James McCann (19594761214)

Photo credit: By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (James McCann) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is barely more than a month left in the season, so things are getting intense for owners in the hunt for a title. That intensity is at a lower level for those of us who have teams with no shot of winning this year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to play for. If you’re in a redraft league, you’re playing for pride. Even if your non-contending squad is in a keeper league, you still may be playing for pride, or in lieu of that, maybe your commissioner has instituted a draft order scheme that discourages tanking. Or maybe you just like to play the spoiler.

One of the benefits of being out of the running is that you can try strategies that would be too risky if the stakes were higher. For example, I started Kirk Nieuwenhuis two weeks ago in a couple of deeper leagues where I had little to no chance of contending. While his overall stats weren’t enticing, he had monster numbers at home against righties. That week, the Brewers were set to face a righty-heavy diet of Braves and Reds starters at Miller Park, so I picked Nieuwenhuis up and let it fly.

The formet Met and Angel picked a bad time to go cold at home, as he made only 16 plate appearances and reached based only four times. That double, two singles and a walk did not do much for my quest for respectability.

The Nieuwenhuis gambit showed why playing the splits can backfire big time, and why you don’t want to try this sort of move in a league where mistakes can be costly. However, if he had come closer to what he did in his previous homestead (.357 with five home runs, eight RBI and six runs in 10 games), I would have found a low-cost way to creep up in the standings.

For what it’s worth, I’ve kept Nieuwenhuis stashed in one of those leagues for future homestands with favorable matchups that lie ahead. He’s not the only player who can be a sneaky source of category help. Here are 11 other hitters who could be readily available in your leagues and provide more value than their overall stats would suggest…if they are used in the right situations.

Note: I’m not ignoring pitchers — only saving them for another post in the near future.

Good home splits

Miller Park is a great place to hit homers, so it should be no surprise that Nieuwenhuis isn’t the only Brewer with favorable home splits. Chris Carter has an outlandish .344 Isolated Power at home, and Scooter Gennett’s home Iso is a perfectly respectable .176. Week 25 is the only one among the final five weeks that consists solely of home games, but park factors should help this duo in Weeks 24 (at CIN, at CHC) and 26 (at TEX, at COL) as well.

Marwin Gonzalez has more going for him than just versatility. He has a .199 Iso at Minute Maid Park, and the Astros have one home series in every week going forward.

Better on the road

With Jung Ho Kang (shoulder) on the disabled list for the foreseeable future, the Pirates’ third base job now belongs to David Freese. As one would expect, PNC Park has put a damper on his power, but away from home, Freese has a .199 Iso (he’s the reverse Marwin). A road trip comprised of 11 games in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Milwaukee should go a long way towards making Weeks 24 and 25 productive ones.

Overall, the schedule won’t do any favors for Jayson Werth, but he could be helpful as a one-week rental in Week 22. He will take his .196 road Iso into series at the Phillies and Mets.

Lefty mashers

James McCann has clubbed eight home runs in only 93 plate appearances against lefties, so he could provide a bump in that category, if he has a southpaw-heavy week. As of now, that only looks like in Week 23, as he could potentially face some combination of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon and Wade Miley. Rotations do change, though, so McCann could be worth a stash despite the apparent dearth of lefties over the rest of the season.

Also being in the AL Central, Brandon Guyer has roughly the same chance to see a smattering of lefties. Just a little exposure could be enough to be useful to Fantasy owners, as Guyer has compiled a 1.054 OPS against left-handers.

The schedule also doesn’t obviously favor Jordy Mercer, but the NL Central features enough lefty starters for him to possibly put his .291/.390/.488 slash line against southpaws to good use.

Stolen base surge to come?

Keon Broxton has become a trendy pickup, in part due to his surprising power surge, but his stolen base potential alone makes him worth a claim. From next week forward, the  Brewers will play a combined 22 games against the Pirates, Cubs, Reds and Rockies –all teams that have had trouble containing the running game. The schedule similarly favors speedsters Travis Jankowksi and Angel Pagan.

Not every potential base stealer is a worthwhile pickup. The schedule does not favor Melvin Upton, Carlos Gomez or Chris Owings, and each of these players relies heavily on steals for their value. Overall, the same can be said of Cesar Hernandez, but if you can find him in (or stash him until) Weeks 25 and 26, he will get seven games against the Mets, three against the Braves and two versus the White Sox.