American League by Rob McQuown
Andrew Bailey | Oakland | RP
YTD: 10.5 K/9, 3.7 K/BB, 1.61 ERA
True Talent: 7.5 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 4.55 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 saves, 7 games, 4.59 ERA
In the California and Texas Leagues the past two years, Andrew Bailey has been used primarily as a starter, and a rigorous projection system like “True Talent” weighs his good-but-not-great numbers in those years. However, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound fireballer has lately stepped into a relief role like it’s his calling. The main reason that Bailey is not already closing for Oakland is so that the A’s can squeeze more innings out of him. Pick him up now, and even if he doesn’t help you immediately in saves, he’ll help you in ERA and WHIP. “Ziggy” owners, beware!
Juan Cruz | Kansas City | RP
YTD: 6.3 K/9, 1.1 K/BB, 1.72 ERA
True Talent: 9.9 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.55 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 1.4 saves, 6 games, 3.64 ERA
Joakim Soria might have Tweeted “i be back,” and we agree that’s likely. Still, Juan Cruz has shown marginally closer-worthy skills for years, and he is significantly better than his much more highly paid teammate Kyle Farnsworth. Walks can still get the best of Cruz (as attested by his career WHIP of 1.37), but he should be rate-stat-neutral, and he will get virtually all the KC saves while “The Mexicutioner” is out, and a smattering thereafter, as well.
Luke Hochevar | Kansas City | SP
YTD: (don’t look)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Luke Hochevar is better than Sidney Ponson; of course, that’s like saying that a steak house is better than a lunch wagon. Most analyses regard Hochevar as a 5.0-5.5 Runs/Game pitcher, on a team scoring under 4.5 Runs/Game. His Triple-A stats suggest that he’s healthy, but a .241 BABIP makes them look overly enticing. He won’t help your WHIP, ERA, K, or wins, regardless of how many times he was drafted in the first round.
Phil Hughes | New York | SP
YTD: 6.2 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 8.49 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.97 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Hughes’s True Talent is the portrait of a run-of-the-mill thrower. That said, a run-of-the-mill thrower can be useful when he does his throwing in front of a 5.5+ RPG offense like New York’s. Moreover, as Branch Rickey noted, “the difference between a great pitcher and a run-of-the-mill thrower is astoundingly slight.” And in the minors, Hughes looked “great,” so the “slight difference” could yet be overcome.
Julio Lugo | Boston | SS
True Talent: .262/.329/.366
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, .258 BA, 0.5 SB
Not much fanfare surrounded Julio Lugo’s return, but he can still be a valuable fantasy asset. The 39-SB/.300 BA days are long past, but as the knee gets closer to 100%, look for him to resume the 25-30 SB pace that’s his norm in Boston. Also, this line-up offers more opportunities for runs and RBI than most No. 9 hitters get. Lugo should fend off Nick Green, and if Lugo hits well, Lowrie could end up in a utility role upon his August return.
Dioner Navarro | Tampa Bay | C
True Talent: .253/.313/.368
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .251 BA, 0.1 SB
Dioner Navarro has never been much more than filler, but this year he’s slumping not only at hittting but also at throwing out runners. If this combination persists, it could cost him PT. Nonetheless, Navarro has a good chance to turn things around—he has hit far fewer liners and grounders this year, instead hitting more infield flies (IFF/FB% at 30%, up from 14% in 2008). But there are no reports of physical ailments, so we expect to see the ’08 model again soon.
Nolan Reimold | Baltimore | OF
YTD: .394/.485/.743 (IL) with 9 HR/6 SB
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
That whoooosh you hear is the sound of International League pitchers exhaling. Nolan Reimold is called up! The Orioles had said that they wouldn’t promote Reimold until they were ready to make him a starter, and he seems likely to supplant Pie when all the O’s are healthy again. Despite the hot start, Reimold is no superstar, so don’t break the bank in a keeper league, but he should be able to match Luke Scott’s production, with a few SB thrown in. It’s his time.
Brandon Wood | Los Angeles | 3B/SS
YTD: .351/.439/.877 (PCL) with 8 HR in 57 AB
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: (minors)
Back in 1993, Lou Piniella “doghoused” a young 2B named Bret Boone—benching him, demoting him, and finally running him out of town, all because Boone wouldn’t change his approach at the plate. Manager Mike Scioscia has not been quite so dramatic with Brandon Wood, but it’s clear that something needs to change in Wood’s fortunes, but who knows whether it will, or when? Grab Wood if you have “mad money” that you don’t care if you ever see it again.
National League by Michael Street
Chris Coghlan | Florida Marlins | OF
True Talent: .251/.324/.373
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .244 BA, 0.8 SB
The beneficiary of Cameron Maybin’s demotion, Coghlan is playing in the OF now, but he may eventually qualify at 2B and 3B, too. He has been a solid minor-league hitter, with an excellent batting eye (1.05 BB/K) and an outstanding 80% SB success rate. Expect doubles power and decent stolen bases, even if True Talent isn’t optimistic about his BA and power just yet. Good keeper pick-up.
Jorge de la Rosa | Colorado Rockies | SP
YTD: 8.8 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 3.53 ERA
True Talent: 7.8 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.68 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.3 wins, 5 K, 4.69 ERA
De la Rosa has had mixed luck this year. His BABIP is a low .269 (vs. a career .319), yet he’s winless. And his ERA is 4.34 at home and 2.65 on the road, even though his home K/BB is 4.2 and 1.3 everywhere else. He’s going to win some games and deliver some strikeouts, but ultimately that True Talent K/BB of 1.9, with half his starts coming at Coors, caps his upside.
Jerry Hairston | Cincinnati Reds | UT
True Talent: .265/.325/.408
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, .263 BA, 0.4 SB
In most leagues, Hairston qualifies at several positions, including several infield spots, where his current batting line plays very well. What has been strange so far are his platoon splits, as he is hitting .194/.242/.419 against LHP, after nearly nonexistent splits heretofore. That deviation should normalize, especially since he plays nearly every game and has been smoking the ball. Be ready for him to cool off, but enjoy the hot hand on top of his versatility.
Nick Johnson | Washington Nationals | 1B
True Talent: .281/.410/.461
Next Week Forecast: 1.1 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI, .288 BA, 0.3 SB
Nobody doubted Johnson’s talent, but injuries have kept him down. Thus far in 2009, he has dodged the DL and is producing at a rate almost identical to last year’s hot pre-injury start—the difference this year is the BA, as he’s turning walks into hits. True Talent says that will not last, but as long as he’s healthy, he’s someone you want. Grab him if you can, but have a back-up plan in case the DL bug bites again.
Kyle Lohse | St. Louis Cardinals | SP
YTD: 5.7 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 4.25 ERA
True Talent: 5.7 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 4.31 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.3 wins, 4 K, 4.61 ERA
In his first four starts, Lohse was 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA, and he was a hot pick-up. And then he gave up 13 runs in 10.1 IP in his last two starts. HEATER readers saw it coming, as these latter starts pushed his stat line right to his True Talent predictions. Now, Lohse is complaining of back pain, after knee and elbow issues earlier this season. We’re staying far away, as his low-K ways don’t offset the downside in most leagues.
Shairon Martis | Washington Nationals | SP
YTD: 4.5 K/9, 1.2 K/BB, 4.10 ERA
True Talent: 6.3 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 5.09 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.1 IP, 0.6 wins, 8 K, 5.05 ERA
Martis’ 5-0 record gives him almost half of the Nats’ 11 wins. Even more impressive is that he has racked up these Ws while underperforming his projected peripherals. His True Talent is discouraging, but the young fireballer has sharply improved his groundball rate (41.8 GB% vs. 33.3% in 2008), and he has room to raise his strikeouts. He could be a lightning-in-a-bottle sort for the season.
Juan Pierre | Los Angeles Dodgers | OF
True Talent: .294/.337/.365
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .295 BA, 1.9 SB
With Manny now a spectator, Pierre is finally earning his paycheck and hitting out of his shoes. True Talent tells you that he’s going to start hitting more like the guy who has averaged 150 games of .286/.329/.359 over the past four years. Pierre will keep giving you steals (who couldn’t use 2 SB next week?), but don’t convince yourself that he has discovered the Fountain of Youth.
Eric Stults | Los Angeles Dodgers | SP
YTD: 5.5 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 3.58 ERA
True Talent: 6.5 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.63 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 wins, 4 K, 4.86 ERA
After pitching a CG shutout against the Giants, Stults is showing up on everyone’s roster. But that was the first start this year without a walk, and he struck out only five. Even with those numbers, he is underperforming his projected K/BB because his other starts were so bad (overall 1.1 K/BB, 4.94 ERA). He’s just not on track. Hiroki Kuroda should push Stults back to the bullpen when he returns, and whatever marginal value Stults has will evaporate then.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.