Jeff Niemann| Tampa Bay| SP| 11 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.94 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.28 K/9, 2.34 BB/9, 43.9 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.14 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
Essentially the epitome of luck neutral, Niemann’s ERA nearly mirrors his xFIP, tERA and SIERRA with the biggest gap being a 0.07 difference between his ERA and tERA. His strikeout rate on the season is lower than league average, but he has made up for that by having a better than league average walk rate. While his season totals aren’t overly impressive, he’s white hot in the month of July with a 0.84 ERA, 8.02 K/9, 2.53 BB/9 and 57.4 percent ground ball rate. He’s not compiling those numbers against feeble offenses either, as his two most impressive starts, his last two, came against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. While he’s never quite lived up to the lofty expectations that came with being selected fourth overall out of Rice University, he is a solid pitcher who’s capable of stringing together useful fantasy starts and may be tapping into a bit of previously unseen upside. Even if this is nothing more than an aberration and he goes back to pitching like an innings eater, he’s worth riding out.
Recommendation: Should be owned while he’s hot in most leagues.
Erik Bedard| Seattle| SP| 50 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.50 K/9, 2.60 BB/9, 40.9 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.50 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
Unsurprisingly to anyone who has followed Erik Bedard’s career, he’s currently on the disabled list. The good news is that the injury is to his knee, not his shoulder which has caused him to miss so much time throughout his career. Initially expected to return this weekend and face the Red Sox, it looks increasingly like he’ll be activated and face the Yankees next week. After such a strong start to the season, it’s a bit surprising to see only 50 percent of Yahoo! gamers stashing him on their disabled lists or benches.
He’s pitching as well as he ever has in his career. A high-strikeout starting pitcher capable of keeping his walks in check who’s aided by a favorable home ballpark should not be available in this many leagues. He should be added in leagues of all sizes that he’s available in. Those in need of pitching help where he’s unavailable should explore the possibility of acquiring his services at a discount, one that will expire the minute he’s activated from the disabled list. The risk is obviously that he’ll be re-injured, but it’s one that likely won’t be too expensive to take.
Recommendation: Should be universally owned.
Danny Duffy| Kansas City| SP| 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.58 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 7.47 K/9, 4.12 BB/9, 41.1 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.84 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9
I’ll keep this short and sweet as Jeff Gross covers Duffy’s most recent starts in depth today. He’s beginning to look much more like the dominant pitcher he was in the minors, and given his stuff and glowing scouting reports, that’s no surprise. The cost right now in most leagues is nothing more than a roster spot, making him an absolute steal.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed-leagues and all AL-only formats.
Carlos Guillen| Detroit| 2B| 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .267/.339/.421
When glancing over the middle infield options in deep leagues, the expression “leave no stone unturned” comes to mind. Those in the midst of stone turning may come across Guillen, who was recently activated from the disabled list after recovering from microfracture knee surgery. His days of stealing any bags are long gone, but his scorching return to the lineup hints that he may have a little left in the tank to help contribute in home runs, runs, RBI and average in deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats.
Of course, owning Guillen will leave one with a feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop, but at the cost of nothing more than a roster spot, that’s a feeling worth dealing with. Oliver’s projection seems fair, but Guillen’s start is reason enough to dream on a slightly better line than that. If you’re one of the owners who lost Stephen Drew as a middle infield option, or one of the many others who have been running out other ugly options, Guillen is worth taking a gamble on. Keep your eyes and ears open though, and feel free to jump ship if there is talk of his knee acting up, or if his performance takes a nosedive.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most deep mixed-leagues that use a middle infield position, and most AL-only formats.
Edwin Encarnacion| Toronto| 1B/3B| 12 percent Yahoo!
Oliver ROS: .253/.315/.464
A yearly tease, and perennial sleeper for 25-plus home runs seemingly every offseason, Encarnacion is back at what he does best. After a miserable start to the season, he has been productive in June and July. He has six home runs in his last 134 plate appearances with a .301 average, 22 runs and 14 RBI since the start of June.
One of the biggest changes is that his fly balls are beginning to clear the fence at a rate closer to his career mark. His HR/FB rate on the season still stands a full five percent lower than what he has done for his career, so the best may still come. Owner of third base eligibility, Encarnacion should be helpful to owners in need of pop at the position as long as he gets playing time. There in is where the problem lies. A butcher with the glove, and playing on a team that’s rebuilding, he may cede starts to some of the youngsters down the stretch.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed-leagues while he’s playing, and all AL-only leagues.
Dustin Ackley| Seattle| 2B/OF| 36 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .266/.341/.413
Ackley has made his adjustment to major league pitching look easy. He’s walking at a better than league average rate while striking out less frequently than league average thanks to not swinging through strikes often or offering at pitches outside the strike zone regularly. A patient hitter, Ackley is a boon for owners in OBP leagues, but also one who will help owners in standard leagues. His average is sustainable, but his home run rate should regress: Baseball America rated his power tool a tick below league average and he is more of a line drive and doubles type hitter.
What could improve is his stolen base contributions, as his speed tool is above average and best displayed in his triple totals. Not all players with speed are able to learn the nuances of base stealing (just take a gander at Dexter Fowler‘s career, for example), but the Mariners may allow him to work on it the rest of the year as they aren’t going to contend for the playoffs. If that’s the case, Ackley will hold value in re-draft leagues beyond chipping in to run and RBI totals with a solid average from a thin position.
Recommendation: Should be universally owned.