B.J. Upton took a lot of criticism after a brutal April and May in which he hit near the Mendoza Line and had less power than Juan Pierre. For a leadoff hitter, Upton strikes out an alarming 29.7 percent of his at-bats. Still, a willingness to take a walk has his OBP at .335. The past two seasons he's seen his OBP around .380, so Upton is in line for a monster second half. He began a little early though, pummeling the ball in June, hitting .324 with five homers and 22 RBI. Upton is also running at unprecedented levels. He stole 44 bases a year ago, but already has 29 this season (third in the majors). He's stolen 12 bases in the last month which is only one less than Jacoby Ellsbury.
Many expected Upton's power to reach his 2007 when he hit 24 homers and drove in 82 runs. His HR/FB percentage was at 19.8, far higher than his career 11.4 average. This suggests that he is more of a 15-homer player than a 30-homer one that has been predicted of him.
Upton is still one of the most complete fantasy options out there, regardless of the general difference of opinion concerning his power. Most people picked him up in the late-first, early-second round of drafts, and I think he will finish as a Top 15 hitter.
Let's get to this week's T.I.P.S.
All statistics through June 22.
Hairston producing, traded to Oakland
Outfielder Scott Hairston got off to a blazing start, hitting .327 with eight homers before straining his biceps and spending three weeks on the DL. All but forgotten, Hairston returned to the middle of the San Diego lineup at the end of June and has been raking ever since. Hairston had nine hits this past week, including two homers and two steals. The 29-year-old has never stolen more than three bases in a season, so his eight in 2009 are definitely a surprise. Considering he's only been caught stealing once, there's no reason to suspect he can't exceed 15 steals. Hairston was then traded to Oakland, where he will no longer have the protection of Adrian Gonzalez. There is reason to believe his .307 average will plummet, considering his career average is .256 and his .358 BABIP is 60 points higher than his career rate. Owners should keep an eye on Hairston to see where he will bat in Oakland, but his value should decrease slightly.
Money in the Danks
John Danks' ERA sits at a respectable 3.76, but a bad stretch of four starts in early May is the only blemish in an otherwise spectacular season. The third-year rising star is emerging as one of the top lefties in the game, and is coming off a two-start week where he went 2-0, struck out 10 and didn't give up a run in 14.1 innings. Danks hasn't been the recipient of much run support, leading to a pedestrian 7-6 record. In June, Danks started five games went 2-3 despite a 2.91 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. In the last month, Danks' WHIP is seventh-best amongst all major league starters. He's striking out a career-best 8.00 batters per nine, and opponents are hitting only .242 against him. Those in keeper/dynasty leagues should try to acquire Danks now, as his value will only increase as he gets more experience. Consider Danks a Top 25 starter for the rest of the year.
Good pitching coming out of Washington?
Sienna may be known for their surprising run in last season's NCAA Tournament, but they also produced a starting major leaguer that is turning heads. Nationals starter John Lannan has improved every month of the season. Lannan, the 24-year-old ace of the Washington staff, finished June with a 2.19 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and .214 batting average against. Lannan has a quality start in each of his last six outings, exiting with the victory in four of them. The problem with Lannan, and what holds him back from being a premier starting option, is his lack of strikeouts. In none of those six starts did he strike out more than four batters and in four of them he struck out two or less. If you are looking to drop your ERA, Lannan is the answer, just keep in mind that he won't help your punch-out numbers.
Finally some stability at 2B for Braves
Kelly Johnson was a sleeper by many entering this season after hitting .287 last season with 12 homers and 69 RBI. Johnson was hardly as effective this season, batting .214 with five homers and 20 RBI before succumbing to wrist tendinitis and hitting the 15-day DL. Martin Prado has gotten the full-time PT at second and has been a breath of fresh air for the offensively-challenged Braves. Prado hit .500 this past week with a homer and 6 RBI. He also added eight runs, 11 hits and six doubles. He's hit .389 the last month and his three position eligibility (1B/2B/3B) makes him a valuable commodity in any format. His power is limited, but he's hit .308 over the course of his four-year career and can help any team struggling to lift their average. Once Johnson returns from the DL after the All-Star break, there should be a heated competition for time at second.
Hughes still remaining in the pen
With the recent news that Chien-Ming Wang was headed to the disabled list, anxious Phil Hughes owners were salivating at the mouth with the thought that their beloved prospect might get a chance to rejoin the rotation. Go figure that Hughes has been so good in the bullpen that skipper Joe Girardi is hesitant to lose that arm in his pen. Hughes hasn't given up a run in his last 10 innings pitched and is coming off a June in which he had 16 Ks to only three walks in 13 innings. Sergio Mitre or Alfredo Aceves are currently being considered for the vacant rotation spot open later this week. Even if he doesn't get the opportunity to start, Hughes is still providing value and is worth owning in most leagues, especially those that count holds. His future is as a starter, but he can still help fantasy teams who could use a solid ERA with decent K numbers.
Big-time run producer returning
Aramis Ramirez has been out for two months with a separated shoulder, but returns this week slightly ahead of schedule. Jake Fox and Mike Fontenot have split time at third with Fox getting some much-deserved time the past few weeks. Fontenot can return to second, but Fox is left without a position. He can spot-start in the outfield, but the Cubs aren't likely to sit Alfonso Soriano or Milton Bradley very often. Ramirez should contribute immediately, although he may lose some power considering shoulder injuries can take their toll on power hitters. Ramirez can be started in weekly leagues and is expected to play daily.
Kendrick promotion creates logjam
Howie Kendrick's punishment is apparently over as the perennial underachiever was called back up from the minors. Maicer Izturis was receiving the bulk of the time at second, and he provided stability yet to be seen at the position. Izturis was the 14th best player this past week, hitting .481 with eight runs, a homer, four RBI and a steal. On the year he's batting .309 with seven steals and 37 runs. Kendrick wouldn't have been called up if he wasn't going to get a chance to play so he's the likely favorite to get the first crack at securing that job. Izturis will split time between second and short (with Erick Aybar), so he should still see regular at-bats, just without the consistency of everyday playing time. He's AL-only worthy, but unless Kendrick gets sent down Izturis shouldn't be owned in mixed leagues.
Braves outfield shifting preferences
Jeff Francoeur has been given more opportunities to succeed than most major leaguers, and it's becoming more and more apparent that he isn't the answer for the Braves. Garret Anderson has been hitting the ball well and now Matt Diaz has joined the fun. Diaz is only owned in one percent of leagues, but hit a ridiculous .611 with a homer and five RBI last week. He chipped in a stolen base and four runs as well. For the meantime, it seems that the Braves have accepted benching Francoeur. For those still holding out hope, you can drop him and move on. Anderson deserves a look in mixed leagues while Diaz is an acceptable add in NL-only leagues.
Youth movement continues in San Francisco
The Giants continued their plan of combining youngsters and veterans by promoting Nate Schierholtz to everyday duty recently. Schierholtz responded by going 11-for-26 this week, upping his average to .319. He's a free swinger, combining homers and strikeouts. In 135 at-bats, Schierholtz has three homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs. He shouldn't be owned in mixed leagues due to the fact that Fred Lewis needs to find some playing time occasionally, but he is a must-add in NL-only and dynasty/keeper leagues. He has the rare ability to hit for both average and power.
Believe in Mark Reynolds
Reynolds has been a T.I.P.S. participant before after ripping off an unprecedented string of steals, but it's time to reiterate his value. Reynolds is tied for third in all of baseball with 23 home runs. He's 12th in RBI with 58. He also has 13 steals. So, let's count the number of players with 20 homers, 50 RBI and 10 steals. The answer? Two guys. One is a guy named Albert Pujols, the other is Reynolds. I still hear from a lot of people waiting for Reynolds to slump badly and lose all his value. The power is for real and he has the speed to steal 20 bases. Anything above a .250 average is just gravy on an already stellar statsheet.
Don't believe in Aaron Cook
It's pretty easy to take a look at Cook's stats and rationalize a reason to have him on your roster. In the last month he's 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Pretty good, right? Yeah, it is. It's really good. I just have no faith that he can continue this. Let me explain. He doesn't strike anyone out. On the year he's struck out more than four batters in a start just twice. Last season Cook had a 3.57 pre-All Star break ERA, only to follow that up with a 4.71 ERA after the break. While the stigma of pitching in Coors Field has lessened a bit, I still don't trust him.
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