Pick Wandy over Zambrano, don't get overly excited about Papi yet

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Each week I'll answer a handful of the most pertinent questions I've received during the week in my attempt, weak as it might be, to bring insightful fantasy analysis to the fore (my email address is listed at the bottom of the piece if you wish to drop me a line).

David Ortiz is sitting on waivers in my 12-team league. Should I grab him now that he finally seems to be a hitting? --Ted, New YorkOrtiz has finally awoken from his season long slumber with three home runs in his last five games and he has driven in seven runs in eight games in June. Still, the portly slugger is hitting just .185 with three home runs over his last 17 games. In addition, Ortiz has 33 strikeouts against 19 walks since the start of May leading to a 0.58 BB/K mark, well below the 0.82 mark that was his previous low over the last four seasons. He also continues to operate with a stroke that is almost bereft of power with a HR/F rate of 5.1 percent, less than a third of his career mark of 18.7 percent. Beyond all those fancy numbers chew on this simply statement -- Ortiz is hitting .187 with a .597 OPS against right-handed pitching this season and that is a simply massive detour into the realm of futility for a man who owns a .291 average and .964 OPS against righties in his career. Also keep in the back of your mind that the Sox face the Phillies, Braves and Nationals on the road during the upcoming interleague face-off, and that means Ortiz will likely see a fair bit of time on the bench for the month of June unless the Sox surprisingly give him a first base mitt and ask him to take the field.

Would I add Ortiz to my roster? If I had an "open" roster spot I would certainly consider stashing him, but know that a return to the halcyon days of his recent past still seems like a long shot at this point.

Every year I try to avoid Carlos Zambrano, he just annoys me. Still, I have been offered a deal of Zambrano for Wandy Rodriguez. Should I trade my lefty for the large one? -- Josh, Indiana

I too am concerned about the rotund one, both for a lack of perceived interest in getting his body in shape as well as his heavy workload in the past (he has thrown at least 188 innings in each of the last six seasons). As for his work this season, it has picked up of late as he has posted a 1.75 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 23 K's over his last 25.2 innings. However, most of his measures remain where they basically have been in the recent past with the lone exception being his K/9 rate which is back up to 7.92 after being under 7.40 the past two years. On the flip side his walked rate has spiked once again up to 3.96 per nine innings, and as a result his K/BB rate is still just average at 2.00. You also have to think that his ERA could easily rise given that his HR/9 mark is the lowest it has been since 2003 despite the fact that he is allowing more flyballs than he ever has before as his G/F ratio has dipped to a career worst 1.04 (career 1.56).

As for Wandy, well he was looking great until he was struck by the regression bug. Still, the speed with which it hit, he allowed 18 runs in three starts (only 12 earned), was so shocking that pundits were positing a hidden injury as being the culprit. Rodriguez quelled those concerns in his last start when he allowed one runs over seven innings, and overall his ERA is strong at 2.82 -- not bad for a guy who owns a 4.55 career mark (he has cut nearly a run off his previous seasons ERA in each of the past two). Wandy currently possess numbers in the strikeout and walk categories that are virtually identical to his 2008 performance signaling that this year's "breakout" could be legit.

2008: 8.58 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 2.98 K/BB 2009: 8.47 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, 3.00 K/BB

Wandy also owns virtually identical WHIP marks (1.31, currently 1.28) and BABIP marks (.323, currently .322), so there is little in the way of objective analysis that paints Wandy as a pitcher who cannot sustain his current levels of success.

Who would I want on my roster the rest of the way? I would lean toward Rodriguez over Zambrano in a virtual toss up.

I need a potential closer. Which if the following names would you suggest picking up: J.P Howell, Leo Nunez or Joe Beimel? -- Ryan, Georgia

I've said it before, and I will say it again -- target skills over roles. It's impossible to read the mind of a manager and determine who he will give save chances to if his "ace" reliever were to go down, so don't go chasing windmills like Don Quixote. If I had to choose from these three names I would recommend the hurlers, in the order of, Howell, Nunez and Beimel.

Beimel picked up a save on Thursday, but that was only because Mike MacDougal was unavailable after throwing three innings the previous two days. As for Beimel's skill, don't be swayed by the 2.02 ERA of last season -- he is nowhere near that dominating. To prove that fact, here are his numbers since the start of the 2006 season: 3.16 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 4.83 K/9, 1.51 K/BB. Those are numbers best left in a middle reliever role, and lo and behold that is the role he has filled for the vast majority of his career (he has only four saves in 415 career appearances). His work this season hasn't been any better (4.07 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 1.33 K/BB) so he clearly isn't worth the handful of saves he might pick up moving forward.

Nunez might be the closest of the trio to claiming the ninth inning role with Matt Lindstrom really struggling in Florida (5.92 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 11 saves), but he still owns the second best skill set of the hurlers under discussion. Nunez has posted a 3.99 ERA on the year after allowing three runs to pick up a blown save and a loss in his last outing. He does a fair job at limiting base runner, his WHIP was 1.24 in each of the previous two seasons and it is 1.23 right now, and this season he has upped the ante with the strikeouts pushing his K/9 mark up to 7.98, the best mark of his young career (it's 6.12 for his career). Still, he has also see a massive increase in his walk rate, almost one and half more than his career rate per nine innings with his current 4.30 mark. All of those walks have masked the fact that he has dominated hitters holding them to a mere .210 batting average. Even if he cuts back on the walks his BABIP, which has been at least .280 each of the past three years, is far too low at .241, so when that number rises it could end up canceling out any gains he were to show in throwing strikes.

As for Howell, he should be the closer in Tampa based on his performance (2.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.1 K/9), though the team continues to mix and match at the end of games. Just how great as Howell been since the start of last season? Try these numbers on for size amongst all hurlers who have thrown at least 100-innings since the start of 2008. (1) Howell owns a 2.19 ERA, the best mark in baseball. (2) Howell has allowed 10.56 base runners per nine innings, the 12th best mark in baseball just a tick behind the 10.46 mark of Johan Santana. (3) Howell has struck out 9.73 batters per nine innings, the seventh best mark in baseball. Bet those numbers could you off guard didn't they?

The bottom line here is that Howell owns the best skills and results, so he is the hurler I would recommend picking up.

Is Aaron Rowand for real? I need a solid fifth outfielder and want to know if I can continue to count on him to produce. -- Toby, Norfolk, VA

Aaron Rowand has been tearing it up of late, and by that we mean he has been hotter than a Victoria's Secret model in one of those million dollar bras. Since being inserted into the leadoff role with the Giants, Rowand is hitting .393 with a 1.055 OPS over 89 at-bats covering 22 games, to raise his season numbers to .311 and .866. Rowand his hit over .300 two times, he hit .310 in 2004 and .309 in 2007, but his career average is .285. When you consider the fact that his current BABIP of .363 is more than .025 points above his career mark despite the fact that his line drive rate is 19.4 percent, which is actually below his career rate (19.6 percent), you can see just how tenuous his 300+ batting average is moving forward. It is also worth pointing out that Rowand has averaged just 16 home runs the past four years and that since joining the Giants that his HR/F rate has dropped to 9.6 percent, well below his 12.3 percent career marks. And you can pretty much forget about steals as he has just 12 since the starts of the 2007 season. Rowand offers enough offense to be a decent fifth outfield option in standard mixed leagues, though his upside is extremely limited.

I need pitching help and have depth to deal from the middle of the diamond. Does a deal where I give up Clint Barmes to pick up Kenshin Kawakami make sense? -- Dave, San Diego

Barmes has really come on of late since manager Jim Tracy has inserted him in the second hole in the lineup. In fact, Barmes has been hotter than a Habanero chili hitting .400 over his last 60 at-bats games with 11 RBI in his last 14 games. While Barmes is certainly on the upswing, and he does qualify at shortstop and second base, his plate discipline is still spotty (0.29 BB/K), and his LD-rate of 22.4 percent is virtually identical to last season's 22.4 percent an just barely above his 21.1 percent career mark. Barmes is showing a home run stroke we haven't seen from him in the past as his HR/F mark of 10.2 percent is way above his career rate of 6.1 percent, so one would have to expect a regression there. In addition, Barmes is producing a career-high BABIP mark of .340, though to be fair that number barely outpaces his marks from the past two seasons (.333, .329). With an every day spot in the lineup he should continue to be a nice player in the counting categories even if his average were to regress a bit.

As for Kawakami, his overall numbers are poor at 3-6 with a 4.62 ERA and a 1.40 ERA. Despite those middling numbers, there may be some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Kenshin has actually been pretty good since the start of May despite his record being only 2-3 as he has produced a 3.37 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, a 6.96 K/9 mark and a 2.36 K/BB mark. Moreover, he has been even sharper over his last four starts with a 3.04 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and a 2.67 K/BB mark. If you need pitching help Kenshin isn't a bad option to target, especially if the Braves start scoring some runs. In this specific scenario this offer might make sense, though in a straight up 1-for-1 situation Barmes would be the player to hold on to.