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Saturday, June 30, 2012

FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE DEADLINE NEWS: DODGERS HAVE DEAL IN PLACE FOR ASTROS 1B CARLOS LEE PENDING HIS APPROVAL

The trade deadline activity is starting to heat up on Saturday as the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to acquire 1B Carlos Lee from the Houston Astros which needs his approval to go through.  The veteran 1B is hitting well enough despite declining stats the last few seasons as he ages but the Dodgers have had major problems at 1B with the team being forced to play the incompetent James Loney at times this season.  Lee is playing in Saturday's game for the Astros.

Analysis:  Good move for the Dodgers who could use another bat.  Even though Lee is not even close to the player he used to be, he can still drive in runs hit for a decent average, and crack some home runs.  We would think he would approve the deal to play for a playoff contender but stranger things have happend before. 

FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE DEADLINE NEWS: ORIOLES ACQUIRE 1B JIM THOME FROM PHILLIES FOR TWO MINOR LEAGUERS

The Baltimore Orioles acquired veteran 1B Jim Thome from the Philadelphia Phillies for two minor leaguers Saturday in a move to strengthen their bench for a playoff run.  Thome has hit .242 with 5 home runs in limited playing time this season and will likely play the same come off the bench role with the Orioles as he did with the Phillies.

Analysis:  Nice move by the Orioles to shore ip their bench but this has no value whatesoever when it comes to fantasy baseball impact since Thome is 41 and doesn't play much.  This does signal though that the Orioles are buyers for the first time in years and the trade deadline is now getting into gear.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RAYS ACTIVATE SP JEREMY HELLICKSON (SHOULDER) FROM DL

The Tampa Bay Rays activated SP Jeremy Hellickson from the DL Saturday and will start him against the Detroit Tigers and Rick Porcello.  Hellickson went on the DL complaining of a tired arm and he required no rehab assignment.

Analysis:  I have been saying for awhile now that Hellickson was going to go bust this season and that's exactly what was happening before he hit the DL.  His K rate is inconsistent and his hit rate is going way up which are not good things to have in the Al East .  If someone dropped him you can pick him up for depth but don't own him as anything more than a fourth starter.

2012 FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE DEADLINE PAGE UP

We got a lot of positive feedback last season for the Trade Deadline page we put up that has all the key names being mentioned about along the with listing the trades that took place.  The page is up again as we are a month away from the deadline and already chatter is heating up.  We will coninuously update the page when we hear new names being talked about and as always will post the trades that do take place.

FANTASY SPORTS BOSS LIVE CHAT SUNDAY AT 9 PM ET

Yours truly will be in the chat room this Sunday at 9:00 PM ET to answer all of your fantasy baseball and fantasy football questions you may have.  Feel free to stop in and stay as long as you'd like.  I look forward to chatting with you all.

2012 FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT DEBATE: RAY RICE VS. LeSEAN MCOY

We continue to gear up with our fantasy football coverage as drafts are already getting underway.  While I don't advise having a draft until well into the summer in order to have more clarity on position battles and injury issues, those who do venture out there early need to start fine-tuning their rankings and cheat sheets.  With that in mind let's take a look at the top of the running back picture in order to determine who should be drafted right behind consensus number 1 Arian Foster.  The two candidates who can vow for this honor are the Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice.  Both guys are fantasy football scoring machines and both play well in all formats.  As always let's break things down in comparing them by using the stats they will most effect in standard formats. 

RUSHING YARDS:  Ray outrushed McCoy last season 1,364 to 1,309.  Rice got a few more carries though so this is almost a wash.  Both guys will tote the rock a between 250 and 275 times this season and both offensive lines are solid.  No advantage to be had here.
ADVANTAGE:  EVEN

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS:  McCoy became an overnight monster in this category last season as he was trusted for the first time to receiver goal-line carries and he responded with 17 rushing touchdowns.  The same situation was in play for Rice as well after seeing Willis McGahee steal his scores the previous few seasons and he too did well in picking up 12 rushing touchdowns.  I can't see McCoy matching that insane amount of rushing scores this season and he should fall back to between 12-14 which is right in line with what Rice is doing.  Again no difference.
ADVANTAGE:  EVEN

RECEPTIONS:  Rice won this handily 76 to 48 last season as McCoy was featured a bit less in the pass catching role with Michael Vick missing a bunch of games.  However McCoy caught 78 passes the season before so he is fully capable of going nuts there as well.  Rice has been the more consistent and proven pass catcher over the last three seasons however with 76, 63, and 78 catches compared to McCoy's 48, 78, and 40.  He gets the nod there.
ADVANTAGE:  RAY RICE
WINNER:  RAY RICE

As you can see this was a very tight debate between the two and it shows you that even one stat can make the difference in determining who to pick over the other.  Rice is the more sturdy pass catcher which breaks the tie and so after Arian Foster's name comes off the board, the Ravens back should be the next name selected from the running back spot.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: METS TALKING TO PADRES ABOUT HUSTON STREET

The New York Mets have contacted the San Diego Pades regarding closer Huston Street according to various report.  With closer Frank Francisco on the DL with the dreaded oblique strain, the Mets are exploring options in case he won't be able to come back on time.  They also are looking to strengthen the bullpen as a whole which is why the contact with Street is being made.  The deal would make sense since the Padres are out of the playoff hunt and Street is in the last year of his contract.

Analysis:  This is the second time in less than a year that the Mets have been linked to Street, as they originally tried to grab him from the Rockies before they moved him to the Padres.  This could have some legs to it as it makes a bunch of sense from both sides.  If Street gets moved, than Luke Gregerson could step in the closer's role. 

FANTASY BASEBALL WEEKLY ADD/DROPS

Add

Andrew Cashner- The fireballer was dominating in Triple-A and was solid in his first start with the Padres last night. He struck out 9 batters in 6 1/3 innings. Since he pitches in PETCO park, his numbers will likely continue to get better. Pick him up right now he has the potential to be something really special.

Ike Davis- Davis has had a rough year so far but has really heated up lately. He has been hitting home runs and getting plenty of extra base hits. Since his overall numbers are so bad, you can probably get him for practically nothing. My advice to you would be get him, ride the hot streak, and watch him closely. He may cool down eventually.

Tyler Moore- I know what your thinking. Who is Tyler Moore? Moore is a left fielder for the Nats who has been seeing a lot of playing time lately. This week he went into Coors field and hit home runs in back to back games and collected 5 RBI's. His batting average is now .339 and he would be a nice waiver claim. He has some pop to his bat, hitting 31 home runs in Triple-A in both 2010 and 2011.

Sell

Wade Miley- Miley has been awesome this season but his minor league track record shows that he is playing way over his head. He currently has a 1.79 walks per nine innings ratio, and that is great but his minor league numbers show a different trend. Sell him to an owner who just looks at the numbers and ignores the fact that he is still a rookie and hitters will figure him out.

Tony Campana- Campana has brought a lot of energy to the Cubs, but will be losing playing time now to David DeJesus, who is now shifting to center field.

Bobby Parnell- Parnell has been great this season, but has been a streaky player in the past. He is currently the Mets' closer with Frank Francisco on the disabled list, but it is unlikely that Parnell will keep his job when he returns. Sell high on Parnell to an owner who believes that Parnell will keep his closer job for the rest of the season.

Written by Dan Zito
To check out other posts Dan has written, click here

Friday, June 29, 2012

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: DAN HAREN SP LOS ANGELES ANGELS

No doubt the most volatile position that plays with the minds of fantasy baseball owners each drafting season are the starting pitcher fraternity, whose high incidence of injury and volatility when it comes to repeating previous stats make this an always risky pool to make picks out of.  There are always a few stalwarts however who year after year turn a profit with great pitching and who stay healthy in tossing 200-plus innings without so much as a pinch of pain in any part of their body.  These guys are labled as having "rubber arms" in that their bodies can continue to withstand the unnatural act of throwing a baseball thousands of times a season, while other succumb to elbow, shoulder, and all sorts of issues.  One such guy who fit this bill for the last 7 years was Los Angeles Angels ace Dan Haren who has tossed over 200 innings in each of those campaigns and whose ERA's in those 7 seasons read like this:  3.73, 4.12, 3.07, 3.33, 3.14, 3.78, and 3.17.  Haren was the model of consistency and was worth the extra buck needed to secure his services due to the comfort in knowing he would always take the baseball and put up great numbers as well. 

Fasft forward to June 28th 2012 as Haren walks off the mound after giving up 6 earned runs against the Toronto Blue Jays, which marked the fourth straight start he has been shelled (4 ER, 5 ER, and 5 ER given up in the other three outings) to spike his ERA to a shockingly bad 4.53 which was accompanied by an equally pathetic 1.37 WHIP.  Nothing is going right for Haren at all in 2012 and the theories are already starting to fly as to what is going on.  Clearly something is wrong as he looks nothing like the dependable stud he used to be and in my opinion there are a few key reasons for this which we will now get into.

The first issue that needs to be looked at is the glorious workload that we have always praised Haren for.  Like I said earlier, throwing a baseball is an rough act on the body and over time it will casue the arm and joints surrounding it to give way in the form of injury.  To this point Haren has had no issues in that department but he is still human and eventually we all knew he would have to pay the piper at some point.  At 32 years old, Haren is also no longer a spring chicken which magnifies the threat even more.  I always like to bring up Livan Hernandez when discussing what is going on with Haren because ther parallels are uncanny.  Hernandez was a guy who also churned out 220-inning season like he was standing on his head and through the early and middle portions of his career, produced a healthy K rate and ace-like stats.  Eventually though Hernandez lost his fastball and the bite on the rest of his pitches as his arm tired.  He than got routinely hit around and began his journey through what seemed like every organization in baseball due to his poor pitching.  Now I am not suggesting that Haren's arm is totally shot like what we saw with Hernandez but you can't discount it completely either.  He has never before been hit like this which means there is room to speculate on it.  Now some will say that's just because he is pitching in the American League and not the National League where he did great work while with the Arizona Diamondbacks but that is garbage because the AL West is perenially one of the weakest hitting divisions in all of baseball, what with the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's taking up residence there with their awful hitting.  Also the Angels have quite possibly the best defense in all of baseball with Peter Boujos, Torri Hunter, and Mike Trout swallowing up everything in the outfield so that idea goes out the window totally.  It sure looks like Haren's arm is not producing the type of crips and powerful pitches it used to and so hence he is getting hit.  Simple as that when you think about it.

Another issue that needs to be looked at is the fact that last season Haren changed his approach to pitching in becoming a ridiculously heavy user of a cutter which is one of the most taxing pitches that a guy can throw.  Haren lost a few miles on his fastball at the end of 2010 and so in order to compensate for that, Haren turned to the rough cutter which worked great all of 2011 as he had one of his best seasons just when people began to doubt him.  Ask any pitcher out there who throws a cutter and they will tell you that there are only so many you can throw before the arm starts to feel the effects and so that also is a major red flag when it comes to Haren and his awful production lately.

All in all, I think Dan Haren is starting to lose it as a top end fantasy baseball starting pitcher.  Whereas he used to be a sure number 1 ace, he is now droppped to SP 3 status and is possibly going to fall to SP 4 in short order.  He has been that bad this season and with four rough outings in a row to his name, it could be a good idea to sit him down for a bit to see if he can turn it around.  We all know that Haren is a poor second half pitcher and with the midsummer classic right around the corner, that time is almosy upon us which throws more cold water on a potential turnaround.  Avoid buying low on the guy and if you are an owner like I am, park him on the bench for his last start and hope he turns it around.  This is a very criticial time in the career of Dan Haren and what happens from here on in will determine where we go with him in the future.  Right at this moment its not looking good by any means and I am not feeling optimistic about things getting better either.  We can always hope.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: CUBS SP RYAN DEMPSTER (LAT) NOT EXPECTED BACK UNTIL AFTER BREAK

Chicago Cubs SP Ryan Dempster is not expected to re-join the team until after the All Star Break as he continues to recover from the strained lat muscle that landed him on the DL.  With nothing to gain since the team is in last place, thge Cubs want to play it safe with Dempster who they hope the peddle to another team towards the trade deadline.

Analysis:  The Cubs have put it out there that both Dempster and Matt Garza are radily available and at least in the case of Dempster, have said they would eat some salary as well.  Dempster himself has pitched great all season and that alone should get him a new team before too long.  Keep holding onto him.

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: A.J. BURNETT

By Dan Zito

A.J. Burnett was a massive bust for the Yankees from 2009-2011. He signed a big deal with them before the 2009 season and was a clubhouse cancer from day one. Last season he posted a 5.15 ERA in 32 starts and was very inconsistent throughout the entire season. Some say that the pressure of playing New York got to him and some others say that his skills just disappeared out of the blue. The Yankees went out and signed Hiroki Kuroda and traded for Michael Pineda for rotation help. Once they acquired those two players, Burnett became expendable. Burnett was shipped to Pittsburgh for practically nothing and I think it is safe to say that the Yankees wish they never did this trade.

Burnett did not get a warm welcome when he first started playing with Pittsburgh. In Spring Training, while taking batting practice, Burnett fouled a ball off of his eye and was forced to miss several weeks into the season while he recovered from his injury. Burnett was not a hot commodity in this years fantasy draft, but the fact that he was going to miss a few weeks before the season even started did not help his value. I seriously doubt that he was even drafted in your league when it first started.

Anyway, once he was fully recovered from his injury, most fantasy owners did not take a flier on him because of his hideous track record. I skipped on him as well, but he has shown the baseball world that he still has some stuff left in the tank. Right now, he is 8-2 with a 3.24 ERA. Not too shabby? Perhaps New York did get into his head. It appears that he has really found a home in Pittsburgh and hopefully he stays there for the next few years.

Fantasy-wise, some owners may still fear Burnett's track record and may sell him while his value is high. That's understandable but I suggest that you keep him. Throughout his career, like I said earlier, he has been very inconsistent. One start he will pitch a complete game and the next start he will let up 7 runs. This season he got rocked in one start, letting up over 10 runs. The rest of his starts have been great, and he has gone deep into every game. Overall, its a gamble to keep Burnett but I suggest you do so.

FANTASY BASEBALL STAT OF THE DAY: A.J. BURNETT'S ERA

If you take out the one bad start that Pittsburgh Pirates SP A.J. Burnett has had this season, which was a 12 earned run beatdown in 2.2 IP earlier in the year, his ERA would be 2.05 and not the still great 3.31 it is after winning his ninth game of the season last night.

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: THURSDAY

Do yourself a favor.  Stop what you are doing and go pick up San Diego Padres SP Andrew Cashner in all the leagues he is available in.  The fireballing righty took the mound for his first start of the season Thursday night and the results were spectacular as Cashner gave up only two earned runs on two hits in 6.1 IP to go with 9 strikeouts.  Cashner's fastball topped out at 99 mph on mutiple occasions during the start and he actually pitched the first six inning without giving up a hit before tiring in the seventh.  There is a very good Brandon Morrow comparison to be made here as Cashner has produced tremendous strikeouts throughout his rise to and also during his stint in the major leagues.  He was sent to the minors a few weeks ago to get stretched out for the start and the results were incredible.  I don't need to tell you how much of a benefit it is to pitch in San Diego and for that reason alone Cashner is a great pickup.  Don't hesistate.  Do it now. 

Anyways here is what else caught my eye in Thursday night fantasy baseball.

Pedro Alvarez:  1/3 with his 14th HR while hitting .225.  The only consistency Alvarez shows when hitting other than home runs is the fact he gets only one hit total in the games he knocks them out.

Hunter Pence:  2/5 with his 14th HR while hitting .277.  It seems like Pence just goes about his merry way with no one paying attention and than at the end of the season he has 25 home runs and 100 RBI.  I don't care about the route he takes, just get there in one piece.

AJ Burnett:  6.2 IP 6 H 3 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 3.31.  I hate to say this but Burnett should be started in all leagues right now.  Honestly he has had only one bad start all season and he clearly is relaxed now that he is out of NY.  Call it the Javier Vasquez Effect.

Bryce Harper:  2/6 with his 8th HR while hitting .282.  The most impressive aspect of Harper's game has been the fact that he has hit for average....not Mike Trout average..,..but over .280 as a 19-year-old.  Actually what was more impressive was how he gave himself stitches in the face by slamming a bat against a wall.

Ian Desmond:  2/5 with his 13th HR while hitting .276.  There are a lot of Desmond haters out there and I have been one of them but we can't deny the facts and they state that the guy is closing in as a top 5 shortstop.  Believe it.

Mike Morse:  2/5 with his 2nd HR while hitting .265.  Yes I talk about Morse every chance I get because he did so many good things for so many of my teams last season.  He is like the child who used to be exemplary but is now getting into some trouble.  You have to stick by them through it all.

Edwin Jackson:  8 ER in 3 IP with an ERA of 3.57.  The Edwin Jackson of 2005-2011 returns.

Shin-Soo Choo:  1/3 with his 7th HR while hitting .276.  I still am laughing about how cheap I got the guy this past drafting season.  Thank you to all who helped in that endeavor.

JJ Hardy:  2/4 with his 12th HR while hitting .243.  Hardy was another who saved by hide last season when I lost Jose Reyes to injury but he has to get that average up above .260 to stay in a lineup consistently.

Mark Texeira:  1/4 with his 13th HR while hitting .248.  Texeira won't apologize for turning into the hitter that he is now and that's someone like a Ryan Howard.....great pop but awful average....and with a more healthy body. 

Mike Trout:  2/5 with his 8th HR while hitting .345.  Apologies to Mr. Haprer but I will take this guy over you any day of the week and twice on Sunday next season.

Mark Trumbo:  2/5 with his 19th HR while hitting .315.  Sorry but there is NO ONE who foresaw what Trumbo has done this season so I am not going to apologize for completely disregarding him in the winter. 

Jose Bautista:  1/4 with his 26th HR while hitting .237.  I didn't even have to guess that Bautista hit the home run as his only hit of the game.

Dan Haren:  6 ER in 6 IP with an ERA of 4.53.  We got big problems here as Haren has been ripped in four starts in a row and honestly you can't put him out there for his next start at this point.  Again I come back to all those cutters he threw last season as his arm looks dead.  Could be the beginning of the end like what we saw with Livan Hernandez after all those solid seasons where he threw 220 innings.  The arm can only take so much abuse.

Miguel Cabrera:  4/5 with his 16th HR while hitting .312.  Just once I want to see this guy hit 40 home runs.  I mean if Billy Butler can finally be on his way to breaking through the 30 HR barrier, why can't Cabrera hit 40?

Chris Young:  1/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .226.  That's two games in a row Young has hit a home run and really its like the only two hits he has gotten since May.  He could get scorching hot for a week and than not get a hit until September.  No thank you.

Trevor Bauer:  4 IP 5 H 2 ER 3 BB 3 K.  Bauer was very shaky in this one but that's to be expected in making his first start and it being out on the road.  He has great stuff and will be a stud someday but he has major control issues to work through and for that reason I wouldn't use him as anything but a streamer.

Josh Reddick:  1/3 with his 18th HR while hitting .260.  Unreal that Reddick could hit 30 home runs this season.  Didn't see that one coming.

Derek Norris:  2/3 with his 2nd HR while hitting.316.  So far so good for one of the better hitting catchers to come out of the minors in a bit.  Take him out for a test drive.

David Wright:  2/3 with his 9th HR while hitting .361.  If you were to not look at your calendar, you would think it was 2007 the way Wright is performing this season.  And oh yeah Wright and Choo were two of the biggest bounceback guys I talked about this past winter. 

Felix Hernandez:  9 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 13 K with an ERA of 3.09.  Wow was King Felix dominant against a very good Red Sox lineup.  All is forgiven my friend from when you looked like ass from mid-May to mid-June.

Madison Bumgarner:  9 IP 1 H 0 ER 2 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.85.  Here is the NL Cy Young Award leader.  And here is the guy I told you all to draft more than almost any other non-top tier  starter.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: D-BACKS SP DANIEL HUDSON HAS UCL TEAR IN ELBOW, HEADED FOR TOMMY JOHN SURGERY

Arizona Diamondbacks SP Daniel Hudson is headed for Tommy John surgery after a tear in the UCL in his pitching elbow was found on an MRI.  Hudson has been shelled all season and spent an earlier stint on the DL with arm trouble, with this diagnosis coming after his last start where he exited with pain in the joint.  He will be out the rest of the 2012 season and some of next season also.

Analysis:  Hudson has been a mess all seasons and this is proof positive of how violating the Verducci Rules can have ugly results.  Hudson joins Michael Pineda as two guys who had to have surgery after violating the rules in 2011 and this remains a big time tool to keep an eye on when evaluating pitchers to take in your draft next spring.

FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT BUST: ANTONIO GATES TIGHT END SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

We are now flat in the middle of the bigggest passing era in quite possibly the entire history of both the NFL and fantasy football where throws who are throwing and catching the football are putting up ridiculous offensive numbers, while the running backs take a back seat.  Coming along for the ride however are those who line up at the tight end position, which up until the last two season, had been the equivalent of a catcher in fantasy baseball where there were only a few good choices and most likely you were forced to mix and match all seaosn long.  Those days are clearly a thing of the past as none other than 12 tight ends can be considered starting material as we get close to the 2012 fantasy football season.  Some of these guys are true studs and can be drafted as high as the second round this summer which was almost unheard of for a tight end.  Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski make up this exclusive bunch.  Than there are the next ten guys who have different qualities to call their own and thus earn the love of fantasy football owners.  Where Jason Witten is a PPR dream due to his high catch totals, Jermichael Finley gets more value in those TD-heavy leagues.  Also included in this group however is a fading player who still carries significant name value and thus will be drafted higher than he should despite the fact his numbers are sliding and injuries continue to be a probem.  I am referrring to San Diego Chargers veteran tight end Antonio Gates who helped usher in this era in the first place.  Once the clear cut number 1 guy in the league, Gates is now a shell of his former self and is one to avoid as I will explain in the lastest Fantasy Football Bust column. 

Looking back at his career, there is no doubt that Antonio Gates was a pure superstar tight end who one day could have his name called in Canton, Ohio for the Hall of Fame.  His biggets legacy was being the pioneer basketball player turned tight end in coming out of college, which of course was the same route that Jimmy Graham took to his own superstardom.  Now you might point out that Tony Gonzalez could be considered to be the first true basketball player to become a big time tight end but the difference there is that Gates NEVER played college football and thus had to learn on the fly to be who he turned out to be.  The fact of the matter was that Gates redefined the athleticism that a tight end could have.  No longer were those who played the position being pigeon-holed into being a huge, slow, brute, whose main role was as a blocker.  Gates couldn't block a stationary sled when he first got into the league but the soft hands and great leaping ability he forged on the basketball court helped him turn into a star almost overnight.  After finding his way some in a backup role during his rookie year of 2003-2004, Gates absolutely exploded the very next season in catching 81 passes and 13 touchdowns.  Over the next six seasons after that, Gates would never catch less than 8 touchdowns and would average 71 catches for around 860 yards.  It was also during this era where Gates had no peer as the premier tight end in both real and fantasy football but things would soon start to change with his status, starting with 2010-2011 when foot injuries allowed him to play in only 10 games, with Gates collected only 50 receptions.  After being very durable up until that season, many were quick to dismiss his off year as nothing but a fluke.  The problem was that 2011-2012 was not much better as Gates wound up missing three more games with foot and leg injuries which were joined by only 7 touchdown grabs which was his lowest total since he was a rookie.  Gates also looked a step slow at times and by the end of season was admitting that he will always be dealing with problems with his feet the rest of his career.

So here we are as the 2012 fantasy football season beckons and this is where I tell you to avoid Antonio Gates altogether in your draft.  Those of you who were readers before last season remember that Gates was listed as a bust candidate as well which was partially born out with the missed games and lowered production.  At a clearly aging 32 years old, Gates is not the athlete he once was and is in danger of being passed by many of his peers in the process.  What really makes Gates a bust candidate is the name brand that he carries.  Even green fantasy football players know who Antonio Gates is and many of these owners like to live in the past when it comes to predicting what kind of production he could have this season.  Thus Gates will likely be drafted as a top five tight end which is not where he should be by any means.  He is still very good and will have his moments of excellence but the constant threat of injury alone makes him a major risk.  You want to formulate a roster with as little injury risk as you can and Gates just doesn't fit that bill.  Also with his numbers starting to go the other way and with his age climbing towards his mid-30's, Gates is clearly on the donwslope of his career.  Don't buy the name and instead pick up a tight end who has present and future potential.  I would take a grand total of 6 tight ends above Gates (Graham, Gronkowski, Witten, Aaron Hernandez, Vernon Davis, and Jermichael Finley) and it wouldn't shock me if Jermaine Gresham Brandon Pettigrew, Owen Daniels, and yes Tony Gonzalez all have better seasons.  The obvious notion here is that Gates is just too much of a risk to draft him where he will end up this summer and the position is so deep that there is simply no reason you would need to pick him anyway.  Yes he has had a great career but we are not paying for his past numbers.  In that respect and for many more reasons we discussed beforehand, Antonio Gates is one to steer clear of this season.

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: LUCAS DUDA OUTFIELDER NEW YORK METS

By Dan Zito

Before this season started, if you asked me who one of the biggest sleepers in fantasy baseball was I'd say Lucas Duda. He showed a lot of promise in the minor leagues so the Mets realized that he had a high ceiling and raw power. Once the Mets traded Carlos Beltran last summer, everyone knew that Duda was going to be the one to come in and get the majority of the playing time at right field. Everything was looking great for Duda because he was finally going to get regular at-bats as the Mets' right fielder. He had 10 home runs in 347 at bats with the Mets in 2011 but the team believed that he would find his power stroke in the MLB once he gets more comfortable and confident in his abilities. A lot of baseball experts were predicting that Duda would reach the 30 home run mark with 100+ RBI. His size also stands out, listing at 6'4" and weighing 255 lbs. Some believe that his ceiling is being an Adam Dunn-like player, capable of hitting 30-40 home runs but keeping a low batting average.
 
Duda is/was a no named player in this years fantasy draft and he was picked really late in most drafts. Those who picked him chose him based on his ability to play in the big leagues, not his track record.
 
Duda hasn't really played great this season, but has had a few stretches where he has heated up but eventually came back down to earth. His numbers aren't sexy by any means, but the only has 287 at bats so there is a good chance that he will heat up soon. He has 11 home runs with 42 RBI and a .260 batting average. He's been pretty much lying in the weeds this season and hasn't been talked about that often. Duda has been able to hit home runs and get clutch hits, but I still get this feeling that he has more to prove. He is currently on pace to get 100 RBI and that would definitely open some eyes.
 
Overall, Duda's fantasy value still remains unseen through my eyes. I don't know if he will be a 40 home run guy with a .220 batting average or a 20 home run guy with a .310 batting average. He is getting a lot of playing time lately which will certainly help us fantasy baseball owners decipher who the real Lucas Duda is. I think Duda is capable of 25 home runs with 100+ RBI and a .275 batting average this season. If he manages to get those numbers, I'd say he fulfilled his expectations.

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: WEDNESDAY

Rickie Weeks:  1/5 with his 6th HR while hitting .185.  This falls under the heading of a broken clock being right twice a day.  Weeks has been beyond terrible this season and he once again made good on me calling him a 2012 fantasy baseball bust.

Zack Grienke:  6 IP 5 H 2 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 2.82.  Greinke has been typically tremendous this season and when I sayd typically its because I have had a hard one for him the last two seasons when everyone else was ready to cast him aside after an off year during his last campaign in Kansas City.

Robinson Cano:  3/4 with his 19th HR while hitting .308.  Enough already!  Holy crap!  That's about all there is to say about Cano's home run binge right now.

Andy Pettitte:  4 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 3.22 I am still shocked as hell about Pettitte's K rate since coming back to the majors.  Unfortunately he took a comebacker off his leg which broke his ankle, thus sending him to the DL for two months.  Not all comebacks have a fairytale ending.

Adam Dunn:  3/5 with his 24th HR while hitting .216.  Wow three hits in one game.  It used to take Dunn a week to do that and they would all be home runs.

Alex Rios:  3/5 with his 10th HR while hitting .302.  That's now double-digit home runs and steals.  Allow me to take a bow after telling you all to look past last season's awful 2011 campain as I correctly pointed out how Rios was still too young at 31 to be washed up. 

Jose Bautista:  2/4 with his 25th HR while hitting .237.  Who needs chemically enhances McGwire-Sosa home run chase when we got a clean Dunn-Bautista?  My money is on Bautista.

Edwin Encarnacion:  1/4 with his 22nd HR while hitting .286.  Encarnacion turns to the above statement and says "can I get in on that?"  Sure the more the merrier.

David Ortiz:  1/2 with his 21st HR while hitting .309.  Paul Konerko better pick it up quick or else Ortiz will pass him as the ultimate awesome hitting old dude.

Ricky Romero:  8 ER in 3 IP with an ERA of 4.94.  Wow thanks Ricky for concretely telling the non-believers out there that I was right when I called up a pretend ace before the season began.  Boy the BABIP regression gods were looking to make an example out of hin bad.

Billy Butler:  2/4 with his 15th HR while hitting .296.  This is it.  Like Ross and Rachel finally getting married on Friends after waiting 16790710 seasons, Billy Butler will finally hit 30 home runs after waiting one day longer than the previous set of numbers.

Mike Moustakas:  1/3 with his 13th HR while hitting .277.  Upward Moustakas goes when it comes to the current fantasy baseball third baseman rankings.  Yeah all those home runs he hit last season in the PCL were legit.

Ike Davis:  3/5 with his 10th HR while hitting .201.  Scan down to see my latest Davis report.

Daniel Murphy:  3/5 with 2 home runs (2 for season) while hitting .274.  The power of the mustache as Murphy grew one this week to break out of his slump.  Hey give it a shot Pujols.

Jarrod Parker:  7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 9 K with an ERA of 2.57.  Here we are a full two months into Parker's MLB debut and he is still unowned in more leagues than your would think.  Yes the West Coast and Oakland A's bias is at play here but there has to be something I am missing.  A 2.57 ERA should be owned everywhere people.  Wake up.

Tim Lincecum:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 2 BB 8 K with an ERA of 5.60.  Maybe he finally iced his arm.  The BUY LOW window will vanish if he has another good start like this but even if he does I am not interested.  Way to many questions here and none of them good.

Andrew McCutchen:  2/5 with his 14th HR while hitting .342.  The ceiling in my mind for McCutchen coming into the season was 25/35.  30/40 is now clearly in play which when combined with the .342 average makes this a "package" all guys would to get their hands on.

Chase Utley:  3/5 with his first HR.  Not a shock as many players come out with some big hits after a long absence.  I said yesterday that Utley's power should be fine but not to expect much in the way of steals and that it would be a struggle to hit .300.  I stand by that assessment.

Carlos Ruiz:  2/4 with his 11th HR while hitting .364.  Ruiz is clearly one of those players who is having an out of the blue incredible year that you keep expecting to fall back to earth any day now.  Except for Ruiz its just not happening.

Jason Hammel:  3.1 IP 8 H 8 ER 3 BB 2 K with an ERA of 3.29.  I know all you Hammel owners out there cleaing up the blood on your team ERA this morning don't want to hear this right now but remember that I told you all not to get too excited about Hammel since he has been a career journeyman for a reason and that he pitches in the AL East.  I say "Yup" which much condolences.

Torii Hunter:  3/5 with his 10th HR and 3rd SB while hitting .279. How about the old guy getting the hit and run?  One of my all-time favorite players (always turned a profit until last season), Hunter is doing his best to show he has some more gas left in the tank. 

Jason Heyward:  1/3 with his 12th HR while hitting .282.  I lava is rising oh so close to the top of the volcano when it comes to Heyward and his fantasy baseball value.  He is already past double-digits in home runs and steals and looking for a bunch more. 

Ian Kinsler:  2/5 with his 9th HR while hitting .272.  Yeah his average is shaky again but Kinsler has always hit lefties better than righties so that's that.  Look at it ths way:  would you rather hvae Kinsler or Dustin Pedroia right now in the season?  Exactly my friends.

David Murphy:  4/5 with 2 home runs (9 for season) while hitting .283.  The best platoon hitter in fantasy baseball, it was a great night to have the last name "Murphy" when it came to putting the ball out of the park.

Roy Oswalt:  5 ER in 6 IP with an ERA of 4.26.  Oswalt should give this win back and really he neds to call up Andy Pettitte in order to find out how to pitch like an ace off a long layoff sitting in a fishing boat.  At the same time also ask him how to avoid comebacks hit back toward his leg.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF WITH DAN ZITO: TRY TO SNAG IAN KENNEDY WHILE HIS VALUE REMAINS LOWER THAN IT SHOULD

Ian Kennedy had a breakout year last season, and many of us avid baseball fans thought he would be even better this season. Kennedy has had a so-so year this season, posting a 4.42 ERA in 93.2 innings pitched with 83 strikeouts. By this time most of you owners who have him probably dropped/traded him because of his iffy performance. In this article I am going to explain to you why I think Kennedy should be picked up immediately. For the last few seasons, Kennedy has always been a great second-half pitcher. In 2010, he posted a 4.12 ERA before the All-Star game and a 3.38 ERA after. Last season, he had a 3.44 ERA before the break and a remarkable 2.11 ERA after it. His track record shows that he could possibly do the same this year. You should be able to get Kennedy for cheap and he might be the player that puts your team in the top of your league.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS SP ANDY PETTITTE OUT 2 MONTHS WITH BROKEN ANKLE

A bad day got a whole lot worse for the New York Yankees as SP Andy Pettitte will beo ut the next two months after suffering a broken ankle when hti by a comebacker in Wednesday's outing.  Pettitte joins ace C.C. Sabbathia on the DL who went there with a groin strain earlier.  No word on how the Yankeses will fill the rotation spots.

Analysis:  Wow did the Yankees have a rough Wednesday.  Pettitte's loss is big since he had been pitching so well in showcasing the highest K rate of his career.  The fact he won't return until the end of August means you can cut him loose.  Look for the Yankees to be heavily involved with trading for the Chicago Cubs' Matt Garza after this.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: DODGERS OUTFIELDER ANDRE ETHIER EXITS GAME WITH INJURED HAND

Dodgers' outfielder Andre Ethier has left today's Giants-Dodgers game early with an apparent hand injury. He slid into second base awkwardly following a walk in the first inning.

Analysis: This is a killer for the Dodgers. First Matt Kemp and now possibly Ethier? If this turns into a serious injury, I expect Los Angeles to make a move to acquire a power bat right away. Stay tuned this could be ugly.

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: IKE DAVIS 1B NEW YORK METS

To say that Ike Davis has had a rough last year and a half baseball-wise would be the understatement of of 2012.  After earning a prime fantasy baseball sleeper label heading into the 2011 season on the heels of a 2010 rookie season of 19 home runs with 71 RBI to go with a .264 average, Davis was a man in heavy demand for those owners looking for possibly the next great power hitting first baseman.  It certianly looked like Davis would be the rare youngster to live up to the hype early last season as he started off on a tear that had him showcasing a .302 average to go with 7 home runs and a 25 RBI, with the latter stat being right up at the top of the majors.  Than the "pop up" happened and everything came crashing down on Davis, with things continuing to spiral out of control through the early portions of 2012.  Of course I am referring to the pop fly that caused Davis and 3B David Wright to collide one early May game in Colorado which caused the Mets 1B to suffer what was originally termed a mild ankle sprain.  The team would say that night that Davis was "day-to-day" and that he could be back in the lineup in a week.  Soon it was summer as Davis still had not returned to the lineup as the Mets admitted the injury was worse than they first thought but they still insisted he would return for the home stretch.  Of course September arrived and still not Davis as he wound up unbelievably missing the remainder of 2011, completely washing out what was shaping up as a true breakout season.

Despite the mysterfying way Davis' ankle injury was handled, he remained on the radar of fantasy baseball owners to a large degree as drafts soon began this past winter.  Davis was drafted in the middle rounds, with these same owners believing that he would pick up with where he left off that fateful May day when he got hurt his ankle.  Unfortunately for Davis, there would be nothing but more setbacks, what with him being diagnosed with Valley Fever Syndrome in spring training (the same disease that ruined the career of former Arizona 1B Conor Jackson) and even though he proclaimed himself to be feeling great (with no more pain in his ankle), Davis began the season in horrendous fashion by hitting only .185 in April with 3 home runs, which was followed by an even worse .154 with 2 home runs May.  Thus Davis was cast aside in the majority of fantasy baseball leagues he was owned, being chalked up as just another flash in the pan youngster who failed to take the next step in his development. 

It is at this point where I like to go back and revisit something I wrote about at the end of that awful May.  I am referring to a post I wrote detailing how despite the miserable numbers from that Davis to that point, these owners should still have some patience for the guy and that a payoff would come soon.  My rationale in all of this was the fact that Davis was still a very raw major league player, who basically missed an entire season (2011) of precious development time.  To have that kind of extended stoppage in play for such a young player, especially a home run hitter, would no doubt stunt his growth in the short term and that there had to be a realization that some struggles would ensue as Davis tried to find his stroke again.  The Valley Fever issue didn't help either and so we had April and May as proof positive of this theory. 

It was at the end of May however where Davis began to look like a different player.  He was no longer out in front of everything or guessing at the plate.  He was starting to make solid contact and drive the ball.  Davis was finally growing comfortable hitting major league pitching again and the results would soon bear this out.  Fast forward to present day (June 27th as of this writing) and for the month Davis is hitting .243 with 5 home runs and 16 RBI.  Sure the average is still ugly but the 5 home runs are right in line with what Davis was doing before his originaly ankle injury and is a 30-HR pace.  The 16 RBI is even more impressive becasue it shows that Davis is hitting in the clutch and making the most of his opportunities.  The fact he is within 5 RBI of the scorching hot all season David Wright tells you how solid he has been lately there.  Its obvious that Davis is closer to the player he was once was than the sloppy hitter he was.  I firmly believe the best is yet to come when it comes to Davis and his production and its best you get in on this before the rest of your league catches on.  The results could be tremendous for your club.

Overall, I think there is a great chance Davis can hit 15 home runs the rest of the season to go along with around 30-40 RBI.  That would put him at 25 home runs with 80-plus RBI which is not that far off what was originally expected of him.  The average is a lost cause for this season due to the horrible start he had there but Davis is not a .200 hitter.  He strikes out too much to approach .300 like he did in early 2011 but Davis no doubt can hit .265 to go along with the home and runs and all the RBI that go with it.  Those in need of some pop would do good in adding Davis for the remainder of the year and he would look real good in the UTIL or CI slot.  Its all about capitalizing on when a player gets hot and Davis is that kind of hitter at this point.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: YANKEES SP ANDY PETTITTE FORCED OUT OF START WEDNESDAY AFTER GETTING HIT WITH LINER

New York Yankees SP Andy Pettitte was forced out of his start Wednesday in the fifth inning after taking a liner off his left leg.  No word yet on the severity of the injury but Pettittie is currently heading for tests.

Analysis:  Bad day to be a Yankees starter after C.C. Sabbathia was already placed on the DL with a groin strain.  Pettitte has been fantastic since coming out of retirement wit hthe best K rate of his entire career but this bears watching.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: PHILLIES ACTIVATE 2B CHASE UTLEY (KNEE) FROM DL WEDNESDAY

The Philadelphia Phillies finally activated 2B Chase Utley from the DL Wednesday after he missed the entire 2012 season to this point with ongoing knee problems.  Utley has been plagued by knee injuries the last three seasons and admits the joint will alwasy give him problems.  Still he hit two home runs during his rehab assignment despite a .189 average and will start immediately.

Analysis:  Utley is being held together with tape at this point in his career and he is going to be far from the star he was for many years.  The stolen bases are likely gone for good but Utley could probably still hit for enough power to stay useable. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKEES PLACE SP C.C. SABBATHIA ON DL WITH GROIN STRAIN

The New York Yankees placed ace SP C.C. Sabbathia on the 15-day DL retroactive to June 25th with a left groin strain.  Sabbathia suffered the injury during the fourth inning of his start last Sunday but stayed in the game.  He was officially diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain.  Sabbathia is expected to return right after the All Star Break.

Analysis:  This is big news for the fact that is is the alwasy durable Sabbathia who lands on the DL for the first time since his early Indians days.  This is not a major issue and he is certainly going to come back after the minimum unless he suffers some sort of setback.  While his numbers haven't been as great as they have been in the past, Sabbathia remains a fantasy baseball ace.

2012 FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT BUST: JAMAAL CHARLES RB KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

What a difference a year makes.  That about sums it up when it comes to the 2012 fantasy football outlook of Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles who a year ago was the must have superstar-in-waiting that owners were tripping over themselves to get a hold of.  One terribly blown out knee later and Charles finds himself in a situation where he is not looked at as a number 1 running back anymore and is likely to go from being a top five pick to one who could be had as late as round 5.  The backfield in Kansas City has also changed during the year that Charles was one the shelf and when combined with questions about how quickly he can come all the way back from the knee injury, its clear to see why we have labeled him as the first 2012 Fantasy Football Draft Bust.

The real shame of it all when it came to Jamaal Charles last season is that we truly were on the verge of seeing a season not unlike anything we had witnessed before since maybe Barry Sanders.  That's how breathtakingly awesome a runner Charles was before he got hurt as ripped off seasons of 1,120 and 1,467 rushing yards while getting fewer carries than Thomas Jones.  So electric was Charles in 2010 that he gained those 1,467 yards in only 230 carries which is truly an amazing stat.  Throw in 45 catches for 468 yards and Charles was a monster force in both PPR and standard leagues.  Heading into 2011, Jones was sent packing and the Chiefs were finally prepared to give Charles the lion's share of carries for the first time in his career and visions of 2,000 rushing yards were aboslutely a possibility.  Than Charles proceeds to run out of bounds in Game 2 against the Detroit Lions and slips on the first down marker which exploded the ligaments in his knee and ended his season before he even got going.  It was a season-killer for a tremendous amount of the Charles owners out there and there was nothing else to do but to cut him and move on from the pain.

With the long rehabilitation process getting underway, the Chiefs made sure to cover themselves when it came to the running back position during free agency as they signed former NFL Madden cover boyand 2010 fantasy football breakout star Peyton Hillis as insurance.  Despite having a terrible 2011 himself due to injuries and fighting with the Cleveland Browns' front office, Hillis still proved himself to be a weapon in both the running and receiving game in 2010 and thus earn the Madden cover photo.  The immediate expectation was that Hillis and Charles would split carries once the 2012 season arrived, especially the first few weeks in order not to overwork Charles and his repaired knee.  That doesn't even bring in the fact of Charles possibly not being ready to go once Week 1 arrives due to the fact he is still rehabbing as of this writing.  Also even if he does make it back in time, the common theme when it comes to this type of knee injury is that it usually takes an entire season before a runner gets his burst back and becomes his old self.  That means the Charles you will see in 2012 is not going to be anything like the one we saw before his knee went out.  Combined with the fact that Hillis is going to eat into a decent portion of his workload like during the Thomas Jones days and you can easily see why Charles is not really worth playing around with this season in fantasy football unless you get him for a great bargain price in your draft. 

All in all, Jamaal Charles is a guy who just is not going to be worth the trouble that comes with owning him.  Questions about how he will come back from such a terrible injury and playing time issues all make him a shaky option to use as one of your two running backs.  In fact Hillis himself might even have the more valuable season that will Charles so it would really be a nice idea if you avoided him altogether this season.

2012 PROJECTION:  1,018 yards 4 TD 35 catches 3 TD

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: D-BACKS SP DANIEL HUDSON EXITS WITH FOREARM PAIN

The awful 2012 season for Arizona Diamondbacks SP Daniel Hudson just got worse on Tuesday as he left his start with forearm tightness.  Hudson has already spent a decent stint on the DL this season with arm trouble and has pitched terrible when he has been out on the mound.  He will head for tests on the area an a diagnosis will be made quickly.

Anlaysis:  Not good.  It all comes back to Hudson being a Verducci Rules violator in 2011 as all his arm trouble surely has come from that issue.  He should have been cut a long time ago which is a shame because the guy has some really good stuff.  The pain in his forearm could be a precursor for Tommy John surgery so things could actually be getting worse for Hudson this season.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RED SOX OUTFIELDER JACOBY ELLSBURY (SHOULDER) TO BEGIN REHAB GAMES FRIDAY

Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will begin playing in rehab games on Friday as he finally gets close to returning to the team after missing almost the entire 2012 season to this point with a dislocated shoulder.  Ellsbury is likely to need a week of rehab games before he will be activated by Boston but he is than expected to be placed in the leadoff spot.

Analysis:  Finally.  For Ellsbury owners, its been a ridiculously long wait for him to get back.  His dislocated shoulder was the first major injury of the 2012 season and he return will be a major boost to his owners.  He may not steal many bases right away as he protects the shoulder but eventually Ellsbury should be back to being the top 10 force he was before he got hurt.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RANGERS PLACE SP COLBY LEWIS ON DL WITH FOREARM SORENESS

Texas Rangers SP Colby Lewis was placed on the DL Tuesaday due to tendinitis in his right forearm.  Scott Feldman will start in his place on Thursday.

Analysis:  Lewis has quietly been a very good fantasy baseball pitcher this season, with the occasional blowup thrown in.  He is not expected to be out much beyond the 15 day minimum on the DL and should be stashed until he returns.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: DODGERS AIM FOR OUTFIELDER MATT KEMP (HAMSTRING) TO RETURN AROUND ALL-STAR BREAK

The Los Angeles Dodgers are fully expecting outfielder Matt Kemp to return to the lineup sometime around the All Star break from the hamstring injury that has kept him on the DL for a good chunk of the season.  Kemp has already begun rehabbing after going back on the DL with a recurrence of the injury and despite feeling some discomfort, has vowed to be ready soon.

Analysis:  This is great news for Kemp owners who no doubt are feeling anxious to get him back into their lineups.  His loss is as big as it gets and the real shame is that he was on pace for a ridiculous season before he got hurt. 

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: ADAM DUNN 1B/OF CHICAGO WHITE SOX

In the long, illustrious history of Major League Baseball, there may not have been a single worst hitting season than what Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn produced in 2011 after signing a rich four-year contract in free agency with the club.  After being the supreme home run hitter in the majors for the better part of a decade, it appeared as if Dunn became an old man overnight as he compiled a you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it horror who of a season when he hit .159 with a grand total of 11 home runs in 415 at-bats.  This after going from spacious Washington Nationals ballpark to Chicago's home run launching pad.  Even Dunn's most loyal fantasy baseball owners were completely put off by what he did in 2011 and so when the 2012 drafting season came around, there was little love to be found anywhere for his services. 

Fast forward to the end of June and as Dunn has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is not to be kicked to the curb yet and given up on as a big time fantasy baseball power hitter due to the fact he currently stands at a total of 23 home runs with 53 RBI and 42 runs scored which are all near the top in their respective categories.  Of course those wonderful numbers are joined by an ungodly poor .212 batting average but that part of his game unfortunately has become an accepted part of the Dunn package.  So with the All Star break coming fast, now is a great time to dig a bit deeper on Dunn the player in order to determine where he goes from here and if he can keep it up the rest of the way.  Let's find out.

In looking back to 2011 and how it went so horribly wrong for Dunn, a few things stand out.  The first is that Dunn admittedly came back too soon from an appendicitis which came early in the season as he tried to adjust to hitting in a new league and a new home ballpark.  Going from being a lifetime National League hitter, Dunn had to learn on the fly a whole new batch of pitchers, while losing time from his health issues.  Also despite going to a great home run park, there is still an adjustment period for any hitter going to a new locale and Dunn was no different in needing to find his equilibrium there.  So combined altogether, its easy to see how Dunn could have gotten off to such a rotten start and than had it snowball from there. 

The 2012 season brought the chance for a new start for Dunn and with the White Sox owing him so much money, he no doubt was going to get the chance to right the ship to his career.  That is exactly what he has done as Dunn went right back to being the without peer home run hitter we all knew him to be.  Despite the fact his batting average continues to be a major liability, Dunn extreme power and walk rate have ballooned his home runs, runs, and RBI.  During his best seasons, Dunn would hit 40 home runs to go with 100 runs and 100 RBI and he is on pace to do that once again this season which has thrust him right back to being a very good fantasy baseball asset.  On top of that, Dunn also re-gained outfield eligibility to go with first base due to interleague play which of course is very valuable. 

So what about that .212 average?  Ugly no doubt about it and the fact Dunn is slipping there from even the .250 he used to hit is no doubt due to age.  This is who he is and you have to accept the one bad to go along with the three good.  That is a nice tradeoff for his fantasy baseball owners if they have a solid string of .300 hitters to help minimize the damage there. 

Overall, Adam Dunn has absolutely salvaged his career and his standing as a fantasy baseball force.  He should continue to be played everyday, especially in this day and age of pitching dominance.  At 34 years old, Dunn still has a few good seasons left in him and fantasy baseball owners should no doubt take advantage of it.

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: MONDAY

Jimmy Rollins:  2/5 with his 8th HR while hitting .268.  I think Rollins is a reader of the site as he seems to be doing whatever he can to take the dirt I have already dumped on his grave and in turn shove it back in my face.  Unbowed, in these types of cases you have to look at the big picture and see that despite being on a nice hot streak, Rollins is still an aging, injury prone player who can screw you at a moment's notice.

Joe Blanton:  7 IP 7 H 2 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 4.87.  I really don't have to tell you not to pick him do I?  Do I?

Robinson Cano:  2/4 with his 17th HR while hitting .303.  Yes this guy hit another home run.  Remember at the end of his cold spell when I told he would need to really get raging hot to reach the hallowed 30-HR mark for the first time?  I think we need to come up with a word that is more impressive than RAGING as far as what Cano is right now.

Nick Swisher:  1/4 with his 12th HR while hitting .268.  Swisher is one of the easier guys to forecast each season in that you can throw down .260 with 25 home runs and take it to the bank.

Colby Rasmus:  3/5 with his 14th HR while hitting .268.  Rasmus is clearly starting to put it all together now and has a shot at making the AL All Star team.  Of course if he played in the NL, he would have no chance as good old sparring partner Tony LaRussa is this year's manager.

Jose Bautista:  1/5 with his 24th HR while hitting .237.  On an on it goes for Bautista who along with Robinson Cano seems to have a permanent "HR" attached to his name each game. 

David Ortiz:  2/3 with 2 home runs (20 for season) while hitting .304.  If you can get the memory of his past steroid abuse out of your mind, you would see that Ortiz is just as good now as when he first broke in with the Red Sox after washing out with the Twins.  But than again he went from being washed up to being a stud seemingly overnight by.......oh nevermind.

Norichika Aoki:  1/3 with his fourth HR while hitting .280.  Holy crap I was totally shocked to see that Aoki now is up to four home runs and 9 stolen bases.  Shin-Soo Choo comparison anyone outside of their heritage?  I'll say.

Mat Latos:  9 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 13 K with an ERA of 4.77.  Good Mat now let's see you do it again....than again....and than one more time all in a row before I think you are anything but an inconsistent headcase.

Yadier Molina:  2/6 with his 11th HR while hitting .319.  Molina and Buster Posey are having a very spirited battle over the status of being the top catcher in the game for next season.  Which one would you have laughed at being in that discussion back in April?

Josh Hamilton:  1/4 with his 23rd HR while hitting .318.  He is still having an awesome season but Hamilton certainly has cooled off a bit once the calendar turned to May. 

Ike Davis:  1/4 with his 9th HR while hitting .191.  We Like Ike a whole bunch right now.  Granted his average still sucks but he is up to 37 RBI with the 9 bombs.  If the average (and it should) climbs to .240 by July 15th, than this whole package looks a lot more inviting. 

Mike Moustakas:  1/4 with his 2nd SB while hitting .280.  I didn't do a wrapup yesterday but if I did Moustakas would have been one of the leads after he hit 12 home runs.  He has has a .280 average to go with the bombs and even two steals thrown in.  I would say he has developed quite nicely.  In fact the aging third base position (Aramis Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez), which is also the most injury prone position on the field the last few seasons has now mercifully added two young sluggers to help shape the future there in Moustakas in Willie Middlebrooks.

Eric Hosmer:  2/4 with his 9th HR while hitting .218.  Too late for me as I finally cut the guy last night for Middlebrooks.  You can't wait forever.  Now I fully expect Hosmer to hit .300 with 15 home runs the rest of the way just to torment me even more.

Alex Cobb:  8 ER in 8 IP with a 4.73 ERA.  Strange line for Cobb with the all those earned runs in so many innings pitched.  Either way this is why I told you not to go in on him off his last start.

Jarod Burton:  scoreless ninth for his second save in two days with an ERA of 2.90.  Of course after Glen Perkins gets the first two saves after Matt Capps went out and we all go and pick him up, in comes Burton to screw things up.  He is a righty however and so I should have seen that one coming.  Pick him up people and don't ask questions anymore. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RED SOX SP JOSH BECKETT (SHOUDLER) THROWS BP SESSION MONDAY

Boston Red Sox SP Josh Beckett threw a bullpen session on Monday without any issues and ims to return from the injured shoulder that landed him on the DL when the 15 days are through.

Analysis:  Becket has pitched all right this season despite a continuing drop in his K rate.  He can blow up at a monent's notice though so he is not one to totally depend on other than as a third starter or less.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: BREWERS SP SHAUN MARCUM STILL COMPLAINING OF ELBOW SORENESS

Milwaukee Brewers SP Shaun Marcum is still experiencing soreness in his pitching elbow, a week-plus after landing on the DL because of it.  Manager Ned Yost said Marcum will be shut down for the time being in order to get whatever is ailing him out of the region.

Analysis:  Not good.  Marcum is looking at long road back at this point and that's a loss for his fantasy baseball owners since he has been so dependable as a third starter the last four seasons.  Hold onto him for a bit longer but if the news gets worse than let him go.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: TIGERS CATCHER ALEX AVILA OUT OF MONDAY'S LINEUP WITH SORE KNEE

Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila apparently suffered some sort of setback with his previously injured knee as he is out of Monday's lineup with soreness in the joint.  Avila had just come off the DL after injuring the knee and manager Jim Leyland said in his pregame address Monday that is it a "red flag."

Analysis:  That doesn't sound good at all.  Avila has not come anywhere close to the production he had last season which is partly because his average regressed after getting a ton of BABIP help in 2011 and injuries have hampered his other stats.  By now you probably have a replacement for him anyway due ot all the missed time this season.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: METS 1B IKE DAVIS (FOOD POISONING) BACK IN LINEUP MONDAY

New York Mets 1B Ike Davis is back in the lineup Monday after missing the last two games with food poisoning.

Analysis:  Davis has really come on since the calendar turned to June and amazingly he is second on the Mets with 36 RBI despite an average that has rested below .200 all season.  The power is legit and the best is yet to come so Davis would be a smart play for your CI or UTIL spot if you need a home run boost.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: REDS ACTIVATE OUTFIELDER DREW STUBBS (OBLIQUE) FROM DL

The Cincinnati Reds activated outfielder Drew Stubbs from the 15-day DL on Monday and inserted him in that night's lineup.  Stubbs had been on the DL for the minimun stay with a strained oblique muscle.

Analysis:  Stubbs continues to do some nice things in fantasy baseball, with stolen bases, runs, and some home runs being his best assets.  Unfortunately some of that gain is taken away with his disgusting batting average due to an Adam Dunn-like strikeout rate.

FANTASY BASEBALL WELCOME TO THE SHOW: TREVOR BAUER SP ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

By now the news has already sunk in that 2012's number 1 pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been called up to the big club and will make his first start on Thursday.  Along the lines of when Tim Lincecum and Stephen Strasburg will first called up, Bauer's promotion is as big a news item as any callup this season by far when it comes to fantasy baseball impact.  So with Bauer likely staying up in the majors for the remainder of 2012 and beyond, now is the perfect time to take a closer look at him as a pitcher in order to determine what kind of impact he might have for fantasy baseball purposes.

Looking at Bauer's 2012 minor league numbers (8 Double-A, 7 Triple-A starts), there is no doubt that they jump off the page when it comes to the level of dominance he has shown.  Bauer put up a collective ERA of 2.19 to go along with an astounding 111 strikeouts in 90-plus innings.  The extreme K rate and minuscule ERA stand out big time and along those lines, Bauer fell right in with what Lincecum and Strasburg were doing while in the minors.  Hence the easiest portion of his major league potential stat line to predict would be the strikeouts as Bauer should earn a healthy dose of those, especially pitching in the always weak NL West.  The ERA should also land in the mid-3.00 range at its worst and could even turn out lower than that due to the extreme stuff he brings to the table.  So clearly Bauer is a guy who can immediately be a number 3 starter and perhaps a number 2 if things break right.

There are two potential negatives however with Bauer going forward and the first are his tendency to give up walks which will hurt him much more at the major league level than when he was throwing in the minors.  Bauer put up a walk rate of over 4.00/9 IP which is very poor territory and could cause him to leave starts early due to a high pitch count.  That leads me into the second negative which is the fact that D-Backs brass are going to treat Bauer with kid gloves as they haven't allowed him to throw more than 100 pitches in any start this season which surely won't change after his promotion.  Also Bauer is scheduled to throw only about 175 innings total this season which means he is already past the halfway point where that is concerned.  We could only be looking at another two months of Bauer usage before he is shut down and fatigue could also hurt him later on.  However Bauer's new owners are not even thinking of that right now as they are pumped just to have him on the roster. 

All in all, I think Trevor Bauer will be an asset while he is pitching with the D-Backs and his high K and low hit rate along scream future star.  The walks could get him into some jams however and a comparison to someone like a Matt Moore wouldn't be too much of a stretch.  There is also the chance of instant greatness however as we saw with Lincecum and Strasburg and so that will make this one story to keep close tabs on as we go through the summer months and into the fall if he is still on the hill.

FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF WITH DAN ZITO: PICK UP DILLON GEE AS YOUR FIFTH STARTER

Dillon Gee has a 4.27 ERA this season for the Mets, but that does not not accurately reflect his performance this season. Gee, typically known as a ground-ball/fly-ball pitcher, has increased his K/9 ratio this year to 8.2. He has also sharply reduced his walk rate, having a BB/9 ratio of 2.5. He has induced more ground balls this year and starting to really come into his own as a pitcher. He is anchoring the Mets rotation and is providing quality innings. There is a strong chance that he is available in your league because not many baseball fans know who he is. If you need a pitcher who can give you innings and decent strikeout numbers, I'd get Gee.

FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF WITH DAN ZITO: KEVIN YOUKILIS SHOULD RE-CLAIM FANTASY BASEBALL VALUE IN CHICAGO

Kevin Youkilis has officially been traded to the White Sox (see my earlier post.) He has been awful this season and has killed fantasy owners who have him. He hasn't really been able to stay on the field either, who is obviously not good. Now that he is with Chicago, he will be playing with big hitters like Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn. That will certainly give him more protection in the lineup and he will most likely end up seeing better pitches to hit. Assuming he stays healthy (big risk), he will receieve a lot of playing time, which will most likely lead to a consistent amount of hits. I've never been a big Youkilis fan, but give him credit, he gets on base. People call him "The Greek God of Walks" for a reason. He is certainly a guy I'd take a flier on, and his value is extremely low right now. So if he is on the waiver wire in your league, I'd jump all over him.

If you'd like to see my post earlier today breaking down the Youkilis trade, click here

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: ASTROS 2B JOSE ALTUVE (HAMSTRING) NOT IN MONDAY'S LINEUP

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is not in the lineup Monday after straining his hamstring during Sunday's game.  Altuve hurt the hamstring running out a ground ball on Sunday and was immediately removed from the game.

Analysis:  Altuve has had a nice season at second base for the Astros with his .300 average and nice collection of steals.  He is 50/50 to land on the DL since hamstrings are a tough injury to recover from. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: CUBS OFFICIALLY CALL UP 1B ANTHONY RIZZO

The Chicago Cubs officially called up 1B Anthony Rizzo from the minor leagues Monday and will place him in Tuesday's lineup.  Rizzo has destroyed Triple-A pitching this season with a .345 average and 23 home runs and will quickly take aim at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

Analysis:  Yes Rizzo bombed out in his trial run with the Padres last season but he clearly was not ready at that point.  He has been the best hitter in the minors by far this season and has a great chance to hit around 15 home runs with a .300 average the rest of the way.  A must add in all formats. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: TWINS PLACE CLOSER MATT CAPPS (SHOULDER) ON 15-DAY DL

The Minnesota Twins placed closer Matt Capps on the 15-day DL Monday with a right shoulder injury.  Capps has not pitched since the middle of last week with soreness in the shoudler and Glen Perkins will continue to earn saves in his place.

Analysis:  Not a shock since Capps failed his bullpen session Sunday.  Perkins has converted both save chances he has gotten since Capps went out and he figures to be the guy to own despite being a lefty.  Pick him up in all leagues.

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: TIME FOR TYLER CLIPPARD TO SHINE

Its been a very busy week once again when it comes to the ninth inning and the realm of the fantasy baseball closer.  Let's get right to all the happenings in Closing Time.

-The biggest news of the week was the fact that Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson proclaimed Tyler Clippard his closer for the remainder of the season even when Drew Storen returns.  It was assumed all along that Storen would be the closer when he returned from his elbow injury, especially when you consider the fact he was so good in the role last season as a rookie.  However Johnson no doubt was swayed by the fact Clippard has converted all 12 of his save opportunities since inheriting the job from an ineffective Henry Rodriguez which is not a surprise since he has been quite possibly the most dominant setup man in the game the last three seasons.  Clippard always had the stuff that screamed out "next top closer" and now he is finally getting his chance.   There is little debate that he will continue to succeed in the role and in the end could very well wind up being a top five guy for 2013 at this rate.  As far as Storen is concerned, he has zero value and should be cut altogether. 

-In other news, Minnesota Twins closer Matt Capps could be on the DL with his shoulder issues by the time you read this.  After being told that he would be back Friday, and than Saturday, manager Ron Gardenhire admitted Sunday that Capps' throwing session did not go well and that he is back to "square 1."  That means Glen Perkins will continue closing games, which he was 2/2 on as of this writing.  Perkins is a good add as he has pitched well the last two seasons and has the good K rate needed to do a nice job in the gig.

-The New York Mets placed closer Frank Francisco on the DL Sunday night with a strained oblique and will go with Bobby Parnell to finish games in his absence.  Francisco was having his typical up and down season but had been pretty good over the last month until hurting the oblique working out Saturday.  It didn't improve by game time Sunday night and so the move was made.  Parnell bombed in a trial run at closer at the end of last season but he has been very good in 2012 in averaging a K/IP.  However he still puts too many men on base and questions also still remain about whether he has the mind for finishing games.  Pick him up since saves are still tough to come by but I am a bit leery on how he will do.
-Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde was deemed all right to return to pitching Sunday and so Joaquin Benoit's tenure as closer resulted in one win and no saves. 

-Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge said last week that Brandon League was going to get his closing job back "real soon."  Well Tom Wilhelmsen didn't get the memo as he continued with his dominant pitching and thus made it impossible for Wedge to remove him from the role.  In fact Wilhelmsen had yet to give up an earned run since becoming the closer and so his leash gets longer by the day.

There you have it.  As always check back for more closer changes as we go through the week.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSING NEWS: BOBBY PARNELL TO CLOSE IF FRANK FRANCISCO (QUAD) LANDS ON DL

New York Mets manager Terry Collins indicated Sunday that Bobby Parnell would close if Frank Francisco was placed on the DL due to the recent quad injury he suffered.  Francisco is not available for the second straight game Sunday due to the injury and a decision will be made before gametime as to whether to place him on the DL.

Analysis:  Its not looking good for Francisco to avoid the DL and so Parnell immediately becomes a person of interest.  He bombed when given a chance to close last season but has been money in 2012 with a high K rate.  Pick him up if you have a need for saves.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: D-BACKS TO PROMOTE TREVOR BAUER "ANY DAY NOW"

The Arizona Diamondbacks have set in motion the promotion of one of the most hyped pitching prospects in the game as they pulled him after only 2 2/3 innings Sunday.  There is also an immediate need in the rotation as Joe Saunders is headed to the DL.  Those in know say it will surely be "any day now" that Bauer will be promoted.

Analysis:  Like with Anthony Rizzo, run right over to the waiver wire and add Bauer immediately.  He has put up crazy strikeouts totals in the minors and despite a propensity to walk a bunch of batters, there is universal agreement that he is going to be a star soon. 

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: WILLIE MIDDLEBROOKS 3B BOSTON RED SOX

By the time you read, the Boston Red Sox will most likely have traded longtime 3B Kevin Youkilis for a package of baseballs as their longtime marriage is beyond repair due to the fading skills of their former World Series hero.  The benefactor in all of this is rookie 3B Willie Middlebrooks who has done nothing but hit since he got called up earlier this season in place of an injured Youkilis and thus made it impossible for the team to take him off the field.  In fact he has played so well that the Red Sox moved ahead in moving out Youkilis who was once one of the most popular players on the team.  So in our latest Fantasy Baseball Status Report, we dig into the great debut season of Middlebrooks in order to determine where he goes from here and what kid of numbers he may be able to end up with.

First let's take a look at Middlebrooks' stats through Sunday's games:

.331 average
9 home runs
33 RBI
23 runs
2 steals

Those numbers are incredibly impressive, especially concerning the fact Middlebrooks has played all of two months at the major league level.  There is no doubt the kid has a powerful stick and the fact he now will be guaranteed everyday playing time makes him even more a desirable fantasy baseball commodity. 

Now let's break down the numbers some.  As far as batting average is concerned, Middlebrooks is certainly not a .331 hitter and maybe not even a .300 one.  He has benefited from quite a lucky BABIP in that department so far this season and his high K rate (37 strikeouts in 142 at-bats) will make it tough for him to hit .300 unless he gets that number in order.  With regards to the power however, Middlebrooks is absolutely legit as he mashed at the minor league level and has done nothing but hit with pop since his Red Sox debut.  At this pace, Middlebrooks can wind up with 25 home runs this season, especially since he is hitting in such a nice ballpark.  The RBI's will arrive with the dingers and 80 RBI is likely as well if he keeps this up.  Finally, Middlebrooks has nice speed and stole a decent amount of bases in the minor leagues.  Yes he only has two so far but he should be able to garner some more as the season goes on.  He very well could be a 15 steal guy once he gets comfortable in that portion of his game which would enhance his standing even more than it already is.

All in all, I absolutely am smitten with Willie Middlebrooks the player as his power and RBI talent alone makes him one to get a hold of for your this base spot.  He is only scratching the surface of his potential and in short order he could be knocking on the door of being a top five third baseman as soon as next season.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: A'S PLACE SP BRANDON MCCARTHY (SHOUDLER) BACK ON DL

The Oakland A's placed SP Brandon McCarthy back on the DL Sunday with ongoing shoulder soreness.  McCarthy's DL stint was backdated to June 20 which was the first start he made since coming off the DL the first time with the same shoulder ailment.

Analysis:  Don't count on seeing McCarthy for awhile as clearly he was not over the shoulder injury which put him on the DL in the first place.  He has been a very solid SP 4 or 5 in non-innings capped leagues but his lack of strikeouts keeps him from being anything more than that at this point.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: ASTROS 2B JOSE ALTUVE EXITS WITH LEG INJURY

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Alvuve was forced out of Sunday's game with an apparent leg injury.  Altuve suffered the injury after running out a ground ball and went to the dugout for testing.

Analysis:  Altuve has been one of the better rookie hitters in fantasy baseball this season with a .300 average to go with a bunch of stolen bases and a few home runs.  Stay tuned for updates.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RED SOX PLACE SP CLAY BUCHHOLZ ON DL WITH INTESTINAL ILLNESS

The Red Sox have placed pitcher Clay Buchholz on the 15 day DL because he is dealing with intestinal bleeding.

Buchholz hasn't pitched since Tuesday night against the Marlins. Buchholz has started 14 games this season and is 8-2 with a 5.53 ERA.

Analysis: Another trip to the disabled list for Buchholz, ho-hum. Buchholz has had a so-so season thus far and has been better lately. He's been getting very good run support and is not deserving of those 8 wins. If you own him in fantasy, I think it may be time to give up on him. He is extremely inconsistent and has a lot of trouble staying healthy.

2012 FANTASY FOOTBALL POSITION RANKINGS: DEFENSE

Like with kickers, I strongly suggest you not fall into the trap of taking a defense anywhere other than in the last two or three picks of your draft.  With free agency, injuries, and coaching changes clouding the picture on this side of the ball every season, there is little dependability when it comes to who is going to be very good and who is going to be very shaky.  So again just so we have something to look at, here is how I see the defensive units shaping up with the season still months away.

1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. New York Giants
5. Houston Texans
6. Green Bay Packers
7. Philadelphia Eagles
8. New York Jets
9. Chicago Bears
10. Seattle Seahawks
11. New England Patriots
12. Detroit Lions
13. Denver Broncos
14. Arizona Cardinals
15. Buffalo Bills
16. Dallas Cowboys
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Kansas City Chiefs
19. Miami Dolphins
20. Atlanta Falcons