It's September 1, which means we should see a flood of prospects being called up from the minors over the next few days. Unfortunately most of the significant ones aren't assured of regular playing time. Assuming Russell Martin's thumb is OK, Jesus Montero may only serve as the designated hitter against left-handed pitching down the stretch. Worth a look in AL-only leagues, but hardly a no-brainer in mixed formats.
We have similar situations elsewhere. The Reds already have two quality catchers in Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez, so Devin Mesoraco may only get a handful of at-bats per week. Anthony Rizzo may have to share playing time with the hot-hitting Jesus Guzman in San Diego. And while I think Brandon Guyer could be a sleeper in AL-only leagues next season if the Rays trade B.J. Upton this winter, the best-case scenario is that he may share playing time with Matt Joyce in right field this month.
I don't doubt that we could see a couple call-ups emerge as mixed league options in the next week or so, but I'm willing to wait and see with most of them.
Let's move on to the good stuff.
Brandon McCarthy SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 11.8 percent)
McCarthy allowed just two runs over eight innings and struck out a career-high 10 Monday night against the Indians, but was saddled with the tough-luck loss. This is actually a blessing in disguise for fantasy owners, as McCarthy continues to fly under the radar despite a 3.64 ERA and 93/22 K/BB ratio over 133 2/3 innings. He'll get the Mariners at home on Saturday, which qualifies as a favorable matchup in H2H leagues.
David Murphy OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 16 percent owned, ESPN: 3.7 percent)
The Rangers briefly expressed interest in Lance Berkman after Nelson Cruz went down with another hamstring injury, but now that the waiver deadline has come and gone, Murphy has a clear path to playing time in right field. The 29-year-old outfielder has conveniently hit safely in each of his last five games, including two homers and eight RBI. You may recall that Murphy was a useful fill-in for Cruz and Josh Hamilton down the stretch last season, so let's see if lightning can strike twice.
Jason Motte RP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent)
Tony La Russa throwing fantasy owners for a loop? Impossible. Motte notched his first save of the season Sunday against the Pirates, after which La Russa hinted that more opportunities could be on the way. Of course, Fernando Salas worked the ninth inning on Tuesday, but it's worth noting that Motte is currently in the best stretch of his young career. The hard-throwing right-hander hasn't allowed an earned run over his last 31 appearances dating back to the end of June. This includes a ridiculous 19/2 K/BB over 23 2/3 innings. Grab him now in hopes that the audition continues.
Dayan Viciedo 3B, White Sox (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 9.8 percent)
After weeks of clamoring, the White Sox finally promoted Viciedo from Triple-A Charlotte over the weekend. "The Tank" is off to a fine start, batting .538 (7-for-13) with one home run, one double, four RBI, four runs scored and one stolen base over his first four games. Carlos Quentin's status remains in doubt and Adam Dunn will play a lesser role down the stretch, so Viciedo should continue to get plenty of at-bats, whether at first base, DH or in the outfield. The eligibility at third base is just a bonus.
Mike Trout OF, Angels (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 4.1 percent)
I never thought I would include Trout under mixed league recommendations this season, but it's difficult to ignore what he is doing right now. The 20-year-old is batting .400 (10-for-25) with four homers, one double, seven RBI and nine runs scored since returning from the minor leagues earlier this month. This includes a two-homer game against the Mariners on Monday. And in Safeco Field, no less. In a word, impressive. Granted, it's unfair to put high expectations on Trout right out of the gate, but can he really be worse than what we've seen from Vernon Wells this season? With the Angels fighting to stay alive in the American League West, the rookie outfielder is worth the gamble.
Doug Fister SP, Tigers (Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 46.1 percent)
Some wondered if Fister would regress after leaving Safeco Field behind. It hasn't happened yet. He is 3-1 with a nifty 2.97 ERA and 23/2 K/BB ratio over 36 1/3 innings since being acquired by the Tigers before the trade deadline. This includes three consecutive outings of seven innings or more while allowing one run or less. He'll get the Indians on Monday and depending upon how Jim Leyland decides to play it, he could get a second start against the Twins next Sunday. Buy.
Austin Jackson OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 37.6 percent)
Going 4-for-4 against the Royals on Wednesday night obviously helped, but Jackson finished an otherwise disappointing month of August with 19 runs scored and 13 RBI, both season-highs. While the 24-year-old center fielder is still batting just .249 with a .316 on-base percentage this season, Tigers manager Jim Leyland has not wavered from putting him at the top of his lineup. Jackson has stolen just four bases in five attempts since the All-Star break, but don't discount his impact with counting stats. He's a fine pickup if you need help in certain categories.
Rafael Betancourt RP, Rockies (Yahoo: 30 percent owned, ESPN: 47.1 percent)
Rockies manager Jim Tracy surprised many last Friday when he said that Betancourt would remain the closer, despite Huston Street returning from the disabled list. That figured to change after Betancourt blew a save on Saturday, but Tracy went right back to him on Sunday. Street obviously has the edge in closing experience, but Betancourt has been flat-out better for a while now, posting a 0.45 ERA and 31/1 K/BB ratio over his last 20 innings dating back to early-July. Things could change at any moment, but Betancourt should be owned until it does.
James Loney 1B, Dodgers (Yahoo: 31 percent owned, ESPN: 44 percent)
Is it just me, or is Loney playing like someone who realizes they will probably be looking for a new home this winter? The normally light-hitting first baseman has really turned things around recently, batting .397 (29-for-73) with five homers, six doubles, 14 RBI and a 10/10 K/BB ratio over his last 24 games. By the way, Loney had just 11 extra-base hits over his previous 62 games combined. This late surge may be too late to keep him from being non-tendered this winter, but he can still help fantasy owners.
J.D. Martinez OF, Astros (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 20.3 percent)
Carlos Gonzalez led the majors with 30 RBI in August, but would you believe that Martinez finished the month with 28 RBI? It's true. The rookie outfielder continues to surprise in his first taste of the big leagues, batting .293/.328/.509 with five homers, 10 doubles and 29 RBI over 30 games. The 24-year-old has only drawn seven walks and never displayed much patience in the minors, so he doesn't figure to help in OBP formats, but he is clearly taking advantage of batting third in Brad Mills' lineup. Martinez is a bit of an unknown quantity, to be sure, but the RBI opportunities should continue to be there.
Freddy Garcia SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 23.1 percent)
There are exceptions to every rule, which is the primary reason why I am including Garcia here. Chasing wins is generally a bad idea, but if you need a last-minute option to stay alive in a H2H format, Garcia makes for a decent enough play against the Blue Jays on Sunday. While the veteran right-hander hasn't pitched nearly as well as his 3.09 ERA would indicate this season, he has allowed three earned runs or less in five consecutive starts and in 10 out of his last 11. He has a 4.51 xFIP at home this season compared to a 3.91 xFIP away, so cross your fingers and hope the Yanks' bats give him some support.
Carlos Ruiz C, Phillies (Yahoo: 24 percent owned, ESPN: 10.4 percent)
After going 3-for-4 in a win over the Reds on Wednesday night, Ruiz finished the month of August with a .329 batting average. This was after batting .324 during July. Granted, the 32-year-old backstop has disappointed in the power department this season, but his .370 on-base percentage is fourth among fantasy catchers. He has also shown himself to be a steady second-half performer in recent seasons. I wouldn't be surprised if the Phillies give "Chooch" the occasional day off as they prepare for the postseason, but he should be able to help in deeper mixed leagues.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Jose Altuve 2B, Astros (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 7.2 percent)
I was a little worried that Altuve was being pushed too soon when he was called up from Double-A Corpus Christi in July, but he has done nothing but hit so far. The 21-year-old second baseman is batting .305 with two homers, nine doubles and four stolen bases over his first 154 at-bats in the big leagues. Oh, and when I say nothing but hit, I really mean it. He has drawn just three walks. We're not talking about a finished product here, but if you are looking for MI (middle infield) option who is playing regularly and has the ability to maintain a palatable batting average, Altuve should do fine.
Paul Goldschmidt 1B, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 7 percent owned, ESPN: 8 percent)
Goldschmidt was called up from the minors at the start of August due to his power potential and the young first baseman has met expectations thus far, collecting five homers, four doubles and 14 RBI over his first 26 games. Granted, he has struck out 29 times in 82 at-bats, so to expect anything more than his current .256 batting average may be a bit of a stretch, but that's not why you're buying him, anyway. His power is very real and should be an asset in most mixed formats down the stretch.