By Sam McPherson
The Miami Marlins have played months now without their star slugger, Giancarlo Stanton. Many fantasy baseball owners have stashed Stanton on their bench or in an injured slot in hopes he would come back in time to provide some late punch to their lineups. As we approach the final two weeks of the season, it’s pretty clear that injured studs like Stanton cannot help fantasy baseball owners any more, and in single-season leagues, they should be released in favor of players that will actually be able to contribute positively to the team’s statistical totals.
We recommended a few weeks ago to let ago of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig for the same reason: It’s just too late in the season to matter now. Plus, as players get injured in September, teams are in no rush to get them healthy. The MLB pennant races are all but done this season, with very little drama left. The National League playoff spots are close to set, and only a few teams still have a shot at the American League wild-card spots. If a team is out of it, there’s no need to bring a player back from the injured list in a hurry—or at all (Stanton). If the team is still in the pennant chase, they have to weigh the potential risk and whether or not they think the injured player can help them in the postseason (Puig).
Take a good look at your roster: Do you have an injured player you were hoping to squeeze some finals games out of in September? If so, let him go and pick up healthy players producing now. Even if the hitter is average, those midline stats are still better than no stats. If the pitcher has a mediocre ERA, that’s okay, too—he still has a better chance of adding some saves, strikeouts or wins than a pitcher that isn’t even taking the mound. At this point, you are trying to milk every last stat out of every last player you can as the long fantasy baseball season comes to a close.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Kelby Tomlinson, IF, San Francisco Giants: This guy is far from a fantasy stud, but if you need a second baseman or a shortstop to replace Troy Tulowitzki (see below), you could do worse. The Giants aren’t officially eliminated yet, but they have two middle infield regulars (Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik) with injuries currently. San Francisco wants to be both cautious and productive still, and Tomlinson fits. He’s hitting .307 with five stolen bases, which isn’t bad for a backup infielder.
2. Rick Porcello, SP, Boston Red Sox: Normally we’d never recommend picking up Porcello, but desperate times call for desperate measures—and he’s actually been good for his last four starts. Porcello has coughed up just seven earned runs in his last 29 1/3 innings, while striking out 30 batters. He’s clearly healthy now, so maybe you can squeeze some wins and Ks out of him in the final two weeks.
3. José Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox: Flying under the radar for a bad team, Quintana may not get you wins—but he can help in other categories. In his last three starts, Quintana has surrendered just two earned runs in 20 innings, netting two wins in the process and striking out 16 hitters. He has a mere 9-10 record on the year, but sometimes pitchers on bad teams are still worth the investment.
4. Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals: Werth had a hot week, hitting four HRs and driving in eight since Sunday. That’s the kind of hitter you want to find right now as the season is ending: a hot one. Werth’s overall numbers this season (.235, 11 HRs, 38 RBI) means he should be sitting there on the waiver wire for any enterprising fantasy baseball owner to pick up and benefit from in these final weeks. The Nationals aren’t quite eliminated from the playoffs yet, so they’re still trying.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Toronto Blue Jays: This one is obvious, but we need to say it anyway: Drop Tulo. The Blue Jays are virtually assured of a postseason spot, and they want to rest their prize shortstop until then. Toronto will not rush him back or squeeze a few games out of him in the final days to lose the rust, etc. Drop him and pick up a guy like Tomlinson who is playing every day.
2. Joe Kelly, SP, Boston Red Sox: To preserve his body for future seasons, Kelly won’t pitch any more this year, not even in the bullpen. He won an amazing eight straight starts from August 1 to September 9, but Kelly’s season is done now. Don’t hold on to him; consider yourself fortunate you rode his hot streak as long as you did and grab Porcello instead now. That’s what a smart fantasy baseball owner would do.
3. Billy Burns, OF, Oakland Athletics: His main asset is his speed, and he’s got a sore hamstring. The A’s have the worst record in the AL with nothing to play for right now, so they won’t be pushing him back into the lineup. And even if he plays, the hamstring will affect his game. Burns is hitting .297 only because he legs out a lot of infield hits. No hamstring means no speed to beat out those grounders deep in the hole.
4. Ryan Zimmerman, UTL, Washington Nationals: He hasn’t played since September 7 now, and the Nats are in the same position the Giants are right now, which isn’t good. Werth is healthy, so he will play with 110 percent effort. Zimmerman has an oblique issue, and that means he probably won’t play with the odds stacked against his team. Swapping the two on your roster is the smart move right now.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.