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.
Phil Humber had a perfect game this week and Curtis Granderson hit three home runs in a game. but you don’t need me to tell you they’re trending upwards. Here are five other players looking up after the second week of games:
1. Mike Minor, SP, ATL: Minor has been on fantasy radar screens for a while and it looks like he’s ready to contribute at the major league level this year. The 24-year-old has two wins a 3.10 ERA on the young season and has both the peripherals and the pedigree to keep it going. He has recorded 19 strikeouts against just five walks so far and carries a 3.14 ERA and 3.59 K/BB from 235 minor league innings into his first full season as a major league starter.
2. Henry Rodriguez, RP, WAS: Rodriguez continues to thrive as part of the weird alternating closer thing Davey Johnson keeps rolling out in Washington, with four saves in four chances to go with nine strikeouts in 7.1 innings. Six walks is a bit of a concern, but we already know Rodriguez would be a bit wild and his stuff – 100 MPH fastball type stuff – is good enough to survive a few walks. With Brad Lidge looking shaky (two blown saves in four chances), Rodriguez could see more save opportunities in upcoming weeks.
3. Alex Gordon, OF, KC: Gordon is the prime example of just how much an early slump can impact numbers for weeks into the season. The Royals’ left field will end the week at just .190/.299/.286, but since opening the season 0-for-20, Gordon is 11-for-41 (.268) with two home runs, five RBIs and five runs scored; in the last week he has hit .300/.417/.550. Tales of his demise were premature.
4. Mike Napoli, C, TEX: Napoli wasn’t quite as cold as Gordon to start the season, but he had it rough. He sported a line of just .077/.333/.077 on April 12th. Fast forward 10 days and we add 11 hits, six home runs, 12 RBIs and eight runs. Napoli has freaky power, particularly for a catcher, and is totally capable of producing multiple runs like this over the course of a season. He serves as an excellent example why not to give up on a player over five games worth of performance.
5. Jed Lowrie, SS, HOU: Lowrie is and will likely always be an injury risk, and he’s already missed time this year as a result. Still, shortstop is such a shallow position and Lowrie hit 15 homers in his last 480 at-bats as a member of the Red Sox. He’ll have a premium spot in the Astros’ batting order – probably either second or fifth – and so he’ll be in some run scoring or RBI opportunities as the year goes on as well, making him an ideal sleeper pick at shortstop.
These five players didn’t quite achieve perfection last week and don’t look to be getting there any time soon:
1. Willie Bloomquist, SS, ARI: It seems like Bloomquist makes a token appearance at the top of leaderboards after the first week every season now. Once again, that appearance has been accompanied by a freefall – Bloomquist hit just .111/.111/.222 after opening the season on a five-game hitting streak and is showing why he’s had to bounce around teams and positions his whole career – he simply isn’t good enough to be a regular, whether it’s your fantasy team’s lineup or Arizona’s.
2. Brad Lidge, RP, WAS: Lidge’s shakiness was mentioned above. Here’s exactly what I mean: Lidge has appeared seven times for the Nationals and allowed seven hits, seven walks and four runs. In his second successful save against Houston, Lidge allowed the first two baserunners and went to three-ball counts on two of the outs in the inning. Six of his seven outings have seen at least one baserunner; four of the seven have seen multiple. The job is Henry Rodriguez’s to win now.
3. Austin Jackson, OF, DET: Jackson is hitting .281 with three home runs and 12 runs scored as we enter the third week of the fantasy season, which sounds awfully enticing, but let’s not forget how much of that is due to his huge first week. The Tigers’ leadoff man hit safely in eight of his first 16 at-bats but hit just .111/.200/.333 last week. Those first 16 at-bats will have an undue impact on his batting average for at least a few more weeks, so don’t be fooled if an owner tries to dangle a .280-.300 hitting Jackson in front of your face.
4. Josh Johnson, SP, MIA: Johnson finally managed to hold an offense down against Chicago last week, giving up two runs and seven hits over seven innings, but he still hasn’t showcased the swing-and-miss stuff that made him such a force when healthy the last few years. He’s only drawing swinging strikes on 5.7% of pitches, down from a 9.6% career average, and his K/9 is down to a weak 4.32. Still, he had a 2.14 ERA between 2010 and 2011, so it’s understandably hard to give up on him now. However, if the whiffs don’t come soon, it might be time to downgrade him.
5. Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: Buchholz hasn’t looked himself at all since returning from the back injury which sidelined him last season. His velocity is down (average fastball of 91.8 MPH), he isn’t missing bats (5.6% swinging strikes) and the results obviously aren’t there (17 earned runs in as many innings). It’s tough to make a quick judgment on 285 pitches, but he just hasn’t been able to use his fastball effectively yet, and without his fastball he just isn’t the same pitcher who was so effective in 2010 and 2011.
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.