Happy Independence Day!
Ryan Dempster - Dempster continued his turnaround from a horrific start, allowing one run over eight strong innings Wednesday against the Giants, striking out six but ending up with a no-decision. Dempster has allowed seven runs over his past five outings while posting a strikeout rate above nine per nine innings. After an atrocious start to the year in which he posted a 9.58 ERA in April he is beginning to look like the sneaky-excellent pitcher he has been over the past few seasons. Mixed: $11 (just in case owners bailed after his poor April).
Brad Hand - Hand was profiled when he was called up in early-June to replace the injured Josh Johnson in the Marlins' rotation. Hand had control issues in his three starts with the Marlins as he walked nine in 15.2 innings with 10 strikeouts while also surrendering four home runs. He made two minor-league starts after his demotion and was called back up Saturday, but he lasted just 3.2 innings against Texas and likely will get sent back down. Hand improved his control while maintaining his K/9IP rate as a 20-year-old last year at High-A Jupiter, and as a result put himself firmly in the Marlins' future plans. He projects to have three solid pitches - low-90s fastball, hard curve and change-up - although none of them are exceptional, which makes him a mid-rotation starter at best in the majors. That K rate regressed in his brief stint last season and starts this year at Double-A Jacksonville and his stint in the majors has shown that he needs more seasoning. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (speculative bid).
Mike Leake - Leake was profiled a little under a month ago, which was a few weeks after his promotion to replace the demoted Edinson Volquez, and he remained in the rotation for the injured Homer Bailey. Prior to being recalled, he had a 5.70 ERA in 36.1 innings with 32 strikeouts in 36.1 innings. Since getting called back up, Leake has pitched much better, striking together six quality starts in his last seven outings, lowering his ERA from 5.70 to 3.89. Leake already has seven wins this season and is one win shy of tying his total from 2010. One area he has really improved in this season is the amount baserunners he is allowing. He finished last season with a 1.50 WHIP, but this year his WHIP is only 1.20. Even though Volquez and Bailey are back, Leake is in the rotation to stay. Mixed: $11.
Brad Lincoln - Lincoln was profiled in mid-May after he won his fourth straight start for Triple-A Indianapolis, throwing seven shutout innings against Buffalo. He has turned around his year after starting the year on the DL with a forearm injury and then beginning the season, 0-3. Lincoln has allowed two or fewer runs in eight of his last 11 Triple-A starts, though he did struggle in his last outing. Despite that poor start, Lincoln - who has a 4.14 ERA and 54:19 K:BB ratio in 82.2 innings for Indianapolis - got the nod to start the second game of Pittsburgh's doubleheader Saturday. He allowed two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four over six innings. Lincoln's stay will likely be short-lived this time around, but he could have an extended second-half run -- especially with every Pittsburgh starter other than Paul Maholm on course for a career-high in innings pitched. Lincoln and perhaps Ross Ohlendorf could see regular turns in August and September. The key for Lincoln is the development of his change-up as a consistent pitch to go along with his fastball/curveball combination. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (speculative bid).
Ramon Ortiz - Ortiz is likely to be called up from Triple-A Iowa to take Carlos Zambrano's (back) next start Tuesday. Ortiz, who signed a minor-league deal will the Cubs in April, will probably only get one or two starts in place of Zambrano due to the All-Star break giving some relief to the affect of Zambrano's trip to the DL. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Greg Reynolds - Reynolds was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs to start Saturday's night game for the Rockies with Jhoulys Chacin pushed back until Tuesday due to tightness in his forearm. He allowed five runs in five innings, but picked up the win to improve to 3-0 on the season. Reynolds has a 5.16 ERA in the majors and a 6.83 ERA in the minors, so even if he stays up, don't expect much. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Chris Volstad - Volstad posted the win Thursday, giving up an unearned run and seven hits over seven innings, albeit with no strikeouts. Volstad probably wishes he could pitch against the AL West more often, as he's gone 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA over 13.2 innings in his last two starts (at "home" versus Seattle and at Oakland) to end a personal six-game losing streak. He also pitched well at Tampa Bay on June 19, although he did not record a decision in seven strong innings. The overall numbers - 5.01 ERA and 1.430 WHIP - are still ugly, but the three straight solid starts have lowered those numbers from 6.07 and 1.500, respectively. Volstad has been hurt by an inflated HR/9 rate but he has slightly increased his K rate, lowered his BB rate and increased his GB/FB rate, all of which bode well for future success, though somewhat tempered by his consistently high BABIP and low strand rate. While his FIP is 4.98, his xFIP is 3.76 due to his inflated home run rate, but his lack of strikeouts and propensity for the blow-up outing hold down his value. Mixed: $5; NL: $14 (in case someone dumped him at his low point of the year).
Antonio Bastardo - I profiled Bastardo and Michael Stutes last week while Ryan Madson was sidelined with numbness in his hand. Manager Charlie Manuel said that Bastardo would be the primary closer while Madson was out, but after the posting of last week's column, Madson went on the DL. Bastardo has converted four straight save opportunities along with a sterling 0.90 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 30 innings. His .145 BABIP and 2.90 FIP ERA suggest he will give up a run or two, but he has more than filled the breach at closer for Philly. The Phillies can take their time with getting Madson back and the rehabbing Brad Lidge, as Bastardo has filled the gap - as the Phillies' fourth closer this year - admirably. Mixed: $5; NL: $14 (bump from last week, but may only be in role short-term).
David Hernandez - Hernandez is slotting into the closer's role while J.J. Putz is unavailable, and the encouraging sign for Arizona is that tests did not reveal any structural damage, bone chips etc., in Putz's elbow. Putz had a cortisone shot to treat swelling in the elbow and could be back after the All-Star break. Hernandez had two blowup outings in June, surrounded by a number of good outings, but overall has been solid for Arizona after coming over this off-season in the Mark Reynolds trade. Hernandez notched the save Saturday, but for him to keep up his success, he will need to lower his walk and fly-ball rates. If looking for a second candidate to close, Sam Demel, who just came off the DL, is likely next in line. Mixed: $5; NL: $14 (up it if believe Putz will be sidelined longer).
Rod Barajas - Barajas, out since June 19 with a sprained right ankle, could begin a minor league rehab assignment over the weekend. Barajas has been taking BP, throwing and participating in other baseball activities, but the key will be if he can crouch behind the plate and run on the ankle, which he started to do Friday. Once he shows that he is ready, Barajas' time in the minors should only last a few days, and he could be activated, likely for A.J. Ellis, sometime during a series against the Mets that begins July 4. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Josh Thole - Thole has been red-hot over his last 23 games, hitting .351 with a .449 OBA to up average from .207 to .254. He still sees nearly all of his action against righties with Ronny Paulino playing against southpaws. That split may hurt Thole's counting stats but should help his averages as he struggles against lefties. Mixed: $3; NL: $9
Brandon Belt - Belt, sidelined with a fractured left wrist after being hit a Trever Miller pitch on May 31, began his rehab assignment Saturday with High-A San Jose. The Giants plan to take things slow with Belt, giving him ample time to heal and then deciding whether or not to add him to the major league roster as soon as he comes of the disabled list. If Belt shows he is healthy and ready to return, it will impact what SF does before the July 31 non-waiver, trading deadline. When he does return, Belt and Aubrey Huff could split time at first base and left field. Mixed: $4; NL: $13 (early speculative bid).
Mat Gamel - I profiled Gamel two weeks ago when he was not promoted as original projected to provide another bat for Milwaukee in interleague league. Gamel continued to rake, posting an .957 OPS with 18 homers and 58 RBI in 76 games at Triple-A Nashville, earning the promotion this week. He served as the DH in all three games that the Brewers' played at Yankee Stadium and should do so against Minnesota. After that, look for the Brewers to send him back to Triple-A Nashville. He is also one of the few prospects the Brewers could use to acquire talent before the trade deadline. If not, with Prince Fielder likely to leave as a free agent after the season, Gamel, who has had excellent back-to-back season at Nashville after a poor 2009 campaign with major strides in his contact rate, might be first in line to replace him at first base. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (speculative bid especially for 2012).
Daniel Murphy - Murphy had two more hits in the Mets' loss to the Tigers on Thursday, including his fifth homer of the year. Murphy closed June with a .320/.346/.426 line, thanks to a scorching month where he hit .330, albeit with not very much power (.437 June slugging percentage). His defense has been better but he still struggles at times so that he'll occasionally lose playing time to Lucas Duda at first once David Wright returns, but he's done well enough to ensure that he'll be on the field more often than not when the Mets face a right-hander. In addition, his multi-position availability, first, second and third base, enhances his value. Mixed: $9 (likely owned in NL-only formats).
Mark Ellis - Ellis was traded to Colorado on Thursday for reliever Bruce Billings and a player to be named later. He receives a significant jump in home park with the move to Coors Field after spending all of his career in Oakland. Ellis hit .291 with 24 doubles, five home runs and 49 RBIs in 124 games last season but has struggled in 2011. He was hitting .217 (47-for-217) with 11 doubles, one homer and 16 RBIs and had lost his starting job to Jemile Weeks. The No. 2 spot in the Colorado order has produced a .257 average, four home runs, 19 RBI and a .314 on-base percentage. In addition, the Rockies have been rotating Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson, Eric Young Jr. and Ty Wigginton at second base. Ellis should put an end to the revolving door at second base for the Rockies, while providing a steady glove and veteran leadership for the team's playoff push in the second half. Ellis started his Rockies career with a bang, notching three with a homer and three RBI on Friday and posting three more hits Saturday. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Alberto Gonzalez - Gonzalez should be the recipient of some short-term playing time as Orlando Hudson likely to miss a few days after with a bone bruise on his left knee after fouling a pitch off of it on Friday. Manager Bud Black said they believe just a few days off is all Hudson will need, but given Hudson's injury history the past two years, that view may be optimistic. Gonzalez is mainly known for his glove, so don't expect much offensively from him. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Ty Wigginton - To say Wigginton is on a roll is an understatement. Wigginton homered Wednesday to give him six in seven games, though he has slumped the last four contests. Wigginton's multi-position eligibility, first, second and third base, as well as outfield in some formats, adds to his value. Wiggy may need to stay hot to keep Ian Stewart at Triple-A, but even if Stewart is called up, Wigginton will see time all over the field as he takes on the super-utility role that he originally was signed for this offseason. With 13 home runs so far this season, he will likely pass 20 for the fourth time in five seasons. Mixed: $8.
Pedro Ciriaco - The Pirates recalled Ciriaco from Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday. Ciriaco will take the roster spot of Ronny Cedeno (concussion) for at least the next week. He figures to resume his role as a utility infielder for the Pirates. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Nick Punto - Punto (forearm) was activated off the disabled list Monday, a day earlier than expected. Manager Tony La Russa said the key for Punto being activated was proving his arm was healthy. He'll resume his utility role with the Cardinals. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Ruben Tejada - Tejada, who was already splitting time at second base, will likely take over as the starting shortstop for as long as Jose Reyes is sidelined by his hamstring injury. Tejada has hit better than expected and should be a decent source of runs and batting average with some RBI sprinkled in. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Pedro Alvarez - Alvarez, who was out since May 21 with a quad injury, started a rehab assignment in early-June before suffering a setback and getting shut down. Alvarez resumed game activities on Monday, and so far, he has showed no sign of the injury, blasting his first home run on Friday. He can stay out on his rehab assignment until July 17, so he will likely be held out until after the All-Star break and return on the 16th or 17th. Prior to getting injured, Alvarez was off to a horrific start, both at the plate and in the field, so he should benefit from the extra work and attention down in the minors. Mixed: $9, NL: $25.
Sean Burroughs - Burroughs, who was called up Friday, could steal time from the slumping Ryan Roberts. If a platoon develops, the left-hitting Burroughs could potentially get four or five starts per week (this is far from settled, however), but it's worth noting that Roberts faded in June while hitting just .218/.266/.386 with a 6:21 BB:K over 26 games. However, keep in mind that Burroughs struggled at the plate earlier this season with Arizona and went 0-for-3 Friday but killed the ball in Triple-A, with a .412 batting average and 15 extra-base hits in 34 games. Roberts got the nod against the lefty Josh Putman on Saturday, going 1-for-4, and may start Sunday against another southpaw, Gio Gonzalez. Mixed: $1, NL: $5.
Brian Bogusevic - The Astros recalled Bogusevic from Triple-A Oklahoma City after Tuesday's game. Bogusevic was hitting .257 with three home runs, 27 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 49 games with Oklahoma City this year. He replaces the injured Jason Bourgeois (quad) on the roster and should serve as the fifth outfielder. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Marlon Byrd - Byrd, who has been out since May 21 with facial fractures after getting hit on the left side of his face by an Alfredo Aceves pitch, returned to action Saturday after a brief rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa. In early June, Byrd said he hoped to return in 4-to-6 weeks, which could mean he would be back any time from the beginning-to-mid July. Now that he is back, Byrd is once again in his starting center field spot. Mixed: $6; NL: $19.
Tony Gwynn Jr. - Gwynn reached base a career-high six times Friday night against the Angels and finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored, one RBI, three walks and his ninth stolen base of the season. Gwynn has put together a few nice games recently, raising his batting average over 30 points in the past week. His BABIP is close to back in line with his history after last year's bad luck - .236 - in that area. In addition, his K:BB ratio has been much better in this recent stretch, which is something he will need to maintain to hold on to the job. With more consistent playing time, he could prove to be a more valuable fantasy commodity given his speed, but that remains to be seen as LA has used a revolving door in LF and still could turn to Trayvon Robinson so tread somewhat carefully here. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Cameron Maybin - Maybin, who came off the disabled list on June 13 after being sidelined with right knee inflammation, has been red-hot lately. He continued that fine play by going 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and two RBI against the Braves on Friday. Maybin is now 5-for-11 with five runs scored and three RBI over his last three games. The 28.5% strikeout rate is still high, but he has actually improved his walk and contact rates, which hopefully will be a continuing trend. Last time he got hot, he was sidelined by the knee injury, so hopefully he call stay healthy this time. Mixed: $8 (should already be owned in all NL-only leagues).
Fernando Martinez - The Mets placed Willie Harris on paternity leave and called up Martinez to replace him this past week. Harris' wife's water broke a few months early and she was admitted to the hospital. Harris flew back to NY during the game to be with her, necessitating the call up of F-Mart. This is Martinez's second stint with the Mets this season, he had 20 at-bats in nine games in his first go-around, and he may only be up until Sunday. Martinez is still struggling with his contact and strikeout rate, but could get a look later in the year if the Mets deal Carlos Beltran. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Brian Peterson - The Marlins recalled Petersen from Triple-A New Orleans on Saturday. Petersen, who struggled last year both in the minors and in a brief call-up with Florida, earned the call up by hitting 17-for-33 (.515) over his previous nine games with New Orleans. His overall numbers are stellar, posting a .351/.454/.569 line with 11 HR, 26 RBI and 47 runs in 67 games. With Emilio Bonifacio hitting just .219 since May 5, and Chris Coghlan on the DL, don't be surprised if Petersen gets a shot at the regular center field role in the near future. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Alex Presley - The Pirates called up Presley this past week to take the roster spot of the Jose Tabata, who landed on the DL with a quad injury. Pittsburgh played their first three games of the week in AL parks, which afforded them the use of the DH, so that a decision on who to play between Presley and Xavier Paul, with Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones set in center and right field, did not need to be made. Presley had a great debut, smacking a two-run homer and an RBI single Tuesday. He was hitting .336/.389/.500 with eight home runs, 36 RBI and 18 steals for Triple-A Indianapolis at the time of his promotion. Last season, Presley hit .320 with an .867 OPS while stealing 13 bases and demonstrating a decent eye (75:41 K:BB ratio) in 518 at-bats split between Double-A and Triple-A. He stole 13 bases and demonstrated a decent eye (75:41 K:BB ratio). Presley will likely play daily against righties with Paul, who missed some time with a hamstring injury but returned Saturday, seeing time against southpaws until Tabata is ready to return. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.