Who are the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?
Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets
- 7/26: W, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K in 5 1/3 IP
His electric 5 1/3 innings of 11-K ball in his Thursday MLB debut have escalated his pickup stock. He walked three, as well, which harkens back to his problems in the minors. You can reasonably expect Brandon Morrow-type numbers: plenty of K's, thanks to his high-90s top-offs, along with his likelihood of issuing plenty of free passes.
Someone might overbid for the arm in your league's FAAB period. Heck, if you own him, maybe you can shop him to see if someone bites hard on Harvey's miniscule sample size. Even if no one does, if the Mets keep him up for the rest of the season, he'll play well for deep mixers in the whiffs column. What should temper your bid is whether the Mets will keep him on the big club for the remainder of 2012.
Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
- 7/27: 2-for-4, R, HR, RBI
With a bang: first-pitch homer, 2-for-4 in his major league debut. Marte, 22 in October, stands to be a plate discipline risk, and this debut, like Harvey's, will no doubt increase the rush for his services.
His base thievery says that he might meet the buying price anyway - if you need SBs, he's probably worth the dart throw, especially since only two months remain in the season.
Ben Sheets, SP, Atlanta Braves
- 2012: 2 W, 7 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 11 K in 12 IP
Marte market already buzzing
On this list for the second straight week, Sheets followed up on his season debut with a three-walk, five-hit effort, but he fanned six in six shutout innings. He must vary his arsenal to compensate for his velocity, which might not reach past levels but could get a small uptick as he warms up.
Still, this is a smart pitcher you should back in mixed leagues.
Danny Espinosa, 2B/SS, Washington Nationals
- July: .341 BA, 14 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 4 SB in 89 PA
The streaky bat is in the middle of an upswing, including an 11-game hitting streak, thus fantasy owners once again embracing the likely widespread early-season roster casualty in mixed leagues. He's eliminated the loop in his left-handed swing, which has improved his timing.
With Ian Desmond (oblique) on the DL, Espinosa has earned shortstop eligibility, too. While it increases his worth, it doesn't change the fact that he carries the same strikeout-heavy patterns, even if he's streamlined his hacks. On the bright side, his power-speed combination will make up for the likely downfall of his .335 BABIP.
Josh Rutledge, SS, Colorado Rockies
- 2012: .356 BA, 6 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB in 48 IP
Troy Tulowitzki (groin) might be out for the season, but even if he isn't, he'll need a few more weeks of prep before he even goes on a rehab assignment, so Rutledge should remain in control of the 6 job. Even better, once Tulo comes back, Rutledge might go back to his natural position at second base if the Rox trade Marco Scutaro.
Rutledge has a hint of power promise, but it probably won't be of much use this year. That .395 BABIP should come down, too, at some point, and he doesn't take many walks. Ride the wave.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals
- July: .340 BA, 8 R, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB in 55 PA
KC's center fielder had a few multi-hit games recently and caught the eye of some folks this week after coming back hot from his DL activation earlier this month. He'll continue hitting near the top of the order as the Monarchs see if Cain can be regal as a long-term solution.
He posted a great spring and will have every opportunity to continue. He probably won't run much for a while as he tries to regain form after his hip flexor strain, but he might as the campaign winds down. He's a fine outfield cap in mixed leagues.
Paul Maholm, SP, Chicago Cubs
- Last 6: 5 W, 0.94 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 27 K in 38 1/3 IP
Since taking a spot on this list last week, Maholm tossed his second straight eight-inning, one-run affair with a Tuesday gem. His refined slider looks to be part of his success, which includes a modest bump in swinging-strike percentage (5.7 last year to 6.8 this year). The southpaw is stranding some more runners, too.
He's very much the same soft-tossing, control-based arm he's always been, though. Would someone give you something valuable for Maholm? Probably not, but in NL-onlys, it's worth checking on.
Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds
- July: 4 W, 1.43 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 34 K in 37 2/3 IP
In four of his five July outings, the 26-year-old has fanned at least seven. In all five, he has allowed no more than two earned runs and gone at least 6 2/3 frames. Of course, he's faced the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros, along with the competent St. Louis Cardinals, so the schedule has been kind to him.
He's seemingly become more efficient with much of his other peripherals staying the same. But despite his recent binge, overall his K's are down as he's tried to have cleaner outings, and like a few of the other Cincy SPs, Bailey's on pace for a career high in innings. Maybe his new approach will keep him fresh, but he might fade a bit as the season winds down, and perhaps when he faces stiffer competition.
A.J. Griffin, SP, Oakland Athletics
- 2012: 3 W, 2.25 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 29 K in 36 IP
Griffin's zone-pounding ways and suffocating curveball have produced whiffs so far, but expecting it to last at this level is lofty. Still, his craftiness produced 44 K's in 43 IP at Double-A Midland, and his Triple-A Sacramento K/9 reflects his 7.25 MLB figure so far. The A's have a great environment for buying staff-capping arms in mixed leagues. Everyone was buying Tom Milone or Jarrod Parker for that in the preseason. Griffin has been the real beneficiary lately.
Griffin doesn't induce many grounders, but at O.co Coliseum, that isn't as big a deal. If he comes back down to earth, at least his home starts will still be smart plays.
Jeff Karstens, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Last 4: 3 W, 1.86 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 22 K in 29 IP
Those three victories came with Mike McKenry behind the dish, over which Karstens logged a 0.82 ERA. Expect the backstop to be paired with Karstens for the foreseeable future, which could preserve the right-hander's effectiveness in the short term.
With a 6.07 K/9 in eight starts so far, he's posting the best dominance pace of any season in his career. He hasn't walked more than two batters in any of his five starts since coming off the DL in late June. Like Maholm, his mixed-league worth is tied to his control and hot streak; you have a right to be skeptical of the overpowering showings he's had in his small sample size.
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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