By Sam McPherson
American League All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt just went through an 0-for-28 slump that dropped his batting average almost 20 points in about a week. While the Oakland Athletics catcher still hits too well to just drop, it probably hurt a lot of fantasy baseball teams across the world to keep him in their lineup all week.
A smart thing to do (if you have the roster flexibility, of course) is to bench a player in a slump like that. You know the A’s won’t send down Vogt; he’s too valuable to them in other ways. However, you can stick a productive hitter in a slump like that on the bench until he starts getting hot again.
Chances are you may miss a big game when the player suddenly regains his swing, yet you’ve also “missed” a longer stretch of hitless games, too. Smart fantasy baseball owners will keep an eye on slumping players they just can’t drop and replace them temporarily in the active lineup with a hotter player at the position.
The difference from a few games in the offensive stat-counting categories could make the difference between a Top-3 finish in your league or another year of also-ran status in the eyes of your fellow fantasy owners.
Players to Get Into Your Lineup Now
1. Adam Eaton, OF, Chicago White Sox: His start to the season was brutal (.192 average, zero home runs, one stolen base through April 30), but Eaton has come on lately to be the player many experts thought he would be in 2015. In July and August combined, he is hitting .322 with four HRs and six SBs. You want that right now for your team.
2. Daniel Norris, SP, Detroit Tigers: The prize of the David Price trade last month, Norris is the real deal. Detroit still has a good team backing him, even though they sold some pieces. Norris will finish the season strong, and he’s already posted a 2-1 record with a 3.23 ERA this season for both the Blue Jays and the Tigers. The sky is the limit for this lefty.
3. Ben Paulsen, 1B, Colorado Rockies: Don’t let the mustache fool you. The 27-year-old rookie can hit, and it doesn’t hurt that he plays half his games in Coors Field, either. Paulsen may also have OF eligibility in your league, so check that out as well. His brief career (266 ABs in 2014-15) have produced a .305/.352/.526 slash line as well as 12 HRs and 44 RBI. He can help almost every owner’s roster.
4. Matt Shoemaker, SP, Los Angeles Angels: You have to look past the season’s overall numbers (5-7, 4.01 ERA), because Shoemaker is on fire right now. Last year (16-4, 3.04, 124 Ks in 136 IP) seemed like a fluke when he got off to a bad start in 2015, but Shoemaker is back now: Since July 1, he has has 33 Ks in just 31 1/3 innings to go with an excellent 1.44 ERA.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. A.J. Burnett, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: His hot start to the season (2.01 ERA through June 30) now a distant memory, Burnett was getting shelled in July (5.84 ERA). He’s now hurt and not expected back until early September at best. Don’t hang on to him; let him go and be thankful you got what you did from him in 2015.
2. C.J. Wilson, SP, Los Angeles Angels: Perhaps few beyond the most loyal Angels fans had him on the roster, but Wilson has often been a steady, mostly reliable starter. Either way, he’s hurt now, and there is a conflict between the team and the pitcher over the injury. That doesn’t sound like a good situation, even if the Angels are pushing for a playoff spot. Wilson isn’t going to be a reliable guy for your team down the stretch.
3. Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants: Although Panik posted just a .768 OPS in 1620 minor-league at-bats, he somehow became an All-Star in the majors this year. However, his back has been giving him a lot of issues, and Panik has landed on the disabled list. He’s not strong enough to stash away and hope for a return, and back problems are never a good thing for professional athletes (or fantasy baseball owners, either).
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.