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 only looks at the hitters
Hitter of the Week
3B David Bell, Phillies
Is this really the same player who hit .195 with his OBP and SLG both under .300 last year? After going 14-for-28 (.500) with three doubles, three homers, nine runs and six RBIs, Bell is enjoying the best season of his career at age 32 coming off the disaster of last season.
Bell is now hitting .298 with 16 homers, 59 runs and 71 RBIs. He was never going to be a great fantasy player, but after last year nobody could have imagined he’d even be useful. Not only has he been useful, he’s right on the edge of being one of the top 10 fantasy third basemen (not counting players who also qualify in the middle infield).
Five on the Rise
1. SS Derek Jeter, Yankees: Jeter has recovered wonderfully from his early season slump, and this week he went 10-for-25 (.400) with three doubles, two homers, nine runs and seven RBIs.
For the season, Jeter’s hitting .288 with 21 homers, 22 steals, 101 runs and 73 RBIs. If you have any complaints about a 20-20 shortstop who scores 100-110 runs and knocks in 75-80, your expectations might be a little too high.
2. 3B Hank Blalock, Rangers: After slumping for nearly two months, Blalock has finally remembered that he’s a really good hitter, going 12-for-30 (.400) with three doubles, a home run, 10 runs and 11 RBIs this week. Even with his slump, he’s been one of the top five fantasy third basemen this season, hitting .275 with 30 homers, 94 runs and 104 RBIs.
Blalock has already improved on most of his counting stats from last year and his percentages are pretty similar except for the batting average. That he has a better OBP and nearly as good an SLG with a batting average 25 points lower is probably actually a good sign.
3. OF Rocco Baldelli, Devil Rays: Baldelli went 10-for-25 (.400) with two doubles, three homers, two steals, five runs and 10 RBIs this week and has progressed nicely from last year. His steals are down significantly (from 27 to 13) because of an injury, but he’s .285 with 14 homers, 72 runs and 67 RBIs.
Most importantly, he’s starting to learn the strike zone. Last year, Baldelli had 637 at-bats and drew 26 unintentional walks while striking out 128 times. This year, he’s had 463 at-bats and has drawn 28 unintentional walks while striking out 80 times. He’ll be 23 next year, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him hit .300 and throw up a 20-homer, 30-steal performance.
4. SS Julio Lugo, Devil Rays: Lugo went 10-for-25 (.400) with five doubles, three steals, six runs and three RBIs this week. He’s not great at any one thing, but he doesn’t really kill you in any category as he’s hitting .276 with seven homers, 18 steals, 75 runs and 67 RBIs. Those aren’t bad numbers at all for a shortstop.
5. OF Jayson Werth, Dodgers: Werth has seen his playing time increase dramatically since the All-Star break, and this week he went 10-for-26 (.385) with two doubles, four homers, seven runs and eight RBIs. Werth is now hitting .280 with 15 home runs, 47 runs and 41 RBIs in just 225 at-bats and there’s no reason to think he can’t keep producing the rest of the season.
Werth slumped mightily in August, but he’s rebounded nicely this month and his .351 OBP and .533 SLG indicate a player who knows what he’s doing with a bat. Since he’s been bouncing around for a few years, it’s easy to forget that he’s only 25 years old and may just be coming into his own.
Five in Freefall
1. SS Edgar Renteria, Cardinals: Renteria struggled for the first two months of the season before picking his game up, but now he’s struggling again. This week, he went 1-for-21 (.048) with a run, no walks and five strikeouts.
For the season, he’s still hitting .284 with 10 home runs, but he only has 15 steals, 78 runs and 65 RBIs. Not only is this his lowest stolen-base total since 2000, it’s also his highest caught stealing total since then. Add in that he’s stopped walking as much as he had been, and this has been a very discouraging year for Renteria.
2. OF Scott Podsednik, Brewers: Podsednik is in what seems like he’s 50th slump of the season, going 1-for-25 (.040) with a double, a steal, a run, two walks and two strikeouts this week. Amazingly, despite the fact that he’s hitting .245 with an ugly .683 OPS, Podsednik’s not having a bad fantasy season.
He can’t touch last year’s average (.314) and his 76 runs and 35 RBIs are well short of last year’s 100 and 58, but he already has 11 homers (two more than last year) and 56 steals (13 more than last year). Despite his tremendous struggles with the bat, Podsednik has pretty much been a top-30 fantasy outfielder.
3. C Jorge Posada, Yankees: Posada went 2-for-17 (.118) with a run, an RBI, five walks and three strikeouts this week. Despite the fact that he’s in a group of three or four guys fighting to be the second-best hitting catcher behind Ivan Rodriguez this season, Posada has not been one of the top five or six fantasy catchers.
The reason is that, like Barry Bonds, a lot of Posada’s real-life value is tied up in his walks. Posada has 86 of them, which gives him a very nice .403 OBP. However, he’s only hitting .264 with 18 homers, 67 runs and 67 RBIs. He’s not among the top three at his position in any fantasy category and his batting average is only 10th.
4. SS Omar Vizquel, Indians: Vizquel is having a nice resurgence this year, but he struggled this week while going 2-for-21 (.095) with a double, a steal, an RBI, two walks and two strikeouts. For the season, he’s hitting .300 with seven homers, 17 steals, 78 runs and 57 RBIs.
Those numbers are good enough to make him one of the top 10 fantasy shortstops, and he should stay there unless he keeps slumping the rest of the season. Not bad for a 37-year-old who looked washed up last season.
5. 3B Troy Glaus, Angels: Glaus went 2-for-20 (.100) with a home runs, two runs, an RBI, three walks and five strikeouts this week. He has three home runs in 50 at-bats since returning from the DL, but he’s hitting just .220 with four RBIs. I don’t know if he’s pressing or still hurting or just in a normal slump, but I wouldn’t bet on him having a strong finish to the season.
Of course, Glaus still has 14 home runs and 32 RBIs in just 164 at-bats this year, and he might just have too much potential power to risk leaving him out of your lineup unless you’re certain you have a better option.