Each week, the NERDS will bring you three players who are trending up, and three who aren’t looking so good. A player’s presence in any of these lists will never be injury-related.
Max Scherzer, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Max Scherzer has been strong all season, but over his last six starts, he has been the highest-scoring starting pitcher in standard points leagues: he has 36 innings of a 0.75 ERA, four walks (!) and 53 punchouts (!!)
All things considered, the 37-year-old Scherzer looks better than ever, and that’s saying something. For the season, he has a 2.28 ERA between the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, with 210 strikeouts and a 0.86 WHIP. He is the definition of “automatic start.”
Advice: Start with confidence regardless of matchup
Blake Snell, SP, San Diego Padres
After struggling for months – not weeks, months – Blake Snell is finally rewarding patient owners who ignored my recommendation in early August and held on to him. I sincerely hope you were able to navigate his starts in the first three or four months and cope with his struggles without damaging your ratios too much. And I hope you understand that, after more than 10 weeks of inconsistent performance, I was prepared to move on.
While I don’t know if he will remain effective in September, it’s fair to say Snell has really turned it on recently. Over his last 31.2 frames, he has allowed only 13 hits and nine walks, striking out a whopping 48 hitters in the process and conceding just six earned runs.
Perhaps the fact that pitching coach Larry Rothschild was dismissed by the San Diego Padres around the same time Snell started to improve is a coincidence. Perhaps it’s not. But right now, he looks like a strong play for the rest of the season, and that’s all that matters.
Advice: Snell is returning to must-start territory
Frank Schwindel, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Who is this guy, you might ask? Well, the Cubs claimed him off waivers after he was dismissed by the Oakland Athletics. And what a find he has been: over the last 15 days, this powerful first sacker is 21-for-54 with six homers, and 15 RBI.
There is a good chance he doesn’t stick. But what if he does? At this point, giving him a shot won’t cost you more than a roster spot, if he is available in your league. So what are you waiting for?
Advice: Run to your wire and add him
Joey Gallo, OF, New York Yankees
While it’s true that Joey Gallo won’t ever win a batting average title, he is a very useful fantasy player, especially in points leagues. However, he is currently ice-cold, and you might want to sit him (particularly in roto formats) until he starts showing some signs of life.
When he is right, Gallo is a high-OBP player with immense power and good run-producing totals in the Yankees’ lineup. Unfortunately, he is currently slumping, going 1-for-his-last-25, with a .040/.200/.160 line and one homer in his last seven games.
He is also batting .096/.266/.250 over his last 15, and there is just no way to justify selecting his name to your starting lineup right now.
Advice: Bench him until he starts showing some signs of life
Yusei Kikuchi, SP, Seattle Mariners
Kikuchi’s ERA was, at one point recently, well below 4.00, and he had established himself as a reliable, innings-eating SP3-4. The situation is way different now. His full season ERA is up to 4.32, a pedestrian figure for a player of his talent.
The Mariners’ southpaw has been mediocre in his last seven turns: over 31.2 innings, he has a 5.40 ERA, with a 1.64 WHIP and an ugly 19/25 BB/K ratio.
It hurts to say it, but Kikuchi is more of a matchups play for the remainder of the season. He is lined up for a very good one against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Advice: Carefully select his matchups
Chris Taylor, IF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Chris Taylor has two home runs in the last 15 days. That’s not so bad, right? Well, he is also 5-for-44, with only three walks and a whopping 19 strikeouts over that timeframe. That is not so good, especially in the fantasy playoffs.
We can’t complain too much, however. After all, he is hitting .264 with 87 runs, 20 homers, 71 RBI and 13 stolen bases for the season as a whole. Yet, he failed us when it mattered most.
Advice: He should eventually find his groove