Rick Ankiel (Yahoo: 6 percent owned, ESPN: 15 percent owned)
After an extremely pedestrian first half, Ankiel seems to have found his groove at the top of the Nationals’ batting order. He has hit .290/.342/.536 since the All-Star break, but has really turned it on after the trade deadline, hitting .308/.357/.692 with 4 HR since August 1. Of the 18 games left this month, the Nationals play 10 at home — where Ankiel has hit six of his seven home runs — plus another six in hitter-friendly Cincinnati and Philadelphia, giving him a good chance to continue his torrid month.
If you can spare the extra bench spot, Ankiel has large enough platoon split to be worth acting on. His OPS drops nearly .200 points against lefties, which makes him look far less interesting than he is against righties. If you can’t platoon him, he’s still worth a grab, especially in NL-Only, but temper your expectations when he faces Cole Hamels.
Edwin Encarnacion (Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 78 percent owned)
Right from the outset, if you play in a league that counts defense, Encarnacion might not be your best pick-up. E-5 isn’t his nickname for no reason. Encarnacion owns one of the AL’s five highest OPS marks in the second half thanks to a line of .361/.475/.627 line, but he managed to find even a higher gear over the last 10 days, hitting .423/.559/.654 in August. The one knock on his month so far is that he has just one RBI and that came on his only home run so far. However, it’s almost unthinkable that he wouldn’t start driving in his teammates if he stays this hot for a while longer.
Encarnacion’s BABIP this month is .435, so he’s definitely finding the holes in the defense, but his yearly mark is an entirely unremarkable .307. So, while I think some regression is likely, it isn’t the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. Toronto plays a fairly favorable schedule the rest of the month, but they get the Red Sox and Yankees for 11 games in September, so, unless the divisional and wild card races are already sewn up early, Encarnacion could face a tough slate of pitching. Having an alternative in mind if he starts to struggle is wise.
Jason Kubel (Yahoo: 51 percent owned, ESPN: 93 percent owned)
On production alone, I like Kubel a lot. In the 18 games since he returned from the DL, Kubel has hit .319/.382/.565 with 4 HR and 13 RBI, which is more than respectable from a player with his paltry ownership. He’s been one of the Twins’ most consistent hitters over the last nine games, hitting .387/.406/.774 since August began — in fact, his 774 SLG would be the team’s fifth highest OPS this month.
While I think his consistent contributions keep him in the lineup, with Justin Morneau rejoining the team on Friday, the Twins are simply overfilled at three of the four corner positions and Kubel’s not exactly an option at third base. Jim Thome is rightly going to get plenty of playing time in his quest for his 600th home run, keeping Kubel from being the full-time DH, and Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Ben Revere, and Kubel are all competing for time in the outfield corners — especially since Alexi Casilla’s return means that they won’t simply stash Cuddyer at 2B to alleviate some of the pressure.
For the team, it’s a nice problem to have, but it’s really just a mess for owners. I think his production is going to be good enough going forward to be worth the possibility that he may not play every day, but do keep a close eye on the lineup, especially until Thome hits his 600th.