By: Jack Moore
Each week we'll be providing you with insight into the best (and worst) baseball players to play in your fantasy baseball league.
1. Tyler Skaggs, SP, ARI: Skaggs, the 13th-best prospect in the game per Baseball America, will be one to watch Monday night as he makes his second major league start. The 20-year-old lefty is a must-add in available keeper leagues and should be a solid addition even in redraft formats. Skaggs got the win over Miami in his first start, striking out four but walking five and allowing three hits over 6.2 innings. If he can shake out the jitters, he has the talent to be great down the stretch and beyond.
2. David Murphy, OF, TEX: Murphy is in the midst of a career year, but it doesn't seem as though too many people are noticing. Maybe it's because the homer and RBI totals (11 and 49 respectively) aren't that impressive. But Murphy is the man to pick up for a team lacking in batting average – Murphy is hitting .313/.391/.490 on the year and although he has an abnormally high .345 BABIP, his 14.6% strikeout rate suggests he'll be a solidly above-average hitter even if his luck cools down.
3. Will Venable, OF, SDP: Venable has eight steals over the last 30 days, making him a solid pickup for those desperate for speed down the stretch. But Venable has value going forward beyond this year, too, particularly if he finds a way out of San Diego. Venable has a 115 OPS+ this season, his fifth straight at 100 or better. In Petco Park, that means a mediocre .252/.323/.416 career line, but if he can escape we could be looking at a .270 hitter with power and speed.
4. Zack Cozart, SS, CIN: Cozart is one of the few full-time leadoff hitters widely available in leagues right now, and as such he can be a cheap source of runs and a surprising source of power (14 HR already). He has a .274 batting average in August as well and likely won't have to deal with anybody overtaking him for either his job as shortstop or leadoff hitter. Cozart's tendency for the strikeout (95 in 497 AB) is concerning, but he should be solid for a .240 average and 25 runs or so down the stretch.
5. Alex Cobb, SP, TBR: Cobb has been inconsistent this season, and one needs look no further than his August to see that. Four starts of one run or fewer and at least seven innings pitched – including Thursday's complete game shutout over the Athletics – surrounding a 2.2 inning, eight run disaster against the Angels the week before. Still, the good outweighs the bad, and Cobb has a 3.03 ERA with a 27:5 K:BB over the last 28 days. He has a 2.7 K/BB overall and with the help of the Rays' solid defense he should be able to finish strong – think sub-4.00 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and a few wins.
1. Adam Jones, OF, BAL: Jones is not a player who is replaceable at this point in a season. Still, at this point, it's time to start thinking about keepers and even ranks for next season, and that's where Jones comes in. He's hitting .290 with 24 home runs, 64 RBI, 75 runs and 12 steals. Per 162, that gets us to 30 homers, 96 runs, 83 RBI and 15 steals. The home run increase is significant, Jones's supposed breakout season only sees him adding 13 runs, seven RBIs and three steals over his career norms. He's still a valuable player, but his value shouldn't change that much between this season and the next.
1. Lance Lynn, SP, STL: Lynn will give up his spot in the rotation to Joe Kelly next time around, with the Cardinals playing the situation by ear the rest of the way. Like Chris Sale earlier this year, Lynn is a young pitcher without the experience of the 200-inning MLB season, so this could just be a rest, but as a Lynn owner I wouldn't wait around for the Cardinals to insert him back into the rotation. Lynn has a 5.89 ERA in his last 12 starts, largely thanks to eight home runs and 28 walks allowed.
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, BOS: I'm sure there aren't too many people jumping at the chance to add Matsuzaka for his first start back in the majors this week, but even so, the name still carries some sort of mystique. Don't bite. Matsuzaka has a 5.17 ERA and 1.493 WHIP in his last 273 innings, and there isn't really a stretch in there where he looks good.
4. Homer Bailey, SP, CIN: Bailey started the year showing some improvement and some of the talent that made him a top-5 prospect across baseball at one point. He carried a sub-4.00 ERA through the end of July – a real achievement considering his home park in Cincinnati – but he has proceeded to allow at least three earned runs in each of his last six starts. He doesn't miss enough bats – just 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings to keep the hits (NL-leading 179) or homers (22 in 26 starts) off the board.
5. Trevor Plouffe, 3B, MIN: Plouffe has slumped hard coming off his July injury. The all-of-a-sudden slugger has just seven hits in 45 at-bats, none of which have gone for extra bases. In deeper leagues, he may be worth holding on to – he still has an impressive .464 slugging percentage despite the prolonged slump – but the well may be drying out too quickly for those in standard leagues, as he lacks the batting average or steals to ballast too much of a real drop in power production.
Jack Moore is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Mathematics and Economics. His work can also be found at FanGraphs.com, DisciplesOfUecker.com, RotoWire.com, AdvancedNFLStats.com and ESPN. Follow him on twitter at @jh_moore.
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