Rosters are set to expand on Saturday, which means we'll see an influx of prospects and minor league veterans called up to the majors. Some of the more interesting prospects are already here (Manny Machado, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Harvey, Jacob Turner, Jean Segura, Brett Jackson, Mike Olt and Starling Marte, among others) while big names like Dylan Bundy and Billy Hamilton have essentially been ruled out as September call-ups, so this could be a pretty underwhelming crop from a fantasy perspective.
I could definitely see Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi being relevant in mixed leagues if they get called up, but I'm not sure the Royals will actually do it. Otherwise, we could see names like Shelby Miller, Jurickson Profar, Danny Hultzen, Nolan Arenado, Grant Green, Gary Brown and Jedd Gyorko, just to name a few. Trevor Bauer should also get another look once Triple-A Reno is done with the postseason. There are some interesting names in here and a few could surprise, but don't look for them to save your fantasy season.
One pitcher who could be worth stashing is someone we have talked about before in this space. Dan Straily was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento when Brett Anderson was activated from the disabled list last week, but he could get a chance to reclaim a rotation spot with Bartolo Colon suspended.
Lucas Duda 1B/OF, Mets (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 26.3 percent)
I was pretty high on Duda coming into the season, but he ended up being demoted to Triple-A Buffalo last month after playing terrible defense in right field while delivering a disappointing .241/.335/.391 batting line to go along with 12 homers and a .726 OPS. However, now that the Mets are in evaluation mode as they look ahead to 2013, Duda is back up from the minors and playing left field on a regular basis. The 26-year-old slugged a go-ahead two-run homer in Wednesday's win over the Phillies, which functions as a reminder that his pop and multi-position eligibility could come in handy in deeper mixed leagues down the stretch.
Mike Leake SP, Reds (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 4.2 percent)
We're at the point in the fantasy season where matchups are paramount to success. With that in mind, it doesn't get much better than a start against the 40-89 Astros on Friday night. Leake has admittedly been a bit erratic since the All-Star break, so there is some risk involved, but the 24-year-old right-hander limits walks (1.90 BB/9) and keeps the ball on the ground (47.9 percent ground ball rate) for the most part. As far as streaming options go, you could do a lot worse.
Adam Lind 1B, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 19.7 percent)
Lind was finally showing some signs of life offensively before he was placed on the disabled list a little over a month ago with lower back tightness. While his 2012 season remains a pretty big disappointment, he is 4-for-13 with a homer and two RBI over three games since being activated on Monday. The 29-year-old has been terrible against left-handed pitching over the past three seasons, so he's best utilized in a league where you can make daily lineup changes, but there's enough power potential here to warrant attention in deeper mixed leagues.
Pedro Alvarez 3B, Pirates (Yahoo: 37 percent owned, ESPN: 45.6 percent)
Alvarez is certainly doing his part to keep the Pirates' playoff hopes alive, as he went 8-for-13 with three homers, two doubles, seven RBI and five runs scored during a three-game series against the Cardinals this week. Why can't he face the Cardinals every night? Anyway, the 25-year-old slugger is now hitting .280 with 10 home runs and 20 RBI over 42 games since the All-Star break. Only Jose Bautista (done for the season), Mark Trumbo, Miguel Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion have more home runs than Alvarez (26) among third base-eligible players. I would be stunned if he gets anywhere close to a .280 batting average the rest of the way, as he still strikes out way too much, but there's no reason why he shouldn't be owned in the majority of fantasy leagues right now.
Wilin Rosario C, Rockies (Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 21.5 percent)
Rosario has very quietly been among the best power hitters in all of baseball this season. No, seriously. He has. His 22 homers are tied for second among all fantasy catchers, which is impressive enough on its own, but he has also homered once in every 13 at-bats. The only sluggers who have homered more often this year? Adam Dunn, Jose Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Hamilton. And this isn't just a Coors Field thing, as he has 14 homers and an .850 OPS at home and eight homers and an .808 OPS on the road. Rosario might not play every day, but he's producing enough where it doesn't matter.
Pedro Ciriaco 2B/3B/SS, Red Sox (Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 48.9 percent)
Getting a chance in the starting lineup due to injury, Ciriaco has been a nice surprise for the Red Sox over the past two months, batting .345 with 13 extra-base hits (two homers), 16 RBI, 10 stolen bases and 21 runs scored in 45 games. I don't have a ton of faith that he'll be able to keep it up, as the 26-year-old has a .415 batting average on balls in play and has only walked three times in 148 plate appearances. His .272/.299/.357 batting line in the minors is probably more indicative of his skill, but his speed and multi-position eligibility give him a chance to remain useful as the Red Sox play out the string.
Brandon League RP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 39 percent owned, ESPN: 24.7 percent)
Ronald Belisario RP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 0.1 percent)
Kenley Jansen was unavailable Wednesday against the Rockies because of issues related to a heart condition that sidelined him for nearly a month last season. It's not clear how much time he will miss this time around, but the Dodgers obviously won't take any chances with his health. Ronald Belisario got the final five outs Wednesday and is worth a speculative add in many formats, but it wouldn't surprise me if Dodgers manager Don Mattingly goes with League as a fill-in because of his previous experience in the role. Javy Guerra (Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 19.2 percent) was surprisingly optioned to the minors last week, but he could also be an option.
Josh Rutledge 2B/SS, Rockies (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 43.9 percent)
Rutledge was dropped in a bunch of fantasy leagues while he was dealing with a nagging quad injury, but it's time to pay attention again now that he's back in the starting lineup. The 23-year-old has two hits in each of his first two games back and is hitting .350 with seven homers, 27 RBI, five stolen bases and a 1.008 OPS over his first 40 major league games. Rutledge's playing time won't be affected when Troy Tulowitzki returns from the disabled list in September, as he'll simply slide over to second base, which is where he'll be playing next season anyway.
Luke Gregerson RP, Padres (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 7.2 percent)
Many assumed that Dale Thayer would serve as the temporary closer while Huston Street was sidelined with a calf injury, but Gregerson has logged the last two save chances for the Padres. To be fair, one of them was while Thayer was away on paternity leave, but his second came when the mustachioed right-hander was available. Thayer pitched the eighth inning of an 8-2 win on Wednesday, which could be indicative of a change in role. Keep in mind that Street is expected to be activated from the disabled list Sunday, so there isn't much time left for Gregerson to make an impact, but picking up even one save over the next two games could make a difference in fantasy leagues.
David Phelps RP/SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 6.1 percent)
Phelps has thrived in a swingman role for the Bombers this season, posting a 3.48 ERA and 33/9 K/BB ratio in 31 innings across six starts and a 2.96 ERA overall. The 25-year-old right-hander has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his last two starts and should remain in the rotation until Ivan Nova is ready to return. Phelps has been hurt by the home run ball a bit this season, serving up 10 in just 70 innings, but he gets strikeouts, limits walks and has one of the league's best offenses behind him. He makes for a solid streaming option this weekend against the Orioles.
Javier Lopez RP, Giants (Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 21.1 percent)
When I mentioned Jeremy Affeldt in Waiver Wired earlier this month, it appeared that the southpaw would split save chances with Sergio Romo. It hasn't worked out that way. Affeldt hasn't had a save chance since April 7 while Lopez has notched four saves in the past 10 days. Yes, closer-by-committee situations can be pretty frustrating sometimes. It's worth noting that Santiago Casilla has pitched much better recently, so this situation could get even more confusing in the days ahead, but it's clear that Giants manager Bruce Bochy prefers Lopez as his lefty closer option. At least I think so.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Wilson Betemit 1B/3B/OF, Orioles (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 0.4 percent)
Betemit has been sidelined since August 11 with a sore right wrist, but he's expected to be activated from the disabled list when rosters expand on Saturday. While the 30-year-old is having an underwhelming season on the surface, he has 11 homers and an .873 OPS against right-handed pitching. It's no fluke either, as the switch-hitter has an .826 career OPS against right-handers compared to a .640 OPS against southpaws. Assuming the wrist feels good, he should be able to help in daily leagues down the stretch.
Casey Kelly SP, Padres (Yahoo: 0 percent owned, ESPN: 1.5 percent)
Kelly was solid in his major league debut Monday night against the Braves, allowing just three hits over six shutout innings while striking out four and walking a pair. His velocity dipped a bit as he got deeper into the game, which could indicate that he's still building arm strength after missing most of the season with an elbow injury, but he showed solid command and his curveball looks like a potential plus-pitch. He's someone worth considering as a matchup play the rest of the way.
Jarrod Dyson OF, Royals (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0.9 percent)
If you are looking to catch up in stolen bases, listen up. Getting a couple starts a week with Jeff Franceour riding the pine, Dyson is tied for sixth in the majors with eight steals this month. He's now an excellent 25-for-28 in stolen base attempts overall this year. Fantasy owners will have to watch Ned Yost's lineup card on a daily basis and things could get more crowded if top prospect Wil Myers gets called up in September, but Dyson shouldn't be this widely available right now.
Nate McLouth OF, Orioles (Yahoo: 2 percent owned, ESPN: 1.2 percent)
McLouth is getting a chance at regular playing time in left field with the Orioles and he's making the most of it so far. The 30-year-old is hitting .263 (20-for-76) with two homers, five doubles, one triple, nine RBI, six stolen bases and 14 runs scored in 22 games. Of course, this is a small sample size and his previous two seasons tell us that we could be looking at a mirage, but it's easy to forget that McLouth was once a 20-20 guy. Those in deeper leagues and five-outfielder formats can afford to take a chance.