Kelenic Climbing

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The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

We’re almost there. Only 11 days remaining on the 2021 MLB regular season calendar, barring tiebreakers. Tell me if I’m off-base here, but if you’re in a tight race in a roto league, I’d almost rather be the team doing the chasing than the one sitting atop the standings with a little over a week to go. It raises expectations to the point where it’s harder to accept potentially blowing it. I’m all about managing expectations over here.

If you’ve made it this far, you either really like reading fantasy baseball articles or you still have a chance to be in the money in your league. Probably the latter. Most of the roster tweaks at this stage of the season will be streaming starting pitchers, but you can still improve around the margins with your lineup. I’m looking for favorable matchups where I can as well as multi-position eligible players for my bench in case my regulars get an unexpected day off or even a shutdown as the season winds down. The worst thing to get at this point in the year is a zero in a roster spot. Be ready.

This will be the final week of the category-based recommendations for this column, as next week we’ll focus on starting pitcher matchup plays for the final weekend and hand out some hardware for the best waiver wire pickups from the 2021 season. Until then, good luck in your leagues.

Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.

MIXED LEAGUE PICKUPS

Power: Jarred Kelenic, Brendan Rodgers, Elias Diaz, LaMonte Wade, Evan Longoria, Mitch Garver, Keibert Ruiz, Lane Thomas, Hunter Dozier, Austin Hays, Lewin Diaz, Jesus Sanchez

Kelenic has been a disappointment in his rookie season, but he’s redeeming himself with his strong showing in September. So far, he’s put up 11 extra-base hits through 19 games this month with the quality of contact to match. The Rockies are in the middle of a homestand, which is why you see Rodgers and Diaz here. The Giants will pay a visit to Coors Field this weekend, so make sure Wade and Longoria are scooped up. Nationals players are also relevant with a trip to Colorado in their future next week.

Speed: Yonny Hernandez, Dylan Moore, Andres Gimenez, Jose Siri, Alcides Escobar, Leody Taveras, Manuel Margot, Anthony Alford, Lorenzo Cain, Victor Reyes

This is an imperfect bunch, but do what you have to do if you need a boost on the speed front. Gimenez has swung the bat a bit better in recent days and is a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts this season. Moore has found his way back into the lineup in recent days and is capable of stealing a few bags the rest of the way. Escobar has that trip to Coors Field I just mentioned while Cain just returned to action after missing a couple of days with a hip injury.

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Multi-position eligible guys: Jonathan Villar, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Edmundo Sosa, Brad Miller, Josh Rojas, Jeimer Candelario, Gavin Lux, Leury Garcia, Luis Urias, Yu Chang, Freddy Galvis

The Tigers have been a nice surprise in the second half and Candelario has been front-and-center as he finishes out another productive season. The 27-year-old has been especially potent at the plate this month, hitting .294 with six homers and a 1.013 OPS through 18 games. He deserves more respect going into drafts next year.

Urias boasts a .397 on-base percentage this month and has slugged nine homers in 211 plate appearances since the All-Star break. Eligible at three different positions, it’s probably time he’s rostered everywhere. Lux is slashing .438/.514/.656 through 37 plate appearances this month while exclusively playing left field. Don’t rule out versatile players like Garcia, Chang, and Galvis being difference-makers in deeper formats.

Saves: Chris Stratton, Michael Fulmer, Drew Steckenrider, Joe Barlow, Mychal Givens, Pete Fairbanks, Carlos Estevez, Lou Trivino, Paul Sewald

David Bednar still hopes to make it back from his oblique injury, but Stratton should be rostered for the remainder of the season. With Gregory Soto done for the year, Fulmer has secured three saves in his last four appearances. He’s allowed just one run with a 13/5 K/BB ratio over his last 14 2/3 innings dating back to late August. Steckenrider has secured three out of the last four saves for the Mariners, with Sewald and even Diego Castillo still in the mix. Fairbanks is probably the best option for the Rays, but it’s anybody’s guess which way they’ll go with Andrew Kittredge sidelined.

Non-closer relievers: Michael Kopech, Garrett Richards, Aaron Ashby, Dietrich Enns, Lucas Sims, Aaron Bummer, Luke Jackson, Aaron Loup, Collin McHugh

I already sang Loup’s praises last week, so this week we’ll highlight some other guys. Ashby had a tough MLB debut, but he’s posted a 1.42 ERA and 28/4 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings since then while picking up three wins and even a three-inning save. He’s a name to monitor closely for next year. Sims has struck out 22 out of the last 40 batters he’s faced. Bummer has had some control issues in his career, but he’s walked just one batter with 12 strikeouts over his last 8 2/3 innings. Enns has thrived in a multi-inning role for the Rays, picking up two wins and two saves this month. McHugh has been used in a multi-inning role this year too, but he might snag a save or two the rest of the way for Tampa Bay.

Next week SPs: Joe Ryan, Antonio Senzatela, Michael Pineda

So it’s safe to say that Ryan wasn’t bothered by the comebacker to his pitching wrist last week. The rookie right-hander allowed two runs over five innings with 11 strikeouts Thursday against the Cubs. As of now, he lines up to face the Tigers next Tuesday, with a possible matchup against the Royals over the weekend.

Speaking of next weekend, Senzatela projects to face the Diamondbacks on the road. You certainly feel better starting him away from Coors Field, but the veteran right-hander has actually been a respectable pitcher regardless of venue dating back to mid-May. Pineda has a tough matchup coming against the Blue Jays tonight (Thursday), but it gets easier for him next week against the Tigers. The 32-year-old holds a 1.32 ERA in three appearances (two starts) since coming off the injured list.

WEEKEND WARRIORS

Friday:

Carlos Hernandez at Tigers

J.A. Happ at Cubs

Jose Suarez vs. Mariners

Hernandez got knocked around for seven runs over four innings in his last start against the Athletics last Tuesday, but it would be silly to give up on him. He posted a microscopic 1.68 ERA over eight appearances (including seven starts) leading into that. Jack Flaherty will make his return from the injured list to start the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Cubs, but Happ will go in Game 1. The southpaw has been a bit up and down of late, but the Cardinals are on a roll and this is a winnable matchup indeed.

Saturday:

Tyler Anderson at Angels

Jaime Barria vs. Mariners

Erick Fedde at Reds

Anderson was money against the Athletics on Monday and now holds a strong 3.38 ERA and 46/10 K/BB ratio in 56 innings through 10 starts for the Mariners. What an addition he’s been. There’s no reason he should be out there in any competitive league. And yes, it makes sense to go with the other side of this matchup as well. Barria’s 4.77 ERA is largely obscured by a disaster outing in his season debut. He’s serviceable in a decent matchup here. Fedde has been hurt by the home run ball of late, which is a tad concerning going into Cincinnati, but he’s spun a ridiculous 38/3 K/BB ratio in 30 2/3 innings over his last six starts. People are sleeping on him.

Sunday:

Shane Baz vs. Marlins

Kris Bubic at Tigers

Wily Peralta vs. Royals

The talent pipeline just keeps flowing for the Rays. Baz is the latest arrival and he impressed in his MLB debut Monday against a tough Blue Jays lineup, allowing just two hits (both solo homer) with five strikeouts and no walks. He induced 14 swinging strikes in his 65 pitches all while averaging 96.9 mph on his fastball. He could be quite a weapon during the postseason, but fantasy managers should hop on board here for the stretch run.

Bubic and Peralta are tentatively scheduled to go head-to-head on Sunday and both are recommended plays. For his part, Bubic has enjoyed a great September with a 2.84 ERA across three starts and one relief appearance. Peralta has been a great surprise for the Tigers this year and is finishing the year strong with 13 scoreless frames over his last two outings.