Players trending up worth adding for stretch run of fantasy season

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Let’s look at some recent performers who are hot and cold to see if we can more effectively manage our rosters as the fantasy season winds to a close.

Stats are through Wednesday, courtesy of our friends at Inside Edge, stat provider to MLB. They are for the last 30 days.

Matt Carpenter has 14 homers and of course Ronald Acuna has been on fire prior to getting hit with a pitch on Wednesday. But some big names are ice cold in homers. Jose Martinez has just one blast, as does Christian Villanueva. Greg Bird has not been able to produce at all and really has to be crossed off of our cheat sheets next year. Martinez is 75% owned. But Bird’s 37% ownership is the bigger mystery. Villanueva is rightfully just 20% owned — don’t look at his full-season power if you are scouring the waiver wire; it’s vanished.

Nothing goes with breezy sunny days and green grass better than line drives. Freddie Freeman is the gold standard here, at an absurd 43.3% rate the past month, nearly twice the MLB average. If you want to bet line drives cheaply, pick up Melky Cabrera, who is just 1% owned and playing regularly. If you want to gamble cheaply on batting average, there’s your man. He’s 8-for-16 the past week.

While Mallex Smith is 59% owned, that number should be even higher. He’s not only running wild with 26 steals but also hitting nearly .300 and he’s smacking line drives all over the park with a second-best 37.5% rate over the last 30 days.

Ben Zobrist is a solid source of batting average of late and is only 39% owned. The past month, he’s hitting .403, second behind Justin Turner’s .404. He doesn’t play every day so has to be actively managed in daily leagues. Turner is 78% owned but finally paying dividends for those who stuck with him through his injury. In just the past 10 games, he has raised his averaged from the .250s to .290.

A super-cheap and readily available source of average is Austin Jackson, who the Mets picked up off the scrap heap. He’s playing regularly and hitting .379 for New York (19 games and 66 at bats). He’s just 2% owned. Note Jackson hit .318 in 2017.

Scott Kingery has been a batting average zero of late despite flashing some combo potential with six homers and nine steals this year. He was hitting .137 the last month before getting two hits on Thursday night including a homer. I would not be tempted to dip back into that prospect well.

The Nationals are getting on base for two of their surging hitters, Matt Adams and Ryan Zimmerman. They are first and second, respectively, in coming up with runners in scoring position 40% and 38.5% of the time the last month, league average is 23.7%.  Zimmerman is up to 59% owned. Adams is less owned (24%) but hardly ever plays and hasn’t even gotten a hit the past 10 days. So coming up with RISP isn’t very helpful when you can’t convert.

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Some big-name pitchers are getting pounded by hitters of late. Jon Lester has a league-worst .766 slugging allowed the past month. And just behind him are Dylan Bundy (.696) and Luis Severino (.621). You have to stick with Severino but the indicators have been bad for Lester all year. And Bundy maybe has just hit a wall and isn’t coming back this year. He’s given up a league-leading 30 homers. While he did pitch 169.2 innings last year, he only has 412.2 for his career, including the 131.2 in 2018.

I didn’t think Carlos Rodon had a chance of bouncing back this big off his shoulder woes. I always loved him as a prospect though. The lefty returned with the same velocity but less Ks. His FIP is 4.17 but his hit quality is so low that the 2.69 ERA and 1.02 WHIP for the year seems more predictive of how he’ll finish the year. Rodon has allowed only a paltry .220 slugging the past 30 days. He’s most lightly-owned pitcher among the leaders, but is still at 57%. He is pitching like a league winner with seven quality starts in a row.

I’m very concerned about Sean Newcomb, who I predicted in March would be a top 30 pitcher. That was looking golden for a while. But the last month, Newcomb can’t get hitters to chase his pitches. His chase rate of 20.4% is well below the major league average of 29% and is second-worst among qualifiers. For context, Patrick Corbin leads the majors at 42.1% in the period. While Newcomb had three great starts before his last stinker, he had three bad starts in a row prior to that. He’s too dangerous to roster with all the chips on the table at the moment and now we know the reason why.

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