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Fantasy baseball mailbag

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For more fantasy analysis, check out 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

I just don't get it. Why hasn't Justin Upton taken the next step this season? I feel like I wasted my second round pick on him this season.-- Jim, Gresham, Ore.

Jim, you aren't the only one who is disappointed, and things haven't gotten any better as Upton has but one hit in his last 30 at-bats to drop his average to .243. Still, I can't say that I'm totally shocked that he has failed to improve upon last season's effort (.300-26-86-84-20). Here are a few reasons why.

1. He is only 23-years old and has just one full season of big league work on his resume.2. He strikes out a ton with a 29.4 percent K-rate in his career.3. His HR/F rate last year (14.5 percent) helped to hide the fact that he hit more than 45 percent of his balls on the ground. That's a very high GB-rate for someone who fancies hitting 30 homers a year.4. His walk rate declined last year. He has as upped that mark this season, but three years running now his BB/K mark has been in the 0.40 range, and that is below the big league average of about 0.50.5. He owns a very mediocre 19.3 percent career line drive rate yet his BABIP is .340. It's not that he can't sustain that level given his line drive total, it's just that his batting average could fluctuate substantially if the hits are falling (this is where the huge K totals don't help at all).

Give the guy some time -- he is still young and relatively raw. There is little reason to think that he won't be able to return to the 20/20 level next season, it's just that expectations were a bit overblown for him this season given where he is in his development.

I'm in an AL-only league. I can keep Dallas Braden next season at a cost of $15 in a $260 league. That makes a lot of sense to me, does it to you?-- Matthew, West Jordan, Utah

Braden had another strong outing Tuesday night (one earned run in seven innings), and has picked up four victories in his last five starts (though he has only eight on the year). Braden lowered his ERA to 3.44 -- better than the 3.69 mark of Shaun Marcum -- and his 1.15 WHIP us ninth the AL. That means there shouldn't be any concern with keeping him for $15, right?

Braden will never be a strikeout force, and that hurts his fantasy value. His career K/9 mark is 5.68, and his mark this season is 5.69. To place that number in context, the big league average this season is 7.04. As for his walk rate it's 1.72, and that gives him some capital even with the low K-rate. At the same time, his GB/FB ratio of 1.10 is decidedly average, as are his career rates in line drives allowed (19.6 percent) and BABIP (.307).

In league-specific scenarios pitching is often hard to come by. I don't have a problem keeping Braden at $15 next season, even though I don't love it, but do yourself a favor and remember that what you are getting from him right now is the upside. He'll never strike anyone out, and it's strains credulity a bit to think he's going to post a 1.15 WHIP in 2011, but he might just be the "new" Mark Buehrle, and there is value in that.

I'm in a mixed league, and my offense is slumping. I read that Brad Hawpe is going to lose a lot of playing time that will go to Eric Young Jr. Should I take a shot with Young, or would it be better for me to pickup Alberto Callaspo?-- Alan, Ariz.

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Hawpe has hit seven homers this season, this after four-straight years of 22 or more homers. He's also hit only four homers in his last 72 games while he has hit .216 over his last 53 games. It's about time the struggling lefty should be given a seat on the pine. In fact, both Hawpe and Clint Barmes could be moved in waiver deals, which would open up a ton of playing time for Young with the Rockies.

As it stands now, you'd have to think that EYJ will get a chance to infuse the lineup with his speed and enthusiasm on a daily basis. Young stole 87 bases in 2006 at Double-A, 73 in '07 at High-A, 46 at Double-A in '08 and 58 last season in Triple-A. He's also hit .290 in the minors, an in fact he hit in the .290's every season from 2006-09. Young has also produced four hits, two runs and two steals in his last three games with the Rockies, and the organization seem very interested in what he brings to the field. He could hold on to the leadoff spot with the Rockies, not a bad place to be for a speedster.

Callaspo is boring, yet efficient. In 21 games with the Angels he has hit .307, slightly better than the .275 mark he had with the Royals in 88 contests, and on the year he is hitting .281 with eight homers, 48 RBI and 48 runs scored. He also qualifies at second and third base, and that flexibility is wonderful as the year drags on and more an more players end up on the shelf with physical maladies. At the same time, Callaspo has no upside to bring to the dance -- what you see is what you get. Therefore, I'd suggest grabbing EYJ. He may not stick in the leadoff role, or play every day, but his ability to scoot around the base paths, and to bring elite skills in the drive for stolen bases, mark him as a risk worth taking at this point of the season.

I have once-a-week waivers on Friday. Which closer should I pick up between Brandon Lyon and Hisanori Takahashi?-- Josh, Fla.

As a friend of mine recently said, there are no bad closers in the middle of August. The point being that no matter what, saves are saves, and if you need them at this point of the season you take them where you can get them.

Lyon was recently installed as the Astros closer after Matt Lindstrom struggled with back woes and poor performance (nine earned runs in 2.1 innings). Or was he? On Tuesday night Wilton Lopez was the flavor of the moment, not Lyon, as Astros' manager Brad Mills called on him to shutdown the Mets. So what is going on? Good question. When a manager says one thing, and then does another, well, what is a fantasy leaguer to do? Consider the facts with the two Astros' hurlers.

Lopez: 3.06 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 7.02 K/9, 7.80 K/BB, 1.63 GB/FB, 4.2 HR/FLyon: 3.70 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.27 K/9, 1.50 K/BB, 0.90 GB/FB, 1.4 HR/F

Lyon has the big contract, and some experience in the closer's role, but clearly Lopez has been more effective this year. In fact, he has very quietly been dominating.

Takahashi is the Mets closer. Well, sort of. "For the most part he'll be the guy if he's fresh and the matchups look favorable for him," manager Jerry Manuel said. What a rousing round of support. I can't say I really blame Manuel's lack of a definitive statement though. Takahashi is league average in the ratio categories (4.16 ERA, 1.37 WHIP), and though he does have a solid K-rate (8.50 per nine), he is also league average in his walk rate (3.36), his HR/9 rate (1.06), while slightly below average with his hit rate (.318 BABIP) and GB/FB ratio (0.84). There really isn't a tremendous amount to love here. Bobby Parnell and his dominating stuff is lurking in the Mets' pen, but frequent bouts of wildness are always a concern.

So who would I add? Since I cannot read a manager's mind, it's a total crap-shoot as to which guy will, or won't, get 9th inning looks. If you look simply at skills, something I would always recommend you do first, you should add Lopez and then keep your fingers crossed, tightly.

Ray Flowers is Managing Editor for Owners Edge and His work can be found weekly, exclusively at the home of fantasy baseball: To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at You can also follow Ray's thoughts at the Baseball Guys' Twitter page.