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If you’re in a head-to-head fantasy baseball league, your playoffs are right around the corner and it’s important to start preparing early. When I prepare for the playoffs, I don’t just look for the best players to help my roster, I look for the ones that carry the least risk. Mitigating risk is crucial since it’s week-to-week and you no longer have the rest of the season to level out. One bad week and all your hard work goes right out the window.
In mitigating risk, I look at guys with the lowest tendency to blow up and allow a huge game. Sometimes you have to sacrifice wins and sometimes you have to sacrifice strikeouts but keeping that ERA and WHIP down is the cornerstone of a low-risk fantasy playoff roster. Let’s take a look at some young pitchers who have proven to have a very low risk and some hitters who can help your team right now.
Sonny Gray: Strong Buy. No one produces pitching prospects quite like the A’s organization and Gray looks very much like the next Tim Hudson. This guy is a must-own heading toward the fantasy playoffs – especially with a nice, though predictable, spike in strikeouts of late. With three starts under his belt, Gray is now 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA, .135 BAA, and 21K/6 BB over 21 IP.
Jarred Cosart: Strong Buy. Like Gray, Cosart hasn’t wasted any time in showing off that top prospect potential. Through seven starts, Cosart owns a 1.60 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 21 K over 45 IP. The strikeout numbers are low but he put up a 9.0 K/9 in Triple-A this season and a 7.8/9 over his career so those numbers should improve. He’s also given up just one home run over 45 inning and owned an impressive 0.4 HR/9 over his minor league career which minimizes his risk of blowing up.
Jose Quintana: Strong Buy. Quintana has quietly put up a very solid 7-4, 3.66 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 123 K campaign over 150 innings this season. He’s only given up more than three runs in six of his 25 starts and has allowed more than four just twice. The point is, while his ERA isn’t dominant, he’s a very low risk pitcher that is going to put up a very solid effort every time out. The lowly White Sox have even started winning with him on the mound lately, giving him wins in four of his last eight starts. He’s a perfect pitcher to grab for the fantasy playoffs.
Joe Kelly: Strong Buy. Kelly owns an impressive 3.01 ERA on the season and that’s actually brought up by his bullpen numbers. As a starter, Kelly owns a 2.15 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 27 K over 46 IP. Since resuming his starting role in July, Kelly has given up more than one earned run just twice in seven starts. His strikeouts may not be impressive but his stinginess with runs and hits is head-turning.
Khris Davis: Solid Buy. Davis is the late-season breakout we see every year. A lot of guys just need the opportunity to play regularly and Davis has run with it. Since taking on a full-time role in the beginning of August, Davis owns a .386/.451/.727 line with four homers, nine runs batted in, and 14 runs over 14 games. He’s on a roll now, the question is whether he’ll still be hot when you need him in your playoff lineup most.
Donnie Murphy: Solid Buy. Murphy was called up in the beginning of August and has been a revelation since, putting up a .340/.397/.811 line with seven home runs, 13 RBI, and 10 R over 15 games. I don’t see him as a real candidate for your playoff lineup since I can’t see this holding up but he’s a nice add now while he’s hot. He’s a career .216 hitter who batted an unimpressive .265 with 12 HR over 89 Triple-A games this season so he’s obviously not a long-term buy.
Jason Heyward: While we look at guys who will help come playoff time, let’s look at Heyward whose broken jaw will likely keep him out through all or most of the fantasy playoffs. Considering his mediocre .254 BA, 13 HR, and 37 RBI, it’s time to drop Heyward and pick up a guy who will be there.
Jeremy Guthrie: Guthrie looked great after joining the Royals at the deadline last season, putting up a 3.16 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 14 starts. He hasn’t found that magic this season, instead taking a turn for the worse. He has given up four or more runs in his last three outings and in six of his last 10 starts. True, he’s been excellent between those starts, giving up just 1-2 runs per game and pitching a complete game four-hit shutout against the Twins but his wild inconsistency makes him far too risky for a playoff roster.
Chase Headley: Headley has been the antithesis of his impressive “breakout” year in 2012, now owning a .235/.325/.363 line with eight home runs, 35 RBI, 47 R, and six steals over 112 games. Since May, he is batting just .223 with three home runs over 73 games. It was time to cut him loose a long time ago but now it really is imperative that you cut your losses and move on.
Evan Gattis: Gattis has not recaptured his early-season magic since returning from a month-long oblique injury. He’s batting just .227 with one home run in 24 games since coming back and has returned to a platoon player.
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