Juan Gutierrez | Arizona | CL
YTD: 8.3 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.10 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.98 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 1.2 Saves, 5.18 ERA
With closer Qualls done for the year, Arizona manager A.J. Hinch has said he’ll go with a committee, but Gutierrez is considered the committee chairman. He’s got a live fastball but has had control problems in the minors, with a 3.5 BB/9 dragging his control ratios downward. This season, he’s declined to 4.1 BB/9, which is not a good trait for your endgame specialist to have. Excitement over his 2.86 ERA in 22 IP since July 1 must be tempered by his 4.9 BB/9 and 1.1 K/BB over that same span, so he’s not a lead-pipe lock at closer by any means. Esmerling Vazquez and Clay Zavada are ready to step in should he falter, though Arizona’s not going to bring that many save opportunities whoever’s collecting them. Grab Gutierrez if you need more saves, but keep these problems in mind. He might overcome them under pressure—or they might make him implode.
Buster Posey | San Francisco | C
YTD: .325/.416/.531 (minors)
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Behind Matt Wieters, Posey is the best catching prospect around, and he’s now in the big leagues, after just two years in the minors. Like Wieters, he’s revered for his all-around skills, though he’s still developing as a receiver. Despite his good SLG, Posey’s not considered a true power hitter, but he brings great bat speed, and his .97 BB/K ratio in the minors shows his excellent plate discipline. For now, he’s with the club as an insurance policy, so he’s not expected to start unless Bengie Molina or Eli Whiteside gets hurt. Molina’s battling a sore quad, however, making this not as unlikely as it seems. Posey’s undoubtedly gone in NL keeper leagues, and possibly mixed keeper leagues, too—snatch him up if he’s not, since catching prowess like this doesn’t come around very often. He’ll hold almost no value this year, barring injury to either catcher in front of him, so non-keeper leagues should watch him as advance scouting for next season’s draft.
Jose Contreras | Colorado | SP
YTD: 7.0 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 5.42 ERA
True Talent: 5.8 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.92 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 Wins, 4 K, 4.34 ERA
Chicago had seen enough of Contreras, and it’s not hard to see why: In six August starts, he made it to the sixth inning once, coughing up 30 R (21 ER) and allowing opposing hitters a .867 OPS. His core ratios are relatively good, but he’s creating problems with his walks (3.5 BB/9, his highest total since 2004), putting extra runners on base that he can’t afford. Moving to the NL will help him somewhat, and his splitter might help him succeed to Coors Field. Even if he flourishes with his new team, he’s not going to have more than one or two starts unless Aaron Cook (whom he was brought in to replace) suffers a setback. The strikeouts and chance for a win are what should draw you to Contreras, not the ERA. Tread carefully here, and take a gamble in deep NL-only leagues if you’re desperate.
Brandon Allen | Arizona | 1B
True Talent: .221/.278/.405
Next Week Forecast: 0.8 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .218 BA, 0.3 SB
Allen’s calling card is power, and 20 HRs and 24 2Bs this season in the minors earned him a call-up to the rebuilding D-backs, where he will start nearly every day. What he doesn’t have right now is a good eye at the plate, as you can see from his .37 BB/K ratio in the minors (improving to a .59 this year) and the 15 Ks vs. 3 BBs he’s amassed in 11 MLB games. True Talent tells the same story, making him a good add for teams needing power, so long as they can also absorb the hit to BA. Arizona’s sputtering offense will also cut down on his RBI opportunities, particularly since he’s hitting sixth or seventh, making him a fairly one-dimensional addition. NL leagues 16 teams and deeper can probably find a spot for him regardless, while only the deepest of mixed leagues should consider him.
Franklin Morales | Colorado | CL
YTD: 9.1 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 2.93 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 5.15 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 4.48 ERA
Morales stepped into the closer’s role while Huston Street nurses biceps tendinitis, an interesting choice for a pitcher with one career save (in the minors). Street isn’t expected to be out for long, but this is an ailment that can linger; Frank Francisco of the Rangers hit the DL earlier this year with the same problem. Can Morales hold his own? He’s rebounded from a 2008 during which he gave up ground in virtually every category, ground that he’s gained back this year. He still struggles with walks (3.8 BB/9 in 2009, 4.2 in career) and his 1.2 HR/9 this year is a career high. He’s cured that gopheritis in the past three months, though that’s an illness that tends to return. He also had two August meltdowns where he gave up a total of 5 ER in 2.1 IP, and True Talent sees more regression coming. These, and the heat of a wild card chase, are all reasons that the Rockies will try to bring back Street ASAP. Morales should probably gobble up a few saves before Street returns, but if Street’s out for longer, Morales may not look all that appealing finishing Colorado’s games.
J.J. Hardy | Milwaukee | SS
True Talent: .265/.328/.436
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .261 BA, 0.0 SB
The good news for Hardy is that he’s back in the bigs. The bad news is that the Brewers waited just long enough to activate him that he won’t get free agency for another year. They did that to make him a more appealing trade chip, meaning they’ll give him PT down the stretch, but Alcides Escobar should still get most of the starts. Hardy’s not going to reach those True Talent numbers, but nobody else saw this kind of crash coming, either—some guys just have a lost season, like Hardy’s doing now. He’ll recover to his former levels, but it won’t be with Milwaukee, and it won’t be in 2009. Part-time play and dramatically diminished performance make him only valuable for the deepest of NL leagues, and even then, he doesn’t offer much. NL keeper owners considering rostering him for next year’s almost certain bounceback should remember that the inevitable trade could take him to another league.
Tim Redding | New York | SP
YTD: 6.0 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 5.70 ERA
True Talent: 5.8 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 5.34 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.1 IP, 0.3 Wins, 3 K, 5.39 ERA
Redding has been an average, unspectacular arm for eight seasons, putting up some fair-to-middling ratios—6.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9 and a 5.01 ERA—and a subpar 36-54 record. Those were good enough to make him the latest victim to step into the crumbling Mets’ rotation on August 22, where he promptly reeled off three solid starts, giving up just 5 ER in 18.1 IP for a 2.45 ERA, with 15 Ks and 6 BB. Of course, New York’s Quadruple-A offense didn’t help him much, giving him just one win in those three starts. Any pitcher can get hot, of course, and Redding is still hamstrung by the Mets’ offense and defense. He’ll also shift back to the bullpen when the rehabbing John Maine returns, giving him just one or two more starts. Roll the dice if you must, but he’s a high-risk, low-reward option best used in NL leagues 14 teams and deeper.
Drew Stubbs | Cincinnati | OF
True Talent: .228/.304/.362
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, .226 BA, 0.8 SB
Another up-and-coming Reds OF, Stubbs is a speed threat who’s somehow walking into homers in 2009. This is a guy who slugged .363 this year in Triple-A and .401 in four minor-league seasons—but he also swiped 121 bags in that time, including 46 this year. That’s what should perk fantasy owners’ ears up, in spite of only 3 SBs in 15 games thus far. The other concern with Stubbs is his strike-zone judgment, reflected by his .51 BB/K minor-league ratio and 20 Ks against only 3 BBs in the bigs. That’s going to catch up with him eventually, as True Talent shows, so keep that in mind if you want to grab him. He’s got a clear path to PT, so he’ll stay in there nearly every game, and those SBs give him value, particularly at this point in the season. Overall, his OPS marks him only for 15-team or deeper NL leagues, but if you need steals bad enough and can handle the diminishing BA returns, he could be a worthy addition to almost any league.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.