It’s Monday the 13th but don’t let it be the day your fantasy baseball team dies. It’s coming down to crunch time in most leagues which means it’s time to put your best lineup on the field. Don’t get stuck in thinking that your roster is the best available since the recent flurry of roster moves has changed the opportunities and playing time of many veterans and rookies. We’re still a couple weeks from September call-ups, but there are already emerging talents that can help your fantasy team stay in front or come back and claim your prize.
Those are the players we’re always hunting for in our daily Sleeper Central (Archive here) where we highlight players owned in under half of ESPN leagues who are putting up some solid stats. These guys can be difference-makers for the last seven weeks of the season, so if they’re an upgrade on what you have go ahead and make the move.
Brandon Belt – 1B – SF: Belt may be joining Salvador Perez (highlighted yesterday) as a late-blooming sleeper. He has four multi-hit games in his last six starts and has lit it up in August. In his 10 games this month (an admittedly small sample-size) he’s hitting .464 with an OPS of 1.210. After a horrible July his ownership has dropped all the way to 13.2% in ESPN leagues. There’s definitely some value there though and he may be turning the corner and starting to realize the potential that made him a hot sleeper at the beginning of the season. He still struggles against lefties (hitting just .239) but has all four of his home runs this season off lefties. He also has a much higher average at home than on the road. Belt is a solid option if you’ve been playing 1B roulette this year or are looking for a 1B keeper. He’s still just 24 and may be busting out to stay at the MLB level, or he could just be on a hot streak. Either way, he’s worth a look if you have the roster space.
Sleeper Starting Lineup
C- Erik Kratz – Phi: (0.6% ownership in ESPN leagues) 2-4, R, 3 RBI, 2B, HR. Kratz is still a solid option for the next three or four weeks while Carlos Ruiz is on the DL. In just 20 Major League games, Kratz has five home runs, 12 RBI, 7 runs scored, a .333 batting average (15-45) and a 1.200 OPS.
1B- Brandon Belt – SF: (13.2%) 4-4, R, RBI, 2 2B, BB. Belt is tearing up August as you can see above.
2B- Ryan Roberts – TB: (25.6%) 3-4, R, 2 RBI, 2B. Tat-Man has found a home it would appear in Tampa. He’s hit safely in his last five games and is 8-19 over that stretch with three doubles and three RBI. He’s still hitting just .244 on the season but will most likely be in the lineup everyday for the offensively challenged Rays. Roberts is a nice speculative add if you’re looking for some unrealized potential at 2B that may pan out over the next few weeks.
3B- Matt Carpenter – StL: (1.8%) 4-6, 3 RBI, 2B. The question with Carpenter isn’t if he can produce. The only unknown is if he’ll get enough playing time to make him fantasy relevant. He’s now hitting .312 on the year in 186 at-bats with 28 RBI and 28 runs scored. He’s eligible at 3B and OF and is worth monitoring to see if he gets the at-bats he needs to produce for your fantasy team.
SS- Clint Barmes- Pit: (0.1%) 2-5, R, 4 RBI, 3B. Barmes was a trendy sleeper after making the move this offseason to Pittsburgh but it’s been a disaster for the right-handed SS. He has been starting to pick it up a bit lately and is actually hitting .260 since the All-Star break with two home runs and 10 RBI in 24 games. While not a top-ten option for sure, Barmes is swinging a hot bat in the month of August and can serve as at least a decent fill-in if you’re desperate.
OF- Rajai Davis – Tor: (32.6%) 2-5, R, 5 RBI, 2 2B, SB. I’m not sure what Davis would have to do to be picked up in some leagues. He has been crushing opposing pitchers and stealing bases for the past few weeks while hitting leadoff for the Jays and added an amazing catch last night. He’s up to 33 steals on the season with a .261 batting average, 48 runs scored, six home runs, and 32 RBI. If you need speed or just a solid OF bat, Davis is the top choice who is available in over half ESPN leagues.
OF- Jon Jay – StL: (22.0%) 3-5, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2B, BB. Jay has hit safely in seven in a row with five multi-hit performances during that time. He’s hitting .439 in August with one of his two home runs on the year and three steals. He’s run hot-and-cold all season but definitely is hot now and can help your OF production in multiple areas. He’s now hitting .312 on the season with 13 stolen bases.
OF- Norichika Aoki- Mil: (7.8%) 2-5, R, 2 SB. Starting the year on the bench, Aoki has emerged as a solid option atop the Milwaukee lineup. He’s hit safely in 13 consecutive games raising his average to .290 on the season with 16 steals and 49 runs scored. He can help your team in average, runs, and steals if Davis and Jay have already been picked up.
AL Starting Pitcher- None. For the first time all season there weren’t any pitchers owned in less than 50% of leagues that had a decent start for any AL teams. I could try and talk you into Tommy Hunter, but everyone who was good is owned in more than 50% of leagues (Lester, Vargas, Darvish, Shields, Diamond, and Sale).
NL Starting Pitcher- Patrick Corbin- Ari: (6.4%) 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K, W. Corbin has been solid in three starts for the D-Backs going a total of 19 innings giving up four runs while striking out 19 and walking just five. He’s a great pickup as he goes into his next start against Houston.