By Sam McPherson
As the fantasy baseball season approaches September, one of the big challenges in managing your roster is ensuring the players on your active roster are actually playing. With so many MLB teams starting to fade from contention, it’s a tough trick to get the most out of the players on your fantasy team.
It’s not just the trades that can change the playing time for those in your line-up; it’s the call-up moves of the big-league club as well. A last-place team wants to give a look to the rookie class of 2016, so the established veteran gets an extra “day off” here and there during the week—or just gets replaced entirely, especially if he won’t be back with the club next year.
Of course, the MLB brass is not going to bench a productive player, but every fantasy team has a few guys on the roster who are better “fantasy” players than they are real-life players. Those are the ones you have to watch out for on your team this time of year, to make sure they’re still playing enough to warrant the roster spot.
If not, it’s time to replace them with players that are actually seeing the field every game—even if they’re not as good. Playing time matters, after all, especially in the counting-stats categories.
Players to Get Into Your Lineup Now
1. Dexter Fowler, OF, Chicago Cubs: The North Side squad is competing for a postseason berth, and Fowler is going to get his at-bats as the veteran presence in a clubhouse full of young kids. He’s already tied his career high for home runs (13), and he has 17 stolen bases as well. The .254 batting average isn’t super, but that’s not going to hurt you too much now.
2. Drew Smyly, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: The lefty has a career 3.33 ERA over 349 innings (notching 333 strikeouts) with Detroit and Tampa Bay. Yes, he’s coming off a shoulder injury, but when Smyly is healthy, he is very good. Monitor his outings and adjust accordingly, but if you’re looking for late-season pitching help, Smyly could be the guy you want.
3. Stephen Piscotty, OF/3B, St. Louis Cardinals: The rookie is hitting .333 and getting plenty of playing time for the National League’s best team. He doesn’t have a lot of power or speed, but 12 runs scored and 12 RBI in his first 93 MLB at-bats is a solid sign Piscotty will be productive in the Cardinals’ lineup nonetheless.
4. Raisel Iglesias, SP, Cincinnati Reds: The 25-year-old Cuban is throwing well, and his numbers are rounding into form. Iglesias has struck out 64 batters in 66 1/3 innings, and in his last four starts, he’s given up just six earned runs over 25 2/3 innings. That’s a 2.10 ERA this month, if you’re keeping score at home.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Jake McGee, RP, Tampa Bay Rays: He wasn’t closing full-time for Tampa Bay, but McGee was still a solid RP option with six saves and good ERA/WHIP contributions. Out now after a knee injury, he’s probably the Rays’ future closer—but he’s done for 2015, so there’s no need to keep him around for September.
2. Anibal Sánchez, SP, Detroit Tigers: The 2013 American League ERA leader, Sánchez hasn’t been consistent in 2015 at all. Now, he’s on the disabled list with a rotator cuff problem. Surprise. He won’t have any value for the rest of this season, despite his 7.9 Ks per nine innings pitched this year. Let him go.
3. Tommy Kahnle, RP, Colorado Rockies: He earned two saves in early August to excite a lot of people, but in his last three outings, Kahnle has given up nine earned runs in just two innings of work. His ERA almost doubled, from 2.51 to 4.99 now. He won’t be seeing any high-leverage situations in Colorado now until 2016.
4. Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers: Once again on the disabled list, it is time to give up on the former AL MVP for 2015. Hamilton just can’t stay healthy, and until he does, fantasy owners have to stay away from him. The name itself can’t produce for your lineup.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.