ROTISSERIE: Surprise Twins, Yankees top AL all-keepers

With the final month of the regular season at hand, lines are clearly drawn between those fantasy teams with championship dreams and those ready to hibernate for the winter. The difference usually comes down to a handful of players who provided unexpectedly high levels of production at minimal cost.

As we did a couple weeks ago for the National League, let’s highlight some of the American League’s best value picks who either kept us in contention this year or give us hope for next season.

CATCHER: Mitch Garver (C, MIN)

Savvy fantasy owners were watching the Twins this spring, preparing to move quickly for a catcher nicknamed “Tortuga.” Willians Astudillo’s amazing ability to put the ball in play (97% contact rate), plus his ability to play several positions, made him a trendy pick at the position.

However, he also overshadowed the true breakout star behind the plate. Garver stepped forward to hit .264 with 23 home runs, despite splitting time with Jason Castro.

A healthy Astudillo could divide playing time even further in 2020, but Garver’s ability to make loud contact (.591 slugging percentage) gives him a significant advantage at a position that no longer looks like a complete fantasy wasteland.

(Honorable mention: James McCann, Omar Narvaez, Christian Vazquez)

FIRST BASE: Yuli Gurriel (1B, HOU)

Since the All-Star break, Gurriel has been one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, raking at a .372/.418/.692 clip with 12 homers and 41 RBI in 40 games. He was fine in the first half, but on fire in the second, with a 1.110 OPS that leads the majors.

But first base is not a young man’s position. Although Gurriel is only in his fourth MLB season, the former Cuban star is 35—two years older than Carlos Santana and three years older than countryman Jose Abreu. The best keeper would have been Hunter Dozier, but he’s in serious danger of losing his eligibility at the position for next season (seven games at first base, 16 in the outfield, 72 at third).

(Honorable mention: None)

SECOND BASE: DJ LeMahieu (1B/2B/3B, NYY)

After LeMahieu spent his entire career in Colorado, the jury was still out this spring on how his bat would play at sea level. Safe to say those questions have been answered by his .331 average and career highs in both home runs (22) and RBI (87).

Signed by the Yankees for a utility role (which explains his 285 average draft position), LeMahieu will qualify at first, second, and third next season. Who knows where he’ll play, but it’s a safe bet his bat will be in the lineup somewhere.

(Honorable mention: Yoan Moncada, Brandon Lowe)

THIRD BASE: Rafael Devers (3B, BOS)

There might not be a player in the majors who increased his fantasy stock this year more than Devers. He went from a disappointment in his second season to a superstar in his third. Perhaps we should have seen it coming from a 22-year-old in one of MLB’s most potent offenses.

Devers ranks seventh in batting average at .326 and no one has more combined runs scored (106) and RBI (103). With five weeks remaining, he ranked just ahead of Mike Trout as the AL’s most valuable fantasy hitter ($36 earned Roto value).

Despite Devers’s brilliance, this is still a tough call because the Yankees’ Gio Urshela cost fantasy owners nothing, yet has produced a .332 average, 18 homers, and 67 RBI. Those numbers are all better than Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s in virtually the same number of plate appearances. Guerrero might be the best long-term keeper, but he won’t come cheaply.

(Honorable mention: Urshela, Dozier)

SHORTSTOP: Bo Bichette (SS, TOR)

While it was easy to see Vlad Jr. being promoted to the majors fairly early in the season, the 21-year-old Bichette’s timetable was a bit less certain. But once the Blue Jays brought him up in late July, he’s looked like a seasoned veteran.

He began his MLB career with an 11-game hitting streak and he’s shown even more power than he did in the minors. Bichette probably isn’t going to hit .351 (a .416 average on balls in play helps considerably), but he’s established himself as the Jays’ everyday leadoff man. That spot bodes well for his future fantasy value. About the only thing he hasn’t done is run (two steals in six attempts), but that’s what happens when over half of your hits are for extra bases.

(Honorable mention: Tim Anderson, Didi Gregorius)

OUTFIELD: Austin Meadows (OF, TAM); Max Kepler (OF, MIN); Jorge Soler (OF, KC)

All three show what can happen when teams (and fantasy owners) are patient with the development process. They have had bumps in the road along the way, but have put together career years in their mid-20s.

Meadows finally got full-time at-bats after being traded from Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay. Kepler has learned to hit lefties and has taken a major step forward in hitting for power versus righties. Soler has avoided injuries, unleashed his inner slugger, and is on the verge of setting a Royals record for homers.

(Honorable mention: Oscar Mercado, Eloy Jimenez)

DESIGNATED HITTER: Yordan Alvarez (DH, HOU)

Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Alvarez (eight games in the outfield) isn’t going to qualify anywhere but DH next season. That shouldn’t be a major problem, however, because his bat is so dangerous. Despite making his MLB debut in early July, Alvarez, 22, has a .322 average with 19 homers and 58 RBI in 59 games.

STARTING PITCHER: Lucas Giolito (RHP, CHW); Lance Lynn (RHP, TEX); Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP, BOS)

This season’s exceptionally lively baseball has sent power numbers skyrocketing, yet a handful of pitchers have managed to succeed in spite of it.

Giolito, 24, is perhaps this season’s biggest success story – going from one of the worst starters to one of the best. With a few mechanical tweaks, he’s dramatically increased his strikeout rate (11.5 K/9) and lowered his ERA from 6.13 last year to 3.20.

Lynn’s velocity has increased every year since he returned from Tommy John surgery in 2016. Although he’s 32 and pitching in Texas, he’s posted a respectable 3.85 ERA, thanks in large part to a career-high 10.4 K/9 rate. (His Fielding Independent Pitching, which focuses on strikeouts, unintentional walks, hit-by-pitches and home runs, is nearly a run lower at 2.97.)

The key to Rodriguez’s success has been staying healthy for a full season. Back-to-back scoreless starts against the Orioles and Padres upped his win total to 15 and dropped his ERA below 4.00.

(Honorable mention: Domingo German, Mike Minor)

RELIEF PITCHER: Taylor Rogers (LHP, MIN)

If we’re investing in skills, not roles, Rogers represents the best closer value in the league. He has an elite strikeout rate (11.8 K/9) and he rarely walks anyone (1.6 BB/9). The only drawback is the Twins’ tendency to use him in high-leverage situations before the ninth inning.

(Honorable mention: Emilio Pagan, Joe Jimenez)


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