Frank Francisco| Toronto| RP| 39 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.17 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 9.82 K/9, 3.68 BB/9, 37.4 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Staring deep into the crystal ball last week, I predicted Frank Francisco would receive an opportunity to save games for Toronto once again this year. Little did I know that circumstances beyond his strong performance, in this case Jon Rauch needing an appendectomy, would open the door for save ops. Manager John Farrell has stated Francisco will inherit closer duties, so no murky guessing game there.
The story remains the same with Francisco. He offers a strong strikeout rate, tolerable walk rate, and a flyball profile that leads to the occasional gopher ball. His full season stat line is a bit misleading, as he has been tremendous since the All Star break.
Since Major League Baseball’s exhibition game that “counts,” Francisco has thrown 13.1 innings of one earned run baseball, striking out 11 and walking just one. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to continue at a 0.68 ERA rate the rest of the season, but it does make it less nerve-racking to slot him in a starting lineup while he’s clicking on all cylinders.
His ownership is likely to soar with the news of him taking over closing duties. With default trade deadlines in Yahoo! leagues passing, making it impossible to trade for a closer, the time is now to pounce if you’re an owner in need of saves.
Recommendation: Should be universally owned.
Casey Janssen| Toronto| RP| 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.43 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.76 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 49.0 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.94 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
Francisco wasn’t the only member of the Blue Jays bullpen to be effected by the news of Rauch being shelved. Casey Janssen has been bumped up in the end game pecking order and is now the primary eighth-inning option for Farrell. Janssen has been arguably the best member of the Blue Jays bullpen this year thanks to a strong strikeout rate, solid walk rate and the ability to induce ground balls.
Gamers in holds leagues should race to the wire to scoop up Janssen, but even standard league gamers should give strong consideration to plucking this bird out of the free agent pool. He’s not flashy, and his plate discipline and contact rates are mostly league average-ish, but the sum of all the parts has been effective.
As the eighth-inning guy, the probability of picking up a handful of vulture saves is high. There is also the chance Francisco has a poor run of games and Farrell makes a switch of closers, something he has already done this year with a healthy but ineffective Francisco.
Recommendation: Should be owned by those in need of even a couple vulture saves, and those in leagues that count holds.
Brian Matusz| Baltimore| SP| 20 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 8.63 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 6.40 K/9, 3.90 BB/9, 26.3 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.30 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
To say this season has been a disappointment for former blue chip prospect Brian Matusz would be an understatement. All of his component stats have taken a step back, and the result was a demotion to the minors to iron things out.
The young southpaw admitted to not being “mentally prepared,” coming into this season, and the results speak for themselves. Even his minor league results have been disappointing, as they are worse than his first-go-round when trying to reach the majors initially.
A lot of questions now surround Matusz fantasy viability in 2012, and while they won’t all be answered the rest of this season, seeing how he performs is a good starting point. Not even an option in large mixed-leagues or AL-only formats, gamers should watch him with an eye toward next year.
If he performs well down the stretch, file his name away as an end game option for 2012 drafts with his previous upper echelon prospect status in mind. Should he struggle, dynasty leaguers may be wise selling him at a quarter on the dollar while he has any value. The American League East is no place for a pitcher to struggle with their play.
Recommendation: Should be universally unowned, but monitored with an eye toward next year.
Jim Thome| Minnesota| Util| 5 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .268/.384/.561
You might have heard of this Jim Thome guy, I guess he’s hit a few home runs. In all seriousness, Thome’s fantasy value is tied to his ability to hit the ball a long way, something he’s done 601 times before. The recent deal of Delmon Young to division rival Detroit helps unclog some potential playing time issues at the designated hitter spot, as Jason Kubel can play the corner outfield more than he likely otherwise would have.
Expect manager Ron Gardenhire to handle Thome carefully. Thome is no spring chicken, and has a history of back problems, so regular days off limit Thome’s ceiling. That said, owners in need of power can’t be too picky, especially in large mixed-leagues and AL-only formats.
Since the All-Star Break, Thome has slugged six home runs in just 84 at-bats. Those in weekly lineup change leagues should probably pass on him, but those in daily lineup change leagues with bench flexibility may just have a high maintenance power option freely available.
Something that is noteworthy is that Thome has turned back the clock, and is hitting southpaws as well as he has in a number of years. Micromanaging can be a pain in the behind, but Thome is living proof of the quiet value of doing so.
Recommendation: Should be owned by power-starved owners in large mixed-leagues and AL-only formats.
Ryan Raburn| Detroit| 2B/OF| 21 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .263..315/.459
Incorrectly pegged by myself and a host of other fantasy pundits as a breakout candidate, Raburn has been awful this season. Now that he’s been cast off numerous rosters, Raburn is doing his best to infuriate his former owners by playing at his best of late.
He isn’t performing at as high a level as he did in the second half of 2010, but his slash in August is a healthy .308/.308/.538 with two home runs in 39 at-bats, and a palatable 20.5 percent strikeout rate increases the odds of his batting average staying useful.
Carlos Guillen hit the disabled list August 13 which is about as newsworthy as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, but it does allow Raburn the ability to butcher groundballs at the keystone position. More importantly for fake baseball enthusiasts, it gives Raburn the chance to take his hacks. Beggars can’t be choosers when trolling for middle infield help.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some large mixed-leagues, and most AL-only formats.
Tyler Flowers| Chicago (AL)| C| 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .231/.333/.421
For the first time in his career, A.J. Pierzynski was placed on the disabled list a few days ago. Tyler Flowers is the new starter for the White Sox.
Flowers is a bit of an all-or-nothing hacker capable of posting donuts and dragging down team batting averages. He does offer helpful power for the catcher position—when he is making contact with the baseball, that is—and presents large mixed-league, two-catcher gamers a fresh face to start at the position. Ignore him in single-catcher formats, and roster him at risk of your average in two-catcher formats.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all two-catcher formats.
Ben Revere| Minnesota| OF| 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .272/.315/.327
Thome isn’t the only beneficiary of the Twins dealing Young, as Ben Revere’s path to playing time is now also less clustered. July was unkind to Revere, and since the All-Star Break he is slashing just .216/.287/.279. His lone saving grace has been his ability to swipe bags in that time frame, 10 to be exact.
The biggest culprit for his slump has been a poor BABIP (.240 in July, and .278 in August). Revere seems to be well aware that his value lies in wreaking havoc on the basepaths with his speed. He doesn’t chase many pitches out of the strike zone, rarely strikes out, and only puts the ball in the air 12.5 percent of the time.
As his BABIP corrects and Revere gets on base more frequently, his stolen base totals should further increase. If you need speed, take a leap of faith that Revere’s BABIP correction starts now and that he helps stolen base totals while not harming batting average.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large, mixed-league formats starting five outfielders and most AL-only formats.