After 15 weeks of doing the same thing, I've decided to try something different. Instead of naming three risers and three fallers in head-to-head points leagues, I'm going to do things more simply and discuss two players whose stock is up and two players whose stock is down. Yeah, it's basically the same concept, but I won't be excluding the fantasy population not playing in points leagues, which, let's be honest, isn't a huge slice of the fantasy pie. And, besides, there's a lot of overlap anyways. The reason for the slight modification is I haven't received much feedback in recent weeks, and I feel like the piece will be much more valuable brushed with broader strokes. Agree? Disagree? Feel like I just wasted your time? Please feel free to share in the comments below.
While you were busy sleeping or re-watching Ryan Braun's PED denial speech for laughs, Pittsburgh's Jason Grilli was exiting Monday night's contest against the Nationals with right forearm discomfort. This is obviously terrible, terrible news for Grilli, who was enjoying a breakout season for a breakout team, and for his owners, who were enjoying the fantasy closer-out-of-nowhere and an NL-leading 30 saves. Grilli previously underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2002 with the Marlins, so I'm sure two major injuries in 10 years will unfairly label him as "injury prone" going forward, but owners must now plan on being without Grilli for the foreseeable future. Melancon is the overwhelming favorite to step in and take over closer duties in Pittsburgh, and he represents a better buy than Arizona's Brad Ziegler, in my opinion. In 46 1/3 innings, Melancon has a sparkling 0.97 ERA and 0.82 WHIP to go along with 47 strikeouts and six walks. The All-Star is a must-own in all leagues and could provide value similar to Grilli the rest of the way, albeit with fewer strikeouts. If the worst is realized with Grilli (and we still don't know that yet), Melancon could slide in and pick up 15 saves in the team's final 65 games.
I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when ESPN chose not to use Colby Rasmus in its publication's Body Issue, but don't let that stop you from picking up the Blue Jays outfielder for the stretch run. (We can't all be Colin Kaepernick clones.) In the past two weeks, Rasmus has hit safely in 11 of 13 games, including six multi-hit games, while picking up eight extra-base hits (one home run, seven doubles). Through 93 games, the
fan-favorite 26-year old is batting .265/.331/.479 with 16 home runs, 43 runs and 49 RBIs. If you look at last year's splits, you'll instantly notice similar first-half numbers (.259 BA, 17 home runs, 46 runs, 53 RBIs in 84 games), followed by a huge letdown in the second half (.176 BA, six home runs, 29 runs, 22 RBIs). I feel confident Rasmus can keep his strong first half going this time around, however, because he's maintaining a strong 20.1% line drive rate and he's hitting the ball in the air with more regularity. He does strike out a lot, but he's swinging at less stuff outside of the strike zone and making more contact on the stuff inside. While a strong batting average isn't his specialty, Rasmus did hit better than .251 in his first two years in St. Louis, including a .276 BA with 23 home runs in 2010, and I expect him to keep his average above .255 the rest of the way. This could be the year Rasmus puts it all together and sets career highs in home runs and RBIs -- 25 and 80 is in reach.
Unless you're playing for keeps, I'm getting to the point of Heyward indifference. Drop him in a redraft league? OK. I can't blame you there. I own him in quite a few places and have held on even though my gut is grumbling, "Let him go." It certainly feels like a lost season for Heyward, who got off to a slow start before things went super slow-mo with a surprise appendectomy. The 23-year old just can't seem to get over the hump this year, struggling to a .224/.323/.366 line with seven home runs, 35 runs and 21 RBIs in 68 games. With so little of the season remaining, I can't imagine a scenario in which Heyward returns to his 2012 form and carries you to a fantasy title. No longer running (two steals in five attempts), Heyward should start being mentioned in the same breath (for this season, at least) as Houston's Chris Carter and Oakland's Brandon Moss. Both are available in 74% of Yahoo! leagues, and both have 16-plus home runs and OPS's above .780. Those are the kind of numbers you're hoping to finish with from Heyward by the end of the season, anyways, so why not just make the switch now?
Unlike his Toronto teammate discussed above, I don't expect Rajai Davis to maintain his value through the end of the season. The Blue Jays outfielder is batting .285/.330/.372 with two home runs, 29 runs, 11 RBIs and 25 steals in 62 games, but he's recorded a run or RBI just once in his last 13 games, while sitting out three out of Toronto's last nine games -- meaning the opportunity for his best asset, his speed, isn't all there. A popular pickup as recently as a month ago, Davis has seen his ownership rates drop significantly, from over 82% in ESPN leagues to under 50% for the first time in three weeks. Why? It's simple: Everyone was all over Davis a month ago when he was running at his peak, and now that he's not stealing as much, everyone is bailing. To me, a part-timer with a speed game is still a part-timer, and Davis is no exception. Shuffling speed guys in and out of your lineup isn't an easy task; the key is finding the hottest guy at that particular time. The Mets' Eric Young Jr. is that guy right now, and if streaming speed is your game, I'd ride him instead, at least until his wheels blow out.
Alex Kantecki is a fantasy baseball writer for Fake Teams. He also writes the "Closer Chronicle" for Vigilante Baseball every Thursday, ranking and tiering all 30 MLB closers. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @rotodealer.