September 1 is right around the corner, so we should have a fresh batch of interesting names to discuss in this space next week. But this week's column is mostly focused on the players who are already here and can help provide that last-minute playoff push, including Cubs rookie slugger Jorge Soler. You might have heard about the guy. I discussed him in this week's Buy, Sell, or Hold video, as well as two players who you will also find in this week's column. Check it out below.
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Jorge Soler OF, Cubs (Yahoo: 37 percent owned)
Well, that's one way to introduce yourself. Soler had the baseball word buzzing Wednesday night after hitting a home run during his first at-bat in the majors. The ball traveled an estimated 423 feet to distant center field, which speaks to his considerable power potential. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, the 22-year-old outfielder hit .340/.432/.700 with 15 homers in 62 games this season in the minors, mostly between Double-A and Triple-A. Yes, that's a .700 slugging percentage. Soler is more polished than Javier Baez from a plate discipline perspective, so I also expect him to hit for average. Assuming you have the roster flexibility, he's well worth grabbing if you need some power upside for the stretch run. He's going to be a good one.
Tsuyoshi Wada SP, Cubs (Yahoo: 26 percent owned)
Wada never threw a pitch in the majors during his two-year contract with the Orioles, but he has proven to be a nice find for the Cubs thus far. Though his first eight starts in the majors, the 33-year-old southpaw has posted an impressive 2.56 ERA and 41/11 K/BB ratio over 45 2/3 innings. He flirted with a no-hitter against his former team on Sunday, ultimately allowing just a solo homer to Steve Pearce over 6 1/3 innings. Wada throws in the high-80s with his fastball, so he succeeds with deception and control more than pure stuff, but I think he's capable of remaining useful in mixed leagues the rest of the way while he faces hitters who are unfamiliar with him. Be sure to start him against the Cardinals this weekend.
Eric O'Flaherty RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 26 percent owned)
After Sean Doolittle landed on the disabled list over the weekend with an intercostal strain, the A's decided to keep Luke Gregerson in his regular set-up role and give O'Flaherty the nod as the stopgap closer. It was a surprising choice for a few reasons, but the 29-year-old left-hander has looked good since returning from Tommy John surgery, posting a 1.76 ERA and 12/4 K/BB ratio over 15 1/3 innings. He locked down his first career save Wednesday night against the Astros despite giving up two hits, including a solo home run. O'Flaherty doesn't fit the mold of a prototypical closer and is likely better off in a specialist role, but he's worth owning in all formats as long as he has the opportunity.
Edward Mujica RP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
The Red Sox are saying that Koji Uehara is fine and that they have no intention to shut him down or give him an extended break, but if you consider his workload since the start of 2013 and his recent struggles, there's reason for at least some concern. That's why I think it could pay off to speculate on this situation. Mujica had a rough April, but he owns a 2.90 ERA and 30/7 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings since. This includes a 1.23 ERA dating back to the All-Star break. With his previous closing experience, he figures to be next in line if there's a change of plans.
Drew Stubbs OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 26 percent owned)
With Carlos Gonzalez done for the season and Michael Cuddyer sidelined with a hamstring injury, Stubbs is assured of regular playing time in the Rockies' outfield in the short-term. That puts him on the radar again in mixed leagues, but be careful about how you utilize him, as he owns a 1.029 OPS at Coors Field as opposed to a .589 OPS on the road. Not surprisingly, he's also put up better numbers against southpaws. The Rockies are on the road this week, but make sure he's in your lineup when they return home next week.
Jake Peavy SP, Giants (Yahoo: 44 percent owned)
After posting a 4.72 ERA over 20 starts with the Red Sox this season, the move back to the National League has been exactly what the doctor ordered for Peavy. Through six starts with the Giants, the 33-year-old right-hander owns a 3.18 ERA and 28/9 K/BB ratio in 39 2/3 innings. He has gone seven innings in four of those starts and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five out of six, including each of his last four trips to the mound. He's someone I'm comfortable rolling with in all mixed leagues the rest of the way.
Steve Pearce 1B/OF, Orioles (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
Look who is hot again. After hitting just .157 with zero homers over his first 16 games coming out of the All-Star break, Pearce has hit safely in each of his last 10 games while batting .341 (14-for-41) with four homers, five doubles, and five RBI. He surprisingly owns an .881 OPS on the year, which would put him seventh in the AL if he had enough at-bats to qualify. I still think he's better off playing primarily against left-handed pitching, but he's held his own against righties this year and he should play pretty much every day now that Manny Machado is done for the season. He's worth a shot if you need a corner infielder.
Emilio Bonifacio 2B/3B/OF, Braves (Yahoo: 27 percent owned)
With B.J. Upton hitting just .204 with a .604 OPS this season and .115 so far in August, he's quickly losing grip on the starting center field job and Bonifacio is the main beneficiary. Acquired from the Cubs last month, the 29-year-old is only hitting .255/.293/.273 since the trade, so we're not talking about much of an improvement here, but he's 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts and has swiped 18 bases on the year. With his speed and multi-position eligibility, most in deeper leagues should be able to find a spot for him.
Dillon Gee SP, Mets (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)
Gee has been pretty shaky since returning from a lat strain, but he earned his first victory since July 9 last time out, holding the Braves to two runs on six hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings. His strikeouts (which were never high to begin with) are down on the whole this year and his walks are up since coming off the disabled list, but I still think he has some matchup appeal. With that in mind, I'd be willing to stream him on Sunday against the Phillies at Citi Field if you really need a win.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Zach Walters UTIL, Indians (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Let's look at the home run leaderboard for the month of August, shall we? Chris Carter at the top. Alex Gordon and recent Waiver Wire mention Oswaldo Arcia are tied for second with seven. And then we get to Walters, who is tied with Mike Trout and Chris Davis with six. Really. Acquired from the Nationals last month in the Asdrubal Cabrera deal, Walters had 29 homers in 134 games in Triple-A last year and 17 bombs in 60 games in Triple-A this year, so the power is not a fluke. The 24-year-old was a bit of a free-swinger in the minors and owns a 34/8 K/BB ratio over his first 107 plate appearances in the majors, so I wouldn't expect much in the way of batting average, but he should be on your radar if you need pop in deeper formats.
Arismendy Alcantara 2B/OF, Cubs (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
Alcantara's first taste of the majors has been a bit of a mixed bag. While the 22-year-old is hitting just .229 with a .284 on-base percentage through 43 games, the good news is that he has managed to remain useful for fantasy owners by compiling five homers, 16 RBI, seven stolen bases and 20 runs scored. Things are looking up for him lately, as he has hit safely in six straight games and has gone deep in two out of his last three. With the recent promotions of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, the Cubs are focused on giving their youngsters some major league experience, so Alcantara should continue to get regular playing time throughout September amid the ups and downs. With his dual-eligibility and ability to produce in multiple categories, he's a useful player to have around in deeper formats.
Ken Giles RP, Phillies (Yahoo: 6 percent owned)
Giles had a little hiccup over the weekend, but otherwise he's been dominant since coming up from Triple-A in mid-June, posting a 1.34 ERA and 48/9 K/BB ratio over 33 2/3 innings. Armed with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and an electric slider, the 23-year-old rookie has struck out 38.1 percent of the batters he has faced so far. Only eight pitchers (min. 30 innings pitched) are higher this season. He's the closer in waiting for Philadelphia, but likely won't get any save chances as long as Jonathan Papelbon. Still, his strikeouts should help you if you are trying to maximize your innings.
Maikel Franco 3B, Phillies (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. said this week that they haven't made a final decision on whether Franco will be called up to the majors when rosters expand on September 1, but it's hard to ignore his gaudy numbers in Triple-A. After struggling early on in the season, the 22-year-old is batting .332 with 11 home runs and 46 RBI over his last 50 games. He has 14 hits in his last 27 at-bats and has homered in four out of his last six games. He'll need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, so there's a case to be made for the Phillies to just do it now while also giving him some experience in the majors. His plate discipline is a work in progress, so success immediate success is no sure thing, but he should be relevant in mixed leagues if the Phillies call him up and let him play every day.
Jarrod Dyson OF, Royals (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
I'm a little surprised to see Dyson still available in so many leagues, as he's getting a lot of at-bats against right-handed starters and has also hit leadoff multiple times in the past few days. Sure, he's a zero in the power department, but he's seventh in the majors with 29 stolen bases (despite a part-time role) and has a .291 batting average and a .347 on-base percentage. You wouldn't know it by his modest ownership number, but there's sneaky value here.