Certain players seem to step up their performances when the pennant races reach their peak in August and September, and in fantasy, those players are nice to have since they always seem to make a big statistical impact. With the trade deadline just around the corner in many leagues and the major-league pennant races only continuing to heat up, here are 10 players I think should step up and help carry their real and fantasy teams in the season's final weeks:
Bobby Abreu, OF, Yankees: He looks rejuvenated since his trade to the Yankees, and that makes sense, since he no longer has the pressures of being his team's leading man, as he was in Philadelphia. In eight games in pinstripes, Abreu is 14-for-34 (.412 batting average) with one homer, five RBI, three stolen bases and a 1.062 OPS, and seven of those contests had him in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Is there any better place for Abreu for fantasy than hitting between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Abreu's combination of hitting and on-base ability means he could be every bit the statistical performer he was for the Phillies from 2003-05, when he averaged .296-25-103-31 numbers per year. In fact, scale those numbers to New York's remaining 52 games and I'd call them a minimum expectation from him the rest of the year, even with Gary Sheffield's return looming.
Jeremy Bonderman, SP, Tigers: Go ahead and worry about his poor finish to the 2005 season, when he was 1-6 with a 6.64 ERA in seven starts from Aug. 1 forward. Bonderman wasn't quite as experienced a pitcher back then, and the main reason for his struggles was a sore elbow that ended his season early. He's on a much better Tigers team this year, and he's clearly a stronger pitcher than he was in 2005. How can you tell that? Bonderman has averaged 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings this season, up from 6.9 a year ago, which suggests he's building arm strength and continuing to develop as a pitcher. Some owners might be ready to bail on him thinking another late-season swoon is in order, but I think there's actually a greater chance Bonderman improves on his current rates to step up and carry a Detroit rotation that has seemed a bit shaky the past couple weeks.