Fantasy Baseball: Top 10 sleeper hitters for Week 26 include Mallex Smith, Scott Schebler
There's plenty of reason to love the Rays in Week 26 (Sept. 17-23), according to Scott White, who also says Fantasy owners should look to take advantage of Scott Schebler's reverse platoon splits.
One topic that's awkward to address from a baseball standpoint but is nonetheless relevant to those of you reading this column is the possible impact of former hurricane Florence on the start of Week 26 (Sept. 17-23).
I'm no weather forecaster (though I'd be thrilled to have their success rate, honestly), but I think we can make a few inferences.
Obviously, it's a tropical depression now, but rain is all it takes to cancel a baseball game and it should offer plenty of that. It's still lingering in the mid-Atlantic region, expected to move north and then east. Among places where baseball is played, the areas of concern would be Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Washington and Baltimore, with Philadelphia, New York and Boston possibly seeing some impact later in the week. Of those teams, the Pirates, Indians, Orioles, Phillies and Yankees open the week at home, and they're hosting the Royals, White Sox, Blue Jays, Mets and Red Sox.
In other words, nearly one-third of the league could be impacted by this storm, which makes it too widespread to act upon with great confidence. And would it disrupt more than one game for any of these teams? Probably not. But obviously, if it lingers long enough for flooding to occur (heaven forbid), the outlook could change, so it's good to be mindful. You'll want to monitor the situation leading up to the lineup deadline.
And in the meantime, you can consider adding these hitters, all owned in less than 80 percent of CBS Sports leagues.
Tyler White has maintained an OPS around 1.000 for nearly six weeks now and doesn't have the sort of matchups that should scare you away, facing pitchers like Wade LeBlanc, Mike Leake and Jaime Barria. Frankly, he has no business being called a sleeper anymore, but his ownership is what it is.
Mallex Smith, who was hospitalized with an illness at the end August that forced him to the DL for a while, has come back strong, having already swiped six bases in 11 games. That's 17 in 41 games since the All-Star break, during which he's batting .335, which makes him almost too easy of a choice when the Rays are playing seven games against the Rangers and Blue Jays pitching staffs.
Once regarded as a lefty masher, Hunter Renfroe's splits have normalized this year, but that's largely because he has become that much better against righties. The four lefties on tap could still be a boon for him, but there's good reason to start him otherwise. He has homered 10 times in his past 26 games.
One player who hasn't gotten enough attention down the stretch is Adalberto Mondesi, and that's partly because his middling power and poor on-base skills don't lend themselves to a high OPS. But when combined with what would be fair to call transcendent speed in a year when we may not see a single 40-steal player, those other contributions are enough to set him apart. So should a seven-game week, including four against Tigers pitchers.
Scott Schebler has performed just fine since returning from a sprained shoulder in late August, most recently homering three times in eight games. Even though he bats left-handed, he does his best work against left-handed pitchers, hitting .327 with an .854 OPS, and is scheduled to face three in a week when he's also facing suspect righties like Chase Anderson, Sandy Alcantaraeff Brigham, Jose Urena and Trevor Richards.
Like Smith and Mondesi, Jonathan Villar is letting his legs do the talking, getting back to being a prolific base stealer upon joining the Orioles at the trade deadline. Even in points leagues, he's a top-six second baseman and shortstop during that stretch, and the three lefties on tap this week should only help his cause. He's batting .287 with an .805 OPS vs. lefties this year compared to .257 and .691 vs. righties.
Whenever I've recommended Kevin Kiermaier in this space, it hasn't gone well, but I'm buoyed by the belief the Rays have the best matchups of any team this week, playing a full seven games against bottom-feeder placeholders in the Rangers and Blue Jays rotations. And Kiermaier himself finally appears to have turned the corner in September, batting .444 (16 for 36) with three home runs vs. just five strikeouts in 10 games.
At this stage of his career, Ramon Laureano is known mostly for his arm, but he put together a .905 OPS at Triple-A this year and has recently begun to flash that same potential in the majors. Since taking over as the primary center fielder on Aug. 20, he has hit .289 (24 for 83) with five homers and a .978 OPS, and he'll get to face some homer-prone pitchers in the Angels and Twins rotations this week.
Have to squeeze one more Rays hitter in here with those matchups, right? Brandon Lowe, who had a monstrous minor-league season, is auditioning to be the full-time second baseman next year, apparently, having started six of seven games at the position. After an 0-for-19 start to his career, he's batting .318 (21 for 66) with five homers and a 1.067 OPS in 24 games, flashing the same quality on base-skills that defined his minor-league career.
Though it's a long way from salvaging his disastrous sophomore season, Josh Bell has had a nice little seven-game run, going 10 for 24 (.417) with two homers and three doubles. It wouldn't be enough to move the needle, really, if the Pirates didn't have some of the most favorable hitter matchups of any team this week, going against pitchers like Eric Skoglund, Heath Fillmyer, Zach Davies and Jhoulys Chacin.
Best hitter matchups for Week 26
1. Rays @TEX3, @TOR4
2. Reds @MIL3, @MIA4
3. Tigers MIN3, KC4
4. Pirates KC3, MIL3
5. Twins @DET3, @OAK3
Worst hitter matchups for Week 26
1. Red Sox @NYY3, @CLE3
2. Rockies @LAD3, @ARI3
3. White Sox @CLE3, CHC3
4. Braves STL3, PHI4
5. Cardinals @ATL3, SF3
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