August 05, 2009

Is it really August already? We are now two-thirds of the way through a grueling, six-month journey. This is an exciting time for fantasy owners. Prospects are getting the call as injuries pile up with rosters to expand in September. Chris Tillman (more on him below) is just one of many prized prospects that has or will get the call this month. Neftali Perez just got the call-up from the Rangers and you can count on him helping them out of the bullpen. Brett Wallace, now donning the Oakland green and white, will be up sooner rather than later.

Fantasy football is also just around the corner and RotoExperts has you hooked up there as well. The Draft Kit is in full swing and there is tons of good information out there as draft day approaches.

But this isn't a fantasy football column. It's a baseball column, and we still have two big months to look forward to. Let's get to this week's T.I.P.S.

All statistics through August 3.

New-look Tribe still counting on Jhonny

While the Indians made it their goal to trade any fantasy-worthy player before the deadline, they forgot about their 27-year-old SS/3B, Jhonny Peralta. A lack of lineup protection didn't scare Peralta this past week, as he hit .478 with 8 RBIs and two HRs. Power wise, it's been a frustrating year for Peralta owners. Just a year ago, he hit 23 dingers with a career-high 89 RBIs. His decline has been so sharp, that the once universally-owned slugger is now owned in only 57 percent of leagues. The time to buy, however, is rapidly diminishing, considering Peralta finished July with a 2009-best 20 RBIs and five bombs. Since Victor Martinez's departure, Peralta has batted clean-up and now looks to be an RBI force at the shortstop position going forward.

Cubs starter piling up the Ks

The news has been split when it comes to the oft-injured Rich Harden this season. On one hand, he's been relatively healthy and surprisingly durable. On the other hand, he's been largely ineffective. Harden entered the All-Star break with a 5.46 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and .271 BAA (batting average against). Since the break, he's been absolutely filthy. In four starts, he's compiled a 1.50 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and .155 BAA. Interestingly enough, Harden didn't have one no-walk game in any of his 14 pre-break starts. In his last four starts he has two no-walk games. His command improving, Harden got down to his bread-and-butter, striking dudes out. In his past two starts, the 28-year-old has three walks and 19 punch-outs. Expect Harden to continue his brilliance, providing a low ERA/WHIP and strikeouts.

Dodgers "ace" not living up to expectations

Chad Billingsley was one of this season's top sleeper choices and he didn't disappoint in the season's first half. Billingsley matched a low ERA with high K numbers and was one of fantasy's top starting pitching options. Then July hit and the once unhittable Billingsley was looking very mediocre. Bad Chad finished July with a 7.52 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. In his last five starts he's gotten past the sixth inning once, and walked 12 batters to 25 Ks. He still has 11 wins and his 140 strikeouts are good for 10th in MLB, but he seems to have hit a wall when fantasy owners need him most. If you can still trade in your league, see if you can send him off to someone else, for say ... the aforementioned Rich Harden?

Blue Jays closer put on the DL

Scott Downs was put on the 15-day DL with a bruised left toe. The vacant closer role will now be filled by Jason Frasor. Frasor has four saves on the season, including one on Saturday, but has also blown two of his six chances. In fact, over the course of his career, Frasor has blown 11 of his 36 save opportunities. This isn't a glowing recommendation for the interim closer, but he does have a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP on the season. If you are searching for saves, Frasor makes for a must-add, despite his previous difficulties.

Reds outfielder injured on dive

Jonny Gomes was seeing plenty of playing time before Chris Dickerson went down with a bruised right rotator cuff, but now his playing time will go unquestioned. Dickerson was placed on the 15-day DL and Gomes has continued hitting home runs. With three dingers in the last week, Gomes season total now sits at 11, with six coming after the break. He's a career .239 hitter, so keep that in mind if you are attracted to his power numbers. Even with 11 bombs, Gomes has only 25 RBIs, so he isn't coming up with many people on base. He's one-percent owned, so he's likely yours if you want to take the chance. NL-only leaguers with a need to make up some ground in the HR department can do much worse.

Baltimore injuries force promotion of top prospect

The Orioles lost two starters this week in Brad Bergesen and Rich Hill. Bergesen, for the most part, was a solid starter who has turned into a quality start machine. Hill was more of a space-filler. While neither of these starters were fantasy mainstays (Bergesen was 15-percent owned), the injuries were significant in the fantasy world. The result was the promotion of Chris Tillman, one of the biggest prospects to be called up this season. Tillman's debut wasn't much to write home about (4.2 IP, 3 ER, 2K vs. KC), but he's a high-K, high-upside addition. In 96.2 IP for Triple-A Norfolk, Tillman had 99 Ks and only 26 walks. He may struggle initially as most rookies do, but the 6-foot-5, 21-year-old may prove vital for the fantasy stretch runs, particularly in head-to-head leagues.

Padres rookie finding his groove

Kyle Blanks had high expectations when he was called up in mid-June, but his play was less-than-stellar for the first month-plus of his MLB tenure. Blanks entered this week with a .197 average and finished at .227. In his last seven games, the 22-year-old rookie has hit .333 with three homers, 6 RBI, 7 runs and a stolen base. In 88 at-bats, Blanks is striking out in over a third of them with 30 Ks. Until he works on his plate discipline, we won't see his true potential, despite the enticing past week. Consider this a glimpse of the future, but don't use it as a reason to pick him up.

Oakland outfielder a solid source of steals

Rajai Davis hasn't always found consistent PT in Oakland, but the past month gives hope of optimism for the speedster. Davis received only 37 at-bats in July, but he hit .405 with 16 RBIs, 10 R and six stolen bases. The RBIs are likely a fluke, since Davis bats leadoff and the A's have just gone through an unusual offensive outburst. What's not a fluke is his speed. Last year he had 25 stolen bases in only 196 at-bats and already has 15 this year in 146 plate appearances. The more he gets to play, the more bases he will steal. In AL-only leagues he's a must-own. If he continues to play every day and steal three bases a week, he will approach mixed league worthiness.

Giants utilityman raising eyebrows

Eugenio Velez has played over five games at 2B, RF, CF and LF this season, providing the Giants with the defensive flexibility necessary to get him on the field. Since the break the switch-hitter has a .455 average. With 2B and OF eligibility, Velez can continue that utility role on fantasy teams. Whether you are in rotisserie or head-to-head leagues, a .300 average is a luxury and that is what Velez can provide.

Don't let Bobby Abreu slide under the radar any longer

Abreu didn't solicit much interest this summer when he signed for a relatively inexpensive one-year contract. He also hasn't been talked about much this year, mostly due to his continued lack of power. Despite his eight homers, Abreu offers a ton to his fantasy owners. His 73 RBI are fourth amongst all MLB outfielders, his 22 steals are good for 10th, and his .320 average is one of baseball's best. In all, Abreu is one of the most well-rounded fantasy players out there, and his lack of home-run hitting prowess may be able to help you acquire him at the cost of a No. 3 starting pitcher.

Ride Ubaldo Jimenez to a championship

Jimenez doesn't get the attention of a No. 2 fantasy starter, but that is exactly what he has become. In fact, he doesn't even get as much attention as his teammate, Jason Marquis. The bottom line is that Jimenez is a second-half pitcher, and he's someone that can step up and help you take down that fantasy crown. In the past month, Jimenez has the second-most Ks (43) in all of baseball. Furthering his cause, he isn't simply a strikeout machine with nothing else. The 25-year-old has a 3.79 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in that span. During five starts last September (playoffs for most fantasy owners), Jimenez had a 2.90 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 3-0 record.

Buckle down

With two months left in the season, now is the time to put in your best effort. I see it every year during this time: people get sick of checking their teams daily and coast until football season starts. This is an opportunity for those dedicated to a championship. As your leaguemates lose focus, see if you can pull off a trade with an owner whose heart isn't in it anymore. I've mentioned many times that fantasy baseball is a grind. It really is. But now is the time to really step up your game. If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to shoot me an e-mail. Remember, if you ain't first, you're last.

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