Jake Arrieta is one of the most-added players in Fantasy right now, with a 15 percent uptick in ownership (from 3 percent to 18 percent). The 27-year-old has been brilliant in two starts for the Cubs -- sporting a 0.69 ERA and 0.69 WHIP, with nine strikeouts in 13 innings.
Acquired in a July trade from the Orioles, Arrieta was a tantalizing prospect in the minors (he was in Baseball America's top 100 twice), with solid minor league ratios (3.22 ERA and 1.25 WHIP) and a nice K/9 rate (8.8). But when he hit the majors, he'd have spurts of greatness mingled with bouts of disappointment. It all resulted in a 5.29 ERA and 1.45 WHIP over 71 major league starts.
But consider these motivating factors: Arrieta will no longer have to face the DH (outside of interleague play away games), he pitched most of his games against a very tough AL East, and he may have some extra motivation with the Cubs, wanting to prove that his Orioles appearances weren't the real Jake Arrieta.
With two starts next week, Arrieta could either ride this momentum to a really nice finish to 2013 ... or continue his career-long string of disappointments. He has enough talent and motivation to make me bet on the former, and he's the perfect candidate for a Fantasy team in third place or below looking to make a late-season charge up the standings.
The Big Leaps
Will Venable, OF, Padres (54 percent ownership, up from 31)
Venable has always done a dangerous dance with regular playing time. But the left-handed 30-year-old has never eclipsed 425 at-bats over six seasons -- an irregular diet of at-bats that may have knocked him out of any rhythm and suppressed his batting average and power numbers.
This season, however, the Padres have essentially been forced to send Venable out as a regular, with injuries to Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and Kyle Blanks opening up plenty of playing time. Instead of being in a platoon with someone like Chris Denorfia, Venable has bounced between center and right field as a starter, and his bat has come alive with the increase in playing time.
From April 1 to June 30, Venable started 56 of the team's 80 games (70 percent), with a .221 average, 10 home runs, six doubles and a .689 OPS. In July and August, while the injuries mounted, Venable started 34 of 38 games (89 percent), hitting .328 with seven home runs, five steals, 10 doubles, and a .949 OPS.
With Cameron Maybin hitting a snag in rehab, and Blanks and Quentin looking like they won't return anytime soon, Venable is probably going to continue at his current start-90-percent-of-games clip and should produce at a nice level (probably more like .280 with an .850 OPS and decent steal numbers) the rest of the way.
League size in which Venable should be added: 12-team Roto
His ownership on September 15 should be: 70 percent
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (56 percent ownership, up from 44)
There are a few differences between 20-year-old wunderkinds Jurickson Profar and Bogaerts (power potential, speed potential), but the most stark, for Fantasy purposes, is their roles. While Profar is getting everyday at-bats, bouncing between shortstop, third base, second base and DH, Bogaerts is expected to serve as a backup to Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks, mainly appearing in relief of Drew at shortstop.
The Red Sox made it a point to say that having Bogaerts up with the team won't stunt his development, because he's already gotten 515 plate appearances in the minors. So that argument (for him playing) is out the window. Instead, Bogaerts owners will have to take the unenviable position of rooting for a Drew injury. Which is never fun.
For now, Bogaerts is a gamble outside of dynasty formats, in which he's a great keeper. And having a gamble sitting at the end of your bench this late in the season isn't necessarily a bad thing. But Bogaerts' ownership should be more around the 30 percent level, given his playing time prospects.
For what it's worth, I'd prefer to roster Josh Willingham (56 percent owned), B.J. Upton (53), Nate Schierholtz (51), Yonder Alonso (50), Adam Eaton (44), Rajai Davis (38) and Jose Iglesias (47) -- among others -- ahead of Bogaerts in single-season formats.
Over/under on at-bats (season): 40
Over/under on average (season): .265
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres (75 percent ownership, up from 66 percent)
With the playoffs under way in a lot of leagues and owners shifting their attention to football, it's easy to lose track of some late-season accomplishments. Case in point: Gyorko, who is owned in just 75 percent of leagues.
Overall, Gyorko's numbers aren't spectacular -- a .251 average with 21 doubles, 14 home runs and a .735 OPS. But this is over just 342 at-bats and has come during a rookie season in which Gyorko missed more than a month with a groin injury, then played several games after that trying to get back into a groove.
What we're seeing lately is Gyorko finding that groove. Over his last 10 games, Gyorko is hitting .316 with four home runs, four doubles and a 1.053 OPS. And I'm willing to guess this isn't a fluke, as Gyorko was hitting .309 with a .912 OPS in the 35 games before hitting the DL.
Gyorko had a .321 minor league average, with 55 total home runs between 2011 and 2012 and a career .916 OPS. He even stole 19 bases over 337 games. With position eligibility (second and third base), Gyorko could be a Fantasy boon over the stretch run.
Over/under on home runs (season): 20
Over/under on average (season): .275
Munenori Kawasaki, SS, Blue Jays (1 percent ownership)
The Blue Jays are lacking some serious depth on offense right now, and with Emilio Bonifacio now on the Royals they have one less utility player to plug into the lineup. Enter Munenori Kawasaki, a fan favorite who has started two games at second base and one at shortstop since his mid-August return from a demotion.
Kawasaki's versatility will allow him to regularly spell Maicer Izturis and Jose Reyes (who has encountered some soreness in his knee lately) at second base and shortstop. I'm not expecting Kawasaki to set the world on fire with his offensive stats, but for a deep AL-only team, he could slot in at MI and do just enough to have some value. It's a gamble -- and far from a guarantee -- but at this point in the season he's on a team going nowhere and playing behind a high-priced shortstop who could be rested or shut down if his injury persists. It's a situation that makes Kawasaki a decent consideration in deep single-league formats.
Over/under on average (season): .225
Over/under on home runs (season): 2
Roger Kieschnick, OF, Giants (1 percent ownership)
When the Giants DFA'd Jeff Francoeurearlier this week, it was done with little-known Roger Kieschnick having started five straight games in left field. The 26-year-old rookie has played in 17 games for the Giants since his late July call-up, hitting .283 with a .367 OBP and a triple.
Kieschnick showed off a good amount of power over five minor league seasons, with four double-digit homer campaigns, despite getting 300 or more at-bats just three times. While his average isn't overly impressive (.275 over 1,807 at-bats), Kieschnick has enough potential for the Giants to keep playing him for the rest of the season -- at the very least, to see what they may have for the future.
Over/under on home runs (season): 5.5
Over/under on batting average (season): .269
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