- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The trading deadline has passed in most fantasy baseball leagues, so if you're going to get help for the stretch run, your players will need to step up, or you'll need to find some worthy free agents. While previous September performance can be a harbinger that certain players simply close better than others that doesn't necessarily mean Troy Tulowitzki will hit 15 home runs and knock in 40 runs this time around. However, if you could still pick up a player for little cost who has had previous late-season success, wouldn't you at least consider the possibility?
Well, let's consider them right here, right now. Here are some readily available players that showed us something in the season's final month a year ago. Perhaps they can do it again!
David Murphy, OF, Texas Rangers: A year ago, this oft-overlooked but productive player batted .355 with three home runs and four stolen bases in September, and over the course of his career his top batting average (.308) and OPS (.857) has come in the final month. With Nelson Cruz limping off the field Sunday night, one would think Murphy's steady playing time will remain fluid.
Jim Thome, DH, Cleveland Indians: The owner of baseball's top OPS (1.399 ) last September with a minimum 50 plate appearances, Thome is hitting cleanup for a contending team. Yes, the Indians are contenders, but even if they fall out of the race, the team doesn't have better choices. I wouldn't expect Thome to help your batting average, but nearly half his hits in the final month last year (7 of 15) were home runs, and he clearly has opportunity.
Ryan Raburn, 2B/OF, Detroit Tigers: His career numbers tell the tale of either an underachiever the first halves of seasons, or a complete overachiever after the All-Star break. Still, Raburn batted .378 with five home runs last September; in his career, 26 of Raburn's 50 home runs and 89 of his 195 RBIs have come in August and beyond. The numbers don't lie, and Raburn has been buried deeper in the past than he appears to be currently.
Kelly Johnson, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays: He hit .337 with seven home runs last September/October, and his career batting average in the final month is .315 (all other months it's .251!). It's not too late for him to help you, and while his new team will face a lot of Red Sox/Yankees pitching, you have to ask yourself, is that really a bad thing?
Mark Ellis, 2B, Colorado Rockies: Now here's a second baseman recently moved from the AL to the NL. Ellis hit .413 last September, which was nice -- albeit unexpected -- since it followed up a .217 August and .221 July. Ellis is hitting .285 in 46 games with the Rockies, and .323 at Coors Field. The Rockies are scheduled to play 12 home games in September.
Raul Ibanez, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: I've been asked quite a bit lately about John Mayberry Jr., the younger Phillies outfielder now hitting right-handed pitching, but I don't expect manager Charlie Manuel to bench Ibanez. Perhaps this is a straight platoon. Regardless, Ibanez closed well last season with a .340 batting average and power, belying his age, and his career September batting average is .295. Plus, the Phillies have 33 scheduled games the final 31 days; Ibanez and Mayberry will both play quite a bit.
Vernon Wells, OF, Los Angeles Angels: OK, so perhaps you simply don't like or trust this fellow. He is hitting .216, after all. Then again, he has four multi-hit performances in the past week, with six extra-base hits, and he hit eight home runs with 19 RBIs and a .298 batting average last September/October. Over the course of his career, his September numbers are on par with other months, but he has by far his most games, plate appearances and total bases at the end, because of health. Incidentally, Wells' similarly overrated outfield teammate Bobby Abreu has a .901 career OPS in September/October, his second best month. And he's still stealing bases.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates: I'd feel better if he was actually in the big leagues right now, but Alvarez did hit .311 with five home runs and 26 RBIs last September. Yes, he has had a brutal season, but the talent remains, and the sub-.500 Pirates would look kind of foolish not using him, frankly. He is their future at third base, not Josh Harrison, Brandon Wood, Steve Pearce, Chase D'Arnaud or Richie Hebner (oh, how I miss Richie Hebner). In deeper leagues remember Alvarez.
Eric Karabell offers several pickup suggestions, players who have hit well in the month of September in recent years, such as Jim Thome and Kelly Johnson.