Closer Updates: Trade Bait & Bullpen Check-Ins

With the trade deadline just a few hours away, plenty of changes could still be ahead for baseball this season. Saves-seekers might be pushing their luck, however, if they expect several major bullpen shakeups before the deadline comes. After the earlier Huston Street trade and Jason Grilli for Ernesto Frieri swap, it might be a quiet afternoon. Just in case, we’ll explore a couple of names that have been floated as trade bait and discuss a few other bullpen situations who utilized the closer-by-committee approach not too long ago.

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Joaquin Benoit – Even though the Padres have already dealt Street, they may not be done dealing and Benoit’s name keeps coming up after a strong start to the season (1.88 ERA, 0.84 WHIP). If he’s moved before the trade deadline, Dale Thayer (2.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) will likely get the first opportunity to close in San Diego.

LaTroy Hawkins – When Hawkins was first signed, many thought that it would be temporary and a different closer would be manning the ninth in the Mile High City before season’s end. However, most thought that the Rockies closer of the future was Rex Brothers (4.57 ERA, 1.62), who has fallen well below expectations thus far. Adam Ottavino is making a strong case (3.88 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) and could just beat Brothers in grabbing the first save opportunity if Hawkins is dealt.

Jonathan Papelbon – Although Papelbon’s name has been floated a few times, he has made it clear that he will not pitch for a team that does not intend to have him close. He has good numbers on the season (25 saves, 1.83 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) and the Phillies are willing to absorb some of his contract, but it’s still unlikely he’ll be moved. If that does happen, Ken Giles (0.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) has the early need on that particular scramble for the ninth.

Chad Qualls – Another popular name is down in Houston and many believe that Qualls could be a dependable setup guy given his strong numbers (11 saves, 3.19 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.1 K/9). If he’s moved, it’s unclear exactly how the Astros bullpen will shake out. However, Qualls is somebody who might be able to provide value in a reliever role and could even continue to be a strong closer if given the chance elsewhere.

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Chicago White Sox – This bullpen has been a roller coaster this season, with a number of different relievers sitting in the closer chair. After an injury to Zach Putnam (3 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), Jake Petricka has become king-of-the-hill over Ronald Belisario (5.22 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) and Javy Guerra (2.81 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). Like Putnam, Matt Lindstrom (6 saves, 3.3 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) is also working back from injury and could wrestle the gig away shortly after being activated from the disabled list (assuming he returns to form).

Houston Astros – Qualls settled into the closer role nicely and provided a surprising amount of stability for the H-town bullpen. If he’s dealt, they could spiral into oblivion again and fast. Josh Fields (4.08 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), Jose Veras (6.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP), and Tony Sipp (2.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP) are all potential options, but nothing it set in stone. Jesse Crain is rumored to be returning to the mound soon, but it’s questionable where he pitches this season. Stay tuned… if you dare.

Oakland Athletics – After the Jim Johnson debacle this season (7.14 ERA, 2.06 WHIP), the A’s struggled to find their closer. Luke Gregerson (1.97 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) had a few chances early and many expected Ryan Cook (2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) might inherit the gig at some point. However, Sean Doolittle took the job and seems to have no intention of giving it up (16 saves, 2.59 ERA, 0.64 WHIP).

Tampa Bay Rays – With a motley crew of saves contenders, many did not know who would emerge from the battle for the ninth inning in Tampa. Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour both had solid resumes (95 career saves combined), and so did young right-hander Brad Boxberger – who has pitched quite well in 41 appearances this season (2.11 ERA, 0.82 WHIP). In the end, Jake McGee emerged as the guy and has been strong this year (12 saves, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP).

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




Stock Watch: Fantasy Trading Deadline Part 1—Risk and Reward

 There’s a trading deadline coming up and it’s not July 31.(Okay, that one’s coming up too.)  But what I’m talking about is your fantasy league’s trading deadline. The last day for trades in my various Yahoo! leagues is August 17; in a custom CBS league we have all the way until the start of the playoffs in early September. But whatever it is, you really don’t want to be the team that notices a need, goes to make a trade offer…and only then discovers that it’s late August and trading is over. What? Like I’m the only one who’s ever done that...? 

We fantasy baseball players don’t have the luxury of the August waiver-trading period to make the deals we couldn’t get done before the deadline, so I’m going to spend the next three weeks going a little off-format on Stock Watch to discuss trade scenarios.

This week, we’ll focus on what types of risk you should take on depending on your format, your team’s place in the standings, and your goals for the season. In the next two weeks we’ll get a little more specific with trade targets that will help you in each category. 

Not a Zero-Sum Game Anymore

In the beginning of the season, you pretty much just want to get the most value you can out of a trade—quite possibly at the other team’s expense. Those days are over. I’m not the first fantasy pundit to suggest that you don’t need to get more value than your trading partner does to win a trade—you just need to make a trade that helps you in the right ways. So maybe trading Jose Abreu for Rajai Davis and a closer is what you need to do—that’s fine, make it happen if it makes you better. 

(The exception to this is when trading with teams right next to you in the standings—but those offers don’t tend to come up all that often anyway.)

Even if you should (and probably can) get better stuff for your star players than the hypothetical trade above, it’s important to remember that it is (at this point) perfectly okay to trade greater players for lesser ones if the needs you have are filled. You can let your leaguemates scoff if you like, but making one opponent improve relative to your own team for the chance to improve yourself relative to the other ten is usually a pretty good idea. Just don’t make that trade with the team you’re fighting for first place…or eleventh.

Playing with Risk: Evaluating Your Format, Standings, and Goals

In the future, I’ll be breaking players down by category, but today I’m going to talk about risk—should you be trading it away, or trying to pile as much as you can onto your team? By risk, I don’t mean just downside but the magnitude of the upside/downside split. Are you in the position where you need to put everything on the line? Or do you just need to make sure you don’t slip any further in the standings and out of a playoff slot…or out of the league, RotoAuthority League-style? 

I’ve got teams in just about every category: I’m first in one, tenth in another, and slugging it out in three more. So I’ll be taking different approaches in my various leagues. Sitting in first, I’m going to be ditching my highest downside players, even if they do have good upside. Ideally, I’ll be able to ship them to someone low in the standings for steady-Eddie types.

For my tenth-place team, I’d love to be the one shipping out those steady-Eddies who weren’t enough to keep me form the bottom half of the standings for some guys with high upside; any downside they offer can only drop me two slots in the league! My middle teams will need a more nuanced approach and may need a bit of risk in some categories and a bit of safety in others. But we’ll check that out in the coming weeks.

Before sending out your last three weeks of trade offers, you’ve got to know what you’re playing for. In my tenth-place team, I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m not going to make an epic comeback and win it all. But I can probably save myself some embarrassment by moving a few places up the standings to end it in a respectable position. So I’m going for that.

Head-to-head formats can make things more complicated: do you make some high-risk moves, knowing that they could pay off with the biggest September? Or do you shore up your chances of just getting into the playoffs and cross your fingers? I’m guessing that’s going to depend on your league’s payout formula….

Upside Plays: Pitchers

The first guy who jumps to mind is Cliff Lee.  It could go terribly wrong…or he could be a carry-your-team staff ace. Other unproven pitchers who’ve been aces so far seem to fit this mold as well: Garrett Richards, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber,  and Tyson Ross. They seem real enough to trade for, but have short or spotty enough track records that you can’t feel totally secure in them.

Overachievers and underachievers alike add upside to your team: Johnny Cueto , Julio Teheran (especially with his recent struggles), Ian Kennedy, and Josh Beckett seem like they should have high error bars on their rest-of-season performance. Same for guys that have been relatively disappointing or inconsistent, or changed roles during the season or spent time on the DL, like Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, and Tim Lincecum

Finally, out-of-nowhere (or out of somewhere previously terrible) guys add upside. Think of Jesse Chavez, Alfredo Simon, Phil Hughes, Jake Odorizzi, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, Marcus Stroman, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Young. Tim Hudson kind of counts too, though where he came from wasn’t bad…just not all that useful in fantasy. 

Safe Choices: Pitchers

If you need to hang on to your gains and play it safe, you can do more than just trading away the pitchers above. Think about trading for serious aces (you know who you are, guys) or for steady-good types like these: Jered Weaver, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez, James Shields, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Madison Bumgarner. You’ll note that there aren’t nearly as many safe choices on the pitching side—well, that’s part of pitching. One of the safest things you can do, actually, is trade pitching for hitting.

Upside Plays: Hitters

This year has featured some impressive breakout stars and the rest of the season will be spend sorting out which ones are for real and which ones have holes in their swings. Guys like Jose Abreu, Michael Brantley George Springer, Jose Altuve, Nelson Cruz, Todd Frazier, Victor Martinez, Dee Gordon, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Brian Dozier, and Corey Dickerson come to mind as high-impact guys who still have downside, whether it’s from nonexistent track records like Abreu, horrible track records like Gordon, or being an old guy playing better than ever like Martinez. 

As with pitchers, you can always bet on underperformers to bounce back when you’re going out and actively adding upside to your squad. Consider some of these guys who could return to glory in the final months of the season: Chris Davis, Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Jason Kipnis, Dustin Pedroia, Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, Joe Mauer, Matt Kemp, Mark Trumbo, Josh Hamilton, Alexei RamirezMarlon Byrd, Carlos Santana, and Carlos Beltran

There are plenty of hitters offering upside that they haven’t shown this year…or who’ve shown more than they probably really do have to give, so use the above list as a jumping-off point on your trade list and not as a restriction.

Safe Choices: Hitters

Trading for bona fide stars is almost always a safe choice, and it’s even safer at this point of the season. But top-tier superstars aren’t the only guys who offer steady production. Think about these guys: Hunter Pence, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Jayson Werth, David Ortiz, Kyle Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick, Torii Hunter, Alex Gordon, Aramis Ramirez, and Rajai Davis.

I suppose we could argue about who’s “safe” and show isn’t—maybe you think Ramirez will get hurt again, or that Moss is sufficiently established as not to be a risk—and that’s fine. The important thing is making the trade that fits you, that fits your team.




RotoAuthority Unscripted: Trade Deadline Rundown

The next couple days are always some of my favorite in baseball. Maybe it’s just my short attention span, but I love it when players are changing teams and rumors are flying around like crazy. No wonder I became an MLBTradeRumors.com addict...during the Trade Deadline and the Winter Meetings I refresh RA’s parent site several times an hour if I’m sitting in front of a computer. 

And you should too.

No, not just because I’ve been tasked with driving up MLBTR’s traffic (I’m pretty sure they don’t need my help with that this time of year), but because you can be out there making deadline trades of your own. When a player is about to change value, that can be the best time to get him on your team…or off of it. And if you’re the one making the better guess than your opposing managers, you’ll find yourself getting tidy little value deals along the way.

Just think what would have happened if you’d offered peanuts for Jake Peavy last week. Well, you’d have endured a mediocre first start, but still, it’s easy to see how Peavy goes from sitting on deep league benches to being an interesting pitcher, just by changing uniform. Presumably, his cost will be a little higher now that he’s officially a Giant. (Or he might still be on your waiver wire, if your league isn’t that deep.)

So regardless of whether or not Peavy was a big enough fish for your fantasy league to fry, your team might be ready to benefit from some other subject of trade deadline rumors. 

David Price

Price is by far the biggest name getting floated in trade rumors this deadline, but is he even on the move? With the Rays winning ballgames, it’s looking more and more like he’s staying in Tampa Bay. That’s fine with me, though, because he’s in a good park with a better-than-their-record-so-far team. So not getting traded is good news for Price owners (or future owners), but so are his top trade destinations: the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Mariners. I see this as pretty much a no-lose situation.

Of course, his current owner might think so too and he may not come at a discount, but the uncertainty surrounding his situation might knock his price down a little. (For once, pun unintended.) Trade for Price.

Ben Zobrist

Zobrist is likely to follow Price out of town or stay with him (see the link above). As a Swiss-Army player, he comes in pretty handy, but he hasn’t been awesome with the bat. I haven’t seen many specific rumors about Zobrist, but the Giants have come up

I see this as a good time to trade away Zobrist. Though other owners might be getting interested in the idea of Zobrist going to a friendlier park, there remains a good chance he stays with the Rays. With the Giants the only known suitor, I’m not sure Zobrist will really gain value on the 31st

Jon Lester

I'll admit, in the first draft of this article, I overlooked Lester--I just didn't really believe the Red Sox would put their ace on the market. But the rumors are picking up and it's time to face the reality: Boston believes in logic. With a mediocre supporting cast and a tough ballpark, most other teams would be good news for Lester. Watch the rumors, but since the Mariners are in play, the could be a great trade for candidate. The only real downside is that he stays where he is.

John Lackey

Like Lester, the Sox are getting calls on Lackey (see the link above). Same situation, different player: almost any trade would probably be a ballpark upgrade, so go ahead and trade for Lackey too.

Cole Hamels

The Phillies kept saying they won’t trade Hamels. Given their history, I believed them. Now we hear that he is available, but with a huge asking price. With the Dodgers interested, I'm intrigued, and I think that the mere possibility of Hamels getting to play for a good team will intrigue the other owners in your league too...but the Phillies' history makes me think they won't find a buyer. Hamels is plenty good enough to trade for, but if you really want value, trade him away to someone willing to pay like he already plays for the Dodgers, or Mariners, or whomever. But keep an eye on him--he'd have a ton of value as a Dodger....

Cliff Lee

Having just returned unimpressively from the disabled list, most commentators are expecting Lee, who has a significant no-trade clause, to be traded sometime in August. Lee is already a great buy-low candidate, so the chance that he suddenly gets better run support, better defense, or a friendlier ballpark is icing on the cake. It is well worth noting, though, that Lee is a very risky option at this point, making him a great fit if your team needs a huge shot in the arm—but not so much if you’re just looking to shore up a good spot in the standings.

A.J. Burnett

Burnett has been a pretty marginal fantasy starter this season (hopefully you ignored my advice at draft time—I wish I had), but the Trade Deadline offers the hope that he’ll get dealt to a good situation. Too bad San Diego isn’t interested. Check out the Hamels link for the latest Burnett rumor I could find—which doesn’t get very specific. Watch the veteran righty's rumors closely. If there’s talk of him going to Los Angeles (either one) or Seattle, he becomes very interesting—a good home park can do wonders for a pitcher. But with the Giants and A’s probably not in the market for Burnett, most of the possible suitors won’t do much to help Burnett’s ERA and WHIP. I’d trade him away while the rumors are flying. If he does move into a favorable situation, you probably won’t have lost out on that much.

Ian Kennedy

Kennedy was just sidelined with an injury, so we’ll have to see how that shakes out. While the Padres would need to be overwhelmed to deal the bounce-back pitcher (who they control through next season) his injury probably makes that less likely. That’s actually good new for Kennedy owners, since there’s really no better place for him than San Diego. I’d probably hold Kennedy, but I don’t think I’d trade for him until we know more about his injury (which appears to be minor). 

Bartolo Colon

Colon isn’t the most exciting name in fantasy, but I would try to sneak him into a trade offer while the real-baseball coverage makes him sound better than he is. New York is a nice ballpark to pitch in, and I don’t suspect he’ll end up in a better place—even if he gets more run support. If Colon is dealt it will likely be after the market for better pitchers shakes itself out.

Matt Kemp

Kemp’s name has come up in talks with the Mariners, which is never good news for a hitter. Unless he’s coming from Dodger Stadium. Parks aside, trading the Dodgers’ supporting cast for the Mariners’ isn’t so good. These talks seem like kind of longshots, given Kemp’s contract, but it could happen.  I’d consider trading Kemp away if you get someone who thinks he might end up as a Yankee or an Oriole or something.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera’s name has come up in connection with the Blue Jays, which would be a nice situation for the current Indians’ shortstop. I would wait for that one to gain a little more traction, but he could expect a bump in production in Canada. Tentatively, I’d trade for him. Also, I’d get ready to pull the waiver wire trigger on Francisco Lindor.

Troy Tulowitzki

Tulowtizki is showing up in trade rumors, abetted by an appearance at a Yankees game. Given his injury and his face-of-the-franchise status in Colorado (and his very friendly contract), I suspect there’s more smoke than fire to these rumors. Certainly any trade outside of Colorado is bad fantasy news for Tulo owners, so I’d consider offering a trade for the injured shortstop…but I’d wait a little longer on the medicals before offering it.

There are plenty more players who could be on the trading block in the next few days—especially relievers on losing teams. You know where to keep up with the action for trades (MLBTR obviously), and don’t forget @CloserNews on Twitter for everything relating to the many relievers who’ll probably be changing uniforms in the upcoming days.




RotoAuthority League Update: Standings Rundown

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

It's been a month since we last analyzed the standings. Let's see how things have changed over July.

The Favorites

1. E-Z Sliders 94

2. Men With Wood 88.5

E-Z Sliders have moved up a dozen points over the last five weeks to vault into first place. When you take a look at this owner's roster, it's no wonder why this club has risen to the top. Jose Altuve has been the most valuable hitter over the past month while David Price has been the best pitcher; yes, both studs are members of this roster. In addition, Adrian Beltre, Jacoby Ellsbury, Max Scherzer, and Jon Lester continue to be excellent while Torii Hunter and Neil Walker have been particularly helpful lately. In short, this owner has no worries about finishing in the top two, at the very least. Meanwhile, just like seemingly every other year, Men With Wood is still right in the thick of things. We already knew Mike Trout was elite, and now we know Carlos Gomez is as well. Anthony Rizzo has made the leap to stardom while Sonny Gray and Tyson Ross are rising up next season's SP rankings with every start. On paper, I still have to give the edge here to E-Z Sliders, but Men With Wood could easily make up this deficit with a hot week.

The Race for Third Place

3. Smell the Glove 77.5

4. Guitar Masahiro 75

5. Pulling Brzenk 74

Well, well, well. Guess who's shot up the standings over the past month? None other than our Commissioner, Tim Dierkes. The Commish's squad, Smell the Glove, has jumped from seventh place all the way to third in five weeks. Tim's staff has been truly fantastic led by an estalished ace in Cole Hamels and pair of newly anointed studs in Corey Kluber and Garrett Richards. Guitar Masahiro is holding strong but will need Troy Tulowitzki to get healthy soon to make a run at the title. It doesn't hurt to own Clayton Kershaw, though. Lastly, this is a zero-sum game; it's only logical that just as Smell the Glove has made a double-digit net gain of points in the standings, Pulling Brzenk has made a move of similar magnitude in the opposite direction. This owner has unfortunately been hit by the injury bug lately with Edwin Encarnacion, Starling Marte, and Gerrit Cole all on the DL.

Just Hoping for an Invitation Next Year

6. A Century of Misery 63.5

6. Spirit of St. Louis 63.5

8. The Jewru 56.5

9. The Bombers 55.5

10. Cobra Kai 50

11. Brewsterville Bruins 45.5

12. Gramma Nutt Crushers 36.5

A month ago, I pointed out that I didn't consider my team to have the ceiling to win the league. Well now, we're getting to the point where I don't know if my team even has the upside to finish in the money. I still feel relatively comfortable I can escape the bottom four, though. I also speculated that the Bombers could shoot up the standings due to a low innings total. Well, that shows how much I know, as that squad has fallen about fifteen points to the bottom four. On the other hand, Spirit of St. Louis has been able to make up significant ground and can breathe a tad more easily at the moment. Finally, Cobra Kai, Brewsterville Bruins, and Gramma Nutt Crushers don't seem to be making much progress in the standings. At this stage in the game, it will be interesting to analyze the tactics of these owners as they look to make up any points possible to avoid the boot from the league.

Standings as of Saturday, July 26th




Closer Updates: Trade Rumors Edition

The closer scene started firing on all cylinders shortly after the All-Star Game last week and, now that the trade deadline is fast approaching, things continue to heat up. In the matter of a few days, we’ve seen several big names floated and two dealt. This week, we’ll explore some closers who have been rumored as trade bait and take a deeper look at two recent big bullpen deals.

Joaquin Benoit – After H. Street was traded to the Halos, most thought that Benoit would take over as the Padres’ closer. However, San Diego may still be keen on disassembling their bullpen and Benoit could also be moved after a strong season (1.99 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 10.4 K/9) and experience closing (38 career saves). If he’s moved, Dale Thayer (1.99 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.9 K/9) should take over for the Padres.

Steve Cishek – If the Marlins start to turn to rebuilding mode again this season, they very well may start with Cishek (23 saves, 3.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 10.8 K/9). After earning the job in 2012, he’s been quite steady in the role (72 saves) and can be a solid closer or setup guy for a playoff contender. If Cishek is gone, expect A.J. Ramos (2.06 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 10.1 K/9) to take the ninth for Miami.

Jonathan Papelbon – Several rumors have surfaced that the Phillies are interested in moving Papelbon, but there hasn’t been too much interest despite a strong season (23 saves, 1.96 ERA, 0.90 WHIP). Considering that the Phillies are said to be willing to eat some of his contract, Papelbon’s name will continue to be a popular one. If that happens, the Phils will likely turn to some combination of Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, and/or Antonio Bastardo in the ninth.

Chad Qualls – Despite Houston’s troubles, Qualls has had a strong season (11 saves, 1.78 ERA, 1.02 WHIP). Apparently several teams have been calling and he could be traded for prospects before too long. If that happens, look for the Astros’ bullpen to fall into disarray. There are a number of candidates to close (including Jose Veras, Josh Fields, and Tony Sipp), but that horse race will need some time to sort itself out.

Joakim Soria – It looks like Soria will be headed to Detroit to challenge the struggling Joe Nathan. He’s been solid this season with the Rangers (17 saves, 2.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 11.3 K/9) and should help stabilize the Tigers’ bullpen immediately. Although he may not be slotted into the closer role tomorrow, he should wrestle the gig from Nathan in short order. In Texas, look for Neftali Feliz (2.61 ERA, 0.77 WHIP) or Neal Cotts (3.35 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 10.5 K/9) to contend for the newly available save opportunities. Feliz should have the initial edge considering his past experience closing games (74 career saves).

Huston Street – After struggling to find a dependable closer, the Angels followed up their Frieri-for-Grilli swap with a move for Street, who has been excellent this season (25 saves, 1.03 ERA, 0.77 WHIP). Look for Joe Smith to transition back to a setup role while Jason Grilli is pushed farther from the ninth inning.

Koji Uehara – If the Red Sox shift to sell mode, Uehara might be one of the first to go after a strong start to the season (20 saves, 1.58 ERA, 0.75 WHIP). He has been a stud for Boston over the past couple of years and could improve nearly every bullpen in baseball. If the 39-year-old moves, Edward Mujica could be the next in line to close at Fenway (43 career saves). Another name to keep an eye on is Junichi Tazawa, who is an outstanding setup guy (2.52 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.4 K/9) and has been more dependable than Mujica thus far.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 25-31

The original Abbott & Costello "Who's On First" routine is an absolute masterpiece of comic confusion and cannot possibly be duplicated.  That said, my recent attempt at explaining the WAR metric to my 66-year-old dad was at least in the ballpark.  While my dad didn't quite grasp the statistical process that goes into calculating WAR, he seemed pretty on board until I fired up the all-time fWAR leaderboard and revealed that Roberto Clemente, his favorite player ever, had "only" the 34th-best fWAR ever.  He could naturally handle Willie Mays or Henry Aaron being ranked ahead of Clemente....but Chipper Jones, Wade Boggs and A-Rod or basically anyone who played after 1980?  Nope, that soured him on the metric altogether. 

Let's delve into the advanced metrics to see which fantasy players are or aren't worth your time as some leagues approach their own trade deadlines...

* EdLose.  A pitcher with an 8.09 K/9 and a 3.94 ERA would fit pretty nicely into most fantasy rotations, and in a just world, Edwin Jackson would be owned in way more than only three percent of Yahoo leagues.  Unfortunately for Jackson, I'm starting to think he celebrated signing his big Cubs contract in the 2012-13 offseason by joining a local theatre production of The Scottish Tragedy and saying the lead character's name on an hourly basis.  (Note: I don't believe the Cubs' "billy goat curse" yet I totally believe the Scottish curse.  My English degree strikes again!)

For the second straight year, Jackson's peripherals are greatly outperforming his actual ERA.  The Chicago righty owns a 4.29 FIP and 3.94 xFIP following last night's outing against the Padres, yet he has a whopping 5.68 ERA to show for it on the ledger.  He's plagued by a .345 BABIP and a 64.6% strand rate, though some of Jackson's problems are also due to a 3.89 BB/9 and a ground ball rate that's down almost 10 percent from 2013.  Hitters are also scorching the ball against Jackson, as his 26.3% line drive rate is the highest of any qualified starter.

I'm guessing there isn't any rush to add Jackson in your league, yet just in case you noticed his ERA/xFIP discrepancy and thought he was just unlucky and due for a correction, don't outsmart yourself.  Jackson should be performing better than he is, yet he has enough red flags in his performance that even if his ERA and xFIP lined up, he'd still be someone I'd hesitate to use as anything more than a streaming starter.  This said, I'll change my tune if the Cubs employ a "two negatives make a positive" strategy and stage a production of Macbeth at Wrigley Field to shatter all the curses at once.

* The Rich Gets Richards.  Speaking of line drive rate, looking at the league-wide table reveals a correlation between high line drive rates and high BABIPs, which isn't a surprise.  There's a tendency to think of a high BABIP as meaning that a pitcher is just getting a lot of dribblers get through the infield, yet naturally a hard-hit ball is going to have a better chance of finding a gap in the defense than a weakly-hit ball.  The trick, naturally, is to somehow make those liners to be basically the only types of balls that are falling for hits against you, which Garrett Richards has done during his breakout season.

Richards' 21.8% line drive rate ranks him 24th among all qualified starters, yet thanks to a .263 BABIP, his tendency to allow hard-hit balls hasn't stopped him from posting a 2.62 ERA.  He can thank a good Angels defense and some plain ol' good luck for that, yet Richards has helped himself by drastically cutting down on his homers (4% homer rate in 2014, down from a 9.3% career average) and posting a 9.11 K/9 that dwarfs his previous career-best 6.27 K/9.

While the nice BABIP and the 76.3% strand rate both indicate some overachievment, Richards' advanced metrics (2.65 FIP, 3.21 xFIP) still reveal that he's having a heck of a season.  I think it's safe to say at this point that he's the real deal for fantasy purposes, and the only red flag I could see is if he starts to tire as he racks up the innings.  The Angels apparently aren't planning to rest him down the stretch, so if you're more worried than they are about Richards holding up through September, this might be a good time to sell high.

Fun fact: I had a seeming first base overload of Joey Votto, Mark Teixeira and Adam LaRoche a couple of months ago in one of my leagues, and I was shopping any of them for a quality starting pitcher.  Another manager offered me Richards straight up for LaRoche and I pooh-poohed the offer, figuring that Richards was something of a flash in the pan.  Instead I took a seemingly more stable pitcher and traded LaRoche for....Andrew Cashner.  Yikes.  Let this be a reminder to not take my fantasy advice as a rock-solid guarantee, folks.   Even Babe Ruth struck out once in a while.  Yes, that's right, I regard myself as the fantasy writer equivalent of Babe Ruth, though it's mostly based on hot dog consumption.

* BOOM!  Rios-ted!  I'll be the first to admit that there can sometimes be a disconnect between fantasy stats and real-life peripherals, simply because four of the basic 5x5 categories are pure counting stats.  Alex Rios' 2014 season is a nice example of this disconnect.  Rios is drastically short on power (four homers and 42 RBI) this year but otherwise, his 16 steals, 41 runs and .299 average over 397 PA makes for a pretty decent year, right?  He's even ranked as the 98th-best fantasy player in the game, according to Yahoo.

In actual fact, there are way more than only 97 guys more valuable than Alex Rios in 2014.  In Fangraphs' eyes, he's barely better than average with a 103 wRC+ and 0.8 fWAR, and while that fWAR score factors in a subpar defensive performance, keep in mind that Rios' offense has been boosted by a healthy .360 BABIP.  Were it not for this huge slice of batted-ball luck, Rios could be seen as a player on the decline in his age-33 season rather than a guy frequently mentioned as a midseason trade candidate.

Rios is no stranger to wild swings in performance, of course.  From 2007 to 2012, Rios posted these full-season fWAR totals: 5.0, 5.4, 0, 3.4, -1.1, 4.3.  If you had Rios in a keeper league throughout that stretch, he must've tested your last nerve.  Last season saw Rios earn 3.1 fWAR, though his wRC+ was only 104 as his value was boosted by a somewhat incredible 42 stolen bases; players usually don't post their best base-stealing numbers when they're 32.  Rios hasn't been as dangerous on the basepaths this year, however, as while he has 16 steals, he's also been thrown out nine times.

In short, it's a confusing time to be an Alex Rios owner.  Should you overlook the power outage and sell while the getting is good, or should you hang onto a player who (as noted) isn't really hurting you that badly from an overall fantasy perspective?  You obviously want more power from a starting outfielder yet Rios is still scoring some runs and he'll end up in the 25-steal range. 

My RA colleague Andrew Gephardt cited Rios as a strong sell-high candidate under the logic that his offensive numbers could really crater if the Rangers trade him to a team in a less hitter-friendly ballpark.  Given that Rios' home/road splits are pretty even, I'd argue that a real-life trade could actually be great for Rios' fantasy value --- a change of scenery to a contending team might heat up his bat, not to mention the fact that he'd be escaping the Murphy's Law fog that seems to have devoured the Rangers' season.  I'd hang onto Rios past the July 31st trade deadline but we get deeper into the August waiver period and no trade appears to be on the horizon, that's when I'd try to move him in a fantasy deal.  Hopefully that BABIP can stay sky-high for a few more weeks to keep him attractive to a fellow manager.




Stock Watch: Cross Your Fingers

Starting next week, I envision this column getting pretty trade-suggestion heavy, between speculating about real-life trades and their potential impact on fantasy values and our own fantasy trading deadlines, which start showing up quicker than I think—probably mid-August for most of us.

So let’s take a little time to enjoy the subtler flavors of the waiver wire, just for a little. While we’re at it, let’s try and keep ourselves concentrated on the subgroup of players who’ve actually been good in the last month. This is the part of the year when you grab who you can and you cross your fingers that good play is more than an aberration. Sometimes it even is.

Shallow Leagues (Under 50% Owned)

I mentioned Dellin Betances (48%) yesterday, but seriously, if you have room for any non-closer, you have room for Betances. Even in shallow leagues, keep him in mind, especially if you’re starting to punt saves or needing to reduce your innings pitched. 

Speaking of relievers, Santiago Casilla (48%) hasn’t allowed an earned run on the month, but has notched five saves and recently put out a fire started by Sergio Romo. Pick him up. (Not Romo…pick up Casilla.)

All-Star super-utility-man Josh Harrison (45%, plays three positions) hasn’t hit that much over the last month, but he has managed seven steals. His multi-position eligibility makes him all the more useful in shallow leagues, I would think.

Danny Salazar (44%) started yesterday, but as of this writing (before yesterday’s start) it was unclear whether or not he’d be staying in the Bigs. Check out the latest news before dropping someone good for him, but don’t let him stay unowned for long, unless you see he's headed straight back to the Minors.

Stephen Vogt (39%) has hit over .370 in the last month getting playing time behind the plate, at first, and in the outfield. The A’s are the quintessential example of “better than the sum of their parts” and their players can make your fantasy team that way too. At least, if you have daily changes they can….

Kolten Wong (39%) is in the middle of a crazy-hot streak right now, batting over .350 with five homers and three steals. He seems like an up-and-down kind of player so far…so enjoy the up times with him.

Jacob deGrom (39%) has just rocked the last month: 2.10 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 25.2 IP. Ride the lightning. 

Chris Young (36%) has actually been striking people out lately; he’s managed 27 K’s in his last 31 IP, all while keeping his WHIP at an even 1.00. 

Carl Crawford (35%) has not hit, but a sense of duty reminds me to inform you he’s off the DL and has stolen two bases since returning to play. Buywer beware.

Charlie Morton (34%) has also struck out more people than usual lately (30 in 33 IP), and allowed just a 0.91 WHIP. 

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

I mentioned Jake Odorizzi (29%) yesterday, since he’s so good for your strikeouts, but even over the course of a pretty good last month (3.09 ERA), he’s still killing WHIP’s with a 1.50 mark. Ouch.

Marcus Stroman (29%) looks very, very good. He’s got a sub-1.00 WHIP, an ERA under 2.30 and nearly a strikeout per inning over the last month. This young pitcher is the guy to target in this section.

Wade Miley (27%) has been pitching extremely well too: 32 strikeouts in 32.2 innings, a 2.76 ERA, and a 1.07 WHIP.

Chris Carter (26%) has smacked six homers in the last month and become a batting average machine. Okay, so he’s hitting about .270 on the month, but for him, that’s…well, I never thought it would happen.

Omar Infante (26%) is hitting over .350 on the month, so he’s regressing to his normally nice mean batting average. I’ll take it, and I’ll take the recent hot hitting in its own right.

Odrisamer Despaigne (25%) finally has a couple strikeouts, but his rate is still ridiculously low. As are his rate stats. I don’t know what his deal is, but I’ll use a roster spot to see if it’s even close to real. Even if it’s not, there’s always PetCo Park.

Danny Santana (24%) is back from the DL. He’s not doing much, but he’s still shortstop eligible and therefore interesting—and that’s before we talk about second and outfield.

Edinson Volquez (24%) has put up a great ERA over the last month and gotten four wins for his trouble…but he isn’t generating the strikeouts. That worries me, but maybe it shouldn’t, since he was never all that good when he was striking people out. Jeff Locke (23%) can tell a similar story, but he’s never generated whiffs.

David Freese (23%) is having a hot month, but rising tides raise all boats—even Mr. Freeze—or something like that. Anyway, Freese’s hot month is good for the Angels, and the Angels’ hot play is good for Freese’s numbers. A hot player on a hot team is just the sort of thing you want contributing to your team.

Remember Chris Coghlan (23%)? No? I can’t believe you! Well, apparently he’s back, and hitting .333 with three homers and three steals. And playing third. I’m intrigued, I’ll admit.

Denard Span (21%) continues to hit a bit (.301 average) and steal some bases (four). That seems pretty useful, right?

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned) 

Lorenzo Cain (20%) has snagged six bags in the last month and continued to hit good enough to survive in your lineup.

James Loney (19%) has hit .301 in his last month…which is pretty much what he does. I’m truly inclined to think that boring-but-reliable batting average is worth more than 19% ownership.

Trevor Bauer (17%) isn’t helping you in WHIP (but he’s better than Odorizzi!), but deep leaguers ought to take a chance on a guy with his history of promise and a solid 3.13 ERA and 28 strikeouts in his last 31.2 IP.

When we last checked in on Conor Gillaspie (17%) he had just hit his first homer of the year. Now he’s up to four. It hasn’t been long since I mentioned him in this column. I don’t know if his homer swing was missing, but it really does help to know that he’s got one, at least. Just a .280 average on the month, though. Way to disappoint us, Conor. 

Arismendy Alcantara (15%) should be owned immediately. Immediately! The dude’s already got three steals in just 35 at-bats, plays a middle infield position, and is an actual prospect with real-life promise. And his competition is Darwin Barney. Pick him up.

Brandon McCarthy (9%) is off to a pretty good start in New York, and he’s striking out almost a batter per inning over the last month. I’m still not excited about his batted-ball profile in Yankee Stadium, but I guess it can’t be much worse than it already is.




RotoAuthority Unscripted: I Bet You Didn't Know Day

Last night I was up way too late writing this article and it occurred to me that I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. In fact, I couldn’t really think of anything truly notable to say. And that’s when it hit me: it was time for another “I Bet You Didn’t Know Day,” wherein I peruse the various leaderboards, statistics, and assorted metrics and look for things that surprise me. Then I hope that they surprise you too. But even if the nuggets of baseball strangeness that I uncover don’t merit more than a raised eyebrow and a muttered, “I’m gonna check that out myself,” they should amount to something that actually matters for the health of your fantasy baseball team.

Except for this one: Billy Hamilton grounded into a double play. It doesn’t really matter—but it is pretty impressive. Well played, whichever team pulled that one. Well played.

Some More (Mostly) Relevant Thoughts on Speed

Hamilton also leads baseball with 15 caught stealing—six more than second-place Dee Gordon—but his 38 steals still leave him with a success percentage over 70%, so I guess he isn’t in line for a red light anytime soon. 

With 41 swipes, Jose Altuve is the only other player with more steals than Hamilton (bringing that number to two more players than anyone predicted). But Altuve’s only been caught three times. (That’s a 91% success rate, if you’re counting at home.)

Elvis Andrus has 20 steals already, which is pretty nice—but they come with nine times caught. With so many years of high CS totals, I guess you shouldn’t worry much about Andrus getting the red light. Unless Texas ever changes managers….

Charlie Blackmon is the surprise All-Star of the year so far, but if he’s not on your team, you might not have known he’s swiped 18 bags so far. Another surprise base stealer (not to mention, surprise All-Star) is Todd Frazier, who’s got 15.

As always, remember to lower the minimum plate appearances requirement whenever you sort by stolen bases: Eric Young, Rajai Davis, Jarrod Dyson, and James Jones are all in the top 20 in the category but won’t appear on any searchable list that demands the player be qualified for the batting title.

Brian Dozier has just a single steal in the last 28 days, and just four between June and July. That’s after posting six in each of the first two months. So maybe don’t trade for him expecting speed.

Some Thoughts on Pitching

WAR is far from a perfect proxy for fantasy value. It’s too predictive, and too good an indicator of real talent. But, just for fun, can you name the top ten starting pitchers in fWAR? If you can’t, prepare to raise a skeptical eyebrow, as the list is graced by Corey Kluber (3rd), Garrett Richards (7th), Jose Quintana (9th and making my incessant suggestions to pick him up sound pretty smart), and Phil Hughes (6th). Yes, that Phil Hughes. Go ahead and tab over to your league's waiver wire just to check and see if any of these guys are still unowned in your league. Believe me I’ll wait. 

If it wasn’t late already, I’d be checking too.

Alfredo Simon is tied for the league lead in wins with 12. If you watched the All-Star game, that probably doesn’t surprise you. If you watched the All-Star game, then maybe you will be surprised that the guy’s got a 5.05 K/9. Whether he comes back to earth or not (and he will), you don’t want that on most fantasy teams.

Speaking of K/9, you won’t be surprised to hear that the three leaders in the stat are Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, and Stephen Strasburg. (If you are, you’re in the wrong game, and probably the wrong website. No, wait…let’s not be exclusive. Stick around, check it out. You’ve got time for a new hobby, right? I promise it won't become life-consuming.) Anyway, you might be surprised to hear that the next name on the list belongs to Jake Odorizzi, who owns a 10.34 K/9. Admittedly, his BB/9 of 3.48 gives him some trouble, but he’s providing a surprising amount of value for a guy who feels like a fringy player. 

It seems to me that pitchers are showing more control than they used to: only four qualified starters are walking over four batters per inning. (Though most of the Cubs are close.) So be strict on you pitchers in the WHIP category. (You can add your own joke.)

Dellin Betances has 88 strikeouts. That’s 23 more than the next best reliever, Sean Doolittle. It’s good for 62nd among starters, which is pretty impressive considering that he’s pitched about half as many innings as the guy ahead of him (Wily Peralta). 

The scary thing is that, while Betances has a very nice 13.58 K/9, it is just blown out of the water by Aroldis Chapman. He’s whiffing 18.30 batters per nine innings. Which, yes, is just over two per inning. Uh…wow.

Do you know who the leader is in Holds? (No.) Do you care? (Probably not, but you should, because these guys turn into closers sometimes.) Anyway, it’s Brad Ziegler, with 26. He’s been a closer before, so he’s someone to remember for this season, and in the future. Tony Watson, Will Smith (not the actor—I think), and Tyler Clippard are the only others over 20.

The top two pitchers in blown saves are Luke Gregerson and Bryan Morris* (six and five, respectively). Both have ERA’s under 2.10. No wonder they abbreviate blown saves “BS.”

*Actually Morris is tied with a bunch of people. But they didn't exactly fit the comment.

Back to Hitting, Briefly

Michael Brantley’s fifth-place .326 average is fueled by a pretty-normal .325 BABIP. Don’t confuse it with teammate Lonnie Chisenhall, who is getting the same average out of a .367 BABIP.

Victor Martinez now has a below-average BABIP of .296. He’s hitting .322, good for 8th in baseball. The next highest-ranked player with a sub-.300 BABIP is Erick Aybar (45th), who’s batting .283. Which is still kind of impressive.

Hey, I told you it would be brief. Tune in next time for more surprises…unless we do something different.




RotoAuthority League Update: Midseason To-Do List

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

We've passed the All-Star break in the RotoAuthority League, and I'm still hovering in the middle of the pack in the standings. I'm confident my team will avoid finishing in the bottom four and thus a boot from the league; however, at this point I'm unsure if my team is capable of taking home the title. Still, I'm a firm believer that every move upward in the standings is a worthy endeavor. Even taking money out of the equation, I fight for every point in the standings. A fourth-place finish won't get me any money in this league, but it still means more to me than fifth place -- just as seventh place is worth more to me than eighth place, and so on. With that in mind, let's look at what fantasy owners should be doing at this stage in the season.

1. Analyze the standings

The key here is to determine how many points you can gain in each category. It's important to be realistic with those goals. Even though we're at the All-Star Break, we've already passed the halfway point; in fact, the season is roughly 60% done. What really matters is how closely stratified each category is in your league. In the RotoAuthority League, for instance, the rate categories of AVG and WHIP are tightly packed. While randomness may play a critical role in a small sample size of just twelve weeks, hitters who project to hit for a good AVG are a tad more valuable in this particular league. Meanwhile, it's just as important to identify the categories in which you're unlikely to gain many points for the balance of the season. I've actually been punting saves since April, so closers are worthless to me at this point. The plan may burn up in flames, but at this point you must have a plan as to how to approach the standings.

2. Speculate with the MLB trade deadline in mind

Some player values can change quite drastically as a result of trades, so fantasy owners must be quick to respond to the news in July. Unfortunately, in the RotoAuthority League the Commissioner just happens to be the creator of MLB Trade Rumors, so I don't stand a chance of learning about a trade in time to act upon it. For the rest of you out there, though, keep in mind that relievers lie at the top of the list of players whose value may change in the next couple weeks. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs recently created a custom Trade Chip leaderboard and listed the following closers as potential trade candidates: Joaquin BenoitLaTroy Hawkins, Jonathan Papelbon, Chad Qualls, Addison Reed, and Joakim Soria. The primary setup men for these closers appear to be Dale ThayerAdam Ottavino, Ken Giles, Jose Veras, Brad Ziegler, and Neftali Feliz, respectively. Depending on the size of your league, some of these guys should be plucked off the waiver wire in preparation for the deadline.

3. Send out trade offers

During the season I try to avoid having many trade offers on the table for one main reason. That is, another fantasy owner could accept a trade shortly after a player leaves a game with an injury without giving me a chance to withdraw my offer. To me, any such trade should be reversed, but I've played in leagues that have a rationale of tough luck in that situation. One benefit to the All-Star break is that you don't have to worry about any players getting hurt. I sent out offers left and right in my leagues last week, and the responses were quicker than usual. My theory is that fantasy owners often wish to make sure that no players involved get hurt when games are in progress, but that's not a problem during the break.

So what kinds of offers should you be sending out? Well, it's all about gaining points in the standings. Don't worry too much about value at this point. Consider the needs of other owners first, and then make an offer that makes sense for both sides. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to get deals done when you're only focused on particular categories.




The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 18-24

Let's look into the advanced metrics to see who you should or shouldn't have on your fantasy roster in the second half of the season...

* ProTextion.  Still available in 33% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, Mark Teixeira is a terrific pickup if you're looking for some power down the stretch.  My wrist started to ache while typing that last sentence since merely writing about Teixeira will cause wrist injuries by osmosis. Yet, while the veteran is still prone to missing a game or two with one injury setback or another, when Teixeira is on the field, he's still very productive.

Teixeira has a .241/.341/.464 line, 17 homers, 48 RBI and 39 runs scored through 305 PA this season.  In comparison to the average Mark Teixeira season of recent years (he slashed .252/.347/.484 from 2010-12), that's not a big dropoff, and the 2014 campaign even shares some vintage Teixeira traits like a low BABIP (.242) and a lotta pop (.222 ISO, 18th-highest in baseball).  He's both seeing and swinging at fewer pitches within the strike zone as compared to his career averages, though none of his other metrics are drastically out of whack with what we've come to expect from Teixeira.  Teixpect?

Presumably you've had a good first baseman on your roster for much of the year and aren't looking at Teixeira to take on a starting position...or hey, maybe you are if you're a Joey Votto owner or something.  Given Teixeira's health issues, I'd also be hesitant to hand him an everyday job; in fact, I platoon Teixeira with TPIITP favorite Lucas Duda in one of my leagues.  For bench depth or a utility role, Teixeira is a terrific option, particularly if he's playing at Yankee Stadium (his home OPS is .074 higher than his road OPS).  I'm knocking on wood as I'm saying this, but if Teixeira stays healthy, there's no reason why he can't be the same power threat he's been for over a decade.

* X Marks The Bench.  On the morning of June 8, Xander Bogaerts owners could wake up feeling pretty good about their move to draft the young shortstop/third baseman.  After a 2-for-5 performance against Detroit the previous night, Bogaerts was hitting a cool .299/.387/.452 and looking all the world like the young star the Red Sox (and fantasy managers) were hoping to get in his first full season in the bigs.

Since then, however, it's been a different story.  I'm going to issue a parental advisory for this next set of statistics since parents shouldn't be exposing young children to numbers like this.  Between June 8 and July 13, a period of 114 plate appearances, Bogaerts has been hitting .103/.140/.131 with one homer and five RBI.  I mean...wow.  I'm not saying I'd do better than that over a similar timespan (I'd swing and miss every time and start crying about 60 PA in) but the very fact that I'm even borderline speculating that my overweight carcass could outperform a Major League ballplayer indicates just how poorly Bogaerts has been playing.

This is one of those slumps that forces a fantasy manager to reconsider having a guy on his roster, no matter who it is.  Sure, this slump is some ways a case of course-correction (Bogaerts enjoyed a .384 BABIP prior to June 8, and a .132 BABIP after, averaging out to a .302 BABIP for his full season) or simply an extreme case of a young player adjusting to the league after they've had a chance to get some video on him.  That said, man alive, having a player throw up a .271 OPS on your roster for over a full month is a recipe for fantasy disaster.

Should you cut Xander Bogaerts?  It's a close call for me, but I'm leaning towards no.  On the one hand, while he's a heralded prospect, we have no evidence that he'll be able to cut it in the Show so there's no evidence that he'll necessarily be able to come out of his slide.  On the other hand, Bogaerts does have dual-position eligibility so he can help your roster as a utility bench guy if nothing else.  He's also (somewhat surprisingly) played the third-most games and received the third-most PA of anyone on the 2014 Red Sox, so fatigue could be a factor as well.  This four-day All-Star break could be just what Bogaerts needs to recharge the batteries.

If you're in a no-bench league, you'll have to cut him simply because you can't afford to waste any more at-bats.  If you're in a league with a bench, for the love of Zod, get Bogaerts out of your starting lineup ASAP but hang onto him for at least a few more weeks to see if he can shake off the cobwebs.  If that doesn't work, the Sox should consider hiring former Tigers first baseman Dave Bergman as a hitting coach -- everyone knows Bogey and Bergman have great chemistry.  #NailedIt  #MarkHasAFilmDegree

* What Will Phil Do Next?  Felix Hernandez is a very solid guess as the starting pitcher with the most fWAR in baseball this season.  Jon Lester is a bit more surprising as the next name on the fWAR list, though the Boston southpaw is having a monster year.  As for who's third on the list, surely your mind will lean towards Adam Wainwright, Yu Darvish, Clayton Kershaw or any of the game's star-studded aces, yet the actual answer is.....Phil Hughes.  Yep, that Phil Hughes.  Only King Felix and, uh, Prince Jon have topped the 3.7 fWAR Hughes has generated over his 121 2/3 innings of work for the Twins this season.

The fantasy buzz around Hughes going into the season was that the extreme fly ball pitcher would perform much better at spacious Target Field than he did at Yankee Stadium, and sure enough, he's rebounded very nicely from his dreadful 2013 season.  Hughes has a 3.92 ERA through 19 starts, a 10-5 record, a 7.99 K/9 and (dig this) a 9.82 K/BB rate.  That K/BB number is so gorgeous that it may be the direct opposite of the Bogaerts slump slash line; parents, your kids can start reading the column again!  Hughes only has an 0.8 BB/9, easily the best of his career and the best of anyone in the bigs this year except for Hisashi Iwakuma, who's also the only one topping Hughes in the K/BB category.

Is it simply the change of scenery at work here?  It could be giving Hughes a mental boost to escape the short right field porch in the Bronx, yet interestingly, Hughes actually has a 5.37 ERA in nine home starts this year, as opposed to a 2.78 ERA in 10 road outings.  It's not Target Field helping him, it's just that Hughes' greatly improved control is helping limit his damage.  Hughes' 57% swing rate is way above his 49.3% career average, yet his contact rates are only a bit above career norms -- batters may be swinging more, but they're not necessarily doing much with those swings.

Of course, those swings are doing some damage.  Hughes' 3.92 ERA is inflated by a .341 BABIP, as the righty is posting a 2.62 FIP, 3.22 xFIP and 3.25 SIERA.  He's been particularly unlucky over his last six starts -- a 2.20 FIP over that stretch but also a .402 BABIP and a 5.49 ERA.  The good news for you is that this recent cold spell might've been the reason why Hughes is owned in only 55% of Yahoo leagues, so you can snap him up and reap the benefits once his luck starts to turn.

* The Captain.  I forget if they mentioned it during Tuesday's All-Star Game broadcast, but 2014 happens to be Derek Jeter's last season.  You may be feeling sentimental about this and you're considering putting one of the game's greats on your fantasy roster for the very last time.  And lookit that, he's even available on your league's waiver wire!  What's the harm in adding Jeter once more for old times' sake?

Plenty.  Unless your league counts "Leadership" along with the 5x5 stats, Jeter's .272/.324/.322 slash line, two homers, 25 RBI, 31 runs and six steals over 371 PA doesn't translate to much fantasy value.  The near-total lack of power is the real eye-opener, as Jeter's .050 ISO is the lowest of any qualified player in baseball.  While shortstop is a thin position (only nine have a wRC+ over the average 100 mark), Jeter's 80 wRC+ still ranks him behind 17 other shortstops.  Even Bogaerts, after over a month of that ghastly cold spell, still has an 82 wRC+ to top Jeter.

One plus in Jeter's favor is that he's managed to stay healthy this year, so provided his leg issues are behind him, he'd be least be a reliable place-holder for you if your regular shortstop was lost to the DL.   (It's not like the Yankees will bench him too often during his final season.)  It's unfortunate that a longtime fantasy star like Jeter is now merely a waiver wire fill-in during his last year, but that's the way it goes.  I somewhat doubt that the rest of the league's hurlers will follow Wainwright's lead in grooving pitches for Jeter to hit, so while Jeter may have two-plus months left in his actual career, his fantasy career is already at an end.




Closer Updates: All-Star Edition

As you already know, there’s a nice break each summer when baseball fans focus their attention on the midsummer classic and its festivities. In that vein, we’ll be bringing you an All-Star Edition of closer updates this week – focusing on the relievers which were featured on each league’s squad. Although the closers are surely grabbed up in your league, a few of these setup men have been having great seasons and could potentially help in your respective leagues.

American League

Dellin Betances (New York Yankees) – When Mariano Rivera left the Yankees bullpen, many wondered aloud whether they should look for reliever help via free agency. Rather than make a move, the Bronx Bombers stayed with the homegrown trio of David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren – who have each had strong seasons. While they have all been good, Betances’ numbers (1.46 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 13.7 K/9) have gotten him to the ASG.

Fernando Rodney (Seattle Mariners) – One of this season’s surprises has been Rodney, who recovered nicely after an average 2013 (3.38 ERA, 1.34 WHIP). So far, this season has been a different story and Fernando is looking better than ever (27 saves, 1.98 ERA, 1.13 WHIP). If the Mariners keep winning games, expect his dominance to continue.

Glen Perkins (Minnesota Twins) – The Twin Cities had to have been happy to see Glen Perkins on this year’s roster. Perkins has been a solid closer since earning the job in 2012 (76 career saves) and he’s made two consecutive trips to the ASG. This season has been another strong one (22 saves, 2.97 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 11.2 K/9) and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

Greg Holland (Kansas City Royals) – The AL’s best closer over the past few seasons has been Holland and this year is no exception. He has a monster 13.8 K/9 (career 12.5 K/9) and has consistently held down the ninth (25 saves this season). His name has been floated a bit as we near the trade deadline, but he’ll still be closing if moved.

Koji Uehara (Boston Red Sox) – The 39-year-old reliever earned his first ASG appearance this season and for good reason (18 saves, 1.65 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 11.7 K/9). Although he has only closed for a few years, and he doesn’t have too many more seasons ahead of him, Koji’s been a pure force in the role. If he keeps drinking from the fountain of youth, then maybe he’ll be back next season too.

Sean Doolittle (Oakland Athletics) – After some soap-opera drama in Oakland early on, Doolittle eventually rose above Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson on the depth chart as closer. Once he took the job, there was no looking back and his first All-Star nod has been well deserved (14 saves, 2.89 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 13.0 K/9).

National League

Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati Reds) – Despite a gruesome early season injury, Chapman has returned to form nicely (21 saves, 2.12 ERA, 0.78 WHIP). He’s still throwing the heat and possesses an 18.2 K/9 so far. Expect him to keep it up through 2014 and beyond.

Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves) – Another closer on top of his game is Kimbrel, who holds another solid stat line this season – 1.91 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 14.8 K/9. If the Braves keep winning ball games, Craig could earn 60 saves (he’s got 29 so far).

Francisco Rodriguez (Milwaukee Brewers) – One of the season’s biggest surprises has been K-Rod. Going into his fifth All-Star game, Rodriguez has stormed back on the scene this season (27 saves, 2.58 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 10.3 K/9). Although he’s unlikely to top the 62 saves he posted with the Angels in 2008, he could have another 50+ save season this year.

Huston Street (San Diego Padres) – One name that has been tossed around as trade bait is the two-time All Star Street, who has had another solid season in 2014 (24 saves, 1.09 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 9.3 K/9). If he is moved, Huston may become a setup guy elsewhere. If he remains in a position to close games, or stays with the Padres, expect him to finish the season strong.

Pat Neshek (St. Louis Cardinals) – One of the NL’s non-closer invitees was Neshek, who has begun to creep into the closer conversation recently after scavenging a few saves from Trevor Rosenthal. Neshek is having a great season (0.70 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 8.7 K/9) and could provide a lot of value if you’re looking for a setup guy.

Tony Watson (Pittsburgh Pirates) – After an unreal first-half of the season, Watson earned his first All-Star bid this summer. With an excellent stat line (1.42 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10.2 K/9), he made the Pirates decision to trade Jason Grilli an easy one. Expect him to keep setting up Mark Melancon as the Bucs make a push for the playoffs.

Tyler Clippard (Washington Nationals) – As one of only two representatives of the Washington Nationals, Clippard earned his spot after a tremendous beginning to the season (2.03 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 11.9 K/9). With Rafael Soriano closing effectively (22 saves, 0.97 ERA, 0.81 WHIP), Tyler has given the Nats a firm one-two punch to end games.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




RotoAuthority League Update: One Man's Midseason Trade Advice (Part 2)

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

To continue last week's theme, let's take a look at hitters and pitchers whom I view as Buy Low and Sell Low candidates going forward.

Buy Low

Jed Lowrie

The Coliseum still ranks in the bottom half of the game in runs. Accordingly, it's not surprising that several Athletics can be found among the list of hitters with the lowest BABIPs. Given Lowrie's high hard-hit ball rate, however, we can safely say that the Oakland shortstop has been unlucky in the batted ball department this season. In terms of power, he's actually increased his flyball rate, but his HR/FB% has cut in half. Lowrie hasn't ever hit even 20 HR, but he'd certainly emerged as a legitimate source of power relative to other middle infielders. If you're looking to acquire a SS or a 2B, Lowrie makes for a good target, as he qualifies at both slots. Depending on the size of your league, he might even be available on the waiver wire. If not, the good news is he certainly won't cost much given his lack of production this year. In short, send out a feeler offer to the Lowrie owner in your league; I'm quite bullish on the A's shortstop for the stretch run.

Alex Cobb

A popular target in the middle rounds, Cobb has failed to live up to the expectations of fantasy owners who drafted him this spring. After missing a month with an oblique injury, the young Rays right-hander has been decent but not exceptional in 76 innings this season. With a 4.14 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, Cobb has surface statistics that are rather mediocre in today's game. At this point, he's unowned in about a quarter of ESPN leagues, so he shouldn't cost a ton to acquire via trade. I still view this as a highly talented arm, and he still hardly ever induces hard contact. There's a reason he's posted an ERA right around 3.50 with over 400 MLB innings under his belt. Upon closer examination, his peripherals aren't all that different from those he posted in his breakout campaign last season. Overall then, I'd expect a performance more in line with his 3.38 SIERA.

Sell Low

Shin-Soo Choo

I viewed Choo as undervalued this preseason, so I guess I'm lucky to only own him in one league. After all, the Rangers outfielder has been one of this year's greatest disappointments, fantasy or otherwise. Given that he'd gone 20/20 three of the past five seasons, I viewed Choo as a relatively safe option to contribute in four categories. The power isn't down all that much, as he's still on pace for 16 HR; however, he's also on pace for just 5 SB. Meanwhile, the career .285 hitter is hovering around .250 this season. The runs are still there, but I honestly thought he could challenge among the league leaders in that category. Going forward, I really don't expect things to get much better. For one, Choo could see more and more days off as the Rangers give more playing time to the kids. In addition, the veteran outfielder just isn't hitting the ball hard very often these days.  I expected big things for Choo in Arlington, but now I'm rather bearish on his outlook in the future.

Shelby Miller

Miller entered this season as one of the fantasy arms many thought could take the leap to borderline elite status. Well, the young Cardinals right-hander has certainly struggled in his sophomore campaign. The strikeout rate is significantly down while the walk rate has noticeably spiked. Oddly enough, one can make the case that things will only get worse for Miller in the second half. After all, only Chris Young had a worse SIERA among qualified starters entering the weekend. It's premature to give up on this former top prospect in dynasty leagues, but I'd sell this arm for anything of value in the short term. At this point, Miller is all name and no value in redraft leagues. Try to shop him to the owner in your league who overvalues the upside of young players.




The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 11-17

The injury bug hit one of my teams hard this week, as I currently have Joey Votto, Masahiro Tanaka, Adam Lind, Andrew Cashner and Edwin Encarnacion ALL on my disabled list.  I have a bigger DL than a bench at this point.  The bright side of my injury-prone week?  This is the team that's already in second-last place, so hey, nothing is being lost!  Pride went out the window a long time ago in this league, so sure, bring on the injuries.  Let's have Ian Desmond hypnotized into thinking he's a chicken, or have Gregory Polanco get punched out while arguing about British prime ministers.  I don't care any more, bring on the pain. 

While I've gone all nihilistic in this league, I still care about my other leagues, and thus am still looking at the advanced metrics to see who I (and you) should be keeping an eye on....

* Who, Leo?  Some genius fantasy baseball writer told the world back in March that Julio Teheran was due for a better season than Shelby Miller, and as usual, you can take my predictions to the bank!  #BrokenClock  If you have Teheran on your team, however, it might be time for a sneaky sell-high maneuver.  The timing may not be totally perfect given that Teheran just got rocked by the Mets in his last start, but wait for the Braves righty to post one more quality outing and then open the bidding.

Why am I a bit worried about Teheran?  How about the fact that by the standards of the xFIP- metric, he's a perfectly league-average (100) starter?  Teheran has benefited from some healthy BABIP (.258) and strand rate (78.9%) luck this season, and his 2.57 ERA isn't quite as rosy when compared to his 3.34 FIP, 3.70 xFIP and 3.60 SIERA.  Not that these are exactly bad numbers or anything, but they do hint that Teheran is due for a bit of regression in the second half.

Teheran also owns a 44.3% fly ball rate, the fourth-highest of any qualified starter in baseball, and his 36.2% ground ball rate is the sixth-LOWEST of any qualified starter.  It should be a crime to allow so few grounders when Andrelton Simmons is playing behind you.  That kind of high-flys/low-grounders combination is kind of an ominous one, especially since Teheran isn't missing bats (7.65 K/9) at any special rate.

It all adds up to you trying the old "geez, I hate to give up Teheran, but if it's for your more established SP, I guesssss I could do it" routine on a rival manager in your league.  If this rival also owns Shelby Miller, pass along some condolences.

* Moose Calls.  If you drafted Mike Moustakas and started him all this time through his terrible early-season struggles....well, that was a bad move.  You cost yourself a lot of 3B at-bats.  Wow, what were you thinking, not even benching him?  You're a terrible fantasy manager!  Get out of here!  Be ashamed!

...uh wait!  Come back, straw man reader!  I may have been a bit harsh, given that now (FINALLY) Moustakas is starting to show some life.  Heading into Thursday's action against Detroit, Moustakas had posted a .276/.341/.526 line, six homers, 16 RBI and 13 runs over his previous 86 PA.  That is eons ahead of what he did in his previous 167 PA, which was a miserable .518 OPS, four homers, 20 RBI and 10 runs. 

Moustakas' turnaround roughly coincides with his demotion to the minors, and it seems like that time on the farm helped get the Royals third baseman's bat cooking.  Perhaps even more promising are two more stats from his last 86 PA --- the Moose is walking almost as much as striking out (9.3% walk rate, 10.5% K-rate) and his BABIP over his hot stretch is only .242, so if anything, he could be picking up even more hits over his stretch.

This could be one of those treasured post-hype prospect situations that canny fantasy owners absolutely love.  Moustakas is only owned in 19% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, and while his start was so awful that you can't blame anyone for dropping him, there's plenty of room to add him to at least your bench to see if his hot streak is for real.  I personally hope he ends up living up to his prospect hype, as otherwise, my Canadian rock band's name of Mike's Moose Stalkers is going to be pretty obscure.

* The Donald.  Just when you thought the baseball punditry had run out of ways to praise the Athletics' awesome 2014 season, I've got another high point for you.  Oakland is still running roughshod over the league despite the fact that their ostensible best player has been below replacement-level for over a month now.

Josh Donaldson was looking like an MVP candidate over his first 60 games, yet since then, that talk has quieted down considerably.  Going into Thursday's game with the Giants, Donaldson had hit only .144/.186/.255 with two homers, 13 RBI and eight runs over his previous 118 PA.  It was fair to assume a bit of regression after his red-hot start, yet there's "regression" and then there's "falling off a cliff." 

As a Donaldson owner in one of my leagues, I've been watching with horror at what's been happening over the last month and even benched my former lineup cornerstone a couple of times.  (Since my luck is awful, one of those bench games was Donaldson's 2-for-7 outing against Miami on June 28, one of just two multi-hit games he's had over this slump.)  I'm not sounding any alarm bells yet and in this league, I don't really have to since I have Matt Carpenter to slide into my 3B spot and stash Donaldson on my bench until he heats up.  If you don't have a super-solid replacement like Carpenter, however...

It could be that Donaldson is simply slumping and somehow having trouble finding holes in that spacious Coliseum outfield given his .252 BABIP.  But still, don't forget that Donaldson was a complete fantasy non-entity only 15 months ago.  Compared to his breakout 2013 season, Donaldson's contact rates are down (particularly his ability at making contact outside the strike zone), his line drives are way down (20.6% to 12.8%) and he's also walking less while striking out more often.

One bad month obviously doesn't negate the eight months of terrific hitting that preceded it, yet I'm just wary enough about Donaldson that I might float him in a few trades this week.  It's not quite a Teheran-like sell-high scenario, though hopefully I can attract a fellow manager who is still on the Donaldson-for-MVP train and hasn't bothered to look at the monthly splits in a while.  This isn't a solution for everyone since, again, I have Carpenter in this league and can afford to be flexible --- if you have Donaldson and no decent backup, all you can do is ride out his slump and hope that Donaldson starts mashing again soon.  A lengthy slump would really screw up this "everything is working out for the A's" narrative, and I always hate having my narratives ruined by stupid reality.




Closer Updates: Astros, BoSox, Giants, Padres, Rangers, Redlegs, Royals, White Sox

After last week’s closer swap between the Pirates and Angels, we’re going to take a deeper look at a few situations which might develop as the trading deadline gets closer. Don’t worry though, we will also take a look at a few closer battles that are still up in the air.

Boston Red Sox – Quite a few talking heads have mentioned that Koji Uehara might be on the trading block for Boston. Because they’re currently dead last in the AL East, they may opt to be sellers at this year’s trading deadline and Koji makes sense. The 39-year-old closer is certainly effective (18 saves, 1.30 ERA, 0.74 WHIP), but is unlikely to be a building block of the Red Sox future. If he’s dealt, look for Edward Mujica (2 saves, 5.51 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) to earn a lion’s share of the save opportunities. Junichi Tazawa is a great reliever (2.78 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), but seems to prefer a setup role.

Chicago White Sox – This bullpen picture is still quite unclear in Chicago. Matt Lindstrom, who has been on the disabled list with an ankle injury, should return in a few weeks and might be worth stashing. In the meantime, the battle is still between Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka. Putnam still has the edge (2.34 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), but Petricka has performed well in the past two weeks (2 saves, 0.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP) and is gaining some momentum.

Cincinnati RedsAroldis Chapman has pitched well since missing the early part of the season with an injury (5 saves, 1.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP). Saves chasers remember that Jonathan Broxton was very effective as Chapman’s replacement (5 saves) and is still sporting a 0.62 ERA. If the Reds decide to deal during the trade deadline, Broxton (and his 117 career saves) might be on a few radars.

Houston AstrosChad Qualls has emerged to be the Astros’ most dependable closer (9 saves, 2.05 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). Jesse Crain is still set to return at some indeterminable point-in-time, which might make Qualls disposable. Rumor has it that a few teams are interested in Qualls as a closer / setup guy. If he leaves and Crain is not ready, Houston’s bullpen will become a mess (again) in short order.

Kansas City RoyalsGreg Holland is having another excellent season (23 saves, 1.93 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) and probably won’t be leaving KC anytime soon. However, the Royals have an elite bullpen with Wade Davis (1.19 ERA, 0.82 WHIP), Kelvin Herrera (2.23 ERA, 1.24 WHIP), and Aaron Crow (2.45 ERA, 1.01 WHIP). When the trade deadline approaches, Davis should be on a few GM wish lists and could be an effective closer somewhere else almost immediately.

San Diego PadresHuston Street has been quite effective for the Padres this season (23 saves, 1.13 ERA, 0.78 WHIP). If they go on a losing skid and decide that the division title is too far out of reach, they might trade the 30-year-old closer for some younger prospects. In that instance, Joaquin Benoit would likely get the first save chances in San Diego.

San Francisco Giants – You probably recall that Sergio Romo recently lost his gig as closer after a tough month (2 saves, 12.91 ERA, 2.09 WHIP). Manager Bruce Bochy has insisted that reliever Santiago Casilla (3 saves, 1.08 ERA, 0.84 WHIP) now has the job, so look for him to continue getting save chances in the short term. If he hits a groove, he might keep the gig for the rest of the season.

Texas RangersJoakim Soria (16 saves, 2.76 ERA, 0.82 WHIP) and Jason Frasor (2.86 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) are both names that have been surfaced as potential trade candidates this summer. If Soria is moved, Frasor would likely take the reins for Texas. If Frasor is dealt, Neil Cotts (3.65 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) would move into a setup role.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




Stock Watch: Enjoy the Magic (While It Lasts)

Sometimes, in fantasy baseball, you need to look at the long stretch of season ahead and think about what moves make sense for the long haul. If you're in a keeper league you need to be thinking about next year too, and the one after.

But this isn't one of those times. Sometimes you just have to grab a player who's performing well--even if you don't really think they'll keep it up. Sometimes, you just have to enjoy the magic. While it lasts.

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

Okay it’s time. Henderson Alvarez (50%) has an ERA under 2.30 and he’s still just 50% owned. Yes, he’s overperforming his abilities. No, he doesn’t strike anybody out. But really. At some point you have to just enjoy the magic that’s there instead of ignoring it just because it will eventually go away. It’s time.

Taijuan Walker (49%) absolutely must be owned. He isn’t destroying his competition, but he’s an electric young pitcher with more impact potential than just about anyone else on the waiver wire. Not only that, but he’s got a very friendly home park, and—don’t look now—his Mariners aren’t bad and ought to help him win a few ballgames. Come on, shallow leaguers.

Josh Harrison (46%) has managed to get MI/CI/OF eligibility and make the All-Star team. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not sure about him for the whole season, but if you need someone now, go for it.

Brock Holt (45%) can play the corners and the outfield, so that’s pretty awesome. Also, he’s got a very nice little hitting line. Like Harrison, I don’t feel very confident about projecting Holt (for better or worse) for the rest of the season—but if you have a hole to fill, fill it with a guy who’s hitting. Maybe he won’t stop. 

Wilson Ramos (44%) might be finding his stroke, after spending most of the early part of the season on the DL. An above-average catcher flyer.

Why do I keep trying to match you up with Jose Quintana (44%)? Because he’s awesome, and so are you: you deserve each other. Seriously, the White Sox like him so much they aren’t listening to offers, which means the folks who know the most about him are on my side of this one.

Rumors have popped up involving Jake Peavy (39%) going to St. Louis. I’d take a chance on the veteran getting new life with a change of scenery. I mean, I wouldn’t go out trading for him, but I’d consider lifting him off the waiver wire before someone else gets the chance. This just in: maybe not. (Check out the link to see the talks progress or devolve.) What you don’t want is the Peavy of the possible future in which he stays with the Sox, so maybe wait on this one. 

You know, a mostly empty .270 batting average isn’t that bad for a shortstop these days. Or for a batting average, for that matter. Think about picking up the captain, Derek Jeter (36%) as he rides into the sunset.

Danny Duffy (34%) warrants more of an eyebrow raise than most Royals pitchers; though I’d like a few more strikeouts, I do like the WHIP.

Scooter Gennett (33%) is still hitting the ball, by the way. Go figure.

Oscar Taveras (31%) is back, also. Perennially worth the flyer, it seems.

Collin McHugh (31%) is still pitching very, very well. Over a strikeout per inning, so that’s always nice.

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

Charlie Morton (25%) is pitching pretty well, in his usual, unexciting fashion.

C.J. Cron (23%) is starting to look interesting, with a solid batting average. If you’re like me and just lost Joey Votto to another DL stint, think about Cron.

If you like living on the edge, Jake Odorizzi (22%) gives you a ton of strikeouts. And the occasional total implosion thanks to all the walks. It’s an exciting ride either way.

Denard Span (20%) isn’t a bad hitter and he’s got some speed (13 steals). He’s a good choice if you need to balance stolen bases and, you know, actual hitting categories.

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned)

Is Logan Forsythe (19%) the new Ben Zobrist? He plays 3B/SS/2B/OF, sort of hits and plays, well not that much. Okay, so if you need him, he’s probably already owned because your league is really deep, but his multi-position eligibility means he ought to be on our radars.

Lucas Duda (19%) continues to emerge from the shadow of the Ike Davis platoon experiment. I think he’ll be rising up the first base rankings.

Largely because I didn’t feel confident plugging him earlier in the season, Lorenzo Cain (17%) refuses to stop hitting. Seriously, he’s got a .311 batting average, yet is available in 83% of leagues? He even steals bases. Time to follow this week’s theme and enjoy the magic.

Josh Willingham (15%) has shown a little pop for the Twins and could find himself a friendlier home park soon enough.

I’m not sure who or what James Jones (15%) is, or why he’s getting enough at bats to steal 17 bases, but hey, we’re just here to profit from the production.

Has Vance Worley (13%) come back to life for Pittsburgh? Maybe. Not a lot of whiffs, but PNC Park is a good place to pitch.

You know who else won’t stop hitting? Drew Stubbs (11%). Yeah, weird. But add him to the list of Colorado outfielders you wouldn’t have expected to want. If nothing else, consider him for a home/road platoon slot on your roster.

Odrisamer Despaigne (10%) only have five strikeouts in 19.2 IP. That’s kind of crazy, and yes, it makes me worry. But he’s still got an ERA of 0.92 and a WHIP of 0.97. Enjoy it.

Conor Gillaspie (8%) finally has a home run! And it didn’t even cost him his .310 average.

Jeremy Hellickson (7%) isn’t the most awesome (or consistent) name in fantasy baseball, but he is coming off the DL. He’s helped (and hurt) fantasy teams in the past, so at least he’s a somebody.

Robinson Chirinos (5%) has quietly picked up nine homers in 179 AB playing catcher for Texas. Hey, deep leaguers need backup catchers too.

Josh Rutledge (3%) hasn’t flashed much power, but he plays all three premium infield positions and spends his home games at Coors Field. A lot more teams could use a backup like that.

Logan Morrison (3%) is getting more playing time lately and making some use of it. He’s worth keeping an eye on.

Tsuyoshi Wada (2%) is coming up to make his Major League debut for the Cubbies. If you remember his name, it’s because he come over from Japan some time ago but was derailed by injuries. Well, he’s up now. So, enjoy, very deep leaguers.





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