American League by Rob McQuown
Mike Aviles | Kansas City | SS/2B
True Talent: .267/.301/.401
Next Week Forecast: D/L
Aviles is one of the most difficult ballplayers to figure out. He was a non-prospect entering 2008 despite skipping A-ball and slugging .443 or higher in all but one minor-league season. Last year, he hit well in 441 PA, aided by a .353 BABIP; he even racked up +11 defensive runs in the BIS +/- system. In 2009, his defense is bad, his hitting is worse, and now he’s hurt. We think that he has been playing hurt, and that he will rebound to those “True Talent” predictions—useful for AL-only leagues.
Danys Baez | Baltimore | RP
YTD: 6.2 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 3.58 ERA
True Talent: 6.0 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 4.27 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 saves, 4.03 ERA
It would seem reasonable to predict an expanded role for Baez, who has been the O’s best pitcher in 2009. However, that’s unlikely to happen despite their dire need for another SP and Sherrill’s awful .288/.339/.538 line against RHB (career .262/.375/.398). The worse news is that Baez’s stats can be expected to get worse, as his BABIP is only .192. Still, his new split-fingered fastball has led to a huge 60% GB%, and he can help an AL team in ratios and vultured Wins.
Michael Cuddyer | Minnesota | OF
True Talent: .272/.354/.450
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, .269 BA, 0.4 SB
The “hot” recommendation this week, Cuddyer has benefited from the ineffectiveness and health woes of his teammates. Reasons not to go crazy over him: a) His career Home/Road split is huge, and he has already played nine extra games at home (28-19; on the road, he’s batting only .247/.321/.452). b) His HR/FB% is much higher than historically. c) He’s still in a five-man OF/DH rotation, and if the other guys get hot, he’ll sit some.
Josh Fields | Chicago | 3B
True Talent: .245/.326/.422
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, .248 BA, 0.2 SB
Whew, what a smelly start to Fields’ season! We were sold on the “extra work” that Fields put in to retool his swing, and on the offseason fielding practice. But his CT% is under 69%, and his +/- shows -9 runs already in 2009. Without a Custian walk/homer package, or Flash-like speed, Fields can’t get away with that. Expect slight improvement, but his job will soon be endangered by just-promoted-to-Triple-A Gordon Beckham.
Jason Isringhausen | Tampa Bay | RP
YTD: 3.6 K/9, 0.4 K/BB, 3.60 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.04 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 saves, 4.02 ERA
The “True Talent” level is hardly overwhelming, but “Izzy” has been fantastic as recently as 2007 … and none of the other candidates to replace Percival are doing great. Wheeler has always been vulnerable to LHB (.281/.346/.487 career, worse in ’09); the lefty Howell is more useful in a set-up role; Nelson and Balfour haven’t pitched to their abilities; and Cormier is good for GB and multiple innings. If you’re in need of Saves, Izzy is worth an extra buck even in larger mixed leagues.
Rob Johnson | Seattle | C
True Talent: .243/.293/.349
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 0 R, 0 RBI, .249 BA, 0.1 SB
In two-catcher AL-only leagues only, the fact that slick-fielding Rob Johnson is getting playing time in Seattle becomes “interesting.” Johnson is a career .280 hitter in the minors, including a .305 BA last year at Triple-A at age 24. As his “True Talent” projection indicates, he’s not ready to do that in the bigs, and he won’t ever contribute much in any other category, but he won’t kill a team, even after Johjima returns.
Brandon Morrow | Seattle | RP
YTD: 11.3 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 6.91 ERA, 6 Saves
True Talent: 9.5 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.70 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 saves, 4.59 ERA
It would seem that we sold David BB-rdsma short, though there’s plenty of time for him to regain his wildness. In the meantime, Brandon Morrow has had control problems of his own (13 BB in 14.1 IP). Morrow has also been slighly unlucky (.329 BABIP, 14% HR/FB). Given the delays to change closers, it is safe to cut Morrow except in deeper formats. As the humongous K-rate suggests, he remains a good keeper, but inertia plays a big role in closer value.
Rick Porcello | Detroit | SP
YTD: 5.6 K/9, 2.00 K/BB, 3.48 ERA
True Talent: 3.9 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 5.96 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 4.2 IP, 0.2 wins, 2 K, 6.45 ERA
“Young pitchers break your heart.” That’s an old roto saw that fantasy owners should keep in mind when wondering why “True Talent” seems to have scouted a different pitcher entirely. Porcello’s 4.39 xFIP is higher than his current ERA, but it’s still good enough to win in front of Detroit’s offense. Expect his ERA to rise above even his current xFIP, and his WHIP to be around 1.40 after exposure and fatigue, but his numbers to be nowhere near as bad as these projections.
Juan Rivera | Los Angeles | OF
True Talent: .273/.322/.442
Next Week Forecast: 0.9 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, .271 BA, 0.1 SB
Juan Rivera has cut down his swing and is making more contact (91% CT) and hitting for a high BA without the aid of an egregiously high BABIP. This fits the Mike Scioscia/Micky Hatcher offensive paradigm, so expect the higher-AVG/lower-SLG batting line to continue. Now that Vlad is back, expect Rivera’s AB to decline somewhat (though not as much as Matthews’). Rivera has almost always hit when he’s healthy.
National League by Michael Street
Joel Hanrahan | WAS | RP
YTD: 11.3 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 5.64 ERA
True Talent: 9.1 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.87 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.9 Saves, 4.68 ERA
Hanrahan is back as the Nationals’ closer, making him an instant pick-up. His Achilles’ heel is his walk rate; his 4.4 BB/9 in 2009 is a career best. He’s getting by on his strikeouts (if True Talent is right, he’ll still end up near his career high of 9.9 K/9), but look for his numbers to drift downward. Although Washington may not seem like an ideal location, winning teams aren’t always the best place to find saves. A must-add in NL leagues, and worth a spot in other leagues only if you need saves enough to take the ERA hit.
Kenshin Kawakami | ATL | SP
YTD: 7.7 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.73 ERA
True Talent: 7.9 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 4.28 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 12.0 IP, 0.7 wins, 11 K, 4.45 ERA
The Japanese import struggled early, going 1-3 in his first four starts with a 7.06 ERA and 18 K, 11 BB, and 5 HR. Since skipping a start to rest his shoulder, he has gone 2-3 with a 3.03 ERA, 26 K, 12 BB, and 0 HR. Kawakami won’t dominate, but True Talent shows his great control. If he keeps dodging the longball, he’ll offer above-average ratios and wins (assuming Atlanta can find its offense). A back-of-the-rotation guy in 12-plus team leagues, and mid-rotation in 10-plus team NL leagues.
J.A. Happ | PHI | SP
YTD: 6.8 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 2.60 ERA
True Talent: 7.6 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.89 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.2 IP, 0.4 wins, 6 K, 3.46 ERA
In his first start, the Phillies’ young lefty threw seven innings of 2-ER ball against the Yankees. Lacking true strikeout stuff, Happ relies on location, which worked well for him in the minors (9.3 K/9). Big leaguers are obviously able to hit his stuff better, but thus far, he has kept his walks under control (2.9 BB/9). At 28, he has the maturity to overcome the hiccups that will come his way. Wait and see in 14-team and shallower leagues, but teams in NL leagues of any size can do much worse at the back end of the fantasy rotation.
Ryan Madson | PHI | RP
YTD: 9.7 K/9, 4.0 K/BB, 2.82 ERA
True Talent: 8.0 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 3.74 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 Saves, 3.69 ERA
Brad Lidge has scuffled at times, and Charlie Manuel continues to stick with him. But when Lidge was unavailable, Manuel looked to Madson, as he’ll do all year long. And if Lidge falls apart, Mad Dog will slide right into that closer spot. True Talent says that his current eye-popping ratios will sink, but Madson will keep your K high and pick up the odd save or two. Essential for Lidge owners as insurance, along with leagues that count holds. Other teams can use Madson for the K boost if you have the room.
Fernando Martinez | NYM | OF
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Mets’ top prospect is only 20, but since turning pro he has been among the youngest players at every level. His problems have been injuries (three in the past three seasons) and plate discipline (0.36 BB/K). Still, he’s getting his chance in New York, and he could benefit from the tutelage of Gary Sheffield (of all people). This season, look for modest power and above-average speed to go with a shaky BA. He’ll deliver some steals in any league, but keeper teams and NL leagues must add him. Worth a spot in 12-team and deeper leagues of any kind just to see what happens.
Andy LaRoche | PIT | 3B
True Talent: .261/.348/.401
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .263 BA, 0.3 SB
Maybe there’s something in the LaRoche family creed requiring you to wait a month to start hitting. Like perennially slow-starting older brother Adam, Andy stunk in April (.254/.310/.365) before hitting .329/.415/.451 since. Pittsburgh’s not the best place to rack up RBI, and neither is the No. 6 spot in the order, but Andy showed a consistent batting eye in the minors (0.83 BB/K), and he should produce a strong BA but weak pop for a 3B. He’s worth a roster spot in all 12-plus team NL leagues and 16-plus team MLB leagues.
Chris Snyder | ARI | C
True Talent: .250/.354/.442
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, .248 BA, 0.0 SB
When A.J. Hinch announced that Snyder and Montero would compete for PT behind the dish, Snyder responded by hitting .270/.417/.649, starting 10 of those 17 games. Snyder will continue to gain ground on Montero, particularly since Chris is backing up his power with a career-best batting eye of .84 BB/K. If he can hold his plate discipline gains, he’ll beat that True Talent OPS, which already ranks him No. 3 in the NL and No. 8 overall at catcher. Grab this guy in 8-plus team NL leagues and all 10-plus team leagues.
Ian Stewart | COL | 3B
True Talent: .250/.331/.459
Next Week Forecast: 1.1 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, .254 BA, 0.3 SB
Stewart has been hitting a lot of waiver wires because of that ugly line. However, Garret Atkins isn’t hitting any better, so Stewart is still getting PT. Moreover, Stewart’s 2009 BABIP has been a horribly unlucky .197, well below his career .315 average. Stewart qualifies at 2B in most leagues, increasing his value more. A turnaround is not so certain that you should trade for him, but it’s likely. 16-plus team NL-only leagues should consider picking up Stewart for now, but everyone should watch him carefully for a bounceback.