Lets get right to it and take a lap around the AL, headlined this week by a few familiar names who are surging as playoff time approaches.
Michael Young, SS/3B, Rangers: He has a .364 average with nine homers during the past month, and is well on his way to eclipsing his career high in home runs of 24 (he currently has 20). Good things are ahead for Young, as he is the proud owner of a .317 career batting average in the month of September, giving the Rangers and his fantasy owners a real shot at playoff success.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: The power looks to be back (six homers in the past month), but that shouldn't surprise anyone, considering he owns a career .345 average in August (which is also his best power month, too). We'd love to see him run a bit more, the four steals being a bit disappointing, but it is very difficult to complain about a guy who is on pace for a .300/20/110 campaign. Expect more of the same down the stretch.
Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: His .301/14/64 season line hasn't been great, but its the .331 average and six long balls so far in the second half that have really stood out. Butler already has 41 doubles this year, and you have to believe some more of those balls will begin leaving the yard as he continues to mature (remember, he is only 23). He is a big-time breakout candidate for in 2010, and someone who could really help you down the stretch this season.
Neftali Feliz, P, Rangers: The guy has done nothing but mow batters down since his promotion to the Rangers bullpen (16 K's in 10 innings), and shows no signs of melting in the summer sun. More importantly, his control has been impeccable, as he has yet to walk a batter thus far. He is this year's Joba Chamberlain or David Price, and should follow a similar path as them in 2010, with a move to the rotation almost certain.
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: Playing for his next contract, Damon has yet to slow down in '09, and has continued to be solid during the past month with a line of .296/6/18. Along with those consistent numbers, he is also a great source of runs and steals, making him a must-start in all fantasy formats. He should be strong down the stretch as the Yankees look to lock up a playoff berth.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Kubel is finally putting it all together in '09 with a .311/20/68 line. He still can't hit lefties (.219 average), making him better off with a platoon partner, which limits his value in mixed formats. For those in daily transaction leagues, he makes a great play against righty pitchers hitting in the middle of a very good Twins lineup.
Ervin Santana, P, Angels: He has won his past three starts pretty convincingly, so this could be the sign of him having turned the corner. A career September ERA of 3.85 bodes well for the rest of '09, so look for a handful of wins and lots of strikeouts here during your fantasy playoffs.
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: Hitting only .196 with three home runs during the past month is a fast way to fall out of favor with both your organization and fantasy owners. He has a career slugging percentage of .463 in September, lowest of any month in his career, so a dramatic rebound is unlikely. Simply put, he just can't be trusted right now in the most crucial part of the fantasy season.
Rick Porcello, P, Tigers: The rookie has put together a wonderful season (10-7 4.21 ERA), especially considering he never pitched a game above Single-A ball in the minors. My biggest concern here is workload, as he's never pitched more than 125 innings in a season. His current pace is about 160. There are many emerging rotation options on the waiver wire, making it a safe time to cut Porcello loose in most shallow, mixed, non-keeper formats.