Who are the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cincinnati Reds
- Last 10: .459 BA, 9 R, 5 HR, 17 RBI in 40 PA
He does this from time to time. His power has proven better against right-handers, so that helps, not like he'd be taken out of the lineup anyway, at least the majority of the time, while he's smoking. Cincy is clicking without Joey Votto (knee), and Ludwick has been a big part of that.
With the amount of liners he's raking this year, it wouldn't surprise if he at least sustains his clip at season's end. Any Great American Ball Park masher who does this deserves a little more faith than many others.
Bandwagon filling up again
Josh Rutledge, SS, Colorado Rockies
- 2012: .375 BA, 12 R, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB in 75 PA
Since appearing on this list last week, he's .435-4-8 with six runs in his last 23 at-bats - not a bad showing for the stick who skipped Triple-A before locking down the Rox's shortstop gig with Troy Tulowitzki's groin injury. Rutledge would slide over to 2B if Tulo returns this year; that's not looking good, though.
Rutledge's quick, compact hacks are facilitating his streak and adding pop to his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame that many didn't expect so soon. He's playing above his head - he doesn't take many walks and hits plenty on the ground - but the 23-year-old moved up to the two-hole after Marco Scutaro was traded to San Fran, so he'll see some tantalizing pitches hitting in front of Carlos Gonzalez.
He isn't leaning on Coors Field yet, and he'll stick as a solid play there even if he tapers off. Signs are pointing to his drop-off being less severe than originally believed.
Greg Holland, RP, Kansas City Royals
- Last 35: 2.10 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 46 K in 34 1/3
Any newly crowned closer will garner attention on the waiver wire. The Royals might try out Kelvin Herrera at some point, but Holland should have a stalwart saves and skills stretch similar to how he ended 2011.
Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets
- 2012: 1 W, 1.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 18 K in 11 1/3 IP
Another returning entry who continues to garner pickup love, Harvey came down a bit in his second outing but fanned seven in six frames. The punchouts will be his most guaranteed offering.
Keep in mind the typical growing pains that come with a young, walk-happy hurler, and the Mets will probably cap his innings at 165 or 170 this season. He's at 121 1/3 combined between the bigs and Triple-A Buffalo, so he'll probably have at least another month's worth of outings.
Paul Maholm, SP, Atlanta Braves
- Last 7: 5 W, 1.00 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 32 K in 45 IP
He was an inclusion last week as a Chicago Cub. He was shipped to a much better home park, defense and supporting lineup. The soft tosser has gained a bit more punch to work in the strike zone, thanks to his improved slider, but he's a grounder- and contact-first arm that'll taper off before we reach October.
A.J. Griffin, SP, Oakland Athletics
- Last 5: 2.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 27 K in 31 IP
For the second week, fantasy players were hopping on the Griffin bandwagon. He's doing the same voodoo he was doing before last week - efficiency over dominance. Oakland starters have the cushion of their home park, which keeps them relevant even coming down off highs like these.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
- Last 10: .351 BA, 13 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 5 SB in 45 PA
An incomplete skill set that has been carried by erratically brilliant swipe tears might be coming together. Gomez actually has a better history versus right-handed pitchers than left-handers, and a five-homer July might be the byproduct of a 26-year-old finally growing into his frame.
You're better off counting on a proportional boost of his 20 steals on the year, but he's giving you more across-the-board reason to stick with him. His BB/K (this year, a horrific 0.25) means he'll slow down soon. As fantasy players know, though, thievery is an OK reason to hang on even after that happens.
Rocky Mountain rolling
Mike Minor, SP, Atlanta Braves
- Last 5: 1.74 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 27 K in 31 IP
The soft-tossing southpaw is maturing, right? Meh - unfortunately for his long-term worth, that handful of outings was comprised of home games against the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants (sans Hunter Pence), Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins, along with a contest at Miami's spacious confines.
His rotation gig was in jeopardy less than a month ago. His shaky fly-first skill set is masked by his environment and his recently cushy schedule. He has the Philadelphia Phillies (road) and San Diego Padres (home) coming up, but he lines up to face two of the following: the reloaded Los Angeles Dodgers, the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants.
In the next few weeks, Minor is staring at a major variation in his results.
Chris D. Johnson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Last 12: .457 BA, 7 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI in 51 PA
The streaky bat, an entry here earlier this season, swapped teams but gained another park that favors lumber (even if it does less so than in previous years), especially right-siders. He has replicated his hot 2010 stretch and should, at least with his power, continue on that pace here on out. That's useful in many circles.
Of course, you're wise to predict simultaneously a drop-off in batting average, as well. In mixed leagues, he remains just a corner infielder hot-streak surfboard.
Chad Billingsley, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Last 2: 0.68 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 6 K in 13 1/3 IP
Many shallow leaguers are likely revisiting the enigmatic right-hander, thanks to his sparkling return from a mid-July DL stint that, in conjunction with his painful lines from earlier this campaign, probably cost him many a roster spot.
He has a penchant for nibbling around the plate, and his dominance has dwindled because he's trying to counteract that. Still, his walk rate has actually been 2.61 or lower in every month except May, and he's revisited his empty-hack percentage from 2010 (8.9) with his current 8.5. Count his improved first-strike percentage among the causes.
He's posted better numbers away from arm haven Chavez Ravine so far. The possibility of him improving that makes him an alluring own for the rest of the season, especially with LA's newly retooled offense behind him to boost his odds of netting wins.
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.
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