With slightly more than two months remaining in the regular season, the time has passed for fantasy owners to plan for the future. The current focus should be on players who can provide immediate assistance, and the 10 men listed below could all help in a surge up the standings in the coming days.
Michael Conforto, Mets: The Mets' second-ranked prospect, Conforto was recalled last week in an effort to jump-start a sagging lineup. The 22-year-old has responded to the promotion by hitting .250 in his first 16 Major League at-bats, and he should hold a regular lineup spot for as long as he is providing offensive contributions. Conforto is not a speedster, and he lacks the necessary power to be a factor in shallow leagues. But the youngster could reach base often enough to help those in deep formats. Consider in: 15-team mixed
Ryan Howard, Phillies: Howard may never return to his glory days, but his ability to rip round-trippers makes him an interesting late-season option for owners who can support his current .227 batting average through 92 games. The 35-year-old is on pace to approach the 30-homer and 85-RBI marks this season, and there are few hitters on waivers who can match his power. Owners surrounded by close competitors in the batting-average category should not consider Howard, but those looking for pop should consider him. Consider in: 12-team mixed
Dexter Fowler, Cubs: With a career .363 on-base percentage and respectable speed, Fowler seems like the perfect leadoff man for a youthful Cubs lineup. The 29-year-old has hit just .244 this season through 97 games, but some of those struggles have been the result of a .292 BABIP; he has always posted higher than usual BABIPs, leading to a career .341 mark. With a continued patient approach and better fortune on balls in play, Fowler could be a source of steals, runs and respectable batting average across the season's final two months. Consider in: 12-team mixed
Adam Eaton, White Sox: The White Sox have made notable offensive improvements since the All-Star break, and Eaton has served as the team's sparkplug out of the leadoff spot. The 26-year-old is hitting .308 with six homers in 117 at-bats since June 23, and he could be among the American League leaders in runs scored during the final two months of the season if his supporting cast extends its recent success. Consider in: 12-team mixed
Rusney Castillo, Red Sox: Fantasy owners scooped up Castillo in most leagues when he was recalled on May 22. However, the 28-year-old hit .230 before being demoted by the Red Sox and shipped to waivers in most mixed leagues on June 21. The recent trade of Shane Victorino to the Angels has given Castillo a second chance at a full-time role, and his notable blend of power and speed makes him worth a speculative addition in many leagues. Consider in: 12-team mixed
Miguel Gonzalez, Orioles: Despite a lifetime 1.3 HR/9 rate, Gonzalez has managed to produce a respectable career 3.56 ERA. Simply put, when the right-hander keeps the ball in the yard, he is an effective starter. With a pair of scheduled road starts against the A's and Angels next week, Gonzalez will have the pitcher-friendly backdrops he needs to find success. He is a terrific Week 18 addition for those who need a two-start spark. Consider in: 10-team mixed
Chris Tillman, Orioles: Tillman has turned around a rough start to the season by posting a 1.09 ERA in his past six outings. Many are unsurprised by the turnaround of the righty, whose career 3.67 second-half ERA is notably lower than his lifetime 4.42 first-half mark. With a pair of starts at pitcher-friendly parks on tap for next week, Tillman deserves a second chance from mixed-league owners who sent him to waivers during his early-season struggles. Consider in: 12-team mixed
Tom Koehler, Marlins: With a 2.61 ERA in his past six starts, Koehler has quietly become one of the hottest starters in baseball. The right-hander may not be able to extend his surge for the duration of the second half, but he deserves an active lineup spot in most mixed leagues for his upcoming two-start week. Looking ahead, Koehler could thrive in a home start against a Mets lineup that ranks 26th in baseball with a .672 OPS against right-handers before he heads to pitcher-friendly Turner Field to face a Braves squad that ranks last in the Majors with 61 homers. Consider in: 10-team mixed
Jake Peavy, Giants: Peavy posted a 2.17 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP in 12 starts with the Giants last season, and he could be poised for another late-season surge with the defending World Series champions. Since returning from an extended disabled-list stint on July 3, the right-hander has registered a 2.84 ERA in five outings. Next week, Peavy will make a start at Atlanta's offense-suppressing Turner Field before heading to Wrigley Field to face a strikeout-prone Cubs squad. Consider in: 12-team mixed
Ken Giles, Phillies: Closer Jonathan Papelbon was finally traded to a contender. The deal clears a spot for Giles to take over Philadelphia's ninth-inning role, and he should instantly become a lineup regular in all leagues. With a 1.49 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and an 11.8 K/9 rate in his career, the right-hander has the skills to handle his upgraded responsibilities. A lack of save chances from the last-place Phillies may keep Giles behind the elite fantasy stoppers, but he should slide solidly into the second tier. Consider in: 10-team mixed
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.