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
With an unimpressive resume up until then, Guillen hit the tar out of the ball with the Reds last season and then struggled with the A’s, leaving a lot of doubt about what level of performance you could expect from him this season. He must have worried some owners with his slow start, but now he has multiple hits in seven of his last nine games.
Guillen has gone 12-for-23 (.522) with two doubles, three homers, six runs and 12 RBIs over the last week and he’s now hitting .315/.388/.500. He even has nine walks in 28 games after drawing just 24 walks in 136 games last year. Even if the improved patience is for real, I don’t think Guillen will hit as well as he did in Cincinnati last year. However, this hot streak should convince you that he’s probably too talented to hit as poorly as he did in Oakland.
Five on the Rise
1. 2B Brian Roberts, Orioles: First, Roberts wasn’t even supposed to be the starting second baseman. Then, Jerry Hairston Jr. got hurt and Roberts got the job, but couldn’t get a hit in his first 16 at-bats. Now, Roberts is 9-for-21 (.429) with three doubles, seven steals and seven runs scored in the last week.
After shaking off his slow start, Roberts is currently hitting .333/.395/.459 with 13 steals (in 15 attempts) and 24 runs. Hairston should be back from his injury soon, but Roberts is playing too well to sit on the bench, so either Hairston will probably sit for awhile or the Orioles will trade one of them. Either way, you’re lucky if you held onto Roberts during his slump or if you picked him up before everybody else noticed how hot he is.
2. OF Rocco Baldelli, Devil Rays: Baldelli’s start to this season (.244 average in March and April) was exactly the opposite of last year, when he stormed into the major leagues with a .364 average in March and April. And his trend this year is also the opposite of last year, when he cooled off considerably after April turned to May. Baldelli is 11-for-25 (.440) with two homers, three runs and five RBIs in the last week, with all but one of those games coming in May.
So, now that Baldelli’s hitting an almost respectable .274/.330/.368, can we expect him to keep on improving? Not necessarily. While Baldelli’s been pounding the ball recently, that’s all he’s been doing. He hasn’t walked in his last 13 games and even though he only has two strikeouts in that time, he still has more than twice as many strikeouts as walks this season.
Baldelli’s on pace for 81 strikeouts, which would be a big improvement over the 128 from a year ago. However, he’s only on pace to improve by seven walks, from 30 to 37. Until he stops showing a willingness to help the pitcher out, he’s going to continue to have slumps that will hurt his overall numbers.
3. OF Terrmel Sledge, Expos: Sledge is getting increased playing time thanks to Montreal’s injuries, and he’s taken advantage recently by going 10-for-19 (.526) with a home run, two doubles, a steal, three runs and three RBIs over the last week. After a very slow start, Sledge is now up to .241/.267/.345 for the season.
Sledge has generally hit well in the minor leagues and he could be a useful fantasy player if he gets a chance to play almost every game. If he can keep his hot streak going, he might be able to stay in the lineup even when Carl Everett, and eventually Nick Johnson is healthy.
4. OF Juan Pierre, Marlins: This is what you want to see if you’re a Pierre owner. Over the last week, the speedster has gone 13-for-25 (.520) with two doubles, a triple, three steals, six runs and four RBIs. After not stealing a base in his first 11 games, he’s now up to nine steals this season.
With 28 games under his belt, Pierre’s on pace to hit .357 with 54 steals and 108 runs. The average will definitely come down, but the other two numbers are right in line with what he did last year. He should give you exactly what you expected of him this year.
5. 1B Derrek Lee, Cubs: What a difference a day makes. After going 5-for-5 yesterday, Lee is now 12-for-25 (.480) with two doubles, two homers, four runs and seven RBIs over the last week. His .295/.378/.505 is more like what people thought he might do this season.
Lee wasn’t going to struggle all season before Thursday and he’s not necessarily going to take off now that he’s had his big day, but it’s nice to see him start to get going. My expectations for Lee this year haven’t changed yet — a .280 average, 35 homers, 10 steals, 100 runs and 100 RBIs.
Five in Freefall
1. OF Reggie Sanders, Cardinals: Sanders is a streaky hitter and right now his streak is decidedly cold. He’s just 1-for-24 (.042) with a solo home run, no walks and 11 strikeouts over the last week. Combine that with his hot streak of a couple weeks ago, and Sanders is hitting .260/.287/.567 with eight homers, six steals, 14 runs and 22 RBIs.
Sanders will hit his home runs and steal some bases, so the big question is about his batting average. Will it be down around .230, somewhere in the .250-.260 range or up around .280-.290? One thing that makes you worry about his ability to hit for a high average is the fact that he has 32 strikeouts and just four walks this season. That ratio probably won’t continue, however, and he’ll ultimately give you decent numbers. It’s just that sometimes he’ll appear to be carrying your team and other times he’ll drive you crazy.
2. OF Miguel Cabrera, Marlins: Everybody can stop wondering whether or not Cabrera’s the next Albert Pujols. He’s 2-for-19 with two runs, two RBIs, four walks and seven strikeouts in the last week, and he’s now hitting .267/.347/.552.
Cabrera’s an exciting young player who had a nice rookie season, considering his age, and who should have an even better second season. However, he is not even close to being somebody who had one of the best rookie seasons of all time, who contended for the MVP award in each of his first three seasons and who had one of the best three-year spans to begin a career ever.
Cabrera will become a good hitter, but his performance in this season is not going to rival what Pujols did in 2001. If you’re expecting that, you’re going to be disappointed.
3. OF Moises Alou, Cubs: You didn’t really think Alou had suddenly turned his production up a notch at age 37, did you? Well, if so, you were probably disappointed to see him go 3-for-23 (.130) with a double, a run and two RBIs over the last week. For the season, Alou’s now hitting .311/.351/.612, but is still on pace for 42 home runs and 120 RBIs.
If you want to be more realistic, you should probably expect somewhere around 50% less than those paces, like maybe 25-28 homers and 80-90 RBIs. And that batting average will come down 20-30 points too. Alou might still be a decent fantasy player, but don’t let a couple sizzling weeks cloud your judgement.
4. 2B Marcus Giles, Braves: Maybe there’s a new rule that says only one Giles brother can hit well at a time. While Brian Giles began the year in a major funk, Marcus was hitting .400 as recently as April 27. Now that Brian is 11-for-26 (.423) with a couple homers the last week, Marcus is just 1-for-17 (.059) with a home run, three RBIs and two strikeouts in that time.
Even with the recent struggles, however, Marcus is still hitting .337/.379/.485 for the season. The bigger concern at the moment is that he’s a bit dinged up. Once he gets back in full working order, Marcus should be able to get back to having another excellent season at the plate.
5. 1B Phil Nevin, Padres: The good news is that Nevin has managed to stay healthy so far this season. The bad news is that he’s just 3-for-22 (.136) with a double, a run, four walks and three strikeouts in the last week. If you have Nevin, you’re probably going to have a lot to worry about this year.
First, you have to worry about whether or not he’ll stay healthy all year. Second, you have to worry about whether or not the shoulder he hurt this spring is still bothering him. Third, you have to worry about whether or not San Diego’s new park is going to dramatically hurt his offensive production. Finally, you have to worry about whether or not he’s simply starting to decline at age 33. Nevin may very well give you a good season, but he’s probably going to make you earn it emotionally.
Pitcher of the Week
He may not have quite had the best numbers of the last week, but he did go 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12 innings. He also passed Steve Carlton for number two on the all-time strikeouts list and he’s 6-0 with a 2.11 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 9.63 K/9IP average at 41 years of age.
Now’s probably a good time to try and trade The Rocket. His ERA is definitely going to go up, his strikeout rate is probably going to come down and he’s not even going to come close to winning the 36 games he’s on pace to win. Heck, he might not come close to starting 36 games this year. His value’s not going to get much, if any, higher than it is right now. If you can get a sure-fire hitter or a more sure-fire pitcher in exchange for Clemens, go for it.
Five on the Rise
1. Freddy Garcia, Mariners: After two straight years of frustration, Garcia has been brilliant so far this season. He’s made two starts in the last week, allowing two runs on 10 hits and five walks, with 12 strikeouts in 15 innings for a 1.20 ERA and one win.
So far this season, he’s 1-1 (thanks to Seattle’s awful offense) with a 2.11 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. He’s made one bad start, one good start and four excellent starts, and the difference between this season and the past two seasons is staggering. His strikeout rate is about where you want it to be (6.96 K/9IP), his walk rate is down (from 2.84 BB/9IP the last two seasons to 2.11 BB/9IP this year) and his home run rate is way down (from 1.29 HR/9IP the last two seasons to 0.42 HR/9IP this year).
I don’t know if he’ll be able to sustain this performance all year, but you have to be encouraged by this start. If Garcia can go back to pitching like he did in 2001, then you got a steal considering where you probably drafted him.
2. Brad Radke, Twins: After an opening month with four bad starts and one very good start in the middle, Radke has been very solid in the first week of May. In two starts, he’s allowed a run on nine hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts in 13 innings the last week. For the season, Radke is now 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA and 1.32 WHIP.
Radke doesn’t strike out enough hitters (he has 25 in 41 innings) to be really valuable in a 5×5 league, but he can give you a lot of innings with a decent ERA and decent WHIP, and that’s pretty valuable. Don’t expect every start he makes to be like the last two, but he’ll mix enough of them in there to keep you from completely giving up on him.
3. Jason Schmidt, Giants: After a delayed beginning to his season and a subpar first two starts, Schmidt is finally showing that last season may not have been a fluke. In his two starts over the last week, Schmidt has allowed four runs (three earned) on 10 hits and four walks, with 19 strikeouts in 14 innings. For the season, he’s now 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 30 innings.
His health is still a concern, but I don’t think his performance is anymore. If he can pitch at least 180-200 innings, he should once again be among the league leaders in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. San Francisco’s offense may prevent him from racking up a ton of wins, however.
4. Carlos Silva, Twins: He probably went undrafted in most leagues, but Silva’s been one of the best fantasy starters in baseball thus far. Over the last week, he’s allowed four runs (three earned) on 12 hits and three walks, with eight strikeouts in 15.1 innings to pick up two wins. For the season, he’s now 5-0 with a 3.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 16 strikeouts in 39.1 innings.
On the plus side, Silva’s allowed just eight walks (1.83 BB/9IP) and two home runs (0.46 HR/9IP). On the minus side, he’s only got 16 strikeouts (3.66 K/9IP) and he’s been lucky to receive 6.17 runs per game when he starts. He’s probably not going to keep getting that kind of run support and he better hope he doesn’t keep getting that amount of strikeouts.
It’s possible that Silva will have a pretty decent season, but I think he’ll get shelled at least a few times this year and it’ll hurt his overall numbers.
5. Matt Morris, Cardinals: The up-and-down performance from Morris continued this past week with a shutout against the Cubs in which he gave up just four hits and a walk to go with four strikeouts. This guy is supposed to still be an ace, but he’s certainly not pitching like it. His performance may seem fine if you just look at the fast that he’s 3-2 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
He’s not striking enough people out (4.19 K/9IP), he’s walking too many people (2.93 BB/9IP) and he’s allowing an absurd number of home runs (1.88 HR/9IP). So, what’s the secret to his relatively solid ERA and very nice WHIP? He’s allowed just a .167 batting average on balls in play. That’s obviously not going to continue, so Morris needs to get his stuff in order fast or he’ll be back on the downslope of this rollercoaster ride before you know it.
Five in Freefall
1. Dontrelle Willis, Marlins: First four starts of the season — 25.1 innings, 20 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 1 homer, 8 walks and 18 strikeouts for a 3-0 record and a 0.71 ERA. Two starts in the last week — 6 innings, 13 hits, 12 runs (11 earned), 4 homers, 5 walks and 3 strikeouts for an 0-1 record and a 16.50 ERA. I don’t know what it is about Willis and starting off on fire before running full-steam into a brick wall, but I’m not sure I like it.
It’s nice that Willis has the ability to go out and completely dominate opponents, but I’d rather have him consistently pitch well than suffer through the highs and lows he’s subjected his owners to since reaching the majors. Normally, I’d suggest taking out a pitcher who’s made two starts like his last two, but you might miss the first start in another nice hot streak if you do.
2. Esteban Loaiza, White Sox: Loaiza was picking up pretty much where he left off last year — with a 4-0 record, 3.71 ERA and 1.18 WHIP — before getting battered around a bit in his start last week. He gave up eight runs (four earned) on 10 hits and three walks with two strikeouts in 5.2 innings. He’s still 4-1 with a 4.08 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, which isn’t terrible and is actually right around where I thought he might be for ERA and WHIP.
However, you have to be worried by three numbers if you have him on your team. In his 39.2 innings, he has 19 strikeouts (4.31 K/9IP), 14 walks (3.18 BB/9IP) and seven homers allowed (1.59 HR/9IP). In his amazing 2003 season, he posted 8.23 K/9IP, 2.23 BB/9IP and 0.68 HR/9IP. If he doesn’t get those numbers back on track, it could be a very long season for him.
3. Bartolo Colon, Angels: I don’t know exactly how much longer it will be before people come to the realization that Colon isn’t an ace pitcher. He’s an above average pitcher who can throw a lot of innings and can look very good for a stretch of three or four starts sometimes. But then he’ll have stretches like the one he’s in now. He allowed six runs (four earned) on 10 hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings in his start last week.
In his first three starts of the season, he had a 1.64 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 22 innings. In his last three starts, he had an 8.40 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in 15 innings. Overall, he’s 3-2 with a 4.38 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 37 innings. He may improve the ERA and WHIP somewhat, but he’s not going to be one of the best pitchers in the league.
4. Mark Mulder, A’s: After a very solid first quartet of starts, Mulder has struggled in his last two outings, both against the Yankees. Last week, he allowed seven runs on 13 hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 6.1 innings. For the season, he’s now 2-2 with a 4.12 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 28 strikeouts in 39.1 innings. I wouldn’t be too worried about Mulder’s recent struggles, because a lot of starting pitchers are going to have trouble with New York this season.
The A’s only have one more series with the Yankees left this year, so Mulder may not even have to face them again. If he can hold his own against the rest of the league, he should once again be one of the best pitchers around. Don’t get too worried unless he gets roughed up by the AL Central teams he’ll be facing in his next three starts.
5. Ted Lilly, Blue Jays: The last two starts have been typical of Lilly’s career. He throws a two-hitter with eight strikeouts and just a solo homer against him in one start and then he gets pounded for five runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 5.2 innings the next start. For the season, he’s now 2-2 with a 4.99 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 30.2 innings.
His ERA will come down at least a half a run or so most likely, but he’s so inconsistent it’s infuriating. If you’ve been holding your breath waiting for him to become a top-notch pitcher, you can probably let it go because I don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s worth keeping on your team because he’s got more talent than most average pitchers, but you never know when he’s going to use that talent correctly.