We're off and running in September. And if your leagues are anything like mine, the pickings are pretty slim on the waiver wire. While many have turned their attention to football, those who are left standing are more focused than ever on upgrading their respective rosters.
No long rant from me this week. After all, the less time you spend reading my well-intentioned ramblings, the more time you'll have to pick up some of the recommendations below. This arrangement works pretty well for everyone.
Dexter Fowler OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 36.5 percent)
Since returning from the minors in mid-July, Fowler is batting .305/.395/.547 with four homers, 17 doubles, 10 triples, 21 RBI, 43 runs scored, eight stolen bases and a .942 OPS over 237 plate appearances. That's elite level production right there. The strange thing is that he is somehow owned in less Yahoo! and ESPN leagues than Grady Sizemore. Sure, many of those owners likely gave up on their teams months ago, but how one of the most productive players of the second half is still so widely available is a real mystery. Scoop him up and don't look back.
Bud Norris SP, Astros (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 34.1 percent)
Norris isn't without his issues. He has a 5.26 ERA over his last seven starts and hasn't completed six innings in five of them. The good news is that he also has 38 strikeouts over 39 1/3 innings during the same timespan. Keep in mind, his next start will be on the road, where he has found more success (3.34 xFIP away, 3.89 xFIP home) this season. If you need strikeouts, he makes for a fine streaming option Friday against the Nationals.
James McDonald SP, Pirates (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 8.8 percent)
I mentioned McDonald in Waiver Wired five weeks ago and his ownership has improved only slightly. This, despite a very palatable 4.04 ERA and 38/18 K/BB ratio over his last eight starts, including 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball in Monday's win over the Astros. McDonald isn't a good bet to pitch deep into games (he has completed seven innings just twice this season), but he has given up three runs or less in 18 out of his last 20 starts. I like him against the Marlins on Sunday at PNC Park, where he has a 3.02 ERA this season.
Jason Kipnis 2B, Indians (Yahoo: 16 percent owned, ESPN: 16.7 percent)
Kipnis was dropped en masse in most mixed leagues after going on the disabled list with a hamstring injury last month, but he went 1-for-3 with a strikeout in his return Tuesday night. Indians manager Manny Acta plans to ease him back into regular duty, but don't forget that the rookie second baseman has six homers and four doubles over his first 71 major league at-bats. He can provide some punch at second base in deeper leagues or for your middle infielder (MI) spot.
Alex Rios OF, White Sox (Yahoo: 46 percent owned, ESPN: 38.3 percent)
Don't look now, but Rios is batting .295 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBI over his last 15 games. The 30-year-old center fielder has been a massive bust this season, both in real life and fantasy, but it wouldn't shock me in the least if he had a productive September. I don't recommend him with much enthusiasm (he has drawn one walk since July 25), but the talent is certainly there.
Aaron Harang SP, Padres (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 35.7 percent)
Harang made easy work of the light-hitting Giants on Wednesday, giving up just one run on four hits over seven innings. He has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last four starts and now owns an impressive 3.74 ERA over 25 starts this season. The "Harangatang" probably deserves to be owned in most mixed leagues at this point regardless of opponent, but he is an ideal streaming option with another start against the Giants next week.
Cliff Pennington SS, Athletics (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 40.4 percent)
Pennington looked like a complete bust during the first half of the season, batting just .235 with six stolen bases, but he has flown under the radar as one of the most productive fantasy shortstops since the All-Star break. That may not sound like much, we're talking about a .324 batting average to go along with 17 extra-base hits (including four homers), 32 RBI, 26 runs scored and six stolen bases over 170 at-bats. He deserves to be taken seriously in mixed leagues.
Randy Wells SP, Cubs (Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 17.6 percent)
It's been a tale of two seasons for Wells. The 28-year-old right-hander had an ugly 6.80 ERA over nine starts during an injury-plagued first half, but has a very respectable 3.48 ERA over 10 starts since the All-Star break. This includes six innings of one-run ball in Sunday's win over the Pirates. Wells has been a bit fortunate with his batting average on balls in play, but his recent results are more indicative of what was expected coming into the season. I wouldn't recommend him in all leagues, but if you need a streaming option in a H2H league, he is usable.
Nyjer Morgan OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 17 percent owned, ESPN: 17.3 percent)
Though it's largely gone unnoticed in mixed leagues, Morgan remains a valuable fantasy contributor. Since I last mentioned him in Waiver Wired on July 21, "Tony Plush" is batting .287/.356/.385 with one homer, nine doubles, one triple and 21 runs scored. This includes four stolen bases in his last 11 games. His platoon partner Carlos Gomez is back from the disabled list, but considering that Morgan is batting just .237 with a .591 OPS against left-handed pitching this season, that's not necessarily a bad thing. His antics on the field can be off-putting at times (see Wednesday night, for example) but he needs to be owned in more leagues.
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Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Alex Presley OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 6 percent owned, ESPN: 7 percent)
While the Pirates have faded during the second half of the season, Presley has emerged as a potential regular moving forward. The 26-year-old outfielder is batting .314/.371/.474 with 13 extra-base hits (including two homers), seven stolen bases and an .845 OPS over his first 137 at-bats in the big leagues. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle recently rewarded Presley's strong play by moving him to the top of the batting order. The Pirates outfield could get a little crowded in the final week or two of the season, but with Jose Tabata currently sidelined due to a fracture in his left hand, his playing time should be relatively safe in the short-term. Give him a look in five-outfielder formats.
Kenley Jansen RP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 3.3 percent)
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly recently told reporters that he would feel comfortable with either Javy Guerra or Jansen as his closer next season. Guerra has been excellent in the ninth-inning role, especially lately, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jansen got a couple chances down the stretch with an eye toward next season. The hard-throwing right-hander has struck out 73 batters over 43 2/3 innings this season, so even if he doesn't get the opportunity, he can still be plenty useful in fantasy leagues.
Dee Gordon SS, Dodgers (Yahoo: 6 percent owned, ESPN: 8.6 percent)
I have been skeptical about Gordon being an asset in mixed leagues this season, primarily because his plate discipline still leaves a lot to be desired. It's still a legitimate concern moving forward, but the rookie shortstop is batting .462 (12-for-26) with four doubles, two RBI, seven runs scored and four stolen bases since coming off the disabled list last week. Gordon is playing everyday at shortstop and batting leadoff right now, so he should get plenty of chances to pile up stolen bases and runs scored moving forward. Worth a look in deeper leagues or if you need someone to fill your MI (middle infielder) spot.