September is the month where stars earn their draft spots. In fantasy sports, there is so much fluctuation week to week that a poorly-timed slump can cost a team their title chance. That being said, for one reason or another, these players might not do what you expect them to when it matters most.
Every league is different, with different playoff setups or rotisserie scoring, but for the purposes of this article, players were considered for their anticipated production in September alone. The difficulty with many of these players is that trade deadlines have passed, and they are too good to drop. At this point in the season, you can only pray I am wrong.
Speaking to fantasy owners, it sounds like they think Bryce Harper has been the National League's version of Mike Trout this season. In fact, Harper is batting .247. He has 12 home runs and 13 steals to go with 67 runs scored.
Of course, those numbers are exceptional for a 19-year-old. But some plug him blindly into their daily lineups, raving about him despite the fact he has hit .176 in the last 23 games. There may come a day in the near future when Harper will deserve a place on your bench.
Harper owners, it really is okay to bench him. You can do it, and you might be better off for it.
Justin Upton may be a general disappointment this season, but the Arizona schedule seems to indicate things could get worse just when you need them to get better.
As August turns to September, Arizona opens the month with two games in Los Angeles at Chavez Ravine. They follow that up with three at AT&T Park and Petco Park. After an eight-game homestand and three in Colorado, the Diamondbacks will play three more in San Francisco.
The point is, the NL West is ripe with pitcher's parks and quality rotations. It may be time to accept the 2012 Upton for what he is: a .275 hitter with a few home runs.
Chris Sale has already more than doubled his inning count from 2011. Sale might even be a Cy Young contender in his breakout campaign, sporting a 2.65 ERA with an 8.8 K/9. However, after questions about his health early in the season, the White Sox will not hesitate to sit him at the first sign of trouble.
Sale is the future of the Sox rotation. He is 15-4 at 23 years old. He served exclusively out of the bullpen in 2011 and has a whip-like arm action that looks violent and creates extensive torque on the elbow.
There is no way to know if or when Sale will be shut down, but every start could be his last of the season at the slightest twinge in his arm. Have alternate starters ready. It would be a poor strategy to go into September expecting Sale to reach 30 starts in 2012.
Fantasy owners are holding out hope Washington will change its mind and let him finish out the season. They may end up with a worse scenario than a shutdown date. It seems now that Strasburg will start intermittently to extend the duration of his remaining innings.
Why is this worse? For those in weekly leagues, you might never know when he is starting until the day he gets the ball... or doesn't. And one day, the starts will stop coming altogether and the ace who got you to the playoffs will not be there to get you through them.
Alex Rios is a career .277 hitter batting .301. His OPS, currently .851, has not been over .800 since 2007. He is also notoriously streaky, with hot streaks that a fantasy team can ride into the playoffs and cold streaks that can single-handedly eliminate them.
Rios' 20 home runs and 18 stolen bases have surely been a significant boost to his owners, but career trends seem to indicate a coming correction. If Rios goes cold, he can torpedo your team in a matter of days.
Hanley Ramirez will play 12 of his September games at Dodger Stadium. Additionally, he will play three at AT&T Park, three in Washington against one of the league's better rotations and three at Petco Park.
Ramirez has improved drastically since coming to Los Angeles. He is batting .308 with an .897 OPS since the trade, giving owners hope after yet another disappointing season from the former superstar. The schedule would seem to indicate the hot streak's days may be numbered.
Evan Longoria's 37 games of 2012 have been useful to fantasy owners, batting .293 despite 34 strikeouts in that span. However, Longoria is batting .235 in the last 14 games, with 17 strikeouts against just four walks.
After missing most of the season to injury, owners that held onto him all season have enjoyed plugging the star third baseman back into their lineups. Longoria's .666 OPS over the past four weeks and his worsening strikeout-to-walk ratio is not a promising indicator of things to come.