Fernando Nieve | New York | SP
YTD: 5.7 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 1.31 ERA
True Talent: 6.9 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.79 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.0 IP, 0.6 Wins, 9 K, 5.13 ERA
Three straight wins from Nieve have gotten him plenty of attention since he joined the Mets rotation, but a deeper look will show a correction is coming. He’s got an unsustainable 92% strand rate, and has allowed only 4% of fly balls to turn into homers. His HR/FB ratio has been between 16-17% the past two seasons, and that LOB% should naturally fall nearer to the 75-80% range. True Talent thinks his ratios will improve, while his ERA will fall, so his core skillset is strong, but that luck’s definitely due to shift. NL-only owners can look to Nieve for help at the back of their rotation in leagues deeper than 10 teams, while mixed leagues shallower than 16 teams should hold off.
John Lannan | Washington | SP
YTD: 4.4 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 3.44 ERA
True Talent: 5.1 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.00 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.1 IP, 0.4 Wins, 4 K, 3.93 ERA
Lannan gets by on his groundball rates (over 50% for the past three seasons), not his mediocre strikeout rates. Pitching for Washington won’t give him many wins, of course, and some of those ground balls are going to squirt through for hits in tight situations. He’s done well lately, including a CG shutout against the Mets and 8.1 IP of 2 ER ball against the Yankees, but he’s got a few awful starts under his belt, too, like the three outings when he gave up 5+ ER without pitching into the sixth inning. Given those up-and-down performance levels and the difficulty in collecting wins for the Nats, Lannan represents a real risk to your ratios without offering much in return. Teams can roster him cautiously in NL-only leagues of 12 teams or more, or in mixed leagues deeper than 16 teams.
Mitch Stetter | Milwaukee | RP
YTD: 12.0 K/9, 3.1 K/BB, 2.70 ERA
True Talent: 9.5 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 3.55 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.65 ERA
The Brewers lefty recently set a franchise record by collecting 15 straight outs via the K, which shows why his K/9 rate is so high. But he logged similar numbers last year, with 11 K/9, so True Talent may be a bit too conservative in that department. He’s also brought his BB/9 rates down from 6.8 in 2008 to 4.1 this year, while continuing to hold HRs to a reasonable rate (0.82 HR/G). He’s not used as a LOOGY, since righties only hit .200 against him, though lefties (.104 BA) really don’t like to see him, either. He has 13 holds on the year, but he can be valuable in any league for his high-K, low-BA ways. If your league counts holds, he’s probably not on the wire anymore, but teams in any league deeper than eight teams could use him as staff filler to boost ratios and add Ks.
Leo Nunez | Florida | RP
YTD: 8.0 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.13 ERA
True Talent: 7.5 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.84 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 Saves, 3.72 ERA
Florida closer Matt Lindstrom had been stinking up the joint even before his injury, and most observers see either Nunez or Kiko Calero as the heir apparent. Calero is on the DL as another victim of the Marlins’ abusive bullpen usage, but he’s put up the best numbers among the possible closer candidates. Nunez and Dan Meyer (see below) will share time with Renyel Pinto at the back end of the bullpen while Calero’s out, and possibly beyond. Nunez delivers Ks with his fastball, but throwing heat and knowing where it’s going are two different skills. His BB/9 (4.2) and his HR/9 (1.39) are undoubtedly why FIPS and True Talent think his elevated ERA is just about right. He’s the best of the healthy RHP, which makes him worth a pickup for teams needing saves, but Calero’s numbers are much better. Unless Nunez or Meyer suddenly finds a groove, Gonzalez will probably install Calero in the closer role when he returns.
Dan Meyer | Florida | RP
YTD: 8.7 K/9, 4.3 K/BB, 2.03 ERA
True Talent: 7.6 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 3.85 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.72 ERA
Meyer has strong numbers, but he’s a lefty, and managers don’t tend to put LHP at the end of their bullpens, even if great lefty closers like Billy Wagner, John Franco, Randy Myers or B.J. Ryan should change this ossified mindset. Plus, Meyer pitches better against RHB (.760 career OPS) than LHB (.799 career OPS), which bodes well for him. He got the save Wednesday because Nunez was unavailable, but he could outperform Nunez if given a chance. His 3.45 FIP and 3.76 xFIP, like True Talent, say that he’s getting lucky, and that 1.32 HR/9 rate is unacceptable for a closer. But if Gonzalez opts to play matchups at closer, Meyer’s a better lefty option than Pinto, with better ratios in all departments but HR/9 and that balanced platoon split. If you’re a believer in momentum, and think that Gonzalez is contrarian enough to try a full-time lefty closer, Meyer’s a fine pickup. Even if he doesn’t wind up as the primary endgame option, those K numbers and excellent control mean he can still help you.
Casey McGehee | Milwaukee | 2B/3B
True Talent: .264/.324/.389
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Run, 1 RBI, .257 BA, 0.0 SB
After Rickie Weeks went down, McGehee started platooning with Craig Counsell at 2B, and has hit well enough to pick up a few starts at the hot corner and even at DH. His True Talent numbers and his .395 BABIP are sure signs that he’s hitting over his head, but he’s smashing the ball right now (.426/.483/.648 this month), and Ken Macha might find it hard to sit him until he cools off. Depending on the Brewers’ plans for Bill Hall and Mat Gamel at the end of interleague play, McGehee could work his way into more playing time, increasing his value as a 2B qualifier. Unless he plays more than part time, however, McGehee is only a viable roster option in NL leagues deeper than 14 teams or mixed leagues deeper than 18 teams.
Kyle Blanks | San Diego | 1B/OF
True Talent: .259/.327/.416
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Run, 1 RBI, .260 BA, 0.0 SB
The top prospect in the Padres organization, Blanks’ path to the majors has been blocked by Adrian Gonzalez, so he’s been learning to play the outfield. In spite of his massive 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame, Blanks is actually quite athletic in the field and at the plate. In the minors, Blanks showed good plate discipline and power (.303/.393/.505 career) and hasn’t look overmatched against big-league pitching. Some see his arrival as a signal that Gonzalez will be traded, but even if that doesn’t happen, Blanks should be up for good. Keeper owners should certainly grab him if they’ve got the room, and everyone should watch him closely to see if he can adjust. In the meantime, he’s worth a flier in NL-only leagues deeper than 14 teams or 20+ team mixed leagues.
Garret Anderson | Atlanta | OF
True Talent: .276/.317/.414
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 2 Runs, 3 RBI, .280 BA, 0.1 SB
He doesn’t know how to take a walk (4.7 career BB%), but Anderson has been one of the most reliable BA and RBI producers in baseball, averaging .296 and 103 RBI in his 16-year career. Those numbers have slipped in recent years—he hasn’t cracked 100 RBI since 2003, or a .300 BA since 2004—but he’s still pretty solid. After a slow start, he’s cranked it up in June, hitting .297/.333/.438. He’s still a 37-year-old DH playing almost full-time in the OF, so this peak isn’t likely to last as the season wears on. Atlanta’s also got one of the weaker run-producing offenses in the NL, further diluting his value. True Talent tells you that his recent hot streak will last long enough to bring his YTD stats up a bit, but not much. This all makes him worthwhile in NL-only leagues deeper than 18 teams, though shallower leagues can still take his production while it lasts.
Miguel Montero | Arizona | C
True Talent: .254/.334/.421
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 1 Run, 1 RBI, .259 BA, 0.0 SB
Now that Chris Snyder is on the DL, Montero will get most of the PT behind the dish, which could energize him to reach those True Talent levels. He’s shown the ability to hit for power in the past, slugging .556 in the second half of 2008, but his problem has been pitch identification (0.51 BB/K career). That’s what keeps his BA low, but he can obviously lay into a pitch when he does make contact. Chase Field is a good place to hit, and Montero will get his chance to show what he’s got. If he can impress enough, he might hang onto the starting role, since Snyder has slumped after a hot May, leading to an overall line of .224/.358/.381. True Talent tells you Montero will improve his power, and NL owners should certainly take notice of this opportunity to pick him up. He’s worth a roster spot in 8-team NL leagues and mixed leagues deeper than 12 teams.