Some of the performance this weekend of course merit attention on the waiver wire, but just as notable were some of the off-the-field developments, specifically regarding several of the injured players we're still clinging to.
One major dilemma this time of year is whether you should continue to devote roster space to someone who can't actually help you right now, hoping it'll play off later, or if you should cut your losses and take everything just a week at a time. Of course, that dilemma exists on some level all year, but waiting is easier to justify when there's no end in sight. The end is very much in sight right now.
So here's the good news:
- Josh Naylor returned from his oblique strain Sunday and went 1 for 4 as a DH.
- Nathan Eovaldi is expected back from his forearm strain Tuesday.
- Jonathan India, who has been out with plantar fasciitis since late July, could begin a rehab assignment this week.
- Starling Marte seems to think he'll be able to make it back from his groin strain following a week of physical therapy.
And the bad news:
- Matt McLain could miss another 2-3 weeks with an oblique strain, which would mean he doesn't contribute again until the final week of the season.
- Byron Buxton is attempting to make it back as a center fielder after DHing much of the year due to patella tendinitis but had to be removed from a rehab game over the weekend because of continued soreness in his knee.
- Riley Greene went on the IL with swelling in his elbow, an injury that may end his season.
- Graham Ashcraft went on the IL with a stress reaction his big toe, an injury that will almost certainly end his season.
There is more good news on the health front concerning two widely available pitchers, but before we get to them, let's first examine some of the weekend standouts.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #89 • Age: 20
Neither of his home runs was a tape-measure shot. The first (which came Friday) traveled 360 feet, making it out only because he hit it toward the Crawford Boxes in Houston. The second (which came Sunday) traveled just 358 feet and wasn't even hit 100 mph. But we learned two important things about 20-year-old Jasson Dominguez over the weekend. The first is that the Yankees are making him a top priority down the stretch, not only starting him all three games but batting him third for the final two. The second is that he's not intimidated up there. That first home run came in his first ever at-bat and against future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. That confidence at least gives Dominguez a chance of being a big contributor right away, though it's still possible big-league pitchers get the better of him.
SEA Seattle • #3 • Age: 28
J.P. Crawford ended the weekend on a sour note, going 0 for 4 Sunday, but in the two games prior, he went 4 for 8 with two home runs. And in 12 games since returning from a two-week absence for a concussion, he's 14 for 45 (.311) with four home runs. Really, the light bulb came on for him at the start of July, his batting average having climbed 32 points since then, and in Head-to-Head points leagues, it's made for a higher point-per-game average than Bo Bichette this year. The 59-walk edge has a little something to do with it, and it's that superlative plate discipline that makes Crawford particularly appealing in that format. If you recently lost Bichette or Matt McLain and have already been scooped on Royce Lewis, Crawford makes for another fine replacement.
Mitch Garver DH
TEX Texas • #18 • Age: 32
It's true that Mitch Garver has burned us more often than not in the years since he homered 31 times for the Twins, but the work he's done beginning with Jonah Heim's injury in late July has already made 2023 his best season since then. The clincher was his 4-for-4 two-homer performance Sunday, giving him a .316 (30 for 95) batting average, 10 homers and 1.083 OPS since the start of August. Of course, Heim is back now and has been for a couple weeks, but Garver's performance in his absence has earned him the right to DH most days. Between that and catcher, he has started 17 of the Rangers' past 18 games. Naturally, it's his catcher eligibility that makes him most valuable in Fantasy. Most players at that position aren't playing as much as he now is, which is to say nothing for the productivity. Unless you have a true stud catcher, Garver probably represents an upgrade.
Javier Assad RP
CHC Chi. Cubs • #72 • Age: 26
Instead of coming back down to earth as expected, Javier Assad seems to keep getting better. His last outing Saturday at the Reds saw him throw eight shutout innings with seven strikeouts. He has a combined 14 strikeouts in his past two starts compared to 10 strikeouts in the three starts prior, but for the entire five-start stretch, he has a 1.62 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. He's reminiscent of Cristopher Sanchez in that he didn't seem like much at first, but the longer Assad's success continues the more apparent his strengths become. He doesn't have the outlier ground-ball rate Sanchez does, but his 48 percent rate is nonetheless good, and he ranks in the 83rd percentile for average exit velocity. The overall profile remains volatile enough that he could still implode spectacularly, but if you're hurting for pitching, Assad should at least have pretty good matchups down the stretch.
TOR Toronto • #36 • Age: 24
Davis Schneider, where have you been all my life? That's what the Blue Jays should be asking at this point, and the same goes for the rest of us. A month into his big-league career, he can seemingly do no wrong, and it's made him a full-time starter finally, having started eight straight games between second base, third base, left field and DH. If anything, he's only gotten more consistent with the increased exposure, batting .429 (12 for 28) with three homers, a triple, five doubles, a stolen base and more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five) during that time. His exit velocity readings won't blow you away, but he rarely puts the ball on the ground, hitting a ton of line drives and fly balls, mostly to his pull side. The power and plate discipline he showed at Triple-A Buffalo certainly speak to what he's doing now, so at this point, Schneider is rosterable in just about any league.
NYM N.Y. Mets • #10 • Age: 22
While Jasson Dominguez had two home runs in his debut weekend, Ronny Mauricio had two stolen bases. But it's actually what he did at the plate that's even more notable. In his very first at-bat as a major-leaguer Friday, Mauricio hit a ball 117.3 mph, going for a double. It was the hardest-hit ball for any Met this season -- and the Mets, you may recall, have a fellow by the name of Pete Alonso. It's a rare talent that's capable of impacting the ball like that, so if you wondered what all the fuss was about with Mauricio, now you know. The fact that he started all three games (at second base, it's worth noting) and was aggressive on the base paths only makes it more obvious that he should be rostered in all Rotisserie leagues, at least.
Mason Miller SP
OAK Oakland • #57 • Age: 25
Mason Miller made his final rehab start Saturday, striking out four over three perfect innings to end what's been a lengthy recovery from a UCL sprain. We last saw him on May 7. In four big-league starts leading up to then, he had a 3.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 9.3 K/9. With a fastball that regularly tops triple digits and a slider capable of piling up whiffs, he was garnering some (unfair, but nonetheless telling) Spencer Strider comparisons at the time. Are the Athletics likely to baby him coming back from this injury? Well, he didn't go any more than three innings in any of his five rehab starts, but he wasn't a minor-league workhorse prior to that and still got a chance to go six-plus innings twice in the majors before getting hurt. Particularly if your needs are mostly ratio-related, Miller is worth scooping up again.
John Means SP
BAL Baltimore • #47 • Age: 30
A report last week suggested that the Orioles weren't sure whether they'd reintegrate John Means as a starter or reliever down the stretch, but come on. He just threw five one-hit innings in his latest rehab outing Thursday, and Cole Irvin and John Flaherty both stink. Prior to losing most of the past two years to Tommy John surgery, Means was arguably the most reliable pitcher the Orioles had, a control-and-command lefty who had learned to get strikeouts at a respectable rate. He was vulnerable to the long ball, a side effect of his extreme fly-ball tendencies, but his injury more or less coincided with the unveiling of the now pitcher-friendly Camden Yards. It's like the new dimensions were tailored specifically for him, and if his return goes without a hitch, they could make him better than ever down the stretch.