September 23, 2009

The final two-week stretch of the baseball season is a definite crapshoot. Minor leaguers are getting the call to strut their stuff, veterans are punching out early to nurse their injuries, and pitchers are getting shut down to limit their pitch counts going into next season. Needless to say, there are very few players seeing their name on the lineup card on a daily basis. For fantasy owners, this can be frustrating and confusing. The best way to handle this is take a look at last-week stats. See how many at-bats certain players have gotten in the last week and ride the hot hand. Now's the time to work the waiver wire and take the youngster who is showing some impressive power or the Wade Davis' of the world who are working for a roster spot in 2010. There are no rules this far into the season, just simply do whatever it takes to win a championship.

Let's get to this week's T.I.P.S.

All statistics through September 21.

Catching Up

The fantasy world was up in arms over the potential of Matt Wieters entering this '09 season. Considered the next big thing, it wasn't unusual to see Wieters drafted as early as the 10th round in some drafts. Since his May call-up, however, nary a word has been spoken of the 23-year-old phenom. He's been solid, yet unspectacular. Good, but not great ... until this past week. Wieters was fantasy's fourth overall player the past seven days with 10 RBIs, two homers and a .480 average. As his plate discipline improves, Wieters is a must-start down the stretch as he progresses to a Top 10 catcher.

Back to Basics

Prior to last season (where he only played 36 games), Rafael Furcal had never stolen less than 22 bases in eight seasons. This year, despite playing in 140 games, Furcal has only nine stolen bases. Interestingly enough, 33 percent (that would be three for you mathematically challenged folks) of those came in the last week. He also added a homer, seven runs and a .300 average. He's been nothing more than a disappointment, but he's still a shortstop, and if he's running, he's playable.

Oh Canada

Ryan Dempster was considered a bust by many entering the season, and he's done his part to solidify that claim. He has only 10 wins and his 1.34 WHIP is less than adequate. Since July, though, Dempster has been pretty effective. In August he had a 3.69 ERA and has brought that momentum into September where he has a 1.53 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 21 Ks in four starts. All is lost for the Cubs, but the Canadian-born Dempster is doing his part to make amends for a terrible first half. With a favorable schedule remaining, Dempster makes for a reliable option down the stretch.

Milton "Bad"-ley sent packing

This isn't technically an injury, but we can call it a mental wound. The Cubs finally got their fill of the outspoken Milton Bradley and suspended him for the remainder of the season. Micah Hoffpauir is the beneficiary, and has hit .385 with four RBIs in the last week. Now that Alfonso Soriano is officially shut down for the year, Hoffpauir will see plenty of action. His bat is above average and he can be a decent source of power and average in the final two weeks. With both OF and 1B eligibility, he is a must-add in NL only leagues and deserving of a bench spot in mixed leagues.

South Side Return

Jake Peavy's return to the mound wasn't during a playoff chase like he was hoping for, but it doesn't mean he wasn't effective. Peavy got the win and went five innings, striking out five with a 1.00 WHIP. Unfortunately, Peavy must adjust to pitching in the American League, particularly in U.S. Cellular Field which isn't exactly kind to pitchers. Counting on him during the final two weeks would be a mistake, but don't discount him too highly entering 2010.

Scutaro likely done for the year

Marco Scutaro was a godsend to many fantasy owners needing help at shortstop this season. He was reliable, healthy and most importantly, effective. Now he's likely out for the year with a heel injury. John McDonald started at short on Monday night and hit a homer. Even so, he's hitting .235 and has only three homers on the season. The homer might be intriguing, but he bats ninth and won't get many opportunities to succeed. You probably don't need me to tell you this, but leave him on the waiver wire. Desperate times don't even call for these desperate measures. Instead, try someone like Cliff Pennington or Juan Uribe.

Journeyman Jody

Jody Gerut has been a waiver wire pickup for many years, getting hot at times and demanding the attention of fantasy owners. He's never been able to put it together with any consistency, yet that doesn't mean he has no value. In 12 at-bats last week, Gerut had seven hits, including two homers and eight RBIs. He's bound to play semi-regularly the next two weeks, so keep him in mind for daily leagues. At one-percent owned, he's also bound to be on the waiver wire, as usual. NL-only leaguers take notice.

Dodgers creating 2B platoon

Orlando Hudson has been a good player for most of the season, but lately he has found himself on the bench more often than not. The recently acquired Ronnie Belliard is playing more often and hitting the ball. He batted .417 last week with two homers, seven RBIs and a stolen base, good enough for 22nd overall. You know how I love multi-position players, and Belliard has 1B, 2B, and 3B eligibility. Belliard has the tools to spell a variety of different players and put up mixed-league worthy stats at a thin position (2B). If you need the 2B help, Belliard is a good fit.

Mini Mike

Just like Furcal, Mike Fontenot has been an utter disappointment. He was a RotoExperts favorite and expected to play a large role in the dominant Cubs offense. That never happened, and his playing time became depleted quickly. Now that the season is over, Fontenot is seeing some action and performing. In 14 at-bats, Fontenot hit .500 with an RBI and two steals. The steals are likely a fluke, so his overall ranking of 48 this past week was a bit deceiving. He can get you a run and a decent average, but Fontenot isn't worth a pickup this late in the year.

Keep note of guys who are shut down

Pitch counts are always important, but they take an even greater significance as the season winds down. In an effort to save some wear and tear on their arms, coaches are shutting down pitchers until next year. Russ Ohlendorf has been a fantasy sleeper the past few months, but recently was informed that he is done for the year. Even guys like Yovani Gallardo will only pitch one more start before giving way to some younger guys. Pay attention to any news regarding your young pitchers on bad teams to see if they will be making their regular starts in the final two weeks.

Pay attention to playoff races

Most MLB teams will let youngsters play the final two weeks if they are out of playoff contention. This creates a tough time for fantasy owners in weekly leagues who need to determine how much their stars will play. This isn't an issue with playoff-bound teams as home-field advantage and a playoff spot are at stake. It's this time that you can count on these players and see who is playing every day. Somebody like Belliard should see extensive time.

Last ditch effort for some saves

Look no further than Arizona reliever Juan Gutierrez. The 26-year-old had three saves last week en route to a 3.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in three innings pitched. The Diamondbacks have played respectable ball lately, so he's getting some opportunities. He's only 22-percent owned so it's definitely possible that he's available and ready to help you get some much-needed saves. Add him if you are in desperate need of saves in rotisserie leagues

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