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.
It was a big week in baseball, with injuries and closer drama abound. Chances are you’ll be needing to make some shuffles over the next few days, and here are some names to keep in mind as you wheel and deal.
1. Bryce Harper, OF, WAS: Earlier this year, I had Harper as one of the “5 Down” not because of his talent, but because I assumed an early season slump might dissuade the Nationals from calling him up early enough to make a big impact. Whoops. Now Harper is setting the world on fire, hitting .308/.424/.500. Even if he does cool down, the Nationals likely won’t be able to send him down any time soon thanks to Jayson Werth’s broken wrist sustained Sunday night. It looks like Harper is here to stay.
2. James McDonald, SP, PIT: McDonald’s usefulness might be limited to deeper leagues, but he’s making a case for the shallower, more standard leagues with his performance this past week: 14 IP, two wins, 17 strikeouts, a 2.57 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. McDonald made a splash in 2010 after putting up a 3.52 ERA in 11 starts after the Pirates acquired him for Octavio Dotel. He’s made good on his excellent prospect pedigree so far this season and could be worth a broader look if he continues to limit the walks (3.2 BB/9 so far).
3. Steve Cishek, RP, MIA: There’s been a ton of closer overhauls this week, and of the relievers ascending to the top role, Cishek is my favorite (right up there with David Robertson). He was excellent for the Marlins in 54.2 innings last season (2.63 ERA, 2.46 FIP) and has continued on the same path this season, striking out over a batter per inning and allowing just one run in 14.1 innings. The only problem is that the Marlins have 27 million reasons to try and get Bell the job back, but any replacement closer starts the job as a temporary fill anyway. Cishek has the stuff necessary to earn the job permanently.
4. Chris Capuano, SP, LAD: Capuano was once a fantasy stud, back when he won 18 games with Milwaukee in 2005. Two teams and two Tommy John surgeries later and it looks like Capuano is back to relevance. Capuano is flashing excellent strikeout stuff – 36 in 36.2 innings – and has greatly benefited from pitching in pitcher-friendly parks like Dodger Stadium. As a relatively soft-tossing lefty, he’s not the kind of guy worth a start at bandboxes like Coors Field or Great American Ballpark, but pick your matchups well and Capuano should be a nice find for your staff.
5. Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE: Kipnis slugged his sixth home run of the season in Sunday’s game and is the proud owner of a tremendous .304/.390/.569 line this season. The 25-year-old probably strikes out too much (16.7% of PAs this season, never better than 17.2% in any minor league campaign) to maintain that kind of batting average, but the power is real – he now has 11 homers in 262 plate appearances. He’s a sneaky source of power in the middle infield and it looks like we should believe the hype on the former top-100 prospect.
1. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, BOS: Youkilis hit the DL this week with lower back tightness, the second year in a row his back has sent him to the disabled list. The hip got him to end 2011, and one has to wonder if Youkilis is physically breaking down. His less-than-perfect body was a reason many scouts avoided him early in his career. Even if his shape hasn’t impacted his ability – he’s clearly capable of great baseball feats – it may come into play with his stamina and longevity, particularly given his age. Youkilis turned 33 in spring training, and with injuries playing a bigger and bigger role in his career the past few years, we have no choice but to wonder if he can return to the form he was at in 2010 (.307/.411/.564, 19 HR) on a consistent basis.
2. Philip Humber, SP, CWS: It’s very difficult to throw a perfect game in one of your first four starts and still manage a 4.62 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP, but Humber’s done it. His two starts since? 11 innings, 12 earned runs, nine walks, 12 hits and four home runs. Don’t be fooled by the perfecto – it was a great accomplishment, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to live up to that hype for the rest of the season.
3. Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: It’s May, and even though we’re well into the season, statistical samples are small and we shouldn’t be too quick to drop a promising player. In the case of Clay Buchholz, however, enough might just be enough. He has just one more strikeout than walk, he’s allowed 10 home runs in just six starts, and he’s now allowed 33 runs in 32 innings. The velocity isn’t where it once was (down below 92 MPH average for the first time in his career) either, suggesting he may not be fully recovered from his back injury, or it’s forced him to alter his mechanics in some detrimental fashion. Either way, Buchholz looks too far gone to keep active at this point.
4. Matt Thornton/Hector Santiago/Addison Reed, RP, CWS: Chris Sale’s elbow can’t handle the stress of starting, apparently, so he’s back as the White Sox closer for the foreseeable future. What that means for his value is kind of nebulous and really depends on your team and your need for saves. For this trio of relievers, however, their value is tanked. I still think Reed is worth owning as one of the game’s premier relievers, and Thornton puts up solid numbers as well. Santiago, on the other hand, is still raw and doesn’t put up the kind of rates that hold up without saves.
5. Tony Campana, CF, CHC: Campana was a popular add in many leagues this past week because he can run like the wind. But look at the last seven days and what do we see? One stolen base. That’s not because he isn’t playing – he appeared in six games and took 21 plate appearances. Nope, the problem is he can’t get on base. He hit .176 with a .300 on base percentage last week and has just a .321 career mark. If he isn’t getting on base, he isn’t going to steal bases, and if he isn’t stealing bases, Campana is completely worthless.
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.