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June 20, 2012 posted by Albert Lang

The Hot N Cold Fantasy Baseball All-stars

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Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks SP

Players get hot and cold over a seven-day period, it’s as sure as the samples are small. In head-to-head and roto fantasy baseball leagues you have to make quick decisions on players who are surging and those who are performing at a lackluster level. That’s where the Hot ‘N’ Cold All-stars come in:  to sort through the trends and see which ones are worth buying or ignoring.

‘Cause you’re hot…you’re yes…you’re in…you’re up

Brandon Moss – The one-time Red Sox prospect Moss has been pretty much the best fantasy player over the last seven days, going 8/23 with five HRs and a .400 OBP. Before this season, Moss had 15 career HRs, spread across five seasons and 789 PAs. In fact, Moss has never been good in the majors, yet, aside from a relatively poor 2010 in AAA (.266/.330/.470), he has dominated AAA pitching and posted reasonable rate stats with good power.

Moss has always swung and missed in the majors and is doing so at remarkable rates this year, so projecting a batting average over .250 seems dangerous (especially as there is no way he can continue a 42% HR/FB rate). That said, he is managing to bat .278 with a .235 BABIP. Basically, it looks like the power is a sure bet (maybe 10-12 more HRs with 275 PAs), but the average could be anywhere from .230-.275 and it wouldn’t be shocking. If he is still unowned in deep formats, by all means gobble him up. Also, if you desperately need some power, he’s worth a look as a slightly poor man’s Pedro Alvarez.

Brandon Belt – Belt sure has been belting it of late (10/22 with three homers over the last week and has put up a .390 OBP over the last 30 days) which everyone expects because he has pretty much demolished the minors. However, Belt is still swinging and missing a ton and it will be hard for him to keep walking 15+% of the time. So, he might be a .265 average guy ROTW with 10 HRs. If you can sell (in redraft leagues) based on Belt fulfilling his promise, it’d be a good time to unload him and pass along the risk.

David Murphy – Murphy’s ownership levels always seem light. He has been straight crushing it lately (10/19 with two HRs and a SB over the last seven days) yet can’t crack double-digit ownership in Yahoo! leagues. He doesn’t do any one thing overly well, but chips in across the board. With 300 more plate appearances, he’ll add 10 HRs, 10 SBs and a .275 average. That’s somewhat like Shin-soo Choo, yet Murphy is available everywhere.

Casey McGehee – From 2009-2010, McGehee put up a .291/.346/.477 line and averaged 20 HRs. Since then, he has put up a .227/.291/.351 line with less power. That is, until the last seven days, during which he went 10/23 with two HRs. It’s pretty clear he won’t regain his form from 2009, but he won’t be as bad as last year (given his wretched BABIP in 2011). He is certainly capable of hitting .265 or so with seven HRs ROTW and that will play in deep leagues at CI.

Pedro Alvarez – Looks like Alvarez is at it again, as he blasted four bombs over the last seven days. Of course, he has just six hits during that span and a .320 OBP. Again, I’ll caution not to jump on Alvarez as he is not going to hit above .240. Sure, the power is real and he’s probably good for 11-13 more HRs, but he doesn’t get on base and the batting average will make that power near worthless.

Tony Campana – Campana can sure run, as he pocketed six bags last week without really getting on base (.292 OBP). So far, Campana has 24 SBs in 48 games and seems a pretty sure bet to swipe 50 bags. Is he the new Juan Pierre? Quite possibly. His .366 BABIP seems a tad high, but he’s got great speed and can maintain something close to that, making him a solid bet to bat around .270.

Cliff Pennington – Playing on a crappy team on the West Coast certainly doesn’t help one’s ownership levels. However, Pennington has been hitting well of late (7/21 over the last week). In addition, Pennington, just last year, nearly went 10-15 with a .264 average for a shortstop. To date, this year, his BABIP is way low despite seemingly consistent numbers in line drives. Pennington is wholly capable of batting .260 ROTW with six HRs and 17 SBs.

Jamey Carroll – Another SS qualifier on a crappy team, Carroll is barely owned, yet has been hitting well of late (8/20 with six runs and a SB over the last week). I tabbed Carroll a sleeper in deep leagues before the year, yet probably didn’t fully incorporate how a change to the American League would hurt his stats. Carroll isn’t striking out at all and walking a good bit, just like his recent time in the NL, but he is hitting a ton of balls on the ground, which seems to be the culprit in his declined BABIP. Expect his BABIP to rebound a bit (although not to NL levels) as he gets use to the AL, which could make Carroll a .270 hitter. In addition, Carroll could swipe seven or eight more bags.

Clayton Richard – Richard Clayton is just a better name than Clayton Richard, that’s what we call a fact. Another seemingly meaningless fact: Richard pitched 14.2 IPs, with nine K’s, a 0.61 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over the last week. The stats were against Oakland and Seattle. Obviously, he won’t get weak hitting offenses like that all the time but his underlying stats suggest he’s basically a 4.00 ERA pitcher. He hasn’t been getting overly lucky and has upped his swinging strike rate a tad (possibly because he is throwing his slider a good bit more than he did last year). That said, Richard is an unexciting SP: he won’t strike many guys out, beat a 4.00 ERA ROTW or post a good WHIP. Stream him against weak opponents, but he shouldn’t be on many rosters full time.

Jose Quintana – Two starts for Quintana over the last week netted 10 K’s, a 0.68 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Quintana beat up on the Dodgers and Cardinals (although the Cards managed 10 hits in 5.1 IPs) in the NL (meaning no DH). Quintana hasn’t been able to put anyone away at the major league level but also hasn’t walked anyone. He is benefiting from a 90.4% strand rate and 5.1% HR/FB rate, which point to a 3.16 FIP and 4.01 xFIP. So, the best case scenario for Quintana reveals a 4.01 xFIP. Going forward, be weary of Quintana and only start him in the juiciest (cough *Twins* cough) match-ups.

Michael Fiers – One of the reasons Fiers has been under utilized in fantasy this year is his rotation spot has never been guaranteed. In fact, Marco Estrada was supposed to be back quickly and Fiers demoted. That hasn’t quite been the case and Fiers has been pretty darn good (3.60 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 22 K’s in 25 IPs). Fiers isn’t exactly a big prospect (he just turned 27), yet he has been darn good at AAA. Somewhat odd, Fiers hasn’t benefited from luck in the Majors this season, as his FIP (2.81) and xFIP (3.49) are actually lower than his ERA. This is the result of a .333 BABIP and 74.5% strand rate. While those numbers should be better, you can’t necessarily expect them to be given Fiers lack of track record. Still, even if they don’t improve, it’d be shocking if they got worse. Consequently, Fiers is a 3.80 ERA type pitcher with solid (if unspectacular) K numbers and decent control. If he had guaranteed innings, you should be picking him up today. If you don’t have moves limits, you should in fact own him. If you do have a moves limit, it still makes sense to leave him on the wire rather than burn a move on a guy who might get sporadic starts ROTW.

Alex Cobb – Cobb had an interesting week in dominating the Marlins, but, superficially, pitching poorly against a bad Mets offense. However, the start against the Mets was undone a bit by poor defense and his year-to-date stats are superb: 3.82 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 32 K’s in 37.2 IPs. Cobb generates a ton of ground balls (62.4%), which is a winning recipe in the AL East. Like Fiers, Cobb is a 3.80 ERA pitcher with solid/unspectacular K numbers. Unlike Fiers, Cobb should get starts the majority of the season, which makes his lack of ownership odd. Grab him, now.

Then you’re cold…then you’re no…then you’re out…then you’re down

Felix Hernandez – Two starts against the Giants and Padres (no less) resulted in a 4.15 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over the last week for “King” Felix. People seem to be panicking on him, and certainly his velocity and swinging strike rates have dipped over the past few seasons. However, his K/9 and BB/9 have remained relatively constant. He is getting less ground balls and, in turn, his BABIP is a bit higher than typical, however he still has a 3.52 ERA. The other (and only legitimate) worry about Hernandez is injuries and he has had starts pushed back.

Ian Kennedy – In whole, it was a tough week for Kennedy, but the majority of the damage was a tough start in Texas against the Rangers. Kennedy bounced back to pitch a fine outing against the Dodgers and lower his ERA to 4.13 and WHIP to 1.29. Kennedy seems to be getting the relative bad luck this year (.316 BABIP, 74.6% strand rate) that he avoided last year (.270 BABIP, 79.2% strand rate). Meanwhile, his K/9 and BB/9 rates are better than last season and he’s posting a double digit swinging strike rate. In short, go out and get Ian Kennedy, thank me later.

Mat Latos – Latos was real good against the Indians at home (seven IPs and seven K’s), then real bad in Cleveland (four IPs, four K’s). People expected more HRs from Latos leaving Petco for the Great American Ballpark, but a 16.3% HR/FB rate seems a tad high. However, along with more fly balls leaving the park, Latos has seen his BABIP rise and his strand rate decline. Oddly, his swinging strike rate has also declined, despite his maintaining velocity. Perhaps he is throwing his fast ball a bit too much in lieu of his slider/curve, but that seems easily correctable. Latos should also be a buy, although his numbers will look closer to an Alex Cobb or Michael Fiers than 2010-2011 Latos.

Giancarlo Stanton – Wowsers, Stanton is slumping with the best of them recently (one for his last 21, eight for his last 46). He is also swinging and missing at massive rates, yet isn’t striking out at overly outlandish rates. Basically, when a batter doesn’t put a ton of balls in play, there will be valleys where nothing is happening. Stanton, at the end of the year, will bat .268 with 35 HRs.

Ryan Zimmerman – It’s hard to imagine Zimmerman’s season being worse, but he’s just two for his last 21 and 20 for his last 97. That said, not a ton looks different for Zimmerman, aside from a poor BABIP (.267) and HR/FB rate (5.8%). Unless he is injured (still/again), there’s no reason to think his numbers won’t rebound.

Ichiro – Things haven’t gone well for Ichiro this year (.282 OBP) and they aren’t getting any better: five for his last 27, 23 for his last 107. Over the last two years, in 1,012 PAs, Ichiro has a .267/.302/.343 line. While he has been far worse this year, there should be moderate optimism he can rebound ROTW to 2011 stats. His batted ball rates all seem relatively normal, yet he has a .263 BABIP. He had long posted .350+ BABIPs until last year, when he leveled off at .295. A BABIP around .300 seems about his high watermark at this point given his age, but that should help him to a .275 average. If he gets on base at that level, he should steal 20 or so more SBs. It’s not a great picture for Ichiro ROTW, but it’s a better one than he has now.

Hanley Ramirez – Things haven’t gone much better this season for Hanley either. Since 2011 he owns a .248/.331/.410 line in 671 PAs. He hasn’t been good recently either (five for his last 19). That said, he already has double digit HRs and SBs and seems a decent bet to reach close to 2010’s counting stats (21 HRs, 32 SBs). In addition, if his BABIP can keep climbing back toward .300 (his career BABIP is .335), you can make the case that he is a .285 hitter or so. Those numbers could make him a top 3B/SS ROTW.

Albert has been playing and arguing about baseball and fantasy sports since 2002. Since 1982, he has also been largely miserable (here’s looking at you Armando Benitez) because of the Orioles and Eagles. Albert has won leagues and lost leagues, but he has the most fun debating player values. Albert typically plays in several baseball and football leagues a year. He also is an avid baseball card collector and writes about older players and their historical value relative to the Hall of Fame and their peers/current players. When not harassing league mates with trades and analyzing what categories his team performs poorly in, Albert is a communications professional in Washington, D.C. Follow Albert on Twitter @h2h_corner. He has an awesome puppy named Charlotte. You can find all of Albert's work at http://h2hcorner.wordpress.com/.
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