Who are the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?
Ciriaco ... seriously
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics
- Last 2: 1 ER, 6 H, 11 K in 14 IP
So, yeah, when I said last week that you should be "expecting some stumbles the rest of the way" ... that's a bit tempered now. Anderson's stuff has looked crisp in his first two starts after his completed rehab from Tommy John surgery. He's walked only two so far.
He gets a sometimes-dangerous Boston Red Sox lineup Saturday but could make visits to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and Angel Stadium after that. When he's active, he's elite. No reason to move away from that down the stretch.
Pedro Ciriaco, 2B/3B/SS, Boston Red Sox
- Last 12: .373 BA, 9 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 SB in 52 PA
To be fair, at 26, Ciriaco could still be on his way toward finding his power niche, and he can knock for extra bases. But for someone who doesn't leave the yard much, Ciriaco doesn't make much contact (74.8 percent connection rate, 13.0 percent swinging strikes this season) or boast attractive plate discipline (1.9 walk rate) to offer evidence he'll sustain this.
He's been super-aggressive at attacking strike-zone offerings and puts the ball on the ground (51.3 percent) or a rope (27.4) often enough to keep up high BABIPs. But the .405 he's logged this year? Lofty. Like, Jeff Spicoli-riding-a-10-foot-wave lofty, brah.
What Ciriaco lacks in plate awareness, though, he makes up for in his place, in many games, atop a still-effective lineup that's willing to test him the rest of the way given Boston's injuries and overhauls. He'll chip in a few thefts, too, and his eligible positions make him worth carrying, even if he cools, in deep formats.
Kyle Kendrick, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
- Last 4: 4 W, 1.23 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 22 K in 29 1/3 IP
His opponents in that stretch: at Miami Marlins, at Milwaukee Brewers, vs. Washington Nationals, vs. New York Mets - a mostly favorable stretch. That's not to say Kendrick hasn't grown as a hurler. The righty, who turned 28 this past week, has refined his sinker, induced a career-high 8.3 swinging-strike percentage and pushed his K/9 up to 6.45. It was 4.63 last season. The control, while a bit worse than usual at 2.94 BB/9, is still good enough to back up his work.
He's still safer as a matchup play than a cemented arm, but there are faint signs he's moving closer to the latter for this year and beyond.
Mitch Moreland, 1B/OF, Texas Rangers
- Last 27: .341 BA, 12 R, 5 HR, 20 RBI in 177 PA
The useful plug-in mixed piece has nearly matched his homer total from last year (16 in 464 at-bats in 2011, 15 in 247 this year). His platoon employment has been even more dramatic, and it's aided his output if not his AB total. The natural progression of Moreland, who turns 27 next week, has added more boom, as well.
After a hamstring cost him more than a month of action, he's finding his groove. Normally a play versus right-handers and in Arlington, he deserves more confidence for weekly lineups regardless of destination.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Last 13: .404 BA, 9 R, 5 HR, 10 RBI in 57 PA
The up-and-down masher is once again heading toward his apex. Three of those homers have come in his last two games. He started spraying pitches to all field sectors this summer but soon enough landed in another prototypical slump. At least his power kept coming in bunches during his down time.
Fantasy pickers have re-embraced him during his latest run. He's still a hacker, but he's taking advantage of fastballs more frequently (sticking with his strengths, after all) while showing hints of maturity. The lefty's clips to center (.384) and left (.431) back that up.
He's constantly at risk of violent swings between putting your team on his shoulders and leaving you to shoulder him on the bench. The potential the former holds is enough to take the chance he keeps this up on your squad, not one of your competitors'.
Ronald Belisario, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
- August: 1 SV, 1.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 14 K in 13 IP
The force is strong with Lucroy
Don Mattingly said Belisario and Brandon League will share closer duties while docs tend to Kenley Jansen's irregular heartbeat, which may end his campaign. Belisario posted a 1.53 ERA in the first half but was stumbling at the end of July. Since the calendar flipped, he's allowed just two earned runs in 11 appearances and looks like Mattingly's preference to stand in for Jansen.
Substance abuse problems halted Belisario's 2010, and visa issues erased his 2011 opportunity. He was suspended 25 games to start this season because of a positive test for cocaine. The 29-year-old has rediscovered his closer-like fastball and K/9 while also inducing plenty of ground balls.
He probably won't come on for every opp, but it'll be the majority. Hop aboard.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
- Last 18: .290 BA, 14 R, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 7 SB in 66 PA
Some have been lucky enough to jump on the Go-Go express nearly a month after he first rose to featured territory here. As predicted, he slowed a bit this month, but he's recovered and kept up the power-speed combination that's emerged this year. Changing his stance has brought him to the next level. The fact he'll still try to take second frequently gives him cushion to remain on rosters even if his streakiness swings back in the negative direction.
Casey Kelly, SP, San Diego Padres
- 8/27: 1 W, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K in 6 IP
In his MLB debut at Petco Park against the Atlanta Braves, the 22-year-old gave fantasy owners a glimpse of the hype many have chased over the last few years. Kelly looks to have the power back in his formerly strained elbow, and you know what they say about Pads pitchers.
His next start? At Colorado - dangerous park, shaky lineup. He has the talent to overcome those surroundings. How much risk can you take on there? Stream away, and don't ignore the possibility for more over the last month.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
- Last 27: .309 BA, 13 R, 4 HR, 19 RBI in 171 PA
Lucroy was rolling before a fractured hand halted his breakout. Well, since returning from the DL, he's still smashing. A seven-RBI effort Thursday probably brought on a late-week surge of waiver grabs, but it's good that many are rediscovering the preseason sleeper, who has the goods to keep this up.
Andrew Bailey, RP, Boston Red Sox
- Last 7: 1 SV, 1.69 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 4 K in 5 1/3 IP
The Boston Red Sox's new closer should be owned everywhere. What are you waiting for?
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.