Chances of acquiring high-impact talent become scarce in September.
Most of the breakout stars make their marks early in the season. Others crush minor league competition before garnering their shot midseason. Still others benefit from moves made at the trade deadline.
By September, the known quantities are largely known, and their 2019 fates decided. With the rosters expanding for the season's final month, though, some players -- both new major leagues are ones making their return to the bigs -- will have a chance to make their presence felt down the stretch.
Which ones? Let's try to pinpoint a few who might be worth rostering as the season nears its end.
Manaea's long road back from left shoulder surgery last September culminates with his start Sunday against the Yankees. The southpaw was terrific in 27 starts prior to the injury last summer, posting a 3.59 ERA and no-hitting the Red Sox along the way. He's been working his way back since the surgery and has made eight minor league starts in recent weeks, going seven innings in his last outing. The early starts were a little rough, but the 27-year-old has been very good in five turns at Triple-A, owning a 3.21 ERA and 0.79 WHIP with 43 strikeouts in 28 innings of work. Where he fits into the A's rotation is still unclear -- for the time being he's giving Mike Fiers a breather, but the A's will want to get Fiers regular turns down the stretch as well -- but Manaea is unquestionably one of the team's five best starters when healthy. They'll make it work if he is in form on Sunday. A good Yankees team may not even provide the best view of how effective he can be, and how much value he can provide a fantasy team, during the season's final month, either. Fantasy players would be wise to take a flyer on Manaea ahead of Sunday's start and not worry too much if the return is underwhelming. Give him a shot.
Frazier has actually been more impressive in the majors than in the minors this year, slashing .283/.330/.513 with 11 homers in 53 games with the Yankees while hitting .248/.308/.432 with eight homers in 62 minor league games. That he's performed well in the majors is good news since he'll be among those promoted when rosters expand Sunday. The bad news, then, is that he's part of a crowded outfield in New York -- he'll have to vie with Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin for playing time -- and doesn't seem to be a favorite of an organization that has continually passed him over in recent weeks when in need of reinforcements. The one thing the 24-year-old has going for him is his talent, which exceeds most of his counterparts on the club and could really shine through if he's given a chance in September. Will he be? That part remains uncertain, but with the Yanks jockeying for postseason positioning they can't afford to not play their best performers. If he takes advantage of his opportunity it could be an eye-opening month for the former first-round pick.
This one is cheating, given that Brown is already in the majors and has been for a week. But he is only rostered in 4 percent of Yahoo leagues as of this writing, so if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to pick it up off the waiver wire does it even make a sound? Brown dominated Triple-A pitching this year, batting .297/.352/.634 with 37 homers, 104 RBI and 101 runs scored in 112 games, and he's hit the ground running since his promotion. In six games, the 27-year-old has a .440/.462/.560 line with seven RBI and six runs scored, and he set an A's franchise record with 10 hits in his first five major league games. Like with Frazier, the thing perhaps working against Brown is that the A's have no shortage of options for first base and corner outfield work; manager Bob Melvin is among the best in the league at getting the most out of his players. His willingness to play Brown regularly in his first week in the bigs is a promising sign, then, that the club plans to keep Brown in an everyday role for as long as he keeps producing. That he has yet to hit his first major league home run offers hope that there's perhaps even more to come for Brown.
The chances that Lux was called up at the start of September were slim just a few days ago, but then Max Muncy went down with a fractured right wrist. Muncy appeared in 67 games at second base for the Dodgers, and it just so happens that Lux has been logging time at the keystone in recent days. Suddenly the odds seem much better that he's with the Dodgers for the season's final month, and also that he's getting worthwhile playing time while there. That they're so far ahead in the standings works in the team's favor as they approach October, allowing them to rest all of their players while also working them all into the rotation over the final few weeks. That simultaneously works against the fantasy value of virtually all of them, at least in leagues where rosters are set for days or weeks at a time. A league in which daily moves are allowed would probably be best for those who roster Lux (and the rest of the Dodgers hitters) in fantasy, but even the most shallow and inflexible leagues should see the 21-year-old rostered after he's hit .347/.421/.607 with 26 homers, 76 RBI, 99 runs scored and 10 steals in 113 games between Double-A and Triple-A. It's still not a sure thing the team will even promote a guy with 49 games played above Double-A, but if they do, we've seen with Bo Bichette and others that age is just a number when you're as talented as Lux.
It's apparently Athletics Night in the column. Murphy will be called up when rosters expand, and of the players to be promoted he's among the best positioned to take over a starting role down the stretch. Murphy was a third-round pick of the A's in 2016 and appeared on top-100 prospect lists this spring, and he's backed it up by hitting .293/.384/.580 with 11 homers in 41 games between rookie ball and Triple-A to date. In the majors, meanwhile, starting backstop Josh Phegley is hitting .254/.297/.426 and backup Chris Herrmann is even more pedestrian at the dish. As noted with Brown, the A's are in a great position with regards to filling out a lineup -- Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Mark Canha, the list goes on -- so Murphy isn't likely to be inserted into an enviable run-producing spot in the order even if he is handed everyday at-bats. More likely, he'll occupy a similar spot near the bottom of the A's lineup, surrounded by less interesting guys like Jurickson Profar and Corban Joseph. The bar for being a fantasy-relevant catcher is extremely low, though, so the 24-year-old won't need to light the world on fire to be worth adding in most leagues. If he's playing most days and hitting for a representative average, he'll be good enough.
This one is a deep cut, but it wasn't terribly long ago that some of us had high hopes for Bauers in Cleveland. Traded as part of the deal that sent Yandy Diaz to the Rays, the 23-year-old was supposed to bring both power and speed to the Indians as an everyday player in the corner outfield. Instead, he hit just .233/.308/.379 in his first 100 games and was demoted after the Tribe acquired Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes at the trade deadline. Now back with the club following Tyler Naquin's unfortunate knee injury, Bauers still has an uphill climb for playing time, let alone fantasy relevance. The talent that some were betting on is still present, though, even if it's been dormant for most of this year. He's still walking and getting on base at a .350 clip in the minors, and he's stolen a surprising eight bases while also hitting three homers in 24 games. He'll need to bring something to the table to push Greg Allen into a reserve role -- Allen is hitting .232/.292/.373, so he won't need to do that much -- but the window is now open. Those in AL-only leagues and even maybe deeper mixed leagues should keep an eye on Bauers' first few days back in the big leagues.