Hunter Renfroe would seem like a prime candidate for a pickup on a day like today.
The guy just hit three homers Wednesday, including two off emerging ace Robbie Ray, to give him four since returning from a brief stint at Triple-A El Paso -- where, by the way, he hit .509 (28 for 55) with four home runs and a 1.448 OPS in 14 games.
He's a former top prospect who has a reasonable explanation for this turnaround: He reduced the movement in his hands on his setup, giving him less margin for error in his swing.
But with one week to go in the 2017 season, we can't assess players at face value anymore. We no longer have the luxury of time. If they're no help right now, they're no help at all.
Remember how two of Renfroe's three homers were off Ray? It wasn't totally out of character. He has hit .340 with an 1.142 OPS against lefties this year compared to .199 with a .630 OPS against righties. But only two lefties are on the schedule next week, and he'll be facing some of the best the Dodgers and Giants can throw at him.
It doesn't seem like the right time to gamble on a player who the Padres (of all teams) didn't think belonged on their major-league roster as recently as mid-August.
So who can help us the final week, then?
Matt Olson has five home runs in his past six games. He has eight in his past 11, 12 in his past 17 and 15 in his past 22. Overall, he has 46 between the minors and majors and is the only player other than Giancarlo Stanton to hit at least 20 in both in the same season. He gets the Mariners and Rangers pitching staffs in the final week of the season, and while all the left-handers might concern you, keep in mind Olson has four home runs and an .827 OPS in 42 at-bats against lefties so far.
Blake Snell again excelled Wednesday, this time against the defending World Series champions, allowing no runs on two hits with three walks and five strikeouts over seven innings. That's nine earned runs he has allowed now in his past six starts, and six of them came in the same start Sept. 6. While the strikeouts haven't been what you'd expect during that stretch, he did collect 14 swinging strikes in this one and has cut down on his walks enough to convince me the turnaround is legitimate. Plus, he's lined up for two starts in the final week.
Need some middle infield help? Believe it or not, this hot stretch was a long time coming for Jose Reyes, whose strikeout and walk rates are among the best for shortstop-eligible players. Even with this turnaround, his .261 BABIP is suspiciously low, and the moderate power and speed he provides makes him not so dependent on batting average anyway. And who does he get the final week? The Braves and Phillies pitching staffs.
In three starts since returning from the biceps injury that nearly cost him his season, Garrett Richards' pitch count has gone from 52 to 63 to 74. He feels like he's a equipped to go 100 next time, and the Angels have incentive to continue stretching him out as long as they're still in the playoff hunt. He would be their ace, presumably, if they claim the second wild card and advance to the division series. He's throwing 97 mph, getting swings-and-misses on his slider, and while he's looking at just one start next week, it's against the White Sox.
With the Royals and Twins pitching staffs on tap, the Tigers again have pretty good matchups in Week 26 (Sept. 25-Oct. 1), so if you need a third baseman and Nicholas Castellanos (72 percent owned) is unavailable, his teammate Jeimer Candelario (15 percent owned) may be your next-best bet. With seven walks in his past six games, he has rediscovered the plate discipline that made him a coveted (albeit blocked) prospect in the Cubs organization, which makes it easier to buy his production since assuming the third base job (with Castellanos moving to the outfield) on Sept. 2.
Daniel Mengden OAK SP
|3.30 ERA||1.07 WHIP||1.5 BB/9||5.4 K/9|
If you're really committed to maximizing the number of starts in your Week 26 lineup, Daniel Mengden isn't a totally bananas two-start sleeper. He followed a complete game shutout Friday with seven shutout inning Wednesday, issuing no walks between them, and while he wasn't lights-out during an injury-shortened stint at Triple-A Nashville this year, he did deliver a 1.46 ERA in 17 minor-league starts last year. He's a change-of-speeds guy with a relatively low ceiling and only middle-of-the-road matchups next week, but again, if you're desperate, he's among the more available two-start options.