Semien Solidifies Star Status
Marcus Semien led off Friday's contest by taking Mariners' starter Justus Sheffield deep for a solo homer. He circled the bases in a trot for the 33rd time this year. The Athletics' leadoff batter has 33 home runs and 92 RBI this year? How is this possible? The obvious answer is the juiced baseball but that is not the correct answer. Yes, the baseball is juiced but not everyone is doubling their home run power. Home runs are up about 20 percent leaguewide compared to the 2018 season and about nine percent compared to the 2017 season. Those are big jumps, but not double. Semien has hit for power in the past -- he clubbed 27 bombs in 2016 for example. But this season is the first time that Semien has been a complete hitter across the board in all fantasy categories.
Semien is slashing .286/.371/.525 with 33 homers, 92 RBI, 123 runs scored and 10 stolen bases in 742 plate appearances -- and he is doing it in Oakland, which is one of the top pitchers' parks in baseball. On top of that he plays great defense at shortstop. He won't win the American League MVP award but he should finish in the top five of the voting. Semien's stats this year have him ranked as the number 16 overall fantasy hitter in 5x5 leagues. He has set new career highs in every single statistical category except for stolen bases.
Semien was the 225th pick off the board in the average Yahoo fantasy draft this past spring and has returned tremendous value to his owners. When a 20th-round draft pick returns second-round value that is the kind of player that wins fantasy leagues. Semien has been under-appreciated in fantasy leagues throughout his career but never more so than this year.
The A's have Semien under contract for one more season. Given their low-budget ways and willingness to make trades, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Semien in another uniform and in a more hitter-friendly environment sooner rather than later. They have traded MVP-caliber players before -- look no further than Josh Donaldson. Donaldson put up big numbers for the Athletics in 2014 and they promptly shipped him off to the Blue Jays where he exploded for the 2015 AL MVP Award in his first season in Toronto's offense-friendly ballpark. I am not saying Semien is going to win an MVP next year but if he lands in a loaded lineup (perhaps with the Red Sox, Yankees or Dodgers) then he could take his offensive numbers to an even higher level than they already are.
Battle of the Mega-Contracts
Manny Machado went 3-for-4 with a solo home run in the Padres’ loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday. He owns a .253/.332/.455 triple-slash line with 80 runs scored, 31 homers, 83 RBI and five stolen bases across 653 plate appearances. Those numbers have him ranked as the number 81 overall hitter in 5x5 leagues right now and his average draft position was 19th in Yahoo leagues this spring. That is a good season but is it enough to justify his 10-year, $300 million contract? If he were a free agent again this winter would he be able to land that same deal? Probably not. His production is down significantly across the board compared to his final season in Baltimore, when he slashed .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs, 107 RBI, 84 runs and 14 steals. His strikeout rate has jumped up as well.
Bryce Harper went 2-for-6 with two RBI and a run scored in an extra-inning win over the Marlins on Friday. He is in the first season of a 13-year, $330 million contract. His batting line is sitting at .259/.372/.507 with 34 home runs, 111 RBI, 97 runs and 14 stolen bases with two games to go. He is ranked as the number 25 overall hitter in 5x5 leagues right now. Those numbers are quite a bit better than Machado's, although some of the difference can be attributed to the ballparks they are playing in, with Harper in a more hitter-friendly situation. Harper's numbers are very close to his stats from his final season with the Nationals. Harper was the 15th selection of fantasy drafts on average this year and he has come very close to justifying that draft position. It seems clear that Harper would get a better contract than Machado right now if both were free agents again.
One to Target, One to Avoid in 2020 Drafts
Astros starter Jose Urquidy fired six scoreless innings in a win over the Angels. He has made seven starts and two relief appearances this year and is 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA. He has a 40:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 innings. He had a breakout season in the minors with a 134:21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 103 innings. He could be a smart draft pick next spring if he locks down a rotation slot. He has a good chance of doing that because only two of the Astros' rotation slots are set in stone for next year. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke will be back, whereas Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley are free agents this winter. Lance McCullers could snare the third spot if he is healthy after missing the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery.
Dakota Hudson recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts over five scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Cubs. Hudson has been fantastic down the stretch this year and now owns a very nice 16-7 record and 3.35 ERA in 32 starts and one relief appearance. There are some land mines in his underlying stats however, making him a risky proposition heading into the 2020 season. He will likely be drafted way too early in most fantasy leagues next spring. His 136:86 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 174 2/3 innings is well below average. His 1.41 WHIP is not good by any means. He has a 4.93 FIP and 5.09 SIERA this year. It might be best to let someone else grab him in your leagues next year.
Kevin Newman blasted a pair of home runs -- including a walk-off two-run shot in the ninth -- and drove in five runs, powering the Pirates to a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over the Reds on Friday. Newman thumped a three-run bomb off starter Anthony DeSclafani in the fifth inning. That blast tied the game at 4-4 and set up his ninth-inning heroics. He came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning against Reds closer Raisel Iglesias -- who hadn't allowed a run in a month -- and promptly ripped a two-run dinger over the left field wall to end the game in walk-off fashion. The Reds have been the only team the Pirates can beat this year, although they did lose the famous brawl earlier in the summer.
The 26-year-old shortstop was simply dreadful in 31 games last year, but 2019 has been a different story. Newman owns a nice top-of-the-lineup profile in fantasy terms, with a knack for hitting for average along with good speed. He is slashing .310/.356/.450 with 12 home runs, 64 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 128 games. He has struck out in only 60 of his 522 plate appearances. He is poised to take over as the Pirates' everyday shortstop next year and if he continues to improve could easily be a nice value pick in the middle rounds of 2020 fantasy drafts.
National League Quick Hits: Pete Alonso hit homer number 52 on the season, tying him with Aaron Judge for the most by a rookie in major league history... Cody Bellinger went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, a walk and a pair of runs scored to lead the Dodgers to a 9-2 blowout victory over the Giants... Johnny Cueto gave up five runs on three homers over two innings in a loss to the Dodgers. He has a 5.06 ERA in four starts after coming back from Tommy John surgery... Walker Buehler yielded two runs over five innings in a win over the Giants. He finished the season 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 182 1/3 innings... Joc Pederson hit a two-run homer against the Giants and has now homered four times in his last three starts. He has 36 homers on the season... Marlins starter Pablo Lopez allowed four runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Phillies... The Phillies' Vince Velasquez gave up four runs in four innings against the Marlins... Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela notched the win after allowing two runs over six innings against the Brewers. He is 11-11 with a 6.71 ERA on the season... Zach Davies tossed five innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Rockies in Coors Field. He is 10-7 with a 3.55 ERA... Keston Hiura went 4-for-4 with a run scored and was hit by a pitch in a loss to the Rockies... Jake Lamb slugged a pinch-hit, tie-breaking three-run homer to lead the Diamondbacks to a 6-3 victory over the Padres... Marlins outfielder Harold Ramirez went 3-for-7 with a solo homer against the Phillies... Jon Berti went 2-for-7 with a stolen base in a loss to the Phillies. Berti is 9-for-9 in stolen base attempts this month... Cubs starter Alec Mills recorded nine strikeouts over five innings in a no-decision against the Cardinals... Tommy Edman went 3-for-4 with a stolen base and a walk in the Cardinals’ loss to the Cubs... Ian Happ went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and two RBI to lead the Cubs to an 8-2 blowout win over the Cardinals... Marcus Stroman allowed two runs in six innings against the Braves... Jose Peraza went 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored as the Reds fell to the Pirates... Steven Brault racked up a career-high 10 strikeouts but gave up four runs in five innings in a no-decision against the Reds... Gerardo Parra homered, doubled and drove in four runs in a win over the Indians.
American League Quick Hits: Athletics closer Liam Hendriks gave up two runs and blew a save against the Mariners. He was charged with the loss... Justus Sheffield held the Athletics to one run over five innings and did not get a decision. He ends the season at 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in 36 innings... Alex Bregman slugged his 41st homer of the season on Friday against the Angels. He has been on fire in September and has probably done enough to surpass the injured Mike Trout in the MVP voting. He is slashing .296/.421/.595 with 120 runs scored, 41 homers, 111 RBI and five stolen bases across 682 plate appearances for the first-place Astros... Michael Brantley walloped a three-run homer to power the Astros to a 4-0 victory over the Angels... Giancarlo Stanton went 3-for-3 with a homer, two walks, and three RBI in a 14-7 victory over the Rangers... Brett Gardner went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and two runs scored against the Rangers... Gio Urshela (hand) finished 2-for-5 with a solo homer and two runs scored against the Rangers... Cameron Maybin went 3-for-4 with a solo homer, a walk, and four runs scored as the Yankees crushed the Rangers... Royals hurler Erik Skoglund was tagged for six runs in three innings in a loss to the Twins... Jose Berrios let in two runs over six innings and earned a win to improve to 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA... Ryan LaMarre finished 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and a stolen base as the Twins topped the Royals... Miguel Sano went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and two runs scored in a 6-2 rain-shortened win over the Royals... Nelson Cruz went 3-for-4 with an RBI single... Nathan Eovaldi allowed three runs in five innings in a loss to the Orioles. He is 2-1 with a 5.99 ERA in 23 games (12 starts). The Red Sox still owe him $51 million over the next three years... Asher Wojciechowski spun six scoreless frames in a win over the Red Sox... Renato Nunez went 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBI against the Red Sox... Tyler Glasnow fired 4 1/3 hitless innings against the Blue Jays as the Rays clinched a wild card slot. Glasnow has a sparkling 1.78 ERA in 12 starts this year... Zach Plesac gave up two runs through five innings and did not garner a decision against the Nationals.