I’ve been running well here the last few weeks so I’ll jinx myself by mentioning the following: Rogearvin Bernadina stole three bases and hit two homers since last Sunday, Joe Blanton has come around, and sure enough Tim Lincecum still isn’t looking like a Cy Young winner. I’ll stop the damage to my shoulder with the back patting and get onto this week’s analysis.
Daniel Hudson, P, Diamondbacks - As bad as I thought the Dan Haren trade was, the D-Backs may have made up for it by acquiring Hudson. The move to the National League has suited him just fine – he has a 1.72 ERA in August. He’s also struck out 36 batters over 36.1 innings and had an even better K/9 rate at Triple-A Charlotte earlier this year. Hudson threw over 166 minor league innings last year so there shouldn’t be any type of innings cap on him over the final weeks. He makes for a nice target in the mid-to-late rounds in next year’s draft.
Fernando Rodney, P, Angels - I hesitantly put Rodney as an upgrade because I’m not in love with his peripherals. However, he’s now the closer for the Angels following the trade of Brian Fuentes and will pick up a handful of saves over the last month of the season. Looking at Rodney’s numbers, nothing here screams elite or even mediocre. His K/9 rate has declined each of the last three seasons (10.93, 7.26, 6.45) and he still walks a ton of batters for a reliever (4.70 BB/9). Again, he’ll get the ball in the ninth; so for that reason alone, I’ll give him an upgrade.
Aroldis Chapman, P, Reds - I’m quite sure I know what would happen if I stepped up to the plate and someone threw a 105 mph fastball my way. Chapman has been working consistently in the triple digits and will be up with the big club come Wednesday. He’s a nice addition if you need someone on your staff to accumulate strikeouts the rest of the way.
Wilson Ramos - A name to remember for the future. Lots of good catchers are coming up - Carlos Santana and Buster Posey have done alright. Ramos shouldn’t be forgotten in keeper leagues and will likely be called up on September 1st. He spent the year slumping in Rochester, and I can only speculate he didn’t have any motivation looking at his future as a Twin with Joe Mauer on the roster. Since the trade to the Nationals and the move to Syracuse, Ramos has been on fire, batting .319 with three home runs over 72 at-bats. He has to work on his plate discipline (specifically his high strikeout rate) but should be the future behind the plate for the Nationals.
Wandy Rodriguez, P, Astros - Rodriguez has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball since mid-July with a 1.11 ERA over his last seven starts. Throw in a 54:9 K:BB ratio over that time and he’d be in the Cy Young discussion if not for his early season struggles. Rodriguez has a dramatic home/away ERA split (2.85/4.93) but is still an automatic start on the road with the way he’s been pitching.
Clay Buchholz - The kid has been nothing short of amazing lately, posting a 0.99 ERA during August; and he was working on a 26-inning scoreless streak before committing a throwing error that led to a run in his last start against the Rays. While Buchholz’s strikeout rate isn’t overly impressive (6.20 K/9), his HR/9 (0.49) and GB rate (51.3%) definitely are. I’m not sure where to put him on next year’s starting pitcher rankings. Top-15 probably, maybe higher?
Chris Perez, P, Indians - Is there any doubt now that Perez is a better pitcher than Kerry Wood? Perez has handled the closing duties with ease, converting 5-of-6 chances in August and also picking up two wins. I love the fact that he’s gotten better as the year has gone on, which is evidenced by his monthly ERAs (4.05, 3.09, 2.13, 0.00 and 1.64). Perez has put up a sparkling 22:5 K:BB ratio since the All-Star break after posting a 29:18 K:BB ratio beforehand. Don’t forget about him during next year’s drafts - he will provide nice value after the elite closers are off the board.
Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs - Fukudome is quietly putting up a nice second half: since the mid-season classic he has a 1.015 OPS. This gaudy stat is due to his ridiculous OBP (.466) more so than his power. Unfortunately, he’s not worth starting outside of deep or NL-only leagues because there is not any stat that jumps out other than his .367 BA for the month (unless your league counts OBP).
Jordan Zimmermann, P, Nationals - Don’t be fooled by his rough first start for the Nats; Zimmerman is one of the better pitching prospects in the National League. After going down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, Zimmermann made it back ahead of schedule and was effective at Triple-A Syracuse with a 0.53 ERA over 17 innings. He is a good play in deeper leagues right now and could become even more valuable over the last few weeks of the season.
Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins - Maybin is back in the big leagues and will be the Marlins’ center fielder from here on out. Cody Ross has left town and Maybin has hit .304 since his recall. He offers a nice speed/power combo and needs to show that his .338 average in the minors wasn’t a fluke. He is in the “check status” area due to a minor groin injury and a high strikeout rate (seven over his last 14 at-bats). He’s worth keeping an eye on; I just can’t recommend him quite yet.
Brandon Philips, 2B, Reds - Philips has missed the last three games after getting hit by a pitch in Wednesday’s game against the Giants. X-rays were negative but that doesn’t mean his wrist is completely healthy. It’s tough to predict how this will affect him at the plate; so if you have another decent infield option this week, I’d definitely roll with him.
*Note - Ian Stewart, Ryan Franklin, Derrek Lee, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, and Jose Reyes all are nursing injuries that should be monitored.
Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals – Personally, I think it’s a good rib to point out that Morgan looks like a jockey the way he dons his uniform. Then again, Morgan didn’t find it quite as funny, beaning a fan in the general direction of his hecklers towards the end of last Saturday’s game. Morgan was suspended seven games but is appealing and will have a hearing on September 7th. Feel free to start him during the upcoming scoring period, but keep in mind he’ll miss time at some point even if the suspension is reduced.
Stephen Strasburg, P, Nationals - I walked around on Friday and my wife told me I looked pale. If you owned Strasburg in both your deep hometown leagues, you’d know my pain (no pun there) and why I looked like a ghost. I try to put a silver lining on everything, so remember that Josh Johnson turned out just fine after his surgery. There’s even the possibility that Strasburg throws even harder when he comes back (searching for rainbows…).
Barry Zito, P, Giants - As a sports fan in general, it’s nice to see a player finally live up to his lofty contract after a rough start. Zito (and Vernon Wells for that matter) appeared to be doing that during the first half of the season. Since the calendar turned to August, he’s been getting shelled. Of course starts at St. Louis and Philadelphia are tall tasks and haven’t helped the 7.76 ERA this month. For the season Zito has posted a 3.40/4.87 home/away split, which tells you when you should be using him. Also keep an eye on his velocity because he has lost a few ticks on his fastball over his last three starts.
Scott Kazmir, P, Angels - Kazmir hasn’t been a good starting pitcher at all this season, so I figureg I’d kick Mr. Ed some more. Kazmir’s strikeouts are down this year (5.66 K/9) and his walks are up (4.68 BB/9) which never equates to good numbers. Over Kazmir’s last three starts he has been particularly bad, giving up 11 earned runs (16 innings, 6.18 ERA). Most of Kazmir’s problems can be tied to his fastball, which has steadily decreased in velocity since 2007. Back then he was working consistently in the low-to-mid 90s; now he’s struggling to stay around 90.
A.J. Burnett, P, Yankees - Burnett has been downright terrible lately, ringing up a 7.80 ERA during August. His strikeout rate this season is down to 6.72 K/9 after posting a lofty 9.32 K/9 rate two seasons ago in Toronto. Maybe Burnett’s hand/arm is still bothering him from his dugout tirade last month? His velocity is down a bit this year and he’s using his fastball much less (47.1%, down from 64-65% the last two seasons) for whatever reason. The Yanks need to figure out what’s wrong with the postseason approaching rapidly.
Brian Fuentes/Matt Capps, P, Twins - Fuentes lost his closer status in Los Angeles after getting traded to Minnesota, and Capps lost his hold on the closer’s role in Minnesota with another sheriff in town. Capps will likely get more save opportunities, but manager Ron Gardenhire may determine who comes in based on matchups. For instance, Fuentes got the call in the ninth on Saturday with lefty Russell Branyan at the plate. Either way, Fuentes’ move from the West Coast doesn’t help either’s fantasy prospects.