St. Paddy’s Fantasy Report: Episode 2

Welcome to St. Paddy’s Fantasy Report, where I’ll be keeping you abreast of the world of fantasy baseball through the inspection of hot and cold starters, exploration of closer situations, and examination of key injuries and position battles for each team around the league.

Let’s begin with everyone’s favorite bunch of teams. Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the top, like, 10 in your heart … the division of domination … the A! L! East!

Baltimore Orioles

Who’s Hot: J.J. Hardy has continued his midseason tear, hitting at a .346/.397/.673 clip with four homers over the past two weeks. He’s a must-own, and not just because shortstop is a weak position … Mark Reynolds also has four homers over the last two weeks, but is hitting .389 over that span. It may well be the first time that he’s seen a batting average that high next to his name since Little League, and he’s proven that he’s not a high average hitter. Once his BABIP — currently over .500 — drops, he’ll be the same Reynolds we know and whom some of us love. If you can stomach an average in the low .200s, he’s not a bad play … If you love good power, high average and few walks over a small sample size, then you’ll love any of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Luke Scott. I’m wary of their lack of plate discipline, but a flier on Markakis or Jones wouldn’t be the worst thing if you’ve a roster spot to fill … Sinkerballer Zach Britton has continued his rookie-season dominance, and appears to be no fluke. He might wear down as the season rolls along, but for now, it’s all systems go.

Who’s Not: Brian Matusz returned from an extended-DL stint only to suffer a hamstring injury and post an ERA near 11.00 in six innings. No need to waste a roster spot until Matusz proves he can be effective … Matt Wieters is hitting .205 with a homer in the last two weeks, doing nothing to quell the talk of him being a bust. He’s still got potential to be better than most of what’s on the catcher waiver wire, but he doesn’t appear to be worth a roster spot if you’ve confidence in someone else … Derrek Lee is hitting .324 in the last two weeks, but five of his 12 hits over that span came in one game. Combine that with no plate discipline or power, and I’d temper any hopes you have of him rebounding. Ditto Vladimir Guerrero, by the way.

Closer Look: Kevin Gregg still has the closing duties here, but come on, Orioles: free Koji Uehara!

Injury Watch: Brian Roberts is still out with lingering effects from a concussion sustained in May. He’s certainly out until at least the All-Star break, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t see him until August at the earliest. Then again, I’m not exactly what doctors call “a Doctor.” Still, though … In other long-term injury news, Justin Duchscherer was pitching in an extended spring training game five days ago, and re-injured his surgically repaired hip while trying to field a ground ball. He could be a sneaky play in, like, September, and I’m not really even sure if that’s a joke or not.

Boston Red Sox

Who’s Hot: Adrian Gonzalez is doing Adrian Gonzalez things in Beantown, hitting .353/.406/.610 with 15 HR. He’s also the first hitter in the majors to top 100 hits on the season, and is hitting over .400 in the last two weeks. The BABIP is sky-high at .386, but he’s been making such solid contact that it’s hard to see hard regression … David Ortiz has continued his magnificent season by clubbing four more homers over the last two weeks while keeping his batting average over .300. Vintage season for the big fella, and he’s showing no signs of slowing (back) down … Marco Scutaro is hitting .364 over the last two weeks, but won’t provide you with any value other than that average. So if you jump on him while he’s hot, keep an eye on him so that you’ll know when to cut bait … if you were to average up Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett‘s stats over the last two weeks, you’d have a guy striking out about 7.5 per 9, walking about 2.5 per 9 and posting an ERA below 2.00.

Who’s Not: Slumps are in short supply for the streaking Sawx, but no team can have everybody hitting at once. But you can come really close; only J.D. Drew (.273/.342/.364, one HR) and Darnell McDonald — inasmuch as he qualifies — are Boston regulars that you’d describe as cold … Tim Wakefield had a nice return to the starting rotation awhile ago, but his ERA, even hovering around 4.00, has been on the lucky side … Andrew Miller wasn’t bad in his start last night, but until he shows that he can refrain from walking people, he’s not worth so much as a flier in the deepest leagues.

Injury Watch: Carl Crawford went on the DL with a hamstring injury, but is expected to miss the minimum 15 days and return in early July … Be far more concerned about Jed Lowrie‘s injury. He’s been sidelined with a sore left shoulder, and is seeking a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum, which is one of those names you never want to hear. I wouldn’t necessarily expect surgery, but going to visit Yocum makes it seem far more likely. Don’t keep him on your roster.

New York Yankees

Who’s Hot: Ivan Nova, y’all! A 3.05 ERA in his last three starts, and he’s got the FIP and xFIP to back, back, back it up. Sorry. Anyway, he’s got an average K rate, but has shown strong control and has persevered through some bad home run luck. He’s worth a look in deep or AL-only leagues for as long as he has a rotation spot … Brett Gardner has seen fit to get on base literally over half the time during these past two weeks, and is hitting near .400 to boot. I wouldn’t sell high on him; his SBs are too valuable and his bat looks like it’s arrived … Why the Yankees are so good: If you take the worst possible results in the last two weeks from Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, you get .304/.388/.543 with two homers. Add Mark Teixeira (three homers over the same span), and you can see that pitchers just get worn down.

Who’s Not: CC Sabathia has been knocked around to the tune of a 6.10 ERA over his last three starts, but his FIP and xFIP are an outstanding 2.81 and 3.34, respectively. He’ll be fine; keep running him out there … Russell Martin has hit just .250 over the past 14 days, and has been bleeding playing time. I’d drop him.

Injury Watch: Derek Jeter should be ready to return by next Thursday, depending on whether the Yankees elect to have him play a rehab game. He’s eligible to come off the DL next Wednesday … Bartolo Colon began a throwing program today, and could return before the All-Star break if all goes according to plan … Phil Hughes threw a side session today, and will be making another rehab start on Friday.

Tampa Bay Rays

Who’s Hot: Casey Kotchman has not only been hitting .347/.418/.510 of late, but has even been drawing intentional walks! He’s not a great fantasy option, and particularly so at first base, but credit where credit’s due for the long-mediocre  first baseman … Justin Ruggiano is hitting .400 in the last two weeks, but has an OBP of .389. He might steal you 10 bases over the rest of the year, but you’re not going to get much else from him, even if he gets more playing time … James Shields has been one of the best pitchers in the league this season, and tossed his fifth CG of the season recently. He’s not as good as his 1.08 ERA over his last three starts suggests, but then no one is. If you can get him, do it … Alex Cobb has been pretty good in his first five starts, keeping his ERA solidly below 4.00 with reasonable peripherals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he can get the strikeouts to be a big fantasy contributor.

Who’s Not: Matt Joyce has some impressive numbers spanning this season and most of last, but is hitting nearly .100 over the last two weeks and has seen his power all but disappear. He’s safe to drop in mixed leagues, but you might want to make sure he doesn’t start to turn it back on — his numbers are as bad as they’ll be all year, so an uptick might not show immediately … B.J. Upton can’t buy a hit these days, and looks to be on pace to end the season as a 20 HR, 40 SB guy with an average around .240. He’s still walking and stealing bases, but if you’re going to hold on to him, you’d better be ready to stomach that average … Jeremy Hellickson and David Price both have ERAs around 6.00 and were pretty bad in their most recent starts. I’d sit both of them for a start before running them back out there, since Hellickson has had his struggles this season, and Price’s performance made it seem to me like he was hurting a bit.

Toronto Blue Jays

Who’s Hot: Adam Lind is doing Jose Bautista things, hitting a home run practically every other day during these last two weeks with a .348 average to boot. He’s obviously fully healthy, and the only concern with him is that he’s probably still a UTIL-only guy … Ricky Romero threw an outstanding game against the Braves, and is cruising along this season. If you own him, I wouldn’t try to trade him, since he’s likely an undervalued guy in terms of name value … Frank Francisco has allowed just seven runs in the past month, which is admittedly less impressive than it sounds since that’s just 12 appearances and he’s not really supposed to allow any runs. But, hey, I wanted a third thing for Blue Jays fans to feel good about, so here we are. Plus, Francisco has been recording more than 10 K/9 this season, and is reportedly in the good graces of his manager these days.

Who’s Not: Take your pick, really. Jose Bautista, Aaron Hill and Yunel Escobar have combined for four homers, two steals and an average around .240. Corey Patterson has three steals, which is pretty good, but a .189 average and no homers will take the shine off that right quick … Brandon Morrow has an ERA over 7.00 in his last two starts, but has struck out batters at a pedestrian-for-him clip of just less than one per inning. He’ll be fine.

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