In this very space, our very own Michael Hurcomb sang the praises of Mike Fiers just a week ago, writing the Brewers' righty "has the skills to get the job done," while filling in for the injured Matt Garza. Fiers was among the most-added players in CBSSports.com leagues, and that was before his 14-strikeout masterpiece against the Cubs that got everyone talking (not to mention his strong follow-up performance against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night). Now Fiers is the single most-added player in our leagues, as he is suddenly owned in nearly three out of every four leagues.
Maybe there's something in the water in Lake Michigan, because a 90-mile trip south from Milwaukee lands you in the vicinity of three other highly-added players. The Cubs' pitching duo of Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada, who emerged from the minors to replenish the Cubs' rotation after Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel got shipped to Oakland, have done little but succeed since reaching the majors. Both have been remarkably consistent of late, but with 13 big league starts between the two of them, can they be trusted during the home stretch of the Fantasy season?
Travel a little farther south from Wrigley Field to U.S. Cellular Field, and you'll find the home of the most-added hitter, Avisail Garcia. He wasn't supposed to be anywhere near a Fantasy roster in mid-August, as he hit the disabled list just eight games into the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery that was supposed to be season-ending. After achieving a 57 percent ownership rate in CBSSports.com leagues back in Week 1, Garcia quickly -- and understandably -- lost the vast majority of his owners, though he remained owned in 11 percent of leagues during the middle of the season, even though there was little hope for his return. Now his popularity is rocketing back towards its opening day levels, as owners are hoping for a boost to their outfield production.
Garcia is more experienced than Hendricks and Wada, but with 103 major league games under his belt prior to Saturday's activation from the DL, he's still relatively green. There are quite a few players with limited experience residing near the top of the most-added players list, and several are highlighted just below. If you'd rather enlist the aid of some proven players during this critical stretch of the season, Carl Crawford and Jon Jay are among the veterans who have been gaining in popularity. Both are still widely available, though whether it's a good idea to pick them up is another matter -- one that will be addressed if you read on.
Note: All current season stats are for games played through Monday, Aug. 19.
Kyle Hendricks, SP, CubsOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 79 percent (up 20 percent)
It's not hard to see why Hendricks' ownership rate is approaching the 80 percent mark. Heading into Week 21, he had authored five straight quality starts and was lined up for a two-start week. Then after limiting the Mets to three hits over seven innings on Monday, even more owners flocked to him. With that performance, Hendricks lowered his already-skimpy ERA to 1.66 and his WHIP to 0.97. Hendricks does a fair -- but not great -- job of throwing strikes and getting grounders, but that can be enough to make a pitcher useful in two-start weeks. The question is whether Hendricks is worth picking up or even keeping in standard mixed leagues for the one-start weeks ahead. What we have seen from him so far is his ceiling, and it's likely to be far above what he'll produce going forward. He's been lucky enough to strand 86 percent of his baserunners and allow a .156 batting average on ground balls. Also, not one of the 34 flyballs he has allowed has fallen in for a hit. With more hits and runs to come in his future, owners in 12-team mixed leagues can at least consider dropping Hendricks to make room for one of next week's two-start pitchers.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed leagues
Tsuyoshi Wada, SP, CubsOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 39 percent (up 28 percent)
Wada is following in Hendricks' footsteps, notching four straight quality starts. In striking out 23 batters and walking just five over the 25 1/3-inning span, he has actually been every bit as impressive as his teammate, yet is owned in roughly half as many leagues. Wada, too, is scheduled for two starts this week, so it's puzzling as to why there is such a large popularity gap. While Wada has been harder to make contact against than Hendricks and has been a slightly better strike-thrower, he not a stronger candidate to be kept for one-start weeks. He has been vulnerable to extra-base hits, as he has been getting grounders at a mediocre 43 percent rate. Given Wada's ownership percentage, he may not have been picked up in many standard mixed leagues, and for the longer haul, that's alright. Still, even in one-start weeks, he could stand to be owned in a larger share of deeper leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: 14-team mixed leagues
Avisail Garcia, OF, White SoxOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 39 percent (up 22 percent)
I have to admit that I snoozed on Garcia's return, not pursuing him on waivers for a couple of reasons. I was skeptical that he could perform well after coming back from shoulder surgery that was supposed to keep him out until next season. With four hits in 10 at-bats, including two doubles, since his return, my skepticism is looking misplaced. His readiness aside, I had doubts about how much a healthy Garcia could help Fantasy owners. He hadn't been much of a power threat in the minors, and with a 56 percent ground ball rate and .422 slugging percentage last season, he didn't seem to be on the verge of a monster power year. Eric Hosmer and Christian Yelich (at least away from Marlins Park) have shown the potential for 20-plus homers despite high ground ball rates, and when Garcia does hit a flyball, he hits it very far. Going back to last season, Garcia has averaged 295 feet per flyball, according to BaseballHeatMaps.com, and that exceeds what Yelich has done this year by 10 feet. With U.S. Cellular Field for a home park, it's time for me -- and all other skeptics -- to stop sleeping on Garcia's power potential.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed Rotisserie leagues, 14-team mixed Head-to-Head points leagues
Matt Shoemaker, SP, AngelsOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 52 percent (up 9 percent)
Shoemaker's current popularity is likely due to the nice run he has put together over the his last five appearances. In four starts and a three-inning relief appearance, Shoemaker has compiled a 2.03 ERA and 0.90 WHIP, and he had not allowed more than two earned runs in any of the starts. Shoemaker has been used as a swingman, heading to the bullpen when the Angels need an emergency reliever in the late innings or when the schedule affords them the luxury of using a four-man rotation. That means Shoemaker can't always be relied upon to provide innings, and in fact, he has gone six innings or deeper just six times this season. His sharp control, as evidenced by the three walks he has allowed over his last 36 innings, is legit, and he has swing-and-miss stuff (12 percent swinging strike rate) that has translated to close to a strikeout per inning (8.7 K/9). As with Wada, flyball tendencies can be a hazard for Shoemaker, but given the preponderance of pitcher-friendly parks remaining on the Angels' schedule, he'll be safe to use in deeper leagues. At least for next week, with home starts against the Marlins and Athletics, he will be a solid streaming option in standard mixed leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed leagues
Carl Crawford, OF, LADOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 37 percent (up 8 percent)
It took Crawford a while to warm up once returning from an ankle injury just before the All-Star break, but over the last two weeks, he has ramped up his production. In his last 14 games, Crawford has gone 18 for 47 (.383) with five stolen bases, and four of those steals have come within the last five games. However, he has only one extra-base hit (a double) and one walk over that period, so he isn't doing much to help owners in points leagues. Crawford's relevance in Rotisserie leagues depends on him continuing to get base hits and, in turn, stolen base opportunities. It's been three years since Crawford was a true stolen base threat, so I'd actually feel safer relying on the likes of Jarrod Dyson (14 percent owned) or Sam Fuld (6 percent owned) for help in that category.
Leagues worth owning him: 16-team mixed Rotisserie leagues, NL-only Head-to-Head points leagues
Kennys Vargas, 1B, MINOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 33 percent (up 7 percent)
With a .313 batting average, three home runs and 15 RBI over his first 16 major league games, Vargas has gotten off to a good start with Fantasy owners. That Vargas has put on a power display early in his big league career is encouraging, as he was promoted straight from Double-A, where his home run total was sapped by a pitcher's park in New Britain. Owners shouldn't count on Vargas to hit for a high average from here on out, as he has shown some questionable plate discipline, swinging at 42 percent of the pitches he has seen outside of the strike zone, according to FanGraphs.com. He's been able to get hits with some help from a .364 batting average on grounders. Don't look for him to sustain that, but there should be enough power to give him value in deeper mixed Roto leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: 15-team mixed Rotisserie leagues, AL-only Head-to-Head points leagues
Rymer Liriano, OF, PadresOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 29 percent (up 11 percent)
Liriano had a nice comeback season in the minors after missing last year due to Tommy John surgery, and the Padres rewarded him with a callup last week. He spent most of the year at Double-A San Antonio, and it would be tempting to blame his middling power production (14 home runs and 20 doubles in 99 games) on his home park, but Liriano didn't hit for much more power in the rest of the Texas League parks. His stolen base efficiency at San Antonio (17 steals in 24 attempts) was only fair, so he may not stand out as a source of steals. So far, Liriano has gone 4 for 19 (.211) with a home run and a steal, and while it remains to be seen how much power and speed he'll produce, he should hit for a higher average. Maybe he can blossom into a true power/speed threat like he was in the lower minors, but given what he accomplished this season, it probably won't happen in his first tour of the majors.
Leagues worth owning him: 16-team mixed leagues.
Carlos Carrasco, SP/RP, IndiansOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 22 percent (up 17 percent)
Swinging strikes, good control, ground balls...Carrasco had it all going on during his 26-game tenure in the Indians' bullpen. That combination had eluded him in the past when he had been entrusted with a rotation spot, but in two starts since being re-inserted into the a starting role, only the high ground ball rate has been absent. Carrasco dominated the Yankees and Orioles in succession, holding them scoreless over a combined 12 innings with only five hits and no walks. It's helped that Carrasco hasn't lost any velocity on his fastball in the transition back to the rotation, averaging 97 mph in both starts. His surge in velocity and in his swinging strike and strikes-thrown rates actually began late last season, so it just may have taken Carrasco a while to fully recover from the Tommy John surgery he had in 2011. It may be premature to trust Carrasco in standard mixed Roto leagues, but with RP eligibility, he's worth a try in Head-to-Head formats.
Leagues worth owning him: 14-team mixed Rotisserie leagues, 12-team mixed Head-to-Head leagues
Pat Neshek, RP, CardinalsOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 20 percent (up 4 percent)
Given Jenrry Mejia's recent struggles and the revelation that he's pitching with a sports hernia, I fully expected that Jeurys Familia would be the most-added reliever these days, but that distinction (excluding relief-eligible starters) actually belongs to Neshek. The Cardinals' setup man has some deep-league appeal on a couple of levels. Most obviously, Trevor Rosenthal has been shaky as the team's closer, and Neshek would be the most obvious replacement. Manager Mike Matheny hasn't been shy in the past about pulling the plug on a closer late in the season (see Edward Mujica), so it's far from inconceivable that Neshek could be getting saves by the season's end. Even if Neshek remains in his current role, he could be awfully helpful with ratios. As a bat-misser who rarely walks batters, Neshek is very WHIP-friendly, and pitching home games at Busch Stadium helps the flyball pitcher to keep the ball in the park and his ERA low.
Leagues worth owning him: 15-team mixed leagues
Jon Jay, OF, CardinalsOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 15 percent (up 8 percent)
Jay has built himself a modest hitting streak of 10 games, and that has helped to build his Fantasy following. He's done some damage over his hot streak, not only batting .464, but also homering twice, scoring nine runs and driving in nine runs. Jay's hitting binge has taken him over .300 for the season, and given that he hits line drives at a high rate (25 percent) and has a decent strikeout rate (18 percent of at-bats), he could easily maintain his current average. However, Jay won't provide owners with much else, since he doesn't hit for power, doesn't steal much anymore, doesn't walk and hits in the lower part of the batting order. He'd need to keep well above .300 to maintain mixed league value, and that's not likely to happen.
Leagues worth owning him: NL-only
American League options
Zach Walters, SS, IndiansOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 5 percent (up 3 percent)
With Nick Swisher (knee) and David Murphy (abdominal) out of the Indians' lineup, Walters appears to have found a home as a left fielder and designated hitter. Neither Swisher nor Murphy are close to returning, so Walters could have regular playing time for awhile. In just 39 at bats with the Nationals, Walters clubbed three home runs, and since joining the Indians 10 days after getting dealt for Asdrubal Cabrera, he has added another two homers to his stat line in just 22 at-bats. He is a flyball hitter who gets his fair share of strikeouts, so Walters can be an all-or-nothing type of hitter. As an outfielder, Walters would have minimal appeal, even in AL-only leagues, but as a shortstop-eligible player, he's a must-own in those formats.
Leagues worth owning him: AL-only
National League options
Ender Inciarte, OF, DiamondbacksOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 5 percent (up 2 percent)
Quietly, Inciarte built an 18-game hitting streak (which ended Tuesday night), and he batted .320 along the way. That still just lifted his season-to-date batting average to .266, but Inciarte has the contact skills and speed to sustain a high batting average. In 267 at-bats, Inciarte already has 18 infield hits, so he can use his speed to get on base, as well as to rack up some steals. During his hitting streak, Inciarte has scored 11 runs, and as long as he remains installed as the Diamondbacks' leadoff hitter, he could thrive in that category. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Inciarte's continued production would be if A.J. Pollock (hand) returned and unseated him in the leadoff role. As long as Inciarte is playing everyday and sitting at the top of the order, he should be starting in NL-only leagues. He could even be worth using as a fifth outfielder in those formats with a lower-profile role.
Leagues worth owning him: NL-only
Player you might reconsider dropping
Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS/OF, CubsOwnership in CBSSports.com leagues: 55 percent (down 8 percent)
When Alcantara came up for the Cubs back in early July, he looked like a potential stolen base source who could provide good pop for a someone who was shortstop-eligible. Through the first month, he had largely delivered on that promise, hitting three home runs and six doubles to go along with four steals. Even with a .245 batting average, that was good enough for Alcantara to be the sixth-ranked shortstop over that time period in Head-to- Head points leagues and eighth in Rotisserie leagues. That was a mere 11 days ago. Because Alcantara has gone 4 for 38 since then, he is starting to lose owners. He's striking out a little too much, but then again, the same could be said for when he was a top 10 shortstop. Bench Alcantara if you must during this cold streak, but it's premature to drop someone who could still wind up being productive at a weak position.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed league