It's been awhile since we've seen a new reliever emerge on the closer scene, but now that Robbie Ross has secured the Red Sox's last five saves, including three in the last three games, it's seems safe to stick him with the closer label. Neither Junichi Tazawa nor Jean Machi had much lasting power as Koji Uehara's replacement, but it now appears that Ross could sail through the season's final 13 days as a major league closer.
This late in the season, not every Fantasy owner needs saves, and even those who do may not be able to take on just any closer, if said reliever has the potential to harm a team's ERA or WHIP. Given that Ross was essentially the Red Sox's third option to replace Uehara, it's clear that his upside is limited. That doesn't mean that he is without Fantasy appeal to those who aren't simply desperate for saves.
Robbie Ross, RP/SP, Red Sox (5 percent owned)
Ross' tenure as a Red Sox has mostly been a frustrating one; he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket four different times and had compiled a 4.44 ERA through the end of June. Roughly halfway through the season, Ross started employing his slider more often, and he was suddenly a much better strikeout pitcher. Through the months of July and August, Ross notched 27 Ks in 27 innings while posting a 3.33 ERA. That momentum helped Ross to land the closer's job once Tazawa and Machi failed to stick as replacements for Uehara.
Since then, Ross has allowed four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, but he is a perfect 5 for 5 in saves. He has allowed home runs in two of his last three save appearances, but overall, Ross has done a creditable job. Control has been an issue for him at times, but he has thrown 69 percent of his pitches for strikes since becoming the team's de facto closer early this month. He has also induced whiffs on a respectable 11 percent of his pitches over that time.
Ross hardly profiles as a top closer, but he has also shown enough skill that he can be trusted if you need to make a final push for saves. He is certainly an upgrade if you are relying on whoever might be picking up saves for the Athletics or Tigers.
Eddie Rosario, OF, Twins (17 percent owned)
Interest in Rosario has been tepid ever since he became a fixture in the Twins' outfield back in May, and it's not too surprising. Back when he was a second base prospect, Rosario's combination of moderate power and speed, along with good contact skills, made him an intriguing talent to consider in dynasty formats. Since his conversion to a full-time outfielder, Rosario's skill set no longer stood out, and his extremely questionable plate discipline made him look like a potential liability.
Despite a miniscule 0.12 BB/K ratio, Rosario has acquitted himself nicely in his rookie season. In 111 games, Rosario has planted himself atop the triples leaderboard with 14, and he has also clouted 17 doubles and 11 home runs. He has also chipped in with 11 steals and a decent .273 batting average. Just when Rosario seemed to be running out of gas, starting off September in a 7 for 39 funk, he responded by going 12 for 30 with six extra-base hits in his next seven games.
While Rosario has somehow become even more aggressive since the All-Star break, he has seen a payoff in the form of a .502 slugging percentage. He's hitting more flyballs and pulling the ball more, so he has become a true all-or-nothing hitter. That means Rosario is not for everyone, but if you need a power boost over the waning days of the season, he could be a big help.
Mikie Mahtook, OF, Rays (4 percent owned)
Remember last season when Kevin Kiermaier came up for the Rays and, to the surprise of many, he provided more than just great defense? It's a deja vu feeling in Tampa Bay, as Mahtook is settling in as an outfield regular and an impact bat. Over his last 13 games, 11 of them starts, Mahtook has gone 15 for 39 (.385) with a home run, a triple, four doubles and three stolen bases. Typically batting second in the order, Mahtook has managed to score 10 times over that span.
While Mahtook does have some pop in his bat, it seems unlikely that he can keep up his torrid pace. After all, his four home runs in 31 games with the Rays matches the total he amassed in 98 games with Triple-A Durham. In fact, all four big league homers have come away from Tropicana Field, and the Rays finish off their season with a six-game homestand. Mahtook could stand to be owned in more deep mixed and AL-only leagues, but most owners should just track his progress over these final games in anticipation of next year.