All stats current through at least Aug. 4.
Jason Bourgeois | Astros | OF | 18 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .288/,326/.386, 12 SB
With Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Jeff Keppinger shipped out of Houston, the Astros no longer have any excuse to keep this speedy slap hitter out of their lineup. I profiled Bourgeois two months ago, likening him to Rajai Davis with a little more batting average, but fewer runs and RBI opportunities. For those in need of late-season speed who can stomach a two-category only player (such as me in the Hardball Times league, where a relative gain of 10 stolen bases would put me in second or third place), Bourgeois is your man. He’s hardly owned right now, but that will change as starts running with regular playing time.
Recommendation: Bourgeois should be owned in any mixed league employing 50 or more outfielders and by owners in need of elite speed.
Derrek Lee | Pirates | 1B | 36 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .269/.353/.452
Lee was probably washed up heading into the season, but just in case we weren’t sure, his time in home run-friendly Baltimore probably convinced the few who still needed convincing. In 85 games (364 plate appearances), Lee batted .246/.302/.404 (.310 wOBA, 91 wRC+), launching 12 home runs with a 12-year low .159 ISO (.213 career mark). Baltimore’s park factors for right-handed batters this year indicate that Camden Yards bolsters wOBA by about five percent and home run production by 23 percent. By contrast, PNC Park has depressed right-handed wOBA production by 2 percent, and suppressed home run production by 27 percent. In other words, Lee’s subpar performance is likely only to get worse, barring luck or some unexpected change in approach. Do not be surprised if his exciting two-homer debut for the Buccos ends up being his best game as a swashbuckling Pirate.
Recommendation: Lee is only a lukewarm NL-only fantasy player who must be avoided in all but the deepest mixed formats (the Pirates do not offer enough run/RBI production opportunities to make him worthwhile in most leagues).
Ryan Ludwick | Pirates | OF | 27 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .267/.342/.448
Everything I said about Lee above can essentially be copy/pasted about Ludwick, only Ludwick never really had much of a “track record,” while Lee was pretty awesome for a half-decade or so. The move from Petco Park to PNC actually hurts his power potential even more, and is almost as bad as Busch Stadium. To paraphrase my favorite storm trooper, nothing to see here; move along.
Recommendation: Mixed leagues can safely drop Ludwick, while Ludwick owners in NL-only leagues should consider shopping him by hyping the classic “outta Petco line.”
Luke Gregerson/Chad Qualls | Padres | RP | 20/1 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: Gregerson 3.11 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 6.93 K/9, 47.5% GB% || Qualls 3.17 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 5.33 K/9, 53.3% GB%
Oliver ROS: Gregerson 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 || Qualls 2.57 ERA, 1.18, 6.7 K/9
With Mike Adams (a flyball pitcher now with Texas, beware, Adams owners) gone, Gregerson and Qualls are the clear successors to Adams’ “holds” throne. Before this year, I would have said Gregerson is the best source of holds on the Padres if Adams were traded, but Gregerson has not been himself this year, and Qualls has rekindled his 2008 and 2009 self. I expect the Padres to split eighth-inning duties between the pair, but neither is particularly ownable to slot as a non-closing relief pitcher in most leagues that do not value holds in the standings because neither is striking out guys (and both are walking too many) this season. I say that full cognizant of Gregerson’s 13 percent swinging strike percentage and recent run of strikeout outings. I’d rather have Chris Sale or Sean Marshall.
Recommendation: Ownable only in (deeper?) holds-utilizing leagues.
Paul Goldschmidt | Diamondbacks | 1B | 1 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .274/.346/.531
As I warned last week, Brandon Allen was not a long-term solution for the Diamondbacks. Though I expected Allen’s tenure to last with the big league club through at least mid-August, maybe even September, it seems the Diamondbacks are yet again playing first baseman roulette by sending Allen to the Athletics in a deal to land them Brad Ziegler, freeing up the many roadblocks that once stood in Goldschmidt’s path to playing first in the majors.
If there are two things Goldschmidt is good at, it’s hitting for power (minor league career ISO of .303, 83 home runs in 315 games) and taking a good number of walks (12.6 percent). Those strengths, however, come with a clear flaw that plagues many hitters of this prototype: the strikeout. In 1,387 minor league plate appearances, “Goldschlager” struck out 327 times (23.6 percent).
Goldschmidt’s walk rate is strong enough that his walk-to-strikeout rate (53.5 percent) is above the 50-percent mark (meaning he walks more than half as much as he strikes out), which is good for a power hitter, but minor league strikeout rates tend to increase at the major league level, while minor league walks rates tend to stay flat or decline slightly. Encouragingly, Goldschmidt did slice his strikeout rate down to 20 percent this year while more than maintaining his elite walk rate (17.9 percent). Goldschmidt has not played above Double-A, however, so as encouraging as these leaps forward are, they must be taken with a grain of salt.
As a keeper, Goldschmidt is elite. He probably will not ultimately hit for “Mike Stanton Power,” but he could easily be a perpetual 30 home run, .350+ on base, threat down the line. For the short term, however—meaning this year and next—Carlos Pena‘s 2011 is probably the expectation, with a .250/35-homer pace (Dan Uggla-ian) being his reasonable upside. First base has been getting relatively weaker as a whole in recent years, so while those numbers may not have stacked up last decade, they project as strong corner infield numbers in our modern era.
Oh, and he hit a home run off Tim Lincecum.
Recommendation: Goldschmidt must be owned in NL-only leagues and should be owned as a corner infielder in leagues with 12 or more teams.
Dee Gordon | Dodgers | SS | 4 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .258/.301/.324, 9 SB
In the same article I profiled Bourgeois a couple of months ago, I also covered Dee Gordon, who has been called up and figures to get pretty regular playing time with Rafael Furcal now a Cardinal. I still do not think Gordon is ready as a major league hitter, but his speed is legit and if he hits .280 with a .330 on-base, he could swipe 20 or more bags over the next two months. Frugal speed seekers take notice.
Recommendation: Gordon is a solid middle infield option for mixed league owners in need of speed, and is an overall upgrade over Erick Aybar.
Tyler Colvin | Cubs | OF | 5 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .231/.277/.422
Tyler Colvin is not a good baseball player. Despite his being a first-round draft pick, some have claimed that he was picked by the Cubs so early only to skim signing money to lure Jeff Samardzija away from a career in football, something every Cubs fan (and hopefully GM Jim Hendry) deeply regrets. Before 2009, Colvin was a total bust. He struck out a lot and walked very little. Then, two years ago, Colvin developed a little bit of pop (but nothing else). But even with that pop, Colvin does not project as a useful player, unless you think the late career of Mike Jacobs was “useful.”
Despite blasting 20 home runs in 395 at bats for the Cubs last season, Colvin batted only .254, struck out 25.3 percent of the time, and got on base less than 32 percent of the time. In the minors this year, repeating Triple-A, Colvin has not improved to even the level of a Quad-A hitter, slashing .261/.275/.493 in Triple-A with more home runs (seven) than walks (five) over 50 games.
With Kosuke Fukudome out of town*, Colvin has been called up but should be avoided, perhaps even in NL-only leagues, for two reasons. The first is that Colvin is terrible. The second is that he is not playing much, and may not get full-time playing time down the stretch.
This is true, in turn, for two reasons. The first reason is that manager Mike Quade is trying to win to save his job. The second is that Brett Jackson will likely be a September call up. Jackson, who is talented and has a concrete future with the Cubs (especially if he learns to cut down the 30-plus percent strikeout rate), will likely get most of those “let the youngsters show us what they can do since we’re so desperately out of the race” right field at bats.
Recommendation: Colvin can be avoided in all formats except NL-only, where, tragically, almost everyone with a pulse has value.
Tommy Milone | Nationals | SP | 0 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD (AAA): 3.62 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.23 K/9, 12.00 K/BB
Oliver ROS: N/A
Jordan Zimmerman has four starts left on the season before the Nationals are going to shut him down. That means that he will be done before September, and with Jason Marquis also gone, the Nationals with have a clear hole in their rotation that will not be filled by Stephen Strasburg (at least not until early- or mid-September). Lost in the excitement of Strasburg’s return, however, has been the strong season of the likely “plug” for that hole, Tommy Milone.
Milone is a southpaw who stands at barely six feet with a mediocre fastball in the 80s. His stuff is not exciting by the account of most scouts, but his control is Greg Maddux, which more than makes up for the lack of a Randy Johnson slider. In 86 minor league games (81 as a starter) and 485.1 innings, Milone has walked only 78 batters (4.0 percent rate, 1.45 BB/9). That control has improved as Milone has moved up in the organization. Last season, spent entirely at Double-A, Milone walked only 1.3 batters per nine, while this year at Triple-A, Milone has walked only 2.1 percent of the batters he has faced.
Oh, and a byproduct of pinpoint control? A good ability to get batters to swing and miss. Milone’s minor leauge strikeout rate is a Dan Haren-like 21.8 percent, and that number has remained relatively stable in the upper minors (9.2 K/9 at Double-A in 2010, 8.5 K/9 at Triple-A in 2011).
All in all, Milone projects well at the major league level. His performance at Double-A last year projected as a major league-average 4.07 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 7.4 K/9, but this year Milone has solidified himself as a legitimate prospect and potential No. 2 starter type, with a strong MLE: 3.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 7.7 K/9.
I will certainly be buying Milone as a sleeper next year, but he will arrive sooner than that. This is someone you’ll probably want to own if you need some quality innings down the stretch.
Recommendation: Milone is ownable in 12-team mixed leagues, though likely as a spot/stream starter in moderately sized or shallow formats.
Stephen Strasburg (Rehab) | Nationals | SP | 27 percent Yahoo ownership%
Oliver ROS: 2.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Strasburg is set to begin his rehab assignment within the week. As noted with Johan Santana in last week’s NL Waiver Wire article, the rules of baseball allow a player to be on rehab assignment for only 30 days (at least involuntarily), so we might expect Strasburg back in the majors by Sept. 10 if the Nationals still intend to use him briefly at the major league level this year. You’ll get maybe 20, 25 innings tops (three starts?) out of Strasburg, and he’ll be rusty, but given his high strikeout potential, blazing fastball, and control, you’ll want to take the risk. That’s so particularly if you have another starter getting shut down or if you play in head to head leagues, where you most certainly won’t want an opponent owning him.
Recommendation: Stash him now, before someone else does.
Josh Johnson | Marlins | SP | 71 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 1.64 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 8.35 K/9, 2.80 K/BB, 51.0% GB%
Oliver ROS: N/A
Last week, reports indicated that Johnson was done for the season, having experienced routine setbacks. Now, however, Johnson has resumed his throwing program and could possible return, barring additional setbacks, before the end of the season. I would not bank anything on it, sacrifice anything of value to gamble on him, or cut a useful DLed player to make this move, but if you have an open DL spot and can stash Johnson “pain-free”—i.e., without cutting a player you have a use for—I might take a flier on Johnson if both Santana and Strasburg are owned. You will not get many starts out of Johnson—maybe three or four if we’re lucky—but he’s one of the best when he’s on the mound, and you’ll want to own him (particularly if his match-ups are favorable).
Recommendation: Johnson is a good DL-stash in head-to-head leagues and deeper mixed leagues.
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments below.