FANTASY PLAYS: Olson giving A’s a glimpse of their future

The Athletics are getting a glimpse into their future, while an unexpected source of power is driving the Twins from the cellar to a possible view from the penthouse. On the other hand, there is one Pirates player whose season has pushed him closer to the plank.

CHEERS

Matt Olson, OF/1B, Athletics: Once Olson honed his plate discipline, he’s performed like the 12th overall pick he was in the 2012 draft. Olson is in the midst of a full-on assault against American League hurlers as his home run in Wednesday’s win at the Red Sox was his seventh this month and 14th since the All-Star break. While he still strikes out at a 27.3 percent rate, Olson improved his on-base percentage from .310 before the break to a .385 clip. The discipline is even better this month as Olson is reaching base at a .423 mark. His isolated power of .364 would lead the majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Olson is on pace to finish with 21 homers, an impressive number considering he had just 51 at-bats prior to August 1. He’s displaying classic slugger traits with a pull percentage of 47.2 percent while hitting the ball hard at a 43.4 percent rate. If you picked up Olson a few weeks ago, you’re benefiting off a youngster who has the potential to string together a few seasons of 35-40 homers.

Eddie Rosario, OF, Twins: Signs of his power first appeared when he smacked 21 homers in just 67 games in rookie league ball in 2011, yet Rosario’s power outage eventually dipped to a .446 slugging percentage last season with the big club. He’s now emerged as the young slugger the Twins once envisioned him to become as he entered Thursday’s play with a .507 slugging percentage and an .838 OPS. Rosario is proving his first half slash line of .287/.325/.458 wasn’t a fluke by dialing it up to .303/.339/.572 after the All-Star break, and his walk-off homer in Wednesday’s victory over the Padres may be the defining moment of the regular season for a Twins team that has gone from 103 losses last season to a team entrenching itself into the American League’s second wild card spot. He’s added a dose of speed with eight stolen bases and should hit double-digits in that category by season’s end. What’s more impressive is that he’s made the most of his .315 BABIP by becoming more of a flyball hitter, putting the ball in the air at a rate of 36.8 percent while also seeing his HR/FB rate climb from last year’s 11.9 percent to its current 16.1 percent. Rosario was available in most leagues throughout much of August before owners finally hopped on board. Those who caught onto him early are riding one of the American League’s hottest hitters.

TEARS

Starling Marte, OF, Pirates: Few players are more in a rush to see this season end than Marte, whose 80-game suspension for PED usage has been followed by lackluster play upon his return. While Marte has stolen 14 bases since rejoining the Pirates on July 18, he has hit.208 this month with a .283 OBP and .333 slugging percentage. His power may have spiked in 2015 with his 19-homer campaign as his isolated power of .097 is a worse follow-up than the .111 ISO Marte produced in 2016. For the second time in three seasons, more than half of Marte’s contact has resulted in ground balls while his line drive rate is barely hovering above 20 percent. He has just 41 line drives hit this season as opposing pitchers have apparently discovered that attacking him with sliders is an effective way to get him out. In 2016, Marte saw sliders at an 18 percent rate; it’s now at 20 percent. At this point, there’s little reason to have Marte in your lineup outside of what he can offer on the base paths, yet the adage ”you can’t steal first base” applies perfectly. It is easy to dismiss this season as a lost one for Marte, the declining numbers across the board are a strong indication that perhaps his peak has past and that the days of becoming a toolsy journeyman could arrive as early as this winter if the Bucs decide to change course with the franchise.

FEARS

Rick Porcello, P, Red Sox: Late 19th century star hitter Tip O’Neill finished his career with a .326 batting average. With the way Porcello has pitched this month, he’s making the American League into a bunch of Tip O’Neills as hitters are thumping the reigning AL Cy Young award winner at a .326 clip. Porcello, who has allowed four or more runs in four of his last 10 starts, has a bloated 7.84 ERA this month and is tied with Mariners hurler Ariel Miranda with a major league-high 35 homers allowed. He has only gone consecutive starts without allowing a homer just once this season (May 23 & 28) and has given up multiple homers ten times. A dominant ground ball rate overshadowed his 38 percent fly ball rate in 2016, a sign that Porcello was playing with fire. He’s engulfed in pitching flames as the jump to a 39.5 percent fly ball rate has resulted in a HR/FB total of 14.8 percent, more baffling considering Porcello is striking out batters at a career-best 8.07 K/9. If Porcello is still of use to you, it certainly speaks volumes of how bad your staff is.

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com