Fantasy Fever Week 13
2011 MLB FeaturesFantasy Fever: Rookie Pitchers
Fowl Ball Blog 7
MLB Power Rankings for July 11
Create Your Own MLB Dream Team
(Note: All stats are prior to Thursday's games.)
The All-Star Game is in baseball's rearview mirror, meaning the hysteria of the trading deadline is upon us. Personally, I believe the cutoff date for deals should be pushed back a few weeks. August is an abysmal month on the sports calendar thanks to the dog days of summer and a litany of pointless preseason football. Why not spice it up by extending the frenzy of unfounded rumors by 14 days?
That's all this nonsense is, by the way: groundless gossip, the majority of which won't come to fruition (unless we are talking about the Mets). The latest report has Colorado shipping Ubaldo Jimenez to Cincinnati. Looks ridiculous, no? Tony La Russa abhors Colby Rasmus, but St. Louis is dreaming if they think they can pry Jeremy Hellickson from Tampa. And anyone who imagines Hanley Ramirez will be dangled on the market is overlooking the slight circumstance that the franchise is opening a new stadium in 2012.
In fact, it's so easy to light this chatter that I'm going to toss out a totally baseless claim and watch it ignite: wouldn't Matt Kemp look good with the Red Sox? That would be a hell of a lineup, featuring Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzo, Kemp, Big Papi, Youk and Crawford. They'd make Murderer's Row look like the Mariners. You heard it here: Kemp to Fenway.
C: Joe Mauer, Twins.
Trust me, I know Mauer has massacred many a fantasy team in 2011, but the Minnesota catcher has historically shined in the second half, submitting a ridiculous .355 average and .432 OBP the past three seasons. Mauer is already beginning to show signs of life, hitting .308 in his last 15 games. If you don't own Mauer, you may be able to obtain his services for a discount, as the 2009 AL MVP's injuries and .243 average in his abbreviated appearances have made him one of the bigger disappointments in fantasy this season.
1B: Mark Trumbo, Angels.
Trumbo is making Angel admirers forget about Kendrys Morales, leading the team, as well as all rookies, with 17 long balls this season. His OBP of .305 isn't great for the position, but Trumbo's .278 BABIP illustrates there is room for growth in his .260 average. In a related note, is there any way a guy named "Trumbo" isn't a first baseman? Other players whose namesakes seem apropos for their skill/position: Rickie Weeks, Michael Bourn, Brian McCann and Ricky Nolasco. Last on the list: Brian Wilson. Way too pedestrian of an eponym to encompass someone as eclectic as the San Francisco closer.
2B: Darwin Barney, Cubs.
Since coming off the DL on June 29 Barney is hitting .370 with 12 runs and five RBI. On the season, Barney is batting .306 in 294 at bats. Although his .334 OBP and lack of power (just one homer and 31 RBI) may scare off some fantasy managers, Barney is owned in less than 40 percent of leagues and will be a solid source of average and run production.
3B: Emilo Bonifacio, Marlins.
The versatile Marlin was one of the few players sad to see the arrival of the All-Star break, as Bonifacio is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak and is lighting up July to the tune of a .441 average and .525 OBP. Bonifacio's .363 BABIP indicates his .285 average may be due for a dip, but his dexterity on the base paths (16 stolen bases) and position flexibility make him one of the more valuable assets still left on the market, as Bonifacio is owned in just 34 percent of leagues.
SS: Ian Desmond, Nationals.
Despite swiping 20 bags, Desmond has been living on the waiver wire for most of the season thanks to a putrid performance at the plate. After hitting .269 with 10 home runs and 65 RBI in 2010, Desmond enter Independence Day sporting a .217 average with just three bombs and 22 ribbies. But the Washington shortstop showed slight signs of life, hitting .304 in seven games before the break. Although the Nationals have the Braves this weekend, their upcoming slate features six games against an atrocious Houston staff and a lethargic Los Angeles rotation.
OF: Melky Cabrera, Royals.
After posting a line of .255/.317/.354 including four homers and 42 RBI in 458 at bats with Atlanta in 2010, Cabrera's phone wasn't exactly ringing off the hook with offers in free-agency this winter. Even as he exceled in Kansas City, hitting in the high .270s near the end of June, many expected Cabrera to eventually regress. Yet the Royals center fielder has turned up the heat in July, raking at .462 in his last nine games with two home runs, eight RBI and 10 runs. Cabrera's strikeout percentage is at a career-high 13.3 mark, and his BABIP of .318 is 30 points higher than last season's figure. Yet July has always been kind to Cabrera, as he owns a career average of .315 in the month. Keep riding Cabrera until he show signs of decline.
SP: Jeff Karstens, Pirates.
For one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, Karstens possesses a few caution signs. His BABIP of .240 certainly expresses fortunate fielding, an enormous 1.55 HR/9 ratio is not very uplifting and Karstens is dealing with a bruised knee after being lined by a comebacker in his last start. However, Karstens still calls PNC Park home, which is ranked 24th in runs allowed this season. In his last seven outings, Karstens owns a 1.49 ERA and a 4-0 record. He won't whiff many batters (just 58 punch outs in 98.2 innings), but Karstens will do wonders for your WHIP (1.07) and ERA (2.55) figures.
RP: Bobby Parnell, Mets.
The departure of K-Rod has opened the door for Parnell, who has a 10.95 K/9 mark in 24.2 innings this season. Although manager Terry Collins has suggested that a committee of Parnell, Pedro Beato and Jason Isringhausen will be utilized, Isringhausen is likely to be traded and early signs make Parnell the frontrunner for the closing role. Parnell's 1.34 WHIP may be worrisome, but his low line drive percentage (16.7) should alleviate any concerns.
C: Ramon Hernandez, Reds.
Owners may be tempted to snag Hernandez, whose line of .322/.377/.539 looks tantalizing for a position that's mirrored in an offensive famine. Nevertheless, managers in weekly-locked leagues should refrain from Hernandez, as Cincinnati evenly splits time behind the plate between Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan. For those who can adjust their lineups daily, handcuff both backstops and check daily to see who is starting that night. Combined, the two have 13 homers and 45 RBI on the season.
1B: Billy Butler, Royals.
With just six jacks and 38 RBI, Butler's power numbers have been a major disappointment for one manning the DH position. Worse, Butler finally has some offensive help in Alex Gordon, the aforementioned Cabrera and Eric Hosmer, yet has been unable to capitalize on their assistance. Butler's .294 average and .390 OBP are enticing, but only employ Butler for depth or backup. On the other hand, when's the last time five Royals (the four above plus Joakim Soria) have been relevant in fantasy? One could even make a spirited case for Chris Getz, who has 17 stolen bases and 42 runs at second. Six significant Kansas City players in fantasy? The apocalypse is coming, my friends.
2B: Aaron Hill, Blue Jays.
In 2010, the story concerned Hill's inability to replicate the prior season's .286 average, as Hill still hit 26 home runs on the year. Yet the Toronto second baseman has been unable find the fences, smacking a meager four long balls in 74 games in 2011. Hill hasn't come close to resembling the man who racked up 36 homers and 108 RBI in '09, meaning it's time to cut the Blue Jay loose if you haven't already done so.
3B: Evan Longoria, Rays.
Since hitting two bombs and five RBI against the Astros on June 26, Longoria is batting .182 with one homer and three runs. Perhaps the All-Star is still feeling effects from an oblique injury that forced him to miss all of April, but Longoria is hitting .239 on the season, albeit with 11 home runs and 42 RBI. Longoria has cut down on his strikeouts, holding a career-low 15.9 percentage, and his .243 BABIP isn't helping his average. Still, it's worth noting that July has been Longoria's biggest adversary, hitting a mediocre .250 during the month.
SS: Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks.
Drew's .259 average is his lowest output since 2007, jarring since the Diamondback's BABIP stands at .315. Drew does have 45 RBI on the season, and has performed well in the past during the second half, hitting .282 in 329 games. On the other hand, Drew is striking out at the highest rate (19.6 percent) since his rookie campaign in 2006, and has been on the bench when facing opposing left-handers.
OF: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies.
A deep bruise on the wrist will sideline Gonzalez for a few games to start the second half. Although an MRI test came back negative on a fracture, wrist injuries are never a good sign for a hitter's prospects. A shame too, as CarGo was hitting .361 with five homers and 18 RBI from June 1 to July 4.
SP: David Price, Rays.
Perhaps it's just a patch of bad luck, as Price's 8.72 K/9 number is a career-best, and his walks and WHIP are down from 2010. In spite of the success indicated by these figures, Price has a 4.54 ERA in his last six outings. Price sat out of the All-Star Game due to a turf toe injury. It could have been just an excuse for Price not to pitch, but monitor his health closely.
RP: Francisco Rodriguez, Mets.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke implied Rodriguez and resident relief man John Axford will split saving duties, but Axford appears to be the go-to closer for the Brewers. Unless your league awards points for holds, Rodriguez will offer little value. Hold onto K-Rod until the situation plays itself out, but start seeking save assistance from another source.
Waiver Wire: Brian Duensing, Twins.
Duensing's 4.13 ERA and 1.42 WHIP aren't that attractive for owners searching for starting support on the wire. Yet a closer examination reveals Duensing has surrendered two earned runs or less in five of his past seven starts, lowering his ERA from 5.37 at the end of May to its current state. His strikeout percentage is solid at a 15.9 mark, and his .310 BABIP shows Duensing may have some luck headed his way in the second half. Duensing is owned in less than 10 percent of leagues, and could be a valuable addition for your playoff push.
The Real Debate
There was somewhat of an uproar concerning the absence of Derek Jeter in Phoenix this week, as many felt it was disrespectful of the Yankee captain to diss the fans who voted him into the event. Which begs the question: who is still voting for Jeter in 2011? I love the man as much as the next baseball addict, as one of my first autographs came from the skilled shortstop when New York was visiting old Tiger Stadium in 1996, but Jeter was hitting .256 after the Fourth of July. I understand the idealization of showering him with respect, but in turn, aren't you disrespecting the premise of the All-Star Game? Why penalize Asdrubal Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta for their spectacular seasons just because you want to see Jeter tip his cap during the introductions? Baseball fans are allegedly the most knowledgeable out of any sporting fan base, but this endeavor certainly disputes that sentiment.
Rookie Review: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
Kimbrel has quickly made his presence known, leading the majors with 28 saves in the first half and posting a 1.04 WHIP and 2.35 ERA. The Atlanta closer has 70 strikeouts in just 46 innings, and has held opposing hitters to a 15.8 line drive percentage. Kimbrel has a good shot at the NL's Rookie of the Year award, with fellow teammate Freddie Freeman his likely competition for the honor.
This Week in Jonathan Broxton
With Broxton likely done for the season, send in your suggestions for which player is Bill Brasky-esque to fill in this segment for the rest of the year. Obviously Brian Wilson will be a popular choice, but I feel his awesomeness is already known. We are looking for an underappreciated folk hero worthy enough of carrying their own forum in this column. The early clubhouse leaders: Kyle Farnsworth, Roger Bernadina, Sam Fuld, Arthur Rhodes, and of course, Corky Miller.
Big League Chew Player of the Week: Health Bell, Padres
Although his slide into the mound wasn't the coolest thing in the word, that took some major cojones for a free-agent-to-be to risk injury just for the sake of a few laughs. That said, if he tears an ACL on the dive, he's immediately placed with the infamous Bill Gramatica in the echelon of dumbest injuries of all-time.
Spit Your Tobacco At: Cincinnati All-Stars
The quartet of Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in Arizona, suitably summing up Cincinnati's performance in the first half of the season.