Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market - Rising

by Tim Heaney on July 2, 2009 @ 01:00:00 PDT

 


Also see: Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market - Falling

Fantasy baseball waivers and the acquisition of fantasy baseball free agents can make or break a season. You may have adjusted your fantasy baseball cheat sheets over and over during spring training. If your team remains the same after opening day, though, you will probably have trouble competing in your rotisserie baseball league.

Do you need to add players to replace your fantasy baseball busts? Which players can you ignore? KFFL.com's Diamond Market series gives you the fantasy baseball tips and advice you need to sort through the masses quickly.

Key

Acquire - Add player (in most circumstances)

Watch - Track player; consider adding if trend continues

Pass - Do not add player (in most circumstances)

First basemen

Jeff Bailey, Boston Red Sox

With third baseman Mike Lowell (hip) expected to remain sidelined through the All-Star break, Bailey will receive more playing time, probably at a mixture of first base and outfield. His versatility makes him a valuable addition to the Sox roster; he has served this role before in the last two years. Bailey, however, will probably split time with Mark Kotsay, who has also been seeing more of the field.

Despite the 20-homer power he showed in the minors, his stick hasn't done much in the bigs (.233 clip), but it's more about the playing time. The 30-year-old is a true "Quad-A" player.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

AL-only: Acquire

Second basemen

Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves

A 6-for-11 stretch, with a homer and six ribbies, over the last two days is cementing Prado's status as starter, overtaking second base duties from Kelly Johnson per manager Bobby Cox. Prado platooned for much of last year with Johnson, whose .176 clip against righties this year has taken away his main draw.

The versatile Prado, 25, has eligibility at first and third base, too, but his middle infield status helps the most. He's making a ton of contact once again (91.9 percent) and posted a .359-2-6 line in June.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

Willy Aybar, Tampa Bay Rays

Aybar will see more time, probably at a mixture of positions, until the All-Star break; the Rays will probably rest banged-up third sacker Evan Longoria (hamstring) more, making third Aybar's likely lineup destination. Manager Joe Maddon trusts him enough to put him to put him in key spots in the lineup, including the three-hole at times.

The streaky Aybar has hit .306 and .341 in the last two completed months, respectively. He has a serviceable batting eye and retains eligibility at all three infield bases. His time will be spotty, and if you grab him you'll have to go lineup watching, but when he has played he has made a difference, with seven home runs and 25 RBIs in just 144 at-bats.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Third basemen

Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

Gordon (hip) is heading to a rehab assignment at Triple-A Omaha Friday, but he'll probably go back to Double-A Northwest Arkansas soon after to resume duties there. He is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break.

He played just seven games before going on the DL with a torn right hip labrum. He's one of the better stashable commodities right now; be the early bird and pick him up while his name remains slightly under the radar. His 31 combined homers in the last two seasons show that he can help in the time given.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Outfielders

Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates' wheeling and dealing is allowing them to try out some options that have been blocked or haven't been considered for PT. Jones, 28, can play both first base and outfield, and after five long years at Triple-A will have his opportunity. He hit third Wednesday and fifth today. He recorded a trio of knocks and his first homer and RBIs of the year Thursday.

Jones has shown 20-homer power at Triple-A (.279-23-92 in 527 at-bats at the Minnesota Twins' affiliate, Rochester, last year), and the Pirates are looking for ways to justify their deals to their irritated fans. Waiting and seeing is the way to go in mixed leagues; NLers shouldn't be as patient.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

Starting pitchers

Jose Contreras, Chicago White Sox

It's hard to think anyone expected this after Contreras' Achilles' injury and his self-demotion to the minors in May. Dominant June (.215 ERA, .179 average against) and July (two earned runs, five hits in eight innings) performances have Contreras at a 2005-type level. This is a prime example of why you look beyond season totals when mining for gems.

The rediscovery of Contreras' strength and split-finger fastball has been the key. He needs to keep the downward movement late in games to continue his success, but you need to have him on roster while he's dealing.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Luke Hochevar, Kansas City Royals

While walks remain a problem, Hochevar has worked around trouble in his last five outings (3-1, a 2.94 ERA and 15 K's). That trouble, however, was caused mainly by the 10 walks. A four-inning, six-earned run catastrophe was the one blemish in this stretch.

He has improved his in-game adjustment to adversity, which could help improve his 60.0 percent strand rate, which has probably been climbing in his recent run. He's keeping the ball on the ground, which helps since his K rate hasn't shown up with the big boys yet. The 2006 No. 1 pick should get more of a chance to stick in the bigs, if the Royals don't toy with his roster status as they did earlier in the year; stability would help.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

David Hernandez, Baltimore Orioles

Hernandez will stay in the rotation with Koji Uehara (elbow) out for around two months, maybe more. Does this mean he should be owned? Not necessarily; despite his improved control (just four walks over his last three appearances), he hasn't shown much dominance (12 K's in 19 1/3 frames) in the bigs yet.

He had an easier time fanning 79 in 57 1/3 frames at Triple-A Norfolk this year, and he has mid-90s heat. His next outing comes tomorrow on the road against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who boast a top-10 home OPS but also play in a park that aids flyball pitchers like Hernandez, 24. No rush to acquire him; see how he does Friday to gauge where he is, but recognize the upside.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Scott Olsen, Washington Nationals

Olsen threw a seven-inning gem (six hits, two runs, seven K's) in his return from the DL Monday against his former team, the Florida Marlins; his shoulder looked healthy. Re-entering the Nationals rotation isn't as bad a stigma as it once was; Washington's starters have benefited from new pitching coach Steve McCatty.

Olsen's dominance fell off considerably after a promising 2006, but he still boasts a career 6.73 K/9 in the bigs. He allows way too much contact to be a surefire speculative pickup, but if his renewed slider use continues to pay dividends, he'll have room to work around that. His spot in the rotation alone should perk NL-only players' ears.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

Yusmeiro Petit, Arizona Diamondbacks

Petit (shoulder) has been a reliable swingman for 'Zona, making the occasional spot start when needed. He's slated to be activated from the DL to start Saturday against the Colorado Rockies, taking the place of the demoted Billy Buckner. Petit has had a rough year (8.03 ERA in 24 2/3 frames), but he hasn't pitched since May 8.

Considering the start will come at Coors Field, starting Petit should only come out of a need in deep NL-only leagues. He'll probably still be on the wire considering his matchup, so you'll have some extra time to feel him out.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Watch

Ryan Sadowski, San Francisco Giants

The Giants said Sadowski, 26, will take their final rotation spot. He scattered four knocks over six scoreless innings in his debut Sunday.

Sadowski forced 12 groundouts compared to four air-outs in his start. He showed decent groundball patterns with Triple-A Fresno this year. Could he be another version of the Baltimore Orioles' Brad Bergesen? Let's not go that far, especially since he hasn't shown much K potential. He's playing in a favorable home park, though, and he hosts a middling Houston Astros road offense Friday. Scout that start before you make your next move; NL players should be quicker to take advantage of a good sign.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Watch

Also see: Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market - Falling

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About Tim Heaney

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, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.


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