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I've been defending Madison Bumgarner for months. Many prospect "experts" were determined to destroy Mad-Bum's reputation and stamp him as overrated. They spouted about a dip in his fastball velocity at the end of last season and declining strikeout rates as he advanced. They ignored his overall stellar 2009 minor league stats (1.85 earned run average/.211 batting average against) and my opposing viewpoints. Some people just live to be contrarians.
Bumgarner was called up to the bigs on Saturday after posting a 3.16 ERA, 6.46 strikeout per nine innings, and 2.41 walks per nine innings at Triple-A. Most important, for the contrarians, Bumgarner's fastball returned to the low 90s -- just like it had been in the past. The velocity issue was simply blown way out of proportion.
Along with the heater, the 6-4, 215-pound southpaw possesses a late-breaking slider and an ever-improving changeup. Bumgarner dominates left-handed hitters (.180 BAA in the minors), has sweet pitching intellect, and exhibits pinpoint command. Of course, his critics ignored these traits when they trashed him last offseason. The key to whether Bumgarner transitions into a frontline antasy starter will be the development of his change. I'm willing to take the Bumgarner ride considering his minor league success before the age of 21.
Mad-Bum is only owned in eight-percent of Yahoo! leagues. He's worth an investment in all NL-only leagues and deeper mixed formats.
Andrew Oliver (SP, DET)
This underrated power lefty quietly made his first major league start on Friday against the Braves. Oliver went six innings and held the Braves to two earned runs and five hits. There are no questions about the '09 draftee's mid-90s fastball. That said, he had major problems with his secondary arsenal (breaking stuff and changeup) in college. In fact, in some starts he would exclusively throw heat when he lost the release point on his other offerings. Oliver had an impressive 3.61 ERA, 8.17 K/9, and 2.92 BB/9 at Triple-A. He will need to continue to pitch well to keep Rick Porcello in the minors. Take a stab on him in AL-only leagues if you need pitching.
Daniel McCutchen (SP, PIT)
McCutchen was recalled by the Pirates on Saturday. As I've told you before, this dude will never be anything more than a quality Quad-A hurler. Specifically, he's a control artist (1.84 career BB/9 in the minors) who lacks the stuff to consistently have success against major league hitters. Don't be fooled by his fair start the other night against the Athletics. McCutchen was shelled in his first starting tour earlier this year (14.73 ERA) and he will be shelled again. Stay away in all leagues.
Aroldis Chapman (SP, CIN)
That violent bang you heard last week in the fantasy world was Chapman's non-keeper value taking a nosedive. The Cuban product was used in relief twice last week, and Reds GM Walt Jocketty acknowledged that Chapman may be used as a reliever when he's promoted this year. Chapman still has some major command and control issues (5.41 BB/9 at Triple-A) to iron out before he can become a dependable starter. He's still very much a project, but a project with an enormous ceiling (10.69 K/9 at Triple-A). Dump him without hesitation in non-keeper formats, but hold with patience in long-term leagues.
J.A. Happ (SP, PHI)
Happ has fallen somewhat off the radar after going on the disabled list with a forearm strain. While he's on the road to returning to the Phils, he has struggled with both his performance and velocity in minor league rehab starts (7.63 ERA). I'm worried that this forearm issue will become a bigger deal before the year ends. My advice to Happ owners is to deal him as soon as he returns. Someone in your league will be eager to invest in Happ's '09 track record.
Brett Wallace (3B/1B, TOR)
Lyle Overbay is hitting .230 with a .312 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage. At Triple-A, Wallace is mashing with a .301 BA, 14 HRs, .363 OBP, and .507 SLG. Why have the Jays continued to ride Overbay? Got me. Maybe they want to get Overbay on a hot streak and then deal him to a struggling Japanese softball squad. Maybe they were concerned for Wallace's safety and were determined to promote him after the G20 Summit. Whatever the reason, Wallace will finally receive the call in the next three weeks and rise up our weekly rankings. He's worth stashing in semi-deep mixed leagues because he qualifies at the hot corner.
Julio Teheran (SP, ATL)
How good is Teheran? Let's start with the numbers. In 13 starts (78.1 IP) this year in the minors, Teheran has posted the following stats: 1.26 ERA, 94 Ks, 17 BBs, and a .191 BAA. He has a fastball that hits the high-90s, a sharp curve, and advanced changeup. His electric fastball gets all the hype. It's his change, however, that's going to make him a fantasy superstar. At 19, he already throws the pitch with the exact arm action as his fastball and the offering dances with screwball-like action when it reaches the hitter. Teheran will be a multi-category stud by '13. This is a prospect to hone in on in keeper league trade talks if you're out of it and building for the long-term future.
Brett Jackson (OF, CHC)
Teheran most likely isn't available on the wire in any of your long-term leagues. Jackson, on the other hand, is still relatively unknown. The 21-year old has the power/speed foundation that you have to look for as an owner. Before recently being promoted to Double-A, Jackson hit .316 with six HRs, 12 SBs, a .420 OBP, and .517 SLG at High-A. Jackson takes walks (14 percent walk rate at High-A), but he has to work on chasing pitches out of the zone. In addition, Jackson has been caught seven times in 19 attempts on the base paths. That type of percentage will trigger more red lights in the majors. There's significant upside to target here.
All statistics as of July 27, 2010.
Hit Bill Root with a tweet @Bill_Root or an e-mail at email@example.com if you have a burning fantasy prospect question. Make sure to check out our Xclusive Edge Rankings for help with your tough lineup decisions.