Last year, the Angels' entire season turned around when they promoted Mike Trout, who went on to have quite possibly the greatest rookies season in MLB history. At 33-43, they're in need of another jolt this year. While nobody can supply what Trout did in 2012, a recent returnee to the top of the lineup has been a welcome addition. He may not be the driving force behind getting the Angels back into contention, but he can do your fantasy team a whole lot of good. I'm talking, of course, about Peter Bourjos.
Bourjos (available in 82 percent of Yahoo! leagues, 65 percent of CBS leagues and 66 percent of ESPN leagues) missed the entire month of May with a hamstring injury. When he went on the DL, he was hitting .313/.370/.458. Since returning on June 10, he's 16-for-43 with a homer and three steals. In 142 plate appearances, his season slash is up to .333/.384/.460, and he has scored 20 runs in 51 games. We've never seen him put up such high rates over the course of a full season, so we can't exactly take these numbers to the bank.
MACK: My first-half Fantasy Baseball All-Star Team
However, there are some encouraging signs. First, while his 15.8 percent line-drive rate isn't anything spectacular, it's an improvement over his career rate. Second, he's hitting more than two ground balls for every fly ball, a huge positive for someone with his speed. Third, his infield-fly-ball rate is just 3.8 percent, which would be by far a career best. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he's only swinging at 25.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, showing more discipline than he ever has previously.
There are worse places for a hitter to be than in front of Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, no matter how much the latter two have struggled this year. Bourjos has modest power and stole 22 bases in the only season in which he was a regular starter. Unfortunately, he left Sunday's game with a thumb injury. Keep an eye on his status and prepare to pounce if this injury proves minor. He can be a real asset in all mixed leagues for the rest of the year.
Let's get to the rest of the wire.
• 2B/SS Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners (65, 32, 41): Franklin has been hitting everything in sight since the Mariners promoted him, posting a .283/.359/.489 line with four homers and three steals in 103 plate appearances. He essentially picked up right where he left off at Tacoma, where he hit .324/.440/.472 in 177 plate appearances before his promotion. It's a little early to look into the peripherals, but they all look good. He has just a .306 BABIP. His walk rate is 10.7 percent, buttressing the reputation he earned in the minors as a hitter with a discerning eye. His line-drive rate is an astounding 28.9 percent. Despite all this, and his eligibility at both second and short, he remains widely available. He should be universally owned.
• 2B/3B D.J. Lemahieu, Colorado Rockies (96, 82, 96): If your buddy/rival owner reads this column too and beats you to Franklin, never fear. There's another, only-slightly-inferior option ready for the adding in Lemahieu. The Rockies acquired the second baseman from the Cubs in the same trade that brought Tyler Colvin to Denver in exchange for Ian Stewart. (You think the Cubs' front office would like to have that one back?) In 124 plate appearances this season, Lemahieu, who turns 25 in July, is hitting .295/.352/.402 with nine steals. He hit his first homer of the season Saturday against the Nationals and has become a mainstay in the 2-hole for one of the better offenses in the league. Like Franklin's, Lemahieu's peripherals look great in this small sample size, notably his 30.0-percent line-drive rate. If you need a second baseman, Lemahieu is at your service.
• SP Eric Stults, San Diego Padres (64, 28, 74): Quite often, we'll take a critical view of the success of a pitcher who gets fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings and plays his home games at Petco Park. But in Stults' case, the numbers seem to check out, evidenced most clearly by a FIP (3.34) that is only nine-hundreths of a point higher than his 3.25 ERA. While his fastball averages just 86.4 mph, he has one of the league's most effective changeups according to Fangraphs. The advanced stats website calculates that his change has saved 2.25 runs per 100 times thrown, the 10th best score in the league. In addition, Stults doesn't walk very many batters or surrender homers all that often. In 97 innings, he has issued just 20 walks and allowed seven longballs. He has made a strong case for ownership in all mixed leagues.
• OF Ben Revere, Philadelphia Phillies (53, 42, 10): I was as bullish as anyone on Revere coming into the season, meaning I looked like a real numbskull through May. Since the calendar turned to June however, Revere has made me look a whole lot better, and has rewarded anyone with the patience to stick with him. After going 0-for-3 on May 31, he was hitting .251/.294/.281. After going 2-for-4 on Saturday, his slash returned to .280/.314/.313. More importantly, he has morphed back into the steals machine we expect him to be, swiping 10 bags this month, running his season total to 20. When Revere is playing like this, he's capable of being a third outfielder and stolen base specialist in all mixed leagues.
• RP Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks: J.J. Putz is due back soon, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler have both been effective and Bell has allowed a homer in each of his last five appearances. The writing isn't just on the wall. It has become the wallpaper. Time to let Bell go.
• OF Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays: Cabrera doesn't hit for power, he doesn't steal bases and he's never hit for average in his career, save the season in which he was caught doing steroids and the one before it. It's safe to say he doesn't have any relevance as a fantasy player.