Thinking about these trends, thankfully, reminds me of that infectious pop vixen, Katy Perry. “Hot N Cold” remains one of my favorite songs — I simply run faster while this song is playing. Weird, I know, but I’m fast — I ran four miles in 27:02 two days ago (a bit off last’s weeks pace, but what can you do?).
Anyway, if you listen intently, you’ll find that this song accurately discusses the highs and lows of fantasy players from week-to-week. Or, maybe this series of columns is simply a subtle way to feed my Katy Perry YouTube fix. I’ll never tell. But let’s move on to things that matter to you like who’s hot:
Dexter Fowler – Fowler stole five bases in one game – amazing. I liked Dexter Fowler in the pre-season and he is forcing Clint Hurdle to give him more playing time. I don’t see why he couldn’t end up with 40 – 50 stolen bases, 80+ runs and a .270 batting average. That’s a lite-version of Jacoby Ellsbury – not bad for someone still on the wire in non-keeper leagues. Strong Buy.
Russell Branyan – in his major league career, Russell Branyan has managed to strikeout 812 times in only 781 games. Still, his power upside has always been great. With a full-time gig in Seattle, he could hit 30 HRs and add 70 RBIs this year. He is a batting average liability, so be careful – but enjoy the cheap home runs. Moderate Buy.
Rod Barajas – In deep leagues you need to play the hot hand at catcher. Hello, Rod Barajas. Though only a career .240 hitter, he did hit 15, 21 and 11 HRs in 2004, 2005 and 2006. In the last week, he has scored seven times, hit two HRs and knocked-in seven of his teammates. While this is incredibly unlikely to continue, there is no shame in riding the hot streak. Hot-streak Buy.
Bill Hall – I’m sure you remember 2006 for a better reason than I do. To me, 2006 was the year of my best fantasy team ever and of course Bill Hall. Hall hit .270 with 35 HRs and 85 RBIs. Since then, he has posted two consecutive unownable years. Might this year mark the return to his 2006 form? So far in 64 at bats, Hall is hitting .297 with three HRs and eight RBIs. The batting average might be a bit of a mirage but the power is real. If he continues getting regular at bats, he has a good shot to hit 25 – 30 balls out of the yard. Watch list.
Ryan Spilborghs – In 737 career at bats, Spilborghs is a .303 hitter – not too shabby. Though he doesn’t have a ton of power, he still has the potential to jack 20 balls out of the yard and knock in 80 – 100 runs. He is a far better hitter at home (.330 BA/12 HRs), but no slouch on the road (.278 BA/10 HRs). For the best results, make sure to start him when he has a home-heavy week. Strong Buy.
Kendry Morales – Morales was left for dead after the first two weeks of the season, evoking memories of Dallas McPherson and Casey Kotchman. In the last week, however, he has hit two HRs, knocked in eight runs, and posted a .391 OBP. Based on his minor league numbers, he should be a decent major league hitter: .332 batting average, 55 HRs, 234 RBIs in 1,220 games. He hit 32 of those HRs in 828 AAA at bats, so he doesn’t have great power upside. But he could be a James Loney-type. Moderate Buy.
Clint Barmes – Prior to his unfortunate run in with a piece of venison in 2005, Barmes hit .289 with 10 HRs, 46 RBIs and 55 runs in 350 at bats. His career fell down the stairs from 2006 – 2007. However, he did post decent numbers in 393 at bats last year: hitting .290 with 11 HRs. While Tulowitzki is finding himself (more below), Barmes could have some productive at bats. Watch List.
Scott Richmond – So far, Richmond has a 2.70 ERA and 1.29 WHIP for the Toronto Blue Jays. In the last week, he pitched 13 innings, struck out 13, won 2 games and posted a 2.08 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Who is he? I’m not too sure. However, in the minor leagues, he registered a 4.39 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with 348 strikeouts in 413 innings. In just 48 AAA innings, Richmond posted a 3.56 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Watch List.
Brian Bannister – Savvy and veteran fantasy players know Banny started well last year (4.04 ERA/1.07 WHIP in March/April 2008) only to end up with a 5.76 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Call me when he starts getting Ks (just 212 in 398 innings), I wouldn’t count on him for anything. Ignore.
Joel Pineiro – Evan had an interesting take on Joel here:
Fast forward to 2009 and Pineiro is 4-0 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Pineiro credits his fast start to his transition to a sinker-ball pitcher. Fantasy baseball managers around the country are rushing to pick him up to bolster their team’s wins and starting staff. Big mistake. Pineiro is not this year’s John Burkett.
I mostly agree with his assessment. However, you can’t discount the Dave Duncan effect. In 11 games in 2007 with the Cardinals, Pineiro posted a 3.96 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Watch List.
Time to move on to those cold salamanders that are likely owned in your league, yet have sucked lately. These are the players who have been ice cold, alright, alright, alright, alright, alright, alright, alright, alright.
Ricky Nolasco – Nolasco was one of everyone’s great sleeper pitchers to start the year. I was a big fan of his as well. Remember that he started slowly last year (5.13 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with only 13 Ks in 26 innings) en route to a career line of 3.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 186 Ks in 212 innings. I’d hold tight.
Josh Beckett – I called Beckett overrated here. So far, he has looked bad (6.00 ERA and 1.63 WHIP). Still, he has struck out 23 batters in 24 innings. Given the great 1:1 strikeout to inning ratio, I think you have to stick with him and hope he finds a way to bring the ratios down.
Clayton Kershaw – I don’t like young players and I don’t particularly like pitchers, so I hate young pitchers. After a few solid starts, he was everyone’s favorite darling. However, in this business you have to take the good with the bad. In his last two starts, Kershaw hasn’t gotten out of the fifth inning. He has given up a total of 15 runs in 9 innings with only 7 strikeouts. Kershaw will be a roller coaster this entire year. At the top of his game he can be great – and if he reaches that apex, I would trade him. I doubt he’ll continue his best streaks, to wit the last two starts.
Francisco Liriano – He started horribly slow last year, posting an 11.32 ERA and 2.71 WHIP in March/April. For now, you have to hold steady with him. If those 2008 August numbers (four starts, 1.23 ERA, 1.00 WHIP with 29 Ks) come back at any point, owning him will be worth it.
Troy Tulowitzki – Tulowitzki has gotten off to a reasonably nice power start with three HRs. That’s about all you can say about his start, though. Clint Hurdle has lost faith and benched him for an “alarming number of strikeouts.” Tulowitzki is a poor first half player in general, posting really horrible March/April career statistics – in 229 at bats, he has just six HRs, with a .197 BA and a .284 OBP. So, his numbers now are actually ahead of that pace. In addition, he had a good day yesterday (2/4 one run, one stolen base, no Ks), so his benching isn’t permanent.
Geovany Soto – Soto posted a .217 OBP with two runs last week – that’s it. And, unfortunately, that might be his best week of the season. So far, he has been injured and missed out on a ton of spring training thanks to being underused during the World Baseball Classic. You have to give him some time to pick it up and get reacclimated to major league pitching. I’m not too worried – it would be nice if he picked it up soon, though. Maybe you could grab Rod Barajas until Soto turns it around.
Derrek Lee – I haven’t been a fan of Lee for years. His HR numbers have been middle of the road since he managed to hit 46 in 2005 – his performance that year defines the word anomaly. He is a bit banged up and has totaled a .209 batting average with just one HR and a .267 OBP. If Lee gets a hot streak at any point, I’d be looking to sell based on that.
Blue label guys you ain’t worrying about: Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Jake Peavy, Carlos Quentin and Carlos Delgado. They will be fine. There is no reason to be concerned. Do not think of dropping them. If you try to trade them, insist upon value in the same round you drafted them or at a similar price you paid for them.