Who were the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues this past week? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox
- June: .281 BA, 10 R, 3 HR, 15 RBI in 73 PA
Many might've ditched him after Kevin Youkilis returned from the DL. The (of late) Greek Gawd of Gawdawful was sent packing, though, and the rush back to the Middlebrooks bandwagon looked like a stampede to see The Who.
His penchant for whiffing and infrequent walking could catch up to him as the season and his young MLB career wears on, but you're keeping him for the power he offers in a tumultuous hot corner class. Selling high for a secure commodity wouldn't hurt, though, if you'd have depth without him in your offense.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
- 6/28: 2 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 3 K in 4 IP
Bauer Power didn't have much juice in his Thursday introduction, but he left with a minor groin injury after four frames. The righty said the strain had affected him for about half of the 16 minors starts he logged this year; it shouldn't keep him from taking his next turn, per Kirk Gibson.
Yesterday was a poor opportunity to judge Bauer's abilities accurately, but his 2.23 minors ERA shows the lower-half balkiness didn't affect his tune-ups. There'll be some diaper moments, but his diverse arsenal carries elite upside and, if he heals properly, could deliver this season.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
- Last 2: 3-for-8, 2 2B, 1 RBI
Will his long swing continue to hinder his pickup of MLB pitches, especially against left-handers? At least the Pacific Coast League master will try capitalizing on his plate punch in a better ballpark, especially one with the lefty power boost that Wrigley Field offers.
Safe to think that as part of Theo Epstein's rebuilding year, Rizzo will get every opportunity to face as much adversity as possible, so at least PT seems safer than it was last year. In many cases, after a rough first taste of the bigs, highly touted tykes have that "Eureka!" moment next time around. He's talented enough for that to happen now, even if it comes with some trials.
Cody Ross, OF, Boston Red Sox
- Last 10: .306 BA, 9 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 39 PA
It wasn't hard to jump back on this formerly scorching ride after his activation from the DL. He's hitting well enough to keep a starting gig after Carl Crawford (elbow) and Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) come back, whenever that will be.
Ross is still hacking, but the 31-year-old loves using thah Monstah for tahgit prahctice - he's a pull pelter, after all - and is making harder contact on the whole. Though he's looking more like his Miami Marlins incarnation, you're better off planning on his streakiness ending than you are hoping he'll carry you the rest of the way.
Bobby Parnell, RP, New York Mets
- June: 1 SV, 2.70 ERA, 9 K in 10 IP
He's the savior with Frank Francisco (oblique) on the DL. Parnell has revived his career thanks to keeping his pitches down and incorporated a knuckle curveball. Heck, if he establishes mo' while Frank Frank sits, it could become a coup; Francisco was bought for the role, but Parnell may turn the present into the future. Of course, the Metropolitans might seek bullpen help as July 31 approaches, but that likely leaves Parnell a month to change New York's mind.
Melee for Middlebrooks
Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox
- Last 5: 2 W, 2.43 ERA, 20 K in 33 1/3 IP
Sure, he's earned an extensive opportunity in the White Sox's dinged rotation, but Quintana's Friday struggles versus the New York Yankees shouldn't have been your first sign that Quintana has benefited from good fortune. Sure, the crafty 23-year-old has exhibited pristine control in his limited farm duration (only 48 2/3 frames above Single-A), but his 91.8 percent left-on-base percentage and the hard contact opponents make against him show he's living on the edge with his low-90s stuff.
The stat line above notes efforts against the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers - a mixed bag of hitting, for sure. His long-term volatility should tell you to tread carefully.
Unlike what The Dude said about another Quintana, this creep cannot roll, man.
Franklin Morales, SP, Boston Red Sox
- Last 3: 1 W, 2.00 ERA, 24 K in 18 IP
Nick expands on why the southpaw may finally be growing into the power arm many thought he'd become years ago. Easy to forget he's just 26; following his years-long detour to the bullpen, his live limb might be hitting another level. He's taking the breakout baton from the tiring Felix Doubront, and Morales' ring-ups alone warrant attention.
Andrew Cashner, SP, San Diego Padres
- 6/28: 2 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 9 K in 6 1/3 IP
Cash Money? Maybe, if he can work his mid- to high-90s heat the way he did Thursday, his first start after his farm stretch-out stint. Cashner's San Diego bullpen role was temporary in the big picture; San Diego merely sped up the process because of their gaping rotation holes.
Whether he can take a leap in his control as a starter will determine his immediate utility; frankly, it might make him a matchup start in shallower leagues. He's off on the right foot so far, as small as it is. Deeper setup participants should live with the rough spells to take advantage of PETCO Park, his NL placement and his tantalizing strikeout profile.
Jair Jurrjens, SP, Atlanta Braves
- Last 2: 1 W, 2.03 ERA, 4 K in 13 1/3 IP
Jurrjens is often an insomnia cure in fantasy baseball drafts. He's pitched above his indicators for a few seasons, but he's been brutal often, considering he's not a K artist. Even his control has been off this year, and he's allowing fewer grounders.
At this point in 2012, though, and despite his erratic history, those looking for SP sparks should give him a longer look. He improved his velocity, and in turn the gap between his four-seamer and changeup, at Triple-A Gwinnett. A chronic knee issue probably has hindered him since last year, as well, and a sturdier base could turn him around.
The bum knee could crop up again, but at least you know what you're getting with this mixed dice roll. Maybe he'll run off another streak of good fortune in his favorable environment. Worth a shot....
Luke Hochevar, SP, Kansas City Royals
- June: 2 W, 3.38 ERA, 25 K in 34 2/3 IP
Folks are finally starting to catch on to his success, which stems from a mix of curveball mastery and more efficient work. He's looking a lot like the second-half hurler that prompted a hint of sleeper buzz this spring and appears to have found a definitive out pitch.
Deep mixed leaguers should've already started considering him. Wins won't come in bunches, and he doesn't strand many runners, but his combination of skills might finally start jelling over the long haul to at least be a passable dual-universe back-ender for the balance of 2012.
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 LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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