Matt Stroup

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Gomecoming Weekend

Thursday, September 17, 2009

As of Thursday, there were precisely 18 days left in the regular season. And unless you're a lightning bug or a knock-off designer watch purchased on Canal Street (in which case 18 days is more than nine times your expected lifespan), that's not a lot of time.

With that in mind, there's an important measure those of us in the hunt should now take (and I'm guessing it's a task many of you have done periodically throughout the season): Go to your league's standings. As soon as you've once again become angry about your position in said standings, identify the categories where you have a chance to make a quick run and aggressively pursue them down the stretch.

It sounds obvious (and maybe it's obvious to you already), but this is how roto leagues are very often won. For example, if it appears that you're locked into homers (let's say you're 20 behind the guy ahead of you and 20 ahead of the guy behind you) but have three owners ahead of you within 10 steals, there's no reason you should be hanging onto an average power threat like Luke Scott when someone Kaz Matsui (five steals in his last seven games, 24 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) is available. Sure, Scott has been solid, but this is no time to start getting all sentimental. When a pet goldfish ceases to be useful to you (i.e., it dies), do you give it a prominent spot on the mantle for old time's sake? No, you thank Goldie Hawn for the memories and promptly flush her down the toilet without a second thought.

The bottom line: It's all about getting as many points as you possibly can, even it if means going to what seems like an extreme to do so. Don't be afraid to flush.

And keeping in mind that piece of wisdom that can apply to so many walks of life (toilets included), let's get started:


Juan Uribe, 2B/3B/SS, SF (Yahoo: 19 percent owned; ESPN: 15 percent)

I don't know how long he can keep up the hot streak and I don't really trust him any further than I can shot put his rather bulbous head, but there appears to still be enough of Uribe's torrid pace to go around. I added him in a mixed league this week and have not been disappointed. In his last nine games, the Giants' third baseman has hit .424 (14-for-33) with three homers and 11 RBI, and he has five homers and 14 RBI this month. Uribe obviously isn't this good, but it doesn't take a stellar player to get absurdly hot, and there's no reason not to take advantage for as long as you possibly can.

Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF, CLE (Yahoo: 6 percent owned; ESPN: 3 percent)

He's been mentioned in this space before, but LaPorta is finally showing significant signs of life in the waning days of September. Between Tuesday and Wednesday he went a combined 5-for-8 with two homers and five RBI, and in his last eight games he has hit .303 (10-for-33) with three dingers and seven RBI. Don't go dropping any proven or reliable commodities for him, but if you have a lineup spot that needs a jolt, LaPorta is worth a look.

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL (Yahoo: 28 percent owned; ESPN: 17 percent)

I know it's the end of the season and some owners have tuned out, but Gonzalez still needs to be owned in more leagues. With steals in three straight games and five steals in his last eight games, Gonzalez now has 11 homers and 16 steals in just 236 at-bats this season. When you prorate that to 500 at-bats, that's a 23-homer, 34-steal pace. In other words, there's no compelling reason that someone like Hank Blalock (Yahoo: 44 percent owned) should be claimed in more leagues. On the off chance that Gonzalez is still out there in your mixed league, go get him.

For exclusive projections, player rankings and more, check out Rotoworld's NFL Season Pass.

Jonny Gomes, OF, CIN (Yahoo: 4 percent owned; ESPN: 2 percent)

A reserve for a substantial part of the season, Gomes has been in the lineup nearly every day this month, and he has rewarded Dusty Baker's long overdue show of faith by drilling four bombs with seven RBI in his last 10 games. Granted, he is hitting just .244 (11-for-45) in September, but you're adding him for the power, not the BA. And Gomes now has 20 homers and 49 RBI in just 254 at-bats on the season, which, according to my trusty Pace-o-meter (the calculator on my desk), measures out to a 39-homer, 96-RBI pace over 500 at-bats. The bottom line: Gomes can mash. Dusty has finally decided to play him. Make the move.

Kevin Jepsen, RP, LAA (Yahoo: 3 percent owned; ESPN: 1 percent)

If you're scrapping for saves in a deeper mixed league, Brian Fuentes blew his seventh save of the season on Wednesday night, giving him a 6.38 ERA and four blown saves in 24 appearances since the All-Star break. With that poor run in mind, Mike Scioscia might finally be ready to make good on his suggestion that he could give Jepsen some opportunities. He's not a must-add at this point, but give Jepsen a look if every save matters in your standings.

Brad Penny, SP, SF (Yahoo: 19 percent owned; ESPN: 18 percent)

In case you missed the memo to grab Penny two weeks ago or remain frightened by his 5.04 ERA and 1.43 WHIP on the season, allow me to remind you that the right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and .169 BAA as a member of the Giants. Granted, he only has 10 K's in 22 innings, but Penny has clearly been rejuvenated by the move from the AL East to the NL West and is worth grabbing where available.

Ryan Rowland-Smith, SP, SEA (Yahoo: 6 percent owned; ESPN: 3 percent)

Ryan Rowland-Smith, I pronounce thee a proud graduate of Spot Starter Roulette. Congratulations. After a glorious run in the S.S.R. ranks, Rowland-Smith now gets a more weighty endorsement after a run of four starts that has seen him post a 2.90 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 18/4 K/BB ratio in 31 innings. For the season, the lefty has a 3.59 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 77.2 innings and should be worth using against the Rays next week.

Vicente Padilla, SP, LAD (Yahoo: 10 percent owned; ESPN: 3 percent)

Also carrying a freshly minted diploma from S.S.R. Academy is Padilla, who now has a 3-0 record with a 2.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 17/7 K/BB ratio in four starts spanning 22.1 innings as a member of the Dodgers. Just like Penny, he's very clearly a different pitcher in the NL and should continue to be a useful option for the stretch run.

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Matt Stroup covers basketball, baseball and football for You can find him on Twitter here .
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