Table: Do not bench list
Yuniesky Betancourt, Seattle Mariners
Schedule: 6 games - @NYY (3), @DET (3)
Analysis: While the Mariners are rolling atop the America League Wild Card chase, Betancourt is not feeling the love, totaling just two RBI in his last 16 games and going homerless since August 11. He hasn't scored a run in his last eight and hasn't stolen a base since June 18. His position as "second lead-off hitter" - i.e. ninth in the order - had been working out before this stretch. The 25-year-old is hitting 9-for-25 (.360) with four RBI against the Detroit Tigers, and 5-for-21 (.238) against the New York Yankees.
Orlando Cabrera, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Schedule: 7 games - OAK (3), CLE (4)
Analysis: Cabrera is close to tying his best seasonal total in his past five seasons. Not that a mark of nine home runs is a bells-and-whistles accomplishment, but it just adds to Cabrera's steady production that has made him a cheap option the entire season. His RBI production has been down the past two months - 14 in July and 12 in August - and he hit just .202 in July. His five stolen bases are the most of any months this season, as the Angels are playing their patented 2002 Scioscia Ball. Cabrera is 8-for-26 (.308) against Cleveland and 10-for-50 against Oakland, but he has three RBI against each team this year.
Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers
Schedule: 7 games - @CHC (4), @SF (3)
Analysis: Like the majority of the Dodgers, Furcal isn't making too much noise at the plate this season. One good thing going for the Dodgers: in their frustrations over Juan Pierre's inability to reach base from the leadoff spot (note his .323 on-base percentage), Furcal has been a fixture at the top of the order. His batting average has jumped an aggregate of 12 points since the beginning of July, and he still continues to score runs. He had steals in back-to-back games on Aug. 26 and 27, with 10 steals total this month. You know with Furcal that you're not getting much help in slugging categories, but he could be a very productive play this week. He is 16-for-39 (.410) with six RBI against the Giants this year and is 3-for-9 with an RBI against the Cubs.
Julio Lugo, Boston Red Sox
Schedule: 7 games - TOR (3), @BAL (4)
Analysis: In the category of overblown rests the deficiencies in Lugo's offensive production. Those who waited through the extremely rough June patch - the .089 average and a whopping four RBI - are getting at least some return on their investment. Lugo has hit .313 in each of the last two months, with 14 RBI in August one short of tying his total from last month. Sure, Lugo was atrocious in the middle of the season, but at least he's showing some sparks now. You can't look at the past in fantasy - always remember to look at what your player can do for you now. At this moment, he has raised his average 18 points since the start of August, and has 11 doubles this month. He is 14-for-45 (.311) with seven RBI against Baltimore, and 13-for-47 (.277) with a home run and four RBI against Toronto.
Ryan Theriot, Chicago Cubs
Schedule: 7 games - LA (4), @PIT (3)
Analysis: Theriot's value hit a bit of a snag this week, as Alfonso Soriano was activated from the disabled list on Aug. 28. This knocks the Louisiana native out of the Cubs leadoff spot. Theriot was excelling from the lineup perch, creating scoring chances for himself by working counts and finding ways to reach base; he hit .314 and had a .358 on-base percentage while hitting first. Unfortunately, accommodating the seven-year contract franchise player outweighs comforting fantasy owners. He should not be totally discounted, however, as he will still be a consistent player anywhere else he hits in the lineup. Theriot is 1-for-5 against Los Angeles, but has dominated Pittsburgh with a 13-for-31 (.419) clip with five RBI and three runs scored.
Jason Bartlett, Minnesota Twins
Schedule: 6 games - CLE (3), @CWS (3)
Analysis: Consider him healed. After missing a week of action with a hamstring injury, Bartlett has returned to the tune of a six-game hit streak in which he is 13-for-26 with seven RBI. He has received endless guff from fantasy analysts for his weak offensive production this season, and most was warranted outside his mediocre contribution of 21 steals. August has been by far his most productive fantasy month by going 29-for-78 (.372), with 12 RBI, five doubles and five triples. Bartlett has struggled against Chicago at 9-for-48 (.188) with an RBI, but he has scored nine runs against the Sox. His 13-for-46 (.283) campaign against the Indians is nothing to get excited about either. He has hit .342 for his career in August but then plummets to .202 in September. It might be risky to sign him if you have more consistent options available, but those desperate for shortstop help might plug him in until he shows signs of his former self. Tread carefully here.
Yunel Escobar, Atlanta Braves
Schedule: 6 games - PHI (3), WAS (3)
Analysis: As Edgar Renteria sits on the disabled list, Escobar is brewing up some action in Atlanta. He has scored a run and tallied multiple hits in six of his last nine games. The Braves have scored at least six runs in six of those games, and it appears that Escobar has become a trigger at the top of the Braves' lineup. El Magico could transform your team if you need temporary help in speed categories.
J.J. Hardy, Milwaukee Brewers
Schedule: 6 games - HOU (3), @CIN (3)
Analysis: This Hardy Boy experienced a mysterious decline in production since his frighteningly amazing April and May. After just 14 RBI over June and July, he has solved the conundrum with a .287 August, marking his highest batting average this month. Pitchers had puzzled him in the middle of the season, as they had seemingly figured out how to pitch to the highly touted youngster. But he is starting to rekindle his fire with nine RBI in his last 10 games. Hardy has six home runs and 12 RBI in a 17-for-49 (.347) campaign against Houston, and he has three solo home runs against the Reds this year. Both matchups favor a happy ending.
Felipe Lopez, Washington Nationals
Schedule: 6 games - FLA (3), @ATL (3)
Analysis: Lopez is one of the great examples of position scarcity. At second base, he's an above-average option. At shortstop, he has certainly not the first one to come to mind. He does have three home runs in August, tying his season high for a month. His .305 on-base percentage, 13-for-49 (.265) 2007 clip against Florida and 13-for-44 (.295) 2007 mark against Atlanta don't scream "Play Me." Let Felipe save his voice and continue your shortstop search elsewhere.
OTHERS FOR CONSIDERATION
Khalil Greene, San Diego Padres
Schedule: 6 games - @ARI (3), @COL (3)
Analysis: Mo Green built Las Vegas. This Greene has constructed career highs in home runs (19), RBI (73), doubles (35) and strikeouts (96) in 2007. He's whiffed in approximately 20 percent of his at-bats this season despite having a season-high 18 RBI in the month of August. The hacker won't cause any batting average comfort (despite raising his average from .232 to .248 this month), and anyone who picks him up will have to hope for a power surge. Don't be tantalized the fact that he normally bats fifth or sixth in the San Diego lineup. One upside is that Greene has three home runs and 12 RBI against the Diamondbacks, the most against any team this year. He is hitting .269 and .255 against Arizona and Colorado, respectively.
David Eckstein, St. Louis Cardinals
Schedule: 7 games - PIT (4), @ARI (3)
Analysis: Vital information: Scrappiness doesn't register in traditional 5-by-5 leagues. Eckstein broke the stat sheets with a earth-shattering .299 slugging percentage. No, that wasn't a typo with his batting average. The only things going for him are his equivalent walk and strikeout totals (19). His blank triples total doesn't back his candidacy as a speed demon. He has not faced the Diamondbacks this season, and is 11-for-41 (.268) with a home run and three RBI against the Pirates.
Alex Gonzalez, Cincinnati Reds
Schedule: 6 games - NYM (3), MIL (3)
Analysis: His return from the bereavement list hasn't been an immediate transition into the lineup, but he knocked three hits on Aug. 30 against the Pirates. He is 13-for-34 (.382) with three home runs and eight RBI in his abbreviated August, but Jeff Keppinger has been taking up his time at short while Gonzalez was caring for his ill son. Gonzalez has provided several spurts of offense this year, and could be useful in deep leagues or those scrounging on the waiver wire. Gonzalez is just 1-for-2 with an RBI against the Brewers, and 3-for-8 against the Mets with two RBI, so his sample sizes are limited.
Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks
Schedule: 6 games - SD (3), STL (3)
Analysis: This has not been the Summer of Drew that prognosticators had hoped for, as it has taken a little extra time for the former mega-prospect to develop. His small sample size of action last year (.316, five homers, 23 RBI, seven triples in 209 at-bats) gave fantasy owners hope that these numbers would translate into his full-time work. He hasn't carried that success over and has had a downright frightening August with a .187 clip. Abandon this ship, but watch out for next year, as the extra year of experience could help you in March.
Omar Vizquel, San Francisco Giants
Schedule: 6 games - @COL (3), LAD (3)
Analysis: You're not paying him to make his usual outstanding plays in the field. Well, you wouldn't pay him in anything but roster appreciation, but the key here is that offense usually pays dividends. Despite knocking in five RBI in his last 10 games, the best fielding shortstop of his generation should remain just that. The lithe 41-year-old doesn't swipe enough bases - his last steal came on Aug. 1 - to justify slotting him in at short. For those who like matchup plays, Vizquel has excelled against the Dodgers, hitting 15-for-41 (.366) with three RBI. He is hitting 13-for-44 (.295) with three RBI against Colorado.
Jeff Keppinger, Cincinnati Reds
Schedule: 6 games - NYM (3), MIL (3)
Analysis: Opportunity knocked, and Keppinger welcomed it in with bat in hand. Since Gonzalez went on bereavement leave, the 27-year-old recorded a hit in 17 of 19 games, including a run of 14 straight August 11-25. He has hit 34-for-86 (.395) in August with three home runs and 12 RBI, and has not shown any sign of slowing down. Gonzalez's return, however, will eat into the youngster's time, and he might not be a valuable presence if Gonzalez settles in.
OTHERS FOR CONSIDERATION
Edgar Renteria, Atlanta Braves - Out until September
Bobby Crosby, Oakland Athletics - Out until September
Cristian Guzman, Washington Nationals - Out for season
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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.