Final Week Tips

Christopher Crawford breaks down Ryan Braun's hot Cactus League start along with the Mariners' injury woes in Thursday's Spring Training Daily

One final week of the regular season, one last notes column for the year. I will continue doing columns into October, the first looking at this year’s fantasy MVPs and LVPs and the rest reviewing my preseason projections, before hunkering down and shifting into draft guide mode.

This being the final week, expect many, many annoyances. Regulars playing the full slate of games will be exceptions, and rotation tweaks will be frequent. Still, the goal here is to try to find some players who will be better or worse bets than usual.

AL Notes - Hitters

-Detroit, Kansas City, Oakland and Seattle will be the American League teams taking the final week most seriously, and all finish up with seven games (the Royals also have to pick up a suspended game in the 10th inning Monday, but that shouldn’t have any real impact in fantasy leagues).

The four teams also generally have favorable matchups for hitters. The Tigers get the White Sox and Twins. The Royals get the Indians and White Sox, both on the road. The A’s face the Angels (without opposing Jared Weaver or Matt Shoemaker) and the Rangers. The Mariners get the Blue Jays and Angels.

Detroit’s matchups look the best, but I’m not sure there’s any advantage to be gained there for fantasy leaguers. J.D. Martinez and Torii Hunter aren’t available to be grabbed in most formats. Nick Castellanos might be. Alex Avila probably is, but since he remains iffy to play due to a concussion, he’s not to be picked up.

For the Royals, Norichika Aoki, Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer look like fine plays in leagues in which they’re available. Manager Ned Yost said after Sunday’s game that Billy Butler would be in the lineup all week, but he still doesn’t look like a particularly good pickup.

The A’s are set to face four left-handers in their seven games, making their schedule a little trickier. Fortunately, Stephen Vogt is back, and while he probably won’t play all seven games, he’d be a good grab for the catcher spot. It’s hard to recommend Adam Dunn or Josh Reddick with only three starts against righties, and four games isn’t really enough to make Jonny Gomes playable. Nate Freiman should start against the lefties, but he’s probably just an AL-only option.

Seattle has the toughest slate of the group and will probably face two or three lefties. Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager are still their only must-start players in mixed leagues, but I’d take my chances with Dustin Ackley and Austin Jackson, too, barring some strong alternatives.

- The Orioles have both Nick Markakis (shoulder) and Steve Pearce (wrist) banged up, and while those two are expected to resume playing at some point during the week, it’s probably best to drop both. Alejandro De Aza looks like an excellent play in mixed leagues with six of Baltimore’s seven games coming against righties.

- You know the Yankees will give Derek Jeter all of the playing time he wants this last week, and he has started hitting these last few days. He makes plenty of sense as a final-week pickup.

- Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Jacoby Ellsbury (hamstring) haven’t been ruled out for the final week, but both should be dropped. The Yankees will give extra at-bats to their catchers while Teixeira is out. Ichiro Suzuki will likely get most of Ellsbury’s playing time. That doesn’t make him a great play in mixed leagues, but there are worse options.

- The Indians finish with six tough games against the Royals and Rays; Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes are their only hitters worth using in mixed leagues.

- The Angels’ schedule is even worse and they’ll have very little to play for this week. I’m not going to advise dropping everyone besides Mike Trout, but if you’re a Howie Kendrick or Erick Aybar owner with some potential alternatives in free agency, a change would be a pretty good idea. Josh Hamilton remains unplayable, though he hopes to return to the lineup Wednesday or Friday.

- No Alex Rios for Texas this week means regular playing time for Jake Smolinski and Ryan Rua.

AL Notes - Pitchers

- Unless you’re playing in a league in which James Paxton or Michael Pineda is somehow still unowned, there isn’t much out there for two-start AL starters this year. Derek Holland against Houston and Oakland would be great, but he’s already taken in a lot of leagues, too. C.J. Wilson against Oakland and Seattle is awfully dangerous, but those with greater need in wins and strikeouts and ERA and WHIP could take a chance. The same goes for a returning Danny Duffy against Cleveland and, hopefully, Chicago.

- Those more focused on ERA and WHIP will probably want to limit themselves to one-start guys. Masahiro Tanaka looked good enough Sunday to make the recommended list for his slated start against the Red Sox. Cory Rasmus against Seattle is worth trying, as is Clay Buchholz versus Tampa Bay and Taijuan Walker against Toronto.

- Dallas Keuchel and Roenis Elias are finished starting games this season, though Elias could appear out of the pen. Shoemaker (oblique) might start a game next weekend, but don’t count on it. Marcus Stroman is expected to make a start after completing the five-game suspension he started serving Sunday.

- With Glen Perkins (forearm) done, the Twins intend to finish out the year with Jared Burton in the closer's role.

NL Notes - Hitters

- The Pirates essentially ended the race for postseason spots in the NL by beating the Brewers 1-0 on Sunday, leaving Milwaukee 4 1/2 games back in the wild card. As a result, even the probable wild card teams, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, will be able to rest regulars this week. The Giants are certain to take advantage with Angel Pagan (back) and Michael Morse (oblique) hurting. Those two can’t be used in mixed leagues. Gregor Blanco probably should be.

The Pirates get seven games, with six of them likely to come against righties. They’ll likely want to rest Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin and Josh Harrison some, but it’d still be too difficult to sit those guys in mixed leagues. Travis Snider makes for a decent play in mixed leagues. Ike Davis could work too, if you’re desperate for a first baseman.

- The Braves aren’t sure what they’ll get from Jason Heyward (thumb) or Evan Gattis (strep throat, kidney stone). Emilio Bonifacio is filling in for Heyward and could help a team in need of steals. Christian Bethancourt appears set to finish the year as the Braves’ catcher, but he’s not likely to contribute much offensively.

- Miami lost Marcell Ozuna to a season-ending ankle injury on Sunday, leaving them with a dearth of decent outfield options. They had already resumed playing Enrique Hernandez out there last week after limiting him to the infield in his early appearances for the organization. He should be a final-week fixture, though that doesn’t make him much of a choice in mixed leagues.

- The Marlins have decided to see what they have in Justin Bour at first base, so he makes for a decent mixed-league play. What starts Garrett Jones gets this week will probably come in right.

- I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers simply shut down Ryan Braun (thumb) once they’re officially eliminated. Better not to use him in mixed leagues this week. They’ll also probably give Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez a couple of days off, but those guys still have to be left active.

- The Nationals will spend the week trying to ease Ryan Zimmerman back into the lineup, which should cost Asdrubal Cabrera some playing time. It already cost Bryce Harper one start on Saturday, even though Harper is playing well at the moment. The Nats will probably face seven right-handers this week, so, hopefully, Harper won’t sit more than once. I wouldn’t want to chance Zimmerman in a mixed league this week.

- The Mets might not get Juan Lagares (elbow) or Dilson Herrera (quad) back this week. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is getting Lagares’s starts in center. With Daniel Murphy continuing to play third base, the Mets will just go with Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada up the middle.

- The Rockies finish the season on the road in San Diego and Los Angeles, so drop any Coors Field players you might have picked up.

- With the Dodgers set to face five righties and only one lefty, Scott Van Slyke should be dropped. Carl Crawford will make for a better play.

- The Cubs getting six games against righties, Chris Coghlan looks like one of the best available outfield pickups.

NL Notes - Pitchers

- Jake Peavy, Mike Fiers, Dan Haren, Bartolo Colon, Henderson Alvarez and Aaron Harang, probably in that order, are fine two-start starters. Josh Collmenter might get two starts for Arizona, too, but that’s up on the air. The Cubs announced that Kyle Hendricks would start twice, facing the Cardinals and Brewers, but he’s too risky for me.

- For one-start guys, Tyler Matzek and Jorge De La Rosa seem nice; the Rockies left-handers get the Padres in Petco. Yusmeiro Petit, also against San Diego, is a great choice. John Lackey and Michael Wacha both looked fine after rejoining the St. Louis rotation last week and should be solid plays this week. Blake Treinen is expected to start one of the games of the Nationals’ doubleheader against the Marlins on Friday.

- I’d avoid using Tim Hudson this week against the Dodgers.

- Mike Minor’s shoulder will probably take him out of the mix for Atlanta, and it appears that Charlie Morton is done after having a setback with his hernia.

- The Pirates have Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole currently slated for two-start weeks, but that could change if they clinch a wild card spot. At the very least, those second starts could prove to be brief affairs. Still, both are worth using in mixed leagues.

- The Padres rotation is uncertain, with Tyson Ross likely done because of a forearm problem and Odrisamer Despaigne iffy because of lat soreness. Despaigne was supposed to start at home against the Rockies on Wednesday, which would make him a fine play in mixed leagues. As is, though, he’s probably unusable.