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.
1. Manny Machado, SS, BAL: Machado has skyrocketed from 1% owned to 38% in the Yahoo! game since the Orioles called him up, and understandably so: the youngster has socked three home runs already in just sixteen at-bats, with six hits total. Realistically, this isn’t what we’ll see – Machado hit just 11 home runs in 101 games in 2011 between both Single-A levels and hit just 11 home runs again in 109 games for Double-A Bowie this year. But Machado has shown an ability to hit the ball hard, and that combined with his prospect pedigree makes him worth a flier at shortstop.
2. Eric Chavez, 3B, NYY: Chavez missed the last series against the Blue Jays, but he’s expected back in action Monday. He has filled in well for Alex Rodriguez, sporting a .289/.347/.526 line and showing power with 12 homers in just 216 plate appearances. Be aware, though, Chavez is purely a platoon player. He won’t play against lefties – he has just 22 PA in 18 games against them – but the combination of the platoon and the friendly fences of Yankee Stadium mean he has a good chance of keeping up his strong performance to date.
3. Kris Medlen, SP, ATL: Medlen has excelled in three starts, throwing 16.2 innings with a 1.62 ERA and 16 strikeouts against just four walks. He should get at least one more start before Tommy Hanson returns to action, and there’s also another possibility: the Braves moving into a six-man rotation. Medlen would be helped by the Braves’ plus defense and pitcher-friendly home park and should be an above-average fantasy hurler if given the opportunity.
4. Andy Dirks, OF, DET: Dirks carried an .894 OPS through May before an Achilles injury sidelined the 26-year-old for two months. In seven games back, he’s picked up right where he left off, hitting .364/.375/.455. He isn’t a true talent .364 hitter or even .335 (his current line), but he makes great contact (13.3% strikeout rate) and should be a boon for the batting average down the stretch. In a lineup with both Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, he should be in line for some big run totals (if he hits second) or RBI totals (if he hits fifth or sixth) as well.
4. Adam Wainwright, SP, STL: Wainwright has turned into the Wainwright of old over the last month, posting a 7.0 K/BB and a 1.73 ERA over 36.1 innings. He’s still had his struggles this year and has slipped after good stretches earlier – a 2.70 ERA in four starts in June was followed up one start of seven runs and one of four runs in his next three. But this is the most extended piece of productivity we’ve seen out of him since returning from the injury, and the chance he’s back makes him worth risking value to acquire him at the trading deadline – coming up for players in many leagues by Sunday.
1. Johan Santana, SP, NYM: At this point, it’s difficult to point to Santana’s performance since his June 1st no hitter as resulting from anything besides an injury. The Mets’ lefty has allowed a whopping 39 runs in 44 innings since (all earned) and outside of a three-start stretch to finish June, he has allowed at least four runs every time out. The strikeouts are still there (39) but so are the walks (18) and especially the home runs (11). Things just aren’t the same on any level and Santana’s past struggles with health don’t offer any consolation.
2. Felix Doubront, SP, BOS: The young Doubront opened the fantasy season with a promising skillset: strikeouts and wins in front of a solid Boston offense, with the upside of using those strikeouts to bring down the ERA in the future. But that never happened, and instead Doubront has tired in his first full major league season. The lefty’s next start will be skipped and he could face a major innings slowdown as the year comes to an end – his 122.2 innings is an increase of over 40 over 2011 and 17 over 2010. Throw in a 5.67 ERA since June 8th and the luster is all gone.
3. Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE: For a while, there was talk of Kipnis being one of the best second basemen in the league. That has surely calmed, as Kipnis’s line has slipped to .259/.335/.386 on the season and he has yet to hit a home run since June ended. Part of the issue is BABIP – over the past 30 days, it’s down to .233 and overall it’s down to .287. Perhaps he’s tiring under the weight of his first full MLB season. A solid strikeout rate (15.4%) gives reason for hope, but thoughts of a 30-30 season are out the window. Think 15-30 instead – still solid at second base, but still well behind the elites like the Canos and Kinslers for now.
4. Jim Henderson, RP, MIL: Henderson didn’t get much of a leash in the closer role with Milwaukee, as Kameron Loe picked up a save Sunday. Word around Milwaukee is that the Brewers will try and do everything they can to get John Axford righted and back into the role himself. Henderson – a 29-year-old rookie – is a great story, but the situation doesn’t appear right for him to get long-term save opportunities at this point.
5. Yu Darvish, SP, TEX: Darvish has limped through the last month, allowing a 7.11 ERA over six starts. He’s too nasty to keep that going – strikeouts will make up for many of his mistakes – but until his control improves, he won’t be the number one people expected either. Darvish walked 6.16 batters per nine innings over the last month and has a 5.05 mark now on the season. That simply won’t keep enough runners off the bases, making those common Texas home runs more costly, and it drives up his WHIP as well. It might be worth seeing if somebody will pay for his name before the trading deadline.
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.