Who are the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?
Steven Johnson, P, Baltimore Orioles
- Last 3 starts: 3 W, 2.12 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 22 K in 17 IP
Keppinger: Mr. Safety Dance
The O's continue to patch the holes in their tires with the kind of material no one can be blamed for thinking is a shoddy store brand. But if shoppers don't compare ingredients, they won't realize just how much they can save.
It's the most intense spot-starting time of the year, and perhaps the most popular name added for those seeking innings (or actual contributions in fantasy categories) is this swingman. The Boston Red Sox are shadows of their former 2012 selves, too, as far as scoring runs are concerned. Johnson has been riding a wave of luck, but he's rolling with it, and he gets K's.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners
- Last 12: .432 BA, 9 R, 5 HR, 8 RBI in 51 PA
Fantasy owners are right to hop on the scorching Smoak. The switch-hitter has made some critical adjustments that have yielded these fantastic results. Whether he carries them into 2013 is a different story - and something those closing out 2012 don't have to worry about right now.
Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics
- Last 7: .440 BA, 8 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI in 30 PA
Roto managers have flocked to Moss because of his hot batting average, but it's a mark he wouldn't sustain for long stretches. Thankfully, there's less than a week left in this season, and he's capable of producing through its conclusion. And thankfully, he pops 'em out frequently - 20 times in 246 at-bats this season - so he's likely to make a significant donation to the cause.
Andy Pettitte, SP, New York Yankees
- Last 2: 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6 K in 11 IP
Those seeking pitchers who can make a fill-in appearance may have missed out on their best chance at a W if they didn't nab Pettitte. He's continued his unbelievably good post-retirement pitching since his activation from the DL for a fracture in his left ankle. Folks should've grabbed him then.
Pettitte hasn't been nearly as effective on the road, where he'll face the Toronto Blue Jays, but his opponent is missing a vital piece and has been sputtering in September.
Marco Estrada, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
- Last 7: 4 W, 2.43 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 45 K in 40 2/3 IP
Estrada was pretty much cruising before the Washington Nationals thrashed him on Monday. No team presents an opportunity to rebound from a bad outing quite like the Houston Astros do, however. And, Estrada will do his toiling at Miller Park, where he's been distinctly better this season.
Felix Doubront, SP, Boston Red Sox
- Last 3: 1 W, 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 21 K in 19 1/3 IP
When he came off the DL, where he spent two and a half weeks for a knee injury, in late August, Doubront continued the shaky pitching that was increasingly causing his rotation spot to be in jeopardy early in the month. Lately, he's been a real pain to hit (.141 BAA in his last three), though.
The opponents from that stretch are comprised of the Yanks, the BoSox and the Orioles. He just happens to be facing the last of those opponents again in his next outing. Caution: Walks have still been a big problem, and Baltimore seems to make magic happen on nearly a daily basis.
Jeff Keppinger, 1B/2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays
- Last 8: .500 BA, 10 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI in 31 PA
Perhaps the lone constant in the lineup of the team that refuses to go away - every year - has been hot. Which is saying something considering that he's batted .332 this season. The drawback to owning Keppinger, of course, is that he rarely provides homers or stolen bases. Lately, he's made his mark in one of those areas, though.
Don't expect the bopping to continue, but expect this to be one of the safest bats to own as the season comes to a close. It doesn't hurt that Keppinger bats in a run-producing spot in the Rays' lineup.
Adam Eaton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Last 20: .221 BA, 16 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB in 93 PA
The Snakes called up this prospect near the beginning of the month, but at this time of year, players like this slither through the cracks. His playing time was initially going to be short-lived because Chris B. Young (strained quad) wasn't going to be out for long. Young aggravated his injury, however, so Arizona has been forced to rely on the youngster.
Roto players have probably been a bit late to the party, considering the recent cool stretch Eaton has endured. What's been extremely encouraging is his control of the strike zone in this limited exposure. Fantasy owners should still consider riding him in the final several games.
Raul Ibanez, OF, New York Yankees
- Last 6: .429 BA, 4 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI in 23 PA
Nothing says "recyclable" like an old dude who qualifies only in the outfield. Ibanez can be of assistance: He's popped 18 round-trippers in 368 at-bats this season. But he's also batted .234 and is a complete liability against southpaws. Nothing about his year suggests that he's reliable in the final week. Keep a player in tow to rotate if possible, or jump at the first sign that he's cooling off.
Donovan Solano, 2B/3B/OF, Miami Marlins
- Last 7: .462 BA, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB in 26 PA
Home runs will cause any player to pop up on the fantasy free-agent radar very quickly. Yes, even if they're the first two in the 262 at-bats of your big-league career, if the window of stats folks are examining is narrow enough.
Power has never been a part of the 5-foot-9, 190-pound 24-year-old's game, and it doesn't project to be, at least any time soon. He puts the ball in play with some authority, at least. He's likelier to steal a base for you than to hit you another dinger, though, and the theft doesn't have an especially favorable probability. The diverse eligibility is nice, at least.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.