When the calendar flips over to September, that signifies that there is approximately one month left in the MLB season and things in the fantasy baseball land for season long leagues become pretty tense. It is the time of the season where you really need to make some calculated moves and you can’t be afraid to take some risks depending on the position that you’re in. Whether you’re in a head-to-head league vying for playoff glory or if you’re in a roto league trying to squeeze out every extra roto point, intelligent decisions down the stretch (and some good fortune) will provide you the best opportunity to achieve fantasy greatness. Here are some September tips and nuances to be aware of to help guide you.
Pay Attention to September Call-Ups
Once September 1 rolls around, MLB rosters expand to the entire 40-man roster, as opposed to the 25-man roster that they normally play with up until that point. This means that any player that is on a team’s 40-man roster is eligible to be called up from the Minors without the team having to make a corresponding move to send another player down to the Minors or to place another player on the DL. This gives MLB teams the opportunity to give young players some Major League experience for the final month of the season and it also allows for MLB teams to have some extra reinforcements to give their regular starters more rest or to utilize players for specialty roles such as pinch-running, pinch-hitting, defensive replacement, or situational pitching.
So there are going to be some prospects who are promoted to the Majors during this period (whether it is on September 1 or later in the month) who are going to step into significant roles for their team to become very fantasy relevant and could potentially provide excellent returns. Whether it is an out of contention team giving auditions to their prospects or a contending team trying to put their best players on the field to vie for a post-season berth, there’s always going to be players who are called up in September who can make a positive fantasy impact. So pay attention to who is being called up and what role they are going to have on their team because you may be able to snag them off the waiver wire.
As previously mentioned, September call-ups gives MLB teams more opportunity to give their regulars some more rest and also to utilize players in specialty roles such as pinch-hitting and pinch-running. So some of the regular big name players may end up losing some starts or being replaced late in the game. With some extra speed guys off the bench, players like David Ortiz or Albert Pujols will get pinch ran for even more often late in the game, which takes away run scoring opportunities. While this won’t significantly impact your fantasy decision making on which players to start, it is definitely something worth knowing and being aware of.
Another impact of September call-ups that is often overlooked or never thought of until the situation actually arises is the situation pertaining to player injuries. If a player incurs an injury in the late days of August leading up to September or in the actual month of September, then that player likely will not be placed on the disabled list. This is because with the MLB rosters expanding to 40 players on September 1, there really is no incentive or necessity to place an injured player on the DL when teams can freely promote any player that is already on the 40-man roster. It is a real unfortunate and annoying situation to deal with when you have an injured player that you don’t want to waive because you want his potential production for when he is healthy again, but you also don’t want him clogging up a spot on your roster, especially when your league has DL slots. In this situation, you just need to use your best judgment and decide what would be best for your team.
Utilize Schedules and Matchups to Your Advantage
While this is a strategy that should be used all season long, it really comes pronounced in the final month of the season when you need to make that final push. Glance at teams’ schedules and see what the rest of the season has in store for them. If a team has a road trip to Coors Field then maybe there’s some available hitters from that team who should have the opportunity to produce in the thin air. If a pitcher who is dominant at home but horrible on the road is projected to make 4 of his final 5 starts on the road, then use that knowledge to your advantage whether it means you bench him for the road starts or just outright waive him, which brings us to the next section…
Don’t Be Afraid to Waive Players
In the right situation, even if it carries some risk, you have to be open to the idea of waiving certain players. With only a month left in the season, this is when you really want to ride the hot hands and/or those who have favorable matchups. Injured players, players in prolonged slumps, or players in unfavorable situations are not going to do your fantasy team much good. So with only a month left in the season, there is much less risk to waiving a star caliber player who is not producing. This notion becomes a bit more cloudy in keeper or dynasty leagues, but waiving star caliber players in redraft leagues definitely needs to be given thought.
This doesn’t mean because Mike Trout only hit .218 with 1 HR in August you go and waive him for Franklin Gutierrez who hit .339 with 7 HR in August (though Gutierrez does make for a nice player to utilize against left-handed pitching). But for a better example, let’s take a look at Hanley Ramirez in the 2015 season. Ramirez produced well early on, but then he was hit with various injuries and he has missed 26 games of the season through August 31 (without ever being placed on the DL) — at least 20 of those 26 games missed were due to injury with the remaining games being routine days off. At the writing of this article, Ramirez has missed the last 4 games due to shoulder fatigue and he has hit just .183 with 0 HR and 7 RBI since the All-Star break. If and when Ramirez does return to the starting lineup, there’s really no telling if he can begin to produce again considering his awful performance in the second half with his nagging injuries likely hampering him. And even if he does eventually return, with the Red Sox out of contention he will likely be given extra rest. So it just seems like a poor outlook for him and I wouldn’t be afraid to cut fantasy ties with him if a viable replacement is available (I already have waived Hanley in a league).
Maximize Games Played/Innings Output
In many types of fantasy leagues, especially those with daily lineup changes, there are set limits on how many games you can use at each fantasy position and how many innings your fantasy pitchers may accrue for a team. In the final month of the season, this is where you really have to make it count and try to use as many games and innings as possible in an intelligent way. This doesn’t mean you go and pick up just any player and insert them into your starting lineup just for the sake of using more games or innings. Rather be smart about it and utilize some of the tips that were previously mentioned here to build a starting lineup for each day or week that will also give you an opportunity to use up as many games and innings as possible.