Welcome to the first installment of the Fantasy Radar: Fantasy Baseball Edition! Here I will make several weekly observations on hitters and pitchers on their recent trends and how you should deal with it going forward in the season. It will be split up in five categories: Quick Hits (hitters), Wild Pitch (pitchers), Falling Fast (biggest disappointment), On the Mend (injuries) and Down on the Farm (players who are in the minors, but you could see up really soon). The format is subject to change in the next couple of weeks as we work out the kinks, but the content will be the same. Suggestions are welcome from readers in the comment section because remember the purpose of this article is to better serve you guys and help you to that elusive fantasy championship! So without further delay, here are the most important 1200 words you will ever read regarding your fantasy team (at least until next week’s article).
- With two SB last week, Lance Berkman now has five steals this month after no swipes in April or May. Sir Lancelot has really turned his season around after a dreadful April with a .301 BA, 12 HR, 37 RBI since May 1. With the speed turning around, look for Berkman to be that 30 homer/15 steal threat you drafted in the second or third round of your draft.
- In 2005, Scott Podsednik played 129 games and stole 59 bases with 80 runs and a .290 batting average. This season, in 52 games, Podsednik is batting .313 with 26 runs and 12 steals. He is starting to look like his 2005-06 former self and could be a good replacement if your team has some OF injuries.
- After a hot start, Nelson Cruz has cooled down batting just .193 in June. However, the power is still there with five homers last month. I view this as a buy-low period more than of what is to come. Cruz has a good combination of power and speed and should reach 30 homers and 20 steals this year.
- Stephen Drew batted .292 in the month of June and after a tough two months that included DL stint, he seems to be heating up. Drew broke out last season in the second half with a .326 batting average, nine homers and .927 OPS.
- Before last week Jake Fox started just five games since his may 27 call-up and he did the most with the limited playing time by batting .286 with six runs and two RBI. Cubs’ manager Lou Pinella has rewarded Fox with nine straight starts and he has responded well with a .343 batting average, two home runs and nine RBI. Keep an eye on Fox’s situation with the Cubs as he could be a good pickup if he continues to receive regular playing time.
- Jose Lopez has rebounded from a bad start with a .329 batting average in June. He also seems to have found his power stroke with five homers last month and 20 RBI. He is only 25 years old and posted a .290 batting average with 17 homers last year. Look for him to reach 20 homers and to be a good source of RBI. He also could pickup third base eligibility now with Adrian Beltre out for six-to-eight weeks.
- Shin-Soo Choo has quietly put up a very solid season for the Cleveland Indians. He is batting .293 with 10 homers and 12 steals and is on pace to surpass a 20-20 season. Cleveland, which ranks third in the MLB in runs scored, has a deceptively good offense and with Sizemore getting healthy they are only going to get better in the second half, which means more production from the Choo Choo train.
- In the last two months, Alexei Ramirez has hit .282 with 9 homers, 6 steals and 29 RBI. Ramirez is known for his streakiness and he is not the .290 hitter we all fell in love with last season, but his power/speed combo is nice especially because he qualifies at both second base and shortstop.
- In his rookie season, Geovany Soto hit 23 homers with 86 RBI and a .285 batting average. This year he has endured a sophomore slump with just a .231 batting average, seven homers and 24 RBI. However, Soto has found his power stroke in June with six homers and 12 RBI and should reach the 20-homer mark by the end of the season, which would somewhat salvage his season for managers who drafted him as a top-five catcher.
- Scott Kazmir returned from the DL and pitched five solid innings against the Florida Marlins. He struck out five batters while walking only one. Kazmir is usually a good second-half pitcher so if his rough start landed him on the waiver wire in your league he could be a guy to take a flier on.
- Since coming back from a short minor-league stint, Ricky Nolasco has posted five-straight quality starts with a 33:5 strikeout to walk ratio. Last year, Nolasco was one of the best pitchers in the second half with a 3.29 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in 95 2.3 innings. Those that stuck with him during the rough stretch will be highly rewarded in the second half this year.
- In his last five starts, Kevin Correia is 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA. During the five-game stretch, Correia has allowed nine runs on 17 hits and three walks in 33 2/3 innings with 29 strikeouts. He battled injuries last year, but seems to be healthy and pitches in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors. This may be the sign of good things to come in the second half.
- What has gotten into Texas starting pitcher Kevin Millwood? In 16 starts, the 34-year old has a 2.64 ERA on 101 hits in 112 2/3 innings with 70 strikeouts. From 2006-2008 Millwood did not post an ERA lower than 4.50 so this sudden dominance is very surprising to fantasy baseball owners. Nonetheless, he has posted six straight quality starts and has not let up more than four earned runs since May 4. A second-half drop off is expected, but ride the hot streak while you can.
- For those of you who have not noticed, White Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd has really turned his season around tremendously. His ERA sits at an average 4.12, but if you consider that on May 17 it was at 7.71, that 4.12 ERA looks like a miracle. He has eight straight quality starts where he has posted a 1.38 ERA on 38 hits and 15 walks in 58 1/3 innings with 46 strikeouts. Look for him to build on this streak and have a very solid second half.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI (304 at-bats, .207 BA, 6 HR, 10 SB)
Jimmy Rollins was benched by manager Charlie Manuel last week after an 0-for-9 start. The struggling shortstop was supposed to take the weekend off to “clear his mind.” He returned to the lineup on Tuesday night and managed to deliver an 0-for-5 performance. His batting average now stands at .207, the lowest all season, and some may wonder if he will ever break out of this funk. If you own him you probably cannot trade him, but if you can find anyone that thinks J-Rol will turn it around in the second half I would sell. It might be time to start looking for alternate solutions for your shortstop position.
On the Mend
Raul Ibanez, OF, PHI (15-day DL with strained left groin)
Reports are that Ibanez will not be activated when he is eligible to come off the DL on Friday. The good news is he is getting better and is not a player who is not valuable because of his speed. I do not think he can reproduce a second half quite like this first one, but in that lineup and ballpark he should have no trouble hitting home runs and knocking in more runs the rest of the way. Prepare to insert him into your lineups early next week.
Mike Lowell, 3B, BOS (15-day DL with right hip strain)
Lowell was placed on the DL by the Red Sox on Tuesday after missing four straight starts. This injury has plagued Lowell for a while now and he was able to put up decent numbers when healthy last year and this season. He is a tough player to trust, however, with his injury history and he is no better than a backup 3B in most fantasy lineups. Mark Kotsay looks to increase his playing time at first base and should be added in deep mixed leagues or AL-only leagues.
Down on the Farm
Ian Snell, SP, PIT… 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 17 K
This season has not been a good one for Ian Snell. In 15 starts, Snell has posted a 5.36 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and 44 walks in 80 2/3 innings with 52 strikeouts. He was demoted to Triple-A last Thursday and apparently that was what he needed. Snell delivered a gem with 17 strikeouts in just seven innings and at one point struck out 13 batters in a row. (The Major League record is 10) Do not expect Snell to be kept down in the minors for too long and keep an eye on how he responds when he is inserted back into the Pirates’ rotation.
Tags: Alexei Ramirez, Fantasy Radar, Gavin Floyd, Geovany Soto, Ian Snell, Jake Fox, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Lopez, Kevin Correia, Kevin Millwood, Lance Berkman, Mike Lowell, Nelson Cruz, Raul Ibanez, Red Sox, Ricky Nolasco, Scott Kazmir, Scott Podsednik, Shin-Soo Choo, Stephen Drew