Table: Do not bench list
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Schedule: 6 games - @ATL (3), FLA (3)
Analysis: If you had any worries about how Utley would return from a broken right hand, those doubts were quickly put to rest once he returned Aug. 27. Utley had three hits in his first game back, including his 18th homer of the season. He had a single in five at-bats the following night and now has a .337 average on the season. Utley was held out of the lineup Aug. 29, but it wasn't because of any lingering issues with his hand. It probably goes without saying, but Utley should be started in all fantasy formats both this week and for the rest of 2007.
Kelly Johnson, Atlanta Braves
Schedule: 6 games - PHI (3), WAS (3)
Analysis: Maybe Johnson hasn't been the fantasy breakout performer that he showed in the opening month, but owners that have held onto him have still been rewarded with a decent season. Johnson is hitting .289 on the year and has been a bit better since the break, batting .294 with six homers and 21 RBI. However, he might have a rough time keeping his recent hot trend going this week. Johnson hasn't been as strong at home (.260 BA, five homers, 27 RBI), and he has a .237 average in 76 at-bats against Phillies and Nationals pitchers this year. Johnson is a decent fantasy option this week, but don't expect him to help carry your offense too much.
Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Schedule: 7 games - TOR (3), @BAL (4)
Analysis: For at least one month, Pedroia has become quite a bit than a mid-tier fantasy option. His .326 batting average in August isn't a huge surprise, given his .318 average for the season. However, Pedroia has also managed to score 20 runs in 24 games, hit two homers, drive home 12 runs and steal three bases. Blue Jays' pitchers seem to have Pedroia figured out, as he's batting only .194 in 36 at-bats against them this year, but he should rebound nicely in Baltimore since opposing offenses have tattooed Orioles' pitching for 90 runs in Baltimore's last eight games. See if you can find a replacement for Pedroia during the Blue Jays series, but be sure to get him back into your lineups in time for Boston's trip to Camden Yards.
Orlando Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Schedule: 6 games - SD (3), STL (3)
Analysis: Hudson's overall numbers might look decent (.295 BA, 10 homers, 62 RBI, seven steals), but he has been a little frustrating from a fantasy perspective. Hudson has hit above .300 in three of the five months thus far, including a .313 mark in August, but he hit just .232 and .253 in the other two months. There hasn't been much of a disparity between his average on the road (.291 BA) or at home (.299 BA). The only major difference is most of his power comes at home - seven of his 10 home runs and all seven of his triples this season have come at Chase Field. That should help him put up respectable fantasy numbers against the Padres and the Cardinals this week, even though the two teams have held Hudson to a .211 average thus far in 2007.
Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays
Schedule: 6 games - @BOS (3), @TB (3)
Analysis: Hill may not look like a decent fantasy option this week, not with his struggles away from home this year (.235 BA, seven homers). The home/road disparity has been clear over his three-year career. Hill has been a solid hitter at Rogers Centre, with a .301 average and 14 homers in 200 games. On the road, he has been a disappointment to fantasy owners with a .256 average and nine homers in 192 games. But for whatever reason, Hill seems to thrive at Fenway Park. He is batting .423 with two homers in 26 at-bats there in 2007, and he owns a .353 average with three homers and 14 RBI in 85 career at-bats in Boston. Hill hasn't done anything magical at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field (.250 BA, zero homers in 80 at-bats), but he's worth starting based on his past exploits at Fenway Park.
Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Schedule: 7 games - OAK (3), CLE (4)
Analysis: Since returning from the disabled list Aug. 20, Kendrick has done as well as owners expected him to do all season. He pounded out six hits in his first two games back and has 14 hits in the 10 games since his return, batting .368 overall. The full-fledged breakout campaign may have to wait another year, but Kendrick can still be of some value to owners this year. He has a decent matchup against the A's staff (4.60 road ERA, ninth in AL) and a tough one against the Indians (4.16 road ERA, second), but Kendrick has proven that he can be a fantasy asset regardless of who's pitching against him. If he's healthy, plug Kendrick into your lineup next week.
Kazuo Matsui, Colorado Rockies
Schedule: 6 games - SF (3), SD (3)
Analysis: There aren't many second basemen that have been more valuable to fantasy owners than Matsui over the month of August. In 23 games, he batted .362 with 24 runs scored and 12 steals. Don't be surprised if that kind of production continues for at least one more week, mainly because the schedule has Matsui and the Rockies playing six games at Coors Field. Matsui has done most of his damage at home, batting .331 with three homers, 20 RBI and 36 runs scored in 38 games, and he is hitting .314 with five steals in 13 games against the Giants and Padres. If he's on your roster, get Matsui in your lineup this week.
Luis Castillo, New York Mets
Schedule: 6 games - @CIN (3), HOU (3)
Analysis: Castillo's fantasy stock with the Mets hasn't changed much when compared to where it was with the Twins. Since getting traded to New York, he has a high average (.289 BA) with plenty of runs scored (16 runs in 24 games) and a few steals sprinkled in (five steals). He has even picked up 10 RBI in 24 games hitting directly behind shortstop Jose Reyes. Unfortunately, Castillo's knee problems have also followed him to New York because he missed three games last week because of knee soreness. Castillo has appeared in each of the Mets' last three games, though, so it appears safe to start him next week.
Tadahito Iguchi, Philadelphia Phillies
Schedule: 6 games - @ATL (3), FLA (3)
Analysis: While the Phillies benefit from Utley's return, Iguchi owners are now left with a big problem. He had been a solid fill-in for Utley (and fantasy owners) since joining the Phillies (.305 BA, three homers, 10 RBI, five steals in 30 games), but his usefulness is about to decrease sharply. The team had thrown around the idea of moving Iguchi to a different position, like third base, but that doesn't appear to be in the plans anymore. So instead, Iguchi now becomes a pinch-hitter extraordinaire that may see a start or two at second base every week. It's hard to recommend cutting Iguchi, since he has proven to be a fantasy asset with consistent playing time. However, owners desperate in other areas may need to send Iguchi packing because his at-bats will likely limited from this point forward.
OTHERS FOR CONSIDERATION
Mark Ellis, Oakland Athletics
Schedule: 6 games - @LAA (3), @TEX (3)
Analysis: Overall, August has been a decent month for Ellis. He has a .265 average with four homers in the month, and he has collected hits in 23 of 27 games. Ellis is hitting .270 away from home and has a mixed outlook this week. The Angels own a 3.73 home ERA, third in the AL, and have held Ellis to a .214 average in 42 at-bats at Angel Stadium. On the other hand, Ellis has a .462 average in six games at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, where Texas pitchers have a 4.44 ERA on the year (ninth in AL). Get Ellis in your lineup when the A's invade Texas, but be wary of starting him at Anaheim.
Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners
Schedule: 6 games - @NYY (3), @DET (3)
Analysis: Lopez has bounced back from a dismal month of July (.207 BA) to post a respectable .271 average in August, but that's about all he's done for fantasy owners lately. Sine June 30, covering a span of 49 games, Lopez has only one homer, eight RBI and 13 runs scored. But there may be better news on the horizon, because the Mariners hit the road for six games this week. Lopez has been decent away from home (.284 BA, five homers, 30 RBI) and faces two squads with team ERAs above 4.90 since the All-Star break. Lopez clearly isn't an elite fantasy option this week, but he's worth using if you have a second baseman that isn't performing well of late.
Alexi Casilla, Minnesota Twins
Schedule: 6 games - CLE (3), @CHW (3)
Analysis: Owners looking for a speed boost could find just what they need in Casilla. Since taking over the full-time duties at second base July 31, Casilla has swiped five bases in 26 games. Unfortunately, he hasn't done much in any other fantasy area. He has managed to raise his average to .243 on the season, but Casilla has shown little to no power (only five of his 34 hits have gone for extra bases), and he has only scored eight runs in his 26 games as a starter. Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez and White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski haven't had lots of success throwing out base-stealers this year, so Casilla could help owners in the stolen base area this week. But if you have that category covered, Casilla isn't going to help you enough to warrant using for the week.
Josh Barfield, Cleveland Indians
Schedule: 7 games - @MIN (3), @LAA (3)
Analysis: Barfield currently ranks second among all Indians hitters with 13 steals on the season. However, don't start him and expect a couple more steals this week - or even playing time, for that matter. In Cleveland's 19 games since Aug. 7, Barfield has gotten a grand total of 13 at-bats. With a .197 average since June 30 and the Indians in the thick of a pennant race, Barfield probably won't get the chance to hit out of his slump this year. Since players don't help fantasy owners much when they don't play, Barfield shouldn't be in fantasy lineups this week, and he probably shouldn't be on your roster, either.
Ronnie Belliard, Washington Nationals
Schedule: 6 games - FLA (3), @ATL (3)
Analysis: The month of August has not been kind to Belliard. He entered the month hitting close to .300, but a .222 swoon has dropped his average down to .279. It has also caused Nationals manager Manny Acta to drop Belliard from the No. 2 spot to the bottom half of the lineup, further lessening his immediate fantasy impact. If you're hoping for a return to his early form, you could be greatly disappointed. In four of the last five seasons, Belliard's batting average following the All-Star break has been at least 47 points lower than his first-half average. So if you own Belliard, you might want to cut him loose and look for someone that has greater upside for the final month.
Mark Grudzielanek, Kansas City Royals
Schedule: 6 games - @TEX (3), NYY (3)
Analysis: Grudzielanek isn't a big power guy and won't be confused with any of the fleet-footed second basemen, so he needs to hit for a high average to be of any use to fantasy owners. He certainly did that in July (.429 BA) and though he has faded a little in August, his .316 average is still solid enough for fantasy purposes. Grudzielanek should be a solid option to start the week, as he owns a career .410 average at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and he may fare just as well against a Yankees' staff that has a 4.85 ERA since the All-Star break. If you have plenty of other players that can provide power and/or steals, Grudzielanek should be an outstanding complimentary starter for your lineup this week.
Ray Durham, San Francisco Giants
Schedule: 6 games - @COL (3), LAD (3)
Analysis: There's very little good news to report regarding Durham's fantasy stock. He has been limited to 70 at-bats in the month of August, in part because of hamstring issues. And when he hasn't hurt owners by collecting DNPs, Durham has hurt them with atrocious play. He collected nine hits in his 70 at-bats for the month (.129 BA), just two more than Arizona Diamondbacks starter Micah Owings had in 54 more at-bats. Even at trip to Coors Field might not wake up his dead-silent bat, as Durham is hitting only .143 in 21 at-bats there this year. At this point, any second baseman will be a better fantasy option for you than Durham this week.
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
Schedule: 6 games - HOU (3), @CIN (3)
Analysis: One of this year's breakout candidates entering the season, Weeks hasn't broken much of anything - except the hopes of fantasy owners, that is. Overall, Weeks' numbers look less like fantasy-star material and more like waiver-wire material (.230 BA, six homers, 21 RBI in 88 games). But owners need to have short memories and look at what he has done in the last two weeks. In 13 games since returning from Triple-A Nashville, Weeks is batting .326 with a homer, five steals and 13 runs scored. A big week could once again be in store for Weeks, as the Astros and the Reds rank 12th and 15th, respectively, in the NL in team ERA after the All-Star break. Weeks is definitely worth picking up and starting this week.
Brendan Ryan, St. Louis Cardinals
Schedule: 7 games - PIT (4), @ARI (3)
Analysis: Ryan has been filling admirably for the injured Adam Kennedy (knee), with a .317 average, four homers, 10 RBI and three steals in 105 at-bats. Ryan rejoined the Cardinals Aug. 12 and has seen the bulk of the time at second base since. He has slumped a little of late, with only one hit in his last 11 at-bats, but his outlook next week is still promising. The Diamondbacks have been solid at home (4.08 ERA, seventh in NL), but Ryan also has four games against Pittsburgh. Pirates' pitchers haven't had much success on the road (4.84 ERA, 11th in NL), and they've been even worse since the All-Star break (5.06 ERA, 13th). Ryan could be worth a look in deeper leagues this week.
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.