Mixed-league owners should think seriously about benching Davis at this point in the season, unless they really need his homers. The lefty slugger went deep seven times in August, but he hit .161. He has not hit over .210 in a month since April, so it is hard to expect a turnaround in September. Davis drove in 17 runs last month, and he also scored 17 times, so the counting stats are there for owners who are far from the competition in batting average. But in most situations, the 28-year-old will need to find a spot on the bench.
As far as replacements go, Vargas is a fine option. The rookie has collected 26 RBIs in 30 games, and he is hitting .317. A 37-to-4 strikeout-to-walk rate suggests that his batting average could drop at some point, but there is nothing wrong with trying him for the coming week, especially since the Twins play seven games. At this point in the season, it is not necessary to lock onto one player to replace a struggling star such as Davis. Vargas can get his chance this week, and if he struggles then the waiver wire will likely have other options for the next stanza. It is important to choose short-term options based on their upcoming schedule. Look for hitters who play seven games, and look for ones who have several games in hitter-friendly venues, or against weak starters.
As for the basestealers, Davis is the much safer option, but the recommendation here is to use Schafer for the coming week, and then re-evaluate. Davis has swiped just one base since Aug. 20. He also swiped just three bases in July, and if it was not for a three-steal game last month, he would have just five swipes in the second half. Schafer is the most underrated source of speed in fantasy baseball right now. The 27-year-old stole 11 bases last month, and he swiped those bags in 11 different games. The Twins are using him daily out of the nine-hole, and he is swinging a hot bat. Schafer's career track record suggests that at some point he will struggle to get on base and then his steal pace will drop off. But fantasy owners only need him to keep this up for one more month in order to gain valuable points.
Eric Hosmer or Chris Carter at 1B the rest of the way?
Hosmer was well ahead of Carter way back in April, but the choice for September is definitely the Astros slugger. Carter was nothing short of outstanding in August, when he hit .270 with 12 homers and 29 RBIs. Fantasy owners who dismiss Carter as a one-month wonder would be missing the big picture, as he hit .289 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in July. The 27-year-old has been arguably the best fantasy first baseman in the past month, and he is simply too hot to sit in any league. Fantasy owners do not need to overthink some decisions in September. Roll with hot hitters such as Carter, because they may not cool off until 2015.
Hosmer is a tough player for owners to evaluate for the stretch run. He returned to the Royals' lineup Monday after a lengthy DL stint due to a hand injury. The 24-year-old was a weak fantasy option for most of the season before finally heating up in July. His 2011 and '13 numbers show that Hosmer could be a useful fantasy asset in September. But his more recent performances should quiet expectations. Also, it could be hard for a player to come off a lengthy DL stint and immediately heat up in a postseason race.
Hitters such as Edwin Encarnacion and Bryce Harper are examples that even the most talented sluggers sometimes struggle to regain their timing after a lengthy absence. There are four weeks left in the regular season, and fantasy owners do not have time to wait for Hosmer to get on track. It is true that some players hit the ground running when they come off the DL. For example, Adam Eaton returned from the disabled list last week, and he quickly helped mixed-league squads. But Eaton missed barely more than two weeks, and his injury was not related to his hands.
Too far out for some solid two-start pitchers for next week?
Pitching schedules can change throughout the week, especially in September when there are many Minor League callups, but it is never too early to plan ahead. Most fantasy owners start to look at two-start options on the weekend, and owners who look at the schedule a couple days earlier can have a big advantage. Here are some options to target, if you want to stash next week's two-start pitchers before the competition takes notice:
- Miguel Gonzalez has pitched very well this summer, and he will face the retooling Red Sox in Fenway before returning home to take on the Yankees.
- Roberto Hernandez is not a great source of strikeouts, but fantasy owners who are looking for wins can give him a chance next week, when he takes on the Padres at home before hitting the road to meet up with the Giants in their pitcher-friendly home park.
- Josh Collmenter has had plenty of success of late. He has pitched very well at home, where he will face the Padres after he duels with the Giants in a road start.
- Marcus Stroman has been inconsistent thcan giveis season, but he has looked great at times and he could have success at home next week against the Cubs and Rays.
Of the four pitchers mentioned here, Gonzalez and Collmenter are likely the safest options, while Stroman offers the most upside.