If the baseball season is a marathon, then I guess you can say we're down to the final two miles. Checking lineups on a daily basis is even more important as teams will be less predictable with respect to who is in the lineup. Keep tabs on teams who happen to clinch playoff spots as they tend to sit regulars the following day, as well as affording them more rest going forward. We'll do our best to stay on top of all relevant information.
Monday offers up a short schedule, beginning with a 4:10 PM ET wrap-around finale between the Orioles and Tigers. Thursday also has several teams with an off day so be aggressive early in the week in terms of streaming pitchers. Here are some recommendations on both sides of the ledger, all available in over 50% of ESPN leagues.
John Means (L), rostered in 33% of ESPN leagues, Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers: ERA estimators indicate that Means' 3.47 ERA is over a run lower than it should be, but he's showcasing a skills growth to combat some of the likely regression. Monday is a good time to put the skills growth to use, as he faces one of the weakest lineups in the league when a left-hander is on the hill.
Tanner Roark (R), 22%, Oakland Athletics vs. Kansas City Royals: A fly ball pitcher in The Coliseum can be a recipe for success -- especially one with good control. In four home tilts since being acquired by Oakland, Roark is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, fanning a useful 22 batters over 24 innings. With the Royals on the docket, Roark is in great shape for another solid outing.
Reynaldo Lopez (R), 18%, Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins: Full disclosure that this pick may reflect some confirmation bias because there are some latent improvements in Lopez's second half portending a breakout for next season. This observation would be more credible if Lopez hadn't bookended a gem with two absolute stinkers. It also doesn't help that Lopez faces Jose Berrios and one of the most potent lineups in the league. In other words, consider this to be of a desperate nature, for those needing to make up ground.
Pablo Lopez (R), 6%, Miami Marlins at Arizona Diamondbacks: Like Reynaldo, this is another "break glass in case of emergency" scenario, though I trust the Marlins right-hander a little bit more. Pablo's ERA is over half a run higher than his estimators as his skills predict a pitcher with a below-average ERA. That said, the Diamondbacks offense isn't a pushover, so caveat emptor.
The Indians are now on the outside, looking in for a wild-card berth and may be without their closer, Brad Hand. Nick Wittgren is the logical replacement, but Cleveland recently called up James Karinchak and his outrageous strikeout rate. The 23-year-old righty fanned 66 in just 27 1/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A this season. There's also a chance Cleveland uses Carlos Carrasco in this key role to close out the year.
Catcher -- Sean Murphy (R), 9%, Oakland Athletics vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Glenn Sparkman): Murphy is one of the better catching prospects, so the Athletics are understandably going easy on him in light of his having had to deal with knee issues much of the summer. His defense is strong, and his offense is developing. Sparkman is one of the weakest arms on the docket, so don't sweat the lack of a platoon edge. If Murphy isn't playing, Josh Phegley will -- and he indeed enjoys the platoon advantage.
First Base -- Ryan McBroom (L), under 1%, Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics (RHP Tanner Roark): First base is a tough position to fill on Monday, so hopefully you're able to cover the spot from within. Ryan O'Hearn's disappointing season opened the door for a late-season audition from McBroom in terms of facing right-handed pitching. The 27-year old posted a .976 OPS for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before the Royals acquired McBroom from the Yankees.
Second Base -- Starlin Castro (R), 41%, Miami Marlins at Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Robbie Ray): Still just 29 years old, Castro is one of the elder statesmen on a rebuilding squad. Buoyed by a solid post-break run, Castro is on the verge of his second career 20-homer season. He's posted a .300/.341/.500 line since the All-Star Game, including 13 of his 19 longballs.
Third Base -- Hanser Alberto (R), 22%, Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers (LHP Tyler Alexander): It's Pavlovian. Set and forget Alberto's .987 OPS versus southpaws whenever a left-hander is on the hill.
Shortstop -- Nico Hoerner (R), 4%, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Kevin Gausman): Hoerner's glove is major-league ready, but his bat still a work in progress. Hoerner was summoned because both Javier Baez and Addison Russell are on the shelf. Baez is lost for a while, but Russell could return. If Hoerner continues to hit, however, he could supplant Russell. Thus far, Hoerner has slashed a tidy .417/.481/.750. Gausman has been working as a reliever since being signed by the Reds so it's unclear how many innings he'll work.
Corner Infield -- Luis Arraez (L), 20%, Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Reynaldo Lopez): Arraez may not be contributing to Minnesota's record-setting HR pace, but his September line of .413/.471/.565 is certainly a major cog in the club's quest to capture the AL Central.
Middle Infield -- Robinson Cano (L), 49%, New York Mets at Colorado Rockies (RHP Antonio Senzatela): Cano is a great example of why it's necessary to peruse the available player list every day. It's not that he's the Cano of old, but a fly ball hitter in Coors Field against a soft right-hander is worth the extra effort.
Outfield -- Trent Grisham (L), 2%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Ronald Bolanos): Grisham has been a frequent occupant of this space lately, but this isn't a time to get cute just to highlight someone else. Grisham has registered a 1.370 OPS the last week, nestled at or near the top of the Brewers order against righties.
Outfield -- Trent Grisham (L), 2%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Garrett Richards): Grisham has been a frequent occupant of this space lately, but this isn't a time to get cute just to highlight someone else. Grisham has registered a 1.370 OPS the last week, nestled at or near the top of the Brewers order against righties. Richards is making his Padres debut following rehab from Tommy John surgery. It's good for Richards to get some action late this season. In theory, he can now have a normal offseason in preparation for 2020 and not spend the winter fearing a real game. Richards tossed four innings in both of his final two rehab starts, so he could pitch long enough to qualify for a win if he's efficient.
Outfield -- Travis Demeritte (R), 1%, Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP John Means): Demeritte hasn't exactly crushed it since being called up by Detroit, although he is showing signs of adapting to major-league pitching, fanning a lot less lately. If this were earlier in the season, Demeritte would be a nice buy low option. Now, he's a candidate for lightning in a bottle.
Outfield -- Phillip Ervin (R), 1%, Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs (LHP Cole Hamels): Ervin has already been playing frequently, though the loss of Nick Senzel for the season should assure that he will continue to stay in the lineup regularly. Ervin excels versus southpaws, logging a 1.067 OPS against them.