By: Jack Moore
Each week we’ll be providing you with insight into the best (and worst) baseball players to play in your fantasy baseball league.
So far so good for most of my teams – all but two of my nine money league teams sit in the top half of their leagues. The two that don’t? Albert Pujols was the first (or most expensive, in the auction) pick. For all you Pujols owners out there, I feel your pain. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what else we can do but stay the course at this point. In the meantime, try and get back into it with these five players:
1. Josh Reddick, OF, OAK: Reddick had a phenomenal week for the A’s, hitting three home runs and hitting .409/.536/.909 in six games. He has his overall batting average up to .291 and with eight homers, 23 runs and 19 RBI, earning him tens of thousands of adds across leagues this weekend. Reddick hasn’t ever shown this kind of power before – his .545 SLG and .254 ISO would both be career highs – but he sported ISOs over .200 at every level of the minors, so there’s reason to believe his power could be blossoming at age 25.
2. Raul Ibanez, OF, NYY: Ibanez got just 21 at-bats last week but still managed four home runs, eight runs scored and nine RBI. Unfortunately, Ibanez probably doesn’t fit in shallower leagues – he’ll only play against right-handed pitching – but when he plays, there’s a good chance he’ll be worth your while. All seven of his home runs have come against right-handed pitchers. Even better, New Yankee Stadium should just amplify his power: according to StatCorner.com, left-handed hitters homer 143% more often at Yankee Stadium than at the average park. Ibanez should serve as a cheap source of big-time power.
3. Scott Diamond, SP, MIN: Diamond’s first two major league starts have shown why the Twins were so keen on holding on to the Rule 5 draft pick: 14 innings, 10 strikeouts, and not a single run allowed. Diamond has relied on heavy ground ball ability and solid control to succeed in the minors and has never exhibited the stuff of a power pitcher. He likely won’t be able to keep making big-league hitters look silly, but if he can continue to get ground balls on over 60% of his balls in play (as he has so far), he could be a serviceable option.
4. Joe Blanton, SP, PHI: If you need a two-start starter off the wires this week, Blanton just might be your man. Both come at home, with the first an extremely favorable matchup against the Astros, followed by an inter-league date with the Red Sox. Blanton owns a 3.24 ERA and a 28:6 K:BB ratio on the season – even with some regression, Blanton should be able to post some solid numbers in both the short and long term.
5. Dale Thayer, RP, SD: Although Thayer’s long term value is entirely dependent on the status of Huston Street, it’s safe to say that Thayer is the Padres’ closer in the short term. Whoever gets to close in San Diego has value thanks to the park, and Thayer should be able to hold his own. He’s never had a minor league ERA above 3.50 and has been exceptional in his first seven innings – all scoreless, with seven strikeouts against no walks. Go ahead and grab him if you need saves – a lot of leagues should still have him sitting on the wire.
None of these five players have had the debilitating effect Albert Pujols is going through, but these guys could cause problems for rosters down the road:
1. Justin Masterson, SP, CLE: Masterson was beat up again Sunday against the Red Sox, allowing six runs in as many innings. Masterson thrived on control last season, but it has completely disappeared in 2012: the 27-year-old has walked 26 batters in 48.1 innings after walking just 65 in 216 innings last season. This is not a new issue for Masterson – he held walk rates over 4.0 per nine innings his first two professional seasons as well. Starts like his Opening Day effort – 8 IP, 10 K, 1 BB, 1 ER – signal it’s too early to completely give up hope, but if an attractive option shows itself on the waiver wire, feel free to make the move.
2. Jon Jay, OF, STL: Jay has plummeted since his batting average topped out at .429 on May 2nd, as he’s hit just .235/.297/.294 since. However, it’s not Jay’s performance that is the big issue here – it’s the return of Allen Craig. Craig has picked up from where he left off in last year’s postseason, hitting .359/.413/.821 in his first 10 games back and will require a spot in the lineup. With Lance Berkman returning, Jay could be the casualty, with Carlos Beltran sliding into center field and Craig playing right. Jay can still provide value, but without a guaranteed spot in the lineup, his counting stats just won’t measure up at the end of the year.
3. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT: It looks like Alvarez has rediscovered his power stroke – he has seven doubles and five home runs already this season. However, he remains one of the worst in the league at making contact and has struck out in a whopping 33.6% of plate appearances. In deeper formats, Alvarez may be worth holding on to just on the off chance something clicks or he runs into some BABIP luck, as the power is probably real. However, as it stands right now, Alvarez will struggle to get his batting average above .230, and that makes him a tough sell in most standard leagues.
4. Bartolo Colon, SP, OAK: Colon mustered some early season magic, but has since regressed to a 3.96 ERA. Considering he’s unlikely to provide wins thanks to Oakland offense, he therefore needs to strike batters out to hold value, and that’s just not going to happen. His swinging strike rate of 3.7% is miniscule – nearly five points below the starter average – and his 5.0 K/9 is unlikely to rise. He has pristine control and could ride that to a few solid starts, making him a worthy stream at times, but it’s tough to justify a full-time roster spot for him in standard leagues.
5. Jake Arrieta, SP, BAL:Welcome back to Earth. After allowing seven runs on 10 hits in just 3.2 innings Sunday, Arrieta’s ERA is back above 5.00, just as it was in 2011. The same issue persists: after allowing 21 home runs in 22 starts in 2011, Arrieta has allowed seven home runs in eight starts in 2012. The good sign is Arrieta’s control is much improved, and if that continues he should be able to navigate his ERA into the low 4.00s, but the pitcher who shut out the Yankees over eight innings back on May 2nd will not be appearing on a regular basis.
Jack Moore is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Mathematics and Economics. His work can also be found at FanGraphs.com, DisciplesOfUecker.com, RotoWire.com, AdvancedNFLStats.com and ESPN. Follow him on twitter at @jh_moore.