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Each week I'll answer a handful of the most pertinent questions I've received during the week in an attempt to bring insightful fantasy analysis to the fore. Need your questions answered? Drop me a line. For more fantasy analysis, check out Fanball.com.
With Carlos Santana out indefinitely with his leg injury, who would be the best pickup: Yorvit Torrealba, Ramon Hernandez or Matt Wieters?-- Michael, Severn, Maryland
It's a tough break to lose Santana, but at least it appears that he avoided a catastrophic injury with his knee, so there is still some hope that he will be able to return to action this season. Luckily you have some options who can step up to fill the void that your lineup now has.
Torrealba's claim to fame might be that he shares an ending to his last name that illicits thoughts of the beautiful Jessica Alba. That isn't the extent of his value though. In case you missed it, and you certainly might have, Yorvit has pushed his hitting streak up to 15 games during which time his average has gone from .273 to .332. Why haven't you heard more about his streak? It's because he doesn't play everyday with Nick Hundley also sharing duties behind the dish for the Padres (since the start of July Hundley has 44 at-bats, Torrelaba, 57). Oh, and before I leave Yorvit, are you aware that he might be the most "clutch" hitter in the game (if you believe that such a thing even exists). Yorvit hit .488 with RISP last season and has followed that up with a .458 mark this season (the two years have produced a total of 43 hits in 91 at-bats, good for a .472 mark).
Ramon Hernandez has spent a good deal of time on the sidelines do to injury, and like Torrealba, he has ceded a lot of at-bats to the other catcher on his club, Ryan Hanigan, who, by the way is hitting .299 on the season with a .816 OPS. Hernandez is hitting .288 with a .771 OPS, solid totals, but he hasn't flashed any power this year (four homers) or since the the start of last season (nine homers in 492 at-bats). Remember, this is a guy who has hit at least 14 homers in a season six times.
Wieters is the clear choice of these three based on playing time, pedigree and overall talent. That doesn't absolve him from being a massive disappointment this season since his 5x5 line is pretty dreadful: .253-8-34-25-0. At the same time he will play most every game that he is healthy enough to start, and sooner or later that beautiful swing of his just has to start making more solid contact. In fact, it's already started to happen as he is hitting .333 over his last 14 games. On the plus side he has also increased his BB/K mark from 0.33 to 0.55 from last year to this, and his HR/F ratio has gone up a percentage point to 9.4. He's still looking for his groove against lefties, he has a .220.253/.341 line against them in 82 at-bats, but his potential is still awe-inspiring and well worth taking a shot on over the other two catchers that have to share playing time.
Who do I drop to add Jacoby Ellsbury to my club: Drew Storen, Yunel Escobar (Troy Tulowitzki is my SS), Joel Hanrahan, Jay Bruce, Ted Lilly, Max Scherzer or Bobby Abreu?-- Rob, New York
Ellsbury will be activated in the next couple of days. Out since May 24 with myriad rib issues, Ellsbury has a lot of work to do with his teammates who felt he abandoned the team during his rehab. Regardless, we haven't seen Ellsbury in so long that some have forgotten that he hit .301 with 94 runs and 70 steals last season. It's unclear just how effective he will be in his return to the lineup, but he certainly has to be added in every league if he hasn't already been. As for the others, here is a quick synopsis of each.
Storen: He's been effective this year with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. He really needs to improve his K/BB mark of 2.00, but with Matt Capps now closing in Minnesota, Storen is the favorite to pick up the majority of saves in Washington (Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett could also get some 9th inning looks though).
Escobar: He has been very effective since he moved to Toronto after floundering all year in Atlanta. Escobar has hit .292 with three homers, nine RBI and 11 runs scored in 16 games. It's not fair to extrapolate those numbers over a whole season, it's such a small sample size, but that's a pace for a season of something like .290-30-90-110. That's pretty good.
Hanrahan: He has allowed only one run over his last 10 appearances and it appears that he is the arm of choice to take over closing duties for the Pirates since Octavio Dotel is now a Dodger. Evan Meek is still around, and his numbers sparkle (1.49 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 1.91 GB/FB), but the club seems to like the flexibility Meek brings with his ability to go more than one inning in an outing. By the way, Hanrahan has a 12.65 K/9 mark this season, a 4.79 K/BB rate and a 1.01 WHIP. That's some serious pitching folks.
Bruce: In a recent The Chopping Block, I discussed Bruce. Let's just say I'm not a fan at the moment -- unless you are in a keeper league.
Lilly: He slumped for a while, causing some concern that his stuff had left him, but over his last four outings it has been vintage Lilly -- and then some: the lefty has a 1.67 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 9.67 K/9 and a 5.80 K/BB mark in those four starts. Obviously that pace won't continue, but he does have a 3.56 ERA on the year and his 1.09 WHIP is fifth in the NL. He's been really, really good, even if you haven't realized it.
Scherzer: Since he returned from a brief stint in the minors, Scherzer has been dynamic. In 12 starts he has a 2.62 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 85 Ks in 75.2 innings pitched. Those are ace-like numbers.
Abreu: He has been disappointing with a .254-12-57-56-16 line, but at the same time he is 36-years old and was bound to slow down at some point. Still, do you know how many players have 12 homers, 57 RBI, 56 runs scored and 16 steals this season? The answer is four -- Carl Crawford, Alex Rios, Chris Young and Bobby Abreu.
Like I said, you have to pick up Ellsbury for his potential, so why not drop Bruce, an outfielder who seems to be going nowhere at the moment?
It looks like Carlos Zambrano will return to the Cubs' rotation, potentially on Monday. have to think he has value as a starter on NL-only leagues, so should I pick him up?-- Sean
Before I analyze this situation I will say this -- Zambrano must be owned in NL-only leagues, period. Now to the regularly scheduled part of our programming.
Big Z has been a disaster this year. He was a starter, then a reliever, then an ass with his teammates. There is no telling when his volcanic personality will erupt, but hopefully his work with counselors will enable him to keep hi head on straight the rest of the way. The trade of Ted Lilly to the Dodgers clearly opens up a spot in the rotation. And don't look now, but Tom Gorzelanny hasn't exactly been twirling it with alacrity his past few trips to the hill (he might have gone 4-0 in July, but he had a 4.20 ERA, 1.63 WHIP an a horrible 1.41 K/BB).
Questions about how deep Zambrano can go in game right now aside, Zambrano has some rather interesting numbers on his ledger. His 8.49 K/9 mark would be the second best mark of his career, so it would seem that his stuff is still intact. However, the oft-wild one also has a 4.32 BB/9 mark, a number that would be a four-year high, so it's not exactly the rosiest of pictures when you compare the two.
Still, I can't help but think that dude has been exceedingly unlucky this season. Whatever your thoughts are on the validity of BABIP studies, you would have to agree with the position that his current number in that category is so far out of the norm that something off is afoot. Zambrano owns a .284 career BABIP mark, and the worst mark of his career is .308. In fact, from 2005-08, his mark was never higher than .277. So what is he doing with a .383 mark right now? That's just absurd. Even if he destroys his career-high here, he still would seem to have a lot of room to show some improvement. This position is also supported by his line drive rate. Currently sitting at 21.9 percent, Zambrano owns a career LD-rate of 18.8 percent, and hasn't posted a mark higher than 18.4 percent since 2005.
Zambrano isn't going to be an All-Star caliber hurler the rest of the way, but he not only has big time NL-only value, a return to the starting rotation could make him mixed league relevant, albeit with a whole lot of associated risk.
Josh Beckett looks like he is back, and the guy who owns him is willing to move him for Gio Gonzalez. Would you do the deal?-- Kent, Texas
Comparing the numbers of each hurler clearly favors the young lefty from Oakland.
Gonzalez: 9-7, 3.69 ERA. 112 KS, 1.34 WHIPBeckett: 3-1, 5.70 ERA, 58 KS, 1.40 WHIP
However, it's never that simple, is it?
How about we look at the numbers since the All-Star break.
Gonzalez: 3.33 ERA, 7.67 K/9, 3.83 K/BB, 1.15 WHIPBeckett: 2.18 ERA, 7.84 K/9, 4.50 K/BB, 0.82 WHIP
The ace from Boston has been better since he returned from injury, so if you play the hot hand you'll be leaning toward Beckett.
What about history? Obviously that one is squarely in Beckett's corner -- no explanation is needed here.
Gonzalez has been tremendous this season, giving those in AL-only leagues more production than they could have ever hoped. The biggest key may be the fact that he has dropped his walk rate under four per nine (3.96) after posting a 5.49 mark the first two seasons of his career. He's also posted a mere 0.67 HR/9 mark, this after two years at 1.56 per nine. At the same time his K/BB mark of 1.90 is actually lower than last season (1.95), and it's tough to understand how a guy who has a nearly identical fly ball rate this season (35.2) compared to last year (35.8) has somehow chopped his HR/F rate in half (down from 13.9 to 7.3 percent).
When in doubt, go with the devil you know. In this case that's Beckett, who has been locked in and looked like the Beckett of old since his return from the DL.
Ray Flowers is Managing Editor for Fanball.com Owners Edge and RotoTimes.com. His work can be found weekly, exclusively at the home fantasy baseball: Fanball.com. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at email@example.com. You can also follow Ray's thoughts at the Baseball Guys' Twitter page.