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. Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET: Peralta is on fire over his last five games, batting 9-for-20 (.450) with two home runs, seven RBI and three runs scored. Particularly since June, Peralta has been rediscovering what made him so good last season – he’s hitting .303/.344/.471 with 14 runs and 16 RBI. The power production is still slightly disappointing, but expect his doubles (19 already) to turn into homers as the warm weather continues through the summer.
2. Garrett Jones, OF, PIT: Jones has always been a solid power hitter, and this year is no different – he’s on pace for 27 home runs and 29 doubles. This year, though, Jones is reaping the benefits of hitting behind a raking Andrew McCutchen. In 229 plate appearances, Jones has 37 RBI. He’s hit himself in 12 times (his home runs) and he’s knocked in McCutchen 11 times for a total of 23 between the two. The average major league hitter with 229 plate appearances has 24 RBI. Jones is hitting well enough on his own to be worth your while, but McCutchen’s presence is a significant boost to his value. Throw in a series at Coors this week and he’s worth a long look.
3. Brian McCann, C, ATL: McCann is starting to break through, hitting .345/.375/.759 in his last eight games. Nothing in McCann’s game is out of whack – he’s still making good contact, striking out less than 15% of time, he’s on pace for 31 home runs and over 100 RBI, and he still owns an above average walk rate. The only issue is a .238 BABIP that falls far below his career average of .295. Look for that to correct itself and McCann to assume his role as a top fantasy catcher in the second half.
4. Rickie Weeks, 2B, MIL: Weeks spent much of the first half flailing, striking out nearly 30% of the time and putting up a batting average below the Mendoza Line. He’s finally starting to look comfortable at the plate over the last month, though – he has a .264/.354/.436 line over his last 30 games and hit a pair of impressive opposite field home runs in a series at Houston just before the All-Star break. He still probably won’t justify the kind of draft pick or auction value he warranted to start the season, but he’s on the waiver wire in many leagues and worth a pickup – he should be a top-half second baseman for the rest of the season.
5. Casper Wells, OF, SEA: Wells is probably more of a deep league flavor, but he’s been impressive in his opportunities in Seattle. He now has a .264/.338/.416 line on the season and .263/.333/.455 career in 480 plate appearances. Most notably, Wells has 19 home runs now, impressive power for a right-hander at SafeCo Field (10 have come at home). He’s also finally getting consistent playing time with Franklin Gutierrez hurt (with no timetable to return, either), an appealing total package for a cheap-as-free outfielder off the wires.
1. Trevor Cahill, SP, ARI: There’s a certain amount of excitement that surfaces around a pitcher when he’s dealt from the American League to the National League. Aside from swapping out designated hitters for pitchers, the level of competition is generally worse, and the NL just lacks the general quality the AL has. But parks matter too, and Cahill headed from a homer killer to one of the best home run parks in the league in Arizona, and it’s finally biting. Cahill has a 5.52 ERA and 6.47 FIP over the last 30 days as he’s given up 2.45 home runs per nine innings. Don’t expect the smooth ride of the early months to continue.
2. Desmond Jennings, OF, TBR: Jennings has been a major disappointment this season, hitting just .230/.294/.347 with five home runs. Although he clearly has the talent to get out of this slump, he won’t be maximizing fantasy returns due to a bump down to seventh or eighth (depending on the game) in the batting order. Run and RBI opportunities will start to slip away and with fewer plate appearances, so will his stolen base totals.
3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, BOS: Saltalamacchia’s batting average topped out at .279 on June 6. Since then, he’s hitting a meager .181/.243/.394 and has seen his average drop all the way down to .239. He has a mighty 34 strikeouts in 94 at-bats in this stretch – nothing new for Salty, who struck out 30.8% of the time last year and is up to 29.3% overall this year. As such, his .235 average – equivalent to last year’s mark – is as to be expected for Boston’s backstop.
4. James Shields, SP, TBR: Shields has, for much of his career, had a bit of an issue with the home run ball. He has a career HR/9 of 1.17 and this year’s mark is nearly identical. Without Evan Longoria to make out-saving plays behind him, the defense hasn’t been quite as good as in recent years either, making each long ball hurt a bit more. He still has the strikeouts, but he isn’t providing ace-level production this season and shouldn’t be expected to do so in the second half either – it’s tough to expect better than a 3.75 ERA from him at this point.
5. Jose Quintana, SP, CHW: Quintana was a sensation early on, maintaining a 2.00 ERA for much of the season. That is now over – Quintana has a 2.60 ERA after allowing five runs in five innings in his last start before the All-Star break. The issue? Quintana allowed two home runs, just his fourth and fifth of the year in nine starts. He doesn’t have an exceptional ground ball rate nor the absurd stuff necessary to maintain a rate so low – just 0.72 per nine innings. Expect that number to rise and for Quintana’s ERA to approach 4.00 as a result.
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.