The 2012 fantasy baseball season is beginning to wind down. Playoff contention begins within the next few weeks.
In most leagues, trade deadlines have already passed. Nearing September, owners are scavenging the waiver wire for last-second additions to round out their playoff rosters.
Most major talent has been discovered, and many major league teams are falling out of the hunt. Additionally, many owners tune in late in the game to salvage their seasons. Their collectively increased attention leaves a rather thin selection of impact players to be claimed.
So, who makes the cut?
The following players will serve fantasy baseball owners well down the stretch of the 2012 season and might still be available on the waiver wire.
Brandon Morrow has the ability to turn in a few consecutive dominant starts down the stretch
Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow is back from injury and should be back on fantasy teams in every league.
Morrow has missed time since early June with an oblique injury. Before his DL stint, Morrow allowed just over a 3.00 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 78 innings.
Brandon Morrow possesses the talent necessary to key fantasy teams to playoff victory. Owners are looking for him to have a stretch like he did at the end of April and early May.
Morrow had three consecutive starts with eight or more strikeouts and allowed just one earned run in 21 innings of work.
This season, Morrow has seen his ERA drop as low as 2.27. However, his constant injury concerns have led owners to lose confidence in his consistency.
The bottom line is that Morrow can impact fantasy baseball leagues because he can easily rack up seven to 10 strikeouts in an outing.
The only knock against Morrow is that the Jays could potentially shut him down before the official end of the season if his oblique acts up again. The team (56-70) can afford to postpone his services if Morrow feels any discomfort.
Should the right-hander remain active for the remainder of the season, he could be a gem down the stretch in fantasy baseball.
SS Pedro Ciriaco has been one bright spot during a tough season for the Red Sox
Shortstop is a very thin position, making it significantly harder to find quality starters on the waiver wire this late in the fantasy season.
Still, shortstop Pedro Ciriaco of the Boston Red Sox could be a valuable asset for teams on the brink of playoff success.
During limited time in 2012, Ciriaco has turned in a .360 batting average and been a spark plug at the bottom of the Sox lineup. He has played in 42 games, stolen nine bases and added 21 runs.
Most importantly for fantasy owners, Ciriaco appears to have won the everyday starting shortstop job for Boston. As the Sox look to carry out the end of the season on a strong note, Ciriaco will be a larger part of their offensive plan.
Pedro Ciriaco is valuable in many fantasy leagues because he chips in little bits every day. He consistently scores runs and steals bases. Ciriaco hits for a high average, which allows bats like Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia to drive him in,
Ciriaco also holds second base eligibility in most leagues, having started 12 games at short and 13 at second to date. Since everyday second baseman Pedroia's return from a thumb injury, Ciriaco has continued shine, but at shortstop.
Toward the end of the season, Ciriaco's speed and average will help boost fantasy teams over the playoff hump.
CWS pitcher Jose Quintana could helped anchor the back end of many fantasy rotations this fall
If owners still find themselves pressed for help at the starting pitching position, they could turn to Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox for a late-season lift.
Quintana owns a 2.86 ERA in 16 starts this season, striking out 62 batters in 110 innings. He also holds eligibility as a reliever in some leagues, is young (23) and presumably still fully healthy entering September.
Chicago leads the AL Central by two-and-a-half games entering play on August 27. However, to fend off the Tigers to win the division, the White Sox are going to need consistency from their starting rotation.
Quintana hasn't allowed more than four runs in a start since July 13. The left-hander keeps the White Sox in games, and his ability to keep his earned run total down could be a major asset for fantasy owners.
At the end of the season, owners look for a guy who can earn wins. On the White Sox, Quintana has a great chance to do so if he keeps playing at his current level.
He may not offer the greatest strikeout potential, but this late in the season, Jose Quintana could be a valuable addition to a team in need of steady starting pitching. He should be available on the waiver wire, and Quintana is worth giving a shot.