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May 9, 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

Will Middlebrooks – Since his promotion, Middlebrooks has been a top 10 player (8/21 with three homers and a stolen base). That said, he doesn’t walk much, will strike out a good bit (25% of the time) and hasn’t been hitting the ball all that well (12.5% line drive rate). So far, he has a HR/FB rate (33%), BABIP (.385) and ISO (.571) that simply won’t last. If you can trade him, do so quickly. He’s a .260 hitter at best, who is capable of blasting 15 HRs in 100 games or so.

Allen Craig –Craig, also getting his first licks of 2012, has been phenomenal: 8/19 with two homers and a steal and should be owned in most leagues. He can finish with 20 HRs, a .295 average, and add in a good bit of RBIs. Pounce on him quick if your league mates ignored him.

Kyle Seager – The Silver Bullet (so not original) has been cold frosted goodness lately: eight hits in his last 25 ABs, with three homers. Perhaps the most popular player on Twitter, people shouldn’t get use to this level of production. He’s never had an ISO near this level previously and doesn’t walk at all. He has cut down on his swinging and missing and K’s, so a .280 average is within reach if he continues his plate awareness. However, he won’t hit more than eight HRs over the rest of the season. In deep leagues, he has a ton of value as a solid average guy with some pop/speed (maybe 10 more SBs), but he won’t be a long-term mixed league option.

Chris Johnson – With all the out-of-nowhere 3Bs surging, it has dulled the pain of some of the injuries to the position. Johnson has filled a void of late (4/19 with three homers). While it appears he is playing better and similar to what he put up in 2010, he shouldn’t be trusted. He is walking at a 2.8% clip, striking out 27.5% of the time and swinging and missing a ton (12.4%). He is putting decent wood on the bat, so his ISO and HR/FB rate aren’t a total mirage; so he’s good for another 12-15 HRs but he’ll struggle to hit .265. You’ll be happier with Chris Davis.

Carlos Ruiz – What does Ruiz have to do to get some love? Over the last seven days, he is 8/23 with two homers and sits at .322 with five dingers on the season. Currently, Ruiz is the third ranked fantasy catcher in standard leagues. Sure his 17.9% HR/FB rate is nowhere near his career norms, but he’s a safe and stable catcher. He should hit .290 with seven to nine more HRs. That’s a top 10 catcher most places.

Pedro Alvarez – The Alvarez train keeps on chugging: 7/18 with two bombs over the last seven days. He now has a reasonable .247 average with seven homers on the season. It’s a nice surge, but he has a 12.4% swinging strike rate, a 30.4% HR/FB rate and a 30.2% K/9 rate. It’s unlikely all his fly balls will continue to clear the fence and when they don’t, they’ll become outs. Alvarez isn’t going to finish batting higher than .245. He might add 20 or so more HRs, but there are better power options out there.

Gordon Beckham – Holy crap, Gordon Beckham played well for a stretch: 10/28 with two homers over the last seven days. Unfortunately, when you look at his full season, he is swinging and missing and striking out more. He could be a .250 hitter with 14 HRs and eight SBs, but that is his ceiling. It’s certainly possible he falls well short (.230 with 10 HRs and five SBs).

Jed Lowrie – A healthy Jed Lowrie is a masher: 8/20 with two bombs over the last seven days. Lowrie should feast on National League pitching, but penciling him in for more than 80 games the rest of the way (ROTW) is foolish. He’ll hit nine to10 more HRs and bat .280, so plan accordingly.

Brandon Snyder – It’s inevitable: Orioles drop a kid who grew up in the Metro area, kid comes back and demolishes them. Snyder is 4/7 with two homers in the last week and is beginning to get playing time all over the place for the Rangers. The righty is only 25 and can form, at the least, a decent platoon with Mitch Moreland. Snyder has flashed a decent walk rate throughout the minors but has also struck out at a good clip against advanced pitching. He is a .265 hitter who is capable of 12 more HRs given 400 more ABs or so. Obviously, if playing time opens up, he could add the power. However, if he faces a bunch more righties, the average could suffer.

Jarrod Dyson – Lorenzo Cain, er, Jarrod Dyson has been terrific of late: 11/29 with seven runs and two steals. As the Royals line-up begins to get on track, Dyson should score a bevy runs. He has shown a decent walk rate in the minors without striking out a ton. He won’t continue to average .357 on balls in play, but with his speed, he can bat .270. There’s an outside chance Dyson ends up with 25 SBs on the year. If you need speed, pounce.

Wilson Betemit – If you’re trying to plug a 3B hole, the person you should be turning to is Betemit, who is 5/14 with a homer over the last seven days. Betemit has cut down on his K’s and swinging strike rate so far this year. Since 2008, Betemit has posted a .279/.339/.462 line with 17 HRs per 162 games. He’s good for 12 more dingers and should bat at least .275 the ROTW.

Alberto Callaspo – Callaspo has finally gotten some consistent playing time and has really picked it up at the plate (7/16 with a homer). While his playing time is a tad tenuous, he should ultimately win regular starts at third for a team that should put together a good offense. Expect a solid average (.280) with some pop (nine homers) and decent runs/RBIs from here on out. If he has gone unnoticed in deep leagues, grab him now.

Andy Dirks – With the Delmon Young situation up in the air and the Tigers struggling to consistently fill the DH slot, Dirks has every opportunity to be an impact bat on an impact offense. He is battling some nagging injuries, but went 8/19 with a homer over the last seven days. After struggling initially at AA in 2009, Dirks has owned the minors since. Look for Dirks to bat .285 with 12 HRs and potentially a handful of steals, given 400 ABs ROTW.

Carlos Zambrano – Zambrano dominated the Astros and Giants over the last week (16 IPs, 14 K’s, no runs, and a 0.75 WHIP). So far, getting into a cavernous ballpark and working with Ozzie Guillen has agreed with Big Z (1.98 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 3.74 xFIP). Sure, he has a .234 BABIP and 88.2% strand rate, but he’s posting a double digit swinging strike percentage for the first time in like forever and has upped the usage of his splitter and cutter. Zambrano is going to finish with a 3.75 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 145 K’s.

Jeff Samardzija – Samardzija went 14 innings last week with 14 K’s, a 1.23 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP. He was a good speculative play a month ago in 12-teamers and should now be owned in most any league. There will be some bumps and it remains to be seen how many innings he can throw, but a 3.50 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 8.35 K/9 rate are nasty. Given some of the uncertainty, it makes sense to explore unloading him, but if you can’t get a good package, treat him as a top level match-ups type.

Jerome Williams – When you get to face the Twins, you’re in for an awesome week. Williams also pitched admirably against the Blue Jays en route to a 15.2 IP, 10 K, 1.15 ERA and 0.83 WHIP week. That said, he’s living off some great match-ups and luck (3.4% HR/FB rate, 68.3% strand rate, etc.). Williams is a fine pitcher for deep formats, but expecting anything better than a 4.40 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 90 K’s ROTW is silly.

Joe Blanton – Blanton, who gets overshadowed by the plethora of stars in the Phillies rotation, shut down the surprisingly hot Braves over the last week and is controlling the strike zone early on. While he is benefiting from a low HR/FB rate, his strand rate (65.6%) hasn’t been overly kind. Blanton should be right around a 4.00 ERA at the end of the year. He’ll add a 1.21 WHIP and a 6.61 K/9 rate.

Jake Arrieta – You just can’t stop Arrieta at this point, not even the mighty New York Yankees! Today, Arrieta has a 7.75 K/9 rate, 2.11 BB/9 rate, a 3.52 ERA, and 3.37 FIP and xFIP. Arrieta has added velocity across the board, but that hasn’t contributed to increased swinging strike rates. However it has contributed to better K/9 rates, meaning something has to give. Either he’ll start missing more bats or he’ll start getting less K’s. As things normalize, Arrieta will finish with an ERA about a full point higher than where he currently sits. He should post another 100+ K’s and a 1.36 WHIP. In short, he’ll be totally a match-ups guy. If you can trade him now, this might be the apex of his value.

Felipe Paulino – Paulino worked his way back to the rotation, but had to face the Yankees. Never fear, he went six scoreless with six K’s. Paulino is a sneaky starter for 12-teamers, as he is capable of a 4.35 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 8.10 K/9 rate. He’s a match-ups arm, but that type of K-rate doesn’t usually just appear on the wire.

Rick Porcello – The strike-outs will never be there, but Porcello could be a solid ratio starter (2.51 ERA, 0.91 WHIP over the last week). On the young season, Porcello has cut down on his walks and increased his ground ball rate. He is throwing his fast ball and slider a bit more it appears. He’s a deep league arm, as he is capable of taking advantage of some match-ups (like, say, the Minnesota Twins) and finishing with a 4.25 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.

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

Matt Harrison – It was a tough two-start stretch for Harrison as he had to pitch at Toronto and Baltimore. However, don’t let those starts or his year-to-date ratios (5.11 ERA and 1.43 WHIP) cause you to drop him. Harrison has been hurt a bit by the long ball (14.3% HR/FB rate), isn’t getting a ton of help from his strand rate (67.4%) and has an inflated BABIP (.323). In addition, Harrison is allowing less walks and getting more ground balls. You’ll be happy to own Harrison the rest of the way as he puts up an ERA around 4.00 with a 1.34 WHIP and 5.77 K/9 rate.

Matt Moore – It should not be shocking that a young pitcher with few MLB innings to his name is struggling. Moore’s recent two start stretch (against Oakland and Seattle no less) weren’t pretty (9.2 IPs, 8.38 ERA and 1.86 WHIP). While he did have 11 K’s, that appears to be the lone bright spot, so far, as his K/9 rate is low, his BB/9 rate is bad and he’s getting no ground balls. However, his swinging strike rate is in double digits and he isn’t getting hit overly hard. Expect the K’s to come, but the walk rate will hurt his production all year. ROTW: 4.08 ERA, 8.95 K/9 rate, 1.38 WHIP.

Rickie Weeks – A 3/23 week only slightly brought Weeks batting average down. So far, Weeks isn’t swinging and missing more than normal but has seen a solid rise in his K%. While he is hitting a few more fly balls and less liners, that shouldn’t totally account for his plummeting BABIP either. Weeks is capable of hitting .260 ROTW with 19 HRs and seven SBs. There will be a surge somewhere unless he’s hurt.

Joe Mauer – Mauer saw his average dip as he scuffled recently (2/21). This stretch and his current average are really just a small sample size blip. There is nothing to indicate he’s not the same old .300 hitter. He still has minimal pop and comes with an injury risk, but that’s the same for most catchers. You should acquire Mauer if you can buy low.

Eric Hosmer – A 4/27 week seems about to push people over the edge with Hosmer. If that happens, be on the ground to scoop Hosmer up. His batted ball rates are eerily similar to last season, and he isn’t swinging and missing or striking out anymore than last year either. ROTW, Hosmer will bat .295 with 19 HRs and 13 SBs. If you can go out and pluck him away, do it!

Brandon Phillips – Things have not gone well for Phillips (four for his last 24 and just 19/83 on the season). Traditionally, Phillips has had a hard time getting going, as he posts some of his worst numbers during the season’s first month. That said, there is very little different in his BB, K, and swinging rates, yet his BABIP is far below established career norms. ROTW: .279 with 15 HRs and 14 SBs.

Mike Aviles – After sizzling, Aviles has entered Mr. Freeze territory over the last week: 6/33. In reality, this is about who Aviles is:  a .265 hitter with a .300 OBP and some decent pop/speed. He’s good for eight to 11 more HRs and 10 – 12 more SBs, but he’ll struggle to bat over .265.

Ben Zobrist – Zobrist was given several days off to help his swoon, yet managed to hit just 2/16 over the last week. At the end of May last season, Zobrist was hitting .246/.324/.477 with nine HRs and five SBs. From June 1 on, Zobrist posted a .280/.367/.465 line with 11 HRs and 14 SBs. For whatever reason, Zobrist has been a horrible performer in March/April. In addition, there is nothing different in his swinging strike rate, batted ball rates, K-rates or BB/9 rate. ROTW: .265 with 17 HRs and 16 SBs.

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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