July 13, 2012

I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account in my never ending attempt to replace myself by explaining to everyone how I evaluate players thereby making myself obsolete.

Would you trade Rickie Weeks for Francisco Liriano and Stephen Drew? I need pitching depth after many injuries.-- @lqmattson

Weeks has been awful this year, hitting .199 with a .658 OPS. Still, he's immensely talented, has stayed healthy (always an issue for him), and he simply can't remain this awful for an entire season. Don't forget that he is coming off back-to-back seasons of 20 homers, 75 runs and an exactly similar .269 batting average each campaign). Looks like the turnaround has already started, too, as he's hitting .297 with two homers, seven RBIs and 10 runs scored the past two weeks.

Liriano has brought his ERA down three full runs over his last seven outings. During those seven trips to the hill he has a 2.74 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 52 Ks in 49.1 innings. Walks are still a concern -- his 4.38 BB/9 mark is about a batter above where we'd like to see it -- but the point is obvious: he's locked in right now. He's not the Liriano we all remember dominating hitters in 2006, but he clearly looks like he is back to being the '10 version of himself and not the dreadful hurler we saw in '11 and for the first two months this season.

As for Drew, he is never going to live up to expectations, but that doesn't mean he can't be an effective fantasy weapon at shortstop. From '07-10 Drew was a top-10 shortstop, even if none of his numbers really jump off the page. Last season, he only appeared in 86 games due to that catastrophic injury to his ankle. Having recently returned, Drew has appeared in nine games with poor results (.179 with a .440 OPS). Obviously, he will improve, but until he reaches the point where he starts to produce, consider me to be a bit wary.

You can do this deal if you need pitching depth, and if the plan includes Drew serving as a backup middle infielder. However, if Drew has to start right now, it's hard to suggest making this move because even though Weeks has struggled this year, he appears to be heating up and he is clearly the healthier, more ready player to attack the start of the second half. This would be a deal you make solely based on need.

Would you want Cody Ross or Todd Frazier in 14-team, head-to-head dynasty league?-- @MacVincent1

Remember when you had a crush on that gal in high school? You know, that cute gal who thought you were great because you were so funny and smart -- yet she always ended up dating some loser who treated her terribly? That gal keeps trying to "date" Ross, I keep telling telling her it's a bad idea, and she keeps doing it anyway. News flash people -- Jacoby Ellsbury should be back Friday. Obviously, he's going to play everyday. Carl Crawford should be back soon. If healthy, he's playing everyday. Since David Ortiz is locked in at DH, that means the Red Sox will have the following players vying for time in right field: Ryan Sweeney (rumors suggest the Red Sox are trying to trade him), Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish, Scott Podsednik and Ross. Yeah, it's gonna get crowded. I would be remiss if I also didn't note that Ross is hitting just .264. He's striking out at a career-high level. He's batting .238 with a .750 OPS against right handed pitching. Sure, he has 20-homer, 75-RBI upside, but really this is a pretty boring skill set that could potentially be in for a playing time squeeze soon.

Frazier has his own problem, chiefly the presence of Scott Rolen. A potential HOF candidate, Rolen was once the best all-around third basemen in baseball. That was '04, though. A broken down shell of his former self, Rolen simply cannot hit any more as his body has worn down, and through 42 games he is batting .178 with a .302 SLG. Why the Reds continue to play him semi-regularly makes no sense, not with Frazier hitting so well. A third baseman, the Reds have used Frazier a bit in the outfield to get his bat in the lineup, something they should do on a daily basis considering that he's hitting .278 with nine homers, 29 RBIs an a .901 OPS through 180 at-bats this season.

To me, this is an easy decision. In a keeper league you have to go with Frazier, who actually profiles as a similar hitter to Ross. Two main facts tip the balance to Frazier. First, he plays third base. Second, he's six years younger.

Do you still think Matt "Harrison is just blah"?-- @theYankeeHajny

I recently answered a question on Twitter about Harrison, saying he was "blah." Of course, it's hard to give an accurate answer in 140 characters, you get even less space when you are responding to a question, but my point was this (even if my less than eloquent initial response didn't directly say it): Harrison may have a 3.10 ERA, but that mark really should be a run higher. If it was -- his xFIP is 3.95 and his left on base percentage is elevated at 78 percent -- we'd be talking about a pitcher with a league average ERA. A solid groundball arm (51 percent of batted balls are grounders), Harrison is pretty awful in the K column, with an average of 5.56 Ks per nine innings, a batter-and-a-half below the league average. So if he's a league average ERA arm, and below average in K/9, then he's totally dependent on his record and WHIP leading him to fantasy prominence. He's 11-4 this year and 25-13 since the start of last season, so he's looking pretty good in the win column, though we all know that wins and loses don't always follow based upon a pitcher's performance (just ask Cliff Lee, who is 1-5 despite a 3.98 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 9.06 K/9 and 4.90 K/BB mark). Harrison does have a solid WHIP at 1.24, but given his skill set it would seem at least a 50/50 bet that the mark will creep into the 1.30' in the second half, which is, once again, league average.

Harrison is a wonderful real world arm, but he's just not that exciting from a fantasy perspective if we're talking about a standard 5x5 setup.

Eric O'Flaherty -- regressing or bad luck? I'm in a points league with Solds. -- @eoin_daly

Boy, expectations can be rough.

O'Flaherty was dynamic last year with a 0.98 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 67 Ks in 73.2 innings. There's simply no way that anyone keeps up that pace year to year. This season he's working on a 2.87 ERA; his career mark is 3.11. His WHIP is 1.34; his career mark is 1.29. His K/9 is 7.47; his career mark is 7.00. His K/BB ratio is 2.17; his career mark is 2.16. Moreover, his 64 percent ground ball rate is not only massive, it's 11 percentage points better than his career mark. The only real downer for him at this point is a doubling (plus) of his HR/F mark (from 6.00 in his career to 16 percent this year). When that number normalizes, and it should, we're likely to see his ratios improve a bit. O'Flaherty has been fine based on his career numbers, and solid regardless of his "regression." Last season was simply one of those for the ages-type of efforts and he was never going to repeat that success this season.

As for Solds, that is the category that I keep pushing for relievers. With all the turnover in the 9th inning, literally two-thirds of all closers from Opening Day have changed this year; isn't it time we move on from the antiquated recording of points for relievers that relies so heavily on the save? Why not just use Solds (saves plus holds) as a better representation of relievers' value? You wouldn't have to roster a guy like Heath Bell with his 6.75 ERA and 1.82 WHIP for his save total, you could instead roster a guy like O'Flaherty, who has pitched much better even if he doesn't have the saves total to prove it (O'Flaherty has a Solds mark of 15, just six behind the 21 of Bell).

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

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