September 02, 2009

Five months in the book and one to go. For many fantasy owners, this is the final week before playoffs begin. Whether you are in first, last or fighting for a playoff spot, it's been quite a ride for the last five months. No fantasy sport gives you the ups and downs like baseball. Unlike football, baseball is a daily sport that demands your constant attention. To some people, that's intimidating. To me, it's a challenge I embrace. I hope you love it too. If you do, it's why you spend your time reading columns like this and why you are always trying to improve your team, whether it's for the present or the future. Let's get ready for the upcoming week by looking at this week's T.I.P.S.

All statistics through August 30.

Lovin' McCutchen

We've been hearing the name Andrew McCutchen for years now, but it wasn't until this June when he was finally called up that fantasy owners realized why the hype was so high. Considered a five-tool star, McCutchen spent the month of August displaying all that he has to offer. The 23-year-old hit .322 with seven homers, 18 RBIs and six stolen bases. He's shown incredible patience at the plate with 15 walks to only 12 Ks. Over the last month he's been the third-best outfielder in standard fantasy leagues. What's even more impressive is that McCutchen has put up these power numbers from the leadoff spot. Broken down over a 162-game season, McCutchen would have a line of 22 homers, 94 RBIs, 33 steals, 114 runs and close to a .300 average. Can you say upside?

Finally feeling at home

Being a highly-touted prospect hasn't been easy for Cincinnati righty Homer Bailey. His ERA on the year is 6.04, slightly better than his career 6.41 clip. Being brutally honest, Bailey has been terrible in his limited MLB experience. Luckily for him, and those of his owners in dynasty and keeper leagues, he's starting to show some promise. He's coming off the best week of his professional career, giving up one run in 15 innings. He won both starts and struck out 11 to only five walks. His problem has always been control, so his one-walk, seven-K outing on August 28 against the Dodgers is a reason for optimism. Unfortunately, this is the first streak of back-to-back good starts that he's had this season. He'll get the chance to succeed, but it won't be until 2010 at the earliest that he'll have any fantasy value.

Figuring it out

For the most part, David Price has been a disappointment this season. Entering the second half of the year, Price had a 4.70 ERA and 1.64 WHIP. For many people, Price was the No. 1 prospect entering this season, so he was highly valued on draft day. Most of his problem came with control issues. In 44.0 pre-All Star break innings, Price had 31 walks. He had 47 Ks as well, but it was obvious that he was relying on the strikeout too much. As most pitchers do, he is learning to trust his defense. In the second half, Price has pitched 47.1 innings with only 11 walks, a drastic improvement. His strikeouts are lower (32), but the result is a 1.31 WHIP. He's pitching further into games and is giving himself a chance for the victory. Price started twice this past week and went 1-0 with eight Ks, a 2.51 ERA and a promising 0.84 WHIP. He started off rough, but Price is still in line to be a top tier fantasy starter.

Speed demon hits the majors

One of the fastest players in the minor leagues, Eric Young, got the call up this past week when Dexter Fowler hit the DL. Young, has the ability to be one of the biggest stolen base threats in all of baseball. In 2006, Young stole 87 bases for the Rockies Single-A affiliate. Sure, he was gunned down 31 times as well, but you get the picture. Since then, he's had seasons of 73, 46 and 58 steals. So, you can see why Young can be a Jacoby Ellsbury-type player. He probably won't hit for the average that Ellsbury does, but he will steal bases and score a ton of runs. He's playing outfield while Fowler is out, but he also has 2B eligibility. If you need steals, pick up Young immediately.

Freddy Sanchez on the DL

Sanchez's time in the Bay Area has been marred by injury, and he's currently on the DL with a right shoulder strain. Juan Uribe is his replacement and has been solid. He only hit .240 in August, but had 10 RBIs and four homers. Two of those homers and four of those RBIs came in the last week. The Giants are vying for a wild card berth, so Uribe will see plenty of time. He's a repeat customer on T.I.P.S, mostly due to his versatility (2B/SS/3B) and decent pop for a middle infielder. He's worth a pickup in NL-only leagues. Sanchez should be back soon, but Uribe will still find a place to play.

No reason to Gload

The Marlins acquired Nick Johnson with the hopes that his high OBP and keen eye would help the Fish score a few more runs. Now that Johnson is on the DL, Ross Gload is being asked to step up. Gload has a little bit of pop, but his .196 average in August is proof that he isn't cut out to be an everyday player. He's been around the majors, so his name is probably a familiar one, but he isn't much more than a .280 hitter. While not bad, it isn't what Johnson owners are hoping for in the interim. Instead, NL-only owners should try someone like Arizona rookie Brandon Allen or Pittsburgh's Steve Pearce.

Veteran joins the youth movement

With youngsters like Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill in the rotation, Brett Tomko's addition sticks out like Lou Piniella's stomach. Regardless of his age (36), Tomko is 2-0 since joining the rotation with 14 Ks in 16.2 innings. He also has two victories in three starts with a 1.62 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. What's even more impressive is that his three starts have come against the Yankees, Tigers and Angels. He's not much more than a six-inning pitcher these days, but he can give you six strikeouts and a quality start more times than not. At two-percent owned, the believers aren't out there, but he can help those in deep mixed and AL-only leagues searching for SP help.

Finally making his mark

Many experts thought Andy Marte would be a fantasy star by now. Instead, he's spent the past few years in the minors struggling to find consistency. His most recent call up may be the last as the 25-year-old is raking. Marte hit .385 this past week with five runs, three homers and eight RBIs. His career average is .221, so his .289 average this season is a bit of a surprise. He was pegged as a power hitter, but it has never translated to the MLB level until this past week. He is batting low in the Indians order, so his RBI opportunities are limited, as are his chances at scoring runs. He hasn't proven it in 589 major league at-bats, so it's unlikely that he will now. While enticing, his strikeout tendencies will only hurt you.

American Pie

For most of his career, Felix Pie's game has been as comical as the American Pie trilogy. He's only 24 years old, but he's already gone from the Cubs' top prospect to universally-accepted bust. He was expected to play for the Orioles this season, but hasn't been much more than a bench player until recently. Pie hit .365 in 22 at-bats over the last seven days with three homers and six RBIs. What's surprising is not Pie's power surge, but his lack of steals. Allegedly a burner on the base paths, Pie has never had more than eight steals in a season. Through 181 at-bats this year, he has exactly one steal in four attempts. It's getting close to now-or-never time for Pie, so expect him to produce for the final month. In deep mixed league and dynasty leagues, Pie is a solid play for the remainder of the season.

Give Ryan Zimmerman his props

It's not that Zimmerman doesn't get the attention he deserves, but that he constantly gets bypassed for guys like Evan Longoria and Aramis Ramirez. The bottom line is that Zimmerman should be in the conversation for fantasy's top third baseman. Since August 1, he is the top-ranked 3B, leading all at his position with 24 runs, second in RBIs (24) and homers (8) and fourth in hits (35). His .368 average in the last month is tops amongst all third baseman with over 65 at-bats. Zimmerman will finish the year with a .300 average, 30 homers, 110 runs and 100 RBIs. Entering next year, Zimmerman is a borderline second-round pick.

Adam Wainwright is fantasy's most reliable starting pitcher

He doesn't have the name recognition of some of his peers, but it's about time fantasy nation takes note of Adam Wainwright. Since the All Star break, there hasn't been a more reliable option than the Cardinals ace. In nine starts, Wainwright is 5-2 with a 1.27 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He has 42 Ks to only six walks, a Dan Haren-type line. Wainwright hasn't given up more than two runs in an outing since he gave up five on June 21. Since then, it's been 13 straight quality starts. Going into next season, the 28-year-old should be considered a Top 10 pitcher.

Andrew Bailey is ridiculous

In addition to an All-Star invite, A's rookie Andrew Bailey will finish the 2009 season with 25-30 saves and a sub-2.00 ERA. Bailey is currently going through an unbelievable streak of dominance. In August, Bailey had two wins, six saves, a 0.00 ERA and a 0.30 WHIP. I guess you can say opponents struggle against Bailey, since they have a .094 BAA. Right now, it's hard to find a closer who is mowing down opponents at Bailey's level. What's even more incredible is that Bailey is only 77-percent owned. If for some reason you are in those 23 percent of leagues where Bailey is on the free agent list, add him immediately. He's a top closer option in 2010.

Follow Brad on Twitter:

You May Like