By Sam McPherson
It’s a common error many fantasy baseball team owners make this time of year: They bet big on a September rookie call-up and hope that special kid will start raking enough to push their team to the top of the league standings by the end of the season. Well, it usually doesn’t happen that way, even with the best young players we’ve seen in the last decade. The good rookies generally get called up in June these days and have been playing well all season. The ones that come up when Major League rosters expand in September aren’t going to have the same impact.
Take Mike Trout and Buster Posey, for example: Trout hit .220 overall in 40 games in 2011, while Posey hit a mere .118 in his September 2009 cameo. Both would go on to win Rookie of the Year in the following seasons, but neither made an impact when they first were called up. Trout was called up a bit earlier than September and still hit just .182 in the final month of the season. While both are now at the top of most draft lists, they weren’t worth a roster spot during their exposure to MLB pitchers.
If eventual MVPs like Trout and Posey couldn’t cut it in September as rookies, you’re basically wishing on a star for rookies to help your fantasy team in the final month. Don’t fall for the hype surrounding the “big-name” call-ups this final month of the season. You will be sorry; instead, stick with stable veterans you know will perform. It’s better to have an average veteran in your lineup instead of a rookie hitting .118 or .182 for a month. Even a veteran hitting .250 is going to help you more than the normal rookie will as you try to make it to the top of your league standings.
Players to Get Into Your Lineup Now
1. Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Seattle Mariners: He saved 53 games for the Mariners in 2012-13 before falling out of favor in the Seattle bullpen hierarchy. But Wilhelmsen seems to have gotten back to form as he has recorded multiple saves this week. If you’re needing a few extra saves now—and who doesn’t need those?—he could be your answer.
2. Chris Coghlan, UTL, Chicago Cubs: The Cubs have gotten a lot of usage this year from Coghlan, who is eligible at multiple positions in most leagues. His 15 home runs and 11 stolen bases look good in the second-base slot, for example. The .248 average isn’t super, but as noted above, Coghlan is a safer bet than some rookie call-up who will struggle to hit .200 in September.
3. Mark Canha, UTL, Oakland Athletics: For some reason, the A’s sat him for a long time behind the worthless Ike Davis, but now Canha is getting everyday play for last-place Oakland. He’s hitting .325 in August and shows no signs of slowing down. Canha also is fighting for a 2016 roster spot, so his motivation is high—even if his team is well out of the playoff chase.
4. Kris Medlen, SP, Kansas City Royals: He went 26-13 in 2012 and 2013 for the Atlanta Braves before needing a second Tommy John surgery. Medlen has now made eight appearances for the Royals, including one start. Kansas City will treat him gently, but he will get key innings in September as the Royals push for the top seed in the American League playoffs. Medlen has electric stuff when he’s healthy.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Jon Gray, SP, Colorado Rockies: So, he’s not a September call-up, but for a team way out of the playoff race, Gray is basically the equivalent. He has a lot of talent, but he’s not ready for the majors yet—and he pitches in Colorado for half his starts. Gray has a 5.94 ERA through his first four MLB starts, and while he may end up being Rookie of the Year in 2016, he’s not that pitcher yet.
2. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs: He certainly wasn’t the Cuban superstar some people hoped he would be, and now Soler’s season is over with an oblique injury. In a combined 432 at-bats in 2014 and 2015, he’s hit just .271 with 12 HRs and 62 RBI. He is not the equivalent of his Southside counterpart José Abreu; we’re not even sure if he’s the equivalent of Coghlan now.
3. Chris Heston, SP, San Francisco Giants: He was sent down to the minors last week, and even if the Giants bring Heston back for September, he’s only thrown over 151 innings in a professional season just once in his career. Since he’s not Madison Bumgarner—who pitched way past his career high in innings last year by a mile and somehow got better and better with each additional inning—you can’t count on Heston for much in September this year.
4. CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees: Hopefully he’s not on your roster anyway, but if Sabathia is, it’s long past time to cut bait. The last two seasons, he’s posted a 7-13 record and a 5.27 ERA over 184 1/3 innings. Sabathia went on the disabled list again this week with a knee problem, and until he loses a lot of weight, he’s not even worth taking a chance on again in fantasy baseball.
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.