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MLB Barometer: Chase This Light

Fred Katz

Fred Katz

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in 5th grade, but he maintains that his per 36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at ProBasketballDraft.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

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Neil Walker, 2B, PIT - As of June 26, Walker was having a disappointing offensive season, his triple slash sitting at .256/.317/.351, down from 2011. In a year in which the young second baseman was supposed to break out - or was supposed to at least build upon his solid 2010 and 2011 seasons - he was struggling. But that has all changed of late. Over his past 12 games, Walker has caught fire, along with the rest of the Pirates' lineup. He is hitting .489/.564/.787 with two homers and 11 RBI. He has been seeing the ball well, walking eight times in his 55 plate appearances over that span. Of course, Walker won't keep up this pace for the rest of the season, but his OPS is up to .774 and getting over the .800 hump now seems like a realistic possibility.

Tyler Colvin, OF, COL - Colvin was dreadful for the Cubs last year and was traded over the offseason as part of the Ian Stewart deal after a .150/.204/.306 season. Back on June 5, Colvin was acting as just a part-time player for the Rockies, not often starting, but since then he has become a regular in the Colorado lineup and has caught fire. He has dominated in his past 23 games, hitting .353/.396/.835 with 10 homers and 27 RBI. He has been consistent against both lefties and righties, hitting .304 off right-handed pitchers and .306 off southpaws. That sort of consistency allows Colvin to play every day, which means he could be a serious weapon for Colorado the rest of the season.

Andruw Jones, OF, NYY - Jones could be a nice add in deeper leagues, especially when he is facing a lefty. He had a monstrous weekend series against the Red Sox before the All-Star break, mashing four homers in a two-day, three-game span - he also hit two more that would have been out of Fenway and were barely foul down the left field line. Yankees manager Joe Girardi usually uses Jones in a platoon. Recent history indicates that he struggles against righties and owns lefties. This year has been a bit different, however, as Jones holds a .917 OPS against right-handed pitching and a .834 OPS against lefties. With about twice as many plate appearances against lefties, those numbers have probably more regressed to the mean, but in AL-only leagues, he could be a good source for power numbers when he gets starts.

Caution/Check Status

Chase Headley, 3B, SD - Trade rumors have been swirling around Headley for the past month or so and that's rightfully so. The Padres are tied for last place with the Rockies in the NL West and don't seem to have a bright second half in view. Headley could bring back good value and if he goes to a hitters' park, all of a sudden, he becomes a different type of fantasy player. Headley's value is as high as it is because he gets on base at a .368 clip. Meanwhile, he has been stuck at Petco Park, often the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in baseball. He hits lefties at an elite clip and has an .848 OPS on the road. If Headley ends up at a more hitter-friendly ballpark, which would be most likely if he is traded within the next couple of weeks, his value could spike up.

Carlos Quentin, OF, SD - Quentin is in a similar scenario to the one in which Headley sits. The Padres are looking to shed some weight and want to get young talent back. Quentin might be able to get them some of that youth. Quentin missed the beginning of the season with a knee injury, but sparkled in his first 14 games after returning, hitting .413/.526/.848 with five homers. Since, however, he has done a complete 180 and is hitting only .167/.321/.288 in his last 19 games. His overall numbers are still excellent - he has a .924 OPS - but owners might want to question which Quentin is the real one. He has a 1.113 OPS away from Petco so, like Headley, if Quentin has the opportunity to leave Petco, his should continue to hit.

Ryan Dempster, RHP, CHC - Like Headley and Quentin, Dempster plays for a below-average team in a ballpark that doesn't play particularly well to his strengths. Dempster's numbers this season are startling. He leads the league with both a 1.99 ERA and a 201 ERA+, but the win-loss record isn't there playing for the dreadful Cubs. That, however, could all change if Dempster ends up going to a contender. Regardless of where Dempster spends the second half, a continuation of his first half seems unlikely considering he has never before come close to having a season like the one he is having right now. That being said, if you trust his health, the win total should go up if he plays for another team in the second half.

Michael Morse, 1B/OF, WAS - Morse was forced to sit out the first two months of the season with a strained lat muscle, but made his return June 2. After hitting 31 homers last season, 16 more than his previous career high, he got off to a slow start coming back from the injury. After 21 games, he was hitting only .217/.238/.313 for the Nationals, but a 4-for-5 game in Colorado on June 26 turned his season around. In 12 games since that date, Morse has gone 21-for-52 (.404) with three homers. Morse's second-half 2010 and 2011 numbers seemingly came out of nowhere, but with his recent hot streak, it looks like it could be a trend.

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J.J. Hardy, SS, BAL - Hardy had a strong first season in Baltimore, knocking 30 homers and posting an .801 OPS. His 2011 season was a flashback to his Brewer days, when he had a few seasons of 20-plus homers and decent power. His .491 slugging percentage, though a career high, seemed realistic considering he had now moved into Camden Yards. As of June 15, he was having a decent season by his standards, hitting 11 homers in 62 games and putting up a .748 OPS. Since, however, Hardy has fallen off along with the rest of his teammates. He is hitting a horrid .106/.136/.165 with one homer and five RBI in his last 21 games.

Adam Jones, OF, BAL - Jones has joined Hardy in recent weeks in taking part in the Baltimore struggles. There is really no question that he was a deserving All-Star. His overall offensive numbers are still excellent and when you match that up with his Gold Glove caliber defense, there is no question he should've been representing the American League. That being said, Jones is in the midst of a career year and could end up regressing back to past numbers. If that is going to happen, it seems the regression has already started. Since June 18, Jones is hitting .213/.213/.360 with two homers and seven games in which he failed to get a hit. After beginning the year with a career high walk rate, he hasn't had a base on balls in 21 games. It is reasonable to assume Jones will turn it on again, but he may not be the player we saw for the first two months of 2012.

Carlos Lee, 1B/OF, MIA - Lee's numbers started to go downhill in 2010 and he has hit .264/.320/.426 since over the past two and a half seasons, while averaging only 20 homers per 162 games. What gave Lee any sort of decent fantasy value is that he was a mainstay in the middle of the Houston lineup regardless of his production. He has hit third or fourth for the Astros 357 times in 378 games played since 2010. That's why those RBI totals have respectively been 89 and 94 over the past two seasons. Since being traded to the Marlins, Lee has actually remained a middle-of-the-order hitter, batting third in all four games he has played for Miami. However, once Giancarlo Stanton returns to the lineup and if Logan Morrison and Justin Ruggiano hit, the sort of lineup loyalty that existed in Houston won't live on in Miami. Lee could move down in the order and with lower RBI totals, his value will plummet.

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