John Smoltz | St. Louis | SP/RP
YTD: 7.4 K/9, 3.7 K/BB, 8.32 ERA
True Talent: 7.8 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 4.04 ERA
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Smoltz bombed in trying to switch to an AL team in the toughest division in baseball, but his secondary ratios were about in line with TT predictions. Now that he’s back in the NL, on a competitive team with a strong defense, he’s definitely going to improve in ERA and wins. The Cards will start him fifth in the rotation for now, then move him into the pen, either in the playoffs or shortly before. That gives you a few starts with a decent upside from a guy who’s still talented, extremely competitive, and knowledgeable about NL hitters. Definitely worth a gamble for a handful of wins and Ks in any league, but remember he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery, so don’t expect him to blow the doors off in ERA or IP—and a continued slide is a very real risk.
Carlos Gonzalez | Colorado | OF
True Talent: .264/.312/.421
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .253 BA, 0.5 SB
My WW partner Rob McQuown had suggested covering CarGo last week, but I wanted to wait a week to see if he could keep it up. As always, I shoulda listened to Rob, since Gonzalez was smoking hot, hitting .350/.391/.950 for the week. Some expect him to share time in CF with Dexter Fowler, but ultimately Colorado wants both starting at the same time. TT is pessimistic about Gonzalez continuing to put up such gaudy numbers and sees a substantial correction coming. I expect the truth is somewhere in between; let’s not forget that Gonzalez was once a top prospect, and he may have finally figured it out. Don’t think of him as a Coors Field product, as his OPS is 37 points higher in away games. He’s a must-add for all NL leagues and 10-team mixed leagues in the short term, and those in keeper leagues should strongly consider holding onto him even after he cools off.
Vincente Padilla | Los Angeles | SP
YTD: 4.9 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.92 ERA
True Talent: 5.9 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.92 ERA
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Texas released Padilla, and the Dodgers grabbed him, after losing Kuroda to a horrifying Close Encounter of the Line Drive Kind. Moving to the senior circuit, with a pitcher-friendly park and good D behind him, would seem like the recipe for success for Padilla. But his run support is unlikely to change much (Los Angeles scores .06 more runs/game than Texas), and you’re still looking at a guy with some pretty miserable TT skills. Padilla could only provide you with Wins, not Ks, and is a serious threat to your ratios (His 1.50 WHIP this year is consistent with his 1.46 and 1.63 from the past two seasons). Some look at him as a sure NL-only add, but I can only recommend him to those teams with a healthy lead in ERA/WHIP who desperately need one or two more wins.
Jonny Gomes | Cincinnati | OF
True Talent: .242/.333/.465
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .239 BA, 0.2 SB
As I mentioned in last week’s writeup on Wladmir Balentien, Gomes (Balentien’s primary OF partner) runs hot and cold. Right now, Gomes is Hot Jonny. Thanks to a four-homer week that lifted his weekly line to .400/.471/1.267, owners are snapping him up. He’s certainly worth a short-term add, as his production has stepped up his PT to nearly full time, but TT and his history tells you he’s going to turn into Chilly Jonny soon enough. And, just as with Balentien, he will lose plenty of PT when Jay Bruce returns in the next few weeks. Ride him while you can in your NL league or 10-team mixed league, but watch for that dropoff coming and have a backup plan.
Angel Guzman | Chicago | RP
YTD: 7.0 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 2.72 ERA
True Talent: 8.0 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 3.61 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.66 ERA
The demotion of Gregg from the closer’s role has everyone looking towards Carlos Marmol, but Piniella could also give Guzman a turn or two. That’s no small consideration, given how much Marmol has struggled with his control this season (8.3 BB/9, 1.3 K/BB). Guzman’s numbers are far stronger, and TT shows that he’s performing just as expected, with a nudge up in Ks or down in ERA possible. Guzman’s had health problems in the past (including TJS in 2007 and a DL stint this season for a strained triceps), but he’s also been one of Chicago’s best relievers. His superior ratios protect his downside, so don’t be afraid to go against conventional wisdom and pick up Guzman to bring you Ks and a few saves—or a lot of them. Worth a roster spot in all NL leagues and 12-team mixed leagues, or if you’re scrapping for every last save.
Chase Headley | San Diego | OF
True Talent: .259/.338/.414
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .257 BA, 0.2 SB
Every other Padres outfielder has gone through a hot streak, so why not Headley? That awful 2009 line isn’t representative of the .333/.417/.444 numbers he put up over the last 25 games, his best stretch of the season. He’s a former No. 1 prospect and their future 3B (he may already qualify there in leagues with low thresholds) and jumped from Double-A to the majors in 2007, so an adjustment period was to be expected. PETCO has been keeping him down—his OPS is 100 points higher on the road in 2009—and will always make him look worse than he is. An eventual keeper, Headley will probably come into his own in 2010. Until then, he’s a good OF add for 10-team NL leagues or very deep mixed leagues; as a 3B qualifier, he’s only got value in 14-team NL leagues.
Billy Wagner | New York | RP
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Mets activated Wagner from the DL on Thursday, and he will bring immediate help to a bullpen desperate for stability. Word is that he could even pick up a few saves, a good thing, since K-Rod is struggling, adding more than 2 runs to his ERA since July 1. But he’s also been waived, so he could also end up in a team with playoff hopes and a weaker closer situation. But it’s unlikely he’ll throw many high-leverage innings regardless of his destination, since any team will use him carefully. He might bring you some Ks and saves; the good and bad news is that he’s probably not going to pitch enough to hurt, or help, your ratios very much.
Jeff Baker | Chicago | 2B
True Talent: .272/.331/.466
Next Week Forecast: 0.8 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .277 BA, 0.2 SB
Piniella named Baker his starting 2B this week, pushing Fontenot to the bench, and Baker’s earned it with his hot bat, hitting .472/.513/.722 over the past nine games, and .338/.388/.554 with the Cubs. He’s shown this kind of pop in the past, mostly against lefties (career .931 OPS vs. LHP, .708 vs. RHP), a trend that’s continued in 2009 (.972 OPS vs. LHP, .697 vs. RHP). It’s no coincidence that this nine-game binge has come against four lefty starters, but Lou seems ready to start him most of the time, not stick him on the short end of a platoon. Keep an eye on this going forward, as you might want to platoon him instead. True Talent’s giving him a very good outlook for a MIF, particularly in the power department, and his TT line would make him the third-best 2B in the NL. That makes him an easy add in all leagues, so long as you watch his splits down the stretch.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.