A can't miss prospect began to display why he won't, and a former MVP flexed his muscles to save what has been an injury-plagued season. Meanwhile, another Pirates hitter sent chills down his offensive numbers and one of the game's best young talents saw his star dim along with his team's postseason hopes.
Yoan Moncada, 2B, White Sox: The potential cornerstone to a future Pale Hose revival woke up on Sept. 10 with a .182 batting average and appeared headed toward a long offseason of debates on whether he would reach his immense upside. Since then, he's let his bat do the talking, raising his batting average 59 points while hitting three homers with eight RBIs and 13 runs scored. Much of his damage came in a weeklong spurt from Sept. 14-21 when Moncada put up a slash line of .407/.448/.741 with a 1.189 OPS. Lest we forget, he added a pair of stolen bases to boot. What has sparked Moncada's September has been a combination of improved plate discipline and an improved emphasis toward hitting the ball hard. He has an OBP of .388 this month despite a strikeout rate of 32.8 percent and has a .557 slugging percentage due in part to a 39 percent mark in balls hit hard. When Moncada makes contact, there is an 88 percent chance the ball is hit either medium (49 percent) or hard, a further indication of what he is capable of as he continues to adjust to playing in the majors. From the moment he made his professional baseball debut with the Red Sox more than two years ago, Moncada's offensive potential has evoked images from Bo Jackson to Mike Trout. Only 22 years old, his recent surge is currently making a difference for his fantasy owners while also setting the foundation for Moncada to be among the top 40 or 50 players off draft boards next February and March.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays: Should they make the postseason, Twins pitchers will be grateful for not seeing Toronto's lineup, especially Donaldson, who scorched them for 10 hits in 17 at-bats during a four-game set last weekend. Donaldson lit up Target Field with five homers, seven RBIs and eight runs scored as part of a September that has seen the 2015 AL MVP hit .316 with seven homers, 13 RBIs and 10 runs scored to go along with a 1.120 OPS. Despite injuries that kept him sidelined six weeks in April and May, Donaldson has his third straight season of at least 30 homers. Injuries and a move to the second spot in the lineup will keep him from recording a fifth straight season of at least 93 RBIs, but his 16 percent walk rate has helped him put up a .387 OBP that would be the second-best of his career should he maintain his current pace down the stretch. Donaldson has a fly ball rate of 41.1 percent and while his profile continues to show him as a dominant pull hitter, he has returned to hitting the ball to center more consistently (33.1 percent) than he did last season (27.6 percent). He will finish the season strong, but the question surrounding Donaldson is whether the Blue Jays will consider fielding offers for him this winter as the team embarks on what could be a drastic overhaul.
Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates: His season will be filled with enough positives to feel encouraged about his long-term potential, yet Bell's bat feels like he got a head start on the offseason. Entering this weekend, Bell has only one home run this month as pitchers have figured him out to the tune of a .182 batting average. Just two of his 12 September hits have resulted in extra bases while Bell is whiffing at a 25.7 percent rate, an indication that he may simply be running out of steam considering he had a season-best .405 OBP last month. Part of the answer behind Bell's September skid could be that his long-awaited power (.210 ISO) has eventually come at the cost of his walk rate, which is at 10.4 percent after the promising 13.8 percent walk rate he had during his 45-game debut last year. He has been an albatross on a host of NL-only leagues despite the 24 homers and 83 RBIs he brings into the weekend. Unless there are no better options, sitting down Bell for the remainder of the season is well advised.
Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles: Regarded by some to potentially become the game's first $400 million player, Machado's numbers have been fool's gold this season. Sure, he has a third straight 30-homer season and holds an outside chance to record his first 100-RBI campaign, yet Machado has seen a decline in most of his other numbers. His five-tool skills feel more like 4.4 as he has only nine stolen bases a year after swiping a career-high 20 bags, yet with his team staring at an opportunity to seize the second AL wild card spot, Machado has failed to step up and take the baton for the Orioles, hitting just .229 with three homers and six RBIs this month. He has not recorded a multi-hit game since September 10. One of the most telling numbers on Machado's season is a .267 BABIP, easily his lowest since arriving in the majors in 2012. He's still hitting the ball hard (39.3 percent) but he's also become less of a line drive hitter, falling from 20 percent last season to just a shade below 16 percent. The homers are good, but Machado has been a huge disappointment for fantasy owners this season. Perhaps the payday speculation should cease for now.