Trevor Hoffman | Milwaukee | CL | 38 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 8.25 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 6.00 K/9, 1.45 K/BB, 20.3 GB percentage
True Talent:3.93 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.75 K/BB
I won’t be the first to point out the possibility of Trevor Hoffman re-inheriting his closer gig, as Scott Pianowski discussed the possibility on June 30 in a piece over at Yahoo. However, whether I’m the first to address it or not, the point remains the same: With the Brewers sitting nine games out of the National League Central lead, and eight games out of the Wild Card, they won’t necessarily have to use their best reliever to close games. Right now, Hoffman sits four saves shy of 600 for his career, and with the Brewers playing for essentially nothing at this point, if I were going to recreationally gamble I’d say the odds are in Hoffman’s favor for getting every opportunity to reach 600 career saves.
The question then becomes, how desperate are you for saves? In spite of Hoffman’s seven consecutive scoreless appearances recently (all in low-leverage situations, I’ll add), his xFIP for the month of June still sits at 4.22, his K/9 is only 7.88 (though Hoffman hasn’t been a huge strikeout reliever anyway) and his BB/9 is at 3.38. Outside of the possibility of racking up a few saves, there is little (and by little I mean nothing) that makes Hoffman a worthwhile own. All that said, those in need of saves in roto leagues are fighting for every point they can get, and it may be worth speculating on Hoffman getting a crack at the closer role again.
Recommendation: Should only be owned by save desperate owners in mixed leagues of 12 or more teams, and most NL-only leagues.
Joel Hanrahan | Pittsburgh | RP | 2 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.13 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 13.22 K/9, 4.00 K/BB, 36.6 GB percentage
True Talent: 4.58 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 2.2 K/BB
Joel Hanrahan has been nothing short of extraordinary in the Pirates bullpen this season, especially from the start of May until now. While Hanrahan’s ERA isn’t tremendous, his xFIP of 2.91 better illustrates just how good he’s been this season. Sporting a 13.22 K/9, thanks in large part to career bests in outside-the-strike-zone swings (30.5 percent O-swing) and swinging strike percentage (14.0 percent SwStr%), and currently handling the eighth inning for the NL Central cellar-dwelling Pirates, Hanrahan is the likely heir to the closer throne if Octavio Dotel gets dealt. Since the calendar has flipped to July, and the deadline is approaching, now is the time to scoop up Hanrahan and hope the Pirates flip Dotel to a contender in need of bullpen help.
Recommendation: Should be watched closely in all leagues, should be owned in 14-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Tom Gorzelanny | Chicago (NL) | SP | 7 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.14 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 9.29 K/9, 2.24 K/BB, 44.4 GB percentage
True Talent: 4.42 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 1.91 K/BB
Thanks to Carlos Zambrano melting down and drawing a suspension and demotion from the rotation, Tom Gorzelanny once again finds himself (rightfully) in the Cubs’ starting rotation. Gorzellany’s 3.76 xFIP seems like a reasonable ERA projection going forward (thus mid-3’s to low 4’s). With a career-best 31.2 percent O-swing and and a career-best-tying 10.5 percent Swstr%, it should come as no surprise that Gorzelanny is racking up strikeouts at better than a batter an inning, and with a spike in innings coming with the move from the bullpen to the rotation, those in need of strikeouts while not torching their ratios should give Gorzelanny a look. In addition to his strong strikeout rate, Gorzelanny is also inducing ground balls at a useful 44.4 percent rate, meaning he should be able to keep the home run damage to a minimum when the weather warms up at Wrigley Field.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues and most 14-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Lastings Milledge | Pittsburgh | OF | 3 percent Yahoo ownership
True Talent: .268/.323/.386
I don’t mean to pick on the Pirates, but considering their spot in the standings, it seems likely that their outfield will feature Jose Tabata in left field, Andrew McCutchen in center and Lastings Milledge in right for much of the remainder of the season, with Ryan Church seeing less time going forward, thus they can see if Milledge is a long-term fit in their outfield plans. Milledge’s season triple slash and nearly nonexistent home run (one) and stolen base (four) totals make him rather unappealing to those who haven’t paid attention to his June. Milledge hit .329/.405/.500 in June, and given his pedigree (I’m a sucker for pedigree, in case that isn’t apparent at this point) as well as a season (2008) in which he slugged 14 home runs and stole 24 bases under his belt, I believe the speed and pop will come.
Also masked in what looks like another mediocre year from Milledge is his growth in walk rate. For the season Milledge is walking 9.3 percent of the time, a new career best if the season were to end today. While looking at his O-swing, Swstr% and other swing data doesn’t reveal what the cause of his walk increase is, the fact that he is walking more is promising for stolen base chances and run scoring opportunities.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 14-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Pat Burrell | San Francisco | OF | 4 percent Yahoo ownership
True Talent: .230/.341/.406
Pat Burrell’s move back to the National League appears to be just what the doctor ordered for his career. In the month of June, Burrell’s triple slash was .338/.405/.615 and he ripped five home runs and posted a solid 11-to-15 walkout-to-strike ratio in 74 plate appearances. The biggest concern for me, up until today (July 1), was playing time for Burrell should he slump. Those concerns were somewhat alleviated with the news of Bengie Molina being dealt to the Texas Rangers.
With Molina being dealt from behind the plate, the Giants will now play Buster Posey at catcher the majority of the time, freeing up first base for Aubrey Huff to play more often. Even with one party dealt from the log jam, Burrell’s leash isn’t limitless as long as Edgar Renteria and Freddy Sanchez are healthy, forcing Juan Uribe into a super utility role. If Burrell were to struggle greatly enough, the Giants could feature a lineup with Pablo Sandoval manning first base more often, Uribe playing third base and Huff sliding back into one of the corner outfield positions. Those looking into adding Burrell and those already owning him hope that won’t be the case, but it is something to keep in mind.
The reason for owning Pat the Bat remains the same as it has in years past: home runs. Given Burrell’s high strikeout rate, maintaining a batting average in the .260s is likely a ceiling, and the floor is about what he did in Tampa Bay. Regardless, his power has played well thus far in AT&T Park, and until he slows down, he remains ownable for those looking for some extra round-trippers.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues (at least while he’s hot).
Dexter Fowler | Colorado | OF | 4 percent Yahoo ownership
True Talent: .261/.348/.394
Yes, for those wondering, that is egg on my face after declaring last week that a Dexter Fowler call-up from Triple-A Colorado Springs didn’t appear imminent. Fowler’s promotion to the parent club further muddies an already murky outfield picture, and with the exception of Carlos Gonzalez, could hurt the value of all other parties involved (yes, that includes Brad Hawpe, in my opinion).
Coming into this season, Fowler’s calling card was his speed (27 stolen bases in 2009), and while he only stole one base in his time in Triple-A, I believe his contributions in stolen bases remain his greatest asset to fantasy owners this season, and should prove fruitful in whatever time he’s able to receive. For a non-slugger, Fowler’s strikeout rate of over 26 percent in 2009 and 2010 is higher than one would hope for, but it’s at least partially offset by his solid walk rate of over 13 percent for 2009 and 2010 combined. Considering Fowler’s ability to mash lefties since donning the Rockies cap, he’ll almost certainly be getting the majority of playing time over Seth Smith when southpaws are on the hill. Unfortunately for Fowler, for the time being, he will almost certainly have to wait to show his stuff against righties, as Brad Hawpe, Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez all hit orthodox pitchers quite well. Fowler is a reasonable watch in most leagues, but not the most valuable own unless in a deep league, or in a league with deep benches (this being the ideal situation since Fowler could be used exclusively when lefties are on the hill; it’s not practical in shallow bench leagues, however).
Recommendation: Should be watched in 12-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders and owned in some 14-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in medium to large NL-only leagues.