Down one week, up the next: That's fantasy
If there is a theme to this week's column, it is to live for the moment. In the first half of the season, fantasy owners can afford to ride slumps while they chase players who will have significant long-term value. But at this time of year, it is imperative to get maximum production from each week's lineup. This week's recommendations are filled with hitters who are hot and starters who could rack up K's next week.
Catcher, Jason Castro (Astros): The 27-year-old was one of last season's breakout performers, but he has been quite ordinary this year. He showed signs of improvement by hitting .270 with three homers in July, and he has carried those improvements into August.
First baseman, James Loney (Rays): He is not an exciting asset, but Loney provides a helpful batting average, and he is on fire in August. With four multihit games so far this month, the 30-year-old is the perfect short-term injury replacement.
Second baseman, Jedd Gyorko (Padres): Gyorko slugged 23 homers in 125 games last season, making the 25-year-old one of the most powerful options at his position. Now back in action after a long disabled-list stint, he is the perfect middle infielder for owners who need homers.
Shortstop, Everth Cabrera (Padres): It is unusual to put two Padres hitters in this column, but like Gyorko, Cabrera offers plenty of upside. He struggled in the first half of the season, but when he is healthy, the 27-year-old is one of baseball's best basestealers, as is evidenced by his 81 steals from 2012-13.
Third baseman, Trevor Plouffe (Twins): Plouffe is known as a streaky slugger, and he is going in the right direction right now, with 11 hits, one homer and six RBIs in his past five games. The third-base position has not been a fantasy gold mine this season, and Plouffe is a fine short-term option.
Outfielder, Chris Coghlan (Cubs): The 29-year-old is red-hot, with 13 hits and six walks in his past eight games. Coghlan can smack a homer or steal a base, so he is worth mixed-league attention until his bat cools off. The rebuilding Cubs will likely give him a long leash to prove himself down the stretch.
Outfielder, Oscar Taveras (Cardinals): This prized prospect is finally getting a chance to show his stuff as a full-time player. He has collected a hit in nine of his past 10 games, which is a good enough reason for fantasy owners to roster such a talented young player. Taveras could experience some inconsistencies because of his youth, but his upside is immense.
Outfielder, Josh Reddick (A's): Like Plouffe, Reddick is a streaky hitter who is hot right now. Heading into Thursday's game, the lefty masher has five multihit efforts to go along with three homers and eight RBIs in his past 10 games. Reddick is a key part of the A's revamped lineup, and he should provide cheap power for mixed-league owners.
Starter, Wei-Yin Chen (Orioles): The lefty allowed nine runs over five starts before running into some trouble in Toronto last week. Chen is scheduled for two starts next week, against the Yankees and Indians, and he should continue to be quietly effective.
Starter, Kyle Hendricks (Cubs): The 24-year-old has allowed four earned runs in four starts since being recalled on July 22. He is scheduled to face the Brewers at home and the Mets at Citi Field next week, which should give him an excellent chance to continue to find success.
Starter, Collin McHugh (Astros): With 107 K's in 95 innings, McHugh boasts one of the best strikeout rates among all starters. He is scheduled for two outings next week, which could result in close to 15 K's. Since he faces a pair of non-contenders in the Twins and Red Sox, he should also supply solid ratios.
Starter, Tom Koehler (Marlins): Koehler has been much better at home (2.45 ERA) than on the road (5.05 ERA) this season. He has a good chance to succeed next week, as he gets the Cardinals and D-backs in Miami. Surprisingly, St. Louis is 29th in baseball in runs scored, and the D-backs are playing without their superstar, Paul Goldschmidt.
Starter, Drew Hutchison (Blue Jays): The 23-year-old struggled in July, but he is coming off 8 2/3 innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles on Wednesday. Hutchison lines up for a pair of road starts next week, and he owns a 3.27 ERA away from Rogers Centre this season.
Starter, Shelby Miller (Cardinals): Miller struggled with his control in the first half, but a brief stint in the bullpen may have solved those problems. He has walked just one batter in three starts since rejoining the starting five, and his solid 2013 numbers show what the 23-year-old is capable of. If he can handle a road start against the Marlins, Miller should enjoy a late-week home start against the Padres.
Reliever, Joaquin Benoit (Padres): Now that Benoit has survived the non-waiver Trade Deadline, he is a must-add in all leagues. The right-hander should pick up most saves for the Padres the rest of the way, and his outstanding success with the Tigers last season shows that he is more than capable of handling the closer's role.
Reliever, Santiago Casilla (Giants): The 34-year-old has not blown a save since taking over the closer's role at the beginning of July. Former fireman Sergio Romo has pitched well of late, but as long as Casilla continues to protect leads, the Giants will have no reason to give Romo his old job back.
Reliever, Cody Allen (Indians): In short, Allen is a top-tier closer, and he should be owned in all leagues. For some reason, the 25-year-old has not received much buzz, but he has picked up 14 K's without allowing a run in his past nine innings of work.