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MLB Barometer: Fading Starlin

Howard Bender

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog RotobuzzGuy.com or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.


In years past, this time of year was notorious for keeping fantasy owners riddled with anxiety. You've got the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July and then the entire month of August is filled with the potential movement of higher-priced talent and pending free agents. Fantasy owners have their ears to the ground and their fingers on the waiver button, waiting in angst to hear that one of their players landed elsewhere and a series of moves would be needed so not to lose any ground in the standings.
 
Not this year though.
 
This season's trade deadline could very well be one of the most boring in recent history. The non-waiver deadline came and went with very little fanfare and while there were a number of players placed on waivers to open the month of August, we've seen very little action. The biggest move was Alex Rios heading over to Texas and even that deal has come and gone with a yawn.
 
The most active team on the trade front right now has been the Royals and given the fact that their two big acquisitions have been Jamey Carroll and Emilio Bonifacio, fantasy owners aren't exactly tripping over each other to get to them on the waiver wire. The other big moves this week (your computer may not be working properly if you don't see those last few words covered in sarcasm) saw the Rangers pick up pitcher Travis Blackley from the Astros and Adam Rosales from the A's. Right? Big stuff there.
 
That's not to say that there isn't time left to see some action. Players like Justin Morneau, Dan Haren, Erik Bedard and Elvis Andrus have all cleared waivers so their teams are free to trade them to whomever now. It doesn't mean that it will happen, though, so don't get yourself too excited. The interest in all of these players has been lukewarm, at best, although Haren seems to have woken up recently.
 
No, the most action you're likely to see is from the September call-ups. We've already seen a few minor league promotions - Kolten Wong, Jose Alvarez, Travis d'Arnaud - but the heavy movement won't come until the first of the month. Obviously we'll see a lot of relief pitchers as teams shore up their bullpens for the stretch run, but teams with less riding on this year are more likely to start auditioning some of their prospects in an effort to start planning for the future. Very few of them will have a significant fantasy impact, but there will definitely be some who should provide a short-term boost.
 
Unless there's some crazy player-stock fluctuation, we'll take a closer look next week at some names you should, not only be expecting but who also could have a helpful impact to your team. I'm sure many of you are champing at the bit right now, hoping to gain an edge, but it's still too early to stash some of these hopefuls. Use the band-aids available to you right now for the next two weeks and then start fishing for call-ups.
 
Now let's get to the risers and fallers.

Rising

Dexter Fowler, OF COL - He opened the season like a lion, whimpered his way through the middle months and is finally starting to wake up again. Power was never this 27-year old switch-hitter's game, so don't ever expect another eight-homer month out of him. But if you need a boost in runs scored, stolen bases and even batting average right now, Fowler is your man. After a dismal .188-July, Fowler has turned it around and is batting .271 with a .426 OBP, 11 runs scored and four stolen bases over 14 games this month. He's doubled his walk rate, cut his strikeout rate nearly in half and has a line drive rate of 30-percent. Yes, these totals may be tough to sustain, but we're no longer looking at what he can do for the next five months. Give me just one month more. That's all we need. The totals he can provide you in the short-run could be just what you need to move up a few spots in the appropriate categories.    

LaTroy Hawkins, RP NYM - Though Mets manager Terry Collins said that he would likely turn to a closer-by-committee situation with Bobby Parnell (herniated disk) still contemplating neck surgery, it has been Hawkins to the rescue in the ninth. The veteran right-hander has picked up four saves since August 6 and after blowing one chance last Wednesday (and taking a liner to the groin - ouch!), Collins went right back to him during Friday's game. He's allowed just two runs (Wednesday's mishap) over his last 10 outings (9.2 innings) with four strikeouts and no walks and should continue to see the majority, if not all, of the save chances the Mets have the rest of the way. Yes, veterans of fantasy will always shy away, but if you need saves, there's really not enough time or opportunity for him to kill your ratios should he revert to some of his less-happier days.

Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B NYY - One man's trash is another man's treasure, right? Well, after posting a dismal 215/.307/.373 slash line for the Indians this year, the journeyman slugger has a new home in the Bronx. He made his debut on Friday and immediately made a difference as he went 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBI and the Yankees are hoping that some of that power will help ignite their struggling offense and give them a bit more punch as they attempt a late-season rally towards the playoffs. He's a dead-pull hitter for the most part, so the change in home park won't have too much of an effect as the dimensions down the left field line are virtually the same at Yankee Stadium as they were at Progressive Field. But if Reynolds can make a few adjustments and use that raw power to start pushing the ball the opposite way more, then the short porch in right is going to do him wonders. He'll split time with Lyle Overbay at first, but if the Yankees need more power, they'll do what they need to do to keep his bat in the lineup.

Alex Wood, SP ATL - So many fantasy owners were so focused on Brandon Beachy returning to the Braves rotation, that Wood has slipped through the cracks in numerous leagues. Since joining the rotation on July 30, Wood has made four starts and has gone 2-0 with a 1.78 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP and a 26:4 K:BB over 25.1 innings. He's gone at least six innings in each start, has pitched with the strength and poise of a veteran and has peripherals that back up his current level of success. He's thrown 113.2 innings in total this year so the Braves should be able to continue using him in a starting capacity the rest of the season with a possible move to relief for the playoffs. But as a fantasy owner, all you care about is now and now is the time to grab him if he's still available.

Chia-Jen Lo, RP HOU - As we've seen time and time again, even closers on bad teams can provide you with value. That's why I've picked up Lo in the leagues I am able to grab him in. Again, he's not the be-all, end-all of closers, but he's got the job right now and he's available. If you need saves, then those are really the only criteria you need to worry about. Sure, the job security isn't the greatest, but so far, the Astros have liked what they've seen. He's thrown 7.1 shutout innings, and while he's not going to dazzle you with strikeouts, the fact that he's a ground ball pitcher should make you feel a little better, especially since Minute Maid Park plays like a sandlot at times. Josh Fields has been lurking around as well, but he's also struggled a bit recently, giving up six runs over his last five innings, so Lo is the guy they're going with right now.

Falling

Starlin Castro, SS CHC - It's really going from bad to worse right now with Castro and while he may have all the talent in the world, the fact that he's got such a horrible attitude accompanying his pedestrian numbers isn't helping his stock at all. He was benched Saturday for not paying attention and allowing a run to score and manager Dale Sveum has had just about enough. He may be in the lineup again Sunday, but once rosters expand and the manager has some added flexibility, he could push Castro to the bench a little more often rather than enable this behavior with additional playing time. After all, it's not like the Cubbies have anything to play for here.

B.J. Upton, OF ATL - For the past month or so, I've responded to emails saying that yes, it's okay to cut Upton at this point. It doesn't even matter if it's a keeper or re-draft league. With a .188 average, eight, home runs and 10 stolen bases, Upton hasn't done diddley for your fantasy team and now that he‘s officially sitting against right-handers, he's doing even less. The Braves have grown tired of waiting for his bat to come around and stand a better chance at seeing Jordan Schafer get hot.

Jeff Locke, SP PIT - While Locke had himself an amazing run in the first half, those shaky peripherals finally caught up to him. He finished the first half with a 2.15 ERA but with a 3.79 FIP there were concerns. Now with a ground ball pitcher you would expect to see a slightly higher FIP, but in this case, the differential was still a little bigger than what you would usually expect. He also had just an 18.3-percent line drive rate and 6.7-percent HR/FB, neither of which seemed too sustainable for Locke. And now that we're here in the second half, we see the regression. With a 5.58 ERA here in the second half, Locke isn't doing much of anything for his owners. His walk rate is up, he's giving up more home runs and his line drive rate has spiked to 22.9-percent. The Pirates will stick with him for now, but may also consider skipping a start or two down the stretch if they feel he's tiring out.

John Jaso, C OAK - Your hopes and dreams of having Jaso return to your team in your OBP league have been dashed. The concussion was obviously more serious than originally diagnosed and now you're looking at at least another three to four weeks without him. In fantasy terms, that means cut and move on. Even if he does return for the regular season, the two weeks he may give you aren't going to do much as he'll need that time just to get back into the swing of things. There's probably not much available on your waiver wire at this point so you should start looking into part-timers such as Jose Lobaton. At least he's playing.

Mike Olt, 1B/3B CHC - And here's one for you keeper league folk who are still looking at making some savvy (there's that sarcasm again) moves to close out your season. We may have been able to forgive the poor start to Olt's season given the fact that he was suffering from some condition that prevented his eyes from producing tears, but now that he's been cured of such a crazy ailment, he's still doing nothing at the plate. To date he's posting a .187/.279/.370 slash line and he's doing just as little for the Cubs as he did for the Rangers before they cut bait with him. You may like the power potential he once showed, but you know what? It wasn't really that great to begin with. We've already got a Mark Reynolds and an Adam Dunn. We don't need a guy who can post a similar average but less power, do we? Let him slide back into the player pool and enjoy the extra roster spot.