The fantasy playoffs offer an opportunity for streaking waiver wire players to make a difference when it really counts, and that is where we'll look today in this edition of the AL Stock Watch. The assumptions I'm using are 12-team, mixed leagues with standard scoring.
Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Yankees: One of the hottest hitters in a dangerous Yankees lineup, Swish has blasted eight homers during the past month, posting a batting average of .283 during that span. His high OBP (.378) leads to plentiful run totals (20 in the past 30 days). If his hot hitting continues — and power hitters like him are notoriously streaky — he could put you over the top.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers: He's done a little bit of everything during the past month: .301 average, four home runs, 16 RBIs and three steals. Those are better numbers than some bigger names (Jermaine Dye, Carlos Quentin) are producing, and should not be ignored in crunch time. Remember, Byrd plays most of his games in Arlington, a very hitter-friendly park.
Michael Brantley, OF, Indians: While his sample size is small (33 ABs), the results have been encouraging: .364 average, five runs, two steals. Hitting atop the Indians lineup, his most useful numbers will be his average (Triple-A: .267, .288 BABIP), runs scored (80), and steals (46). Even if he comes down to earth a bit, a .280 average isn't unreasonable with better luck converting balls in play into hits. That will provide plenty of running and scoring opportunities.
Jeremy Guthrie, P, Orioles: Although he pitches in a tough division, he has four quality starts during the past month (3-1 record with a 3.03 ERA). You should be shooting for consistency at this point, and Guthrie has been useful for most of the prior couple of years.
David DeJesus, OF, Royals: Not flashy, but extremely consistent. His season line of .275/12/66 is on the rise thanks to his red-hot August (.314/4/12). Young slugger Billy Butler is really emerging, and DeJesus should benefit from this recent surge in production. Leadoff guys who are setting the table for red-hot hitters like Butler are always valuable assets.
Trevor Cahill, SP, Athletics: The young A's hurler is stringing together a typical rookie campaign filled with ups and downs. But his recent numbers suggest he may have turned a corner (25 IP, 2-0, 2.52 ERA, three quality starts). His main issue has been working deep into games, but he's gone at least six innings in five of his past six starts, a good sign.
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox: He doesn't look to be snapping out of his season-long funk (.231/16/31), hitting an underwhelming .214 during the past month (although he does have five homers). At this point in time, I would find it very difficult to roll the dice on him getting hot with so much at stake. Hope for the best while he's on your reserve list, but don't continue to start him when he's this consistently cold.
Ricky Romero, P, Blue Jays: Simply atrocious the past month, he's posted an ERA of 5.91 and WHIP of 1.91, making him a bona fide ratio killer. He is 2-2 over his previous six starts (three have been quality), but isn't worth carrying considering the pitiful ratios and measly total of wins. He's hit the wall. Get rid of him.