What we’ve learned since the last time we touched base … Pedro Ciriaco has come back down to Earth in a big way, hitting just .118 over the past week … Andrew Bailey converted his first save opportunity since “officially” becoming the Red Sox closer … Dice-K got torched in his start against the A’s … David Phelps gave up six walks in less than five innings against the Orioles … and looking even further back in the archives, our old friend Zach Britton is helping the Orioles spook the Yankees down the stretch.
Josh Donaldson | Oakland A’s | 3B/C | 13 percent Yahoo ownership; 12.4 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .226 / .262 / .395
ZiPS ROS: .213 / .273 / .361
No one considers Brandon Inge to be indispensable, but the veteran third baseman was helping the A’s on their way to what’s been a strong enough second half to keep them in the postseason conversation. So it was a tough break for both Inge and Oakland when the 35-year-old went down with a shoulder injury last month, one severe enough to require season-ending surgery.
That’s when Josh Donaldson took over. A catcher by trade, Donaldson, 26, learned third base entering the 2012 season, and wasn’t impressive in two major league stints in the season’s first half. But he hit .335 with 13 home runs in 234 plate appearances while down in the Pacific Coast League, and was sent for when Inge went down in mid-August.
For Donaldson, a former first-round pick, the third time around this season was most definitely the charm. The right-handed hitter has smoked a .316/.379/.595 line with five home runs since Aug. 14, when he became the team’s regular third baseman. Using the same bat as fellow under-the-radar traveler Chris Carter, Donaldson has allowed the A’s to use his power at third while giving Derek Norris playing time in the wake of Kurt Suzuki’s trade.
Donaldson’s OPS is about 70 points higher against lefties than righties, which is worth keeping in mind for week 24, when the only southpaws he faces are Joe Saunders and a hot Zach Britton. But you can’t argue with the usefulness of a player who can plug holes at both third and catcher, and considering his widespread availability, he’s probably the best available option at those positions in deeper leagues.
Recommendation: Worth a look in AL-only leagues so long as he’s hitting well.
Delmon Young | Detroit Tigers | OF | 37 percent Yahoo ownership; 63.4 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .277 / .308 / .438
ZiPS ROS: .278 / .313 / .433
Best part of drafting Young? There’s a good chance he won’t have to miss time this month to attend High Holy Day services. OK, seriously, Young has been smashing the cowhide recently, and although he’s never quite lived up to the lofty expectations he had entering the big leagues in 2006 (or the 2010 form that produced 21 home runs and 112 RBIs), he’s still useful, and will likely surpass 20 home runs and put up around 80 ribbies, so it’s not like he’s having a bad season.
But as the season enters its last month, his value has really started to flourish considering how hot he is right now. Entering Thursday’s action, Young was hitting .371/.405/.857 with four home runs since Aug. 26, the soon-to-be 27-year-old has posted a nearly 80-point improvement in OPS in the second half.
Lastly, in case anyone needs reminding, let’s not forget where Young hangs his hat every day: a lineup spot right after Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. That kind of protection and opportunity has to be worth something, especially now that the fantasy season is on the line. Find out if Young is still being overlooked in your league and introduce him to the rest of your fantasy roster.
Recommendation: Worth picking up in deeper mixed leagues.
Samuel Deduno | Minnesota Twins | SP | 3 percent Yahoo ownership; 1.3 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 3.66 ERA / 1.500 WHIP / 5.9 K/9
ZiPS ROS: 5.25 ERA / 1.83 WHIP / 6.75 K/9
Let’s start with Deduno’s best qualification for being on this list: He’s lined up for two starts in week 24, one against the abysmal Justin Masterson and the sorry Indians, and another against the White Sox and a starter to be decided. But here’s the best part: both starts are at Target Field, where Deduno, 29, is 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA, 1.184 WHIP and 9.2 K/9.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Deduno was signed by the Rockies in 2003 and entered this season as a guy who had all of 5.2 major league innings under his belt. But the Twins, desperate for pitching and not a whole lot to lose, called him up in early July, and since then, he’s allowed four runs or more in just two of his 11 starts.
He’s just below a 6 K/9 rate, and features a swinging strike rate (7.2) that’s below league average, but was able to put together a better than strikeout-per-inning clip in more than 780 minor league innings, which provides hope for the rest of 2012 and beyond. Plus, he’s throwing out grounders like a man on a mission, posting a 56.6 ground ball percentage this season, which has allowed him to brush aside a high 15.8 HR/FB rate.
True, he’s prospered partially on the strength of a soft .270 BABIP, his nearly 80 percent strand rate will probably catch up to him before the season is out, and his FIP (5.12) and xFIP (4.78) look down on his spiffy ERA. But those two match-ups are tempting, especially during the fantasy playoff crunch time.
Recommendation: Worth a pickup in AL-only leagues and some deeper mixed leagues.
Mark Reynolds | Baltimore Orioles | 1B / 3B | 50 percent Yahoo ownership; 49.6 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .232 / .350 / .447
ZiPS ROS: .228 / .337 / .468
Like pretty much everything associated with the Baltimore Orioles right now, Reynolds is on fire, having crushed six home runs and a 1.174 OPS over the past six games (excluding Thursday night’s action). At this point, you already know that harboring the 29-year-old slugger is going to leave you awash in strikeouts, and he’s typically a very streaky player, but he’s capable of putting up monster stretches.
Will week 24 be one of them? He has to play against the pitching staffs of the Rays and A’s, and has to play three games in pitcher-happy Oakland to boot, so he’s got his work cut out for him. Still, he’s on pace to post the best walk rate (14.3 percent) and strikeout rate (30.3 percent) of his career, and even though he has “only” 18 home runs, his corner eligibility should make him attractive enough for a look in deeper leagues—even if he can be expected to stay hot for only so long.
Recommendation: Reynolds’ streaky history makes me wonder how much longer he can keep it up, but then again, the Orioles seem to be riding a magic wave right now. Worth a look in AL-only leagues this week.