Speaking of cold, I can’t believe I’ve watched this much hockey in the last week, nor has Washington D.C. been this abuzz with hockey talk. Of course, all that came to a shattering halt last night when the Caps got demolished, at home, in a game seven, by the Pittsburgh Penguins. I deride hockey as much as the next guy. I rarely know what is going on, I can’t follow the puck, etc. But I was CAPtivated by the Caps (I went to college to write like this, can’t you tell?).
Anyway, yesterday’s game got me thinking about hype. Essentially, fantasy sports writers are ever-competing serial hypers. I try to tread lightly when I hype and only back ideas I completely believe in.
Before the season, I absolutely, deeply and dearly loved Adrian Gonzalez, Jason Bay and Javvy Vazquez. I’m happy with their achievements so far, because, well, it’s not enough for me if they are trying their hardest (do you hear me Dan Uggla?). On the other hand, I’ve deadpanned people like Chris Davis, Josh Beckett, etc. It’s nice to be right. Of course, I’ve hyped some losers in my day: Uggla, Bronson Arroyo, and Randy Johnson to name three.
Still, I’d like to think I was most diligent about AGON, Bay and Vazquez and I think I was. I guess what I’m saying is that yesterday’s Caps game made me thankful for the times when the product lives up to the hype. It is refreshing (like that Sprite commercial where the people jump into each other and turn into water like Spiderman’s hydro villain) when hype is fulfilled, like Lady Gaga’s follow-up to Just Dance, Poker Face.
But I digress, so let’s move on to things that matter to you, like who’s hot and likely unowned:
Jerry Hairston Jr. – Over the last week, Hairston (the one time Orioles phenom – I kid) received regular playing time and didn’t disappoint. He scored eight runs, hit two HRs, and stole two bases. Given his position eligibility (Hairston qualifies at second, shortstop and outfield in most leagues), Hairston could provide some real value this season. And, it’s not like he hasn’t put together productive seasons before. Just last year, while also playing in Cincinnati, Hairston hit .326 with 47 runs and 15 SBs in just 261 at bats. Hairston could be a sneaky source of runs and SBs. Hitting in the bandbox known as the Great American Ballpark certainly won’t hurt his numbers.
Adam Rosales – Speaking of the production benefits of playing in Cincinnati, Rosales scored six runs and bagged two HRs last week, while posting a .385 OBP. In 497 AAA at bats, Rosales hit 15 HRs, stole nine bases, and recorded a .306 AVE with a .358 OBP He is little old (26) for a prospect, but could provide some nice pop while Edwin Encarnacion is out.
Casey Kotchman – I’ve never liked Kotchman. Generally, I am not a fan of soft-hitting first basemen (Kotchman has never hit more than 14 HRs in a season). Still he managed to knock in 11 teammates last week, while hitting two HRs. These numbers are pretty streaky, but his season so far is in line with the 152 at bats he had with Atlanta in 2008. Kotchman is only 26, even though it seems like he has been around for a long time, so he should be entering his prime. He could hit mid-teens HRs and near 100 RBIs.
Todd Helton – For someone recently left for dead, Helton has had a remarkable season so far. Last week alone, he hit two HRs, while posting a .375 OBP. For the season, Todd Helton has hit .343 with four HRs and 20 RBIs – vintage Helton. Still, I can’t imagine this will continue. First, Helton was recently quoted – in talking about his troubled back – as saying “it’s still a battle, don’t get me wrong.” Second, his BABIP over the last 28 days is .389, last 14 days .405. His career BABIP is .336. Luck can continue, but typically doesn’t – expect a regression.
Brian Tallet – Tallet had a great game, albeit against the Oakland A’s, last week. He struck out seven in seven innings while allowing one run on two hits and two walks. For the year he has posted a 1.24 WHIP and struck out 29 batters in 36 IPs. Tallet is 31 and has been a reliever for the majority of his career. He was a second round draft pick in 2000 and has a career 3.71 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. You should keep your eye on him in case he continues posting a low WHIP and a good K-rate.
Manny Parra – Parra did post a 1.67 WHIP last week, though he had a nice 3.75 ERA. More importantly he struck out 13 batters over 12 innings. For the year, Parra has 36 Ks in 37.1 IPs. If you are looking for an upside starter, Parra, who is owned in 26 percent of Yahoo leagues, would be a solid bet.
D.J. Carrasco – Carrasco, the White Sox’ long reliever, pitched seven innings last week. In those innings he struck out nine batters, while posting a 2.57 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Carrasco could ultimately take over Jose Contreras’ rotation spot, so, in deep leagues, he might be someone to keep on your radar.
THE FLIP SIDE (the supposed good guys who are stinking up the joint)
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.
James Shields – People have been hating on Shields lately – not sure why. Sure, last week, he had a 7.50 ERA and 1.83 WHIP, but at least he posted seven Ks. For the year, his WHIP is a very useful 1.28 and he has stuck out 30 batters. Shields is more than a match-up pitcher, though just barely. If you are close in ERA/WHIP in a given week and he is playing on the road, you might want to bench him. Shields has a career 3.28 ERA and 1.13 WHIP at home, while a 4.71 ERA and 1.29 WHIP away.
Armando Galarraga – Galarraga had a horrible week for a two-start pitcher. Specifically, he hurt your ratios badly (8.49 ERA and 1.54 WHIP). For the last month, Galarraga has a 5.29 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. The wheels could be coming off the Galarraga wagon. If you can sell at pre-season draft value, I’d encourage you to do that.
Grady Sizemore – Talk about a ratio category killer: Sizemore hit .160 last week with a .250 OBP. Not surprisingly, he managed to score only two runs while knocking in just one. For the season he is hitting just .232 and not really getting on base (.313 OBP). And, when he doesn’t get on base, he can’t steal. Still, Sizemore is seeing his pitches. If someone is shopping him, I’m buying.
Alexei Ramirez – It was not a good week for the Ramirezes (unless of course your first name was Hanley). Aramis hit the DL, Manny got suspended, and Alexei got one hit in ten at bats. I never liked Alexei (LINK), but he is playing much worse than even I thought he would: .212 AVE, .244 OBP, one HR, 11 RBIs and six SBs. The steals aren’t bad, but the rest is regrettable.
Andre Ethier – I wish they had a stat for with Manny and without. I’ll sort of buttonhook it. In the first half of 2008 (pre-Manny), Ethier hit .283 with a .351 OBP and .459 slugging percentage. In the second half, Ethier hit .335 with a .409 OBP and .583 SLG. In March/April of 2009, Ethier hit .306 with a .423 OBP and .553 SLG. Last week, Ethier hit .115 with a .207 OBP. Ethier clearly has talent, but, just as clearly, he misses Manny’s presence in the Dodger’s lineup.
Brandon Inge – Last week, Inge hit .176. Yet, he is owned in 90 percent of Yahoo leagues. Over the last month, Inge has hit .260. He did add four HRs, which is why you own him. Well actually, you own him because he has catcher eligibility. Expect a .260 hitter with moderate pop from here on.
Josh Beckett – Beckett has been a weekly member of the Katy Perry All-Stars. So far, he has looked bad (6.42 ERA and 1.77 WHIP). Still, he has struck out 41 batters in 40.2 IPs. 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 his ERA and WHIP down. If given the opportunity, I’d be buying him right now — that K-rate is pretty spectacular. You can lose the ratio categories if you have high-K pitchers like Beckett.
Scott Kazmir – According to Dave Cameron, the brilliant FanGraphs writer, “Scott Kazmir is broken.” Cameron finds that Kazmir lost his slider last year and, in so doing, “saw his GB% [groundball ratio] sink.” Kazmir did nothing last week (5.40 ERA, 2.20 WHIP, just two Ks) to alleviate these concerns. If you can find a buyer at near draft value, I’d pull the trigger.
David Ortiz – Ortiz managed a usable .364 OBP – that’s the good news. The bad news: .176 AVE, two runs, ZERO HRs and one RBI. Ortiz simply hasn’t been good in a long time. If someone’s buying low, I’m selling. People seem to think his bat speed looked great last Sunday – however, my little eye spied someone who was behind fastballs and “looked great” while he was fouling off change-ups. I’m not loving a power hitter who can’t yank the ball and is only UTIL eligible.
All stats are as of May 12.