Friday is an important day on the baseball calendar as rosters will be locked as far as each team's playoff-eligible player pools are concerned, and active rosters expand from 26 to 28 players. Yes, change, which is always the name of the game in the baseball world, is every bit still the story heading into Labor Day weekend, as we're sure to see a least a notable waiver claim and/or prospect promotion ... or three.
Our fantasy baseball analysts, Tristan H. Cockcroft and Eric Karabell, have the scoop on what to expect in the weekend ahead.
Cockcroft: I'll begin by being a ridiculous homer, but I'm intrigued by the New York Yankees' reported promotions of prospects Jasson Dominguez and Austin Wells, right in time for what should be a challenging three-game road series against the Houston Astros. This isn't to say that either player is likely to make an instant impact in ESPN standard leagues, but they could both be relevant in anything deeper, especially with the Yankees pretty clearly now out of contention and auditioning players for 2024.
In the event that Harrison Bader, on waivers through Thursday, is claimed by another team, then center field is wide open for Dominguez to play there every day. Dominguez was on an absolute tear since his Aug. 22 promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, batting .419/.514/.581 with six walks (and only three strikeouts) in nine games -- an encouraging performance considering his initial struggles adapting to Double-A ball as well as in last year's Arizona Fall League. I'd anticipate he'll endure similar struggles initially with the Yankees, but that might set him up for a decent chance at an Opening Day 2024 role, and there's always the chance that his elite speed and above-average pop could make an instant impact in rotisserie leagues.
Wells, meanwhile, is a bat-first catcher-eligible hitter, and he should see enough time to be a potential No. 2 option in leagues that require them.
Karabell: I agree that many eyes in the baseball and fantasy world should be on this series, as the Yankees go younger and give a hint to their future. It's not only Dominguez and Wells -- Everson Pereira and Oswald Peraza are recent callups being given a legit opportunity to play as well. The lineup should be, at the least, more exciting now. The Yankees are in new territory here, and it's about time.
And, if we're going to talk about the Yankees, we must give equal time to the Boston Red Sox, right? Isn't that the rule here?
I continue to painfully watch outfielder Adam Duvall hit home runs nearly every day for a fantasy team other than mine in one key league, as I dropped him due to his hitting barely .200 over a 10-week period. Not anymore! The Sox promoted Ceddanne Rafaela after he hit .302 with 20 home runs and 36 steals in the minors. They play the Kansas City Royals this weekend.
Who would you rather rely on over the final month? There are so many young hitters creating interest on rosters these days. I love it!
Cockcroft: Duvall, probably, but that's only because I worry the Red Sox will do the foolish thing and keep Rafaela on the "majors-to-Triple A" shuttle. If they don't, I agree, Rafaela is probably the most appealing of any of the rookies we've named so far.
Hey, fun fact that's entirely not fun: Similar to your Duvall story, I've got him in my big points-based home league, and had him on the bench for his ridiculous Week 20 (.483/.516/1.172, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 7 runs). Argh! It's so difficult to gauge when to play him.
This Chicago Cubs/Cincinnati Reds series at Great American Ball Park seems like a critical one, both for the playoff races as well as fantasy baseball scouting. There's a Friday doubleheader, with one of the games making up for their April 5 postponement, so you'll get plenty of volume from both teams. Load up on hitters, including Ian Happ, Jeimer Candelario, TJ Friedl and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, especially accounting for the hitting-friendly environment as well as the greater reliance upon relievers, given the extra game.
Additionally, keep tabs on rookie Reds starters Andrew Abbott and Brandon Williamson on Saturday and Sunday, as the Forecaster favors them and their teammates for those two games. They could both use solid outings to remain fantasy-relevant down the stretch.
Karabell: Let's discuss Coors Field, because if you desire offense, that is the place to go. The Toronto Blue Jays head to Denver this weekend without Bo Bichette and Matt Carpenter, but no worries, Davis Schneider is here! OK, so his 1.420 OPS probably cannot continue for much longer, but hey, it's Coors! He hammers left-handed pitching and the Colorado Rockies figure to start at least one lefty -- and it's not like RHP Chris Flexen (Friday night) is, well, good. Blue Jays hitters should enjoy, and Schneider, who is among the most-added hitters in ESPN leagues, remains readily available.
Duvall is hardly the only hot hitter still available in so many ESPN leagues. Minnesota Twins SS/3B Royce Lewis has undeniable power, and an important weekend series in Texas. New York Mets OF DJ Stewart has hit eight home runs over the past three weeks. Los Angeles Angels 2B/SS/3B/OF Luis Rengifo hammers left-handed pitching, and should enjoy a weekend series in Oakland.
C'mon, fantasy managers, it's September! Move on from strugglers and stream lineup positions.
Cockcroft: Agreed on that last point, streaming is most certainly the key to winning those head-to-head playoff matchups. If you've got a struggling or flat-out dead lineup spot, cut the player and do your matchups homework!
From a pitching-streamers perspective, there's similarly plenty out there. Patrick Sandoval (Friday) and Griffin Canning (Saturday) stand out from that Angels-Athletics series you mentioned. Mike Clevinger faces the Detroit Tigers, who have been held to two runs or fewer in four of their last five games, on Saturday. Eury Perez visits the scrappy Washington Nationals, who have scored only 35 runs over their last 11 games. The San Diego Padres will start Michael Wacha (Friday) and Seth Lugo (Sunday) against a San Francisco Giants team that has averaged a third-worst 3.62 runs per game in August. And Aaron Civale visits Cleveland once more, to face the Guardians' mediocre lineup.