With just a few weeks left in the season, it’s now or never time to make that final push into the winner’s circle. A few categories are likely decided, but with a few still on the brink, a couple of well-timed moves could sway the outcome in your favor.
That’s where this list comes in. These next 11 players are all broken down by category where they are most likely to assist you. Many will contribute in multiple ways, but their greatest strength will likely come in the category under which they are listed. All players are rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues (except for one who is barely over), and all deserve your attention regardless of league size.
The Pirates, of all teams, have been winning games lately, and Castro’s a big reason why. He’s been doing a bit of everything, including slugging for power, hitting for average, and making phone calls while sliding into third. (That was just too good to ignore.)
Since September 9th, the Dominican infielder has swatted three long balls, two doubles, knocked in eight runs, and scored five times. He’s been regularly hitting third in the Pittsburg lineup and should continue to be a solid contributor in both run-scoring categories.
I highlighted Oscar here eons ago when he was leading the Minor Leagues in home runs. After his call-up, Gonzalez’s numbers resembled more of a ground ball/gap-type hitter than a home run-hitting slugger (which is still valuable in fantasy leagues). While the quality average was nice, he just wasn’t drawing much attention with his lack of homers, steals, or runs scored. However, if you watch the Guardians play, you’d know that many of Gonzalez’s doubles were actually mere inches from going out.
If you look at his expected home runs by park, the numbers are staggering. He has nine home runs on the season, but if he played all of his games in Houston, Gonzalez would have 18! The trend continues for most parks, where if he played almost anywhere else, he’d have at least 14 homers. Now that more of his deep balls are finally reaching the seats, it doesn’t come as a big surprise.
Even if you passed on him earlier in the season, it’s time to rethink that decision. He’s still hitting for average, but the dingers and RBIs are starting to pile up, making him much more valuable. The hulking outfielder has been on fire since the beginning of September, hitting .345 with four home runs, four doubles, and 12 RBIs. His average is up to .300 on the season, and he has been the Guardians’ best hitter of late as they fight to hold onto the division.
Gonzalez was a big part of why the Guardians were willing to let Franmil Reyes go, and so far, he’s held up his end of the bargain. If a few of Gonzo’s wall-balls would have gone out, he likely wouldn’t be available in as many leagues. But luckily for you, he remains relatively unknown and should be scooped up in all league types.
Raleigh is a man among boys when it comes to hitting homers out of the thin catcher position. Yes, he’ll bring down your average a bit, but this late in the season, it’ll hardly tip the scales, and who wouldn’t trade a couple of homers for a couple of O-fers throughout the week?
The Mariners rookie ran into some tough pitching at home last week against the Braves and Padres, but the juice is worth the squeeze anytime you can get 25 taters out of your catcher.
Raleigh is currently nursing a thumb injury, but it isn’t considered serious. He should be back in there tomorrow just as he should be on your fantasy squad.
Josh Jung (3B – TEX): 21%
Josh Jung was supposed to be the starting third baseman for Texas on Opening Day. Sidelined by a torn labrum that kept him out most of the season, the Rangers’ top prospect and MLB’s 12th overall best finally joined the big league club last week.
Jung raked right out of the gate, launching a home run in his first Major League game. He quickly hit another one two days later and has collected at least one hit in seven out of eight games. He drove in four runs during his first week in the Show and even stole a base for good measure.
Jung is going to be a mainstay in fantasy leagues for years to come. He’s already showing why he is considered one of the best prospects in baseball. Add the slugging third baseman now, who demolished Triple-A pitching this year, if he’s still somehow available in your league.
Hayes has been mostly sub-par throughout the season but seems to be coming to life. The Pirates’ third baseman was a mid-round selection in this year’s re-drafts, and while he hasn’t lived up to expectations, he is finally starting to hit again like he did at the beginning of the season.
The 25-year-old is hitting .306 in September with 6 runs scored and three stolen bases. The power hasn’t been there all year, but after meddling through an unsightly summer, Hayes is finally shooting the gaps and running often. He’s up to 17 steals on 22 attempts, and with the Cubs and the Reds on the horizon, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hayes continue to produce. Add the speedy former first-rounder if you need to boost your steals.
A few weeks ago, it looked like Jonathan Hernandez was going to be the ninth inning man for Texas. But as things progressed, management turned back to their old stopper from yesteryear in Jose Leclerc. The 28-year-old has continued to pitch well, racking up three consecutive months of an ERA below 2.70 with better than a K/inning. He already has four saves this month and should be a valuable asset down the stretch if you need saves.
Ober is finally ready to roll again after missing nearly the entire season. He showed no signs of rust on Friday when he returned for his first Major League start since May, and one hit the Guardians over five nearly flawless innings (one walk). He struck out five in the contest and had hitters looking silly at the plate.
Ober is one of the tallest pitchers in baseball and creates tough angles for the hitters to pick up. He also throws with impeccable control and rarely walks anyone (career 5% walk rate).
With Ober back healthy and the Twins doing all they can to make it into the playoffs, expect him to pitch every five or six days and to go as deep as he can. His WHIP should be helpful from here in out, especially on Wednesday when he takes on the Royals in KC.
Jameson and Nelson are more proof of just how hard it is to pitch in the PCL, especially with a home park in Reno, Nevada (where the ball flies!). Don’t forget this is the same league (and team for Cron) that saw Kevin Cron produce a 1.226 OPS, Ty France a 1.247 OPS, and Gavin Lux a 1.197 OPS. Granted, that was all in 2019 with the alleged “juice ball,” but you get the idea.
Both pitchers were consensus top 10 prospects in the D’backs system at one point and faired quite well in the Minors before reaching Triple-A. Now a part of the Big League club, both young starters have returned to their winning ways (after some dreadful numbers in Triple-A) and given Arizona another reason to be excited about their future.
Jameson opened his Major League career with seven shutout innings against the Padres. And Nelson had back-to-back stellar outings against the Dodgers and Padres where he didn’t give up a single run. There may have been some luck involved, but to say these two guys didn’t earn it would be doing them and yourself a disservice.
Nelson is a 6’3″ righty who has great extension with his delivery, causing his 95 MPH heater to look like 100. In two games, the pitch has rendered a .097 BA and .161 xBA with eight strikeouts. Jameson isn’t as big in stature but actually throws harder and gave up no hits with his four-seamer over seven innings. He complements it with an above-average slider, a sinker, and a decent changeup.
The Diamondbacks are a team on the rise, and with more run support and better defense behind them, their young starter duo could continue to impress. Jameson is scheduled to take on the Dodgers in LA, but Nelson is on tap to face the Padres (again) and then the Giants on Friday. They’re both worth a speculative add in deeper leagues and could make a positive difference over the final few weeks.
I have to admit, I did not see this one coming. But give credit where credit’s due, as Sampson has been very good of late. Over his last four starts, the 30-year-old righty has allowed just four runs over 20.1 innings. He’s only given up one home run in that span and took down some offensive juggernauts, including the Cardinals and the Mets.
The sinkerball specialist pitched well last season for the Cubs in limited playing time. He produced a 2.80 ERA in 2021 over 10 games (5 starts) while registering a 3.48 ERA this year over 17 games (15 starts).
Sampson is hardly someone that comes to mind when searching for wins, especially pitching for the 62-82 Cubs. With his ability to keep the ball in the yard, however, and with the hapless Marlins on tap, you have to like Samson’s chances at earning a victory. He won’t start until Tuesday, so in daily leagues, you can probably wait until Monday to pick him up, but in weekly ones, you may need to act fast.
I thought Bello had a chance to be great from the get-go, but he just couldn’t find control of his changeup and left way too many fastballs down the middle. After the intense orientation and a trip back down to the Minors, Bello seems to have settled in. Over his last three starts, the highly-prized starter has lasted 16.1 innings while allowing just three runs and striking out 18.
The best part about adding Bello is that he gets to face the Reds his next time out. Cincinnati strikes out at an astronomical rate and should feel like a cakewalk after shutting down the Yankees at Fenway Park on Wednesday. Add Bello for his upcoming juicy start if you’re in a close race for strikeouts.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.
Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.