Fantasy Stock Watch: Week 11

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

2B Luis Rivas, Twins

Normally, I wouldn’t consider a player who only has 14 at-bats in the last week, but Rivas has 10 hits in those 14 at-bats (.714 average). He has two doubles, a triple, a home run (kind of), two steals, five runs and three RBIs since last Friday. Since coming off the disabled list on June 9, Rivas is hitting .609/.609/1.000 in 23 at-bats.

As good as he’s been the past week or so, he’s still not a worthwhile fantasy player. For the season, he’s now hitting .285 with three homers and six steals in 43 games. If he could keep his average in the .280 range, he’d be decent. However, his highest average in his three full seasons is .266 and there’s no reason to think he’s suddenly become a better hitter, especially since his strike zone judgment is worse than ever (five walks and 18 strikeouts in 143 at-bats). In another two weeks, Rivas will probably be back to his usual worthlessness.

Five on the Rise

1. OF Carl Crawford, Devil Rays: In the last week, Crawford has gone 13-for-29 (.448) with four triples, four steals, eight runs and five RBIs. So far, Crawford’s doing exactly what you would have hoped if you drafted him as he’s hitting .304 with 29 steals and 43 runs scored.

Is Crawford really this good? Well, I don’t think he’s going to steal 75 bases (although it’s certainly possible), but I don’t see any reason why he can’t hit around .300 this year. The thing I like most about Crawford this year is his increased patience. Last year, he walked 26 times in 661 plate appearances and four of the were intentional. This year, he has 16 unintentional walks and zero intentional walks in 273 plate appearances. Basically, he’s nearly doubled his unintentional walk rate, which is a very good sign.

Crawford isn’t a great hitter yet, but he is already a great fantasy player. And with the potential to become a great player and his 23rd birthday still ahead of him, he’s a definite keeper.

2. OF Garret Anderson, Angels: In the week since returning from the DL, Anderson has shown exactly why the Angels and your fantasy team missed him so much, going 11-for-26 (.423) with a double, two homers, four runs and four RBIs. Before the season, I expected Anderson to hit around .300 with 30 homers, 85-90 runs and 110-115 RBIs. At this point, I see no reason to change that prediction, you just need to adjust for the fact that he’ll probably only play 110-115 games this year. That would leave him with 20-22 homers, 60-65 runs and 75-80 RBIs.

3. 2B Nick Green, Braves: Green has done a great job filling in for Marcus Giles and in the last week he’s gone 10-for-22 (.455) with a triple, four runs and three RBIs. He hasn’t shown much power or speed, but he is hitting .309 with 16 runs and 14 RBIs in 31 games.

Green was hitting .377/.443/.455 in 22 games at Triple-A Richmond before getting called up, although he hadn’t done much in the minors before this season. If he can keep producing for the next month, there may be a chance he keeps playing even when Giles returns around the All-Star break because Mark DeRosa has done absolutely nothing this year.

4. 3B Joe Randa, Royals: Randa may be done as a consistently average offensive player, but he did go 11-for-24 (.458) with four doubles, nine runs and three RBIs in the last week. Unfortunately, that only brought his season numbers up to .275 with two homers, 27 runs and 22 RBIs. He’s always been able to provide decent (but nothing more) numbers in each category, but that won’t be the case this year.

If he finishes the season hitting higher than his current .275, I’ll be surprised. He also will probably be limited to single digits in homers for the first time since 1998 and he likely won’t reach 80 in either runs or RBIs for the first time since then either.

5. OF Coco Crisp, Indians: After Milton Bradley was traded, Crisp and Alex Escobar split time, but Crisp appears to have won the job as he went 12-for-28 (.429) with three doubles, a homer, a steal, four runs and 12 RBIs in the last week. For the season, he’s hitting .267 with two homers, seven steals, 17 runs and 19 RBIs while Escobar is hitting just .211.

Crisp might be able to get the average up a little more, and he should be able to steal a bunch of bases when he’s on base. As long as he keeps playing nearly every day, he has some use as a fantasy option.

Five in Freefall

1. OF Craig Wilson, Pirates: He’s been scorching the ball all season, so Wilson was due for a little bit of a slump. He’s gone just 2-for-21 (.095) with four walks and six strikeouts in the last week. Fortunately, both hits were homers and he’s still hitting .318 with 15 homers, 41 runs and 41 RBIs.

The key thing for Wilson is that he’s pretty locked himself in as an everyday player and he should definitely get to 30 homers this year. Unfortunately, it looks like this will be the last year he qualifies as a catcher as he’s only played two games behind the dish so far.

2. 2B Jeff Kent, Astros: In the last week, Kent’s gone 3-for-27 (.111) with two doubles, a homer, three runs, an RBI, two walks and eight strikeouts. He can probably live with it, however, as it comes on the heels of a 25-games hitting streak. For the season, he’s hitting .294 with 10 homers, 45 runs, 44 RBIs and four steals.

Kent’s on pace to hit .294 with 25 homers, 112 runs, 110 RBIs and 10 steals, which is pretty close to what I predicted before the season (.300 average, 28-30 homers, 90-95 runs, 100-110 RBIs and 5-6 steals). He may be 36 years old, but he’s still a darn good hitter.

3. 1B Nick Johnson, Expos: Johnson was scalding hot when he came off the DL (he hit nearly .500 in his first 11 games), but he’s cooled off recently and went 3-for-24 (.125) with a homer, a run, three RBIs, two walks and seven strikeouts in the last week. For the season, he’s now hitting .292 with two homers, 10 runs and six RBIs.

Johnson’s going to hit, so I’m not worried about this slump. The key for him is to stay healthy and try to shake his injury-prone reputation. I’m still anxious to find out what he could do if he ever plays a full season.

4. 1B Jason Giambi, Yankees: Speaking of injury-prone players, Giambi went just 2-for-21 (.095) with five walks and three strikeouts in the last week and it looks like he might be hampered by injury problems the rest of his career. Last year, he displayed power (41 homers, .527 SLG) and patience (129 walks, .412 OBP), but injuries limited him to just a .250 batting average after four straight seasons of hitting at least .310.

This season, Giambi’s hitting .242/.387/.472 and I don’t think he’s capable of hitting above .300 any more. Giambi’s 33 years old now and has a long list of injuries to worry about. He can still give you a lot of homers and RBIs, but I don’t think he’s going to hit near as well as he did last year and it might very well get even worse next year.

5. 2B/OF Willie Harris, White Sox: Harris went just 1-for-17 (.059) with five walks and six strikeouts in the last week. He’s still hitting .293 and his .369 OBP is good, but he has no power (.346 SLG). As long as he plays every day, he’s a decent fantasy option if he hits for an average around .280-.290 because he can steal bases (he has eight steals this year). However, the White Sox could eventually decide that he doesn’t provide enough offense and replace him through the farm system or a trade.

Pitcher of the Week

Carl Pavano, Marlins

Pavano threw a three-hitter with eight strikeouts and one walk to win his start last week and improve to 7-2 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.02 WHIP on the season. Perhaps more impressively, he’s gone at least seven innings in each of his last 10 starts. He doesn’t have many strikeouts (5.25 K/9IP), but he’s not walking many (1.97 BB/9IP) or allowing many homers (0.75 HR/9IP) either. He might be getting somewhat lucky on balls in play (.234 average), but not ridiculously so.

Pavano had his development stunted by a lot of injuries earlier in his career, but he’s finally becoming the pitcher people thought he could be when he was a prospect for the Red Sox. Since the 2002 All-Star break, Pavano has a 3.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 5.77 K/9IP, 2.11 BB/9IP and 0.8 HR/9IP in 358.2 innings. He might not keep his ERA below 3.00, but he’s a quality-starting pitcher in his prime.

Five on the Rise

1. Derek Lowe, Red Sox: Lowe was pitching so poorly that Red Sox fans were encouraged when he allowed just two earned runs in five innings on June 6. In each of his two starts last week, however, Lowe pitched seven scoreless innings, and one of the starts came in Colorado. Before you get too excited, however, Lowe did walk four batters in each start and he has 34 walks and just 32 strikeouts in 70.1 innings this year.

He’s now 6-5 with a 5.25 ERA and 1.71 WHIP, but he’s pitched better than that. I’d expect his ERA the rest of the season to be around 4.00 and the WHIP will come down as well once he stops getting so unlucky on balls in play. Also, he can survive with a little bit of a high WHIP because he doesn’t give up home runs (just four this year) and he does get double plays (11 this season).

2. Odalis Perez, Dodgers: In his two starts the last week, Perez pitched 15 innings and allowed just two runs on 10 hits and three walks with 15 strikeouts. He’s now 4-3 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.09 WHIP and he looks much more like the Odalis Perez of two years ago (15-10, 3.00 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) than the one from last year (12-12, 4.52 ERA, 1.28 WHIP).

Perez isn’t striking out as many hitters as last year, but he’s also not walking as many and he’s not having nearly as much trouble with the longball. He allowed 28 homers in 185.1 innings last year and is on pace to allow 26 homers in 240.2 innings this year. If you don’t want to do any math, that would be two fewer homers in 55.1 more innings.

3. Steve Sparks, Diamondbacks: In two starts last week, Sparks pitched 14.1 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on 11 hits and nine walks with five strikeouts. It’s nice to see him have a couple nice starts, but I wouldn’t expect it to continue. His strikeout/walk ratio (32 of each in 76.1 innings) is very similar to Lowe’s, but unlike Lowe, Sparks does allow homers (nine, so far) and doesn’t get as many double plays (seven).

Sparks also isn’t getting unlucky on balls in play. His .274 batting average allowed is perfectly reasonable, whereas Lowe’s .323 average allowed on balls in play is ridiculous. What I’m saying is that even though Sparks has 5.00-something ERA after two good starts like Lowe, he’s not as good a bet to keep pitching well.

4. Adam Eaton, Padres: After a five-start stretch in which he had a 9.72 ERA, Eaton has now made three nice starts in a row. In his two starts last week, he pitched 13 innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and five walks with five strikeouts. For the season, he’s now 3-7 with a 5.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 84.2 innings.

He’s still a young pitcher, so growing pains aren’t unexpected, but he should be pretty good the rest of the season. He already has a respectable WHIP, he just needs to stop giving up so many home runs and the ERA will come down as well. If he can start taking advantage of his home park, he could certainly have an ERA below 4.00 over the rest of the season.

5. David Wells, Padres: Wells still hasn’t allowed a run or a walk since coming off the DL. In his start last week, he pitched seven scoreless innings with five hits and four strikeouts. For the season, he’s now 2-4 with a 3.02 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 62.2 innings. He only has 22 strikeouts (3.16 K/9IP), but he’s also only allowed seven walks (1.01 BB/9IP) and six homers (0.86 HR/9IP).

He’s 41 years old now and he’s never been in good shape, but somehow he just keeps getting the job done. He throws strikes, he gets outs and he’s a useful guy to have around, although he’s not going to keep pitching this well.

Five in Freefall

1. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: Carpenter has his first bad start in more than a month last week, allowing seven runs on 10 hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 5.2 innings. You really can’t complain, though, because nobody had any right to expect Carpenter to pitch as well as he’s been pitching so far. For the season, he’s now 7-2 with a 3.97 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 79.1 innings. Most likely, he’ll finish with an ERA around 4.25-4.50 and even that’s better than people should have expected.

2. Roger Clemens, Astros: Well, maybe he’s human after all. Clemens was tagged with his first loss last week, allowing five runs on 10 hits and a walk with six strikeouts in six innings. For the season, he’s still 9-1 with a 2.46 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 84 innings. I still think his ERA’s going to end up about a run higher than it is right now, but he’ll still be very valuable because of his wins and strikeouts (94, so far).

3. Cliff Lee, Indians: Lee was rolling right along with a 3.25 ERA and had a 5-1 record because he always gave his team a chance to win, but he finally was hit really hard last week. He pitched just 3.2 innings and allowed seven runs on six hits and five walks with four strikeouts.

Lee has 59 strikeouts in 75.2 innings for a solid 7.02 K/9IP rate, but he walks way too many. He’s already issued 41 free passes, or 4.88 BB/9IP. That’s why he has a 1.51 WHIP and it’s also why his ERA’s now up to 3.93. He has great stuff, but just like Rich Harden, he won’t be a consistently good pitcher until he improves his control.

4. John Thomson, Braves: Thomson was doing a nice job of replacing Greg Maddux in Atlanta’s rotation until interleague play started. In his first interleague start, a rain delay forced him to exit after pitching just one inning. Then, in his two starts last week he allowed 13 runs (12 earned) on 18 hits and five walks with nine strikeouts in 11.2 innings.

He now has a 4.61 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP, but almost any pitcher’s numbers will look bad right after his two worst starts, just like they’d look good after his two best starts. I still think Thomson will finish the year as about a league average pitcher, which is pretty much what Maddux was for them last year.

5. Scott Schoeneweis, White Sox: It looks like the Cinderella season might be turning into a pumpkin for Schoeneweis as he’s now allowed at least four runs in four of his last five starts. In his two starts last week, he pitched 12.1 innings and allowed nine runs on 18 hits and four walks with eight strikeouts.

For the season, Schoeneweis is 5-5 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 81.2 innings. Schoeneweis has never been much better than an average pitcher, and it would have been unreasonable to expect him to turn into a good pitcher this season. I’d expect his ERA and WHIP to both end up somewhere in the vicinity of where they are right now.

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