Can you believe there are just two weeks left? It feels like we just kicked into high gear a little while ago, and now we're scratching and clawing for the final positioning. It reminds me of those super short flights where you hit the peak altitude and then two minutes later the captain is back on the mic telling us to prepare for our descent. Our descent into the last couple of weeks of this season will be unlike any other, as standings are still moving wildly day to day. Don't give up, and make sure you're still attacking the categories you can make big moves in, especially the ratios, as they are still very fluid in most leagues.
Tony Gonsolin (R), rostered in 47% of ESPN leagues, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres: Only 47% roster rate? I don't quite understand how Gonsolin is this widely available, given how well he's pitched and the fact that he's had a rotation spot on lock for the past few weeks. He has a 1.57 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 28⅔ innings this year, supported by fantastic 26% strikeout and 6% walk rates. Gonsolin's fastball is up a tick at 95.1 mph, and he backs it up with a strong splitter and slider. The 26-year-old righty should maintain a rotation spot beyond 2020 too and feels like a viable short-term keeper in dynasty leagues.
Jose Urquidy (R), 22%, Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers: Urquidy's second start was solid even though it came with just one strikeout. He didn't start his season until Sept. 5 due to COVID-19, so he didn't really get to follow up on his strong 2019 debut. At least we'll get three more starts down the stretch, and I think he's someone to hold throughout, as he gets Texas on Tuesday, followed by Arizona this weekend and then Texas again next week. His swinging-strike rate is still at 10%, so despite just three strikeouts in his first two starts, they'll start to pick up.
Dane Dunning (R), 22%, Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins: Dunning was the forgotten piece of that big Adam Eaton/Lucas Giolito deal a few years back despite being a first-round pick in 2016. After missing 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, the 25-year-old has made a solid impact in his MLB debut with a 2.70 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 20 innings. An excellent 15% swinging-strike rate has fueled a 26% strikeout rate and made him a fantasy force as one of the better pickups since his debut. The Twins are a tough matchup, so this is more for those chasing stats as opposed to those protecting ratios, but I do like Dunning for the Cincinnati start later this week. If you have to pick him up now to secure that one, I'd do it.
Bullpen: The Rays are putting Ryan Yarbrough back in the remarkably fantasy-friendly follower role behind opener John Curtiss. Yarbrough broke onto the scene via this role in 2018 and put up a 16-6 record. Tampa Bay continues to put together strong bullpens year in and year out. Their 210⅔ innings are second most in the league behind only Boston (226⅔), but unlike the Red Sox, the Rays are choosing to leverage their bullpen as opposed to being forced into it.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Sean Murphy (R), 16%, Oakland Athletics at Colorado Rockies (RHP Antonio Senzatela): The rookie backstop heads to Coors Tuesday, and he's been solid all season with an .823 OPS. He's been particularly hot in September with a 1.388 OPS and three homers in 26 plate appearances. He's hitting .269/.410/.537 against righties, with all five of his homers against them. Catching has been a disaster this season, so Murphy could be the much-needed oasis for the final two weeks.
First base -- Jeimer Candelario (S), 58%, Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals (LHP Danny Duffy): I had to push the 50% roster rate we generally draw the line at here to highlight that Candelario's availability is too low at 58%. He went 0-fer in five July games, but since then, he has hit .365/.420/.642 with 7 HRs, 28 RBIs, and 27 runs in 150 PA, yielding full season paces of 30 HRs, 120 RBIs, and 116 runs. He's crushing lefties to the tune of a 1.169 OPS too. He should be pushing a 75-80% roster rate.
Second base -- Ty France (R), 20%, Seattle Mariners vs. San Francisco Giants (LHP Tyler Anderson): France has found himself a full-time role since being traded to Seattle, and now he's ascending the lineup, hitting second the past four games. Since joining the M's, he's hitting .364/.447/.667 with 2 HRs in 38 PA. He gained attention last year when he hit .399/.477/.770 in 348 PA at Triple-A El Paso, but he couldn't translate that success to the majors, posting just a .696 OPS in 201 PA with the Padres. This season, he managed a solid .868 OPS before the trade and has been on fire with his new team.
Third base -- Alec Bohm (R), 24%, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets (RHP Rick Porcello): The über-prospect is on fire over the past week with a .500/.552/.769 line in eight games, thanks to three doubleheaders. We haven't seen a ton of power from him yet, but his .330 BA is definitely useful at the hot corner.
Shortstop -- Miguel Rojas (R), 10%, Miami Marlins vs. Boston Red Sox (RHP Tanner Houck): If your league still has tight BA standings, Rojas is a great pickup. He's hitting .359 on the season and has been surging over the past week with a .407 BA in 28 PA. His strikeout (12%) and walk rates (10%) are almost equal, and he's even chipping in a bit of speed with three SBs.
Corner infield -- Maikel Franco (R), 35%, Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers (LHP Matthew Boyd): Franco is hitting a cool .379/.419/.483 against lefties this year, though it's worth noting that a .440 BABIP is doing plenty of the heavy lifting, and he has yet to hit a homer against them. That said, he's facing the exact right guy to get that first homer, as Boyd has allowed an MLB-high 13, 12 of which have come against righties. Right-handers have essentially been Nelson Cruz against Boyd this year, with a 1.087 OPS (Cruz is at 1.089), so make sure you're getting all your Royals righties in on Tuesday.
Middle infield -- Andres Gimenez (L), 15%, New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Jake Arrieta): The rookie middle infielder has been electric in September with a .333/.378/.576 line, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs, 9 runs and 1 SB in 37 PA. He's still in the bottom third of the Mets' lineup, but they are leading the league in weighted runs created-plus (wRC+), and they are sixth in runs, so they're turning it over regularly.
Outfield -- Austin Riley (R), 47%, Atlanta Braves at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Tom Eshelman): It was understandable if you cut Riley in mid-August, as he had a sub-.600 OPS, sinking to .150/.200/.317 on Aug. 16, but he has completely come out of that slump, hitting .290/.353/.484 since then with 4 HRs and 15 RBIs in 102 PA. Drastically cutting his strikeout rate has been instrumental to the success. He fanned at a 36% clip last year and was at 34% through Aug. 16, but he's down to 17% during this hot streak.
Outfield -- DJ Stewart (L), 23%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Atlanta Braves (Bullpen game): Stewart is a sneaky power pickup for the final stretch run. He has smacked six homers in 59 PA, fueling his 1.103 OPS. He's done his best work against righties (1.132 OPS) but is holding his own against lefties (.958), so he's playing daily and batting in the middle of the order. While we don't know for sure who is pitching bulk innings on Tuesday, it's looking like righty Huascar Ynoa will open. Stewart could realistically hit another 3-4 HRs the rest of the way.
Outfield -- Alex Dickerson (L), 27%, San Francisco Giants at Seattle Mariners (RHP Ljay Newsome): The 3-HR game put Dickerson on the map, but he's been performing since then with a solid .280/.333/.480 in 27 PA. He does his best work against righties, with an .872 OPS this year and .838 OPS for his career. The Giants have only three lefties remaining on the schedule.
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate hitter rating; these are the author's ratings.