J.J. Hardy| Baltimore| SS| 19 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .258/.318/.404
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has swung the bat well since returning from the disabled list, yet still finds himself unowned in many leagues. He has been especially hot this month, and is no stranger to going on torrid stretches. At his best, Hardy is capable of mid-20s home run power, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at from a shortstop.
Playing his home games at home-run friendly Camden Yards should only accentuate his greatest fantasy asset. His run and RBI totals are likely to be held in check while the Orioles slot him in the bottom third of their lineup, but should he continue to hit at a solid clip, he may find his name penciled in a more friendly run-producing spot in the order soon enough.
Hardy’s line drive, groundball and flyball rates nearly mirror his career best 2007 marks, with the biggest difference in batted balls being a crazy pop-up rate of 22 percent. Should he straighten that out, a reasonable projection for his final line would be one that is indistinguishable from his 2007 and 2008 seasons. At worst, Hardy is worth rostering while he’s tearing the cover off the ball and ditched when he cools off.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues using a middle infield position, and all but the shallowest of leagues that don’t use a middle infield position.
Jemile Weeks| Oakland| 2B| 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: No projection
Pacific Coast League disclaimer applies when looking at Jemile Weeks’ 2011 minor league statistics, but he did hit .321/.417/.446, earning him a call-up from the A’s, and warrants the attention of owners scrambling for middle infield help. Our friends at FanGraphs, namely Jack Moore, point out Jemile is not his brother Rickie Weeks, but that doesn’t mean he should be dismissed as useless (not something Moore does in his article, to be clear).
The younger Weeks, like the elder, does a fantastic job of reaching base via the walk, but he doesn’t strike out at nearly as high a rate as his brother. More of a doubles hitter than a threat to leave the park, Jemile is a middle infielder unlikely to make waves in shallow leagues, but one who could offer just enough batting average and stolen base success to help owners in deep mixed leagues and AL-only formats. Keep an eye on how he fares against major league pitching, and act accordingly.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some deep mixed-leagues using a middle infield position, and some AL-only leagues.
Derek Holland| Texas| SP| 27 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.36 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7.26 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 46.2 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.30 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
For the second season in a row, Holland has seen his groundball rate increase, something that should help him immensely in his launching pad home ballpark. The above stats do not include his solid turn against the Twins on Thursday night, a game in which he threw seven and one-third innings allowing just one walk, striking out 10 and giving up four earned runs while receiving a no-decision.
Holland’s strikeout rate has taken a step back this year, but remains solid, and coincides with a decrease in walks. Couple his improved walk rate with a higher groundball rate and it appears as if Holland is beginning to make strides as a pitcher. He may not be a shiny new toy, but he still possesses a great deal of upside and has a chance to be a post-hype sleeper capable of rounding out fantasy rotations. His performance on Thursday, as well as his stellar 2010 strikeouts per nine innings rate hint at the type of upside he is capable of delivering in that category.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium sized mixed-leagues, and all deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats.
Scott Baker| Minnesota| SP| 32 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.86 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.56 K/9, 2.77 BB/9, 34.0 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.25 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9
Unafraid of hitters taking to the air, and perhaps the biggest fan of the Twins home digs because of that, Baker is putting together an under-appreciated 2011 fantasy campaign. Currently sporting a career best K/9, all the while pounding the strike zone, Baker has been able to strike out three times as many batters as he has walked. Continuing to maintain a strikeout rate as high as he is now is unlikely for an entire season, but Oliver expects him to continue to be helpful in the category, and his above league average swinging strike rate also lends support to that notion.
Around a league average contributor in ratios, and supported (I say supported loosely) by a Twins offense that has struggled to score runs this year, Baker will need to continue to strike hitters out to remain useful. However, on the flip side of his league average ratios contributions, he is unlikely to hurt owners while tallying a healthy number of strike threes.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium sized mixed-leagues, most deep mixed-leagues, and all AL-only formats.
Gordon Beckham| Chicago (American League)| 2B| 54 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .268/.326/.423
Owned in over half of Yahoo! leagues, Gordon Beckham is a player owners in most competitive leagues will have to trade for to get his services. A glance at his season line is likely to garner a disgusted look from his owners, and a quizzical expression from those wondering why I’d suggest trading for him. After a miserable April (.194/.238/.296), Beckham smoked the ball in May (.303/.379/.421) and has teetered somewhere in between in June if one only looks at his batting average. However, don’t be fooled by his average in June, as he’s slugged the ball fairly well, and cut back on his biggest glaring weakness in May, his strikeout rate.
April’s struggles can largely be pinned on a pop-up rate of 28.6 percent (no, that’s not a typo). Short of sacrificing oneself or striking out, the pop-up is the next surest way to head back to the dugout, and when one does it in more than a quarter of his at-bats, the results look something like Beckham’s ghastly line.
May and June have seen Beckham’s batted ball profile take on a much different look. In May, he was able to rip line drives in 29.6 percent of his at-bats, a good sign of life from a struggling hitter. Those hoping to cash in on some home runs from him should also note that he’s hitting the ball in the air with great frequency this year. Owners may be willing to sell at a slightly reduced rate as opposed to running the risk that Beckham reverts to his alter-ego Beggin’ once again, making now the time to kick the tires on acquiring a popular rebound candidate heading into drafts this year.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Alex Rios| Chicago (American League)| OF| 70 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .266/.313/.416
Unlike his teammate highlighted above, Alex Rios is a player I’d suggest selling low on. While that may seem somewhat counterintuitive, sometimes selling low is the only opportunity to sell and receive any value in return at all. Oliver projects brighter days ahead for Rios, but fellow Waiver Wire author Jeffrey Gross discusses the reasons to deal him now. As opposed to rehashing what he’s eloquently written about elsewhere, I’ll suggest checking out his article at A Game of Inches.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues, but sold at a reduced rate if you currently own him.