September 09, 2009

Congratulations. For many of you, the regular season is over and the fantasy playoffs have begun. Whether you got first place or last, a pat on the back is deserved for putting six months of your time into fantasy's best sport. Hopefully you are one of those who made the playoffs, so there's still some work to be done. For those of you who are out, get 'em next year. Let's get to this week's T.I.P.S.: Playoff Edition.

Long time coming

Two months into the season, Evan Longoria had 55 RBIs, a .327 average, 38 runs and the collective attention of everybody who doubted his superstar potential. Since then, he's vanished. Longo hit .233 in June followed by .189 in July and .259 in August. His average sunk to the .250s and his RBIs came to a screeching halt. Some might say that Longoria was going through the dreaded sophomore slump. That is until this past week, where the 23-year-old hit .467 with three homers, 10 RBIs and 10 runs. Overall, he was fantasy's second-ranked player. We all know what kind of dominant stretch Longoria can go on if he's feeling it, so now is the time to reinsert him in your lineup if you'd previously looked elsewhere for third base help. This season has proven that although he's an elite run producer, he's still not a .300 hitter.

Fantasy's Rodney Dangerfield

Plenty of second basemen have stepped up to fantasy relevance this season, leaving Brandon Phillips out in the cold. Playing for a miserable Reds team and failing to put up 'sexy' numbers in any specific category, Phillips just isn't mentioned in the same sentence as fellow two-baggers Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley or Aaron Hill. However, nobody is playing a better second base than Phillips recently. He spent last week hitting .440 with two homers, six RBIs and two stolen bases. When all is said and done, Phillips will be very close to another 25-100-25 season. Unfortunately for his owners, the Reds can't score runs, so Phillips struggles to be truly a five-cat stud. For the time being he is, so make sure he's on your roster during this pivotal stretch.

Gavin the Great

Take away the first two months of the season and Gavin Floyd has been an extremely effective pitcher. Since the All Star break, he's been nearly unhittable. In 10 post-break starts, his 4-3 record may be unassuming, but he's struck out 68 in 69.1 innings with a 2.86 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. The problem with Floyd has always been his control. In 18 starts prior to the break, Floyd walked 41 batters. He's since walked only 15. As long as he has his command, Floyd is the type of pitcher who can three-hit Boston over eight innings with no walks and 11 Ks, which is exactly what he did in his last start. He's available in 26 percent of leagues. Do your part to make him universally owned.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Looking for some cheap power now that Alfonso Soriano has been shelved until further notice? Look no further than his replacement, rookie Jake Fox. The slugger was absolutely mashing the ball in the minors until the Cubs had no choice but to bring him up and give him an audition in the big leagues. In limited action, Fox has shown that his power swing is legit. Although he never got more than 65 at-bats in any of the past three months, he's still managed to top 10 RBIs during all three. Now he's playing every day. Expect five homers and 10-plus RBIs over the final month. Even better, he's eligible at 3B and OF, giving fantasy teams some nice flexibility.

Two-Way Street

Huston Street has been sidelined with bicep tendinitis, but is expected to return by the end of this week. In the meantime, Franklin Morales will continue to close. Morales has been nearly untouchable as the interim closer. Last week he had three save opportunities, saving all three without giving up a run to go along with a WHIP of 0.67. Street has never been a model of perfect health, so similar to fantasy football, you may want to handcuff him with Morales. Each will be effective, but make sure you corner the market on Rockies saves by owning both.

Pie endorsement: Part II

Reports out of Baltimore are that Adam Jones is close to being sidelined for the season if his sprained left ankle doesn't start to heal. This makes Felix Pie even more of a legitimate addition to fantasy rosters. Pie hit another homer this week and now has six in only 95 at-bats after the break. He's also hitting .316 during that span with 11 walks. He's an exciting player and one that can help fantasy teams struggling without Jones.

Super Seth

Last week's No. 1 overall player wasn't Albert Pujols or Hanley Ramirez. It wasn't Ubaldo Jimenez or Troy Tulowitkzi. It was Rockies' utility outfielder Seth Smith. The 26-year-old hit .542 with four homers, 10 runs and 10 RBIs. On the season, Smith sports a .317 average with 15 homers and 48 RBIs. Since the break he's hitting .342 with 25 RBIs in only 40 games. He's got a great eye with 41 walks to 51 Ks, so he's the type of player that will always find some PT. He's eight-percent owned, so obviously the general fantasy public isn't buying. A guy who's on fire and gets to play four games this week at Coors Field? Sign me up.

Red Hot

The Cincinnati outfield has been a carousel of players this season, but Drew Stubbs is making the most of his chance to fill in for all the injured players. Stubbs hit .375 over the last week, including four long balls. He only had five RBIs, so much of the damage was done with the bases empty; Par for the course in Cincinnati. The rookie was a first-round (eighth overall) pick in the 2006 draft, so clearly he has some high expectations. Considering he had only three homers this season in 411 minor league at-bats, we probably shouldn't assume the power will continue. What will translate to the majors, however, is his speed. Stubbs had 45 steals in Triple-A and already has three in 18 games for the Reds. He's widely available (five-percent owned) on the free agent list, so take a chance on some all-around talent.

No More Wading

Rays top prospect Wade Davis did in his debut what David Price has been unable to do all season. Against the first-place Tigers, Davis went seven innings, striking out nine, walking only one and giving up three hits and one run. In 148 innings at Triple-A, Davis had 140 K's, but did walk 60 batters. I'd expect the strikeouts to continue, considering he had a 7.94 K/9 in the minors, but look for his walks to increase. The Rays are in a tough division, so Davis will undoubtedly struggle. If you are already out of it in a dynasty or keeper league, yeah, take a chance. For those in standard leagues, now isn't the time to take a chance on a rookie pitcher with control issues.

Ryan Howard gets the respect he deserves

We all know that Howard isn't a .300 hitter and that he strikes out all too often. Fortunately, for many fantasy leagues, strikeouts don't count, leaving Howard as one of the games most prodigious power hitters. In fact, over the last month, Howard has been fantasy's best player. His 35 RBIs are six more than any other player and his 11 homers are one behind Carlos Pena. Keep in mind that he's done all that while hitting .333. Owners tend to bypass Howard on draft day, leaving him as a late-first, early-second round pick, but he is one of fantasy's elite players. On top of that, he is a notorious second-half player, helping many a fantasy team bring home the gold.

CC Sabathia is the Ryan Howard of pitchers

If Howard is well-known for his ridiculous second-half power surges, Sabathia is the pitcher equivalent. The fact that they are both overweight is purely coincidental. Sabathia completely dominated for the Brewers last season, leading them to a wildcard berth. He's doing much the same for the Yanks this year. Over the past month, he's been fantasy's best pitcher with a 5-0 record, 1.83 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Tack on 53 Ks against only seven walks and you won't find a better option. Sometimes, it's worth the early struggles to have a guy like this anchor your staff during the playoffs.

Elvis Andrus here to stay

Like our friend Brandon Phillips, Andrus has found a way to stay under the radar this season. Despite being the fourth-rated shortstop and a Top 100 player over the past month, Andrus is still only owned in 17 percent of leagues. On the year, he's hit a respectable .274 with 24 steals. He doesn't have much power (six homers), but the young lad just celebrated his 21st birthday. As he finds ways to get on base more, he will steal more bases and score more runs. The Rangers have a ton of young talent that will make them a high-power offense for years to come. In dynasty leagues, Andrus has to be owned as he will be a Top 10 shortstop as early as next year.

*All stats up-to-date as of 8/30.

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