Risers and Fallers: Nolan Arenado, Chris Carter and Others

Scott Halleran

Alex Kantecki identifies a pair of risers and fallers for Week 20, including Nolan Arenado and Chris Carter.

Risers

Nolan Arenado

After hitting .244/.283/.295 in the first half of 2013, Nolan Arenado has picked it up offensively in the second half, hitting .311/.345/.447 in 29 games. Over the last 30 days, the Rockies third baseman has a .327 BA and .819 OPS with two home runs, 10 runs and 13 RBIs. It may not seem like much, but Arenado has been better than Manny Machado, Matt Carpenter and Josh Donaldson over that span, which is a drastic improvement from his July numbers, when he batted a dismal .225/.258/.303 in 26 games. Helping Arenado's numbers is a 25.5 percent line drive rate in August after it dipped to 19.8 percent in July (after a monthly-best 27.7 percent line drive rate in June). He's starting to look more confident at the plate and many owners -- judging by his 22 percent ownership in ESPN leagues -- have totally dismissed the former 2012 Arizona Fall League MVP. Arenado is admittedly a much better play in Coors, hitting .288 with 29 RBIs (out of 41) coming at home. After the top options, you could do much worse at the corner infield position in 12-team leagues.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter is back to his old set of tricks, blasting four home runs with 11 RBIs over the last 15 days. His average still stinks, but like many predicted, the Astros designated hitter/first baseman is well on his way to contending for a 30-homer season after hitting 16 homers in 260 at-bats in 2012. He's now up to 23 home runs and 63 RBIs on the season, which are marks that only five other first basemen (Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and Adam Dunn) have reached. Owners who need to pick up home runs in the standings fast have few better options than Carter, who is still available in roughly 70 percent of ESPN leagues. His slugging percentage is back up to .473 in August after falling to .377 in July, and his line drive and fly ball rates are back to normal as well. A hot finish could go a long way in making Carter, despite a .214/.313/.442 slash, an even trendier power play in 2014 drafts. If your team average is strong enough, it won't kill you to add Carter.

Fallers

David Freese

Since coming back from injury, David Freese looked like a lock to receive regular playing time at the hot corner. But in the past week, the Cardinals have called up top prospect Kolten Wong, who is expected to receive plenty of at-bats against right-handers at second base. That means Matt Carpenter will shift over to third base and David Freese will likely be sitting on the bench in this scenario. Freese has yet to find his stroke in 2013, hitting .267/.345/.385 with six home runs, 41 runs and 45 RBIs in 104 games. That's quite a fall from last season when he set career highs with 20 home runs, 70 runs and 79 RBIs in 144 games. The biggest problem for Freese is that he hits way too many balls on the ground to be a reliable source of home runs. I was very skeptical of the third baseman's HR/FB rate in 2012 (20 percent), and this year it's dropped more than 10 points (9.4 percent). Among qualified third basemen, only Alberto Callaspo, Maicer Izturis and Jeff Keppinger have a lower measure of isolated power than Freese's .118 ISO. Look elsewhere.

Mike Napoli

Mike Napoli started off his Boston tenure with a bang, smacking eight home runs and 20 doubles to go along with 40 RBIs in his first 55 games. Since then, the Red Sox catcher has struggled in the power department, hitting seven home runs and 10 doubles with 29 RBIs in 56 games. Not only have Napoli's counting stats gone down significantly, but his batting average has spiraled from a solid but not spectacular .263 BA in June to a .241 BA in July and a .156 BA in August. A career high .360 BABIP has helped keep Napoli's batting average north of .245 after hitting a measly .227 a year ago, but the Boston banger is also striking out at a career-worst rate (33.7 percent) with 158 strikeouts in 111 games. To make matters worse, Napoli is also dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which has forced him to miss five out of his team's last six games. I'm not suggesting abandoning Napoli altogether, but be aware that he'll probably be given regular days of rest in the final month and a half. If you have the space, backup catchers like A.J. Pierzynski and Jason Castro are wise fill-ins for the days he does miss.

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Alex Kantecki also writes for Vigilante Baseball and The Dynasty Guru. You can poke him on Twitter at @rotodealer.

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