Juan Francisco | Cincinnati | OF
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Francisco succeeds with a hack-and-slash approach, like Vlad Guerrero or Pablo Sandoval, but without their mad contact skills (he’s got a 75% rate in the minors, vs. 86-87% for Vlad and Kung Fu Panda). When Francisco does make contact, however, the ball goes a long, long way. The Reds want to see if the 22-year-old can maintain the momentum he started when he hit .359/.384/.598 with five 2B, one 3B and five HR in 99 ABs for Triple-A Louisville. NL keeper league owners will want to watch him carefully in the last few weeks, and he makes the perfect power gamble for non-keeper owners. At this point in the season, those ratios are awfully hard to budge, so his BA won’t hurt you much, but those extra HRs and RBIs could be the thing to put you over the top. If nothing else, you can watch him knock some tape-measure shots like the 423-foot jack he launched in his second career AB.
J.D. Martin | Washington | SP
YTD: 4.5 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.21 ERA
True Talent: 6.6 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 4.48 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 12.1 IP, 0.7 Wins, 9 K, 4.27 ERA
Martin’s given up two ER in each of four September starts, winning three of them, no small feat given the team that’s behind him (he won the three games by a total of four runs). He’s also given up at least one home run in all but one 2009 start of more than 4.0 IP, giving him an ugly 1.7 HR/9 on the season. That plus his low K and K/BB ratios shows you that Martin’s been walking a tightrope and could plunge off at any moment. His start last night against the Dodgers may be those stats catching up with him: five ER in three IP. It’s the 26-year-old’s first season in the bigs, despite a good minor league career (61-31, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), a testament to his problems with durability and health. You’ve got to be pretty hard up to want to start him, so we’d advise a healthy dose of caution, even if his last start should come against the hapless Mets.
Mike Fontenot | Chicago | 2B
True Talent: .267/.341/.423
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .271 BA, 0.1 SB
Fontenot’s True Talent line would have made him the No. 8 2B in the NL, but he’s clearly not getting there this season. Since Jeff Baker supplanted him as the starting 2B, he’s gotten a handful of September starts, hitting .440/.483/.560 for the month. It’s likely too little, too late to get the keystone spot back from Baker this year, just as it won’t be enough to reach those TT levels. But those in NL-only leagues 14 teams and deeper can take the chance on him picking up a few more starts, or perhaps a pinch hit or two, in the next week. Most of us, however, can just leave him out on the wire.
Chris Narveson | Milwaukee | SP
YTD: 8.8 K/9, 3.1 K/BB, 3.82 ERA
True Talent: 7.4 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.85 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.1 IP, 0.6 Wins, 9 K, 4.98 ERA
Technically a rookie, Narveson has been a pro for 10 seasons, and in his last start, he put up one strikeout for each of those seasons, becoming the first Brewer rookie to do that in ten years. He struggled in the beginning of 2009, was demoted to Triple-A, and has looked good since returning, with a 2.00 ERA in 27 IP, though only three of his 10 appearances have been starts. He could get two more starts down the stretch as Milwaukee wants to look at him for 2010, and True Talent tells you he’s got the stuff to succeed. The Brewers’ rotation isn’t set, but he’s most likely to see his next start in Coors Field, which may be a good reason to steer clear of him. He’s a good gamble for Ks and a possible win, but a gamble that’s better in an NL-only league 10 teams or deeper.
Oscar Salazar | San Diego | UT
True Talent: .269/.321/.437
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .256 BA, 0.1 SB
In spite of those glowing 2009 numbers, Salazar’s done it mostly off the bench since being traded from the Orioles. Now that Kouzmanoff is battling back and calf injuries, and with Edgar Gonzalez done for the year, Salazar’s gotten more PT in September. He’s responded by hitting .256/.396/.512 for the month, a pace he’s largely sustained, so he might be for real. He sports a 84% contact rate this year, consistent with his career MLB numbers, as is his .77 BB/K ratio. While he’s probably not a late bloomer, he’s been hot enough thus far that there’s no reason he can’t sustain this for another week. Worth a shot in nearly all leagues, especially those where he’s got multi-position eligibility, since he’s played at least one game at every position but CF and C.
Hong-Chih Kuo | Los Angeles | RP
YTD: 10.4 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 2.28 ERA
True Talent: 9.9 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 3.19 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.08 ERA
What’s that? You’re all out of starts in your leagues, or up against the IP cap? Might I suggest the Hong-Chih Kuo? It’s excellent this season. Actually, Kuo has been excellent whenever he’s been healthy, and 2009 is no exception. The “healthy” part, as ever, is the problem. He’s right where True Talent says he should be, and is sure to bring you some Ks without much damage to your ratios. He’s got an outside chance at a save, if LA decides to rest Broxton for the playoffs, but he’s got value regardless. Good for NL leagues of any size, as well as most mixed leagues.
John Maine | New York | SP
YTD: 5.8 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 4.13 ERA
True Talent: 7.4 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.16 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.2 IP, 0.4 Wins, 5 K, 3.70 ERA
Since coming off the DL with a weak shoulder, Maine has pitched fairly well, most recently putting up five shutout innings against Washington on Sunday. His strikeouts are down, and his walk rates have climbed each of the past four seasons, making him a fringy pitcher even when he’s healthy, as True Talent shows you. Given the team behind him and the restrictive pitch count he’s on, don’t expect much from Maine. But he’s scheduled to face the Marlins on Saturday, and their roster hits .187 against him, so he’s not a bad gamble as far as spot starts go. He’s a worthy gamble in NL-only leagues deeper than 10 teams, or anyone who’s desperate for one more win.
Tyler Colvin | Chicago | OF
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Cubbies have said they’ll take a long look at Colvin, once one of their top CF prospects, in the last week of the season. A first-round pick in 2006, he’s developed slower than hoped, and getting Tommy John surgery last November didn’t help. But he bounced back strong in 2009, hitting .300/.334/.524 in Double-A—his third season at Double-A. Hence the “slow development” label. He’s a good hitter but needs to work on his batting eye—he slipped to .36 BB/K his season after .44 last year, neither of which is that great, but his 80% contact rate shows he knows how to put the barrel on the ball. Chicago’s had trouble with a certain cantankerous RF of late, and Colvin projects as a possible lefty-hitting corner OF, which explains why he’ll be getting so much PT down the stretch. He’s someone to watch for keeper leagues, but not likely to bring much value, given that he skipped a level and doesn’t possess any one dominant, “must-have” skill.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.