2011 MLB Fantasy Fever From WhatIfSports.com image

Fantasy Fever: Salute to Stairs

Fantasy Fever Week 15

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
Aug. 5, 2011

(Note: All stats are prior to Thursday's games.)

With all the activity near the deadline, the transfer of stars tends to shade the small acquisitions across baseball's landscape. One such transaction involved the release of the venerable Matt Stairs.

On paper, the move makes sense, as Stairs was hitting a buck fifty-four on the season with zero homers in 65 at bats. In all honesty, Stairs has been washed-up for quite some time, hitting .194 in 2009 with Philadelphia and .232 last season in San Diego. From this perspective, it's easy to see why Stairs' release came with little fanfare.

Yet Stairs leaves with quite a legacy, holding two distinct Major League records: playing for 13 different teams, and owning the most pinch-hit home runs.

To some, these marks might lack a certain pizzazz, as one states that a player is in demand but not necessarily desired, while the other conveys a sense of mediocrity. However, this sentiment could not be farther from the truth.

For starters, Stairs was not a life-long bench player, as he compiled 13 seasons with 300 at bats or more. The term "mediocre" would not be warranted, as Stairs hit 265 home runs in his career, hitting 18 or more bombs seven times.

True, toward the end of his career, Stairs was relegated to pinch-hitting duty, but not many athletes can gracefully make the transformation from everyday player to the bench. Not only did Stairs embrace the role, but he was a key component for the 2008 World Champion Phillies, coming up clutch in numerous situations, most notably with a homer off of Jonathan Broxton in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS.

And yes, he bounced around a bit the last few years, but only because teams were in need of his clubhouse presence. Hell, enduring the rigors of 19 years in the game is astonishing in itself.

So while Carlos Beltran, Ubaldo Jimenez and Erik Bedard get the attention, Stairs rides into the sunset with little pageantry. A shame too, because when all is said and done, Stairs might have the most remarkable career out of the bunch.

Start ‘Em:

C: J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays.
Before his 0-for-4 performance in his most recent game, the Blue Jay backstop was batting .346 in his eight previous contests with five bombs and 10 ribbies. His .220 batting average and .281 OBP leave much to be desired, but one can't complain about the punch Arencibia has brought to the position (18 homers, 50 RBI). Owned in just half of leagues, Arencibia will be an asset down the homestretch as long as you're willing to take a hit in the average/OBP departments.

1B: Billy Butler, Royals.
While his average was consistent, Butler's six home runs heading into July were a colossal disappointment for fantasy owners. As the 1B/DH fantasy slot is viewed as an expected source of clout, Butler's putrid power numbers left the Royal on many a waiver wire. Yet Butler has begun to swing some mighty lumber, smacking seven long balls with 24 RBI since the onset of July. If Butler can maintain this type of production, he vaults back into the top 15 at the position.

2B: Omar Infante, Marlins.
Aside from Dan Uggla, Infante is one of the hottest hitters in the Senior Circuit at second, batting .467 in the past 12 games. This proficiency at the plate from Infante has been on display since the beginning of July, with the Florida Marlin hitting .319 since July 1. Infante's output almost makes up for the disastrous affront of his All-Star selection in 2010 over Joey Votto. Almost.

3B: Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks.
After a hot start in April (.313 average, .413 OBP, 15 RBI), Roberts cooled off considerably, hitting .244 in May and .218 in June. Yet just when fantasy owners threw in the towel with Roberts, the Diamondback third baseman submitted a solid July with a .275 average and five homers. Roberts has been on a tear of late, hitting .455 in his last seven games.

SS: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals.
Hampered by injuries and management issues in LA, Furcal seems like a new man in his limited time with the Cardinals, appearing as if a weight has been taken off his shoulders. Furcal is batting .333 in his last 36 at bats and has four runs in the first three games of August. His .225 BABIP, the lowest mark of his career, should rise significantly, correlating to a higher average for the St. Louis shortstop. Speaking of Cardinals, outside of the Yankees and Red Sox, St. Louis has to be the most hated team in baseball, no? It's one thing to have beef with the Reds after the Brandon Phillips-Yadier Molina affair last season, but the Cardinals' behavior in Milwaukee was downright laughable. Complaining about the scoreboard lights? Spitting on umpires? Then there was Tony La Russa calling the fans "idiots," followed by his rambling diatribe explaining why they hit Ryan Bruan that became an instant Youtube classic. Stay classy, St. Louis.

OF: Jayson Werth, Nationals.
Werth has two homers and seven RBI in his last seven games, with a .370 average in that time span. Granted, this production might be expected from someone signed to a $126 million contract in the offseason, but considering the Washington outfielder was hitting .211 on July 18, this performance is cause for jubilation.

SP: Joe Saunders, Diamondbacks.
Thanks to a 4.50 ERA in mid-June, Saunders wasn't on many fantasy radars as a possible pickup. Yet in his last eight outings, Saunders has posted a 2.10 ERA in 55.2 innings of work. He won't contribute to your team's strikeout total (4.89 K/9 rate), but Saunders goes late enough into games where he'll give you a chance for the W.

RP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds.
Chapman has a scoreless streak of 9.2 innings and has allowed an earned run in only one of his past 15 appearances. Since the beginning of July, the Cuban Missile has 27 strikeouts in 16.1 innings with a 1.10 ERA. With the Reds continuing to fall out of the NL Central race, closer Francisco Cordero could be dealt before September. Keep an eye on Chapman, especially in keeper leagues, where the Cincinnati left-hander could be valuable as a fireman or starter next season.

Sit ‘Em:

C: Matt Wieters, Orioles.
Wieters hasn't been lighting the world on fire, as his average has steadily declined since the end of May. Wieters is currently in the midst of a 4-for-39 slump and hasn't driven in a run since July 19. For owners holding out hope, Wieters has cut down on his strikeouts (15.5 percent after posting rates of 22.3 and 18.7 in his first two seasons) and his BABIP of .278 leaves room for improvement.

1B: Adam Lind, Blue Jays.
Lind's average continues to free fall. Since a 2-for-4 day on July 3 brought Lind to .310 on the season, his average has dropped to its current mark of .273. Until he smacked a single in the first inning of Thursday's affair against Tampa, Lind was hitless in his previous 20 at bats. Unless he strings together a few impressive games, keep Lind on the bench.

2B: Ian Kinsler, Rangers.
Kinsler has just one hit in his last 26 at bats, lowering his average to .241 on the season. Kinsler does have 16 jacks on the year, but it doesn't appear he will be replicating his 31-homer output from 2009.

3B: Evan Longoria, Rays.
The three-time All-Star finished July under the Mendoza Line with a .198 mark on the month, albeit with a .348 OBP. Longoria didn't start off August on better terms, going 0-for-8 in the first two games against Toronto. Longoria's .233 BABIP suggests some tough luck, and hopefully that tide begins to turn. With little pop at the position, continuing to start Longoria is understandable. However, if better options are available, consider giving him a week or two on your bench until he awakes from his slumber.

SS: J.J. Hardy, Orioles.
It's hard to argue with the seven homers in the month of July, but after finishing June with a line of .362/.409/.686, Hardy's .195 average was discouraging to say the least. Hardy hasn't done himself any favors lately, registering a meager two hits in his last 24 at bats. Hardy does historically excel in August and September, with career averages of .275 and .283, respectively, in the later months of the season.

OF: Jason Heyward, Braves.
Unless he has a miraculous turnaround, it's safe to label Heyward a victim of the dreaded "sophomore slump." Heyward's power is still present, but his .223 average is down 54 points from last season, and his OBP is taking a deeper decline with a nearly 80-point drop. Heyward did shine in the second half last season, with a .302 average and .419 OBP after the All-Star break, and his BABIP is a paltry .247. Yet until his line drive percentage (13.3 percent) improves, don't expect Heyward to be breaking out of his year-long slumber.

SP: Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians.
Hopefully for Jimenez owners, a new destination translates to improved execution from the former Colorado ace. After a promising June (1.14 WHIP, 2.45 ERA, 2.01 BB/9) and four solid starts in July, Jimenez relapsed in his last two starts, surrendering nine earned runs in six innings. Although his strikeouts were up in July (11.25 K/9), his control began to waver. One would hope that departing Coors Field will alleviate these woes, but his last two outings came on the road. Carefully monitor Jimenez's first few starts with the Tribe.

RP: Drew Storen, Nationals.
Storen has allowed three homers and four runs in his last four appearances. For now, he appears to have the lock on the closer's role, but if he continues to falter, Tyler Clippard could be worth the pickup.

Waiver Wire: Jason Bourgeois, Astros.
The exodus of Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn has opened the door for Bourgeois, who is hitting .346 on the season with 22 steals. An abnormally high .377 BABIP has correlated into the unexpected success of the 29-year-old left fielder, although his speed and robust line drive percentage (24 percent) have factored into that formula as well. Owned in just 20 percent of leagues, Bourgeois' ability to swipe a bag makes him a valuable asset. His average most likely will dip, but his expertise on the base paths will provide dividends.

The Real Debate
Mentioned above, La Russa's spirited outburst has been making the rounds the past few days, with the primary discussion centering on the Cardinals' worship of whining. Yet while I'm all for piling on St. Louis, the real debate should be: is the "genius" tag truly applicable to a baseball manager? Sorry, batting the pitcher eighth and managing two of the greatest bashers in Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols doesn't qualify you as a mastermind in my book, cowboy. If anything, La Russa has been riding the coattails of pitching coach Dave Duncan, whose flair for altering pedestrian pitchers into serviceable arms has been the catalyst for TLR's success. In fact, no one in sports should ever be called a genius, unless we are referring to Jim Bouton. Not for his work in Ball Four, but rather for inventing Big League Chew. My God, is that stuff delicious.

Rookie Review: Jesus Guzman, Padres.
Big things were anticipated from a rookie at first base for the Padres this summer, but Guzman wasn't the recipient of these expectations. Anthony Rizzo, obtained from the Adrian Gonzalez trade, was promoted in June after lighting up Triple-A Tucson. Unfortunately for San Diego-ites (San Diego-ins? San Diegans?), Rizzo faltered at the big-league level, batting .143 with just one homer in 98 at bats. Enter Guzman, who was hitting .332 at the time of call-up. Guzman has made the most of his time in the Show, hitting .337 in 35 games with the Friars. Guzman had a cup of coffee with the Giants in 2009, and is already 27 years old. However, his 22.5 line drive percentage plays well at pitcher-friendly Petco Park, and already has 23 RBI to his credit. Guzman is worth the flyer in mixed or deeper leagues, as his average and modest power could come in handy in September.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Jack McKeon, Marlins.
Since take the reins from Edwin Rodriguez, McKeon has led the club to a 23-15 record and back to a .500 record on the season. Not bad for a lineup that depends on contributions from Mike Cameron and Javier Vasquez. Now that, my friends, is a genius.

Spit Your Tobacco At: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees.
Busted for steroids, dated Madonna, involved in illegal underground gambling rings. The man is a real-life, unfunny version of Kenny Powers.

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