No hitter is in more demand on waivers right now than Matt Olson. And why not? He is playing every day and homering practically every day. Not literally, of course, but Olson has nine home runs in his last 13 games, while batting .333 with a .393 on-base percentage. If you can still get Olson, that needs to be your top priority, but I won’t delve into the reasons here. Back in June, I wrote about Olson’s power-hitting exploits. I explained why I liked him then, and now that he has proven himself against major league pitching, I like him even more.
Because Olson is so widely coveted now, you may not be fortunate enough to add him. If you need a power bat to get you through the season’s final three weeks, the cupboard is hardly bare. While Olson is scorching hot and drawing fantasy owners in droves, Scott Schebler is actually losing owners in CBS, ESPN and Yahoo leagues. He has been cold, batting .167 so far in September, but if Schebler has hit waivers in your league, you should at least consider him among your power-hitting options.
For one thing, the month is still young, so there is no reason to be put off by his 37 plate appearances for the Reds since the calendar turned. Prior to that, Schebler batted .351 with three home runs in a slightly larger sample — 44 plate appearances — right after coming off a disabled list stint for a shoulder strain. The two most important things are Schebler’s body of work over the entire season and his current playing time status, and both are positives. In 469 plate appearances this season, he has hit 26 home runs with 58 RBI and 57 runs. While Schebler is batting just .234, he has a .214 batting average on ground balls that appears due for some improvement. Reds manager Bryan Price has also reinstalled Schebler as the Reds’ regular right fielder.
Even so, Schebler may not be much more than a .250 hitter the rest of the way, but there may not be a better power source available on waivers. He has hit fly balls farther on average this season than Nelson Cruz, Gary Sanchez, George Springer and Cody Bellinger. In fact, only eight hitters with more than 60 fly balls hit this season have a higher average fly ball distance than Schebler. Once the Reds leave St. Louis on Thursday, they will have 12 consecutive games in venues that are amenable to left-handed power.
Cold streaks eventually come to an end, and when Schebler’s does, you will be glad you picked him up before one of your league rivals did.
Other Under-Owned Players
- Jose Martinez, 1B/OF, Cardinals
Thanks to a hot start to September, Martinez is nearly as coveted as Olson, but he had been putting up strong numbers even before he entered the season’s final month. He has gone to another level, batting .412 with three home runs in 38 September plate appearances, but Martinez had already been enjoying a breakout season, slashing .289/.354/.503 through the end of August.
Hitting for average is nothing new for the 29-year-old rookie, as he batted .294 over 11 minor league seasons, but he never hit more than 11 home runs in a minor league season. Martinez already has 13 homers in 248 plate appearances this season, and he has supported that ratio with a 38 percent hard contact rate and an average fly ball distance of 332 feet. Like Schebler, Martinez has played his way into a regular role, taking over as the Cardinals’ starting first baseman. It’s not clear where this sudden power came from, but you might as well take advantage of it while Martinez is showing it.
- Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
Many anticipated that Anderson’s sophomore season would be a breakout campaign in which he would blossom as a source of home runs, stolen bases and a high batting average. Nearly two-thirds through the season, Anderson had none of those attributes. Since Aug. 1, he has come alive and been a top 12 shortstop in Fantasy — even in points leagues, which due to a poor walk-to-strikeout ratio, is not his forte.
Over a 35-game span, Anderson has batted .297 with seven home runs, 11 doubles, three triples and three stolen bases. He has not developed monster power, but Anderson has pulled the ball at a 52 percent rate during his hot streak, as compared to a much more normal 39 percent rate over the season’s first four months. He has also taken advantage of his home park, hitting 16 of his 21 post-July extra-base hits at Guaranteed Rate Field.
While Anderson won’t have favorable venues this week, he does have favorable matchups against the Royals’ and Tigers’ starters. Then for the final two weeks, the White Sox have two series at home along with one in Houston and one in Cleveland, and that’s not a bad schedule for a pull hitter. You could do worse for a replacement for a slumping Xander Bogaerts, Andrelton Simmons or Javier Baez.
- Doug Fister, SP, Red Sox
In his most recent waiver wire column, Greg Jewett recommended Fister as a solid rest-of-season option, but if you have still not joined his growing legion of owners, here are a few reminders of why it would be good to do so. He is pitching with his best control in three years, throwing 46 percent of his pitches in the strike zone in the second half. Since rejoining the Red Sox’s rotation on July 31, he has a 57 percent ground ball rate. An aversion to walks and a tendency towards inducing grounders were key to his success earlier in this decade, and for the first time since his Tigers-era peak, Fister is producing this combination with consistency. As a result, he is 5-2 with a 2.79 ERA over his last seven starts.
If that is not reason enough to add Fister, also consider that he is projected to start twice in Week 25 — at Baltimore and at Cincinnati — after making a start this week at home against the A’s.
- Brent Suter, SP/RP, Brewers
Too late to pick up Fister? With Jimmy Nelson sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury, Suter is back in the Brewers’ rotation, and he can provide much of what Fister is likely to. He has been an even better control pitcher, throwing 51 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, and while he has a lower ground ball rate (46 percent), he has allowed only seven home runs in 63.1 innings. With an average fastball velocity of 86 mph, Suter is an even softer tosser than Fister, but his 19 percent strikeout rate is just a shade below that of his Red Sox’s counterpart.
Suter has a favorable matchup against the Pirates on Tuesday, and he also lines up for two starts next week. He even gets to begin the week facing the Pirates again — this time in Pittsburgh — before finishing up with a home start versus the Cubs. He will be a two-start option to consider in 12-team mixed leagues, and he needs to be owned in any format deeper than that.
Statistical credits: FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference, StatCorner, Baseball Savant
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