Here's a look at a few:
Bobby Crosby, SS, A's. Crosby's August 31 call-up created a flurry of claims in leagues with astute owners. Those expecting to get a major league regular for 2004 did well. Since before the season began, it has been everyone's expectation that reigning AL MVP Miguel Tejada will leave as a free agent in November. He wants a long-term contract, and the A's don't have the budget for it. Those expecting production in September from Crosby, however, are likely to be disappointed.
With Seattle only two games behind and a month to go, the A's are not about to bench Tejada to get time for Crosby. After a slow start this year, Tejada is finally hitting like he did in 2002; he just had his best month of the year, hitting .327 with eight homers in August. Crosby's pre-September call-up indicates Oakland sees him as a useful backup now and in the playoffs. Their depth chart had only Frank Menechino, a .219 hitter with two homers, as a reserve infielder before adding Crosby, who is now eligible for postseason play. Crosby hit .308 with 22 homers and 90 RBIs for Triple-A Sacramento. He will get a serious look this month, but not as an everyday player.
Nick Punto, IF, Phillies. After sending Punto to the minors August 17, the Phillies recalled him August 30. The 25-year-old switch hitter is not really a prospect, and he was hitting .222 with one homer for the Phillies. Like Oakland, Philadelphia now has another reserve infielder. Tomas Perez was the only infield backup before this recall. The Phillies don't have the same quality as Oakland in their depth chart.
Jaret Wright, RP, Braves. The last time we saw John Smoltz on the mound, he was striking out the side at Colorado on August 23. Now Smoltz is resting on the DL with elbow tendinitis, hoping to be in prime condition for postseason play. The Braves picked up Wright on waivers from San Diego on August 29 and immediately installed him as a late-inning reliever. Although Wright still has an ERA over 8.00, he is unscored upon in two games for Atlanta, both in game-finishers. Don't be surprised if Wright gets a save or two in September, helping Kent Mercker, Will Cunnane, and Trey Hodges to replace Smoltz.
Jung Bong, RP, Braves. A look at Bong's 6-2 mark, and you can see why it's a nice idea to have any Braves reliever on your roster. Atlanta wins a lot of games, and somebody has to be on the mound when the go-ahead run comes across. Bong was recalled August 27 and could be also play a part in replacing John Smoltz.
Jason Bay, OF, Pirates. Pittsburgh is not a contender, so Bay is one of the few auditioning for a 2004 job. Acquired in the Brian Giles trade, Bay was a 20/20 player for Triple-A Portland this year (.303 average, 20 homers, 59 RBI, 23 steals). He can produce, and he comes cheap.
Jason Conti, OF, Brewers. Conti was called up August 29 to replace Geoff Jenkins, who is done for the season with a broken thumb. At age 28, Conti is not a prospect, however, and he carries along a .249 career batting average from parts of four seasons with the Diamondbacks, Devil Rays, and Brewers. Although Conti got into double digits in homers and steals for Triple-A Indianapolis this year, his value in a Roto league is marginal.
Tim Hummel, 3B/SS, Reds. Hummel, who camed to the Reds in the Scott Sullivan deal, hasn't been on many Top Prospects lists. However, the former All-American college shortstop is still just age 24 and did well in the Arizona Fall League last year. He was hitting .284 with 15 homers, 80 RBI and nine steals for Triple-A Charlotte.
Mitch Meluskey, C, Astros. Meluskey was on everyone's map after the 2000 season, when he was among the top-hitting catchers in the bigs (.300 average, 14 homers, 69 RBIs). Then he missed the 2001 season following shoulder surgery, and he was out for most of 2002 because of back pain. Meluskey is still just 29 and doesn't have a lot of mileage on his body. Now back in Houston, he becomes an intriguing option in NL-only leagues. Although he is only a third-string catcher, behind Brad Ausmus and Raul Chavez, Meluskey is a go-to pinch hitter. When he pinch hit for Ausmus on Sunday, it was clear whom the Astros regard as their best-hitting catcher. Meluskey makes a good "special use" pick at this point. For a fantasy team suffering with a .220-hitting catcher (such as Ausmus) and already doing OK in the other offensive categories, Meluskey is a nice option. He should deliver a homer or two before the year ends.
One final word of caution on September additions: Front-running teams shouldn't take chances on unproven rookies for the final month of the season. Even the great Barry Bonds hit only .223 as a rookie.
John Benson is an author and baseball analyst who maintains his own baseball website: John Benson on Baseball. E-mail him at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Just some guys to keep an eye on for next year, or for a dynasty league.