John Baker | Florida | C
True Talent: .261/.343/.401
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .260 BA, 0.1 SB
Baker’s awful .184/.245/.204 June had him riding the pine in Florida, and fantasy owners ditched him, too. Then he rebounded to a .367/.387/.600 July, pushing his numbers closer to True Talent’s prediction. He’s actually accumulated exactly as many PAs this year as in 2008, but his numbers have slipped, partly because his BABIP has dropped from .367 to .318, and partly due to the wear-and-tear of catching nearly every day. He’s not likely to continue his July production—not with a 53.9 GB% in 2009—and you may see some more swoons and spikes as he goes along, but he’s about as good a waiver-wire catcher option as you can expect at this point in the season. Eight-team NL-only leagues can definitely find a spot for him, as can mixed leagues twice as deep.
Manny Parra | Milwaukee | SP
YTD: 7.8 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 6.78 ERA
True Talent: 7.5 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.87 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.3 Wins, 5 K, 4.69 ERA
After an awful start to the year, Parra was banished to Triple-A to work out the kinks. If it hadn’t been for injuries to Dave Bush and two awful starts by Seth McClung, he might be there still, but they recalled him—and he pitched seven shutout innings against Pujols and the Cards, with seven Ks and just one walk and three hits. He pitched well in three of his four minor-league starts, but still walked 13 while striking out 19 in 24.2 IP. Control is everything to Parra, who has yet to crack the 3.0 BB/9 threshold in the majors; he led all of baseball last season with 17 wild pitches. True Talent doesn’t see his control improving enough to make him a lock for a roster spot, but he could break out at any time. Mixed-league owners should monitor his walk rate for a start or two before deciding, and to be sure he’s going to stick in the rotation when Bush returns; NL owners shallower than 12 teams should do the same. Other NL owners can take a chance on a turnaround right now.
Jeff Francoeur | New York | OF
True Talent: .267/.313/.412
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 3 Runs, 4 RBI, .275 BA, 0.2 SB
Frenchy has inspired more fantasies than Brigitte Bardot, and broken just as many hearts, making his brief surge after his trade to the Mets (4-for-9 in two games) sound like just another tease. A change of venue can sometimes inspire a player, and Francoeur was perhaps too comfortable in Atlanta, but it might not be enough to redeem his once-promising potential. He’s shown a few good signs in 2009, including a 6.6% rise in FB% and a dropoff in strikeout rate (6.7 AB/K, up from 5.4 in 2008). Since he’s also dropped his walk rate (3.6 BB%, down from 6.0 in 2008), however, his K/BB has plummeted from 2.85 to 3.92. He’s been extremely durable, and will get the chance to play every day in New York, so inveterate optimists will no doubt grab him. If he makes his lowly True Talent projections, he’d be barely suitable for 15-team NL-only leagues, but reaching that will require some improvement. Deeper NL leagues can certainly take the gamble, but mixed leagues shallower than 20 teams need to wait, no matter how enticing those potential HRs are.
Ramon Troncoso | Los Angeles | RP
YTD: 5.4 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 1.75 ERA
True Talent: 6.3 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 3.53 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 Saves, 3.39 ERA
Jonathan Broxton, the best closer in all of baseball before the break, started slipping at the end, giving up five total runs over two straight outings. Turns out he’s got an irritated nerve on his right foot, something he didn’t divulge immediately to the Dodgers, and which kept him out of the All-Star Game. He got a cortisone shot over the weekend, but Joe Torre said he’d be dealing with the toe for the rest of the season. That doesn’t sound good, and it’s likely to mean a diminished workload for Broxton, if not an eventual DL stint. Broxton owners would be well advised to take out an insurance policy in setup man Troncoso, who’s had a solid year; others could certainly speculate on the righty groundballer (60.8 GB% in 2008, 56.8% in 2009). He won’t bring typical reliever Ks, but those grounders are going to get vacuumed up by the Dodgers’ solid infield. Even if Broxton gobbles up all the saves and the anticipated ERA adjustment hits, Troncoso is still going to help your ratios.
John Bowker | San Francisco | 1B/OF
True Talent: .259/.312/.416
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .261 BA, 0.1 SB
Hours after submitting my column last week, Bowker was called up to eat some time away from Travis Ishikawa (covered in last week’s column) and a stagnating Randy Winn. The contending Giants need more offense to support their ever-improving pitching, and Bowker was ripping up the minors to the tune of .347/.448/.614. Bowker started strong in the majors in 2008, then plummeted from a .766 first-half OPS to a .559 in the second. He struggled against LHP (.323 OPS in 2008), a trend that’s continued in the minors this year, at least comparatively (.826 OPS vs. LHP, 1.167 vs. RHP). The Giants have said he’ll play every day, but that’s hard to imagine if those platoon splits continue, and True Talent’s pessimistic line predicts Bowker won’t be any better than either Ishikawa (755 TT OPS) or Winn (745 TT OPS). Even as a platoon player, it’s hard to see how he’d share time with the lefty Ishikawa or the switch-hitting Winn (who has also struggled against LHP this year). He’ll get the chance to prove himself, and offers power potential, but I’d hold off in all formats until his position in the lineup becomes clearer and he shows some stability. Right now, his projected production is nearly identical to Francoeur’s, making him also suitable for 15-plus team NL-only or 20-plus team mixed leagues.
Pedro Martinez | Philadelphia | SP
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Phillies finally found another starter, and it’s a future Hall-of-Famer. Whether or not the 38-year-old Pedro pitches like the Pedro of old—by which we’d take even 2005, when he won 15 games with a 2.82 ERA and a MLB-leading 0.95 WHIP—is another question. He looked very good in the WBC, with two scoreless outings for the Dominican Republic, with six Ks, no walks, and just one hit in six IP. Both of the outings were against the Netherlands squad, the Cinderella team that advanced to the second round despite the third-worst WBC OPS of .636. Several teams passed on Pedro, but the Phils liked him enough, which could be a measure of their desperation; if you’re also contemplating rostering him, it might also indicate yours. He’ll start the season on the disabled list with a shoulder strain, which makes him a great grab if you’ve got a vacant DL slot, but he’s certainly a dice-roll. Assuming he’s truly healthy—the team expects him to be ready in 2-3 weeks, after minor-league work—there’s no reason why he can’t achieve at least league-average form, with a good number of strikeouts and a few wins with an improving Phillies offense behind him. NL-only leagues of at least 10 teams should definitely watch him, if not pick him up, and mixed leagues deeper than 14 teams should do the same.
Milton Bradley | Chicago | OF
True Talent: .280/.390/.479
Next Week Forecast: 0.8 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .281 BA, 0.2 SB
Owners are starting to give up on the 5,000-piece puzzle that is Milton Bradley. An early round draftee in most leagues, he started 2009 by producing like a waiver-wire contributor, where he resides right now in some leagues. But he’s hitting .250/.500/.393 this month, with a 2.2 BB/K ratio that shows his batting eye and patience are intact. His career OPS in July is .924, with a .512 SLG, his best monthly numbers in those categories by far. He’s suffered from a .288 BABIP this year, but his career BABIP is .321; he hasn’t had a BABIP below .300 since 2002. Whatever you might think about Bradley—and he’s bound to miss some time due to mental and physical problems—he’s not a .760 OBP hitter, another number he hasn’t hit since 2002. Wrigley is a better place to hit in warmer weather, and Bradley’s bound to have a good month, if not a better second half. If you’ve got a spot, stash him; if you own him, wait if you can; if you need an OF, watch him. He’s coming around.
Jonathan Sanchez | San Francisco | SP
YTD: 9.0 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.69 ERA
True Talent: 8.7 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.43 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 12.0 IP, 0.7 Wins, 12 K, 4.51 ERA
If you didn’t know Sanchez before last week, you know who he is now. His ERA and overall stats made him one of the less-likely pitchers to ever throw a no-no, but his True Talent ratios are certainly roster-worthy. While it would be foolhardy to expect a repeat of his no-hitter, and his value is definitely inflated, Sanchez may very well have turned a corner. He hasn’t suddenly become an ace, but he has definitely cemented the Giants’ rotation spot he’d lost before, and he’ll deliver about a K per inning and a smattering of wins. If you’re a NL-only owner in a 10-team league, he may not be there anymore, but grab him if he is, while mixed leagues 14 teams or deeper can definitely use him in their rotation, too.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.