This is the weekly Fantasy Roundtable, where the writers of Rotoworld Baseball let the readers of Rotoworld Baseball in on a quick staff discussion. It's water cooler talk ... that we've decided to publish. Look for it every Tuesday.
Drew Silva: We're staring down the final month of the 2015 fantasy baseball season. Give me one thing you're looking forward to seeing over these last four weeks, whether pertaining to the 2015 stretch run or looking ahead to the 2016 campaign. What are some storylines you guys will be tracking in September?
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Matthew Pouliot: Whether Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo continue to hit is a big one for Boston. Will they be comfortable entering 2016 with a Mookie Betts-Bradley-Castillo outfield now that Hanley Ramirez is expected to move to first base? It hardly seemed likely a month ago, but then Bradley hit .354/.429/.734 with five homers in August. Plus, it’s not like he really needs to be more than a .700 OPS guy to be an above average regular with the way he can go get it in center field. Castillo had a pretty great month, too, coming in at .338/.369/.525 in 80 at-bats. If both fade, then they’ll probably end up competing for one starting job next spring, with a veteran added to play left. If they keep hitting, it’ll settle the outfield and give the Red Sox more money to spend on pitching.
Bill Baer: Giancarlo Stanton will return to the Marlins as soon as Friday, so I'm interested to see how much power he'll show after suffering a broken hamate bone. It typically takes hitters a while to regain their power -- ESPN's Keith Law estimates 12 to 18 months. Stanton was on pace to hit 50-plus home runs at the time of his injury. If he shows a similar amount of power as he had prior to the injury, fantasy players should feel a lot more comfortable taking him early in drafts next March. If he struggles to hit home runs in September, fantasy players may be hesitant to risk a high draft slot on him. As a result, he could become a fantasy steal. Those who play in keeper leagues will be all the more interested.
D.J. Short: I'll stick with the Marlins here and say Jose Fernandez. Making his return from Tommy John surgery, the 23-year-old posted a brilliant 2.30 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 10 walks in 43 innings over seven starts prior to landing on the disabled list earlier this month with a right biceps strain. However, all went well in a bullpen session late last week and he appears on track to rejoin the Marlins around mid-September. This should give him enough time to make around three starts before the end of the season. If Fernandez can prove his health and effectiveness down the stretch, it should provide some peace of mind to fantasy owners who are looking at him as one of the top starting pitchers off the board next spring.
Ryan Boyer: I'm really interested in following the progress of Marcus Stroman. Originally ruled out for the season after blowing out his ACL in spring training, Stroman has made quicker-than-expected progress and will begin a rehab assignment on Wednesday. He'll be able to get a couple rehab starts in before the end of the minor league season and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said last week that it's possible the righty rejoins the rotation this month. Perhaps a return in a relief role is still more likely, and even if he does come back as a starter you can't really count on a pitcher that hasn't appeared in a game in six months. That said, I'm anxious to see how Stroman looks, as he would have been one of my favorite pitching targets in the spring had he not suffered the injury.
Nathan Grimm: I think the last month will be an important one for Raisel Iglesias. The 25-year-old has somewhat quietly been terrific for a bad Reds team this year. Iglesias has a 3.92 ERA overall and owned a 2.27 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 45/10 K/BB ratio over 39 2/3 innings last month, a month that included back-to-back double-digit strikeout games his last two times out. He features a couple different pitches that rank as above average, and his 12.1 percent swinging strike percentage, per Fangraphs, is 14th among guys who have thrown at least as many innings. The Reds may shut him down sometime in September, but that doesn't matter for 2016. He's a guy I'm likely to circle next spring.
Drew Silva: I see the return of Javier Baez to the Cubs' active roster as a storyline worth tracking for this season and next. He was a major disappointment last year in his first taste of major league life, batting .169/.227/.324 with 95 strikeouts in 52 games, and the Cubs have left him in the minors this entire summer. But he's up now with the team's first wave of September callups and Baez has the opportunity to carve out regular playing time on the Chicago infield if he performs well out of the gate. The 22-year-old has made tangible strides with his plate discipline since that ugly 2014 and he has the defensive ability to handle second base, third base, and shortstop. I'm thinking the starting second base gig is in his immediate (and possibly long-term) future given that Starlin Castro and Tommy La Stella have been the Cubs' options there since Addison Russell moved to short. Baez was batting .324/.385/.527 with 13 home runs, 61 RBI, and 17 stolen bases over 70 games this season at Triple-A Iowa. He tallied 37 homers, 111 RBI, and 20 steals in 130 games between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee in 2013. The potential is there for him to become a fantasy monster, and it could happen fast.
Disagree? Want to add something? Got a question? You can find each of these @Rotoworld_BB writers on Twitter: @drewsilv, @djshort, @nate_grimm, @baer_bill, @ryanpboyer, @matthewpouliot.