R.A. Dickey | New York (NL) | SP | 17 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.33 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.80 K/9, 2.50 K/BB, 53.2 GB percent
True Talent:4.41 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 5.0 K/9, 1.57 K/BB
R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballer, appears to be benefiting from changing his pitch mix this season to feature only his knuckleball and his fastball (82.1 percent knuckleball, 17.9 percent fastball), and perhaps from the fact that he’s more familiar with throwing the knuckleball itself. On the season Dickey is posting a career-best contact percentage of only 77.5 percent, and inducing swinging strikes just over 10 percent of the time (which is up from typically hovering around 6 percent throughout his career). While knuckleballs can be hit or miss from start to start, right now Dickey is throwing well (3.77 xFIP) and worth a spot on rosters desperate for some pitching help.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team mixed leagues or larger and owned in medium to deep NL-only leagues.
Manny Parra | Milwaukee | SP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.83 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 9.33 K/9, 2.33 K/BB, 49.4 GB
True Talent:4.85 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 1.79 K/BB
Consider me guilty of being a sucker for Manny Parra the last two seasons, but this year he appears to be turning the corner to some degree. Parra has decent pedigree, as he was once considered a top-five prospect in the Brewers farm system by Baseball America. My interest in Parra seemingly every season is the result of two things—namely, his decent strikeout rate (which is even better this year than in the past) and his solid groundball rate (which again is even better this year than in the past). Somewhat surprisingly, Parra’s K/9 has not been boosted by his early-season start in the bullpen, as he’s actually posted a K/9 of 11.35 in the month of June as a starter.
As rosy as my commentary has been for Parra thus far, he certainly carries some risk as a starter, or he wouldn’t be available in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues. Parra’s biggest problem throughout his career has been his propensity to issue walks (4.38 BB/9 for his career). This season has seen Parra post a BB/9 of 4.00, still higher than owners would hope for, but better than his career mark. Looking back at Parra’s time in the high minors offers hope to him posting better walk rates going forward, but his time in the majors makes me cautiously optimistic as opposed to anticipating his one day putting it all together. Parra is a player who should be watched in leagues of all sizes, but only owned in deeper leagues for now. Between him and R.A. Dickey, I like Parra going forward for the remainder of the season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team mixed leagues or larger and owned in medium to deep NL-only leagues.
Jorge de la Rosa | Colorado | SP | 56 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.91 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 10.17 K/9, 2.00 K/BB, 61.4 GB percent
True Talent:4.58 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 2.17 K/BB
After a strong finish to the 2009 season Jorge de la Rosa was a draft-day sleeper of sorts for owners looking for strikeouts with some upside to provide useful help elsewhere as well. Unfortunately for those who drafted de la Rosa, he’s missed most of the season due to injury. All is not lost for those who have stashed him on their fantasy team’s DL, and for those who opt to add him in leagues in which he’s been cut loose.
On Wednesday, de la Rosa threw four innings of five-strikeout, zero-walk baseball in which he induced ground balls at a high clip, just as he began the season doing in the majors (61.4 GB percent). The concern remains the same for de la Rosa this year as in the past: Will he be able to keep his walks in check? To open the 2010 campaign, the answer has been not really (5.09 BB/9). However, while he’s still walking more hitters than his owners would like, xFIP liked him at 3.42 thanks to his 10.17 K/9 and his high GB rate.
Given the upside de la Rosa possesses and his ability to help in strikeouts, as it stands, he should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues. Forward-thinking owners who have him available in their leagues may want to stash him on the DL while he can still be placed there. By stashing him on the DL now, Yahoo owners have the option to set their lineups ahead and watch his first couple of starts before deciding to activate him and cut another player. While he’s stashed (and no longer on the real DL), you’ll be able to make other roster moves, but that may not be an issue for some managers.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of mixed leagues.
Edinson Volquez | Cincinnati | SP | 14 percent Yahoo ownership
True Talent:4.11 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 1.93 K/BB
Edinson Volquez appears to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, as it has been reported he was able to dial up his electric fastball to 98 mph in his most recent rehab outing. Perhaps more promising than his regained velocity is the fact that Volquez has issued zero walks in 13 innings pitched rehabbing. According to manager Dusty Baker, Volquez is scheduled to return July 7, so expect to see his ownership skyrocket as that date approaches. The window to add Volquez for free is closing quickly in the 86 percent of leagues in which he’s unowned.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.
Nick Hundley | San Diego | C | 5 percent Yahoo ownership
In spite of splitting time behind the dish with Yorvit Torrealba, Nick Hundley has been a useful catcher for deep-leaguers this season. In the high minors Hundley showed an ability to hit for power, albeit with a low average, as is the case with most catchers who hit for power, so his usefulness shouldn’t be a complete surprise. So far this season Hundley has slugged five home runs in just 168 plate appearances while displaying a solid eye, walking 10.7 percent of the time. In addition to his home run total and his eye, Hundley has hit for a useful .274 average thanks in large part to a 19.5 percent LD rate and a reasonable 22.6 percent strikeout rate.
While his numbers aren’t eye-popping, they are certainly useful in deeper two-catcher leagues. Beyond the stats, there is yet another reason to own Hundley in deeper leagues; in his last three games he has been slotted fourth in the Padres lineup behind OBP machine Adrian Gonzalez, and previous to that he had been hitting fifth, making contributions in RBIs more likely. Those in single-catcher leagues should probably pay Hundley no mind, but in larger leagues, or NL-only leagues, he is a guy to own or at least have on your radar.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 14-team or larger mixed leagues using two catchers, should be owned in all but the shallowest NL-only leagues.
Melky Cabrera | Atlanta | OF | 4 percent Yahoo ownership
In spite of a wretched April, Melky Cabrera has been able to get his batting average up above .270 and is beginning to look like a useful fifth outfielder/reserve in deep leagues. While Cabrera may not be a sexy name, or a major contributor in the power or speed department, sometimes just being on the field and getting regular at bats while posting a useful batting average is enough to be worthy of being owned in deeper leagues. It is complete speculation on my part, but if Jason Heyward continues to struggle and Cabrera continues to hit around .300, as he has since the beginning of May, while posting a 7.9 percent walk rate, you may see the Braves move Cabrera to second in the order and slide Heyward down to take some of the pressure off the young phenom.
Regardless of lineup slot, Cabrera should provide value in batting average while posting moderately useful numbers in runs and RBIs. For those looking to boost up a wretched batting average of a guy like Carlos Pena, or those simply looking to own a fifth outfielder who plays every day, Melky Cabrera is a good fit. I recently fell into the camp of needing an everyday outfielder in Blog Wars and am employing Melky as my fifth outfielder.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in all but the shallowest NL-only leagues.
Seth Smith | Colorado | OF | 5 percent Yahoo ownership
To put it quite bluntly, Seth Smith being unowned in 95 percent of Yahoo leagues is absurd. Prior to the demotion of Dexter Fowler to Triple-A, there was some excuse for Smith to not be more widely owned, but at this point, Smith has cemented an everyday job by slugging the stitches out of the baseball and posting a .267 ISO. For a player with the power that Smith has shown (10 home runs, .539 slugging and the aforementioned .267 ISO), one would expect he probably strikes out at a high clip, but that is not the case for the good-contact (82.4 percent contact rate), low-strikeout (14.5 percent strikeout rate) slugger.
As the season goes on, Smith’s power may cool off a bit, but I’d expect him to make up for that by adding some points to his batting average, as his current BABIP sits at just .261 and his xBABIP according to the xBABIP calculator found here suggests he should be sitting at a .318 BABIP. There is little to not like about Seth Smith, and he should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 10-team mixed leagues or larger using five outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Gerardo Parra | Arizona | OF | 10 percent Yahoo ownership
True Talent: .278/.324/.393
Much like the previously mentioned Melky Cabrera, Gerardo Parra is probably only going to appeal to owners in need of a fifth outfielder who gets everyday at bats. Parra was an accidental omission from last week’s article as Conor Jackson was dealt from the Diamondbacks to the A’s, freeing up a regular spot in the outfield for him. Parra’s greatest asset is his speed, but unfortunately, he has yet to master the art of stealing bases, so his stolen base totals likely will be held in check until he further refines that part of his game. At the same time, his speed offers the hope that he may turn a corner and rip off some solid stolen base totals for owners in desperate need of help in that category.
For the rest of the season I’d expect Parra to make moderate contributions in runs scored and stolen bases while providing a solid batting average in the .280 to .290 ballpark. As far as home runs go, Parra is more likely to hit zero home runs the rest of the way than to hit 10 or more, but I’d guess he’ll hit three to five the remainder of the way. Those looking for steady playing time out of their fifth outfield spot should give Parra a look and hope he puts it together on the base paths and swipes 10-plus bags the rest of the way.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues with five outfielders, should be owned in all but the shallowest NL-only leagues.