For those in head-to-head leagues, there is plenty of time to come back from the bottom of the standings and make a run at the league championship. Whether it be a string of bad luck or some unexpected poor play from studs, head-to-head leagues make it difficult to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a team.
Rotisserie leagues, on the other hand, always let you know where your team stands. With that said, it is much more difficult to make up ground in a roto league. Two months is more than enough time to establish where your team stands and how you can improve. The bottom line is that struggling teams in roto leagues need to make moves now for any chance of a comeback.
Do some careful analysis of your team and be aggressive on the trade market. Maybe some of the following T.I.P.S. will give you a good place to start.
Struggling two-bagger turning it around
Brandon Phillips started 2009 off in miserable fashion, hitting .188 during the season's first month. He's since turned it around, batting .352 in May and continued his strong play into June. Phillips showed just how dominant he can be this past week with a line of 5 Rs, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs and 1 SB. Phillips is coaxing a walk in 9.5 percent of his at-bats, which is the highest mark of his career. This is allowing him to get on base more often, which ultimately leads to more chances at scoring runs and stealing a base. Another strong sign for things to come is his BABIP, which sits at .274, a bit lower than his .287 career average. As hot as he's been, look for Phillips to heat up even more in the next few weeks.
Utility man Stewart mashing balls
He's been hyped more than the new Land of the Lost flick, but Ian Stewart is finally starting to tear the cover off the ball. With Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins staying relatively healthy, Stewart has been on the outside looking in this season. His main competition, Clint Barmes, has also been swinging a hot stick, so Stewart isn't seeing the field unless one of the regulars gets a day off. Troy Tulowitzki has been nursing an injury recently, so Stewart has been seeing his name on the lineup card the past week. He responded by being the week's overall No. 1 player, hitting .480 with four homers and 12 RBI. He strikes out in 30.8 percent of his at-bats, so he's a prime sell-high candidate as his hot streak is bound to slow down and his playing time remains uncertain.
Oakland ace continuing to slide under the radar
Even though the baby A's, Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, get all the attention, Oakland's opening day starter Dallas Braden is continuing to pitch like the ace of the young staff. Braden started twice last week, compiling a win and 13 strikeouts. Even better, he had a 2.08 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. Braden's ERA now sits at a career-best 3.41 and his five wins and 50 Ks are a team best. While all signs are positive, one must keep in mind that his 74.0 IP are already more than he's ever pitched in a MLB season. At 25, Braden is still a raw pitcher and the grind of a 162-game season may wear him down as the season progresses. Buyer beware.
Giants closer defying the odds
Brian Wilson continues to rack up the saves, but is doing so with more unnecessary drama than a Grey's Anatomy episode. Playing the role of Meredith, Wilson is getting the job done (three saves the past week), but only after making sure it doesn't happen easily. Wilson's ERA sits at 3.71, but his WHIP is at a concerning 1.35 and his BB/9 is at 4.39. All said, Wilson has 14 saves in 17 chances. The Giants are playing respectable ball and there isn't any imminent danger of him losing his job. Only consider Wilson if you can stomach the poor outings and deal with an inflated WHIP. Despite the ugly ratios, Wilson is still likely to finish the season with near 35 saves.
Yankees outfield becoming a logjam
With the news that Xavier Nady is returning from an elbow injury, the Yankees are about to have an abundance of outfield options. Including DH, the Yankees have Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera, HidekiMatsui and Nady to fill four positions. Damon seems to be the only sure starter, making the remaining five useful only in daily leagues where you can assure they are in the lineup. Look for the Yankees to clear some room by trading one of these players for some bullpen help near the deadline. Until then, monitor the playing time of each and see if anyone runs away with the job. Nady was supposed to play a large role in the Yankees offense so his return is one to keep an eye on.
'Stros getting their closer back
LaTroy Hawkins did an admirable job filling in for the injured Jose Valverde, but the time has come for Valverde to reclaim his role. Even playing for average teams the past two years, the 31-year-old closer had 47 and 44 saves, respectively. He also strikes out close to 80 batters a year with an ERA in the 3.00s and a WHIP in the 1.10s. If for some reason he's on your wire, grab him. If he's rostered, consider making a trade. In rotisserie leagues, saves are the easiest stat to gain ground in, so if you are in need of saves, Valverde is an excellent option at a likely reasonable price.
Red Sox outfield all banged up
Jacoby Ellsbury strained his shoulder on Sunday, adding to the shortage in the outfield for the Sox. J.D. Drew is already ailing from a sore left shoulder and Rocco Baldelli is also banged up. The beneficiary is Mark Kotsay who is recently off a DL-trip himself. Kotsay hit a home run and went 2-for-3 on Sunday. Baldelli should see some extra time, but Kotsay makes for the more intriguing short-term AL-only option. He has a bit of pop and underrated speed so he may be a solid pickup for the next few weeks.
Reds outfielder making play for extended look
With a handful of games against right-handed starters, Laynce Nix has been seeing lots of action as the Cincy left-fielder. He's only two-percent owned, but Nix bombed three homers last week and knocked in eight runs. With seven home runs on the season, Nix has a Jason Kubel-type role with the Reds. He won't be as productive as Kubel, but he can provide similar power numbers. In deep NL-only leagues he's worth a look, but he hasn't quite stepped up to a mixed-league level. Although, teams in need of a power surge shouldn't put the Nix on a short-term addition.
Out with the old, in with the Young
It's been a disappointing season for Diamondbacks OF Chris Young, but the past week gave some hope for recovery. Young had four steals entering the week, but matched that with four steals in five games. His average sits at a horrendous .178, but Young's value has always been with his power and speed. Despite this, he's still owned in 35 percent of leagues, although this is dropping rapidly. I can't see the average rising significantly, but Young has done it before and that may be worth a bench spot to see if he can pick it up.
Ethier picking up the pace
When Manny Ramirez went out of the lineup, lofty expectations were put on Andre Ethier to produce in the middle of the Dodgers order. Instead, Ethier hit .211 in May and found himself in Joe Torre's doghouse, receiving some time off to clear his head. That might have been the cure, as Ethier is hitting .370 in June, including three bombs and five RBI. Torre has come under fire for his inconsistent lineups, but Ethier has consistently been placed in the four-hole, increasing his value. If you're looking for a quick fix, grab Ethier before his stock rises to an unattainable level.
Good will Hunter
Hunter Pence received high accolades in 2007 after he hit .322 his rookie season. Last year, his average dropped to .269 and people tended to forget that his home runs and RBIs increased from the year before. Now, Pence is putting it all together as the 26-year-old is hitting .342 with seven homers, 25 RBI and six steals. Even so, he finds himself absent from any talks concerning the top tier outfielders and is a prime buy-low candidate, even though his value is high. He's walking more and striking out less, leading to a ridiculous .419 OBP. Make sure you don't pass him up as well and see if you can sneak a favorable trade offer into his owner.
Believe in this Ranger
Similar to Pence, owners are still looking for reasons not to believe in NelsonCruz. The Texas bopper finished the past week with a .261 average, but he chipped in three moonshots, six RBI and six runs. Not only does Cruz have robust power (17 HR and 42 RBI), but he has nine steals. Besides Ian Kinsler, he's the only player with 15 or more homers to have more than seven steals. The only others even close are Albert Pujols (seven steals) and Jason Bay (five steals). So when it comes to all-around production, Cruz stands near the top of the mountain. Sure, his average will probably drop to the .275 level, but it seems worth it for all the other goodness he brings.
Don't lack faith in this Angel
John Lackey's late start to the 2009 season has been one to forget, as the Angels ace has a 5.13 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Now may be the perfect time to buy low as Lackey, and the Angels, can't afford his poor performances to continue. In the middle of a contract year, Lackey needs to prove he is healthy and dominant if he wants to attract No. 1 type dough. He hasn't had an ERA over 4.00 since 2004 or a WHIP over 1.26 since 2005. Lackey goes deep into games, giving him a solid chance for victory and his strikeout numbers, while declining, are still above-average. With money on the line, you can count on Lackey to approach his career norms as the season progresses.
*All stats up-to-date as of 6/8.
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