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This Week In Streaming Strategy: Sept. 24-30

This is it.  The last full week of the baseball season, the last week of head-to-head fantasy league playoff finals and (really) your last chance to pick up significant points through strategic player streams.  Let's see what players can still make a big impact in a short amount of time.

* Norichika Aoki.  If you're looking for both an NL Rookie Of The Year dark horse and a big reason why the Brewers have caught fire in the second half, look no further than Aoki.  He quietly stepped into an everyday role as the Brew Crew's right fielder and leadoff man in June and has put up very solid numbers, stealing 28 bases and taking a .311/.388/.467 line against right-handed pitching into Saturday's action.  Milwaukee opens its week with four straight games against right-handed starters and could face as many as two more righties depending on how the Astros set their rotation for next weekend's series, so Aoki is well-positioned to keep delivering.  Aoki is still available is 46% of Yahoo fantasy leagues so get him as quickly as you can.

* Alcides Escobar.  The Royals shortstop has had a reverse-splits season, hitting better against right-handed pitching (.304/.336/.412) than left-handed pitching (.274/.333/.339) despite being a right-handed batter.  With Kansas City facing at least five right-handed starters out of seven games this week, this is a good time to jump on the bandwagon, as Escobar is owned in just 66% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, and I'd suspect he's a backup in several of these leagues.  (To wit, I've put Escobar on my own bench in the wake of Ben Zobrist gaining shortstop eligibility.)  Escobar is an intriguing young player who deserves a better fantasy fate than this, especially since he also has 31 steals in 36 attempts this year.  That's right, it's time to sound the CHEAP STEALS ALERT.  Imagine if you literally stole your fantasy playoff matchup thanks to one stolen base?  We'd have to sound the OH, SWEET IRONY alert, which oddly sounds a lot like George Plimpton sighing.

* Andy Pettitte.  Let's take a moment to acknowledge how crazy it is that it's 2012 and I'm still writing about Andy Pettitte as a viable fantasy option.  I think I'd ultimately hesitate before putting the guy in the Hall of Fame, but there's no doubt that Pettitte has had a tremendous career and is still more than capable of shutting down Major League lineups at age 40.  Pettitte looked solid in his return from the DL last Tuesday, throwing five shutout innings against Toronto, and I'm recommend him as a good two-start option for this week.  Pettitte faces the Twins on Monday and is lined up to face the Blue Jays again over the weekend --- both with middle-of-the-pack numbers against lefty pitching and playing out the string on the season.  Both starts will be on the road, and while Pettitte has performed better at Yankee Stadium this year (1.85 ERA in seven home starts, as opposed to a 5.40 ERA in three road starts), it's too small a sample size to predict that Pettitte is prone to struggling outside the Bronx.  Pettitte's long DL stint may have made many fantasy owners forget about him, as he is owned in only 25% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  You could take a chance on a younger, fresher face as a streaming starter this week, or you could pick a guy who has pitched well in umpteen clutch games over the years.  Umpteen, by the way, is also the name of a new drama on The CW this fall, chronicling the high school days of Jim Joyce, C.B. Bucknor, Marty Foster and other men in blue back when they were just boys in blue.  I expect ratings gold.

* Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez.  I'm very hesitantly recommending these two just because the Pirates are scheduled to face right-handed starters in all seven of their games this week, setting up these two righty-killers (Jones has an .881 OPS and 22 homers against RHP this year, Alvarez an .837 OPS with 23 homers) for a big week, in theory.  Then again, in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "In theory, communism works!"  Jones and Alvarez are both notoriously streaky hitters and they've both been ice cold in September, with their slumps a big reason why the Pirates have fallen apart down the stretch.  If you have the roster space and pressing need for some first base/outfield or third base help, I'd pick up Jones or Alvarez and stream them accordingly for a few days to see if they can turn things around with all these favorable matchups.  As a Jones owner myself, I'll be feeling the pain of my own recommendation if he doesn't turn things around.

* Alejandro De Aza.  Robin Ventura benched De Aza for two games last week, saying the center fielder was pressing a bit at the plate and in need of a rest.  (And, Ventura also used the opportunity to get Dewayne Wise's hot bat in to the lineup.)  Since returning, however, De Aza has started all five games and gone 10-for-22 at the plate, including a four-hit outing against the Royals on Wednesday.   De Aza's production has taken a dip in the second half of the season but he's still hitting .291/.347/.428 against right-handed pitching this season, and with the White Sox facing righty starters in at least five of seven games this week, Ventura will surely keep his regular center fielder in the lineup as long as he's swinging well.  With De Aza probably back in Chicago's lineup for the duration, that doesn't leave much room for...

* Dayan Viciedo.  The righty-heavy slate of opposing pitchers is a bad sign for Viciedo, who has just a .625 OPS against right-handers this season.  (And a 1.003 OPS against southpaws, to be fair.)  With so many righties coming up, the White Sox may give Wise more playing time than Viciedo; Wise is a lefty bat, hitting the ball well right now and brings much more to the table than Viciedo in terms of defense and base-stealing.  I'm not suggesting that you add Wise since his career numbers indicate that his hot streak won't last long, but if you have Viciedo, I'd suggest leaving him on the bench and going with another option this week.

* Trevor Cahill.  The right-hander enjoyed significant home/road splits over his first three seasons in Oakland, so the question for Cahill coming into his first year as a Diamondback was whether he could learn to pitch effectively away from the O.co Coliseum.  On the bright side, the answer seems to be yes, as Cahill has a 2.91 ERA in 15 road starts this season.  On the down side, Cahill hasn't quite mastered his new home ballpark, as Cahill has a 4.96 ERA in 15 starts at Chase Field this year.  Even though Cahill is scheduled to face the hapless Rockies and Cubs this week, I'm not recommend him as a two-start streaming option.  The first start is at Coors Field so that's a red flag in and of itself, while the start against the Cubs is in the unfriendly confines of Chase Field.  Cahill has thrown three straight quality starts and is trying to finish strong after a middling 2012 season but I'd stay away from him this week.


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