I've been away from the keyboard lately but I haven't lost interest in my fantasy teams. In fact in my 12 team H2H keeper, my squad (Donkey Punch!) has come on strong in recent weeks and has clawed its way back into contention with only four days left in the regular season. In what's the tightest finish that I've seen in this league, 3 1/2 games separate the top five teams (top six make the playoffs) and a half game currently separating the top three! With my transactions nearly maxed out and numerous players (Nick Swisher, Angel Pagan and Jim Thome) suffering from day-to-day injuries, I have to chose my moves very wisely. The regular season winner gets a prize and the top two get a bye for the first round of the playoffs but I can't leave myself without options for the playoffs, so I'll have to stand pat this week.
With that said, fantasy players know that campaigns are not won in the early rounds of a draft. In fact, sometimes the season is won from the waiver wires, as the season winds down to its end. So who are some of the position players who could be difference makers as we head down the stretch?
Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker has been one of the hottest hitters in the game lately. After five inauspicious seasons in the minors, it seems like the former first round pick seems to finally putting it all together at the age of 24. In the last two weeks, Walker has been absolutely raking, going 20/54 with 4 HR/9R/15RBI/.370 BA/.384 OBP. With a BABIP of .366 in his 342 PA with the big club, it's not likely that those numbers will last, but fantasy owners may as well enjoy the ride while it lasts. Owned in only 28% of Yahoo leagues, there's no reason why Walker shouldn't be helping more teams make their playoff push.
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, San Francisco Giants
You know what you're going to get out of a healthy Freddy Sanchez - batting average. While the veteran second baseman hasn't disappointed lately in the 17% of Yahoo leagues where he's rostered, he's also scored a lot of runs for the Giants, in their quest to overcome the faltering Padres out West. Sanchez has been slapping balls all over the place in the last two weeks, banging out a 11 R/1 HR/6 RBI/.481 BA/.491 OBP line. Of course he doesn't hit for much pop and is made of glass, but steady Freddy can be the difference between you winning or losing in batting average this week.
Roger Bernadina, OF, Washington Nationals
With the Nationals losing Josh Willingham for the season and Nyjer Morgan facing a suspension for hulking out last night, Roger Bernadina's sure to see every day reps in the D.C. outfield. The 26 year old has enjoyed surprising success in his first significant Major League playing time, showing solid power to go along with his base-stealing prowess. He was sitting against lefties, but I think he'll see steadier time from here on out. I'll refer back to a piece I wrote in June about Bernadina and add that he's definitely rosterable in 12-team mixed leagues now, in spite of the 96% of Yahoo leagues where he's not rostered. Over the last two weeks he's been the 27th most valuable player in my 6x6 format with 11 R/3 HR/ 9 RBI/ 4 SB/.268 BA/.311 OBP. He won't hit for great average but he should continue to deliver plenty of slam and legs at a time when cheap power/speed combinations are hard to come by.
Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland Athletics
Daric Barton has always been know for his patience at the plate. Now it seems like the Oakland Athletics first baseman has suddenly decided to get the bat off of his shoulders. Coming into action today, Barton has swung a hot stick, bashing out a line of 11 R/3 HR/7 RBI/2 SB/.425 BA/.586 OBP in the last two weeks. Of course his hot hitting could cool off at any time, but Barton gets on base and if that's what you need, he could be an asset if you're thin at corner infield. As hot as he's been, Barton is only owned in 9% of Yahoo leagues so there's a good chance he's around to lend a hand.