Sunday marks the end of Playoff Round One in standard ESPN head-to-head leagues. Good luck to those looking to seal the deal, as well as everyone scratching their way to a comeback victory. As always, we'll be here for you through the end of the regular season.
Good luck as well to season-long rotisserie and points leagues as Sunday provides an opportunity to fortify you lineup while competitors may be focused elsewhere. You've come this far; don't let football take away from all your hard work.
Here is Sunday's trip around the diamond, with all but one of the stops available in over half of all ESPN leagues.
Eric Lauer (L), rostered in 55% of ESPN leagues, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs: May as well end the suspense and highlight the only option rostered on over 50% of ESPN leagues. It's worth checking on Lauer's availability since he's facing a team fanning at a 28% clip versus southpaws over the past month. Lauer isn't especially dominant, but he's racked 23 punch outs over his previous 24 frames, fueling a 1.50 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in that span.
Logan Gilbert (R), 29%, Seattle Mariners at Kansas City Royals: After posting a 9.13 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in August, it appeared Gilbert hit the rookie wall. It's good to see September has been kinder to the freshman as Gilbert's 2.35 ERA and 1.11 WHIP this month indicates. He's whiffed 18 with only two free passes in 15 1/3 September stanzas.
Paolo Espino (R), 6%, Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies: Like Lauer, Espino is ending the season with a strikeout surge. Over his prior five efforts, Espino has fanned 31 in 25 2/3 frames. While the Rockies have hit righthanders on the road better over the second half, they're still below average against them.
Rich Hill (L), 42%, New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies: It's risky making lineup decisions solely on small splits versus southpaw pitching since only about 28% of plate appearances occur with a lefty on the hill. So while the Phillies are a below average offense facing lefthanders the past month, this is more about Hill and playing in one of the best pitching venues in the league. Despite losing three of his past five starts, Hill has recorded a 3.00 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over those 27 innings, fanning a respectable 26 along the way.
Bullpen: Given, the primary focus should be on nailing down a win on Sunday, but if you're comfortably able to look ahead there is a doubleheader on Monday. If you've been with us all season, you know what's next, picking up relievers from a team playing a pair has been a profitable approach all year. The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals are the participants. Emmanuel Clase is Cleveland's primary closer, but he's available in only 20% of ESPN leagues. However, Nick Wittgren and Bryan Shaw are candidates to get a save if Clase is used in the opener. Scott Barlow has been the main ninth-inning man for the Royals lately, collecting two saves over the past week. He's only rostered in 36% of ESPN leagues.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Austin Nola (R), 20%, San Diego Padres at St. Louis Cardinals (LHP J.A. Happ): Nola's power has been down this season. This is curious since his average exit velocity on fly balls, which drives power, is well up from last season. Calling for a batter to go deep is usually a fool's errand, but let's do it anyway. Nola has been hitting the ball hard this month and he faces Happ, who has given up 71 homers since 2019, tied for second most in MLB.
First Base -- Patrick Wisdom (R), 34%, Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers (LHP Eric Lauer): Wisdom has been one of the most frequent visitors to this space over the second half. While some others (Aledmys Diaz, Abraham Toro) have faded, Wisdom is surging, with a .353/.421/.706 line over the past week.
Second Base -- Kolten Wong (L), 45%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Adrian Sampson): Wong has been stuck on nine stolen bases since August 18. That said, he's been muscling up since coming off the paternity list at the beginning of the month, slugging .513 from the leadoff spot so far in September.
Third Base -- Evan Longoria (R), 31%, San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Max Fried): As he's done with his entire roster, Giants' manager has gotten the most out of Longoria, as the veteran is crushing southpaw pitching this season, posting a .345/.479/.707 line with the platoon advantage.
Shortstop -- Jose Iglesias (R), 6%, Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Alexander Wells): Bobby Dalbec and Enrique Hernandez have shared the Daily Notes spotlight when the Red Sox face a lefty. They're both still in play, but let's highlight Iglesias. The veteran returned to his original organization in early September while Boston was shorthanded. However, posting a .435/.500/.652 line has earned Iglesias regular playing at the keystone.
Corner Infield -- Ji-Man Choi (L), 3%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Wily Peralta): This approach has been fruitful lately, let's try it with Choi. His OPS is only .706 the past week, but he's blistered seven batted ball over 95 mph, five eclipsing the century mark in this span. When this happens, a hot streak often follows.
Middle Infield -- J.P. Crawford (L), 24%, Seattle Mariners at Kansas City Royals (RHP Jackson Kowar): An example of a player hitting the ball hard without the commensurate results was Jarred Kelenic. This was mentioned in Friday's notes, then the rookie launched two over the fence that evening. He remains in play along with Crawford, whose work from the leadoff spot has spurred the Mariners second half surge into playoff contention.
Outfield -- Yadiel Hernandez (L), 2%, Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP Jon Gray): Since becoming a regular at the trade deadline, Hernandez has stroked .278/.331/.458. The Nationals signed Hernandez out of Cuba in 2017. At 33 years old, he's not likely to be a key to their next contender, but his second-half showing could earn him a reserve spot next season.
Outfield -- Jesus Sanchez (L), 15%, Miami Marlins vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Max Kranick): Sanchez, on the other hand, is just 23-years-old, so his September exploits are helping him towards an everyday spot in the 2022 Marlins lineup. Sanchez has pounded a dozen homers in what amounts to a third of a season, five coming over the last week.
Outfield -- Brandon Marsh (L), 5%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Frankie Montas): Marsh was promoted just after the All-Star break, struggling to a .155/.259/.211 line over his first 24 games. In the ensuing 32 games, he picked things up, recoding a .325/.358/.474 line.