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July 18, 2012 posted by Albert Lang

The Hot N Cold Fantasy Baseball All-Stars

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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

Chris Carter – All he does is hit homers! In 25 at-bats this season, Carter has five long bombs. Once a big time prospect, Carter hadn’t put up outstanding numbers at AAA even though he has repeated the level a few times. That said, he’s shown great pop down on the farm, posting ISOs above .200. In addition, while Carter strikes out a lot, he does his fair share of walking. In OBP leagues, he could be a very poor man’s Adam Dunn. If Carter gets full time at bats ROTW, you could see a .240 average, .325 OBP and double digit HRs.

Casper Wells – Often, with great power comes great whiffage. Wells has always profiled to hit for decent power, but he sure does swing and miss a ton (13.7% for his career). Somewhat surprisingly, Wells has maintained a decent average (.265) for his career in 485 PAs. That said, it is hard to buy him as a .330 BABIP guy given his infield fly and outfield fly tendencies – those typically become outs. While he has been hot, Wells probably doesn’t look much different than Carter.

Adam Lind – In the last month, Lind has acted as if Toronto was the PCL: .327 average, five homers and 15 RBIs in 55 ABs. He is, suddenly, showing improved patience at the plate: his walk rate is far higher than it has ever been and he is swinging and missing a lot less. This hasn’t translated to less strike-outs but if he can keep it up, it should. In addition, he’s slugging the ball as much as ever and should get to 20 or so HRs. He’s only 30% owned in Yahoo! leagues – Joey Votto owners should pray he’s available.

Brennan Boesch – Boesch has an eight-game hitting streak, during which he has hit two homers and struck out just four times. Of course three of those games came against the Orioles, so you have to dock him a bit. After posting a BABIP around .300 for the majority of his career, Boesch has been below .280 for most of the year. If he gets back to his career norms, you’re looking at a .265 hitter or so. In addition, he should add eight HRs. It will be interesting to see if Boesch can get some at bats against lefty starters. The Tigers haven’t let him face lefties much (just 300 ABs), but he has a .297/.354/.413 line. Perhaps he has a reverse platoon split like Kelly Johnson.

Denard Span –Span hasn’t been pimped enough. Dude is only 16% owned in Yahoo leagues, yet posts a solid average (.283) and a handful for SBs (nine). And, while you might think the Twins offense is wretched, the fighting Willinghams have scored the ninth most runs in the AL, so they’re not the absolute worst. Basically, Span is a solid outfielder who can help prop up your batting average and chip in some steals and runs. It’s not sexy but you can plug him in and just not worry about that spot hurting you.

Josh Rutledge – Rutledge was a third-round selection in 2010 and earned his recent promotion to the show after batting .306/.338/.508 as a 23-year-old in Tulsa at AA. Rutledge has flashed decent speed in the minors, going 31/38 in SB attempts. So far, he is 2/2 in the majors. However, it’s hard to see Rutledge thriving in his first taste of the majors, as he doesn’t walk much, which limits his SB opportunities – speed is where most of his value will come. That said, Rutledge could be a phenomenal replacement for Dee Gordon.

Dylan Axelrod – Axelrod has bounced from starter to reliever, as the White Sox are unclear on his future role. In his most recent start, he went 6.2 IPs against the Red Sox and K’ed eight while giving up just one run. So far his ERA/WHIP are not pretty and his underlying numbers (aside from a 16% HR/FB rate) suggest he has earned every bit of his 5.00+ ERA. That said, he is getting solid swinging strikes (10.2%) and has limited the walks in the minors (although he was likely a bit old for the levels he was at). It’d be surprising if Axelrod was viable in most leagues, however he’s probably worth a stash. You shouldn’t be shocked if he posts a 2.4 K:BB rate and ERA slightly above 4.00. That plays in most leagues. Just believe in Don Cooper.

Justin Masterson – After 12 starts, Masterson had a 5.09 ERA and 53 K’s against 37 walks in 74.1 IPs. Since then, Masterson has a 2.66 ERA and 45 K’s against 11 walks in 47.1 IPs. In addition, when you look at Masterson’s numbers as a whole, he has been slightly unlucky this season, suggesting he’ll have a pretty darn good second half. You should still avoid lefty-heavy line-ups with Masterson, but he is good for a 3.78 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 76 K’s ROS.

Joe Blanton – Blanton has a 6.38 K:BB rate this season. Among qualifying pitchers that places him second in all of baseball and well ahead of third place (Matt Cain at 4.98). Unlike Cain, Blanton has suffered from some gopheritis the last four seasons, posting HR/FB rates greater than 10% in each campaign. However, he has never come that close to his current 16% mark, which is also well ahead of his 10.1% career line. Blanton is the type of pitcher everyone should acquire, as you’d expect a SP with his type of K:BB rate to be at least league average.

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

Max Scherzer – Despite a career best 3.57 K:BB rate, Scherzer’s ERA is closer to 5.00 than it is to 4.00. He has a .356 BABIP, largely due to terrible team defense) and is giving up way more HRs than you would expect, making his FIP (3.79) and xFIP (3.32) way lower than his actual ERA (4.84). Looking at how Scherzer fares throughout the season, you find that he has horrid starts to the season and finishes strong. Indeed, his June (3.86 ERA, 36 K’s to 11 BBs) was in line with this. In addition, while not as bad as Masterson’s platoon split, lefties hit .274/.347/.443 off him. In his recent poor outing against the Orioles, the Birds started three lefties and two switch hitters. You’d have to go all the way back to June 6 to find a similarly poor start from Scherzer. He faced an Indians line-up with four lefties and two switch-hitters. Clearly, if you’re at all concerned about using Scherzer, watch out for teams that can put out lefty-heavy line-ups. Otherwise he should be fine and get you 90 K’s and post an ERA right around 4.00 ROS.

Bud Norris – Norris has increased his K’s and maintained his swinging strike rate from last year, yet is getting far worse results despite what appear to be similar batted ball rates. In addition, he has lost about 1 MPH on his fast ball and isn’t throwing his change-up nearly as much. For some reason, he is walking a few more batters as well. Still, Norris has a darn serviceable 2.47 K:BB rate and should be relatively fine (in a 4.25 ERA, 80 K sort of way) ROS.

Colby Rasmus – On June 25, Rasmus had a .268/.327/.502 line, since then he has gone .205/.301/.411 with four HRs in 18 games and 83 plate appearances. In reality it appears this small sample was just a bit of correction as his BABIP is now a lot closer to last year’s mark. This presents a unique buying opportunity on Rasmus as he should be fine ROTW. He clearly wasn’t the .300 hitter he was in June, but a .250 guy who can get to 30 HRs and push double digit steals is valuable.

J.J. Hardy – What a difference a year makes…or doesn’t. The majority of Hardy’s batted ball and other rates (walks, K’s, swinging strikes, etc.) are nearly identical to last season. However, he has a .216/.255/.373 line and is a bit off a 30 HR pace. The major culprits are a criminal .224 BABIP (.273 last season and for his career) and scuffling HR/FB rate (10.2% this year versus 15.7% last season). Hardy can’t be that good last season and this bad in 2012 with a similar approach and profile, unless he is hurt. If healthy, Hardy should bat .258 with eight HRs 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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