Let's stick to the format used in the NL Stock Watch earlier this week and examine the 2008 September numbers of a handful of relevant fantasy names. Monthly data collection and comparison has never been a concrete way of judging a player's abilities, but it must be considered with so much on the line this last month. September 2008 stats are in parentheses.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers: (.356/6/23) The power translated from Triple-A (37 homers in '08), but the batting average did not (.265 in '09, .342 in '08). He's been a victim of a little poor luck (.282 BABIP). He's a 35-homer guy in the majors, but may never see his average rise above .280.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: (.400/5/24) Sometimes the peripherals just don't add up, but there is always that guy who goes against the trend. Choo has raised his average to .301, inflated a bit by a .381 BABIP. But his BABIP is regularly above .370, so it could be a true reflection of his skill. He makes a solid number three outfielder the remainder of the season.
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS, Indians: (.416/2/22) He followed up a dismal '08 campaign to post career bests across the board this year. That said, his BABIP is .371 (40 points higher than his career average), meaning he is more in the .280-.285 range as a hitter. His 16 steals have been a nice surprise. You really can't go wrong here.
Jon Lester, P, Red Sox: (4-1, 2.14 ERA, 28/13 K/BB) His '09 season hasn't always looked pretty, but he's actually been very good. His FIP (fielding independent) ERA of 3.10 shows how excellent he's been pitching. He'll be strong down the stretch, and should be a bargain in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts next season.
A.J. Burnett, P, Yankees: (2-0, 1.82 ERA, 38/12 K/BB) I know he hasn't been good the past month or so, but the skills haven't gone anywhere (40/17 K/BB in 37 innings). He should be a source of wins down the stretch until the Yankees clinch the division and start coasting into October.
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: (.228/2/7) His hot start to the season is now a distant memory, as he's hit only .222 after the break. He's been hampered by some nagging injuries, most recently his ankle, which should keep him out of action for a handful of games. He's extremely talented, but needs to put it together for a full season.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: (.243/2/21) He is a career .261 hitter in September, .250 in August. Could it be a case of being overworked? Possibly, but without proof, you'll just have to speculate. He's too good to hold out of your lineup, but may struggle as the season comes to a close.
Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: (.264/0/3) He's having a career year (.302/29/90), but lands here due to his disappointing close to '08. He's a skilled hitter, but I worry he'll tire down the stretch in his first full Major League season. Start him in all formats, but manage your expectations.
Kevin Millwood, P, Rangers: (0-3, 6.10 ERA, 24/7 K/BB) His 10-8 record and 3.61 ERA this season have been very pleasant surprises for Rangers fans starving for good starting pitching. He was horrendous near the finishing line last year and, in the hot summer sun of Arlington, could wilt again as '09 comes to a close.
Felix Hernandez, P, Mariners: (0-3, 4.41 ERA, 21/13 K/BB) From June on, his career monthly ERA climbs, topping out at 3.89 in September. The King finally earned his “Man Card” this season by consistently challenging hitters. But he still needs to finish strong if he is to permanently shed the reputation of being a nibbler.
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