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Wow. I didn't think there was any way the hype over Stephen Strasburg could have amped up any more, but his first two starts have done it. The only thing I can compare it to is Fernando-mania in 1981. For those of you too young to remember, Fernando Valenzuela made an emergency start for the Dodgers on Opening Day. He proceeded to win his first eight starts, with seven of them being complete games. In the other game, he threw nine innings and got the win, but didn't finish the bottom of the 10th inning. Did I mention that five of the wins were shutouts?
Strasburg has a long way to go until he matches that success, but he certainly has fantasy owners in a tizzy. His debut was reminiscent of Kerry Wood's 20 strikeout, zero walk game in his fifth career start. That type of command was a one-time thing for Wood. It certainly looks like Strasburg brings that command to the hill every time he pitches. Regardless, if you haven't seen Strasburg pitch yet, please set a date. The combination of incredible stuff and impeccable control is unmatched in the major leagues. Man, it's hard not to over-hype the guy.
One thing we did last week that I got a lot of e-mails about, was our "What have you done for me lately," section. Basically, we looked at the last three weeks to spot some trends that were being camouflaged by full-season numbers. It always helps to be the first in your league to identify players on the rebound or those falling back to earth.
Austin Jackson is one such player getting a dose of reality. Over the last three weeks, he's hitting .240 and has fallen into an even deeper slump, going 4-for-36 in his last eight games. This is a hitter who struck out 123 times in Triple-A last year against just 40 walks. Pitchers have figured out that they don't have to throw him strikes. If you can hype the .300-plus BA and deal him to an unaware owner, now is the time. Well, actually the time was a month ago when I first warned you, but better late than never.
Julio Borbon is headed in the opposite direction. Borbon's .389 BA over the last three weeks has brought his season average up in the .280s. He still doesn't walk enough and the eight stolen bases are disappointing, but look for the speed numbers to see a big jump as he hits his way on base more often. A return to the leadoff role is unlikely, as Elvis Andrus has been solid there, but Borbon could see some time in the two slot, which will further help his value.
Owners were expecting big-time power when Mike Stanton got the call to Miami. We haven't seen the long ball just yet, but it's hard to be too disappointed with his .368 BA and .455 OBP. He's also chipped in with two stolen bases already. Stanton had just a single steal in Triple-A, so look for the speed to be replaced by power in the next few weeks.
Those of you who only look at overall numbers are missing out on Jose Reyes' return to prominence. Over his last 73 at-bats, he's hitting .370 with three HRs and seven steals. It's probably too late, but try bringing up his .265 average and concerns about his health as you acquire one of the top players in fantasy baseball. Don't overlook him in keeper leagues. His price was likely a bargain this spring and won't be that low next year.
Edwin Encarnacion was the waiver wire rage when he returned from the DL to pop six HRs in six games. Things have returned to normal the last three weeks. Encarnacion is 6-for-49 with a HR and just three RBIs over that span. Can we all just face it that this perennial sleeper doesn't deserve the fantasy attention he gets? Sure, the power is going to show itself occasionally, but the long cold spells aren't worth the wait. He's certainly useful in AL-only leagues, but in typical mixed leagues, there are better options, like...
Scott Rolen is always a slip away from the DL, but you have to like what he's doing for fantasy owners this year. He was already rolling along and has kicked it up a notch lately. In his last 72 at-bats, he's hit .361 with four long balls and 18 RBIs. You don't read about him on the major fantasy sites, but Rolen has been one of the better options at third base thus far. Its performances like his that win leagues.
Ted Lilly's near no-hitter is going to draw some attention, but his 2-5 record may conceal his recent production from many fantasy owners. In his last five starts, Lilly has a 1.44 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. At some point, the Cubs are going to provide support and the patient owners who have stuck with Lilly will be the benefactors. It amazes me that, especially in head-to-head leagues, pitchers like Lilly go on and off the waiver wire like Kirstie Alley goes on diets. I realize head-to-head takes a slightly different approach, but you still have to stick with your best players. Otherwise, you're likely to dance around all the positive value.
In case you haven't noticed, Ricky Nolasco is pulling another first-half disappearing act. He's completely fallen apart over the last month with just one quality start in five tries, to go along with a nice 8.25 ERA and a scintillating 1.96 WHIP. His strikeout rate has also slipped with just 18 Ks in his last 24 innings. Nolasco has made drastic turnarounds in each of the last two seasons, but the way he's being pounded right now makes it awful hard to recommend him as a buy-low candidate. Currently he's more of a desperation reach.
A pitcher you might want to buy low on is Colby Lewis. After a hot stretch to start the season, a couple rough starts pushed him off the fantasy radar. Don't shut down the sonar just yet. In his last five starts, Lewis has three wins, a 2.70 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. His strikeout rate has dipped a little as hitters have accustomed themselves with his repertoire, but we're still looking at a pitcher with 81 Ks in just under 85 innings. Compare Lewis to a fantasy stalwart like Felix Hernandez and you'll be surprised that he's besting King Felix in three of the four starting pitcher categories. I'm not saying I like Lewis better than Hernandez going forward, but it's obvious who the better value is.
Another pitcher I need to give some belated fantasy love is Anibal Sanchez. He still walks way too many hitters, but it's obvious that the stuff that once made him a top pitching prospect is back. He's won four of his last five starts and has yet to give up more than four earned runs in a start. That kind of consistency is valuable regardless of the format you play in.
We'll end this week's column with a small warning about a pitcher who many are touting as a Cy Young candidate. The Yankees offense has hidden his issues, but Phil Hughes has been anything but spectacular over the last month. In his last six starts, Hughes has posted a 4.95 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. Of course, he's also got four wins during that span thanks to the New York bats. Hughes obviously has value going forward, but selling high right now might get you some pretty good value in return. Fantasy owners may have been a little quick in lumping him among the elite pitchers. It looks like he's still going to have the fantasy hiccups that we should have expected from a young pitcher.
* All statistics current as of June 13.
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Doug Anderson is the Executive Editor at RotoExperts.com. Look for Man in a Box every Tuesday and catch him on The Fantasy War Room, Thursdays at 8 ET. Wanna climb in the box and talk baseball? E-mail Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org.