The MLB regular season ends three weeks from yesterday, which means this is nitty-gritty time in fantasy leagues. There won't be any long rant from me this week, as waiver wires are already picked thin and you could probably use those extra seconds trying to make your next move rather than hear my thoughts on Stephen Strasburg being shut down (it stinks), the second Wild Card in the National League (rooting for complete chaos) or why the Mets can't score runs at Citi Field (probably vampires or something).
Jonathan Broxton RP, Reds (Yahoo: 47 percent owned, ESPN: 38.2 percent)
This one is pretty simple. Aroldis Chapman is getting some time off to rest his fatigued left shoulder, so Broxton is expected to serve as the No. 1 option at closer during his absence. Reds manager Dusty Baker will stay away from using Broxton more than two days in a row -- hence J.J. Hoover getting the save Wednesday -- and southpaw Sean Marshall may get looks against a string of left-handed batters, but ol' Broxy is the pitcher to own in this bullpen at the moment.
Cameron Maybin OF, Padres (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 41.2 percent)
Maybin has been pretty frustrating to own in mixed leagues this season, but at least he has salvaged things a bit recently. The 25-year-old center fielder is batting .304 with three homers, 10 doubles, nine stolen bases and 23 runs scored in 52 games since the All-Star break and has hit safely in 12 out of his last 13 games. With his speed and power potential, he shouldn't be on the waiver wire outside of shallow leagues.
Jarrod Parker SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 34 percent)
Many were wondering if Parker hit a wall early last month, but he has responded by posting a solid 3.00 ERA and 19/8 K/BB ratio in 33 innings over his last five starts. The 23-year-old right-hander now has an impressive 3.56 ERA across 25 starts with the A's this year. He has been money at home, compiling a 2.48 ERA in 13 starts while allowing just two home runs in 87 innings, so it should be an easy call to start him on Saturday with the Orioles in town.
Ryan Cook RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 37 percent owned, ESPN: 30 percent)
Could we see some changes in the back of the A's bullpen? Grant Balfour has been scored upon in three out of his last five appearances and was pulled in the middle of a save opportunity Tuesday against the Angels. Meanwhile, Cook got the final out for the save in Wednesday's win. It's worth noting that Cook has turned things around since being removed from the closer role last month (1.35 ERA and 16/4 K/BB ratio over 13 1/3 innings), so he could be worth a speculative add if you need saves.
Kurt Suzuki C, Nationals (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 8.7 percent)
Suzuki has found new life since being traded to the Nationals last month, hitting .253 (25-for-99) with four homers, three doubles and 16 RBI in 27 games. The 28-year-old backstop had just one home run in 278 plate appearances with the A's this season prior to the trade. Given his track record, I'm inclined to say what's going on right now is more indicative of his skill than his struggles earlier this year. He should be owned in two-catcher mixed formats at the very least.
Marco Estrada RP/SP, Brewers (Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 25.4 percent)
Estrada hasn't received as much attention as his teammate Mike Fiers in fantasy circles this year, but he has still been really, really good. The 29-year-old right-hander a 3.77 ERA and 125/25 K/BB ratio over 119 1/3 innings, including a 1.52 ERA and 38/6 K/BB ratio in 29 2/3 innings over his last five starts. The only pitchers (with at least 100 innings pitched) better than his 5/1 K/BB ratio? Cliff Lee (6.46) and the injured Colby Lewis (6.64). Really, that's it. Estrada is a fly ball pitcher, so there's always the risk of the home run ball, but he's a must-start every time out right now.
Jed Lowrie 3B/SS, Astros (Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 18.4 percent)
Lowrie was finally back in the Astros' lineup Wednesday night after missing the past two months with an ankle injury and a nerve issue in his right leg. He's expected to be eased back into action, so he will not play every day in the short-term, but don't forget that he had 14 homers and a .799 OPS in 80 games prior to the injury. With his pop and multi-position eligibility, he could be very useful down the stretch in leagues where you can make daily lineup changes.
Kyle Kendrick RP/SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 38 percent owned, ESPN: 46.8 percent)
Kendrick is quietly on a nice roll right now, posting a 1.49 ERA and 33/7 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 innings over his last six starts. He has allowed two runs or less in all of them. The 28-year-old right-hander has shown real signs of improvement this season, averaging a career-high 6.56 K/9 while his swinging strike rate (8.8 percent) is well above his career average of 5.6 percent. He's well worth using this weekend in a promising matchup against the major-league worst Astros.
Josh Donaldson C/3B, Athletics (Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 17.5 percent)
Donaldson fell flat on his face after winning the starting third base job out of spring training, but he has been much better since returning from the minors last month. Scratch that, a lot better. The 26-year-old is hitting .330 (33-for-100) with six homers, nine doubles, 17 RBI and a .996 OPS over his last 27 games and has primarily batted sixth in the lineup recently. He has a .346 batting average on balls in play over the past month, so there's room for regression here, but he's a perfectly reasonable option as a second catcher in mixed leagues.
Andy Pettitte SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 7.5 percent)
Sidelined since late June due to a fractured ankle, Pettitte declared himself ready to rejoin the Yankees' rotation after throwing 55 pitches in a simulated game Wednesday. The 40-year-old southpaw still needs to have one final checkup with team doctor Chris Ahmad on Friday, but early indications are that he'll make his return Tuesday against the Blue Jays. I would consider keeping him inactive for his first start back, especially since he'll likely be on a pitch-count, but he makes for a savvy stash if you have a DL-spot available.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Brandon Moss 1B/OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 6 percent owned, ESPN: 6.1 percent)
The surprising Athletics are getting contributions from some unlikely sources and Moss is a pretty good example of that. Once a top prospect with the Pirates, the 28-year-old has 18 home runs and an .895 OPS in just 226 plate appearances with the A's this season. He has homered once every 11.4 at-bats, which is the best ratio in the majors among players with at least 200 plate appearances. By the way, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Bautista rank second with 12.3 at-bats per home run. Moss doesn't have a track record of success in the big leagues and is striking out 31 percent of the time right now, so he doesn't come without some risk, but those looking for a fifth outfielder or CI (corner infielder) could do worse at this late stage.
Dan Straily SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 6 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent)
Asked to fill a rotation spot following the unfortunate injury to Brandon McCarthy, Straily stymied the Angels on Monday by allowing three runs over 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight and walking just one. After skyrocketing through the minors this season, the 23-year-old right-hander has a 3.42 ERA and 20/5 K/BB ratio in 23 2/3 innings over his first four major league starts. He has allowed six homers so far and his fly ball rate (54.2 percent) is a little higher than you'd like to see, but he makes for a pretty solid option against the Orioles at home on Sunday.
Chris Denorfia OF, Padres (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 4.4 percent)
One of the more underrated platoon outfielders in the game, Denorfia is hitting .303/.360/.467 with seven homers, 34 RBI, 10 stolen bases and an .826 OPS in 114 games this season. His .915 OPS against southpaws is higher than the likes of Brett Lawrie (.901), David Wright (.900) and Mike Trout (.884). The 32-year-old isn't going to play every day, so he'll have to be deployed wisely, but there's value here in five-outfielder formats.