The pieces are coming together

As we head towards the home stretch of the fantasy season, let’s take a look at some players who can help you make a final push in the standings, or maintain your lead.

Carlos Gonzalez

Speed is always a valuable fantasy commodity and adding a speedster to your team when there are several teams only a few steals ahead of you in the standings can help you gain some much-needed easy points. Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is looking like he is primed for a great finish to the year and if he continues to get on base at a good clip, the steals should come easy.

As an added bonus with his .173 Iso, he also adds some power into the mix—albeit not home run power but solid gap power that leads to plenty of RBI and run opportunities. A piece of trivia for you: Gonzalez’s first seven major league hits were all doubles and that either ties or is the record, someone can check me on that.

When he matures more as a hitter, Gonzalez should be a consistent .300 hitter given his ability to maintain a high BABIP (although definitely not as high as his current .370 rate, think .330-340) and his decently low Triple-A strikeout rate of about 17 percent. So far through his major league time with the A’s and Rockies, however, Gonzalez has played more like a .260 hitter than a .300 one. He makes contact with about 75 percent of pitches he swings at (81 percent MLB average) leading to his unacceptable 26 percent K rate.

It is very possible he does hit for a good average the rest of the season because if you look at his strikeout rate over the three months he’s played in the majors, you’ll will see the obvious negative (in a positive way) trend:

+--------+--------+ | Month | K Rate | +--------+--------+ | June | 31.34 | | July | 18.00 | | August | 12.50 | +--------+--------+

That August number is through just seven games, but even still the trend is extremely promising. Gonzalez can reasonably be expected to hit .280-plus without having to rely on an inflated BABIP, which makes him an even more attractive option.

With the way the Rockies outfield situation played out, Seth Smith now looks to be getting the short end of the stick and may very well be reduced to a pinch-hitter specialist again. It is unfortunate either Hawpe or Smith did not get traded (because the Rockies ended up being contenders) because I still very much believe in his skills. If players move around in the offseason, Smith could end up being be a great sleeper for next year, but that’s a ways away.

Eric Young

If you missed out on Everth Cabrera, a player to keep an eye on is Rockies Triple-A second baseman Eric Young. Take a look at his ridiculous minor league stolen base totals:

+------+-------+----+ | Year | Level | SB | +------+-------+----+ | 2006 | A | 87 | | 2007 | A+ | 73 | | 2008 | AA | 46 | | 2009 | AAA | 54 | +------+-------+----+

There is no guarantee Young will make it to the majors this year, but if he does and is given playing time he is a must add for a lot of teams. As he has steadily risen up the minors he has maintained a batting average of .290 or above, so he would not be a batting average killer either. Unfortunately the Rockies are most likely not going to give Young a chance this season, but you never know.

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Rajai on the prowl. (Icon/SMI)

Rajai Davis

For those not too keen on waiting, there is a player named Rajai Davis who is playing as I expect Young would and is in the majors right now. In 22 games since the All-star break, Davis is batting .354 with 10 steals. He won’t keep that batting average up, but a .280 average with another 10-15 stolen bases the rest of the way is quite valuable and reasonable.

Wladimir Balentien

Former Mariner prospect-now Cincinnati Red Wladimir Balentien is on a hot streak filling in for the injured Jay Bruce in right field. With nine hits and five walks in his last six games, Balentien is playing rather impressively, though just one of those hits was a home run. In deep mixed leagues and NL-only leagues Balentien is worth a flier to see if he can recapture the glory of his 2007 Triple-A campaign. Until the past week, Balentien has always looked clueless at the plate in the majors. Maybe that is changing.

Travis Snider

It is official, Alex Rios is going to the White Sox for his contract and nothing else. Some people are now turning to Travis Snider, expecting him to finish the season strong.

He is currently mashing the guts out of the ball in Triple-A and may hit for some power in the majors if called up, however, here are two reasons I would stay away from the 21-year-old: 1) He most likely will not get called up until the end of August because the Jays want to get rid of potential Super 2 eligibility. 2) He is still striking out at an alarming rate in Triple-A, meaning he is not plate disciplined enough yet to hit for a respectable average in the majors. An average above .270 would greatly surprise me.

Gio Gonzalez

Gio Gonzalez tends to be very hit-or-miss with his starts, but lately has been more hit than miss. In six starts since the beginning of July, Gonzalez has gone at least six innings and given up two runs or less in four of them. The strikeouts come easily thanks to a devastating curve at the rate of about one per inning. Wins won’t come as easily pitching for the A’s, although their lineup has looked somewhat revitalized lately, even with the loss of Matt Holliday.

Sometimes Gonzalez is very hittable or wild or both, and gets lit up like onion volcano at Mt. Fuji. But other times he is dominating, and lately he has been his dominating self often enough that he is worth picking up by those looking for a high-reward pitcher.

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