Forget about how tough these hot summer months are on baseball players. The real stress is clearly on fantasy baseball owners.
Those athletes who wear down after running out triples in 90 percent humidity get paid millions of dollars. Where's the love for those of us who sweat out box scores each morning, knowing the only satisfaction we'll get is bragging rights? Or in the case of money leagues, a small payout that won't even cover six months of internet service?
It's late August, and if you feel like you can't look at one more Royals-White Sox box score to see if Billy Butler drove in a run, you're not alone.
But if you really want to win, you simply have to keep up. Snooze, and you'll miss the chance to add a key player like Ryan Raburn of the Tigers for your stretch run.
You simply must find a way to combat fantasy fatigue. Shake things up on your team. Take a risk. Add an exciting player and part with a big-name guy who isn't producing.
Whatever it takes to keep you interested. Otherwise, you could fall asleep at the switch just when you most need to be awake.
Raburn, CF, Tigers
For a guy who was seen as a utilityman when he was called up from the minors earlier this summer, the 26-year-old rookie is sure getting a lot of at-bats. Raburn, known as a free-swinging power hitter in the minors, has played at second, third and in the outfield, and has started in 16 of the first 19 games this month. He's produced nicely, hitting .341 with three homers and 15 RBIs in his first 88 at-bats. With Marcus Thames and Brandon Inge both hitting around .240, look for Raburn to keep getting chances while the Tigers battle the Indians for the AL Central crown.
Franklin Morales, LHP, Rockies
The 21-year-old phenom is totally inexperienced, and just as talented. Morales has started just three games above Double-A. Even so, he showed incredible stuff in his major league debut against the Dodgers and looks like a future star. He should be expected to have some major growing pains, but he's playing for a team in the midst of the playoff race, with a good offense, that needs him because of injuries to three starters. He'll get his chances, and could pay off with some wins and strikeouts for fantasy owners down the stretch.
Joba Chamberlain, RHP, Yankees
Fantasy owners are less excited about Chamberlain down the stretch than are Yankee fans. For the time being, the 21-year-old fireballer is a setup man in New York. But in his first six innings, he hasn't allowed a run and only two hits with nine strikeouts, and at this point, getting a cheap win here or there and adding some scoreless frames will probably help your team more than a mediocre starter. I'm a big fan of rounding out rotations with special relief pitchers, and this future starter certainly fits the bill.
Chris Capuano, LHP, Brewers
The Brewers haven't won a game Capuano has started since May 7. That's a streak of 16 starts. If you've stuck with him this long, you've already sabotaged your season. It's easy to do; last year, it was Josh Beckett who hurt a lot of teams. The bottom line is the Brewers no longer consider the guy who had been their No. 2 starter a part of their plans, and neither should you. Maybe he'll come back next year, like Beckett has this year.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers
Furcal (.274-5-41, 13 stolen bases, 65 runs) was drafted in some leagues in the same range as Jimmy Rollins (.290-21-70, 24 steals, 106 runs). That's a dropoff of 16 homers, 29 RBIs, 11 steals, and 41 runs, not to mention batting average. That's not good. It's hard to drop a guy with the talent of Furcal, but he's lulled you to sleep thus far and doesn't seem to be on the verge of breaking out. The guy is hitting .211 with two steals in August. Find someone who excites you more, and let some other owner in your league suffer through the constant 1-for-4s.
Dontrelle Willis, LHP, Marlins
It's hard to believe a pitcher as talented as Willis (8-12, 4.93) has been hit so hard. The young Marlins' ace has Cy Young-level talent but has won only once since the start of June. One of the most shocking things about how bad he's been this year is how consistently he's struggled; Willis has 11 quality starts out of his 27 games, and he hasn't strung together more than three in a row all year. His 1.63 WHIP has sunk many fantasy teams, and it hasn't been so great for the Marlins, either. After two consecutive sub-par seasons, be very careful where you draft Willis next year. And for now, strongly consider removing him from your rotation if you haven't already.
QUICK HITS: Welcome back, Howie Kendrick. The Angels' phenom returned from his second stint on the disabled list on Aug. 20, and responded by going 6-for-8 with six runs in his first two games back. The second baseman absolutely has the talent to help your team and is a must-start in any mixed league. ... OF Raul Ibanez lulled everyone to sleep with a weak first four months. But in his first 65 at-bats in August, he's hitting .430 with nine homers and 20 RBIs. If you stuck with him, congratulations.

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