By Sam McPherson
It happens every season in a lot of fantasy baseball leagues: The first-place team suddenly reaches some league limits for games played by outfielders or games started by starting pitchers—and the rest of the league closes the gap on the top roster very quickly. Next thing you know, that first-place team is buried in fifth place.
Some owners don’t understand their league rules, and they don’t manage their rosters properly in terms of pace based on game limits or innings-pitched limits. This happens in every fantasy sport, but fantasy baseball is a very long season with the most regular-season games (162). If you’re not careful, you can max out way too soon.
Ideally, you want to hit all your limits on the last weekend of the season—in this case, it’s October 2-4. Knowing what the limits for your league are now will help manage your finish down the stretch while also maximizing the output of your roster between now and then. Make sure you carefully creep closer to those limits in the final seven weeks of the season!
Players to Get Into Your Lineup Now
1. Chris Bassitt, SP, Oakland Athletics: He came to the A’s in the Jeff Samardzija trade last winter, and Bassitt is now a part of the rotation after Oakland traded away Scott Kazmir. He is only 1-4 as a starter, but the 2.27 ERA in that role is excellent. Bassitt also has very good ratio numbers, in terms of base runners (0.985 as a starter) and walks-to-strikeouts (7:36).
2. Khris Davis, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: After a solid 2014 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, Davis was a breakout candidate this year—but he slumped badly in the beginning of the season. Now, he’s recovered from a knee injury and playing every day thanks to trades. His batting average isn’t great, but his walk rate is up, and Davis has been hitting the long ball again in the last few weeks.
3. Danny Valencia, UTL, Oakland Athletics: Bad teams end up creating opportunities for good players, and Valencia is an example of that. He couldn’t crack the lineup in Toronto with regularity, and now he’s in Oakland and getting playing time. Valencia is the kind of player the A’s like, and he’s hitting .333 with Oakland currently.
4. Jean Machi, RP, Boston Red Sox: The same theorem applies to Machi in Boston. He was a decent reliever in San Francisco for two seasons (2013-14), but Machi struggled this year with the Giants and is now closing for the Red Sox. Don’t expect greatness; just expect a few saves down the stretch—and sometimes, those extra saves make a huge difference in the standings.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Doug Fister, SP, Washington Nationals: If you’ve been waiting for a return of the Fister from 2011-14, it’s time to give it up for 2015. It’s just not going to happen. Take a chance on him again next year in the late rounds of your draft if you want, but Fister is giving up a career-high 10.9 hits per nine innings this year, and no one wins with that kind of stat.
2. Matt Cain, SP, San Francisco Giants: He really hasn’t been the same pitcher since the Giants rode him to the World Series title in 2012. Like Tim Lincecum before him, Cain is in serious career decline. He has a 4.25 ERA since the start of 2013, and it’s rising. It may be injuries; it may be mileage. Either way, stick a fork in him, because Cain is done.
3. Ervin Santana, SP, Minnesota Twins: His career is a mixed bag, and after his 80-game PED suspension earlier this year, who knows what you’re going to get from Santana. But his strikeout rate is at a career-low level right now, and that’s not a good sign for a 32-year-old pitcher coming off PED use. Avoid at all costs.
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.