FANTASY PLAYS: Who is this Harrison Bader?

As we near the end of the fantasy baseball season, we'll take a look at players' value for the 2018 season in addition to a few nuggets helping you to finish strong. First, we'll have to touch on another new rookie that's looking impressive before covering two rebounding players and another injury disappointment.

CHEERS

Harrison Bader, STL - Everyone still alive in Fantasy Baseball is wondering who this Bader kid is. In just two weeks, Bader is hitting .310 with a .571 SLG percentage thanks to three home runs in 12 games. While Bader has been hot since his arrival, he's still striking out a lot (32.6 percent) which should have you concerned, as should the fact that the PCL inflates minor league hitting numbers. The good news is that Bader has long-term potential matching Magglio Ordonez with mid-20 home run power and mid-teen stolen bases. Bader's swing is a bit flat and he struggles against righties. That's led to above average strikeout rates throughout his career. Bader won't stay this hot through the end of the season, but he has the potential to hit .270 with 80-plus Runs and RBIs added to those home run and stolen base numbers. I did say ''potential,'' so keep Bader in mind next year, as your OF3/4 with upside for a better return.

Kevin Kiermaier, TB - Kiermaier is back - both for the Rays and as the Fantasy player owners expected to see when they drafted him this year. Unfortunately, Kiermaier started slow and then heated up in May, only to hit the DL early in June. Fortunately, if you were able to stash him on the DL, Kiermaier is hitting .360 with four HRs, three SBs, 16 Runs and 14 RBIs since returning on August 18. Now that's what owners were expecting! Smart owners saw Kiermaier's potential from last season and knew he had the potential for a solid average with 20-plus HRs, 30-plus SBs and the Runs and RBIs that come with that. Kiermaier had Top 20 outfielder potential, and truthfully, he still does. The one flaw surrounding Kiermaier is his health, as he has just one season with more than 120 games played and only one with more than 108 games in the majors. Savvy players will be on Kiermaier again next year, and you should be as well. Draft him as an OF3 with that same potential if he can just stay healthy.

Justin Verlander, HOU - Verlander is back. well, he's arrived for the Astros but continued his late-season rebound with a great first start for his new team. Over his last four starts, Verlander is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 27 innings. While Verlander isn't going to pitch to a sub-2.00 ERA, it's nice to see his xFIP at 2.71, meaning it's not all luck driven success. Verlander has dropped his walks, which have plagued him this season. He has a 3.4 BB/9 for the year, even with a low 1.7 mark in those starts. This will be critical to Verlander's continued success, as Houston is a bit less favorable than Detroit for ballparks, and Verlander continues to struggle with home runs. Looking toward 2018, Verlander isn't on the SP1 tier anymore, even if he finishes the season pitching this well. Verlander is more like the pitcher we saw last year with a higher WHIP and a tendency for more poor outings. He's a modest SP2.

TEARS

Yoenis Cespedes, NYM - Cespedes' season ended two weeks ago, but what does that mean for 2018? The good news is that Cespedes was on pace for 33 home runs, 90 Runs and 82 RBIs to go with a .292 average over 159 games. The bad news is that Cespedes has only played 159 games once. In fact, since that 2015 season, Cespedes has missed 111 games the last two years, including half of this season. Cespedes always had Top 15 outfielder potential, and even neared that value even while playing just 132 games last year. However, home runs increased significantly this season, which lessens the value of 33 home runs. Just look at how little interest and trade value the Mets got back for Jay Bruce. Given Cespedes' high injury risk, he's simply not worth the gamble as a Top 15, even 25, outfielder next year. In fact, I don't think I'd be comfortable with him as more than my OF3.

STREAMING PITCHERS

The Brewers continue to lead the league in strikeout percentage over the last 30 days and are scoring less than usual. They are a good team to target when streaming pitchers. The Rays and Padres also haven't found their way out of their funks, and strike out more than most while putting up low runs totals. On the other hand, the Angels continue their playoff push and added Justin Upton, while the Twins are right their keeping chase in the standings and with their bats. Avoid both hot lineups for now.

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by Jake Ciely of the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com

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