Jordan Zimmermann | Washington | SP | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: 4.53 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.0 K/BB
About this time last year Jordan Zimmermann was turning in a stellar rookie season posting a 9.07 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, 43.5 percent groundball (GB) rate all good for a 3.39 xFIP, then his season was derailed by injury. Zimmermann’s 2009 campaign was cut short when he injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. Because of the surgery, Zimmermann has been unable to throw a pitch at the major league level.
On July 3 Zimmermann was able to throw his first rehab start, tossing two scoreless innings and hurling a mid-nineties fastball. He has since followed that up with another rehab outing on July 8 in which he went three innings striking out five. In the five innings he’s thrown for High-A Potomac, he’s allowed zero runs on three hits while walking no hitters. It is likely that he will spend the remainder of July, and perhaps some of August building up his pitch count before an eventual call-up to the Nationals roster. That said, now is the time to grab him while he’s available in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues and all larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues
Jason Motte | St. Louis | RP | 5 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.16 K/9, 3.45 K/BB, 40.5 GB
True Talent: 4.11 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 2.62 K/BB
As most already know, Ryan Franklin had a near historic blowup (in terms of WPA, not context) on July 6, more can actually be read about that implosion in an article by Jack Moore over at Fangraphs. While that doesn’t necessarily immediately clear the way for Jason Motte to take over as closer, as Franklin has 15 saves to just one blown save, but it does open up a wider opening should Franklin have another meltdown, or multiple meltdowns, in the near future.
Motte’s control has improved tremendously since last year while simultaneously improving his strikeout rate, a recipe for success. His improved strikeout rate is a byproduct of more swings at pitches outside the strike zone (O-swing) this season, a greater swinging strike rate (swstr%), less contact on pitches outside the strike zone (O-contact) and batters making less contact on all of his pitches (contact %). Motte’s xFIP is 3.48, so his ERA may regress a bit, but considering his minor league track record of success, his success in a cup of coffee in 2008, and his experience in 2009 allowing him to adjust to major league hitters, I believe Motte will exceed Oliver’s true talent projection going forward. Whether or not Motte is able to wrestle the closer gig away from Franklin will likely hinge on his continued success, but also some Franklin failures, regardless, Motte’s high strikeout totals and solid ratios make him useful in some non-hold leagues as it stands.
Recommendation: Should be watched in all leagues, should be owned in some 12-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Evan Meek | Pittsburgh | RP | 25 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 0.94 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 8.25 K/9, 3.38 K/BB, 52.0 GB
True Talent: 3.67 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 1.73 K/BB
Last week I featured Joel Hanrahan in this article, and declared that I believed he’s be the favorite to step into the closer gig for the Pirates should Octavio Dotel be traded. I stand by my assertion that Hanrahan will take the closers gig in that event, but due to also reasonable possibility that Evan Meek could fill the closer role, I decided I’d cast some light on his season thus far.
Meek’s surface numbers look sexier than Hanrahan’s with a sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP, and his All-Star accolades also make him a more, “known,” commodity to the common fan/fantasy player. While it may be obvious Meek’s dental floss thin ERA and WHIP are luck aided, he has been quite good and not simply getting entirely lucky. Meek has been able to post a 3.25 xFIP for the season, in large part thanks to posting a solid strikeout rate, pounding the strike zone (2.44 BB/9) and keeping the ball on the ground. On the luck side of the ledger, Meek’s HR/FB is just 5.3 percent and for a groundball pitcher his .235 BABIP is simply not sustainable over the long haul.
While I stand by Hanrahan as my handcuff of choice, there is an argument to be made for owning Meek as a handcuff as well, as is now illustrated above. The point of handcuffing Dotel may become moot if the Pirates don’t deal him before the trade deadline, at the same time, if Dotel is unable to be dealt the possibility remains that the Pirates remove Dotel as the closer since enhancing his trade value by using him in the ninth will no longer be of significance. In case beating a dead horse hasn’t made the point entirely clear, I do not believe Octavio Dotel will be closing games for the Pirates after the MLB trade deadline regardless of whether he’s dealt or not.
Recommendation: Should be watched in all leagues, should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Madison Bumgarner | San Francisco | SP | 13 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.86 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6.14 K/9, 3.00 K/BB, 47.0 GB
True Talent: 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 2.38 K/BB
Despite Madison Bumgarner‘s solid three starts since his call-up and his well known prospect status, he is only owned in 13 percent of Yahoo! leagues, something I found surprising given the infatuation of many with potential, “next big things.” Bumgarner is far from a finished product, but there is a lot to like about what he’s done in his three starts this season, namely the fact he’s pounding the strike zone (2.05 BB/9) and keeping the ball on the ground. Unfortunately, not all is rosey in those three starts as he isn’t striking out a ton of batters largely due to just a 6.2 percent swstr% and an 87.0 contact%.
The thing that excites me the most about Bumgarners starts has been his positive run values, and usage of all four of his pitches. He is using his fastball 60.6 percent of the time and mixing in his slider 23.6 percent of the time, his curveball 9.9 percent of the time and his change-up 5.9 percent of the time. Also promising for Bumgarner continuing his success at the major league level is that his average fastball is in the low-90’s, which will help him much more than soft tossing in the mid to upper-80’s last year, as was well covered, and fixed thanks to a mechanical adjustment early this year in Triple-A.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues and all larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Homer Bailey | Cincinnati | SP | 4 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 5.51 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 7.28 K/9, 1.95 K/BB, 39.2 GB
True Talent: 5.26 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.64 K/BB
Homer Bailey‘s 2010 season has not gone as well as those who speculated on him in drafts would have hoped. Thankfully for those still stashing him on their fantasy team DLs the season isn’t lost yet, and there are reasons for optimism. Bailey’s fastball velocity this season has taken a step back from 94.4 MPH in 2009 to 92.7 MPH this year as has the velocity on each of his other offerings. Hopefully the loss of velocity can be explained away by his shoulder strain, and will be regained with his current rehab and strength training.
In spite of the lost velocity, Bailey was able to see a spike in his O-swing from 22.6 percent in 2009 to 26.9 percent this year, an uptick in his swstr% from 7.9 percent in 2009 to 8.5 percent this year, and also started hitters off with more strikes than last year, 55.7 percent in 2009 to 60.0 percent this year. As you might have guessed with Bailey’s improvements this season, his 5.51 ERA has been a bit unlucky in comparison to his 4.69 xFIP. Bailey’s largest problem has been allowing too many fly balls and relying more heavily on his worst pitch, his splitter, according to Fangraphs’ pitch usage and run value info. Bailey’s pedigree will continue to get him looks from myself as well as others, and his strong finish to last year makes me believe he has it in him to succeed at the major league level, making him a good low-risk DL stashee in deeper leagues.
Recommendation: Should be stashed on the DL in some 14-team or larger leagues, should be owned in some medium sized NL-only leagues and all deep NL-only leagues.
Gaby Sanchez | Florida | 1B | 35 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .270/.347/.419
Gaby Sanchez isn’t your prototypical slugger first baseman, meaning his low ownership isn’t a complete surprise. Billy Butler has illustrated in recent season’s that doubles hitting first baseman who are able to post useful counting stats and a good average can be of solid value, especially in leagues using a corner infielder. Because Sanchez isn’t a swing for the fences hitter, he’s able to keep the strikeouts in check (16.9 K%), which helps the cause for him maintaining a useful batting average. Also helping Sanchez case for keeping his batting average north of .290 is his 19.7 percent LD rate.
Sanchez has been slotted second in the Marlins lineup for the majority of the year, where his solid walk rate and OBP, have helped allow him post a useful run total and even swipe three bags. As long as he is healthy, Sanchez has a chance to post a useful, if not first baseman conventional, 90-20-80 eight stolen base .290-.300 final line.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team mixed leagues or larger using a CI position, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Neil Walker | Pittsburgh | 2B/3B | 6 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .243/.289/.410
Since his last inclusion in the NL-Waiver Wire, Walker has added 2B eligibility, making him a nice utility player who can be slotted at 2B, 3B, MI and CI, which is quite helpful for deep leaguers. Walker’s current 22.0 percent strikeout rate is high for a player who hasn’t shown an ability to slug the ball (6.0 HR/FB) and isn’t walking a great deal (5.8 percent BB rate). In spite of his shortcomings, Walker is lining the ball at a useful 18.2 percent clip and lofting the ball (50.5 FB rate), thus making the most of his low HR/FB rate. Walker’s .291 average is unsustainable and aided largely by a .347 BABIP, but a .270 average isn’t out of the question if he’s either able to see his HR/FB rate go up (possible given age and decent raw power) or turn some of his fly balls into line drives and ground balls.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues using MI and CI slots, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Felipe Lopez | St. Louis | 2B/3B/SS | 25 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .284/352/.389
Felipe Lopez has been quietly useful as the leadoff hitter for the Cardinals this season. As has been the case over the last few seasons, Lopez’s home run (5) and stolen base (5) totals have been pedestrian, but useful. His total package is the type that fantasy owners are typically looking to upgrade from, but are helpful glue guy type numbers that are necessary to winning fantasy championships. Lopez should be counted on to continue to post his current runs scored and stolen base paces as long as he’s able to continue to walk at a healthy 9.6 percent rate. Everything in Lopez underlying rates suggests that what you are seeing is what you can continue to expect to get, thus if his current stat package is of use in your league, he should continue to produce at this rate going forward.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI, and all 14-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Jason Giambi | Colorado | 1B | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .222/.338/.422
Currently filling in for an injured, and DL’d Todd Helton, Jason Giambi should be of use for those looking for a quick power fix. In spite of limited playing time, Giambi has shown his typical strong walk rate, 17.1 percent, and continues to loft the ball, 52.0 percent FB rate. Giambi’s 7.7 HR/FB rate is low in relation to his career mark, and even as recent as his 2008 mark. While I don’t expect his HR/FB to match his high career marks, seeing is around 12-14 percent with regular playing time seems reasonable. The Rockies have slotted him cleanup, further adding to his appeal as he’ll have some golden opportunities to drive in runs hitting in the heart of the order.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team or larger mixed leagues using a CI, should be owned in medium and larger NL-only leagues while Helton is out.
Dexter Fowler | Colorado | OF | 13 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .264/.353/.402
A repeat visitor to the column this week, Dexter Fowler has torn the cover off the ball since being recalled from the minors, and is still unowned in 87 percent of Yahoo! leagues. In July Fowler is posting a 23.5 percent walk rate, a slash of .480/.606/1.000, and has drilled two doubles, four triples, and one home run. Most importantly for Fowler is that he’s started every game since being recalled on June 29. Common sense would suggest that as long as Fowler continues to produce, he’ll continue play against both right-handers and left-handers. By this time next week I’d expect Fowler’s ownership to go up significantly, otherwise I may have to lazily include him in the column again, you’ve been warned (joking).
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.