Matt LaPorta | Cleveland | OF
True Talent: .246/.319/.431
Next Week Forecast: 1.0 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, .248 BA, 0.2 SB
Matt LaPorta played first base and outfield in Triple-A this year, and posted a .231 ISO after posting a .288 ISO in Double-A in 2008. His Ct% was 83% in Triple-A this year (up from 79% in 2008), and he walked 11% of the time, so growth in AVG and OBP is expected. He’ll be 25 in 2010, and the only real question is whether he’ll settle in as a 30-HR per season player, or closer to 40 HR/yr.
Brandon Morrow | Mariners | SP
YTD: 8.8 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 5.28 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
When we last visited our hero, he’d just lost the closer’s role. He was subsequently demoted, re-tooled back into a starting pitcher (as had been the plan pre-season), and has since spent eight starts scaring Triple-A hitters with his wildness and 95 mph fastball (average velocity). Morrow has great stuff, great pedigree, and reportedly is a smart player. But even in this ballpark with this defense, he’s not going to do much good for a fantasy team until he brings the walks down under 4.5 BB/9 IP (currently 6.1 BB/9 IP).
Randy Ruiz | Toronto | DH
True Talent: .247/.302/.414
Next Week Forecast: 0.8 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .246 BA, 0.1 SB
Don’t expect another SB from the lumbering DH, as Ruiz’s steal was just his sixth in six years. But Triple-A can’t contain him anymore, as he’s hit .320 each of the past two seasons, slugging about .550 in almost 1,000 combined PA. His minor-league credentials are actually better than Garrett Jones‘, but so were Micah Hoffpauir‘s, and he piffled out quickly this year. Expect MLB pitchers to get ahead of Ruiz soon, but if you desperately need to roll the dice for some power, he’s playing every day and has raw strength to spare.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia | Texas | C
True Talent: .250/.322/.303
Next Week Forecast: n/a
With backup Taylor Teagarden hitting a measly .194/.263/.375, the younger “Salty” was in little danger of losing his job due to his lackluster hitting. But his season has become a total washout with his right (throwing) arm being injured, and the extent of its recovery in 2009 uncertain. With the playoffs very much in their reach, the Rangers weren’t going to risk such a key position on an iffy medical report, and traded for future HOF catcher Pudge Rodriguez. That makes Salty an easy cut in non-keeper leagues that aren’t two-catcher AL-only formats. The best to hope for from him in 2009 is that Texas gets wiped out of the race and Chris Davis flounders again, giving Saltalamacchia some AB at both catcher and 1B, but it’s a longshot.
Ian Snell | Mariners | SP
YTD: 5.5 K/9, 1.1 K/BB, 5.37 ERA
True Talent: 6.9 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.95 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 W, 4 K, 5.72 ERA
Depressed to the point of contemplating suicide in Pittsburgh, it’s hard to imagine a player more in need of a new domicile. TT is very optimistic about a guy who’s seen his xFIPs go: 4.96, 4.22, 4.17, 5.04 before 2009, and then 5.18 in Pittsburgh and 6.35 in Seattle. But Snell still has nasty stuff, so if he can throw strikes, perhaps even TT’s line will be pessimistic. Speaking of pessimistic, we think the best route to take with his mental illness—for fantasy—is just to view it as if it was an injury: See how he’s responding to treatment, and if he reels off some good starts, allow for some cautious optimism that his peak seasons are more representative of what he can do than his “down” years.
Brett Tomko | Oakland | SP
YTD: 5.7 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 3.69 ERA
True Talent: 6.2 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 4.36 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 W, 4 K, 4.39 ERA
That’s not a typo—it really says “4.36” for Brett Tomko’s “True Talent” ERA. Since Tomko has consistently underperformed his FIP in his 1772 career IP, nudging it upward would be prudent. But his career ERA is just 4.67, and his fastball is still averaging over 92 mph this year at age 36. With Oakland’s ballpark, he should be a servicable option down the stretch, though don’t expect wins.
Billy Wagner | Boston | RP
YTD: 18.0 K/9, 4.0 K/BB, 0.00 ERA
True Talent: 9.4 K/9, 3.3 K/BB, 3.17 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 Saves, 2.95 ERA
An unusually large percentage of public mixed leagues have seen the best lefty closer of all time get scooped up. But it’s probably a wasted roster space in all but deeper AL leagues. Sure, he’ll help your ratios if he’s healthy, but he won’t be getting saves in Boston. Also, they will coddle him to make sure he’s available in the playoffs, when they will really need him. Even if holds are a category, there are probably better options available.
Ty Wigginton | Baltimore | INF
True Talent: .271/.330/.457
Next Week Forecast: 0.9 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .271 BA, 0.2 SB
Depending on eligibility requirements, Wigginton could be quite versatile. He’s played all four infield positions and LF. With Huff’s departure, he is almost playing every day now, mostly at the infield corners. In one of the strangest changes from form in recent years, this consistent lefty-basher has been horrible against LHP this season (.239/.314/.303), while maintaining his usual line against RHP. Expect that to correct, and his “True Talent” line to be realized, making him an adequate stopgap in mixed leagues, and a decent starter for AL-only leagues.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.