It's crunch time: there are just six weeks left in the fantasy baseball season. You have come too far and played too hard to let things fall apart now. Here are some of my annual admonitions on how to handle the stretch run to lead this week's Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner.
1. Dance with the one that brought you.
Too often, less-experienced fantasy players trick themselves into thinking they have to change things when the stakes get higher. They dig more. They look for every advantage they might not have considered before. Don't fall into that trap. Stick to what has worked all season. You are still in contention and not spending your free time on fantasy football draft prep for a reason.
2. Use the waiver wire as an extension of your bench.
With fewer eyes on the un-owned streaking players -- in the event admonition No. 1 wasn't good enough for you -- you don't have to pepper your bench with players who are hot. Keep the high-ceiling guys and pick up the flavors of the week only if you need them to fill a temporary spot in your fantasy starting lineup. You don't want to cut a struggling player like a Jeremy Hellickson or a Mark Trumbo and then have to deal with them beating you in the final weeks of the fantasy postseason.
3. Ignore September call-ups.
Every year fantasy owners are fooled into getting excited about prospects coming up after the Sept. 1 roster expansion. Teams are allowed to have anyone on their 40-man roster in the major leagues and some prospects we haven't gotten to see yet finally get a look. The problem is, even if they are playing for a rebuilding team that needs to evaluate them, they either share too much time or show they aren't ready to help fantasy owners. After all, there are reasons -- most of them very good -- they have stayed down on the farm until now.
These aren't earth-shattering recommendations for fantasy owners, but they always need to be repeated this time of year. Good luck closing out your fantasy championship push!
Now for the rest of the Weekly Planner:
Player of the week
OF Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees -- This is 2003 all over again. Soriano scorched this week with six homers and 19 RBIs, producing at the levels he once did in his last year with the Yankees. If you read this space regularly, you know we were big fans of the Yankees' trade for him. He is a streaky player who is on the right side of things right now and a must-start in all fantasy leagues.
Player of the weak
SP Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays -- A disappointing year has just gotten worse as of late. His ERA is approaching 5.00 and, if not for a quality start last time out (barely), he would be too risky to trust in these upcoming crucial must-win weeks in head-to-head points leagues.. He is still talented to give up on, but bench him if you have a steadier option right now in those formats.
C Travis d'Arnaud, New York Mets -- Arguably the best catching prospect in baseball has arrived, and he will stick around as long as he proves worthy. The Mets truly want him to show his time is now, but you shouldn't expect much right away in fantasy terms. His minor-league numbers in his injury-plagued time down on the farm show he doesn't have anything else to prove down there. Consider him a must-have in NL-only leagues and a mere reserve flier in mixed formats right now if you have a need at the catcher position.
RP Danny Farquhar, Seattle Mariners -- His overall numbers are not great, or even good, but he has seven saves now and bounced back from Wednesday's loss nicely. The Mariners have a pitching staff that can keep them in a lot of close games down the stretch, even if they are a non-contender, so consider Farquhar a solid source for saves in all rotisserie leagues.
1. 1B Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants -- The 25-year-old is hot and enjoying a career breakthrough. He is good enough to start in all fantasy leagues right now.
2. SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics -- It is hard to have two better starts than he's had in his career debut. Consider him a must-have in mixed formats now. He is available in a lot of leagues.
3. OF Will Venable, San Diego Padres -- This hot stretch has raised his profile back to where we thought it would be going into this season. He's a must-start right now and available in mixed formats.
4. SP Andrew Albers, Minnesota Twins -- His hot start hit a snag last time out. The 27-year-old figures to be too streaky to trust in fantasy crunch time in most leagues.
5. SS Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins -- He proved major-league worthy this season, so it will be interesting to see what kind of full-season numbers he can put together as a 27-year-old sleeper next year.
1. SP Jeremy Hefner, New York Mets -- He might be headed for Tommy John surgery, which would put him out for most of 2014. You can cut him in all leagues.
2. C Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers -- His concussion DL assignment is untimely because he was just starting to show his 2011 form. He might be dealing with post-concussion issues for awhile.
3. SP Scott Kazmir, Cleveland Indians -- Back-to-back disaster outings have ruined his rebound season. Consider him a candidate to get hot again, so merely bench him for the time being.
4. OF Cody Ross, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Ross' loss for the season is rookie A.J. Pollock's gain. Consider Pollock a sleeper in deeper rotisserie leagues.
5. OF Colby Rasmus, Toronto Blue Jays -- The 27-year-old was enjoying a career year, so this DL stint is more costly than you might think for your fantasy roster. The Blue Jays are going to give this oft-troubling injury plenty of time.
Most viewed (Rotoworld):
1. 1B Mark Reynolds, New York Yankees -- He proved in his debut with his new team he can still do damage against left-handers at least. His career is not over, even if his season is lost in most fantasy terms.
2. SS Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers -- This comeback year is going to make him an interesting player to evaluate for next year's fantasy drafts.
3. OF Andrew Lambo, Pittsburgh Pirates -- The minor-league home run monster didn't do enough to stick around, but he will be back in September.
4. OF Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees -- You wouldn't dare pull this guy out of your fantasy lineup right now. He's notoriously streaky and just too hot right now.
5. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers -- The game just looks too easy for him. Triple Crowns don't come around often, except if you're this guy apparently. He is the No. 1 pick next year.
Tout Wars moves
With my team making a move into the top group of late, it is time to play games with the categories and stolen bases is the No. 1 need right now. I am going to add some base-stealers this week, namely:
1. 2B/OF Emilio Bonifacio, Toronto Blue Jays
2. OF L.J. Hoes, Houston Astros
3. 2B Chris Getz, Chicago White Sox