Fantasy Stock Watch: Week Two

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

3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs

Since last Friday, Ramirez has gone 14-for-32 (.438 average) with seven doubles, four home runs, seven runs and 10 RBIs. For those of you following along at home, that’s a 1.031 slugging percentage in the last eight days. He was just 1-for-11 before this hot streak, so he’s hitting .349 for the season with four homers and 10 RBIs.

I put him eighth in my preseason rankings for third base and, looking back, that was probably a little low. He should probably have been fifth or sixth, and if he comes close to reproducing his 2001 season, he could even top the list of fantasy third basemen (non-converted shortstop division).

Five on the Rise

1. OF Miguel Cabrera, Marlins: I’ve thought all along that Cabrera would eventually become a star baseball player, but I didn’t think he’d hit more than 20 home runs this year. So, it’s definitely something of a shock to me that he’s gone 10-for-26 (.385) with five homers, nine runs and seven RBIs in the last eight days.

Cabrera only hit .268 with 12 home runs in 87 games after reaching the majors last year, but he’s already got six home runs and a .368 batting average this year. He’s obviously going to cool down some, but my 20-homer projection looks like it may end up being on the low side. And if you’re in a keeper league, don’t even think about trading this kid. He turns just 21 years old tomorrow and he’s probably going to keep getting better.

2. Texas middle infielders Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young: You might think it’s cheating to list two players together, but it’s my column and I’ll do what I want with it. In the last eight days, Soriano is 16-for-36 (.444) with a double, a home run, five runs, six RBIs and two steals and Young is 16-for-38 (.421) with four doubles, two homers, 11 runs, eight RBIs and two steals.

The reason I’m listing them together is that they’re apparently planning on joining forces in an attempt to prove that plate discipline is unimportant. Last year, Soriano and Young combined to draw 74 walks and strike out 233 times. That’s not good. They also combined to hit .298/.339/.486 with 52 home runs and 48 steals. That is good.

This year, they’ve walked five times and struck out 12 times, which is a slightly better ratio. They’ve also hit .375/.413/.531 with three homers and five steals. They’ll slow down, but they may just be capable of putting up nice numbers with bad strikeout-to-walk ratios.

3. C Kevin Cash, Blue Jays: Cash is getting his first chance to start in the major leagues, and he’s making sure nobody’s going to take that starting spot away from him anytime soon. In the past eight days, Cash has gone 10-for-23 (.435) with five doubles, a home run, three runs and eight RBIs.

It’s probably not necessary to say that Cash isn’t nearly this good. In 120 major-league at-bats before this season, he had hit .142/.181/.192 with just one home run. Even in the minor leagues, he was never a great hitter and was only a good hitter for 2001 and part of 2002. With that said, if you’re in an AL-only league and he’s still available, you might as well pick him up and see how long he can keep this up.

You may wonder why I’m not listing another hot-hitting catcher: Twins backstop Henry Blanco. Blanco has gone 9-for-22 (.409) with three doubles, three homers, seven runs and seven RBIs in the last eight days. There are two reasons I didn’t pick him over Cash. First, he’s 32 years old, so we know for a fact that he’s definitely not a good hitter. Second, he’s only got his starting job until rookie Joe Mauer returns.

4. OF Craig Biggio, Astros: Who says Biggio’s washed up at 38 years old? Over the last eight days, he’s gone 11-for-27 (.407) with five doubles, a home run, seven runs and eight RBIs. For the season, he’s hitting .390/.457/.634 through 10 games.

That’s all wonderful, but the problem with Biggio is that he only qualifies to play in the outfield now. So, even if this hot start means he’ll be able to match his production from 2001 (.292 average with 20 home runs and seven steals), he’d be below average for his position. It’s a nice start, but Biggio’s ultimately no longer a useful fantasy player.

5. SS Jack Wilson, Pirates: This pretty much just shows that any player can have a really good week, so you need to know which ones to get excited about and which ones to ignore. Wilson’s gone 11-for-27 (.407) with three doubles, a home run, five runs, four RBIs and two steals in the last week, but he’s one to ignore.

Wilson’s last two major-league seasons have been remarkably consistent as he’s hit .254/.304/.343 with 13 home runs and 10 steals. He’s not going to suddenly figure it all out, and he doesn’t even have the ability to steal a bunch of bases to make up for the fact that he can’t hit.

Five in Freefall

1. SS Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins has always been an overrated baseball player because he’s pretty fast, but he can’t really hit too well. In the past week, he hasn’t hit at all, going 1-for-24 (.042) with two walks and four strikeouts. For the season, he’s hitting .121 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI. He’s yet to steal a base.

He was recently moved back to the leadoff spot, but it’s not going to matter where he hits if he can’t get a hit. The best you can hope for with Rollins is that he eventually gets his average up around .270 and that it’s good enough for him to keep the leadoff spot.

2. OF Juan Pierre, Marlins: Pierre hasn’t had a completely horrendous week. Over the last eight days, he’s gont 6-for-30 (.200) with a double, a run and two RBIs. The alarming thing for fantasy owners is that he didn’t steal any bases in that time period. He only attempted one steal, and he was thrown out. In fact, he’s yet to steal a base at all this season and that one caught stealing was his only attempt.

Through 10 games last year, Pierre had already attempted seven steals and he was successful five times. It doesn’t help matters that he only has a .297 OBP so far this season, because you can’t steal a base if you don’t get on base first. However, you’ll want to monitor Pierre’s steals closely. If he’s not stealing bunches of bases, he’s got no value even if he’s hitting around .300.

3. 1B Carlos Delgado, Blue Jays: An MVP candidate last year, Delgado has gone just 4-for-26 (.154) with a home run, four runs and two RBIs in the last eight days. He’s drawn five walks and struck out six times in that span.

For the season, Delgado’s hitting just .139, but his seven walks bring his OBP up to a not-entirely-awful .295. He’ll be fine, but you were probably being a little overly optimistic if you were expecting him to match last year’s numbers.

4. C Mike Lieberthal, Phillies: Lieberthal hit a home run Thursday, but it only served to make his numbers over the last week slightly less awful than they otherwise would have been. Since last Friday, Lieberthal is 2-for-21 (.095) with a walk and four strikeouts.

For the season, Lieberthal is hitting .125/.152/.313 with two home runs. He’s just one of three Philadelphia regulars who isn’t hitting his weight yet (with Rollins and Bobby Abreu being the other two). I’ve already mentioned that Rollins can’t hit well (although he will hit better than his weight of 165 pounds), but I expect Abreu and Lieberthal to both bounce back to their normal numbers.

5. OF Brad Wilkerson, Expos: Wilkerson has an established modus operandi in the big leagues. He walks a lot, he strikes out a lot and he hits for decent power. So far this season, he’s walking and striking out, but the power has been hiding. Over the last eight days, Wilkerson is 3-for-19 (.158) with a double, four walks and seven strikeouts.

For the season, Wilkerson is hitting .107 with a double, seven walks and 12 strikeouts. His batting average is ugly, but it’s encouraging to see the normal patience there. He should be able to get the batting average back up into the .260 range and start hitting some home runs.

Pitcher of the Week

Roy Oswalt, Astros

I obviously had high hopes for Oswalt coming into the season because I put him at No. 11 on my preseason starting pitcher rankings and I picked him as the NL Cy Young winner in our preseason predictions. With that in mind, his last two starts have been very encouraging. He’s pitched 15 innings and allowed just two earned runs on 10 hits and three walks while striking out 16.

For the season, Oswalt is 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. He’s got as much talent as just about any pitcher in baseball. If he can stay healthy all season, he’s almost a lock to at least finish in the top three in Cy Young voting.

Five on the Rise

1. Carlos Zambrano, Cubs: The forgotten member of this rotation has made two very nice starts in the last week. He pitched 13 innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits and four walks with 13 strikeouts for a nice 1.38 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.

In his time as a starting pitcher since 2002, Zambrano has a 3.21 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.31 K/9IP and 4.19 BB/9IP in 320 innings. He walks too many hitters and a lot of his value last year was due to the fact that he only allowed nine home runs, but he’s definitely a good pitcher. He’s also only 22 years old, and if he keeps improving, he could be amazing.

2. Wade Miller, Astros: Miller is another pitcher who has a ton of talent, but has struggled with injuries and inconsistency. The last week, however, he’s been very good. He pitched 13 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and seven walks with 11 strikeouts to win both starts.

The big concern is obviously the walks. After not walking anybody in his first start, Miller issued seven walks in seven innings in his second start. However, Miller has pitched considerably better after the All-Star break in each of the last three seasons, so it’s nice to see him get off to a solid start this year.

3. Tom Glavine, Mets: After an awful first season with the Mets, Glavine is looking very good so far this season. He made two starts in the last week, and he didn’t allow an earned run in either of them. He allowed one unearned run on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 14 innings.

For the season, Glavine is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in 20 innings. The only concern is that while his four walks are very nice, his five strikeouts are not. Even if don’t play in a 5×5 league where his lack of punchouts will hurt you, the inability to strike anybody out is not a good sign for the future of his season.

The defense in Queens improved significantly this off-season, but it’s not so good that Glavine will be able to have continued success if he’s only striking out 2.25 hitters every nine innings. He’s going to need to at least, at the very least, double that number.

4. Odalis Perez, Dodgers: Perez showed he has plenty of talent ni 2002, but he also showed last year that he doesn’t always use that talent to its fullest. After an unimpressive first start of the season, Perez has made two nice starts in the last week. He pitched 14 innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits and two walks with 18 strikeouts.

For the season, Perez is now 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. Perez won’t keep that 10.07 K/9IP rate going all year, but if he can up the strikeouts a bit this year, it will go a long way towards improving his final numbers.

5. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks: Johnson wasn’t particularly good in either of his first two starts, but he did strike people out. He notched 13 strikeouts in 13 innings over his first two games, and he brought out his complete game (pun intended) for Friday’s start. The Big Unit pitched nine shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out eight.

Johnson is now 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 22 innings. It’s too early to say that he’s definitely back to his old self. However, if you took him in the first two or three rounds of your draft, you’re feeling better now than you did a couple days ago.

Five in Freefall

1. Johan Santana, Twins: This is not what everybody had in mind. Expected to flourish upon finally receiving a permanent spot in the rotation, Santana has done nothing but struggle. In his two starts over the past week, he’s allowed nine runs on 11 hits (including four home runs) and two walks with nine strikeouts in 11.2 innings.

For the season, he’s got three no decisions to go with a 6.46 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 10 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. There are good signs and bad signs in those numbers. The good sign is that his 1.17 WHIP is pretty good and if he keeps it there, his ERA will go down in time.

The bad signs are the home runs and strikeouts. He allowed a bunch of homers last year and he struck out a bunch of people last year. This year, he’s allowed four longballs in 15.1 innings, but his strikeout rate of 5.87 K/9IP is much worse than last year’s 9.61 mark. Hopefully, the fact that he struck out six in 6.1 innings on Friday is a sign that he’s turning things around.

2. Jason Johnson, Tigers: Hopefully, you didn’t get too excited when Johnson outpitched Roy Hallada in the season opener, because he’s simply not that good. In two starts since last Friday, Johnson has allowed nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with two strikeouts in 6.1 innings.

For the season, he’s 1-2 with a 6.57 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and five strikeouts in 12.1 innings. He’s better than that, but he’s pretty much an average or worse pitcher.

3. Greg Maddux, Cubs: We saw the first serious declines from Maddux last year and we’re seeing more so far this season. After a quality, although not great, first start, Maddux got touched up for five earned runs in 3.2 innings in his second start. The most alarming thing is that he walked five batters. He’s already walked seven batters this season after issuing more than seven walks in just one month last year.

For the season, Maddux is 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA, 1.97 WHIP and four strikeouts in 9.2 innings. If you were counting on him to be at least an average starter, you might be disappointed.

4. Jamie Moyer, Mariners: Moyer’s been succeeding at an old age for so long that it’s almost hard to remember that he’s 41 now and he’s eventually going to stop being a good pitcher. I mean, nobody can just keep pitching as well as he’s been pitching forever.

Moyer allowed four earned runs on eight hits and three walks with five strikeouts in five innings in his last start. He’s now 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA, 1.88 WHIP and six strikeouts in 10.2 innings. It’s too early to say that he’s washed up, but it’s certainly a possibility you have to consider.

5. Rich Harden, A’s: There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Harden and his ability to become Oakland’s next great pitcher, but I keep seeing somebody who’s just not ready because of his shaky control. Control wasn’t the problem in Harden’s first start of the year, though. He just got hit hard, allowing six earned runs on 11 hits and a walk with six strikeouts in four innings.

The strikeouts and walks are a good sign, but 11 hits is an awful lot for somebody with such good stuff to give up. If you have him, you may want to sit him on the bench until he’s strung a couple solid starts together.

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