Rafael Furcal has been one of the bigger busts in fantasy baseball so far. Maybe the knee problem is to blame, but not only does Furcal have just seven steals on the season, he also didnít hit his first home run until Sunday. The contact rate is actually a career-best, so expect at least a modest bounce back over the rest of the season.
Improbably, Paul Byrd leads all of baseball with a sparkling 10.5:1 K:BB ratio. In fact, the next closest (C.C. Sabathia 6:1) isnít even all that close. However, this is one peripheral that can pretty much be ignored, as Byrdís 4.81 ERA is a better indication of how heís pitched. The league-leading .49 BB/9 IP is nice and all, but heís also allowed 1.48 HR/9 IP and sports a low strikeout rate.
Iím more than a little worried about Jason Schmidt. At this point, any surgery that wonít hurt his 2008 outlook has to be considered a best-case scenario. A two-pitch pitcher, Schmidt was able to compensate for a loss in velocity during his last two years in SF because of his tremendous changeup, but a fastball that currently tops out at 85 mph is simply too much of a drop off. His changeup was frequently thrown at 91-92 mph during his peak 2002-2004 seasons.
Regarding Schmidtís replacement in LAís rotation, it seems like a no-brainer that Chad Billingsley should be the choice. Sure, he needs to be stretched out, but with a 26:6 K:BB ratio, 1.28 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over his last 21.1 innings, itís time to see what Billingsley can do as a starter.
Itís clear Carlos Beltranís quad injury is bothering him more than the Mets have been letting on. A consensus top-15 fantasy pick entering the year, Beltran is batting just .204 over the last six weeks. In June, he has just one extra-base hit and a 10:1 K:BB ratio.
Kei Igawa may have some use in fantasy leagues after all. After rediscovering his changeup in Triple-A, he posted a 1.80 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 20 innings this month. He probably wonít be all that helpful in ERA or WHIP, but run support should be on his side. His first start back against the Giants this Friday is a favorable one.
After mono essentially ruined his season last year, Casey Kotchman is quietly having one of the better seasons in the game in 2007. He has a .333/.411/.556 line with a remarkable 16:24 K:BB ratio. Hopefully his recent concussion doesnít prove to be too serious, because a run at the batting crown isnít out of the question.
Welcome back, Jonny Gomes. With Elijah Dukes on pace to father 44 children by the time heís 60, Gomes may finally be given another chance with the organization. Remember, Gomes had a 1.185 OPS and 11 homers last April before a shoulder injury derailed his season. While his swing is too long to result in a BA much better than .260, his power could make him a fantasy asset immediately, regardless of Rocco Baldelliís impending return. Besides, youíd have a better chance of hearing Dane Cook tell a funny joke than Baldelliís hamstring holding up over the rest of the season.
There isnít a hotter player in baseball right now than Corey Hart. In 59 June at-bats, he has a 1.058 OPS, six homers and six steals. Folks, thatís a 65/65 pace for the season. All right, maybe thatís unsustainable, but Hart has clearly forced the Brewersí hand to finally make him a regular, and if he holds onto the leadoff spot after Rickie Weeksí return, expect him to continue to run wild. He has the upside of a top-20 fantasy outfielder from here on out.