Several National League playoff teams welcomed back key offensive players to the lineup Tuesday, and fantasy owners certainly needed to pay attention. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp (hamstring) went 4-for-4 in his first start since July, with a pair of doubles and three RBIs, while shortstop Hanley Ramirez (back) singled, drew three walks and scored three runs in the 9-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, left fielder Starling Marte (finger) singled in three at-bats in his first start in a month, though the Pirates fell to the San Diego Padres, 5-2.
Kemp’s performance is mighty enticing to fantasy owners, as the consensus first-round pick from draft day enters Tuesday outside the top 100 outfielders on the Player Rater. He’s owned in 98 percent of standard leagues, so his owners waited, but who knows how many of them still have something to play for. Even now, nobody can be sure what statistics he’ll deliver. Kemp’s 39-homer, 40-steal season of 2011 seems a long way off. He’s at five home runs and nine stolen bases in more than a third of a full-season’s at-bats, hardly comparable. It’s not likely he’ll be running much the final 10 days of the regular season, and the risk for fantasy owners is that the Dodgers, with the NL West division title nearly secured, play Kemp sporadically. As for next season, it’s tough to view Kemp as a top-10 pick. The second round makes more sense.
Ramirez has had issues staying healthy in 2013, but his numbers are tremendous, with a .343 batting average, 18 home runs and 10 steals in roughly half a season of at-bats. Shortstops just don’t do that. In fact, no player is currently doing that (including the batting average), no matter the at-bats. Ramirez is higher on the Player Rater than all but five at his position, despite playing in only 80 games. Again, the risk for those needing every last game in fantasy is that the Dodgers rest him for October, using Nick Punto or Dee Gordon instead, and as with Kemp, he is likely a top-20 option for 2014 drafts. I’d take Ramirez over Kemp.
Where does Marte go in 2014 drafts? Well, the sabermetrically inclined are aware of Marte’s poor plate discipline, with 25 walks against 128 strikeouts, and how his .282 batting average at least seems unlikely to repeat because of it. Marte’s BABIP is .362, well above the league norm, though it’s fair to say for someone with his speed that might not be unusual. After all, Detroit Tigers right-handed hitting outfielder Austin Jackson has a career .363 BABIP. Marte steals more bases than Jackson and boasts modest power, but he’s also 24. He’s not a top-30 player for next season’s drafts, but he is close. As for the final 10 days, look for Marte to play regularly, as the Pirates have clinched nothing yet and would love to avoid a one-game playoff.
Box score bits (NL): Give credit to the surging Washington Nationals for making the NL wild card race interesting, and outfielder Denard Span continues to play a critical role. Span extended his hitting streak to 28 games Tuesday, longest in the majors this season, and stole a base in each game of the doubleheader! He’s the No. 6 outfielder on the Player Rater for the past 30 days, yet still available in many leagues. Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark continues to thrive, tossing seven innings of two-hit shutout ball against the first-place Atlanta Braves Tuesday. Roark lowered his ERA to 1.08 and is scheduled to make two starts next week. At this point he’s worth adding in all formats, regardless of opponent. San Francisco Giants outfielder Angel Pagan, who missed three months with a severe hamstring injury, is hitting over .400 in the past few weeks. On Tuesday, he was 3-for-3 with his fourth home run, two walks and two runs scored. Pagan isn’t stealing many bases, but he’s a decent addition down the stretch. Padres closer Huston Street left the team for a death in the family, ceding Tuesday’s save to right-hander Luke Gregerson. It will be interesting to see where Gregerson ends up in 2014, as he’s been on the verge of closing for the Padres for years, and his contract is up.
Box score bits (AL): Kansas City Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings of his major league debut Tuesday, striking out three. Ventura, 22, throws really hard but still permitted more hits than he had innings at Triple-A Omaha. In fact, Ventura threw six pitches of 100 mph or more. Only two starting pitchers all season have thrown more (Gerrit Cole, Nate Eovaldi). Consider Ventura a spot-start option next week and remember the enticing name in 2014 drafts. Forget the name Jeremy Hellickson. The former Rookie of the Year was pounded for five runs in 2 2/3 innings against the slumping Texas Rangers Tuesday, and his ERA is up to an AL-worst 5.23. His last quality start was more than a month ago. The Rays could use prospect Jake Odorizzi in Hellickson’s place next week. … Meanwhile, the Rangers were pleased with their starter, as right-hander Alexi Ogando, a reliever this month since returning from a shoulder injury, threw hard for five one-run innings, earning the win. Ogando is expected to face the Royals Sunday, and he comes recommended. Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey might end up known as a disappointment in 2013, but he’s helping owners lately. He tossed seven shutout innings to beat the New York Yankees Tuesday and has won four consecutive decisions. Dickey, the No. 16 starting pitcher in average live drafts, is No. 62 for the season. But he is No. 14 over the past 30 days, so there is a bright side if your Dickey-led team is contending. Next season, I’d say Dickey belongs in the 30-35 range among starting pitchers.