Every Friday, Ben will scour the majors for the players whose fantasy value is going up, going down or completely bottoming out. This week, he focuses on the players on the rise.
Hitter of the Week
OF Jim Edmonds, Cardinals
Edmonds has been ridiculous the last week, going 9-for-16 (.563) with six home runs, a double, eight runs and 13 RBIs. For the season, Edmonds is now hitting .310/.426/.675 with 39 home runs, 92 runs and 101 RBIs.
Edmonds is combining his batting average on-base percentage from 2002 (.309/.420) with his power from last year (39 homers, .342 IsoP) with his health from his first two seasons in St. Louis (152 games in 2000, 150 in 2001). The result is a top-10 fantasy outfielder. He’s certainly making me look silly for putting him 27th in my preseason rankings.
Five on the Rise
1. OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: It’s getting ridiculous, but Suzuki hit better than .500 for another week. This week, he went 17-for-31 (.548) with a home run, three steals, eight runs and five RBIs. You want to know how absurd Ichiro’s season has gotten? Since hitting .255 in April, Ichiro has a nice, round .400 batting average.
For the season, he’s hitting .374 with eight homers, 32 steals, 85 runs and 52 RBIs. He has been significantly better this year than in his MVP, Rookie of the Year 2001 season.
2. OF Juan Pierre, Marlins: Pierre went 16-for-31 (.512) with two doubles, a triple, four steals, six runs and five RBIs this week. Pierre only had 18 steals the first three months of the year, then stole 18 bases in July and August.
Pierre’s now hitting .320 with 37 steals and 80 runs. If he can get close to 50 steals while keeping his average around .320, he’ll have about as good a fantasy season as he had last year.
3. OF Lance Berkman, Astros: Berkman tried to help his fantasy value catch up to his real life value this week, going 10-for-25 (.400) with six home runs, a double, 12 runs and 10 RBIs. He’s now hitting .312 with 25 home runs, five steals, 86 runs and 86 RBIs.
Those are nice numbers, but they don’t show how good he’s really been. Berkman has a .459 OBP and .566 SLG, and is easily one of the top five offensive outfielders in baseball. In traditional 5×5 leagues, however, he’s merely on the bubble as one of the top 15 fantasy outfielders. If he continues his recent home run binge, however, he could move his fantasy value up where it belongs.
4. 2B Adam Kennedy, Angels: Kennedy went 11-for-22 (.500) with two doubles, a triple, two homers, a steal, nine runs and four RBIs in the last week, and has gone 17 for his last 30 (.567). This hot stretch has improved Kennedy’s average 22 points from .251 to .273 in only eight games.
For the season, Kennedy is now hitting .273 with nine homers, 13 steals, 61 runs and 43 RBIs. Considering how thin his position is, he now seems like a pretty good bet to finish among the top 10 fantasy second basemen. I expected more steals and a better batting average from Kennedy, but his fellow second basemen have been so bad that he still might hit my preseason prediction as the eighth best fantasy second baseman.
5. 1B Jeff Bagwell, Astros: Maybe Bagwell’s not washed up quite yet after all. In the last week, he’s gone 12-for-29 (.414) with a double, two homers, two steals, seven runs and eight RBIs. Right now, Bagwell’s having the same season as he did last year, minus some power.
Bagwell’s on pace for 155 games (160 last year), 566 at-bats (605), 102 runs (109), 150 hits (168), 29 doubles (28), 95 walks (88) and 123 strikeouts (119) and he’s hitting .265 (.278 last year) with a .377 OBP (.373). However, he’s only on pace for 26 homers (39 last year) and 80 RBIs (100) and his SLG is .456 (.524).
Pitcher of the Week
Josh Beckett, Marlins
Where has this been all season? Beckett pitched a complete-game shutout with two strikeouts and six hits in his start this week. Injuries limited Beckett to only 10.2 innings in June and July, and he had an ERA above 3.70 in each of this season’s other three months.
After 3.04 ERA in limited time last season and then dominating October, this isn’t what anybody expected from him this year. Beckett’s now 6-8 with a 4.05 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 113 strikeouts in 115.2 innings. However, he does have a 2.78 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in his last five starts and could still be a force in the final month of the season.
Five on the Rise
1. A.J. Burnett, Marlins: Another Florida starter who’s been troubled by injuries, Burnett allowed one run on five hits and two walks in eight innings with 14 strikeouts in his start this week. He now has a 3.91 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 97 strikeouts in 103.2 innings this season.
More impressively, he’s 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 53.2 innings in his last eight starts. Like Beckett, Burnett has the potential to be dominant the last month of the season if he’s healthy, as he appears to be.
2. Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks: Webb hasn’t been as good as his rookie year, but Randy Johnson isn’t the only pitcher suffering from Arizona’s struggles. Webb allowed three runs (two earned) on nine hits and five walks with 15 strikeouts in 12.1 innings in his two starts this week.
For the season, Webb now has a 3.55 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 177.2 innings. Unfortunately, that’s only good enough for a 6-14 record. Webb’s season would actually be pretty similar to last year if he didn’t stink things up with a 6.55 ERA in May. The rest of the season, he has a 2.83 ERA. Last year, he had a 2.84 ERA. Of course, Webb has allowed many more baserunners this year and an awful lot of earned runs, so maybe he’s still a little risky.
3. Tim Wakefield, Red Sox: Wakefield allowed one run on three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in eight innings in his start this week. After struggling most of the time from the end of May to the middle of August, Wakefield’s allowed six runs in 21 innings (2.57 ERA) in his last three starts.
For the season, he’s now 11-7 with a 4.38 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 95 strikeouts in 156 innings. Knuckleballers can be streaky pitchers, but he has a good offense to help him get wins and he now has a better defense to help him prevent runs, which should help his fantasy value in September.
4. Nate Robertson, Tigers: For some time this season, Robertson was among the strikeout leaders in the AL. That’s well in the past now, but Robertson’s still striving to have a surprising decent season. He allowed one run on six hits with seven strikeouts in a complete game this week, and is now 12-7 with a 4.40 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 127 strikeouts in 163.2 innings this season.
I wouldn’t say I completely trust Robertson, but he’s shown flashes of potential all season and he’s only allowed four runs in 24 innings (1.50 ERA) in his last three starts.
5. Jeff Weaver, Dodgers: Weaver allowed one run on five hits with nine strikeouts in eight innings this week, and is now 12-10 with a 3.60 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 131 strikeouts in 182.2 innings. Those are fine numbers, but the impressive thing has been his consistency.
In his last nine starts, Weaver’s gone eight innings three times, seven innings four times and six innings twice. He’s allowed one earned run four times, two earned runs twice and three earned runs three times. He allowed at least five runs in a start three times in April, but has only yielded more than four runs once since then. As amazing as it sounds, he’s been somebody you can count on each and every time he takes the mound recently.