Stay up late this week and catch a shooting star. For once I'm not talking about picking someone off waivers. Go outside around midnight on Wednesday night and you might see a real shooting star: The Perseid meteor shower will provide a show in north sky. Look left from the moon and below the constellation Cassiopeia -- it looks like a big "W" in the sky. Enjoy the show.
OK, now I'm going to talk about fantasy baseball. We have our own shooting stars -- guys that turn red-hot and then flame out suddenly. They are easy to spot in retrospect, only after their spectacular descents. While they are still cresting it's a much tougher call to predict sustainability. Let's sample players riding hot streaks or enjoying unprecedented success. Those that can maintain their fantasy value for the rest of the season are for better. Those that are due for a burnout like some smoldering cosmic debris are for worse.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS/2B, Indians: The speedy Cabrera is one of the few bright spots in Cleveland this year. Like a comet, Cabrera, came out of nowhere to emerge as a top-ten middle infielder. The numbers are impressive: .311 average, an .815 OPS, 15 steals, 59 runs scored and 46 RBI. Cabrera has hit all season and only a trip to the DL derailed him. Healthy again, he is hitting .455 in the month of August. The dual position eligibility is a big plus. You can play Cabrera at second base, where he compares very well against thin competition. The Sports Grumblings' super computer, Mighty Max, has Cabrera as the top play at second base for H2H leagues this week. It looks like the scouts underrated the 23-year old Venezuelan.
Mat Latos, SP, Padres: The 21-year old Latos has moved through the minor leagues swiftly -- he never pitched above Single-A ball last season. In less than a month in the majors Latos has a 4-1 record with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. If he is available in your keeper league, grab him. Heck, in any league you should grab him.
Chris Coghlan, OF, Marlins: The 24-year old rookie set a franchise record on Sunday with eight straight multi-hit games. Coghlan's average is up to .286. Too bad the Marlins are playing him in the outfield -- He is a natural infielder and was playing second base at AAA when he got the call in May. If your league lists Coghlan as a pure OF, don't expect him to play enough games to gain a 2B rating with Dan Uggla in the way. Coghlan has speed (14 SB between Florida and AAA-New Orleans) and will hit for average. The level Coghlan is at right now is sustainable.
Barry Zito, SP, Giants: Zito has quietly turned things around in the second half. Not exactly a shooting star, he's more of a spark in the dark. Zito is 3-1 with a 2.32 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP since the All Star break. The San Francisco youngsters, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, are stealing the headlines, allowing Zito to pitch without the pressure of justifying his contract. Zito is worth a look in NL-only leagues, especially now that the Giants have improved the lineup with trades for Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez.
Mark Reynolds, 3B/1B, Diamondbacks: Reynolds struck out a mind-boggling 204 times in 2008. He's actually on pace to strike out even more in 2009, but nobody seems to care. That's because Reynolds has his average up to .290 and has already clubbed a career-high 36 homers. Is there anyone hotter than the National League's player of the week? Reynolds hit 4 HR in his last five games and 7 HR in his last nine games. His batting average for August is .417 and his OPS is 1.528. A word of caution: Reynolds has a history of running hot and cold. If you look at his numbers for 2008 and 2007 you will see wild swings in his stats from month to month. Don't expect him to hit .290 or to keep his 52-HR pace. This is his high-water mark.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: Willingham is riding one of the more improbable hot streaks in the majors. Yes, he's been hot since May, but I have a hard time believing that Willingham has turned into such a lethal hitter at the age of 30. He is on pace to shatter career highs in HR (18 so far), average (.309) and OPS (1.016). Like Willingham, the Nationals have been hot, winning eight in a row. That's unusual for a team 32 games below .500. Both Willingham and the Nats are playing above their heads and are due for a course correction.
Angel Pagan, OF, Mets: The Mets lost two fantasy superstars to the DL in Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Pagan has done what he's can to replace them both: as a leadoff hitter in place of Reyes and as a centerfielder in Beltran's position. The results have been far better than anyone would have predicted. Pagan has played regularly since he came off his own DL stint on July 10th and was hitting over .300 as late as last Friday. Pagan is a decent fourth outfielder, but he will be exposed playing everyday. He gives you a little speed but that's about it. Time to cut Pagan loose before he burns up on reentry.