The final week of the MLB season requires a completely different perspective in terms of the fantasy waiver wire. The obvious change is that the upcoming schedule becomes more important than ever. For example, many players on the Rays are candidates to be dropped, as the team plays just five games this week and faces a handful of skilled starters. The other major difference this week is that teams will have a wide variety of incentives to either start or bench their best players.
Squads such as the Braves will start sitting regulars while looking ahead to the postseason. On the other side of the spectrum, teams in tight races such as the Rangers, Mariners and Astros will likely be motivated to play their best players in every game this week.
Here are the top candidates to meet the needs of those who are looking for a final push.
Ezequiel Tovar (SS, Colorado Rockies, 42%)
As is the case with many Rockies, Tovar has played well at home (.790 OPS) but poorly on the road this season. He and his teammates could finish their seasons on a high note when they play seven home games this week against two teams (Dodgers, Twins) who have quality rosters but little to play for during the final week of the regular season. Those in very shallow leagues can aim even higher than Tovar by trying to pick up Nolan Jones, who is 72% rostered.
Tommy Pham (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks, 47%)
Those who are looking for balanced contributions in a shallow league should roster Pham for at least the first half of the week. Arizona opens the scoring period with three games against a White Sox staff that ranks last in the American League in second-half ERA before finishing up with a tougher matchup vs. Houston. With the club in the thick of a postseason race that should come down to the final day, Pham (16 HR, 21 SB) should be in the lineup each day.
Evan Carter (OF, Texas Rangers, 28%)
Sure, Carter has benefited from a .400 BABIP, but he has also shown an impressive blend of power (four HR), speed (three SB) and patience (nine BB) in his first 54 major-league plate appearances. The 21-year-old might not be in the starting lineup against left-handers Monday and Tuesday, but he will be a key player for Texas against righties in each of the final five days of the campaign.
Jason Heyward (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers, 5%)
The Dodgers have strict platoons with their outfielders, which means Heyward should be in the starting lineup against right-handed starters six times this week. Four of those contests will come at offense-inducing Coors Field, which is a great benefit to a player who has thrived against righties and at Coors throughout his career.
Michael King (SP/RP, New York Yankees, 61%)
Those in shallow leagues should race to the waiver wire to grab King, who has been outstanding as both a reliever and starter this season. The right-hander has compiled 30 whiffs in his past three starts, which includes 13 against the Blue Jays last time out. He will open the final week with a rematch against Toronto before wrapping up the campaign Sunday with a road start against the lowly Royals.
Kenta Maeda (SP, Minnesota Twins, 53%)
Maeda is the definition of a high-risk, high-reward starter for the final week. The veteran is wrapping up a solid season, having posted a 4.28 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and a 112:26 K:BB ratio across 101 innings. He opens the week with a desirable Monday matchup against the last-place A’s. Maeda is currently scheduled to pitch Sunday at Coors Field, and his value to individual managers will depend on their willingness to risk either a poor start or a skipped start on the season’s final day.
Reese Olson (SP, Detroit Tigers, 34%)
Olson turned heads when he held the Dodgers to one run on two hits over six innings his latest time out, but he is much more than a one-start wonder. The right-hander sports a 4.13 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP across 98 innings, and he has saved his best for last by allowing just five runs in his past five starts. Olson is a borderline must-start player for his matchup against the Royals on Tuesday. Managers can also grab Olson’s teammate, Sawyer Gipson-Long (31%), who on Thursday will draw the same favorable matchup.
James McArthur (RP, Kansas City Royals, 7%)
Available in almost every league, McArthur could be a saves savior for those who need a closer during the final week. The 26-year-old has logged a 2.33 ERA, a 0.67 WHIP and an 18:1 K:BB ratio since being recalled Aug. 6, and he has converted three save chances since Sept. 18. Although the Royals are among the worst teams in baseball, they face two other noncontenders (Tigers, Yankees) in the final week.
Adam Ottavino (RP, New York Mets, 48%)
Those in shallow leagues could choose the safety of Ottavino over the risk-reward option of McArthur. As the only player on the Mets to earn a save over the past month, Ottavino is clearly the Mets closer. He should close out at least one narrow win in the final week, when the club plays at home against a motivated Marlins team before finishing with a Phillies squad that might be looking ahead to the postseason by the weekend.