Gary Gramling
Thursday June 9th, 2011

There's a name for people who don't make trades during the year, but it's not fit to print in a family-friendly column. A healthy league is one with many trades, and all season long you can come here to get the kind of edge you need to get ahead (majority of advanced stats from the fine folks at fangraphs.com) ...

Nick Markakis, Orioles: Brian Roberts, Derrek Lee and now Markakis? I don't actually think the Orioles lineup is on the verge of becoming the '27 Yankees. But I do think Markakis is too good to be hitting this badly in June. There's the issue of his disappearing power, a baffling malady for a 27-year old (Isolated Power has dropped from .185 in 2008 to .160 in '09 to .138 in '10 to a Jose "Chico" Lind-like .067 this year). Maybe he should figure out what Tim Tebow's been putting in his Cap'n Crunch every morning. But while Markakis' power may or may not show up in 2011, his .238 batting average is going nowhere but up. Markakis came into the year with a career .332 batting average on balls in play. Right now, his BABIP is sitting at .252, and that's in spite of a career-high 22.4 line drive percentage. Assuming he's not hurt (aside from his feelings), and by all accounts he is not, expect Markakis to hover around .300 once he breaks out of his current slump, which should be soon. And even if the power doesn't come, he'll score some runs hitting in the 2-hole of a lineup that should get better as the year goes on.

Madison Bumgarner, Giants: Truthfully, it's probably going to be tough to pry Bumgarner away from anyone. He was overdrafted in non-keeper league for the most part, and he still has a respectable 3.42 ERA. But someone out there has to be getting nauseas over that "2" in Bumgarner's win column two-plus months into the year. Lack of run support has been an obvious issue. And while the Giants aren't about to become baseball's equivalent of the Bo Kimble-era Loyola Marymount basketball squad, they have Pablo Sandoval coming back, which could be a double dose of good if it leads to the benching/release/excommunication of Miguel Tejada (who is in a serious battle with Chone Figgins to be baseball's worst regular). Considering he's been let down by an otherwise solid bullpen (68.3 percent strand rate, compared to 74.1 percent for the rest of the staff), Bumgarner's ERA should remain solid. With just a little bit of a boost in run support, he could approach 10 wins to go along with it.

Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs: We know that Fukudome is many things: strong defender, patient contact hitter, husband, father, amateur ornithologist (I'm guessing, just seems like the kind of guy, right?). We also know what Fukudome is not: a .300 hitter. Fukudome is still a big name due to the nation's mild, confused and brief curiosity with him in '08. But just like Electric Light Orchestra's '01 release of the LP Zoom didn't reignite America's love of the keytar (confession: I have no idea if ELO used a keytar, but if not, they should have), Fukudome's fast start shouldn't conjure up the feelings it did in April '08. Fukudome carried a career .305 BABIP coming into '11, and right now it's at .361. That's why his batting average is sitting at .309, rather than hovering in the .260's where it should be. He still doesn't hit for power or steal bases. And he doesn't belong on fantasy rosters in any but the deepest leagues. If you can get anything for him, do it now.

Rick Porcello, Tigers: You know what I'm going to do on my summer vacation? Throw six innings of one run ball against the Twins. Anyone can do it. That's why I find Porcello's recent "hot" streak especially suspect.

Since April 15, Porcello is 6-1 with a 2.60 ERA. Awesome, right? But consider that among the nine starts he's made during that span, two were against the Twins (26th in runs/game), one was in Oakland (29th), one was in Seattle (25th), and one was in Pittsburgh (21st). He went 4-0 with a 1.39 ERA and 0.93 WHIP against those lightweights. Of course, pitchers get to face bad teams all the time, and fishing out only the starts against baseball's elite teams makes little sense. In fact, Porcello pitched well against Cleveland (seven innings, one run), the Yankees (seven innings, two runs) and Texas (six innings, one run) during this span. But he is at 2-3 with a 5.73 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in six starts against offenses outside of the bottom 10 this season. And his overall profile is just as uninspiring as it was a year ago. His strikeout rate is up a tick (4.65 K/9 last year, 5.23 this year), but so is his walk (2.10 BB/9 to 2.62) and line drive rates (17.6% to 19.0%). He's gotten a nice assist from an otherwise weak bullpen (78.7% strand rate, 71.3% for the staff as a whole), and defense could be a serious issue for a groundball pitcher with the potential double play combo of Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Raburn.

Sure, there's room for a 22-year old to improve. But most likely, Porcello's ERA is going to sit in the low- to mid-4s from here on in. And with his low strikeout rate, he'll carry no fantasy value. Especially coming off Tuesday's strong outing in Arlington, now's the time to move him.

Do you have questions? Concerns? Unflinching boredom? Following me on Twitter (@GGramling_SI) won't help, but you should do it anyway.

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