Pickups: Matt Carpenter has more left in 2020

MLB

In a season filled with injuries thus far, fantasy managers are surely seeking replacements. Here are three players well worth adding in ESPN leagues:

Matt Carpenter, 3B/1B, St. Louis Cardinals

You’re going to want a piece of the Cardinals offense during these final 11 regular-season days. The team has more games remaining on the schedule (13) than anyone except the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals, who have the same number left — and that’s excluding the two games the Cardinals had postponed against the Detroit Tigers that appear unlikely to be made up. The games they do have look quite favorable for hitters. There’s five against a Pittsburgh Pirates team that has a 5.19 team ERA, three against a Kansas City Royals team lacking in experience in the rotation, and a season-ending five against the Milwaukee Brewers at home.

Considering the Brewers’ current rotation is entirely right-handed, the Royals have only two left-handed rotation members, and the Pirates have just one (and that’s Steven Brault, who might not even be considered locked-in), Carpenter’s left-handed bat stands out. He picked up his play at the onset of September, slashing .250/.382/.500 in his first 10 games. While he did go hitless in 13 at-bats during the just-completed series at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, his matchups make him well worth taking the chance of a bounceback. It’s also worth seeing whether lefty-hitting Brad Miller is available in your league for the stretch run.

Craig Kimbrel, RP, Chicago Cubs

I’ll say it upfront: I’m skeptical that he’s going to reclaim the Cubs’ closer role before the conclusion of the regular season — and I’m not so sure he should do so, with Jeremy Jeffress handling those chores well. Still, when it comes to relievers, I want strikeouts and I want the kind of upside that can quickly snatch such a role.

Kimbrel, who struggled massively in 2019 and the first month-plus of 2020, has been effectively “lights out” in September. He has six straight scoreless appearances (11-of-12 if you extend back into mid-August) and has struck out 11 of the 20 hitters he has faced without walking any in the process. During that time, his four-seam fastball has averaged 97.1 mph, 22nd-fastest of the 332 pitchers who have faced at least 20 batters during that time frame. He has poured it into the rulebook strike zone 67.7% of the time and he has generated a 14.5% swinging-strike rate with the pitch.

Those numbers rival the best such rates at any time in his big-league career, and they signal that he might well have straightened out the command issues that had previously plagued him. If you need help in ERA, WHIP, or strikeout punch for these final 11 days, Kimbrel is the kind of high-ceiling choice to ponder. You can be sure that, with the Cubs trying to decipher his postseason role, they’re going to test him as much as they can during what time is left.

Jared Walsh, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

Between Shohei Ohtani‘s season-long hitting funk and Walsh’s own recent hot hitting, the 27-year-old fellow hitter/pitcher has seemingly captured the starting 1B chores for the Angels. Walsh has homered six times in his past nine games and, since his recall, has slashed .390/.413/.902 in 46 trips to the plate spread across 12 games. He has long possessed the kind of raw power that could generate 30-plus homers annually if given the chance to play, having hit 36 blasts in 98 games of Triple-A ball in 2019. While he does have a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, he has cut his miss rate to 10.6% this year.

What if the Angels decide that Ohtani, who was already ruled out from pitching this season due to injury, isn’t worth the risk of using him at the plate either? What if they shut him down for the season in the coming days? At the rate Walsh is performing, they might as well take a longer look at him to figure where he might fit for them in 2021.

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