Start and sit options for fantasy | Hitters edition Week 24

New York Mets' Jose Reyes (7) reacts as he rounds the bases with a home run against Cincinnati Reds pitcher Amir Garrett, right, during the third inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Heading into the fantasy semifinals for many in head-to-head formats along with the stretch run in rotisserie leagues, identifying hitters to target in optimal matchups could be a pivotal factor in deciding outcomes. One such player could be breaking out in Washington. Michael Taylor has been on fantasy owners’ radars due to the ability to hit for power and steal bases. Of course, his propensity to swing and miss caps his overall upside, but with six home games on tap for Week 24 along with three games versus left-handed pitching, Taylor should continue his recent uptick in production.

Over the last 14 days, Taylor played in 15 games, scoring nine runs with three home runs, nine RBIs and four stolen bases. He slashed an impressive .333/.404/.608 during this stretch. For the season, Taylor has hit 15 home runs and stolen 14 bases, which translates to a 23-homer and 21-stolen base pace for 150 games. Injuries will not allow Taylor to reach these lofty numbers, but it hints at his ability to produce across all of the counting categories in fantasy.

Things get better when Taylor plays at home. Washington will face three southpaws in six games next week. Taylor slashes .441/.513/.676 at home against them with a .235 isolated power and a 208 weighted runs created plus metric. Facing three right-handed pitchers should not affect him either, since Taylor hits .307/.350/.575 at home with a higher isolated power (.268). With the Nationals gearing up for the playoffs, Taylor should play full-time while other veterans may rest due to his time lost this year. His matchups along with strong splits at home make him a worthy target off the waiver wire for Week 24.

  • Favorable schedule for the Twins with six home games and three left-handed pitchers on tap

Another fantasy tease on the precipice of a strong finish, Byron Buxton, owns a favorable schedule as well. Buxton is in the midst of another second-half breakout which may stick this time. Over the last two weeks, Buxton has played 12 games with 11 runs, three home runs, 10 RBIs, two stolen bases, and a .273/.333/.508 slash line. He hits .291 against left-handed pitchers on the season and his average jumps to .340 when he faces them at home.

During the second half, Buxton is hitting a robust .304/.347/.540 with a spike in his isolated power to .267 and more than doubling his home run per fly ball percentage in spite of hitting more baseballs in the air. Neither San Diego nor Toronto create pitching matchups fantasy owners should fear. With the Twins playing for the playoffs, this sets up well for Buxton.

It does not end with Buxton at home. Jorge Polanco, Eduardo Escobar and — in deep formats — Ehire Adrianza also present themselves as strong plays. Polanco is hitting .327/.433/.653 the last two weeks with a higher walk percentage (14.8) than strikeout rate (11.5). In his last 13 games, Polanco scored nine runs with three homers, 10 RBIs and a stolen base, resulting in a 181 weighted runs created plus. Most impressive is his .327 isolated power rating.

Eduardo Escobar has been streaky this season but is heating up once again, especially in the power department. Over his last 13 games, Escobar’s .442 isolated power and .731 slugging percentage should garner more attention. He has hit five home runs in this stretch with 16 RBIs in his last 13 games. With three games versus southpaws on tap, Escobar has hit six homers in 125 at-bats in Minnesota this year, driving in 20 runs.

Last but not least, those in 15-team leagues can take a shot with Ehire Adrianza as a middle-infield upside play. He has played only eight games the last 14 days, but hit .335/.400/.722 in them. Adrianza scored nine runs with a home run and seven RBIs as well. More known for his glove than his bat, Adrianza’s .389 isolated power and 187 weighted runs created plus the last two weeks should not be overlooked. Momentum is something to monitor in fantasy baseball.

  • Add Jose Reyes for Week 24? 

Speaking of momentum, Jose Reyes’s 15 runs scored the last two weeks atop the Mets’ lineup makes him an intriguing addition for the week ahead. New York will play all six games on the road and will see three left-handed starters. Along with Reyes averaging more than a run scored a game during his hot streak, he has hit three home runs, recorded eight RBIs, and stolen five bases with a .362/.464/.617 slash line his last 13 games.

This results in an impressive 188 weighted runs created plus rating. In 98 at-bats versus southpaws this year, Reyes hits .276/.355/.520 with 15 runs, five home runs and 16 RBIs. Playing in better hitter ballparks in Chicago and Atlanta should only enhance his recent production, making Reyes a strong target.

Asdrubal Cabrera may finally be healthy and accepting his role with the Mets. Over his last 13 games, Cabrera is hitting .356/.423/.667 with a .311 isolated power, three home runs and 11 RBIs. Against left-handed pitching, Cabrera slashes .343/.384/.429 on the season and could be an interesting under-the-radar addition for the week ahead.

New York Mets' Rene Rivera, lefft, removes Asdrubal Cabrera's helmet after Cabrera, right, hit a two-run, home run during a baseball game Sunday, July 16, 2017, in New York. Rivera scored on the homer. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Happ at home versus six right-handed pitchers

Another player streaking the last two weeks, Ian Happ is hitting .333/.385/.583 during his last 12 games with six runs, two home runs and the Cubs’ third-best weighted runs created plus rating (141). Only Anthony Rizzo (184) and Kris Bryant (154) carry a higher number than Happ in this time frame. Happ homered 21 times in 96 games this year. When facing right-handed pitchers at home, he averages a home run every 11 at-bats. Factor in his .318 isolated power at home with 40 percent hard contact. Then take a chance on Happ for power upside in Week 24.

Teammate Jason Heyward could also be a good upside play, though his statistics will be tempered by his spot in the batting order. However, Heyward is slashing .308/.378/.436 his last 13 games. On the other end of the spectrum, Javy Baez should be on fantasy owners’ benches next week with no left-handed pitchers slated to face the Cubs. He’s hitting .222/.300/.356 the last two weeks with only one home run. Baez makes a much higher impact facing left-handed pitching. With him slumping, look elsewhere for production.

  • Other hitters of interest

Catcher Robinson Chirinos has been raking of late with a .379/.561/.655 line his last 10 games with eight runs, a home run and three RBIs. More important, he has walked 26.8 percent of the time compared to a 12.2 strikeout percentage. His 222 weighted runs created plus and .276 isolated power rating make him a worthy addition with seven games on tap for Week 24, three of them versus left-handed pitching.

Do not look now, but Scooter Gennett is heating up again. He has scored 12 runs during his last 13 games with two home runs, nine RBIs, and a stolen base while hitting .404/.429/.660. Cincinnati will face six right-handed pitchers in the week ahead, meaning another good week could be in store for Gennett’s owners.

With Jose Ramirez resting his hot bat with a minor injury, Yandy Diaz seems to be making the most of his opportunity. Over his last 12 games, Diaz has scored eight runs with five RBIs and a stolen base. His .343/.531/.429 slash line means he’s a worthy add for owners in leagues which reward on-base percentage. Plus, with a 26.5 walk percentage, 173 weighted runs created plus and hitting third in some games, Diaz could be a very under-the-radar corner infield play.

Two outfielders who will face each other next weekend will wrap up the hitter matchups. Odubel Herrera is in the midst of a 21-game hit streak and rakes at home, where he will play six games next week. Herrera is hitting .323/.353/.538 against left-handed pitchers against whom he will get two matchups, and .301/.346/.462 versus right-handed pitchers in home contests. In the second half, Herrera is slashing .383/.452/.667 with six home runs in 33 games and a 190 weighted runs created plus. Yes, please.

Last, Matt Joyce will play only four games in Week 24, but his three-game set in Philadelphia sets up for a strong finish. Joyce is hitting .325/.417/.700 his last 11 games with nine runs, four home runs and nine RBIs. He has hit 23 homers this year with 12 of them on the road against right-handed pitching. Joyce’s .957 on-base plus slugging percentage in the second half and .316 isolated power rating make a tantalizing combination in the day ahead.

Be sure to check back this weekend for Jim Finch’s two-start pitching primer along with Al Melchior’s Sunday stream column to maximize pitching matchups.

Statistical Credits: Fangraphs.com, MLB.com, ESPN.go.com

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