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September 5, 2012 posted by Albert Lang

The Hot N Cold Fantasy Baseball All-stars

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Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves 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 Parmelee – Not since Bernie Parmalee was running amok in the AFC East has a chicken parm been this relevant to fantasy. With Denard Span finally hitting the DL, Parmelee is assured playing time for the immediate future.

Parmelee was straight torching AAA this season (.338/.457/.645) and has been smoking the majors since he was recalled (.375/.400/.708), albeit in a small sample (25 plate appearances). He is clearly hurt by his home ball park, but could be a nice bat for deeper leagues, capable of a few homers and a .250 batting average. Hard to know whether it matters (SSS caveats), but Parmelee has far better numbers on the road.

Josh Donaldson – In interest of full disclosure, I have a Donaldson rookie card, so there’s that. A former Cubs first round selection, Donaldson was included in the Rich Harden trade back in 2008. Since then, he has been toiling in the minors for the A’s. However, with Brandon Inge being injured, Donaldson has begun to get regular playing time with the big league club.

Since August 14 (79 PAs), Donaldson is batting .338/.405/.648 with five HRs. He was also posting Ruthian numbers in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) (a notorious hitter’s league) for what it’s worth. The best thing about Donaldson is that he should qualify at catcher in most leagues. In fact, over the last 30 games, Donaldson has been the second best backstop in fantasy according to Yahoo! He isn’t as good as this stretch but he has playing time and even runs a bit. A positive forecast has him with a .252 average, three HRs and three SBs ROTW.

Chris Carter – Carter has been a revelation for the A’s this year, just knocking the cover off the ball and taking walks. He’s outdistancing many fantasy prognostications that saw him as a similar version of Pedro Alvarez (good pop, but terrible average). He is walking a tight rope with a 12.9% swinging strike rate and a 27.6% k-rate, however his walk rate is outstanding (14.3%) and he is getting ahead in the count more than his peers. The one real glimmer of luck is a 26.9% HR/FB rate. At some point that has to come down given his home park. Speaking of his home ballpark, he has pretty pronounced splits: home (.256/.374/.500); away (.298/.381/.690). So, basically, start Carter when he is away. In fact, Carter, who is owned in the single digits, might make a good caddie for Paul Konerko (more on him later).

Brandon Moss – Last week, the All-stars were filled with Padres and Rockies, this week apparently it is an actual quality team: the A’s. As the summer has heated up, so has Moss. He is batting .277/.319/.508 with four HRs since August 1. He doesn’t play every day, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as his power numbers against lefties are pretty poor. However, he does possess solid power against righties (.596 slugging percentage this year). In deeper leagues he can sub in at the corner position and smack a few dingers ROTW. If you’re trying to catch up in HRs, he’s one bat that is available that could help.

John Mayberry – A popular sleeper during Spring Training, Mayberry hasn’t done much all season until recently. Since July 5 (160 plate appearances), Mayberry is batting .293/.344/.503 with eight HRs, that’s a near 30-HR pace. In fact, over the last two seasons, he has a .263/.316/.465 line with 29 HRs. While those aren’t world beater numbers, they’ll do just fine. In addition, Mayberry has absolutely dominated lefties throughout his career, making him a solid bat in deeper leagues as you can use him against lefty starters. Mayberry also hits far better at home; so don’t start Mayberry on the road against righties. Easy!

Trayvon Robinson – If you are struggling in batting average, Robinson is not the man for you. However, if you want a bit of speed to go with your pop, Robinson is a nice speculative play. While he had a terribly disappointing year in the PCL, he was dominant there last season. In addition, he has flashed solid BABIP numbers in the minors, making his .314 mark this year in the Bigs totally sustainable. That said he gets behind in counts, swings and misses a lot and strikes out a ton. However, who cares about his flaws? He could be good for three more HRs and five or so SBs. If he manages to hit north of .245, that’s just gravy.

Norichika Aoki – Aoki’s ownership numbers are somewhat staggering. Despite not getting much playing time at the beginning of the season, Aoki has been a top 60 OF and is tied for 19th most SBs at the position. He’ll post a solid average ROTW (just like he has been doing), hit for minimal power and steal some bases. He’ll also get on in front of Ryan Braun which means a good bit of runs (he could top 80 in 140 games). You’d probably do better with Aoki than Ichiro at this point.

A.J. Griffin – Griffin more than held his own in the PCL this year, posting a 4.27 K:BB rate, 3.07 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He has been pretty terrific in the majors in spot start duty for the A’s as well, sporting a sterling 4.00 K:BB ratio in 51.2 IPs. Griffin sports a nasty curveball that clocks in about 20 MPHs slower than his fastball (check out the knee-buckling video). Griffin should be getting a start at Seattle next, which could be a sweet streaming option. The only thing limiting Griffin’s value is the amount of innings he’ll pitch. For now, though, it’s time to roster him.

Hisashi Iwakuma – As a starter this season, Iwakuma has a 2.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 2.38 K:BB ratio. He has gotten ahead of hitters and made them swing and miss at good rates. So far he has struggled with the long ball (17.3% HR/FB rate), but that shouldn’t be sustainable (given his home ballpark and skill set). Consequently, expect Iwakuma to post solid ratios ROTW.

Ricky Nolasco – Since June 25 (13 starts), Nolasco has a 4.09 ERA and 56:20 K:BB ratio. While he has a worse K:BB ratio at home, he’s been far better there (4.11 ERA vs. 5.20 ERA; 1.36 WHIP vs. 1.43; .306 BABIP vs. .331). He has actually been a pretty similar pitcher to last season when it comes to first strike percentage and swinging strike rates, yet he is K’ing less batters and walking more. Everyone has been burned by Nolasco, but it isn’t hard to see him with a 4.25 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 25 K’s ROTW and there is upside on those numbers. Of course, be careful in any road start.

Bud Norris – While it has been a forgotten year for Norris (and Houston), he has an identical K:BB rate as last year and nearly identically HR/9, BB/9 and SO/9 rates. The only thing that has really changed from his banner 2011 season is a .312 BABIP, which is closer to his career mark (.307) than last year’s rate (.294). However, that’s some pretty small differences to account in this huge a swing in ratios. Yet just as everyone is ignoring him and the ‘Stros, he is correcting his poor season. Over his last eight starts, he has a 3.75 ERA and 42:14 K:BB rate. In short, he’s been fantastic and should be a solid back-end starter down the stretch: 4.05 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 31 K’s.

Andrew Werner – Werner, an unheralded, undrafted pitcher, has a solid minor league track record: 3.57 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 2.95 K:BB rate. So far he has shown pretty solid control and gotten a good bit of ground balls (55.3%). While he is getting ahead of hitters at a good clip and posting a solid K-rate, his swinging strike percentage is nothing special. In addition, while you’d expect his 18.8% HR/FB rate to come down, his strand rate (87.8%) is similarly unsustainable, so they’ll cancel each other out. There’s obviously some magic in Petco (Wade LeBlanc looked good over nine starts there a few years ago), so he could provide a pretty useful 4.20 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 25 K’s or so. That is a baseline and there’s a wide variance on what could occur. But, in pitching starved environments, it’s totally worth kicking the tires.

Corey Kluber – Kluber was a fourth round pick in 2007 by the Padres. He was sent to Cleveland as part of the three-team deal that netted the Padres Ryan Ludwick. Since joining the Indians organization, he has spent parts of three seasons in AAA, pitching 287 innings with a 4.61 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 2.23 K:BB ratio. That said, he was far better at AAA this year. So far, in the Bigs, it has been a mixed bag for Kluber. He has a good swinging strike rate (10.2%), but not overly awesome K-rate (7.57). There’s probably room for more K’s, but, while his command has been solid (2.52 BB/9), he doesn’t get ahead of hitters, i.e., any increase in K’s likely comes with more walks. He does have a pretty crappy strand rate and BABIP and slightly inflated HR/FB rate, so there’s room for optimism. That said, an optimistic projection would be a 4.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 25 K’s. That makes him a match-ups type in AL-only formats.

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

Paul Maholm – It has been an ugly three-start stretch for Maholm (15.2 IPs, 13 runs), during which his ERA has jumped 0.32 points. That said, he has sported a 12:5 K:BB ratio during these outings, which is absolutely fine. He’s just been entirely too hittable (.360 BABIP). To date, most of his success seems to be the result of a spike in slider usage and it’s certainly possible the league is adjusting to Maholm’s new arsenal. It’s been a good run for Maholm, but it’s likely near the end of the line of him being an every start starter. Be careful with his match-ups ROTW.

Mike Fiers – the last five starts for Fiers have been ugly: 24.1 IPs, 20 earned runs, and .366 BABIP. That said, he does have a pretty nice 26:11 K:BB ratio (although 10 of those K’s and just two of the walks came from one start on 8/24). That said, even with this horrible stretch, Fiers has been justifiably awesome: his ERA, SIERRA, FIP and xFIP are all under 3.51. Fiers has also posted a solid swinging strike percentage and gotten ahead of hitters at a god clip. It’s likely this last bit is just some lumps for the young hurler. Expect him to bounce back unless there is fatigue in his arm. You shouldn’t hesitate to use him in his next turn against the Cardinals.

Ichiro – Ichiro has been a touch better with the Yankees, but hasn’t offered much besides his two-HR game. In fact, he might not hit another HR this season and likely won’t steal five more bags (he is just 4/7 with the Yankees). He’s a fine deep league option, as the average is probably right around the high watermark for your ROTO standings and he’ll chip in here and there. However, in shallower leagues (12-teamers and under), there has to be more out there.

Carlos Beltran – Since June 25, Beltran has been god awful (.217/.270/.392 with eight HRs in 237 PAs). He has already put in a better season than you could expect, but it’s time to bench him until he shows some signs of life. He has a .244 BABIP and has struck out 52 times (against just 17 unintentional walks) in his last 237 PAs. While the K’s aren’t a disastrous pace, he is just not walking at all compared to earlier in the year. He is clearly better than he has been recently, but it’s time to stop paying the price until he snaps out of his funk.

Paul Konerko – Since coming back from a concussion, Konerko has batted .266/.324/.438 with three HRs in 17 games/71 plate appearances. That’s a pretty solid power pace, but the batting average is clearly hurting. Until he gets back to being a continual .280+ hitter, it makes sense to try and maximize his match-ups. If you can grab someone like Chris Carter or Brandon Moss to spot Konerko in your line-up, you’ll add a tick of power and probably not lose any batting average points. 

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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