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. Jim Thome, DH, BAL: Thanks to a trade to Baltimore, Thome will finally get to play every day. He showed he can still hack it as a DH through interleague play for the Phillies, mashing to the tune of a .333/.415/.722 line and four homers in just nine games. The power’s there, the park is there, and the Orioles are somehow fighting for the playoffs this season. Thome should be able to help both his new teams and fantasy owners thirsting for power.
2. Mike Fiers, SP, MIL: Fiers has rocketed up the organizational ladder, moving from High-A in 2010 to making six starts for the Brewers in 2012. The 27-year-old is making a great case to stay in the big leagues so far, with a 2.29 ERA as an injury replacement. More impressively, the peripherals completely back up the performance, as he owns a 5.13 K/BB with over a strikeout per inning. He’s only getting 31.8% of balls in play on the ground, and that will inevitably push his ERA up a bit, but he makes a solid replacement pickup as long as he’s in the rotation.
3. Wilson Betemit, 1B/3B/OF, BAL: Betemit might be a tough sell in standard 12-team or shallower leagues, but get any deeper and he begins to have value. He has two huge points in his favor: positional flexibility (particularly for five-outfielder leagues) and heavy platoon value (particularly for large roster leagues). In games featuring opposing right-handed starting pitchers, Betemit owns a .279/.342/.488 line with seven home runs and 23 RBI in 47 starts. To top it all off, he has become a regular, starting 11 of Baltimore’s past 13 games.
4. Andrelton Simmons, SS, ATL: First off, let’s get this out of the way: Andrelton Simmons is, in all likelihood, not a .333 hitter. He might not be a .300 hitter. But he will also almost certainly hit for a better average than the typical shortstop – .258 – and that’s because he has an incredible ability to make contact. Simmons owns just a 10.4% strikeout rate and 6.1% swinging strike rate, both fantastic numbers for anybody, much less a 22-year-old skipping Triple-A to get to the majors. His lack of a single steal attempt in 96 PA is concerning, but he should do enough to hold some value at shortstop given his ability to hit for average.
5. Tommy Milone, SP, OAK: Go over to the schedule and find out when Tommy Milone is pitching at home. Then start him every single time. Milone has allowed 15 home runs on the season, but just one of them has come at the spacious O.co Coliseum, where he has held hitters to a .169/.213/.250 line. The split probably won’t stay quite so huge, but Milone has also issued just eight walks in 45.2 innings at home and should be a boon to pitching rates during his home starts.
1. Lance Lynn, SP, STL: The only reason Lance Lynn is in the All-Star Game is because player voting for starting pitchers took place nearly two weeks ago. Since then, Lynn has posted a 9.98 ERA and allowed four home runs over three starts. He has just 12 strikeouts to seven walks in that period as well and the wheels appear to be falling off. He should be serviceable going forward – an ERA in the 3.50-4.00 range wouldn’t surprise – but he is an All-Star in name only.
2. Wade Miley, SP, ARI: Miley, like Lynn, will play in his first All-Star game this season. Like Lynn, things are falling apart for Miley, albeit not nearly as suddenly. Still, Miley has allowed a 4.82 ERA over his last three starts, largely thanks to four home runs. Miley has a surprisingly low 7.5% HR/FB rate given the desert air of Arizona, and that should be expected to rise as the season goes on. Again, think of Miley as a roughly 4.00 ERA guy rather than as an All-Star level pitcher.
3. Brian Roberts, 2B, BAL: For so long, Roberts was the face of the Orioles, shining through the film of mediocrity (or worse) that covered the team. Unfortunately, just as Baltimore is starting to break out, it appears Roberts could be done. He hasn’t a single extra-base hit in his 17 games since returning from concussion issues and is striking out more than he ever has before. His batting average is .182 and the bat just doesn’t seem to have any pop left.
4. Michael Cuddyer, OF, COL: Cuddyer’s overall line isn’t horrible – .256/.311/.484, 12 HR, 41 R, 49 RBI, 8 SB. It’s actually pretty good. But he has Coors Field to thank for nearly all of that – at home he’s hitting .283 with 7 HR, 33 R, 29 RBI, and 4 SB in 42 games (33 on the road). He’s hitting .233 with wholly mediocre (or poor) counting stats on the road. Turn this into an advantage – find a suitable replacement and use Cuddyer as one of the best platoon outfielders in fantasy (starting at home). The combination will almost certainly be far better than what Cuddyer presents as a whole.
5. Alejandro De Aza, OF, CWS: De Aza is hitting just .264 over the past two weeks as opposed to .294 for the whole season. What’s different? His BABIP is down to .317 (still well above the league average) as opposed to .359 on the season. De Aza strikes out far too much (19.0% of plate appearances) to be a traditional high-average hitter. He’s still worth holding onto for speed and runs scored, but if somebody is offering value based on that high batting average, it’s probably time to cut and run.
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.