September is right around the corner, which means it’s time to really start preparing for the fantasy playoffs. Here are a pair of AL East youngsters who can boost your roster for the stretch drive…
Pedro Ciriaco | 2B, SS, 3B | Red Sox | Owned: 21% Yahoo! and 29.9% ESPN
Ciriaco, 26, got his shot with the Red Sox early last month due to various injuries and has quickly established himself as a pesky, “this guy shouldn’t be killing us” type of player for whoever happens to be playing Boston on a given day. The infielder is hitting .360/.374/.500 (145 wRC+) with two homers and nine steals (in nine chances) in 141 plate appearances for the Red Sox, and now he’s playing third base pretty much everyday with Will Middlebrooks on the shelf. He managed to pick up both second base and shortstop eligibility along the way.
The ball-in-play gods have been kind to Ciriaco, who sports a .431 BABIP and a whopping three unintentional walks. His speed and some friendly home cooking (168 wRC+ at Fenway Park) have allowed him to remain productive even though the long-term outlook isn’t nearly as rosy as the current production. At the very least, Ciriaco is a steals candidate down the stretch now that he’s playing everyday. If he continues to beat out those infield hits — 19.6 IFH% is the second highest rate in baseball behind Darin Mastroianni (min. 140 PA) — Ciriaco will offer lots more production as well.
Alex Cobb | SP | Rays | Owned: 18% Yahoo! and 14.6% ESPN
The Rays churn out quality starting pitchers better than anyone, which is why Cobb was able to step into the rotation following Jeff Niemann‘s injury and not only fill the void, he actually improved the club. The 24-year-old got knocked around in his first dozen starts or so but has really settled in of late, allowing no more than one earned run and throwing no fewer than seven innings in four of his last five outings. His improvement is probably best represented graphically…
It seemed like every runner to reach base against Cobb earlier this season was coming around to score, but lately he (and his defense) have been able to actually strand some runners. It helps that he’s walked just five batters unintentionally in his last six starts combined after suffering through some bouts of wildness earlier this summer (five walks in 3.1 innings against the Indians, specifically).
Cobb is not a big strikeout guy (6.71 K/9 and 17.7 K%), instead relying on the ground ball (57.6%) to keep hitters in check. It’s not ideal for fantasy, but Tampa’s infield defense is strong and his ERA and WHIP have been dropping steadily. The Rays have a really rough schedule coming up, so you’re either going to need to have a lot of faith in Cobb’s ability to remain productive or just be flat-out desperate at this stage of the season. His next three starts will come against the Rangers in Texas, then at home against the Yankees and Rangers.
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