July 01, 2009

Hanley Ramirez may wear No. 2, but this week he was the No. 1 hitter in fantasy. Ramirez was the consensus overall top pick in many fantasy drafts this season, but only recently has he lived up to that billing. Ramirez blasted two grand slams against Baltimore en route to a three-homer, 15-RBI, two-steal week.

H-Ram finished the week as the No. 2 (Chad Gaudin was No. 1) player, and now sits as the 14th-ranked player on the season. The 25-year-old is hitting .340 in June and his 27 RBIs are already four more than he had in April and May combined. He's fought a variety of nagging injuries throughout the season's first two months, so it's no surprise that he's caught fire since claiming he's perfectly healthy.

His 11 stolen bases on the season suggest he isn't the 51-steal man of 2006-07, but he should approach the 35 he stole last year. Many frustrated owners have sent Ramirez packing for more consistent options, but his recent turnaround implies a potentially massive second half. I've seen him being traded for guys like Mark Texiera, Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera. There isn't a player, (Albert Pujols excluded) that I'd rather have over Ramirez right now.

Let's get down to business and take a look at this week's T.I.P.S.

Fading MVP

In an effort to shake things up for the slumping shortstop, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel opted to bench Jimmy Rollins, with no batting practice, this past Thursday through Sunday. Manuel reiterated that Rollins is still his starting shortstop and leadoff hitter, but this is obviously a sign that he is running out of patience.

Since going 3-for-4 on June 18, Rollins has gone hitless in 19 at-bats. His average now sits at .211, and .176 in June. Part of the problem comes from Rollins lack of patience at the plate. He walked a career-best 9.4 percent of his at-bats last season, but has seen that drop to 5.1 percent this year. He's swinging at 23.0 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, up nearly three percent from a year ago. His line drive percentage is also declining, suggesting he isn't making the solid contact we have come to expect from him. Rollins is killing lineups in all formats, and it's time to look elsewhere. I'm not telling you to drop him, but picking up a guy like Christian Guzman and starting him for a few weeks may help you weather the storm.

Romero's Month

Ricky Romero pitched twice last week, lasting seven innings in each game, striking out 13, allowing only two runs and leaving with two victories. At 24, Romero was the Jays first round pick (sixth overall, one before Troy Tulowitzki) in the 2005 draft and has finally found a spot in the rotation. In the past month he's ninth among all major league pitchers in strikeouts (38) and has a 3.29 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in that period. In June, he has five quality starts in five outings, and has only two starts on the season (out of 10) with less than five strikeouts. For being only 22-percent owned, Romero has had a better month (rankings-wise) than Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, JobaChamberlain and Johnny Cueto.

White Sox closer racks up saves

Bobby Jenks' sharp decline in strikeouts since he had a 10.33 K/9 ratio in 2006 has left him off the minds of many fantasy owners when it comes to closers. After 41 saves and 80 strikeouts in '06, Jenks numbers have declined on an annual basis, leaving him with 30 saves and 38 strikeouts last year. This season, Jenks' has a slightly inflated ERA of 3.21, but he's rediscovered his nasty movement and is striking out a batter per inning, his highest rate since 2006. His 18 saves are second-most in the AL and his 1.07 WHIP is better than Jonathan Papelbon, Joakim Soria and Brian Fuentes. Unlike Chumbawamba, Jenks is no one-year wonder.

Mariners infield takes a beating

First Yuniesky Betancourt was put on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring. Now, news has surfaced that Adrian Beltre will undergo surgery this week to remove bone spurs in his shoulder and should miss six-to-eight weeks. The Mariners are now stuck with a Nicole Richie-thin infield, where Jose Lopez may move to third base. This move will increase the value of Lopez, as he already has second and first base eligibility in some leagues. Ronny Cedeno should see the majority of time at short, while Chris Woodward will see time at both third and second. The extra at-bats make Cedeno and Woodward worth owning in deep AL-only leagues. Cedeno has some speed he currently isn't utilizing, while Woodward can put up a decent average.

A D'back on the DL

Chris Snyder was supposed to be one of the top power hitting backstops available this season, but he's suffered through a season-long slump, batting .224 with only five bombs. We all know finding a good catcher is about as tough as finding a trusty mechanic, so Miguel Montero may be exactly what you need. The 25-year-old catcher is Snyder's fill-in and has four hits in the past two days. Despite hitting only .261 in June, Montero is patient at the plate and has a nice spot in the six-hole. Those in NL-only, two-catcher and deep mixed leagues should consider Montero as a quick fix.

Mets lose another run-producer

After battling through a sore knee, Carlos Beltran was finally put on the 15-day DL with a bone bruise. The move leaves the injury-ridden Mets with a mediocre offense and a powerless outfield. Fernando Martinez was recalled from Triple-A after an unsuccessful first stint in the majors. Ryan Church and Gary Sheffield will receive regular time, but Sheffield has been dealing with a sore left knee. Other options include Jeremy Reed and Nick Evans. Church and Sheffield can be mixed league options, while Martinez has the most upside out of him, Reed and Evans. Although with Beltran, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado sidelined, none of these options will score you many runs.

Job change for a Yankee

In what seems to be a "who's hot at the moment" platoon, Brett Gardner received 27 at-bats this week in comparison to Melky Cabrera's 15. While each hit over .370, Gardner had two triples, one homer, four RBI and two stolen bases. The 25-year-old is now hitting .293 and has 17 steals on the season. Cabrera's presence takes away his status as a daily start in mixed leagues, but it is weeks like this that make him valuable. For the time being, his hot streak and steals make him a must-add in any format. Just make sure you understand JoeGirardi will play the hot hand.

Rockies outfielder searches for a role

Seth Smith received some extra playing time this week due to interleague play and the use of a DH, and he put some solid wood on the ball. He had six hits in 14 at-bats, including two homers and six RBI. Smith is in a crowded outfield, but he or Ryan Spilborghs are bound to get moved near the deadline. Smith is worth monitoring on your waiver wire in case he does get shipped to a team where he will see consistent playing time. He has the tools to be a .300 hitter with decent power and speed numbers in the right situation.

Padres shortstop sees playing time

Lost in the hoopla of the Kyle Blanks call-up was the activation of 22-year-old shortstop Everth Cabrera. Cabrera was previously on the 60-day DL with a broken bone in his hand, but is since recovered and swinging a scorching bat. The one-percent owned Cabrera is hitting .333 since being activated on June 19 and had three RBI and three steals this past week. He's not a run-producer, but he can provide above-average speed and an occasional run hitting second in the Padres lineup. Speed sells and San Diego's confidence in the youngster is an encouraging sign. NL-only leaguers in search of speed need look no further than the emerging Cabrera.

Scott Baker is a must-have

Yes, Scott Baker's ERA is 5.17. Yes, he has six losses. Let's be optimists for a second. Pitcher's go through slumps. It happens. All that means to me is that I can acquire them for 50 cents on the dollar. I did just that with Baker and in the last month he's 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 38 Ks to only six walks in 40 innings pitched. Since his rookie year in 2006, Baker's career first-half ERA sits at 4.87, while his post-All Star ERA is a full point lower at 3.87. Look past the inflated ERA, get Baker on your squad, and expect good things from a proven second-half stud.

Buy low on Markakis

I'm not the first oneco to say it and I won't be the last: Now is the time to get Nifty Nick if you want him at a premium discount. The Orioles star has hit .311 the past month, but has one home run, eight stinkin' RBIs and has seemingly lost all willingness to run on the basepaths. There is no way this will continue, and the Orioles actually surround Markakis with a respectable offense. Matt Wieters is heating up. Aubrey Huff is finding his stroke again. The stars are aligning for a monster second half for Markakis and if his owner is in search of power and frustrated by his eight homers, send an offer. There's a false perception that Markakis is a 35-homer guy, when what he will actually provide is 25 dingers, 100 RBI and a .300 average. Works for me.

Send Gonzalez packing

Listen, I like Adrian Gonzalez. I think he's a fantastic player. I just don't want him on my fantasy team. It has nothing to do with him, but merely the fact that he plays on a horrendous team and his lack of protection leaves no reason for pitchers to throw him strikes. His monthly splits have him drawing 14 walks in April, 17 in May and a ridiculous 30 free passes so far in June. The result is only four June homers and a .233 average (yeah, his OBP is still .456). Things aren't going to change and Gonzalez is simply going to keep taking walks. Unless you are in an OBP league, Gonzalez's value is higher than his production and you may be able to get someone like Ryan Howard, who is a second-half player anyways, in return.

All stats up-to-date as of 6/29.

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