Aaron Harang | Cincinnati | SP
YTD: 6.23 K/9, 2.50 K/BB, 8.31 ERA
True Talent: 7.7 K/9, 3.42 K/BB, 4.77 ERA
Simply put, the surface stats for Aaron Harang this season are brutal. Taking a glimpse at his underlying stats it’s easy to see (for those not jaded by owning him thus far) that he’s had rather unfortunate luck working against him. Harang has opened the season with a jaw dropping 23.1 percent HR/FB, a number not sustainable even if he were throwing underhand. He’s also had an awful strand rate of 52.5 percent as well as a .333 BABIP (though his career mark is .317 so not nearly as astoundingly out of the ordinary as his other poor luck stats are). The positives for Harang thus far are that he’s inducing 40.0 percent groudballs and limiting the free passes, 2.49 BB/9. His strikeout rate is a bit on the low side at 6.23 K/9, but given that his velocity is actually up a bit on both his fastball and slider, I’d anticpate that number to go up since his stuff, so to speak, appears fine. Once some of Harang’s underlying stats begin to normalize I’d expect a starter who produces value by posting an ERA in the high threes/low fours with 150 or more strikeouts.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team or larger mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Brad Penny | St. Louis | SP
YTD: 5.57 K/9, 4.33 K/BB, 1.29 ERA
True Talent: 5.5 K/9, 1.93 K/BB, 4.08 ERA
St. Louis Cardinals’ fans, and fantasy owners of Brad Penny have been treated to a nice start to the 2010 season. While I’m not suggesting Penny will continue to post a sub 1.50 ERA, I do believe he’ll post a useful fantasy season. Penny has opened the season by demonstrating pin point control with an awesome 1.29 BB/9 to go along with a great GB% of 54.0. His strikeout rate, as usual, leaves a bit to be desired at a modest 5.57 K/9, but when taken with the rest of the package is acceptable. Given the volatility of wins, it is tough to peg anyone as a safe bet for wins. However, because Penny works deep into games he seems a safe bet for decisions, and since he has an offense featuring Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday it’s a reasonable guess a healthy number of his decisions will be positive ones. Oliver’s True Talent projection seems fair, with a tad bit of upside on those projections possible.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team or larger mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Juan Gutierrez | Arizona | SU
YTD: 9.00 K/9, 1.75 K/BB, 6.43 ERA
True Talent: 6.8 K/9, 1.71 K/BB, 5.01 ERA
Juan Gutierrez appears in this week’s Waiver Wire edition for one reason, and one reason only, saves speculation. Chad Qualls has struggled to open the 2010 campaign for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and given his lack of track record as an end game stopper, one has to imagine his leash is rather short or non-existant at this point. While the D-backs may opt to go full closer-by-committee if they remove Qualls from the role, I’d guess Gutierrez will be given a crack at manning the job on his own. Gutierrez features a typical late inning relievers repertoire of power fastball (95.0 MPH average velocity so far) as well as a low-80′s slider, but also features a curveball and changeup that he threw a combined 12.5 percent of the time last year. For a player who doesn’t induce many groundballs (career 37.0 percent and a ridiculously low 11.8 percent GB rate to open 2010) he doesn’t strike a ton of hitters out either, only a career mark of 8.06 K/9. The only value to come from Gutierrez this season will likely be in the form of saves, but for those desperately scrambling to pick some up, he may be worth rostering. He doesn’t fit all rosters given the potential damage he’ll likely do to a team’s ERA and WHIP, but those who can stomach some ugly saves may want to speculate and stash Gutierrez in the event he takes over for Qualls.
Recommendation: Should be watched in 12-team mixed leagues, owned in some 14-team or larger leagues, and most medium to large NL-only leagues.
Edward Mujica | San Diego | RP
YTD: 9.58 K/9, 5.5 K/BB, 2.61 ERA
True Talent: 7.6 K/9, 3.15 K/BB, 4.20 ERA
Edward Mujica is a pitcher who may be of great value to some fantasy gamers depending on their league’s settings. Mujica is a unique relief pitcher in that he owns starting pitching eligibility. For those playing in leagues that specify between starting SP’s and RP’s, and especially those that also count holds, Mujica could serve as fantasy gold this season. To open the 2010 season Mujica is posting a career best 9.58 K/9, following a 2009 season in which he posted a career best 7.30 K/9. While the sample is small thus far, Mujica’s upward trending K/9 may not be fool’s gold. Mujica has stated that he is throwing his splitter more this season, mixing it in to both left handers and right handers, and according to fangraphs linear weights has been using it more effectively. The flyball tendencies of Mujica would normally be a turn off to most, but given that he plays half his games in the spacious PETCO, may play to his advantage if it means more strikeouts from working up in the zone. If Mujica is able to continue to limit the free passes and rack up strikeouts, he may lend himself to being useful to more fantasy owners as he is pegged to throw 75.0 innings by Oliver’s True Talent forecast, and if those innings are filled by a sparkling strikeout rate, useful ratios, some vulture wins and multiple inning saves, Mujica could be a hidden gem for 2010.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team or larger leagues, most large NL-only leagues.
Colby Rasmus | St. Louis | OF
True Talent: .232/.316/.395
A former upper echelon prospect who graduated to Major League Baseball rookie in 2009 is opening the 2010 season with quite the follow up thus far, yet isn’t as widely owned as one might expect. Colby Rasmus is clubbing the ball thus far this season and perhaps even more importantly is showing off the discerning eye (18.2 percent walks) that impressed many during his minor league career. Rasmus isn’t in the same elite class of prospect as other recent OF top prospects such as Jay Bruce, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a bit of a budding star himself. Rasmus doesn’t come without questions, such as will he be able to hit lefties this season, and he does likely have bumps in the road still as he’s striking out at a 31.8% clip, but hitting behind high OBP sluggers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday should help ease the frustration of those bumps in the road for his fantasy owners. Rasmus possesses the raw talent to post top 50 OF numbers this season, and I expect him to do just that. Those in leagues where he’s already rostered should wait with fingers crossed hoping he has a poor stretch of strikeouts and balls hit at fielders in the next week or two and swoop in dealing for him. One buy low period has already passed as Rasmus followed up an 0-15 stretch from April 11 through April 17 with a modest four game hit streak, slugging two home runs and one triple in the last game of that streak. Don’t make the mistake of missing out on the next potential opportunity to acquire him.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 10-team or larger five OF mixed leagues, most 10-team three OF mixed leagues with a bench, all 12-team or larger three OF mxed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Corey Hart | Milwaukee | OF
True Talent: .271/.327/.446
In 2007 and 2008 Corey Hart treated owners to 20/20 seasons, and the thought going into 2009 was more of the same. Unfortunately for those that drafted Hart more of the same did not follow. Hart finished the 2009 season with a slash line of .260/.335/.418 with only 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Coming into 2010 it appeared little should be expected of Hart given his poor 2009 season, the acquisition of Carlos Gomez and the signing of Jim Edmonds. Hart currently finds himself in a three headed platoon of sorts for two spots, which means he may be unrostered in your league, or easily acquirable. The reason for my optimism for Hart stems from his walk gains last year that have extended and been furthered to open 2010. In 2009 Hart posted a 9.1 percent walk rate, a career best, and has posted an even better 12.1 percent walk rate to open the 2010 season (small sample size cautions apply). In understanding the importance of walk rate to Hart look no further than the stolen base category. Already in 2010 Hart has stolen two bases, in spite of the fact that his current batting average is .250 and his BABIP is an unlucky .259. If Hart is able to post a walk rate of over 10.0 percent when he sees his BABIP normalize and his batting average increase accordingly, he should steal more than 20 bases. Not only should current and prospective fantasy owners be excited about Hart’s stolen base totals, but his current ISO of .222 points to potential for greater than 20 home run power (he has two home runs thus far). In order for Hart to maintain his currently high ISO he’ll have to hit more fly balls, however, as he’s chopping a ton of balls into the ground and posting a 55.2 GB rate. His HR/FB (22.2 percent) is not sustainable. That said, conversion of ground balls into fly balls should offset a dip in his HR/FB rate. As the season progresses I’d expect to see Hart take over the bulk of the playing time in the three headed platoon between given his superior talent, age, and upside.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team or larger five OF mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Akinori Iwamura | Pittsburgh | 2B
True Talent: .270/.346/.377
The 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates feature a poor offensive squad, but even poor teams can produce useful fantasy players, and Akinori Iwamura should be just that. Iwamura is currently batting atop the Pirates order and demonstrating a keen eye, offering at little outside the strike zone and walking 13.6 percent of the time in the early going. Iwamura doesn’t offer a great deal in terms of power potential, but 10-15 HR’s may be achievable if there is any truth behind his 15.4 percent HR/FB rate. More likely, Iwamura tops out at 8-10 home runs though in my opinion. While he doesn’t offer much power upside, he may offer some speed upside. One benefit to batting at the top of a bad lineup is that the potential exists for him to get the green light to run and get in scoring position when he’s able to get on base. Given Iwamura’s solid LD rate and walk rate I’d expect him to post an OBP north of .350. If he’s allowed to run he may post 15 or more stolen bases this season, which by itself would be useful if slotted in a middle infield spot in deep leagues. However, modest HR and SB totals aren’t the whole story with Iwamura, who is a career .273 hitter with a career 20.1 percent LD rate. I would expect Iwamura to post a batting average in the .285-.290 range this year and score upwards of around 85-90 runs. A total package of 80-10-50 .280 10 would be of significance to deep leaguers, and I’d expect more.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 10-team mixed leagues that use a MI, all 12-team mixed leagues or larger that use a MI and all NL-only leagues.
Steve Pearce | Pittsburgh | 1B
YTD: Currently in Triple-A
True Talent: Projected to see no Major League playing time by Oliver
In 2007 Steve Pearce slugged his way from Single-A to the Majors and gave hope to the Pirates that he may be a useful piece of their future. After struggling in limited playing time in 2008 and 2009 he looks like nothing more than a Quad-A player who will shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors for the remainder of his career. Early showings, or lack thereof, from Jeff Clement and Bobby Crosby at 1B, an embarrassing Pirates offense, and a nice start to the 2010 season in Triple-A, as well as the recent memory and presence of another suspected career minor leaguer (Garrett Jones) may be the perfect storm that allows Pearce to get a last extended look from the Pirates this season. Pearce has opened 2010 in Indianapolis posting a jaw dropping slash line of .396/.484/.736 with 12 extra base hits, two of which are home runs, and an impressive 9:8 BB:K. If the Pirates opt to look for a shot in the arm in the short term, I’d suspect they call up Pearce before starting the arbitration clock on top prospect Pedro Alvarez. If Pearce is called up, he may be capable of contributing to deep NL-only leaguers depending on where he is slotted in the Pirates order, and just how many at bats he receives. Pearce is a shot in the dark at this point, but is just the type of player worth keep an eye on in the deepest of leagues. Most likely many owners have forgotton about him or labeled him a failed marginal prospect after only 378 Major League plate appearances scattered over three seasons, so you likely have time to wait on him actually receiving a call-up before rushing to the waiver wire to add him.
Recommendation: Should be watched in medium to large NL-only leagues and owned in large NL-only leagues with extremely deep benches.