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August 1, 2012 posted by Albert Lang

The Hot N Cold Fantasy Baseball All-Stars

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James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates 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

Chris Johnson – Johnson has taken to his new squad out in the desert, hitting a grand salami on Monday. In fact, he’s been pretty good over the last two weeks: 16/46 with three HRs and 10 RBI. So far, Johnson has posted a pretty nice BABIP (.355) and has continued his non-walking, striking out ways.

That said, he has a .347 BABIP for his career over 1,162 plate appearances. Even if that number is a tad inflated based on his .387 mark in 362 PAs in 2010, a .335 BABIP ROTW should net a near .270 average. He can add a bit of pop and should drive in some runs in Arizona. Johnson isn’t a good player, but that doesn’t make him a worthless fantasy asset – a .270 hitting 3B with some pop is pretty valuable. Heck, would you be shocked if he outperformed Chase Headley (who is owned in 40% more leagues than Johnson)?

Denard Span – Over the last month, Span has been a near top 100 player, batting .337 with three steals. On the year, the 18% owned Span has put up a line totally in sync with his career to-date. He should end with 80+ runs, a .290 average, and 20+ steals. There a lot of shallow leagues out there, but deep leagues have to account for more than 18%.

Justin Morneau – People are about to get optimistic on Morneau, as he is 28 for his last 86. In fact, in his last 196 plate appearances, he has a .276/.332/.403 line with four HRs in 45 games. Is Morneau getting his mojo back? It’s hard to fully buy in, as he is still swinging and missing a ton and his walk rate is a far cry from his heyday. However, he could push his ROTW average to around .275 with five HRs. That said, you probably want more from your 1B, as those numbers don’t look much better than what Juan Rivera will do.

Coco Crisp – Clubhouse leader of the hottest team on the planet, Crisp has put his play where his mouth is or something like that. He is 25 for his last 73 with three HRs and four SBs. Crisp, who has suffered with a poor ISO and BABIP all year, is starting to bring his slash line back to his norm. It’s likely his home ballpark will continue to depress his power, however he should be a .265 hitter ROTW with 15 SBs. There’s a bit of cheap speed out there (Ben Revere to name one), but Crisp is hitting in front of terminator Yoenis Cespedes and Chronicles of Ridiculousness Josh Reddick, so he should score some runs.

Chris Carter – I got to see Carter crank one against the Orioles last Saturday – he possess some impressive power (I believe the ball went 400+ feet). Of course with great power sometimes comes great whiffage. Carter is swinging and missing 13% of the time and strikes out in nearly one quarter of his ABs. He does walk a bit, so he gets a boost in OBP leagues. However, he’ll struggle to hit .240 and post an OBP above .325. With 170 PAs, should come eight HRs.

Mike Carp – Carp has come off the DL with a vengeance, well a vengeance when you compare him to other Mariner hitters. Carp hasn’t really gotten a consistent shot at playing time, whether it be because of crowded outfields/corners or injuries, but, with Justin Smoak being demoted, the Mariners have given him the keys to the 1B wagon. Carp swings and misses a lot (although he has made an incremental step forward in that regard in a small sample this season) and walks a decent amount. However, the home ballpark is clearly limiting, meaning a .255 average with eight HRs is the ceiling ROTW.

Mike Minor – *arbitrary end points disclaimer alert* Where have people been on Minor? In his last 12 starts, he has a 4.33 ERA. In his last five starts he has a 2.78 ERA and 28:9 K:BB rate. Of course, those starts have been against the Nationals, Cubs, Giants, Marlins and Phillies, with him really beating up on the weaker hitting squads. If you know you can trust him against the craptastic hitting squads, he becomes an upper echelon streaming candidate. I’m a tad more optimistic than streaming, as his strand rate and HR/FB rates should produce better results ROTW. Grab him as a match-ups type and watch as he puts up a 4.15 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 70 K’s.

A.J. Griffin – The A’s clearly knew what they were doing in trading away Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Who needs ‘em with Griffin, Travis Blackley and Tommy Milone in the mix? In 43 IPs, Griffin has 35 K’s, a 0.98 WHIP and 2.51 ERA. In his second stint at AAA this year, Griffin had an incredibly tasty 5.71 K:BB rate. While he has walked a few more batters in the Bigs, he has maintained a solid K rate, resulting in a 3.50 K:BB ratio. He has a good swinging strike rate and what appears to be a devastating curveball (seriously, check out the gifs: http://www.fangraphs.com/not/index.php/request-a-gif-a-j-griffins-curvepiece/). Of course, anyone with a sub-1.00 WHIP is being a little “lucky,” and Griffin is no different (.229 BABIP and 86% strand rate). Still, if the A’s keep surging, he can win some games for you, post a 3.75 ERA and 1.20 WHIP and add 54 K’s.

Hisashi Iwakuma – Iwakuma’s return to Japan to visit his ailing father before his start against the Jays must have cleared his mind, as he K’ed 13 Jays and walked just three. However, even with that sterling performance, he has 50 K’s and 28 walks on the year. Iwakuma, on a one-year contract, had a solid year in Japan last season (2.42 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9). One would expect his control to get a tad better in the majors. While his K’s seem a bit high, they are supported by a 10% swinging strike rate. You could see nearly 50 K’s from him ROTW, with 18 walks and a 4.20 ERA, depending on some match-ups. He’s pretty far off the radar at the moment, but could be every bit as valuable as most everyone other non-Felix starter in the Mariners rotation.

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

Marco Estrada – Between faulty health and a propensity to give up long balls, Estrada has been quite the tease this year, posting an incredible 5.40 K:BB rate, yet not translating that into true success in his ratios. Sure, his 16.5% HR/FB rate seems a tad obnoxious, but he does have a career mark of 14% over nearly 200 big league innings. While it’s debatable if he’s been HR unlucky, there’s no doubt he can strike guys out (10.3% swinging strike rate this year, 10.2% for his career). Book him for 60 more K’s (if healthy) this season. In addition, he has a ceiling to a sub-4.00 ERA. He might not get there depending on his fly ball tendencies, but, at only 9% owned, he is worth grabbing.

James McDonald – In McDonald’s first 15 starts, he walked just 26 batters. In his six starts since, he has walked 24 batters (and continues to post below-league-average first strike percentages). In addition, we’ve seen his BABIP continue to rise over the second half. McDonald should be a fine source of K’s ROTW, however his ERA and WHIP will likely take a hit as he continues to fall behind and walk guys. His ERA (probably around 4.10) won’t be devastating but there’s a real chance his WHIP gets near 1.40 ROTW.

Ryan Howard – Howard hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since coming off the DL. Sure he’s hit four bombs in 56 ABs, but he’s got just eight other hits. You’d expect some adjustment anxiety coming from his extended absence from the game, but he was only a .250 hitter last season with a .303 BABIP. Consequently, allowing for a tad bit of rust makes him a .245 hitter. Will he be that much better than Chris Carter? Probably not more than a smattering of HRs and batting average points. If he ever gets hot (before your trade deadline), you should move him.

Jimmy Rollins – Rollins is, somehow, struggling even more than Howard. In his last 118 plate appearances, he is batting .208/.288/.349, lowering his disappointing year line to .251/.309/.397. Over the last three years (1,474 plate appearances), Rollins sports a .256/.324/.392 line while averaging 21 SBs a season. Things haven’t gone well for Rollins and his BABIP is perched exactly where it was last year: his K’s are up and his swinging strike rate is back to early 2000 norms. At this point, Rollins is probably who he is: a .255-.260 hitter with decent speed (maybe eight more bags). He is 33, after all.

Jason Kipnis – Kipnis was Mr. Perfect not too long ago. However since his line was at .286/.345/.462 on June 2, he has batted just .256/.345/.341. The on-base skills have been there (29 K’s to 24 BBs), but he has hit for very little pop. In his young career, Kipnis is getting dominated by lefties (he’s batting just .239/.317/.341 against them). At just 25, he still has time to grow, but, given his platoon deficiencies, seems to be settling into a .270 hitter with 20 HR/30 SB potential, which is obviously quite good.

Elvis Andrus – on July 11, I wrote:

“It is only 80 games and 347 plate appearances, but Andrus has a miserable [career] stat line (.236/.307/.292) in July. In fact, his second half numbers are a tick worse than the first half, with a substantial reduction in his SB rates. He is 80/101 in SBs attempts in the first half and 37/56 in the second half. He does have 500+ more plate appearances in the first half, which should make up for the quantity in steals, but it’s odd that he has virtually the same amount of caught stealings in far fewer attempts in the second half.”

Since July 11, Andrus has batted .268/.354/.375 with one SB and one caught stealing. In 2010, Andrus had just nine SBs in the second half. In 2011, he had 11 (and nine CS). So far, in 2012, he is 4/6 on SB attempts in the second half. If you are expecting double digit steals ROTW, history suggests that’s not likely to happen. At some point, Andrus should mature and figure out how to stay as productive on the base paths in the second half of the year, but I’m not investing in that until it happens. Andrus remains one of the better sell now candidates out there.

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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