PT TOMORROW: NL West—September swoons come playoff time

San Diego Padres

Fernando Tatis, Jr. (SS, SD) has been the talk of the town and frequently mentioned in the MVP conversation for the shortened season. Unfortunately, if September is any indication, these conversations may be short-lived. Tatis is currently slashing .184/.293/.347 in 49 Sep AB. His plate approach is still in tact, but unfortunately the batted ball profile is heading in the wrong direction (59% GB% in September including 3 DPs in his last 8 games). Every AB counts down the stretch, so if management decides to give Tatis a breather after clinching a playoff birth, where could you turn?

In last week's column, we mentioned Jorge Mateo (2B, SD) as being the beneficiary of an early Sept Jake Cronenworth (2B, SD) swoon. The same could apply to Tatis' case. Mateo only has 23 AB thus far, and until LA clinches the division, don't expect Mateo to be given regular PT. That said, if SD falls any further behind, they may decide to rest up their INF a bit for the playoffs. Those looking for cheap speed on the waiver wire, might watch list Mateo if Tatis gets a couple of games off.

The aforementioned Cronenworth has played eight games at SS this season, so he could also fill in for Tatis should the need arise (though it's doubtful he's available in any but the shallowest of leagues). Past that, Greg Garcia (2B, SD) played a handful of games at short last season. Despite his above-average plate approach this season (10% bb%, 75% ct%) and average speed (103 Spd), he has no power and hits the ball on the ground too much (52% GB% career) to have fantasy relevance. Past the current active roster, there is no one on the farm that has AB above A-ball.

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Arizona Diamondbacks

Zac Gallen (RHP, ARI) was looking like a Cy Young candidate in August (1.91 ERA), going 6+ innings in all five starts (PQS 3+ in all but one start). However, he's given up 11 ER in his last two turns as his Cmd has tanked to 2.1, his lowest mark of the season. Owners hoping to have an ace in the hole to carry their rotation heading into the playoffs may need to look elsewhere on the roster. Who could get a spot start in Gallen's absence?

Taylor Clarke (RHP, ARI) has given up 11 ER himself in his last three outings, but it stands to reason that management might give him another shot, as he's the current long man in the pen. His velo has ticked up this season (94.4 mph) along with his Dom rate (8.2), but with that has come a lack of Ctl (4.2). His unsightly 7+ ERA in Sept is not going to win admirers, and it's probably best to look elsewhere on the roster for upside.

With Merrill Kelly (RHP, ARI) shelved for the rest of the season due to injury, one would hope to see a sneak preview of a recovered Corbin Martin (RHP, ARI) from Tommy John surgery or Jon Duplantier (RHP, ARI) from his elbow inflammation. Unfortunately, there isn't enough season left for either to ramp up their recovery process. There's just not a lot to dream on currently with regard to fantasy playoff help in ARI these days, and Gallen owners would be wise to have a backup plan headed into championship week.


Colorado Rockies

Perennial All-star and fantasy stalwart, Nolan Arenado (3B, COL), has recently noted he's been playing through shoulder pain this season. That would explain his lackluster numbers this season (for his standards), though he's posting the best Eye rate (0.83), ct% (90%), and FB% (47%) of his career. The wonky A/C joint pain is just sapping his strength, as he's posted the worst power numbers since his rookie season. If COL slips any further away from playoff contention, Arenado could get shut down in short order.

Ryan McMahon (2B, COL) would likely man the hot corner in Arenado's absence. While McMahon created some early season buzz after swatting 24 HR and 5 thefts in 480 AB last season, his 2020 output has been less than stellar. The power is still on display (7 HR in 134 AB, 147 xPX), his strikeout rate is even more prodigious (57% ct%). He has yet to draw a walk in 25 Sept AB, and he's beating the ball into the ground (64% GB%). He might run into a mistake pitch from time to time, but otherwise, he shouldn't be starting on your roster at this point, unless he's going up against weak pitching.

Colton Welker (1B/3B, COL) is most likely next in line on the depth chart for COL, though his ultimate defensive home is probably at 1B. He hit 10 HR in 353 AB in AA last season with a decent approach at the plate (68:32 K/BB ratio). COL is currently four games under .500 and have only a 10% chance of reaching the playoffs according to prognosticators, so look for Arenado to take a seat down the stretch so as not to further injure his shoulder for 2021.


Los Angeles Dodgers

The fall has been unkind to Max Muncy (2B, LA). He's currently sporting a -44 BPV in Sept, and despite his 10 HR this season, his .191 BA (.179 xBA this month) is most likely frustrating his owners. His ct% has fallen off the map in 47 Sept AB in spite of the fact that he's drawing walks at an elite rate (19%). With LA already having locked up a playoff spot, Muncy could get some time off to clear his head in preparation for the playoffs.

Edwin Ríos (1B, LA) could be a sneaky power target here. Don't look at the .091 BA in 22 Sept AB. Rather, look to the 12% walk rate, 73% Ct% (0.50 Eye), and the power (141 HctX, 261 xPX)! He currently has 4 HR in 51 AB to go along with a 49% FB%. There's holes in the swing, to be sure, but his current 7% September hit rate will positively regress, and when it does, expect the extra-base hits and HR to come in bunches. Rios is a good bat to bet on down the stretch.

Zach McKinstry (2B, LA) just got recalled on September 16 and could also figure into the mix for a bit. There's not a ton of upside here, as we projected him as a 6B utility infielder in our August Call Ups, but he did have 19 HR (.882 OPS) across two levels of the high minors last year, though he was CS more times (9) than he was successful (8) on the base paths. He's a deep NL-only stash if LA begins to rest their regulars.


San Francisco Giants

This has been the breakout everyone has been dreaming about (or had given up on years ago) for Brandon Belt (1B, SF) this season. Career-high power numbers (1.003 OPS), a shorter porch in RF, and a career high 22% HR/F rate, have vaulted the veteran back into fantasy relevance this season. That said, it's hard to expect that HR/F rate to continue, and his Sept 104 xPX means that you could be staring at some empty BA for the stretch run.

Recent acquisition Justin Smoak (1B, SF) has been getting some looks at 1B but only has one hit in his last 26 AB. There's still average-ish power here (104 HctX, 130 xPX) and an above-average walk rate (12%), but as a career .229 hitter there's little reason to believe that he's any kind of upgrade over Belt at this point. With SF still battling for a playoff spot, it'd be smart to look elsewhere.

Elsewhere could include Darin Ruf (LF, SF). In an admittedly limited 16 AB sample in Sept, Ruf is stinging the ball. He's got a couple of round trippers to go along with a 138 HctX and 240 xPX. Obviously you can't count on those video game numbers, but with a .294/.373/.538 career slash vL to complement Belt's strength vR, there could be some sneaky streaming value, as management will want to use every card at their disposal to get into the playoffs. 

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.