Everth Cabrera | San Diego | SS
True Talent: .233/.306/.309
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 3 Runs, 1 RBI, .229 BA, 2.0 SB
Cabrera is trying to make the nearly impossible leap from High-A to the majors in one season, and he’s not a player with the offensive skills to accomplish this easily. Add to this the broken hand that kept him out of the lineup for two months, and it’s incredible that he’s performed as well as he has. True Talent tells you he’s not going to keep hitting for power, and he needs to improve his batting eye (0.66 BB/K in minors) to leverage his contact skills. Those steal numbers have value, and they’re for real (109 SBs in 235 minor-league games), which shows Cabrera has real value to any team as long as he holds onto his starting spot. HEATER pegs his True Talent OPS at No. 27 among NL shortstops, making him best for the deepest of NL-only leagues, or for owners who need his steals at any price to their ratios.
Sean West | Florida | SP
YTD: 5.3 K/9, 1.2 K/BB, 4.06 ERA
True Talent: 7.0 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 6.00 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 10.1 IP, 0.6 Wins, 8 K, 5.64 ERA
The Marlins gush pitching prospects like the chocolate waterfall in Willy Wonka’s factory—but that doesn’t mean you should take a swim in the river. West is a fastball-curveball lefty who’s still learning to hit the strike zone, as his YTD and True Talent numbers clearly show. Fantasy owners loved him after his six innings of shutout ball against the Orioles, only to see him cough up five ER in 4.1 IP against the lowly Nats. That’s the wild Wonkavator ride you’re in for if you want a taste of West. He’s just a rookie and might put it together, but that probably won’t be until 2010. Until then, he’s good for strikeouts, heart palpitations, and little else.
Jack Wilson | Pittsburgh | SS
True Talent: .277/.322/.389
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .279 BA, 0.2 SB
As a shortstop who hits adequately and fields well, Wilson would be much better regarded in a different era. In today’s game, when shortstops must not only field and hit but hit for power, the small-market Wilson is notable mostly for his ugly dentition. Fantasy owners have noticed him more lately, as he’s on a .356/.397/.525 tear in his past 17 games, a line that would make even his dental hygenist smile. True Talent shows you that’s not likely to continue, but even at TT’s levels, he’s a good enough shortstop for NL-only leagues deeper than 12 teams. Deeper mixed leagues can ride him in the short term, but all owners should realize he’ll bring decent BA with very little pop in the end.
Chad Gaudin | San Diego | SP
YTD: 9.4 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 4.97 ERA
True Talent: 8.0 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.41 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 Wins, 5 K, 4.41 ERA
If you eliminate three awful starts where Gaudin gave up 21 ER in just 14 IP, his overall numbers aren’t bad: 4-3, with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. But three bad starts are three bad starts, and Gaudin owners didn’t wait around for his nine other decent-to-good outings. He’s won two of his last three starts, striking out 28 against just five BBs over 21 IP over that time. You can see from True Talent that his strikeouts and control numbers are for real, if a little inflated. PETCO is a good place to pitch, and his ERA is almost a full run lower at home, but the Padres aren’t going to give him many wins. Leagues counting Quality Starts can find value here—six of his outings have yielded a QS—as can any league counting his nice strikeout numbers. Just be aware that those disastrous starts may be just around the corner. That gives Gaudin some value in nearly all NL-only leagues, at least as a back-end starter, and makes him a worthy addition in mixed leagues at least 14 teams deep.
Martin Prado | Atlanta | 2B
True Talent: .287/.345/.404
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .288 BA, 0.1 SB
Bobby Cox announced this week that Prado would be his starting 2B, creating a flurry of activity among fantasy owners, and with good reason. Prado is not only hot since he started playing the keystone—.438/.486/.656—but his True Talent numbers are also strong for that position. His skills are well-balanced, with moderate pop, the occasional steal, and a good batting eye (0.64 BB/K in minors, 0.86 BB/K in 525 MLB PAs), so he’s got the skills and the opportunity to stick. Despite that, he’s clearly not going to sustain this level of production for the rest of the season, and a prolonged slump could bring Kelly Johnson back to the starting lineup. But even if he can only match that TT line, he’s a good enough option for NL-only leagues 10 teams and deeper, or mixed leagues 14 teams and deeper.
Mike Hampton | Houston | SP
YTD: 6.0 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.44 ERA
True Talent: 5.4 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.75 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.3 Wins, 3 K, 4.70 ERA
As bad as Hampton’s bloated Colorado contract was, he’s at least still pitching, and can be a decent starter when healthy. Those overall ratios are his best in years, and True Talent shows you they’re not far off the mark. His value is depressed by several factors, including his injury history, home park, and the Astros’ recent announcement that they’ll go to a six-man rotation. But he’s pitched well over his past four starts (2-2 record, 2.16 ERA), with a DL stint for a strained groin in between. He’ll bring a handful of strikeouts, probably hit the DL again or miss a start occasionally, and he’s a smart enough pitcher to avoid complete disaster. He’s a gamble for any owner, probably best suited for streaming or spot starting in mixed leagues greater than 16 teams; NL-only leagues deeper than 12 teams could use him on a more regular basis.
Nate Schierholtz | San Francisco | OF
True Talent: .290/.331/.466
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .294 BA, 0.4 SB
As Fred Lewis has slumped, Schierholtz has surged, making him the RF du jour for the Giants. He’s made the most of his chance, hitting .389/.421/.583 in the last nine games, all of them starts, and he may be on the verge of realizing his promise. He’s got power (.518 SLG in the minors) and a good contact rate (82%) but these are undercut by his strike zone judgment (minor league 0.33 BB/K). If he sticks in right, he’ll be worth a pickup in 10-team mixed and nearly all NL-only leagues. In the meantime, grab him if you’ve got a spot or watch him to be sure this starting role is for real.
Homer Bailey | Cincinnati | SP
YTD: 4.8 K/9, 0.38 K/BB, 8.68 ERA
True Talent: 6.5 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 5.40 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.0 IP, 0.3 Wins, 4 K, 5.95 ERA
The much-hyped Bailey has burned enough owners to make many forget he’s only 23 and has solid skills. He’s done very well in 89.2 AAA IPs this year, with 8.2 K/9, 3.04 K/BB and a 2.71 ERA. His MLB numbers this season come from just two starts—an ugly six ER, 4.1 IP debut and a stronger 5.0 IP, three ER outing—and his walk numbers in both outings were obviously unacceptably high. True Talent’s 1.4 K/BB isn’t really strong, either, so he’s going to struggle, but there’s a reason why he’s been a top-ranked prospect in the Reds’ system for years. If he can learn to throw strikes with his impressive heater, curve and developing cutter, he’s going to be awfully good, but he’s not there yet. Keeper owners who have given up on 2009 can stash him on their bench, but other owners should take a wait-and-see attitude. He’s got the stuff to be an ace if he can put it all together.