2017 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report: September Strategy
Matthew Selz breaks down how to handle September call-ups and using the correct strategy for fantasy baseball.
We are getting to the end of the dog days of summer portion of the baseball schedule, and nearing in on the crazy time known as September call-ups. Rosters will expand to 40 on the MLB side, from the normal 25, and that can lead to a lot of games looking like early spring training affairs. Guys you have never previously heard of will all of sudden be thrust into the limelight in key spots down the stretch, all the while you’ll be furiously typing on your computer or, more likely, your phone to see what this guy did in the minors.
Ah the beauty of September baseball.
I fully expect most of the prospects I have talked about, who are in Triple-A or Double-A, to get a look in the majors next month, especially the pitchers.
By now you must be wondering, how will this effect what guys I look at and who do I target for a final push? Well I won’t give you specific names here this week, but I will give you things to keep in mind when looking for extra guys to help with a late-season push of your own.
Naturally the first question that arises is, what teams are more likely to call players up? And the answer is pretty much everyone. On occasion there have been playoff teams that only call up a handful of guys to augment their bullpen so as not to wear their relievers out while also not messing with the team chemistry. Expect the same thing to happen this year. The top teams in the N.L., the Dodgers and Nationals, should really only be calling up pitching depth to sure up bullpens and the occasional spot starts. In the Nationals’ case, they have several regular major leaguers set to come off the DL in the next few weeks in Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Brian Goodwin, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Madson meaning the guys that have already been playing in their place, should remain with the team as depth. Other teams in the middle of the standings will be trying to catch lightning in a bottle and make a late-season push for a Wild Card spot, or perhaps a yet undecided division lead. Bottom feeders will use the month as a scouting opportunity to see how well their top guys can hang in the majors in a small sample size albeit.
So if everyone does it, how does that change what I should be looking for from a prospect. Pitchers are the easier ones to predict in terms of what impact that will have. Most teams use their top pitching prospects as bullpen depth this time of year, as evidenced by the Dodgers’ intent to use Walker Buehler out of the pen, despite him working as a starter for much of the year in Double- and Triple-A, the same can likely be said for Brent Honeywell of Tampa given the Rays history of doing that with pitchers. Even David Price came up as a reliever his first time. I know, I know that takes some luster off of the prospects I have spent the season telling you about, however just because they get called up doesn’t mean you have to use them. In fact this is a great time of year to do scouting of your own as you see what these youngsters bring to the table against MLB-caliber hitters. Bottom feeders however are a different story. Many of the teams sitting well outside the playoff spots in their respective league will use this time to shuffle their rotations and see what the starters from Triple-A have to offer.
Hitters, on the other hand, are much tougher to predict impact-wise when we get to this point in the calendar. Several of the top position prospects have already been called up this year, but there are a few more that could get the call in just over a week, depending on whether their minor league team is competing for a playoff spot of their own. Players like Brendan Rodgers, Ronald Acuna, Francisco Mejia, Willy Adames, Austin Meadows, Franklin Barreto, and Anthony Alford should highlight the bats being called up but that doesn’t mean they will be starters for the whole month. In all likelihood they will be depth bats who can offer the regulars a couple of days of rest each week. With the hit and miss, excuse the pun, nature of offensive call-up production in September it’s hard to tell you to go out and pick up a guy for certain, unless you have a place on the roster to let him sit and evaluate him for next season.
What September baseball really amounts to for fantasy owners, especially in keeper and dynasty formats, is a free scouting opportunity for us without having to make the schlep to a minor league park and hope your guy is playing that day. So if you are looking for that late-season pickup that can help propel you into the championship or the money, research is key. Know how teams like to use their September call-ups from pitchers to hitters. Know the depth of each team since teams short a position are more likely to use their expanded roster spots on potential starters at that spot on the field. Know who is injured on the MLB roster and when they are coming back, because if a regular gets injured this week, it could open the door for a player, who was previously not thought about. Just like I said in my mid-season strategy piece, make sure that your pickups follow your plan and idea for your roster in the next couple of seasons.
Matthew Selz has been writing and covering fantasy sports for Fantasy Alarm for more than two years and has nearly 20 years of experience playing fantasy sports in numerous leagues. He is always available on Twitter @theselzman and through comments on this and his other articles for Fantasyalarm.com