Table: Do not bench list
Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Schedule: 6 games - @TOR (3), @TB (3)
Analysis: Although he has just five RBI in his last nine games, Pedroia devoured American League East foes Baltimore and Toronto from Aug. 31 to Sept. 9, hitting 19-for-47 (.404). Fantasy players write him off because they include him in the "Tiny Scrappy Infielder" demographic just because of his size. Pedroia should in no way be lumped in with the likes of Chicago Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot, since he certainly doesn't steal enough to fit into that mold; he hasn't swiped a bag since Aug. 8. He has seven multi-hit games through his first 11 September games. Pedroia's bat is sneakily scary for opposing squads, as his gap power - evidenced by his 35 doubles - makes him a legitimate RBI threat, even from the leadoff spot. He just came off a 5-for-9 performance in two games against the Toronto Blue Jays, so it can be inferred that he will produce against them this time around. He is also 10-for-30 against Tampa Bay. With Manny Ramirez (oblique) absent from the Sox order, young prospect Jacoby Ellsbury has taken time in left field while hitting in the leadoff spot. With Pedroia sliding down a notch to the No. 2 hole, he could find runners on base ahead of him when he gets his slap hits. If this helps his RBI total, he will remind you of why he's the leading candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers
Schedule: 6 games - @COL (3), @ARZ (3)
Analysis: Hidden among the youth and general offensive futility in Los Angeles, Kent has been the quiet rock. With a two-homer outburst against the Giants Sept. 9, Kent snapped out of a funk by homering for the first time since Aug. 28. He has compiled a hit in eight of his last 10 games - including a five-game hit streak - and has clubbed three homers in a span of three games Sept. 10 through Sept. 12. The veteran has sported a .331 average since the All-Star Break and is tied for the home run lead for second basemen with 20. Kent is hitting .364 with eight RBI in nine games against Colorado, and he's 9-for-13 with six RBI at Coors Field. He also has four BRI in six games at Chase Field. Needless to say he will be a good play this coming week. Old Reliable should be a solid play for the coming week.
Kelly Johnson, Atlanta Braves
Schedule: 7 games - FLA (3), vs. MIL (4)
Analysis: Johnson had just one extra-base hit from to Aug. 28 to Sept. 12, and he hasn't stolen a base since Aug. 4. He only drove in eight runs in August and has just four RBI in 11 September games. Although his numbers are dwindling, Johnson is worth having as the leadoff hitter in the Braves' lineup, but he has trouble producing at home. Six games at Turner Field with his .261 home batting average isn't encouraging, especially when you consider his .306 road average as of Sept. 13. Johnson also has 10 road home runs and 44 RBI compared to five bombs and 23 RBI in Atlanta. His matchups, however, seem favorable, as he has two homers and eight RBI against Florida and is 6-for-12 with a home run and three RBI against the Brew Crew.
Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins
Schedule: 7 games - @ATL (3), NYM (4)
Analysis: Uggla has had possibly the quietest 29-homer, 100-run season in the bigs this year - certainly far from the sophomore slump that he was presumably lined up for. He already topped his 27-dinger 2006 campaign, and is tied with Brandon Phillips for the home run lead among second basemen. However, there are hints to a downfall. Uggla is 6-for-38 (.158) so far this month, and he hit .221 last September. This might be a pattern of him wearing down near the end of the season. You'll have to deal with his brutal 149 strikeouts to live with his power numbers, which will be some of the best outside of the "Do Not Bench" list. He has four home runs against Atlanta this year, hitting 17-for-64 (.266) with 12 runs scored. He is hitting a paltry .182 against the Mets this season.
Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Schedule: 7 games - TB (3), SEA (4)
Analysis: In 72 games total in 2006, Kendrick mustered just 25 runs and 76 hits. His totals of 47 and 89, respectively, through 73 games this season show a more mature approach in his offense. His home run and RBI totals are also nearly identical in the same time frame, and his on-base percentage has increased by 37 points to a serviceable .341. Since his return from the disabled list (finger), Kendrick has eight RBI in his last 10 games. He is also hitting .360 with a .882 OPS since the All-Star Break. Despite these great numbers, the youngster certainly isn't the catalyst behind the Angels' offense. He won't even give you average power numbers, but he will plug together some runs and boost your offensive ratios as he puts together one or two hits per game. You could do worse here.
Kazuo Matsui, Colorado Rockies
Schedule: 6 games - LAD (3), @SD (3)
Analysis: Matsui left the game Sept. 8 with strained right hamstring, but as of Sept. 12 was working out on a treadmill after taking batting practice the previous day. He unleashed on the basepaths in August, swiping 12 bases in 13 attempts. As expected, his numbers away from Colorado drop off significantly, with his .322 Denver batting average trumping his .262 number on the road. He has proven useful in the typical second basemen speed categories, and with his normal slot in the two-hole, he offers ample chances to score in the highly rated Rockies lineup. He has six runs scored and four steals against the Padres, and four stolen bases despite a grotesque .107 batting average against the Dodgers. Steals might be hard to come by early in the week, as he'd be running against the defensively gifted Russell Martin. He should be fine by the time next week rolls around, so feel free to insert him into your lineup.
Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays
Schedule: 6 games - BOS (3), @NYY (3)
Analysis: Hill had a renaissance season, going from disappointment to useful player with an exponential improvement in home runs - his 15 bury his 2006 total of six. He is 17-for-58 (.293) against the Red Sox this year with two home runs and six RBI but has 12 strikeouts mixed into that equation. He has a home run and eight RBI against the Yankees in his 13-for-46 (.283) run against them. He is a fair play at his position this week.
Orlando Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Schedule: 6 games - SF (3), LAD (3)
Analysis: Hudson has so far bucked his trend of a September tailspin, hitting 7-for-17 (.412) in his first nine games of the month. His career average for the month is .260, and he's helping out the Diamondbacks at the right time as they fight to hang onto the National League West crown. Hudson has proven to be one of the leaders of the Baby Backs, providing experience and stability atop the batting order. He has driven in just 16 of his 63 RBI after the All-Star Break, but he has turned on the jets, swiping seven of his 10 stolen bases in the same timeframe. If that wasn't enough, he has two triples in his last four games. Luckily for his owners, he has beaten up on both divisional opponents. He is 14-for-43 (.326) with six RBI against San Francisco, and 13-for-43 (.302) with seven RBI and two stolen bases against the Dodgers.
Luis Castillo, New York Mets
Schedule: 7 games - @WAS (3), @FLA (4)
Analysis: Castillo was given the day off on Sept. 12 due to swelling in his knee, but according to MLB.com, Mets manager Willie Randolph said the injury "looks worse than it is." He is expected to play within the next few days. Castillo has made a brand new start of his season with the Mets' offense. His situation in Queens has certainly been a step up, as his 2007 numbers tell a grass-is-greener story. In 34 games with the Mets, he has 12 RBI; he had 18 in 85 contests with the Twins. He has six steals in New York, and he had nine in Minnesota. Although his Shea average toils at .233, Castillo has more opportunities to create and score runs in the loaded Mets lineup, and he has adjusted to the point that he's worth minute fantasy consideration. He hit his only home run of the season at Washington, and is 8-for-28 (.286) with three RBI against them this year. He is 4-for-15 (.267) versus the Marlins.
Mark Ellis, Oakland Athletics
Schedule: 6 games - vs. SEA (3), @ CLE (3)
Analysis: On the desert island that is the 2007 Oakland Athletics, Ellis has been one of a few fantasy survivors. His career high of 17 homers has been a boon for his owners at a power-devoid position. Consistently batting around the heart or the middle of the order, he has a hit in nine of his last 10 games, including his last seven. Ellis' proximity in the A's lineup can add an advantage in his production for your team. He has bowled over Seattle this year at 22-for-65 (.338) with a home run, 10 RBI and 10 runs. He is 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer and three RBI against Cleveland. Play him if he's available and you don't have a stud.
OTHERS FOR CONSIDERATION
Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners
Schedule: 7 games - @OAK (3), @LAA (4)
Analysis: Lopez was a treasure trove last year for rosters starving for a consistent second baseman. He has lost some luster, along with Seattle's entire offense. Lopez has tanked thus far in September, hitting 5-for-27 (.185) with three RBI and a nauseating .241 on-base percentage through his first nine games this month. After posting 17 RBI in May and 19 in June, he has posted just 11 in July, August, and September combined. He has hit just .218 since the All-Star Break. Unfortunately, even the uglier facets of life affect fantasy sports, as this slide could be attributed to a personal tragedy in July; he hasn't played well since his brother's death in Venezuela. On Sept. 8, he was pinch-hit for by September callup Jeremy Reed with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, as the Mariners put the game in the hands of a minor leaguer. It might be best to let Lopez deal with his family situation for the rest of the year. If you have confidence he will turn it around, he is 11-for-48 (.229) with two home runs and six RBI against Oakland, and 12-for-45 (.267) against the Angels.
Alexi Casilla, Minnesota Twins
Schedule: 6 games - TEX (3), CWS (3)
Analysis: Casilla has taken over the role of Luis Castillo - to the point where he's fitting in nicely with the atrocious offense of 75 percent of the Twins' infield. He has played just 11 games since Aug. 24, which was when he last recorded an RBI. He has to share infield time with the likes of Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, Luis Rodriguez, three fellow weak-sticks. Casilla has seven hits in his last five games, and stole a base in consecutive games on Sept. 10 and 11. He is 1-for-11 (.091) with a stolen base against Texas, and hasn't played against the White Sox this season. If you're longing for steals - and if a plummeting batting average doesn't bother you - Casilla could be a last resort.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
Schedule: 6 games - DET (3), OAK (3)
Analysis: Cabrera's quick style of play was apparently just the right medicine for the formerly slumping Indians offense. His contrast from Barfield's - well, lack of speed - makes him a great fit for the eventual playoff team. He has six RBI in his last three games and is riding a 10-game hit streak. He has been slotted into the No. 2 slot in the order, and playing both complement to Grady Sizemore and waiter to Travis Hafner's table might give Cabrera the final push for playing time over Barfield in the near future. The Indians are 20-8 in games he's played since his debut, as he certainly transforms the lineup with his presence. Snatch him up if he's available. He is 3-for-11 (.273) with an RBI against Detroit, and has yet to play Oakland this year.
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
Schedule: 7 games - @ HOU (3), @ ATL (4)
Analysis: Weeks issued a stern, "Hello, remember me?" to fantasy owners with eight hits over his last four games, including a two-homer performance on Sept. 9. Of course, his track record this season only treats that with a grain of salt, but among all the waiver wire fodder out there, Weeks is certainly one of the more proven options. He has six steals in 23 games since he was called up on Aug. 10. Once again a starter, Weeks is quickly reemerging as a fantasy option, and could be useful down the stretch since the Brewers are still fighting for their playoff lives. His bat pop could help fantasy owners in their postseason runs. He is 8-for-38 (.211) with three RBI against Houston, and 0-for-6 against Atlanta.
Josh Barfield, Cleveland Indians
Schedule: 6 games - vs. DET (3), vs. OAK (3)
Analysis: Barfield has essentially lost his job to Cabrera, and has played in just 11 games since Aug. 12. He drove in a run in a 1-3 effort from the ninth spot in the order on Sept. 12, as Cabrera played shortstop. Barfield hit in the ninth spot and entered as a pinch-runner in his prior two games, and he seems to have fallen out of place in Cleveland. Cabrera looks to be the more solid option for now, and unfortunately, Barfield's play relies on Cabrera playing shortstop or needing a day off. If you feel like rolling the dice, he's 9-for-44 (.205) against Detroit and 8-for-28 (.286) against Oakland this season.
Ronnie Belliard, Washington Nationals
Schedule: 7 games - NYM (3), PHI (4)
Analysis: Belliard has a hit in nine of his last 10 as of Sept. 13, including eight straight contests. Over that span, he has hit in the second, sixth, and seventh spots in the order, so he is far from having an established role with the Nationals. His highlight last week was breaking up Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz's no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the eighth. Belliard has been just that: an underrated pest that has the ability to pull through once in a while with some big hits. He hasn't had stellar numbers against both of his upcoming opponents, hitting 12-for-44 (.273) with four RBI against the Mets, and 11-for-48 (.229) with two home runs and three RBI against the Phillies. If your options are slim, Belliard wouldn't be the worst player to pick up, but he wouldn't be optimal.
Mark Grudzielanek, Kansas City Royals
Schedule: 7 games - CWS (4), @DET (3)
Analysis: Grudzielanek is a sturdy hitter that will give you an average around .300, but is not a source for outstanding numbers. The 37-year-old is still reliable enough to hit in the No. 2 hole for a young Royals team, as the squad still feels he has the ability to set up the rising stars. He has just two RBI in his first 10 games of September, but he can still be considered as an emergency option. Grudzielanek has obliterated Detroit, hitting 17-for-46 (.370) with six RBI and eight runs, but is just 7-for-29 (.241) with three RBI against the White Sox.
Ray Durham, San Francisco Giants
Schedule: 7 games - @ARI (3), CIN (4)
Analysis: Much like the Giants' season after the Barry Bonds home run chase, Durham is swirling in a fog right now. He is just 3-for-24 (.125) through eight September contests, and this is coming off of an equally stomach-curdling 9-for-73 (.123) August campaign. Oddly enough, he stole four bases in August, and that remains this only true fantasy contribution. He is 13-for-50 (.260) with a home run and five RBI against Arizona and 3-for-12 with a homer and two RBI against Cincinnati.
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 competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.