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.
The free agent wires get barer and barer as the season progresses. That makes every move at this point of the season more and more important. Make sure you’re the one grabbing the right guy off the scrap heap, not putting the big get back onto the waiver wire. Here are some guys that could be steals for the final 100 games of the season:
1. Russell Martin, C, NYY: No, picking a guy who just homered twice (including a walkoff) to trend upwards isn’t exactly going out on a limb, but Martin was on his way to this spot before Sunday’s action. He’s been on fire for the past two weeks, hitting .343 with four home runs and 10 RBI. It was only a matter of time until his batting average caught up to his power production – even with his slump through April and much of May, he owns a .432 slugging percentage and is up to eight home runs on the season. He can hit .250 for the rest of the season, and that will easily carry his power production given his premium catcher eligibility.
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI: The key to a rising Goldschmidt stock is if he could play well enough to force Lyle Overbay out of the equation. If the past month (.349, 6 HR, 11 RBI) or even more so the past two weeks (.439, 5 HR, 9 RBI) haven’t convinced Arizona management, it’s hard to imagine what will. Chances are Goldschmidt isn’t available in your leagues, but if you’re one of his owners, it’s time to start giving him starts with confidence – the power that was so enticing last season is starting to show up.
3. Phil Hughes, SP, NYY: April Phil Hughes: five home runs in 16 innings, a 1-3 record and a 7.88 ERA. Non-April Phil Hughes: 10 home runs in 52 innings, a 5-2 record and a 3.81 ERA. The changing of the months don’t bring about magical transformations in pitchers, but Hughes has somewhat reined in his home run problem. It’s still bad – his post-April 1.73 HR/9 is awful, but it’s a far sight better than his 2.81 mark from the season’s first month. With the ball somewhat in the yard, Hughes can pick up wins behind the fantastic Yankees offense and his strikeout totals (63 in 68 innings) are very good as well.
4. Casey Janssen, RP, TOR: Janssen’s stay in the closer’s role could get a bit longer, as Sergio Santos felt discomfort in his most recent throwing session. Janssen has been very solid, with five saves without a failure since taking over the role in May. He owns an even 4.0 K/BB on the season and has had his job secured further by Francisco Cordero’s failures this season (5.70 ERA, four losses against two saves). The job is Santos’s upon his return, but the setback could present the opportunity for some cheap saves for the next month or so from Janssen.
5. Torii Hunter, OF, LAA: Hunter missed a good deal of time dealing with legal issues surrounding his son. Upon his return, Hunter has scorched the ball, hitting .324 with four home runs, 10 runs scored and 10 RBI over the past two weeks. The presence of Mike Trout threatens Peter Bourjos far more than it does Hunter, and Hunter should remain a top-200 player for the rest of the season. Many owners seem to have gotten impatient with Hunter – even with his hot streak, his own rate in Yahoo is under 50% – so he could be a source of cheap power and speed.
This late in the season, the “down” candidates might simply require benchings, some may require shopping, and some may require outright dropping, but either way these five are trending in the wrong direction at this point.
1. Yonder Alonso, 1B, SDP: It’s virtually impossible for left-handed hitters to hit for power at PETCO Park. Alonso has taken that to heart, with a .263/.361/.360 line at home this season. The odd part is the once-regarded lefty can’t seem to slug away from home either, as he’s actually been worse on the road, hitting just .258/.310/.344. Alonso was considered something of a fringe prospect when Cincinnati traded him away anyway, and at age 25 he’s making it clear why.
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS: Pedroia suffered a thumb injury recently but has decided to play through the pain rather than sit out for a DL stint. This is almost worse news for fantasy owners – Pedroia is 2-for-20 since returning and the gritting-out-the-injury slump is nothing new from him. Don’t be surprised if Pedroia either continues to slump or has to hit the DL anyway. Not that there’s much a Pedroia owner can do – he shouldn’t be dropped and chances are you’ll get lowballed in a trade – but it might be prudent to find a suitable backup if one isn’t already on your roster.
3. Alcides Escobar, SS, KCR: Escobar had this weird stretch early in the season where he was not only hitting well, but he was hitting for power. On April 24th he owned a .310/.355/.483 line behind a .347 BABIP and seven extra-base hits in just 58 at-bats. Since then it’s been more the Escobar we expected – .271/.305/.326, just eight extra-base hits in 144 at-bats, and a robust .333 BABIP necessary to get there. It’s easy to see why Escobar doesn’t hit for power – he’s tiny and he doesn’t have a powerful swing. He’s fine for steals (nine so far) and a non-destructive batting average in deep leagues, but he’s a bit exposed in standard 12-team mixed operations.
4. Ervin Santana, SP, LAA: It has, more or less, come apart at the seams for Santana this year. He has a 5.33 ERA, and remarkably leads the league in home runs allowed with 16 – he’s on pace to break 40 if he gets to 33 starts. His strikeout total of 53 in 74.1 innings is just three more than the sum of his home runs and walks. It’s just been ugly all around, and his relatively average career (99 career ERA+) makes it difficult to imagine there’s much worth waiting for here.
5. Ricky Romero, SP, TOR: Romero was supposed to be a staff ace for the Blue Jays, but he’s been decidedly mediocre so far this season. His ERA is up to 4.15 after another three earned in just four innings Sunday, and his K:BB of 61:41 is awful. He’s never had peripherals that were overly special, even in last year’s breakout season, and as such it wouldn’t surprise me to see the 3.73 ERA of 2010 or even the 4.30 ERA of 2009 be closer to Romero’s norm than 2011′s 2.92.
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.