Every Friday, Ben will scour the majors for the players whose fantasy value is going up, going down or completely bottoming out.
Hitter of the Week
Everybody knows how good Bonds is, but this was just ridiculous. Over the last week, Bonds went 8-for-13 (.615) with a double, six home runs, seven runs and 11 RBIs. For the season, he’s hitting .500/.672/.1.342 with nine home runs, 14 runs and 19 RBIs. In 15 games, he has 20 walks and just four strikeouts.
If you thought this might be the year Bonds finally slowed down and showed his age a little, you were dead wrong. And if you’re in a points league or a league that uses OBP instead of batting average, Bonds should have been the first overall pick. He’s just unbelievable.
Five on the Rise
1. OF Moises Alou, Cubs: Coming into this season, I thought Alou was pretty much done as a useful fantasy player. He’s 37 years old and his last two seasons just weren’t that good for an outfielder. Over the last week, however, he’s gone 15-for-26 (.571) with four doubles, a triple, three home runs, nine runs and eight RBIs.
For the season, Alou’s hitting .377/.424/.820 with six home runs, 13 runs and 16 RBIs. If he can continue to hit fairly well all season, Alou has some pretty good hitters around him who could help pad his run and RBI totals.
2. OF Reggie Sanders, Cardinals: Sanders has always been at least a decent hitter, and he’s sprinkled in four very good seasons throughout his career, including last year. Sanders has also always had the mix of power and speed that fantasy owners covet, as he’s one of just three active players with at least 250 home runs and 250 steals in their career (Bonds and Steve Finley are the others).
Over the last week, Sanders has gone 11-for-26 (.423) with three doubles, four home runs, two steals, seven runs and nine RBIs. For the season, he’s hitting .328/.369/.705 with six home runs, five steals, 11 runs and 17 RBIs. He’s obviously not going to become the first 50-50 player like he’s on pace for, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him hit at least 30 home runs for the third time in his career and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see him steal at least 20 bases for the eighth time in his career.
If he does both things, then you’ve got yourself a pretty nice fantasy outfielder, especially since that lineup should let him rack up the RBIs.
3. OF Lew Ford, Twins: In the last week, Ford has gone 12-for-22 (.545) with a double, two triples, two homers, eight runs and 13 RBIs. For the season, he’s hitting .450/.477/.800 with three home runs, a steal, 10 runs and 15 RBIs. In his 113 at-bat major-league career, he’s hitting .367/.426/.633 with five home runs, three steals, 25 runs and 27 RBIs.
Obviously, he’s not really this good. Ford always hit well in the minor leagues, but there was nothing to suggest that he’d ever become a star. Torii Hunter will be back from his injury fairly soon, which will knock Ford out of center field. If the Twins are smart, however, Ford will stay in the lineup for the time being at the expense of Jose Offerman, who still has nice numbers for the season but is just 4-for-23 (.174) in his last eight games.
Ultimately, however, Ford isn’t going to have any fantasy value. Once Hunter, Matthew LeCroy and Joe Mauer are all healthy, Ford will be competing with Michael Cuddyer — and maybe Justin Morneau, Michael Ryan and Michael Restovich at some point — for at-bats as a fourth outfielder/DH. There just won’t be enough to go around for him to be playing enough to have fantasy value.
4. OF Jacque Jones, Twins: The only hitter on this list without any home runs over the last week, Jones went 11-for-23 (.478) with three doubles, a triple, four steals, seven runs and six RBIs. Those steals make you sit up and take notice because he had just four times that many steals (41) in 683 career games before this season.
In 2004, Jones is now hitting .322/.375/.593 with three homers, four steals, 12 runs and 13 RBIs. Jones has hit .302 over the past two season, so keeping the batting average up around .300 shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The key to his fantasy value will be his power/speed numbers. If he can provide 20-25 home runs and 15-20 steals to go along with that average, he’ll be a very valuable commodity.
5. OF Danny Bautista, Diamondbacks: Over the last week, Bautista is 12-for-25 (.480) with two doubles, three homers, a steal, four runs and nine RBIs. Since going hitless in the season opener, he’s gotten a hit in 14 consecutive games and is currently hitting .397/.435/.707 with four homers, two steals, nine runs and 12 RBIs this season.
He’s almost 32 years old, however, and there is no way this is even an indication that he’s become a better hitter. In 11 major-league seasons, the only time Bautista was a good hitter was two years ago. And that year was cut short in May when he got hurt while still hitting .325/.367/.500, so we’ll never know how long he could have kept his production up.
If you want to pick him up to see if he can keep hitting well, be my guest. But he’s probably just going to end up with an OPS below .800, just like almost every other season in his career.
Five in Freefall
1. OF Aaron Guiel, Royals: Guiel hasn’t gotten a single hit this week, as he’s 0-for-16 with no walks and seven strikeouts. He did manage to get on through no merit of his own and steal a base, but that’s about all he did the past week. For the season, he’s now hitting .170/.250/.383.
Hopefully, you’ve taken Guiel out of your lineup for the time being if you even still have him on your roster, but this slump could completely kill his fantasy value. If Guiel doesn’t start hitting at least a little bit, he could find himself without much playing time.
First, Matt Stairs could steal some of his at-bats in the outfield, and eventually, the job could go to David DeJesus full-time. DeJesus is the heir apparent in center field after Carlos Beltran moves on to greener pastures. The 24-year-old prospect is currently playing for Class AAA Omaha, where he’s hitting .365/.441/.500 after hitting .298/.412/.470 in 59 games there last year.
DeJesus does not appear to have much left to learn in the minor leagues, and it seems pretty likely that he’ll have a full-time job in the majors at some point this year. If Beltran’s still a Royal and Juan Gonzalez is still healthy, that will mean that Guiel gets to ride the pine.
2. 3B Morgan Ensberg, Astros: Another player with playing time concerns, Ensberg was just 1-for-13 (.077) with two walks and a strikeout in the last week. The reason Ensberg only got 13 at-bats last week is that Mike Lamb started three of the last five games for the Astros at third base.
For the season, Ensberg is now hitting ..154/.277/.205 while Lamb is hitting .286/.304/.619. Ensberg is clearly the better player, but he may be doing irreparable harm to his fantasy value by struggling this much and letting Lamb get a foothold on some playing time.
Some people had Ensberg as one of the top five third baseman in fantasy baseball this year, but he won’t even be worthy of a starting spot if he’s not playing almost every day.
3. OF Marlon Byrd, Phillies: Byrd really struggled last April as well, so maybe he’s just a slow starter. Whatever the reason, Byrd drove his fantasy owners crazy this past week by going 2-for-20 (.100) with a walk and four strikeouts. For the season, he’s hitting just .188/.278/.208 with a steal, three runs and three RBIs.
Byrd and Jimmy Rollins have been fighting for the leadoff spot recently, but neither one can hit at the moment. My guess is that the top spot in the lineup will go to whichever one breaks out of his extreme funk first. Keep an eye on what happens, because whichever one leads off in that lineup will have more value than a normal hitter of that caliber.
4. C Jason Phillips, Mets: It’s great that Phillips is a first baseman who qualifies as a catcher, but it doesn’t really matter much if he’s hitting like a pitcher. Over the last week, Phillips has gone 0-for-15 with two walks and a strikeout. He actually hasn’t gotten a hit in his last 19 at-bats, and he’s hitting just .149/.286/.234 this season.
There aren’t really any hot, young players pushing Phillips for playing time, but if Todd Zeile keeps swinging the bat decently, he could steal some at-bats from Phillips. Even if Phillips keeps his full-time job, he’s not going to help your team unless he hits like he did last year.
5. 2B D’Angelo Jimenez, Reds: Jimenez has gone just 3-for-27 (.111) over the last week and is hitting a paltry .214 on the season. The one positive is that he has five walks in the last week and 11 on the season for a .348 OBP, which has allowed him to score eight runs.
The solid plate discipline gives me hope that he’ll turn things around before long, and you can already see what batting at the top of the Cincinnati lineup could do for his run total if he gets on base.
Pitcher of the Week
Steve Trachsel, Mets
Trachsel’s made two starts in the past week, allowing three runs on 12 hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts in 15 innings to go 1-1. After getting battered about in his first start of the season, Trachsel’s now 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.29 WHIP and I expect him to continue to lower both numbers.
Trachsel might not be able to match the 3.59 ERA he posted over the last two seasons, but he should at least be able to keep his ERA around 4.00. And once everybody in the Mets lineup is healthy at the same time, they should score enough runs to win him a few games.
Five on the Rise
1. Eric Milton, Phillies: Milton’s season is already something of a success as he’s pitched as many innings this month as he pitched all of last season. He made two starts last week and went six innings in each, allowing three runs on nine hits and three walks with 11 strikeouts.
For the season, Milton’s 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 17 innings. It would be nice to see him pitch deeper into the game, but just the fact that he’s taking the ball on a regular turn and pitching effectively is a good sign for the fantasy owners who took a gamble on him.
2. Scott Schoeneweis, White Sox: Schoeneweis has changed roles continuously in his career. Full-time reliever in 1999. Full-time starter the next two years. Part-time starter in 2002. Full-time reliever last year. He started this season in the White Sox rotation, and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity by winning both of his starts over the last week.
He allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits and five walks with four strikeouts in 13.2 innings. For the season, Schoeneweis is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. That WHIP indicates that his ERA probably won’t stay that low, as does the fact that he has nine walks and just seven strikeouts in 19.1 innings. He’s putting up solid numbers right now, but it could just be a matter of time before everything collapses on him.
3. Sidney Ponson, Orioles: Ponson bounced back nicely from an awful third start this season to pitch a complete game his last time out, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts. He improved to 2-0 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.
Like Schoeneweis, however, Ponson’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is troubling. In 25.1 innings, he’s walked 11 batters and only struck out 10. He’s simply not going to have a good, or even decent, season unless he improves on those numbers dramatically.
4. Zach Day, Expos: Day allowed just one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in seven innings to pick up the win in his only start of the last week. Through three starts, he’s yet to get roughed up and he now has a 2.84 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 19 innings.
Day was having a very solid season last year before injuries caused him to miss more than a month and limited his effectiveness once he returned. He’s had decent success in the minor leagues and he should be able to duplicate that success to some extent in the majors if he can just stay healthy.
5. Eric Dubose, Orioles: Dubose followed up his subpar first two starts by tossing a gem this past week. He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out five. For the season, he’s now 1-2 with a 3.44 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Unfortunately, he’s also walked nine batters and struck out just nine batters in 18.1 innings.
Dubose and fellow inexperienced Baltimore starters Matt Riley and Kurt Ainsworth have each made at least one very solid start now, but they’ve also each been roughed up at least once. That’s the problem with young starters, they’re just too inconsistent.
If you keep using them, you’ll get some games in which they dazzle and some games in which they blow up in your face. And if you try to pick and choose your spots, you may get blown up more often than you’d like.
Five in Freefall
1. Tim Redding, Astros: Redding’s start this past week was just the worst of an awful trio to start the season. He allowed eight runs in 3.2 innings on nine hits — four of them home runs — while striking out four. For the season, he’s now 0-3 with a 10.22 ERA and 2.11 WHIP. Obviously, you can’t start him again until he’s had at least one or two solid outings.
If you had him on your team and dropped him after this latest blow up, I wouldn’t blame you. He had a 3.68 ERA last year, but his peripheral numbers (116 strikeouts and 65 walks) weren’t great and most people didn’t expect him to match that ERA anyway.
If there’s somebody available who you feel can help more than Redding, go ahead and make the switch. You can always try to pick Redding back up if he starts to get his act together.
2. Kaz Ishii, Dodgers: Ishii played with fire his first two seasons in the major leagues, but he somehow finished both years with decent numbers. However, you simply can’t walk that many hitters consistently and continue to get away with it.
In his start last week, Ishii allowed seven runs on eight hits — three of them homers — and three walks with one strikeout in four innings. For the season, he’s 2-1 with a 6.48 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. It’s not surprising that he’s walked 10 batters in 16.2 innings, but he at least provided decent strikeout totals the past two years. So far this season, however, he only has eight.
Even if he has three consecutive amazing outings, I wouldn’t want Ishii anywhere near my fantasy team. He just seems like a walking time bomb waiting to blow up your WHIP.
3. Jae Seo, Mets: Not only did Seo lose what he thought was a guaranteed spot in the rotation during spring training, he got sent all the way back to the minor leagues. Then, he got called right back up because of an injury to Scott Erickson and made two appearances in relief. He got a chance to go back into the rotation last week, and it was not pretty.
He lasted just 4.1 innings, allowing seven runs on 10 hits and two walks with two strikeouts. Art Howe has said Seo will get at least one more start, but you have to wonder how many chances he’ll get. He was a decent fantasy pitcher last year, but it’s looking doubtful that he’ll come close to matching that performance.
4. Derek Lowe, Red Sox: After missing a start completely, Lowe got tagged in his start last Saturday. He allowed seven runs in 2.2 innings on eight hits and four walks with two strikeouts. Most people are chalking the awful outing up to the fact that he had 10 days off before it, but I wouldn’t blame you if you held him out for tonight’s start.
However, I also wouldn’t panic about Lowe unless he gets hammered again tonight, and even then I’d probably give him another start or three before really worrying. He’s been at least above average as a pitcher for six consecutive seasons, and I see no reason to think this year will snap that streak.
5. Jose Contreras, Yankees: Contreras is a maddening pitcher to rely on because he’s clearly got a ton of talent, but he never seems to be able to use all of it. In his last start, he was spotted a huge lead and still only lasted 2.1 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts. After his first two starts of the season, he has a 9.39 ERA and 2.22 WHIP.
You can’t drop Contreras because he has enough potential that somebody will pick him up, but you might not want to use him until he’s shown something positive this season. One thing that might be a concern is that he faced mostly poor offensive teams while putting up his impressive numbers last year, and he’s already been hit hard by above average offenses twice.