We’ve done it. We’ve made it. We are in September and baseball is still happening. What once seemed like a pipe dream is now a reality. We’ve had some ups and downs, but we’re holding on strong here as we hit the stretch run. Right now, if you are in a redraft, you need to push through to the end. You may need to make some drastic cuts or some big time trades. Go for it now to get about a month’s worth of production from whomever you acquire. If you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, you’re in a different boat. Now’s the time to decide whether you’re pushing for this season or moving onto next year. Your trade dealings are probably quickly approaching, so if you’re going to make a move, you had better do it soon. As always, it’s time to get yourself ready for some good old streaking. It’s only a high of 77 where I live (yes, I did the conversion to fahrenheit for all of you), so if you want to bring a sweater, I don’t blame you. As for me, go big or go home, so let’s do this. The stats used here are from Wednesday August 26 to Tuesday September 1.

Feeling’ Hot Hot Hot

Manny Machado – 10 of 24, 3 HR, 7 RBI

Guess who’s back…..back again. Manny’s back…..tell a friend. Manny Machado has officially returned to the realm of fantasy baseball. Not limited to just this week’s success, but also all season, Machado has turned back the clock and gone back to his old, opportunistically smart and aware self. In fact, he’s turning in an MVP-like season for the Padres, and is only overshadowed because of the growth of Fernando Tatis Jr. at the plate.

This season, he’s seeing the ball better, as his chase rate of 20.1% is significantly lower than his career average of 28%, which coincides with his walk rate increasing to a career high of 11.1%. Subsequently, he’s more patient at the plate, he’s staying in the strike zone even more with his swings, and he’s making harder contact.

Outlook: Despite having one of his finest seasons as a pro, Machado has been a bit unlucky this season and could have been even better. With an xBA of .334, he’s actually been a little unlucky at the plate too, so a bit of positive regression is possible.

Better yet, the Padres play a ton of games at home in September, and won’t be facing many true aces in the process. September series against the Rockies, Angels (x2), Giants (x2) and the Mariners won’t strike much fear into the hearts of many hitters. For someone like Machado, who is batting .353 at home, the final month of the season should be a good one. Remember, Manny Machado is only 28 years old, and should be in the prime of his career for the next few years. Now might be the right time to fully capitalize on him and reinvest for the years to come.

Jeimer Candelario – 7 of 17, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 K, 3 BB

Jeimer Candelario has been a mixed bag over his career, as injuries and an inability to hit anything other than a fastball got in the way of him taking the next step. This past week was a prime example of what he is capable of if he can stay healthy and remain focussed at the plate. As someone who didn’t have a hit in all of July and had also a 9:2 K:BB ratio before this week began, he has now raised his batting average to a cool .297 level, displaying more power and patience at the plate.

Note for the most part, the less that he chases pitches outside of the strike zone, the higher his expected batting average projects to be. Funny, no?

Outlook: If you are in need of a corner infielder, Candelario is a very cheap option. He’s qualified at both first base and third base, and could provide some late season value.

For what it’s worth, I voted that he’s turned the corner this year, but I vote so with much trepidation. In 2019, he finished off the season with batting averages of .209/.000/.230 over July/August/September. In fact, other than a surge in September of 2017, Candelario has failed to hit well from July onward in any month over his career that had any significant number of at bats. Now that could be for a variety of reasons, such as weather, length of season already played, injuries, etc. What I’m trying to say is that he has a track record of failures late in the season. And while he’s hitting the ball very solid with his highest ever barrel rate, don’t be surprised if he regresses to his norm, since he’s walking less and a lot of his peripheral numbers look very similar to his past. For his sake, here’s hoping that I’m wrong about him. After all, it’s 2020, and anything is possible.

Kyle Tucker – 16 of 36, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 1 SB

I cheated for this hot hitter because the Astros have been safely quarantined away due to the Oakland A’s having a team member diagnosed with Covid-19. As such, the Astros only had a small handful of qualified games for the week. As such, I went back in time (since August 19) to truly emphasize the point that Kyle Tucker has been on fire for quite some time and needs to be owned if he’s somehow available in your leagues.

Exhibit A: Since the middle of August, Kyle Tucker is seeing more pitches outside of the strike zone. In fact, he’s been gaining steady playing time, and, within those games, he’s seeing more pitches outside of the strike zone in order to hopefully induce a chase. It’s noteworthy that in 2019 he did chase pitches for over 30% of the time and had a chase and miss rate on those pitches over 45% of the time. I mean, why not go towards his weakness and see if he can hold off? Here’s what’s developed lately:

Exhibit B: In those games with a lot of pitches outside of the strike zone, he’s actually hitting the ball well. His xWOBA is matching season highs and he’s connecting on pitches he wants and knows not to swing until it’s there. This is supported by a a season high 8.7% walk rate, and taking seven of his season total 11 walks within the time frame I listed above.

Exhibit C: By chasing less and walking more, he’s also getting better pitches to hit within the strike zone, and thus making better overall contact. His launch angle is impressive and is making its way up to matching or surpassing his career numbers.

Outlook: I don’t see why Tucker can’t continue this upwards trend. I’ve said for years, and I know I’m not alone, that consistent playing time yields positive results. One can’t get better at something without trying over and over again. The same goes here. Tucker is now playing more and producing. He’s getting himself into a groove and the results are pretty incredible. Where does he go from here? He’s gone 20/20 in the minors twice over his career and even went 30/30 in 2019 as well. He has the potential to be one of the league’s best players….just not yet. There’s no buying low on him now as that time has passed, though selling high could be an option in redraft leagues. In dynasty and keeper leagues, ask for and expect a top asset in return. You deserve it if you held onto him for this long.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Adalberto Mondesi – 1 of 21, 9 K

This has been one ugly season for the polarizing player, and there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping him from plummeting deeper into this abyss that he’s created. On the whole, he finds himself batting .186 on the year with 42 strikeouts and two walks to his name.

He looks lost out there, and this week was no different than most in 2020. All in all, he saw 99 pitches this week and struck out nine times while posting no less than a 36.4% whiff rate over any game this past week. This is even scarier. He’s missing more pitches in the strike zone and chasing less. To me that shows he knows when to swing and not to swing, and he’s either totally whiffing and needs his eyesight checked, or he’s mentally not himself this year.

Outlook: I don’t see much in support of him right now. He’s missing pitches he should hit, he’s showing minimal patience at the plate and he’s even getting caught while stealing at a frequency he’s never seen before. The only positive is that one would hope that the laws of averages prevail. In both dynasty and redraft leagues, you could buy very low on him right now and it probably wouldn’t cost you much. If you can afford a spot on your bench, it might be a worthwhile effort to see if he can somehow turn this around. It wouldn’t even surprise me if he was on the waiver wire in shallow leagues. I would stay away personally, as I’ve sat him for about a week in my keeper points league.

J.D. Martinez – 2 of 15, 5 K

J.D. Martinez has struggled to get on track this season as a whole, but this past week was a microcosm of what he’s been doing all year. He didn’t hit well, he didn’t get on base and he didn’t connect well enough to do anything significant. All in all, it’s been a very disappointing year for Martinez, who, during draft time in the off season, was heavily counted on to be a big provider of batting average, home runs, runs batted in and runs scored. Instead, Martinez has turned into a below average hitter.

Outlook: Here’s the thing that’s odd about the life and times of J.D. Martinez: there are so many signs that point to Martinez either being incredibly lucky last season or incredibly unlucky this season. Compared to his 2019 stat cast, in 2020 his Launch Angle is better, his Ground Ball Rate is lower, his Solid Contact Rate is higher, and his Line Drive Rate has increased. On top of all that, his walk rate, strikeout rate, barrel rate and chase rate are all insignificantly lower than their 2019 numbers so as to not make a drastic change. So then, why is he looking like a player that could and should have been dropped?

He’s getting under a lot more of the pitches he sees than ever, which in turn has reduced his Hard Hit Rate to a career low 37.1%. A small mechanical issue or timing issue could actually turn this thing around. Then again, it’s hard to have any confidence in any Red Sox hitters this year. They know it’s a rebuilding year. Once Chris Sale went down, you could almost feel the air come out of their tires. The Red Sox have no pitching staff worth any fantasy time. Their outfield is a mess. Their bullpen is depleted. Perhaps with this and with what’s happening around the world these days, J.D. Martinez is distracted and doesn’t have his head in the game. A few weeks ago, he said this after a big loss to the Yankees:

“It sucks,” J.D. Martinez said via Zoom. “It’s definitely not fun. It’s not fun going out there and getting your head beat in every day.”

And even before that there was an incident where he could have gotten into the game for a pinch hit situation, but he and the manager would have preferred him to have the day off. Ultimately, is his head in the game this season? I don’t know. His track record suggests that he will come back from this and return to his old ways. He’s someone with massive and consistent power potential as well as having the ability to hit for .300 in a regular season. It’s possible to buy low, but anyone who invested heavily in him will likely have a high price tag attached to any transaction attached to it. The only real buy low opportunity here is in keeper/dynasty leagues where he could really excel as he gets closer to a contract year. Otherwise, in redraft, you’re stuck with him and praying he comes back to form, and that may not happen anytime soon due to a minor wrist injury he suffered recently.

Charlie Blackmon – 2 of 22, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 8 K, 2 BB

And just like that, the run for .400 was over….well, not altogether. I mean, he’s still batting .346 on the season and batting at the heart of the Rockies order while playing his home games at Coors Field. That said, to bat .400 over a season, even with only 60 games on the schedule, is an incredibly tough feat that only few ever have or will do. It takes patience, adaptability, health and the ability to adjust when adjustments have been made to the adjustments you’ve already made.

From the looks of things, he’s starting to chase more pitches outside of the strike zone from when he did so earlier in the season. As a result not only is his batting average dropping, but also his expected batting average, meaning that what’s happening is no fluke.

Outlook: This is primarily for those who may be panicking over Blackmon’s recent struggles….don’t. Charlie Blackmon will do what he normally does. He will go through ups and downs, with the ups being much better and longer than the downs. As someone who has a career line of .349/.407/.587/.994 line at Coors Field, you can bet that he will return to form to finish off the season. The Rockies have a tough weeklong stretch coming up with games both at the Dodgers and the Padres. After that, though, it’s smooth sailing as they finish the season with nine consecutive games at home, followed by road games at the Giants and Diamondbacks. If, somehow, the Blackmon owner is worried that the law of averages will bring his September numbers down to his career .306 batting average, go buy him now. He could help win you some categories come fantasy playoff time and win you your league.