If you’re still surfing the web here looking for fantasy baseball advice, then you’re probably in the midst of a dogfight with the rest of your league’s contenders and jockeying for position in the standings. Every at-bat, every start, and every relief appearance could mean the difference between winning your league (or at least finishing in a money spot) and falling to sixth place, a usual landing spot for the frustrated and disgruntled at this time of year. So what you have to do now is start thinking short-term. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised as to how many people still think in terms of a full-season right now. You don’t care what a player’s year-to-date stats look like and you don’t care how well-balanced a player they are. You need to start looking at the standings and figuring out where you can attain points with the most ease. If only five stolen bases separate you from the team three spots ahead of you, then you need a stolen base guy to grab those points. It doesn’t matter what else he brings to the table. Who cares? Just as long as he’s stealing bases. It’s the same for power, saves, strikeouts, whatever. You need to find guys specific to your needs.
Now obviously, everyone’s waiver wire looks a bit different. Shallow leagues probably still have an abundance of guys who can help while deeper league owners will have to dig further down to try and find someone in particular. Here are a few players who might interest you. They have specific strengths and obvious deficiencies, but with just three weeks left in the season, the deficiencies become less of a factor. While some might not be available, there are probably others out there of similar quality, so keep the framework in mind and find yourself some late-season help.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B BAL – Back at the end of August, I wrote a piece for FanGraphs.com, telling people to go out and pick up Reynolds as he was owned in less than 40-percent in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues. The guy who sucked people’s batting average dry for most of the season, with little power to show for it, had turned things around last month and at the time my article was published, he was hitting .271 with four home runs for August. By my assessment, he was primed for a strong finish. Some people dismissed by suggestion, but since then, Reynolds has gone 12-for-29 (.414) with eight home runs and 16 RBI. The batting average here is a big bonus, but certainly not necessary. What you want is the power and Reynolds has plenty of it. Even if his average dips again, it won’t matter as there’s simply not enough time left in the season for him to drag you down too far. Just get the counting stats and don’t worry about anything else.
John Axford, RP MIL – Man, did this guy crap on people’s ratios for a good chunk of time this year or what? He was picking up saves, but after getting knocked around incessantly midway through the season, manager Ron Roenicke opted to go a different route and Axford’s owners were not just short a closer, but they were also trying to undo the damage to their WHIP and ERA that he had done. Well guess who’s back closing in Milwaukee these days? And guess who was still sitting on the waiver wire in one of my non-industry leagues? He’s got five saves over his last six appearances and he hasn’t allowed a run in any of them. He’s officially back as the Brewers’ closer and regardless of any bumps in the road that he hits between now and the end of the season, he’s going to continue working the ninth inning in Milwaukee. If he’s out there on your wire and you’re in need of saves, then grabbing him is a no-brainer.
Dewayne Wise, OF CHW – Predominately known for his perfect game-saving catch for Mark Buehrle, Wise has been playing virtually every day for the White Sox lately, what with injuries and struggles to Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza. And with that playing time, Wise has found a way to swipe six bases over the last two weeks, which leads the league in that time frame. He may only be hitting .255 in that span and doesn’t kick in anything else, but if you need the steals, he’s going to get them for you. While other will be fighting over Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki, you can quietly scoop up Wise and gain yourself some fantasy points.
Eric Stults,, SP/RP SD -- He’s given three quality starts in his last three outings (four in his last five), posting a 2-0 record with a 0.46 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He’s only struck out 10 batters in his last 19 innings, so if you’re looking for strikeouts, you can pass on him here. But if you’re looking to grab quality starts and keep your ratios down, he’s definitely one to watch as the Padres continue to play spoliers down the stretch. Even better is that Stults is listed as both a starter and a reliever, so if your roster has specific requirements, his flexible eligibility will go a long way for you.
Marco Estrada, SP MIL – Now if strikeouts are what you seek, Estrada could be a huge help for you down the stretch. Over his last three starts, he’s struck out 23 in 17 innings and has a 9.51 K/9 on the year so you know that these K’s aren’t a fluke. Though only one of his last three outings was a quality start, he’s still managed to post a 2.65 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. I know, I told you not to worry about anything but the strikeouts and that definitely still holds true, but hey…if you can get some bonus help, why wouldn’t you?
The clock is ticking down and that marathon you started back in April is now a full-fledged sprint. Don’t get caught lagging now. The last thing you want to do is waste five and a half months of hard-nosed, grind-it-out work because you don’t think you can help your team out any more right now.
Good luck and I’ll see you all in the money this year!
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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