June 17, 2009

I've mentioned plenty of times how I feel that two months is the appropriate amount of time to gauge a player's performance and determine his rest-of-season value. If you can't get your act together in that time, it's likely that you won't see a spot on my roster. I cut bait with a lot of underperforming players the past few weeks, but there are certain times when you just have to roll with a gut feeling.

This happened to me with Jose Lopez. I traded for the underachiever in one of my leagues and was rewarded with his best week of the season. Now, it's possible that this was a fluke and he will continue his downward slide, but sometimes players do bust out of slumps right when you are about to cut them loose, and there is nothing more frustrating than that.

Although Lopez was hitting a measly .227, he did have nearly 30 RBI and he was finding his way into the middle of the Mariners lineup. His .246 BABIP was also another indicator that his average was due for a rise. Lopez is merely an example of somebody whose slump was unexplainable and all factors pointed to a strong rest of the season.

Don't be afraid to rid yourself of a lost cause, but make sure you do the research to determine the reasons for his poor play and if you decide he can't turn it around, go ahead and make the move.

Let's get to this week's T.I.P.S.

All statistics through June 15.

Texas star in search of old stroke

Ian Kinsler's start to the season was one for the ages. The slugging second baseman sprayed balls all over the field, finishing April with a .322 average, seven homers, 20 RBI and seven steals. Since then, Kinsler has been stuck in a brutal slump that has left fantasy owners confused and angry, similar to my emotions with this past season of 24. In May, Kinsler's average dropped to a .243 clip, although his power numbers (6 HR, 19 RBI) remained consistent. Through 10 June games, Kinsler's all-around production has hit rock bottom. As Eminem will tell you, That's Rock Bottom -- when you feel like you've had it up to here cause you mad enough to scream, but you sad enough to tear. The good news is that Kinsler's capability of providing all-around stats has him ranked as the 17th overall player in mixed leagues, though that's dropped to 114th in the last month and 1,245th the last week as he hit .120 with no runs, home runs or RBI. Expect a rebound with Kinsler, but his average should reflect 2007 (.264 AVG), not 2008 (.319 AVG). His .259 BABIP lends credence to the suggestion that his average will rise in the coming weeks.

This Fonz doesn't get a thumbs up

It's common knowledge that Alfonso Soriano can't hit, or lay off, any sort of off-speed pitch in the dirt, but this year seems to be an especially frustrating one for Soriano and his owners. Think Pedro Cerrano, but with no hope of a live chicken. A career .280 hitter, the Cubs $136 million man's putrid May has seen his average drop to a depressing .234. Even worse, Soriano's main asset, his speed, has been M.I.A. as he's complained of nagging knee pain. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like he's even a 20-steal threat this year. In his last 35 games he's stole two stinkin' bases. Of course, he can't steal a base if he is striking out in 26.6 percent of his at-bats. He still has the name recognition and power numbers to warrant a solid return in any trade, so now may be the time to send him off for some spare parts that can help your team.

Forgotten prospect making up for lost time

Jeremy Hermida has been one of fantasy baseball's biggest recurring disappointments since being hyped as one of the game's next big stars. Go figure that when the fantasy community finally gives up on him he comes to life. At 25, Hermida still has youth on his side and if the past few weeks are any indication of his future, now may be the time to buy low. Hermida struggled in April, hitting .254 and hitting only three homers. He turned it around in May, batting .270, and now has hit his stride in June, compiling a .357 average in 11 games. He's on pace for a 20-homer, 75-RBI season which is pretty valuable for a guy who's only 24 percent owned.

Recent returnee ends week as top-rated player

Jose Contreras' career has had more pit-stops than a NASCAR race, but he's currently accelerating past the field after his return from the minors. Contreras made a quick recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, although his return may have been a bit premature as he started the season 0-5 with an 8.19 ERA. The Sox sent him to Triple-A Charlotte to rehabilitate for a month. An injury to Bartolo Colon gave the Sox the perfect opportunity to call up Contreras and he reported in prime fashion. The 37-year-old (allegedly) right-hander made two starts, got two wins, let up zero runs, only three hits and struck out 11. He's incredibly streaky and inconsistent at times, but a hot streak like this can help fantasy owners' inch closer to a championship. Grab him for the short-term and be prepared to drop him when the first signs of an implosion.

Cardinals fill-in worthy of a spot in NL-only leagues

Brad Thompson has played an important role for the Cardinals staff the past few seasons, serving as the team's utility pitcher wherever and whenever needed. Primarily pitching out of the pen, Thompson now finds himself in the Cards rotation since Kyle Lohse will be out until near the All-Star break. Thompson doesn't have dominant stuff, but he's started 27 games in his career. His last effort was a 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 5 K performance against a solid Cleveland lineup. In NL-only or deep mixed leagues he may be worth a look as St. Louis typically gets the most out of their starters and Thompson's 2.93 ERA since moving to the rotation is impressive.

Go go Gomez back atop the lineup

An inner ear infection has sidelined Denard Span and Carlos Gomez is getting the first crack at replacing Span's production. Gomez got off to a good start by going 2-for-4 on Sunday with a double, homer and stolen base. His five steals on the year are incredibly disappointing, considering he stole 33 a year ago, but much of the problem has been his inconsistent playing time. As long as he continues to bat leadoff, Gomez will have the opportunity to get on base and watch Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau knock him in. Anybody in a pinch for steals or runs can benefit from Gomez's recent return to prominence.

Cards outfielder heating up

Rick Ankiel slumped after his return from a horrific encounter with a left-center field wall on May 4, but has recently returned to his power-hitting self. Now back in full-time duty, Ankiel is seemingly gaining confidence which is translating into a more patient approach at the plate. On June 1, Ankiel saw his average dip to .221, however hits in nine of the next 12 games, including three multi-hit games now has his average at .254. The next step in his ascent to fantasy worthiness is to regain his power stroke, which is coming along (two homers in last eight games). Ankiel is no worse than a respectable bench player in mixed leagues.

Tigers middle infield starting to take form

Placido Polanco's unusually slow start to the season is giving Ramon Santiago more playing time at second base than was expected, but it is at shortstop where fantasy owners need to decide who is the more valuable own. Santiago has struggled since hitting .349 in May, while veteran Adam Everett is seeing the baseball well right now. Everett, at only one percent owned, hit .318 the past week, including a home run and six RBI. He now has 24 RBI, which is 14th in the MLB amongst shortstops. He isn't worth a look in mixed leagues, but Everett can be a diamond in the rough for AL-only teams needing a quick fix at middle infield.

Gross Profit

Acquired in the Edwin Jackson trade, Gabe Gross has been a priceless asset to the Rays during their injury plagued season. Gross got 22 at-bats this past week and capitalized with eight RBI, one homer and three stolen bases. The production was good enough to make him the 17th ranked player for the past week and force those with watchful eyes to reconsider his impact on the Rays roster. Unfortunately, Jason Bartlett and Pat Burrell are returning from injuries and Gross is likely relegated back to the bench. The good news is that any further injuries and Gross can be counted on to be a legit short-term option in AL-only leagues.

Don't believe in Kevin Kouzmanoff

Due to position scarcity, many owners searching for an answer at third may be intrigued by Kouzmanoff's recent tear (two homers, 11 RBI past 24 at-bats), but we've seen this before and the end result will not be pretty. Kouzmanoff improved his average to .235 in the past week, but his career average is still only .259. He doesn't walk at all and his presence in a lineup of minor league-level talent won't result in many runs being scored. His name has been tossed out there in trade rumors, and if that doesn't land him a full-time gig his value is null and void. You're better off letting someone else make this mistake.

Need saves? The solution may be cheaper than you think

The price for a top-of-the-line closer such as Jonathan Papelbon or Joe Nathan is likely to be through the roof these days. Unless you are willing to part with a Top 50 hitter, the asking price is probably out of your price range. A cheaper, still effective option might be Pirates closer Matt Capps. Despite a poor start to the season where his ERA jumped to 8.18 at one point, Capps has rebounded to save ten straight games since, allowing only two runs in the process. If you are in dire need of saves, Capps is racking them up and you can probably have him for an average starter or position player.

I don't typically suggest Rockies pitchers, but...

Jason Hammel has been pretty darn good lately. Upon entering the rotation in early May, Hammel spent the month serving up long balls en route to a 4.60 ERA. In June, he's pulled a 180 and gone 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three starts. His ERA at Coors Field is a robust 7.03, but he's countered that by having a 2.06 ERA on the road. If you have the room to spot start him, do so when he pitches on the road and you may have a very successful pitcher on your hands in NL-only leagues. He's not mixed-league worthy yet, but a few more solid outings outside of Coors and he may be someone you can rely on for the year.

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Have some T.I.P.S. for Brad? Send him your questions, comments or concerns at brysz@rotoexperts.com.

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