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Happy September, everyone! The turning of the calendar signals many things: crunch time in Fantasy baseball, the final stretch of playoff races in real baseball and the expansion of major league rosters. Fantasy owners looking for a late-season or playoff edge eagerly anticipate the bevy of September callups, but most of the players promoted are called up to fill a bench or bullpen role.
Before taking a look at three players who have been or are about to be called up, let's stop to consider a waiver option who has become something of a forgotten man after having been a Fantasy stalwart for four seasons. I am referring to Mark Trumbo, whose ownership rate has hovered between 61 and 65 percent over the last six weeks after being close to universally owned for the first two months of the season.
Trumbo's popularity plummeted in June, and not coincidentally, June 3 was the date of his trade from the Diamondbacks to the Mariners. From the time he joined Seattle until the All-Star break, Trumbo hit just .219 with two home runs and three doubles over 30 games. Not only was he striking out more than usual, but Trumbo's power -- by far his best Fantasy asset -- had all but disappeared.
Since the break, Trumbo has reverted back to his power-hitting ways, and he punctuated a recent successful run with a two-homer performance at the Astros on Monday night. His second-half slash line now reads .271/.336/.496 with a total of eight home runs in 37 games. It may be a little hard to trust Trumbo's batting average, which has been boosted by a post-break .321 BABIP, but the important trend is that his power is back.
Trumbo hasn't gained any popularity since the break -- in fact, he has lost some -- but he can help owners in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues down the stretch. His mediocre walk-to-strikeout ratio hurts him in points formats, but if you need help in the home run, RBI and runs scored categories, Trumbo could be available and ready to assist your late-season push in standard mixed Roto formats.
Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Cubs (46 percent owned)
Baez's first promotion to the majors, just over a year ago, caused quite a stir initially. He slammed three homers over his first three games, which happened to be at Coors Field, but subsequently, Baez did little besides strike out and pop out. The former first-round pick needed more seasoning, and he got it in the form of 70 games at Triple-A Iowa. Baez got his strikeout rate back under control, with a relatively modest 76 Ks in 281 at-bats, though his 13 home runs represented a more modest power display.
Now that Baez is back with the Cubs, he gives Fantasy owners a new middle infield option to consider, but it's not clear how much he will play. According to ESPN.com, Baez will likely spell Tommy LaStella and Starlin Castro at second base and Kris Bryant at third base against lefties. He hasn't had a problem with hitting righties, though, so it doesn't seem like a stretch for Baez to steal some playing time away from LaStella and Castro against right-handed pitchers. Also, Bryant could play more regularly in the outfield, which would open up more third base playing time.
Baez is already highly-owned in deeper mixed leagues, but he needs to be owned in those formats, even if it's just to stash him until his playing time situation shakes out. He's not a bad stash in standard mixed leagues either, as his combination of power and speed is rare for a shortstop-eligible player.
Dustin Ackley, OF, Yankees (6 percent owned)
When the Yankees put Ackley on the 15-day disabled list for a herniated disc just two games into his tenure with the team, it looked like his season might be over. Yet, here Ackley is, among the Yankees' first batch of September callups. The one-time college standout was on his way to his worst-ever season with the Mariners, having lost his starting role, and now there is no apparent place for him to play for the Yankees with any regularity.
That would preclude Ackley from being worth a pickup in most leagues, but he is worth a look in deeper formats. With Alex Rodriguez looking like he's running out of gas, Ackley could get some starts as the team's designated hitter, and he just might figure into the second base mix. He has played only one game at the keystone so far this season in the majors, but he did appear there during his rehab stint with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Ackley's pull-happy ways didn't serve him well as a Mariner, but as a flyball-hitting left-hander, he could put up good power numbers with some playing time at Yankee Stadium. That possibility makes him a must-add in AL-only leagues, and he might even help some owners in deeper mixed leagues.
Marco Gonzales, SP, Cardinals (10 percent owned)
After getting on the fast track and making his major league debut a season ago, 2015 has been a mostly frustrating campaign for Gonzales. He spent the first five months of the season either languishing in Triple-A with mediocre stats or on the disabled list with a shoulder impingement. With Carlos Martinez (back) needing a replacement, Gonzales will finally get to join the Cardinals' rotation Tuesday night at home against the Nationals.
Even upon his return from his shoulder injury in July, Gonzales struggled, posting a 4.29 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings. Nonetheless, Tuesday's start is worth watching, as Gonzales' flyball tendencies could play well at Busch Stadium. If Martinez is out for an extended period, Gonzales could get a few starts and become a viable deep league option. Gonzales could also be needed if Lance Lynn (ankle) isn't ready to go or if manager Mike Matheny wants to give others in the rotation a rest. MLB.com reported that Matheny may do just that with Michael Wacha, who has already pitched a career-high 157 1/3 innings.