurting, which is clearly the case with New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, as he and his balky shoulder were bumped down to sixth in Thursday’s lineup. Don’t be afraid to sit players like this if you have better options and need to protect batting average.
10 pitchers on my mind
Matt Harvey, New York Mets: Hard to believe the organization is bringing him back for September, but he’s apparently healthy, and we shouldn’t be so dismissive. Would I pick him up and use him? Not a chance, but I’m open-minded for later in the month.
Jake Junis, Kansas City Royals: The rookie right-hander has been yanked from games in the sixth inning recently with low pitch counts, but not before accruing 15 strikeouts in those 11 innings, with two runs allowed. He faces the Twins.
Chase Anderson, Milwaukee Brewers: He returned from the disabled list and pitched well against the Rockies in Denver, the Dodgers in Los Angeles and at home against the Cardinals. And Monday, he faces the Reds. Anderson should be owned in a lot more leagues.
Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians: As of now he’s scheduled to start Monday against James Shields and the White Sox, so again, that’s a desirable matchup. Salazar could throw seven great innings with 10 whiffs -- or he could get lit if his elbow hurts. Either way, he’s worth watching. By the way, Monday is Labor Day, and the first games start around 1 p.m. ET. Rosters both daily and weekly will lock then. It’s the head-to-head playoffs for some of you. Don’t miss the deadline.
Thursday hitting notes
Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter/first baseman Kendrys Morales isn’t having his best season, and he’s been notably underwhelming since the All-Star break, but three home runs and seven runs batted in against the Baltimore Orioles makes things look better. Morales had two homers and seven RBI in the past month. Baseball!
Orioles outfielder Adam Jones isn’t quite the fantasy option he used to be, but he’s still worth owning in all leagues. Earlier this week, he launched his 25th home run of the year, and he’s the only player to reach that mark in each of the past seven seasons. On Thursday, he hit No. 26.
Cincinnati Reds infielder/outfielder Scooter Gennett continues to amaze. His homer against Jacob deGrom was his 23rd, to go with 81 RBIs, and all in 402 plate appearances. That’s impressive and valuable for a guy who didn’t seem to have a role back in April.
Thursday pitching notes
Brewers right-hander Zach Davies won his 16th game with seven strong innings against the Washington Nationals. Davies sure doesn’t overpower hitters, but eight of his past nine outings have been quality starts, and his ERA has gone from 5.08 to 3.85.
Yankees lefty CC Sabathia won his 11th game with six innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox, the second time he’s beat the first-place team in two weeks. Sabathia overcame his five walks and annoying bunts by the other team. He’s obviously not what he used to be, but he’s worthy of fantasy attention. Sabathia’s next outings are scheduled at Baltimore and at Tampa Bay.