North Carolina product Dustin Ackley was a pretty big thing a few years ago, a top dozen prospect in 2010 and 2011 and the second overall pick in his draft class. And maybe he'll be a pretty big thing for our fake teams in the final five weeks of the year.
Mind you, Ackley's star had a notable crash earlier this season. He was optioned to Triple-A back on May 26, taking his .205/.266/.250 slash with him. It wasn't a question of why the Mariners demoted Ackley, it was a matter of why they waited so long. And this all came on the heels of a mediocre 2012 campaign (.622 OPS).
[Play Y! Sports Fantasy Football: The No. 1 free fantasy football game!]
To Ackley's credit, he took advantage of the brief detour and turned his season around. He crushed the ball in the minors at Tacoma (.365/.472/.500 over 25 games, with 19 walks against 14 strikeouts) and returned to the Mariners with some restored confidence. And he's been a productive big leaguer in the second go-round.
The post-hype lefty is on a .343 binge over his last 34 starts, and he's homered twice in the last four games. Ackley's double and homer were just about the only bright spots in Wednesday's 10-4 loss to Texas. Here's a look at the round-tripper, off a southpaw no less. It's a first-row special, but still a nifty piece of hitting, a gorgeous swing.
Everyone loves a Swiss Army Knife for roto purposes and that's Ackley - you can slot him at first base, second base or the outfield. The handy Mariner is unclaimed in 81 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Do what you need to do.
• While we're in the Pacific Northwest, hotshot pitching prospect Taijuan Walker would like your attention. The 6-foot-4 righty is coming up from Triple-A and will make his debut Friday against the Astros (good work if you can get it; heck, the PCL might be a bigger test).
Walker piled up 160 strikeouts over 141.1 innings in the minors this year, over two stops, along with a 2.93 ERA. It's not clear how much longer he'll pitch this season - the club has no incentive to push the workload - but let's have some fun with the Friday start. As you probably know, Houston is the runaway leader in batting strikeouts this season. Get your K-cards ready.
• If you're looking for a hot bat, Brandon Moss might be worth a kick of the tires. He homered twice in Wednesday's laugher at Detroit (along with a double and single), on the heels of Tuesday's raindrop-dodging homer. That makes five homers (and four walks) for Moss over his last seven games, and 22 for the season.
The immediate schedule isn't easy - Max Scherzer calls Thursday, then it's a weekend series under the catwalk in Tampa - but sometimes you need to take a swing for the fences. Moss has first base and outfield eligibility and is unowned in about two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues.
• It's been a mixed bag for Jordan Schafer since he took over Atlanta's leadoff spot a week ago (replacing the injured Jason Heyward), but things fell into place for the replacement on Wednesday. Schafer collected three hits, one walk and two steals (on three attempts) in the victory over Cleveland, hiking his average up to .275 and his OBP to .358. One run scored, two RBIs, useful stuff.
The Braves are going to play Schafer and use him in a good slot, and obviously there's a green light at play (he's swiped 15 bags in limited playing time). How badly did you need some speed? Schafer is waiting for your call in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues.