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Circling the Bases: Two Way Players

Ray Flowers

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at BaseballGuys.com.

A handful of soon to be dealt players are discussed before a discussion about those players that bring a bit to the table in both the homer and steals columns.

TRADE MARKET

Bud Norris, who has been scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday to make sure he doesn't hurt himself, appears to be one of the main trade targets on the bump this season. Just what will his new team be getting? Norris is a solid innings eater, he's been that for years, but things have changed, and not for the better, this season. Sure Norris has a 3.93 ERA that would you lead to think he's made some improvements given his 4.33 career ERA. He's also dropped his walk rate from 3.67 for his career down to 3.07 per nine this season, a mark that would be a career best. However, the slight dip in his walk rate has been accompanied by a massive fall off in the strikeout column. Norris has struck out at least 8.52 batters per nine in each of his first four seasons. This year, through 126 innings, that mark is 6.43. Some quick math tells me that his K-rate is down more than two batters per nine, way too much to be giving up half a walk drop per nine innings. His velocity is the same as always, and he's throwing his fastball as often as normal. Taking a look at his line drive rate it's only 0.3 off of his career level, and his 0.98 GB/FB ratio is 0.03 below “normal.” The fact is he's pitching pretty much the same as always – minus the punchouts. He's also been fortunate with the big fly, his HR/F ratio has been at least 10.8 in each of the previous four seasons but it's under seven percent right now. Norris is not a hurler you will want to pay a high price for simply if he switches clubs. Solid is the best term you can attach to him right now.

Jake Peavy also was been scratched from his start Tuesday to make sure that he doesn't hurt himself thereby torpedoing his trade value. Totally get that move by the White Sox. I don't know what the Red Sox are thinking with Peavy, but here is what I would be thinking. I'd be looking at the fact that the guy didn't reach 115 innings in 2009, 2010, 2011. He's also missed time this season due to injury as well. Still a great talent, but this guy is no Wolverine – you know, the X-man mutant with great healing powers.

Huston Street or Luke Gregerson, or both? The Padres are likely to trade at least one, if not both. Over his last eight outings Street hasn't allowed a run while he has walked one batter and allowed a total of three hits over eight innings. He's finally looking like the arm he has always been – borderline elite when healthy. Through all the ups and down, Street has been a great 9th inning arm for the Padres converting 42 of 44 save chances while striking out 70 batters in 73.1 innings over the past two seasons. Gregerson would likely take over the 9th if he stays around and Street is dealt. For his career Gregerson has a 1.10 WHIP and has struck out 327 batters in 324 innings. Though 43.1 innings this season he's sporting a 2.91 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 4.33 K/BB ratio.

Michael Young. Why does anyone care? Young is a veteran leader who can play multiple sports on the field, so I get why teams want him, but if we're talking fantasy value does he have any value other than in single leagues? I don't know how you could really say he does. Young is hitting .277 and it might be time to admit he's no longer the .300 hitter we're used to (he's hit .277 over his last 254 games). Young has also gone deep just 15 times over those 254 games, and he's driven in only 99 runs. He's also a barely league average option in OBP (.342) and OPS (.743). Just not much going on anymore with this fella.

TWO WAY PLAYERS

Carlos Gonzalez had two steals Monday to allow him to reach the 20/20 threshold for the 4th straight year (the record in 9-straight seasons by Barry Bonds). Carlos Gomez is three homers short and four steals short of a 20/30 effort. Jason Kipnis needs five homers to join the 20/20 fraternity. Those are the guys everyone knows about. What about the fellas that are strong AL and NL only options, or those guys that are nice bench holds, injury fill-in's, in mixed leagues? So glad you were wondering like I was.

Michael Brantley (7 HRs, 11 SBs): Brantley hit seven homers in 2011. He hit six homers in 2012. He has seven homers this season. OK, he's not a power hitter. Still, with just a solid finish he should at least get to 10 homers. He's not a big steals guy either. After stealing 10, 13 and 12 bags the past three years he has 11 this season, again putting him on pace for a career best. I'll be the first to tell you that a 10/15 season isn't going to win you many leagues on it's own, but Brantley is a solid 5th outfielder type in mixed leagues and that potentially strong weapon on AL-only leagues. Why? The power/speed combo is nice, but he brings more than that. After hitting .288 last season he's batting .282 this season. After scoring 63 runs in back-to-back seasons he's on pace to better that mark with 49 runs scored this season. Solid but unspectacular thy name is Michael Brantley.

Coco Crisp (10/16): Dude is not a home run hitter. After uncharacteristically blasting five homers in his first 14 games this season he's gone deep a total of five times over his last 70 games. He has little shot at reach 15 homers, the last time he reached that mark was in 2005 when he hit a career best 16 homers. He could go on a steals run of course. After swiping at least 32 bags the past three years he's going to have his worst steals marks since 2009.

Daniel Murphy (8/12): OK, so this guy hasn't exactly been consistent this season. He's hit .259 against lefties and .299 against righties. He hit .290 in April, .317 in May, .227 in June, and he's back up to .306 in July. He's also got 19 hits in his last 47 at-bats, good for a .404 mark since the All-Star break. A career .290 hitter, he's batting a solid .285 this season. He's never flashed big power though averaging eight homers each of the past three years, but he's already reached that number this season giving him a shot to match or exceed his career best mark of 12 homers. He's also swiped 12 bags, two better than the career best 10 he pillaged last season, meaning he's got a legit shot at hitting .280+ with 10 homers and 15 steals. Those numbers will play in most mixed leagues when they are attached to a second sacker.

Michael Saunders (7/11): Not many seemed to take note that in 507 at-bats last season Saunders hit 19 homers with 21 steals. This year in 258 at-bats, almost exactly half of his total from last season, he has seven homers and 11 steals. He hit .247 last season, and he's down to .229 this season, so you pay a price for his production, but he's been a decent power/speed combo despite the warts.

Drew Stubbs (7/10): He's had a down year in Cleveland. Just the truth folks. Each of the past three years he's gone deep at least 14 times with 30 steals. Obviously he's going through what can only be called a disturbingly unproductive campaign. The loss of power, OK that happens sometimes, but the loss of base stealing? No one saw that coming. Hell, he last stole a base on July 7th and he only has two steals since June 25th. Not much reason to expect a significant turnaround at the moment.

Ichiro Suzuki (6/15): After stealing at least 26 bags every season of his big league career, the 39 year old Ichiro is unlikely to get there again this season. He does have six big flies though giving him a shot at his fourth season with double-digit dongs. That's hardly a comfort to those that rostered Ichiro at least hoping for a solid runs scored (38) and steals mark.

BY THE NUMBERS

.339: The NL leading batting average of... Chris Johnson. How long can he hold on to that insanely high .424 BABIP? Remember, the last time a guy had a mark in the .400's in a season of at least 502 plate appearances was 2002 when Jose Fernandez had a .404 mark.

13.93: The career K/9 mark of Kenley Jansen in 199 career innings. I thought it was a good time to highlight the Dodgers' closer given that innings pitched mark. To put his effort into perspective let's note that he has an 11-7 record, 2.22 ERA and 0.93 WHIP for his career. This season he's done a remarkable job of limiting the walks issuing nine in 53.1 innings. Take a look at his BB/9 marks in his four big league seasons: 5.00, 4.36, 3.05 and 1.52. It's not surprising it's taken him a bit of time to hone in his control. After all, he converted from catching to pitching in 2009.

76: The number of pitchers who have more victories than Chris Sale this season. The dominating starter for the White Sox has a 2.69 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 149 Ks in 137 innings but only six wins. W-L records are such an awful way to judge a pitcher's performance.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday. Ray's analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.