By: Jack Moore
Each week we’ll be providing you with insight into the best (and worst) baseball players to play in your fantasy baseball league.
1. Josh Rutledge, SS/2B, COL: Players at premium positions (C, 2B, SS, 3B) in Colorado should always be watched; mediocre talent can become fantastic fantasy numbers, and great talent leads to such forces as Troy Tulowitzki. Rutledge is no Tulowitzki, but he’s doing his best impression to begin his career, hitting .329/.348/.659 in 21 games. Patience is an issue (3.4%) and it’s tough to imagine him carrying a 15.7% strikeout rate long-term when he couldn’t do that at Double-A (18.2%). Still, decent contact and moderate power can mean big things in Colorado, making him a valuable option at shortstop even in standard leagues.
2. Cody Ross, OF, BOS: Although Ross hasn’t been quite as hot as he started the year since coming off the disabled list, Ross has remained a solid source of power, clubbing eight homers with 24 RBI and 24 R in 41 games. Such a performance puts him on a 32-homer, 95-RBI pace – certainly numbers that shouldn’t be available for free in 60% of Yahoo leagues and 40% of ESPN leagues.
3. Michael Brantley, OF, CLE: The key to maintaining a high batting average is simply making contact in the first place. The best hitters for average typically strike out in fewer than 15% of their plate appearance. Brantley has whiffed in just 9.4% of his plate appearances this year, the driving force behind his .293 average as well as his solid counting stats (44 R, 48 RBI, 11 SB). Look for that excellent contact-making ability to sustain his average through the rest of the season.
4. Jonathon Niese, SP, NYM: Niese has had a solid season overall, with an ERA of 3.72 and over 100 strikeouts to go with eight wins, but he’s been particularly nasty lately. Since June, Niese has just a 3.11 ERA with 61 strikeouts to 10 walks in 75 innings, good for a fantastic WHIP of 1.065. He has relatively wide availability – taken just 53% of the time in the Yahoo game – and can give top-150 numbers for the rest of the season, if not better.
5. Ross Detwiler, SP, WAS: It wasn’t entirely clear why the Nationals lifted Detwiler from the rotation for the shell that was once Chien-Ming Wang. The mistake has been undone, however, and Detwiler has responded, posting a .255 ERA with a 24:9 K:BB in 42.1 innings. He keeps runners off the bases and therefore keeps runs off the board. His inability to go deeper in games – averaging just over six innings per start despite the success – has him receiving just two wins in seven starts, but he can be a rate buzzsaw down the stretch.
1. Ryan Dempster, SP, TEX: There are plenty of reasons not to like Dempster’s move to Texas. It’s a hitters’ park. It’s in the hitters’ league. His opponents will be tougher. Even his defense isn’t significantly better. And here’s another one to ponder: his success was influenced by dominating opposing pitchers at the plate. Senior circuit starters own a .335 OPS at the plate. Dempster allowed just a .175 mark. He won’t have the luxury of facing those hitters twice a game in the American League.
2. Michael Young, INF, TEX: Young has been bad the entire season and it keeps getting worse. His .644 OPS has only been lower eight days this season, five of them within the week. He’s hitting just .258/.287/.316 since June started without a home run or a stolen base. He does not provide value in standard leagues and should be traded if anybody values his name over his poor production. Mike Olt’s promotion may eat into his playing time to boot.
3. Hunter Pence, OF, SFG: Pence is hitting just .198/.247/.267 over the last 30 days. This is not the real Hunter Pence, but it is the nail in the coffin in the idea that Pence could reproduce the tremendous season we saw out of him last season. His BABIP is back in the .300-.310 range, where it has resided for four out of his six seasons. Now, a move to the Giants also threatens his power production – San Francisco is a definite pitchers’ park and takes away nearly any possibility of opposite field home runs, of which Pence has five this season.
4. Kelly Johnson, 2B, TOR: Johnson has been brutal since June, hitting just .212/.292/.316. The power is gone, with just three home runs in what amounts to nearly a third of a season. The strikeouts are plentiful, with 54 in just 221 plate appearances. His only category of value has been steals, in which he has five; in no other category has Johnson mustered fantasy-relevant totals since the season’s second month. Second base value is out there this season, and chances are you can do better than Johnson on the waiver wire in standard leagues.
5. Gio Gonzalez, SP, WAS: Gonzalez’s ERA is 4.48 since the beginning of June, and it’s because those pesky walks are back. Early in the season, as Gonzalez breezed to a sub-2.00 ERA, there was talk that the NL was elevating his excellent stuff to top-tier starter levels. However, as he has found out since, such stuff does not matter when it isn’t in the strike zone. Gonzalez has walked 3.5 batters per nine innings since June and 3.8 since July. Combine those baserunners with a typical home run rate – five in 70.1 innings – and the results aren’t pretty.
Jack Moore is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Mathematics and Economics. His work can also be found at FanGraphs.com, DisciplesOfUecker.com, RotoWire.com, AdvancedNFLStats.com and ESPN. Follow him on twitter at @jh_moore.