Josh Willingham | Washington | OF
True Talent: .268/.367/.473
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .257 BA, 0.1 SB
With his 2009 YTD line, it’s surprising that more owners haven’t rostered Willingham, as he remains available in many leagues. He’s been red-hot lately, with a hit in 13 of his last 14 games, hitting .400/.474/.580. Since he plays for the Nats, his counting stats will remain depressed, but his back problems seem to be behind him (so to speak), and this could be the year he finally reaches his potential. His batting eye has improved this year (0.70 BB/K, against a career 0.53), and his 11% career walk rate is strong, so he should beat that BA projection if he can stay healthy. If you need a corner outfielder with good power and a decent BA, look no further than Willingham, who’s worth a spot in all NL-only leagues, and mixed leagues 10 teams or deeper.
Todd Wellemeyer | St. Louis | SP
YTD: 5.8 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 5.58 ERA
True Talent: 6.2 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.58 ERA
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Wellemeyer’s 18 starts are the best in baseball, but he’s only managed a 7-7 record, making it a puzzle as to why he’s garnered any attention at all. He’s only had one scoreless appearance this season, and he’s given up 3+ ER in 11 of his outings. The durability to make all those starts is admirable, but it’s not all that valuable unless he’s pitching better. True Talent sees him reaching some more marginal ratios, and pitching for Pujols and the Cards will give him more wins than that skill set deserves. A further good sign is the .351 BABIP against him, but all these add up to only marginal improvement. Wellemeyer’s got some value in NL-only leagues deeper than 10 teams and in the deepest of mixed leagues, but don’t look for any drastic changes in his numbers.
Travis Ishikawa | San Francisco | 1B
True Talent: .253/.323/.432
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .257 BA, 0.1 SB
Ishikawa’s the Giants’ first baseman because they don’t have too many other options. Think of him as the latest incarnation of J.T. Snow, with a great glove, a decent bat, but not a ton of power; he’s got a hit in 11 of his last 12 games, but his line is just .289/.319/.444 in that time. He could ultimately surpass Snow’s punchlessness, since he’s young and showed some pop in the second half of 2008 (.578 SLG in the minors). He’ll need to do that sooner rather than later, since Pablo Sandoval won’t play 3B forever, and minor league prospect Angel Villalona is a season or two away. That kind of pressure could push him to new heights, and his rising flyball and line drive percentage (increasing 13.4% and 1.9%, respectively, since 2008) are signs he’s hitting the ball hard and with some loft. Until that develops, he’s only worth a spot in the deepest of NL leagues, but all owners should keep an eye on him to see if he can break out in the second half of 2009 the way he did in 2008.
Luis Castillo | New York | 2B
True Talent: .272/.355/.333
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 HR, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, .270 BA, 0.5 SB
Fantasy owners remember Castillo for his basestealing and strong OBP numbers. Even if he’s not the stolen-base machine he once was, that excellent 2009 OBP shows he still owns a good batting eye. In fact, his 2.2 BB/K ratio is stronger than it’s been since 2005, and his BA is equally solid. True Talent shows you he’s pretty much on target across the board, and if the Mets can get healthy and start scoring, he could add some runs to that equation, at least until Jose Reyes returns to the top of the order. He’s still good for a few steals and shouldn’t hurt your BA, though his power’s as limp as it’s always been. Don’t expect him to keep looking like the Luis Castillo of 2005, but if you need some precious steals and already have good HR or SLG numbers, then Castillo’s certainly worth a spot in NL-only leagues deeper than 10 teams or very deep mixed leagues.
Ryan Sadowski | San Francisco | SP
YTD: 5.0 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 1.00 ERA
True Talent: 7.5 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.13 ERA
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Two straight clean slates is a good way to make a major-league entrance, as the Astros and Brewers fell victim to Sadowski’s 13 scoreless-inning debut. Even the Marlins could only muster 3 ER in 5 innings against him, making that 1.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP very enticing. As weak as his peripherals are, True Talent sees him improving to near-acceptable levels in control and very good K rates. He’s shown similar stats in the minors, with a 7.9 K/9 and 2.02 K/BB in six seasons, and he’ll stick in the rotation for now. Obviously an ERA correction is coming—no Giants pitcher has begun his career with that many scoreless innings since 1953—but Sadowski should be a decent back-of-the-rotation option for NL owners in leagues deeper than 10 teams, and mixed leagues deeper than 15 teams.
Jamie Moyer | Philadelphia | SP
YTD: 5.1 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 5.72 ERA
True Talent: 5.3 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.94 ERA
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Aged One defied the odds all last year, shaving over a run off 2007′s ERA in spite of extremely similar ratios. He gets by with pinpoint control, but he’s no Greg Maddux, mostly because he lacks the Professor’s variety of breaking pitches, and thus won’t collect as many strikeouts. If the umpire’s friendly behind the plate, he can succeed, but if the strikezone is tight, he gets hammered—his 1.9 HR/9 show what happens when he’s forced to put the ball over the plate. His wins have come mostly in the four starts when he gave up a single ER, but those are far outweighed by the nine games where he’s given up four ER or more. He’s a nice guy, and Phillies fans love him the way you love your grandpa—but you don’t want Gramps pitching for your fantasy team, and you don’t want Moyer either.
Garrett Jones | Pittsburgh | OF
True Talent: .245/.303/.421
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .236 BA, 0.1 SB
The Pirates’ outfield has been a mix-and-match affair this year, and Garrett Jones has been the recent beneficiary of the chaos, starting every game since the Pirates brought him to the bigs on July 1. He’d been ripping up the minors before his callup, with a tidy .307/.348/.502 line in 277 ABs—in his fifth year at that level. He was once a prospect for the power he showed, but that was tempered by his prodigious strikeout rate (0.33 BB/K) and an OPS 120 points lower against fellow southpaws. He’s shown steady improvement while in AAA, and the wide-open Pirate OF will give him a chance to show he’s finally arrived. His window is a short one, as Lastings Milledge is rehabbing from a broken finger and should return by the end of the month, and True Talent is pessimistic he’ll hold much value. But if you believe in late bloomers, Jones is worth a short-term flyer in NL-only leagues, and all owners should watch to see if his hot start continues.
Micah Owings | Cincinnati | SP
YTD: 5.6 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 4.48 ERA
True Talent: 6.6 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.69 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 Wins, 4 K, 4.84 ERA
Although everyone knows Owings as the only pitcher worth watching during BP, he’s actually got some skills on the rubber, too. His numbers over the past two seasons show very good control (2.12 K/BB) and nice strikeout numbers (6.8 K/9); the home run rate is his downfall, however, just as it is his offensive calling card. It doesn’t help that he went from hitter-friendly Chase Field to the even more homer-riffic Great American Ballpark last season. He surrenders 1.6 HR/9 at home in Cincy, and 1.2 everywhere else, but neither are very strong ratios. He’s shown improvement lately, with a 3.53 ERA and three wins in six starts in June and July; much of the damage in that span came in a 5.2 IP, six ER outing where he surrendered three HR against Toronto. He’s struggled with his control lately, but history and True Talent tells you he should improve in that regard, as well as in his strikeout rate. This makes him roster-worthy in 10-team NL-only leagues, along with 18-team mixed leagues.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.