Pickups for the fantasy baseball playoff stretch

Suddenly, fantasy baseball’s Week 20 is feeling like a potentially big one for prospects. Whether it’s the impending roster expansion, as teams are afforded up to 28 active players and 14 pitchers beginning on Thursday, or a stage of the season where teams no longer need to worry about prospects losing 2023 Rookie of the Year eligibility, as there are draft -pick bonuses are now tied to the award, many of the top pickup candidates are those who are either making or who have just made their big-league debuts.

At the top of the list is the name sitting No. 1 on Kiley McDaniel’s midseason top-50 prospects list, one who will reportedly make his debut on Monday night. Let’s get right to him and the other names to add who can help your fantasy team this week and beyond:

Three to add

Corbin Carroll, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: A first-round pick by Arizona in the 2019 draft, Carroll is reportedly set to join the Diamondbacks to take over as their center fielder starting on Monday night. Although he entered the season facing questions related to the shoulder surgery that cut his 2021 campaign short at seven games, Carroll has answered them all and then some, batting .313/.430/.643 with 16 home runs and 20 stolen bases (on 23 attempts) in 58 games for Double-A Amarillo, then .287/.408/.535 with seven homers and 11 steals (on 13 attempts) in 33 games for Triple-A Reno after his early-July promotion there.

He brings five-category rotisserie potential and, while both of his minor-league ballparks leaned rather hitter friendly, tempering somewhat the enthusiasm surrounding his overall numbers (not to mention his 24.2% strikeout rate, which is high enough to cast mild concerns about his points-league potential), he brings plenty of upside to the table for all formats. McDaniel’s peak-career projections for Carroll sound Christian Yelich-like, and Yelich is a player who immediately comes to mind for me as a rotisserie comp, with the primary skills difference being more lift in Carroll’s swing (check out his line-drive rates on his FanGraphs page).

The Diamondbacks do face three left-handed starters this week, so this might be a hit-or-miss kind of first week for Carroll, accounting for his 268-point OPS split, but he profiles as at least a top-40 fantasy outfielder for the final month of the 2022 season.

Gunnar Henderson, SS, Baltimore Orioles: Speaking of prospects, Henderson was the No. 2 name on McDaniel’s list, and he has received much more attention as a prospective callup. The primary difference is that we know Carroll’s timetable, whereas Henderson has been more of a theoretical candidate for the past couple of weeks as his Orioles hang around the American League wild-card race. With the upcoming roster expansion, Henderson might be a player summoned — his not being on the 40-man roster is about the only logical argument against it happening — and you can get him much more easily than Carroll today, with there being no official word of it.

Henderson began the season tearing things up for Double-A Bowie, batting .312/.452/.573 with eight homers, 12 steals and more walks (41) than strikeouts (38) in 47 games, and he has really taken off for Triple-A Norfolk since the All-Star break, batting .292/.380/.508 with six homers and five steals in 32 games. Considering that Baltimore third basemen have been the worst-performing in baseball in August, Henderson might be a logical player to slot in there regularly down the stretch. At the very least, he’d profile as a “start most days” utility infielder. He’s good enough in the primary rotisserie categories to warrant a stash anywhere you have an available roster spot.

Pete Fairbanks, RP, Tampa Bay Rays: He’s no prospect, but he’s a pitcher worth universally adding if you need help in the saves category — and that’s despite it being quite clear that Kevin Cash’s Rays will continue to employ a closer-by-committee for the duration of 2022 (and probably the entirety of Cash’s managerial career). Why? The Rays remain a bona fide playoff contender, and a team that wins more often than not is likely to deliver individuals within said committee a comparable number of save chances to a full-time closer on a bad team (see: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds , Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals).

Fairbanks’ contributions in the other categories, meanwhile, look to be top-shelf once again, his skill set about as solid today as it has been at any previous stage of his career. His 98.9 mph average fastball velocity represents a career high, resulting in 16-of-19 strikeouts coming on that pitch, and he has allowed hard contact only 26.7% of the time, also a personal best. Fairbanks is riding a streak of 12 consecutive scoreless outings, and he has given up only one hit and one walk to the last 23 batters he has faced.

Other Week 20 notes

As Monday dawns, the Seattle Mariners still list rookie right-hander George Kirby as their Tuesday starter, with no indications of a move back to a six-man rotation, so Kirby looks likely to make two starts during the coming week. As Tuesday begins a stretch of nine games in as many days for the Mariners, it’s possible they’ll slot in a pitcher late in the week, pushing Kirby’s second projected turn to Monday, but I reiterate how favorable his Tuesday matchup at the Detroit Tigers .

Speaking of prospects, the Milwaukee Brewers summoned Garrett Mitchell, their 2020 first-rounder, with the idea that he’ll form a center field platoon with Tyrone Taylor. Mitchell is more of a rotisserie-angled pickup, as he slugged only .426 combined between Rookie ball, Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A Nashville. However, he also stole 17 bases (in 18 tries), so he could contribute cheap speed in NL-only and 15-team mixed leagues.

Trevor Rogers’ season, not to mention his first three minor league rehabilitation starts, has been disappointing on the whole, but it’s difficult to overlook the absolute gem he threw in his most recent turn for Triple-A Jacksonville. The left-hander threw six no-hit, one-walk, 12-strikeout innings this past Thursday, and he now looks ready to rejoin the Marlins rotation on either Tuesday or Wednesday. As that would mean a slightly above-average home matchup against the Rays, Rogers looks tempting enough to activate in any format larger than ESPN’s standard 10-teamer.

Sticking with the returning starters theme, the Minnesota Twins plan to have Tyler Mahle back in their rotation as early as Friday’s road game against the Chicago White Sox. Mahle had been one of the better starters since the beginning of June, 7-of-11 in quality starts with a 3.05 ERA and 26.6% strikeout rate, which bodes well for a quick return to fantasy relevance. He’ll probably be on a somewhat limited pitch count (75-80?) for his return start, however, after missing 15 days.

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