It's an unconventional move for us to feature the same player twice in the same week, but some stories force their way into our notebooks. Dexter Fowler(notes) was baseball's most electric player over the past four days, and with that let's give his fantasy situation another audit.
Fowler was a one-man wrecking crew against the Giants on Sunday, reaching base seven times in a row and scoring three runs, including the game-clinching tally in the bottom of the 15th. Fowler ended the series with a set of Wiffle Ball stats: he went 10-for-16 at the plate, walked seven times, hit four triples and two doubles, scored seven runs and swiped a couple of bases. This wasn't a case of someone getting lucky with seeing-eye hits or bloop singles over the infield; Fowler drove the ball to the gaps, worked the count superbly, and gave everyone a preview as to the dynamic leadoff man and superstar he might turn into someday.
Fowler's career splits show plenty of holes to this point – he's had trouble with right-handed pitching and his OPS drops considerably when the Rockies are on the road – but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be excited about his recent run. The month he just spent in Triple-A might have been the best thing for his development, all things considered – remember he skipped that step when he was on the way up – and there's an impressive set of skills here, it's just a matter of improving and polishing them (Fowler came back to The Show with a new hand position at the plate). Bottom line, the kid is still just 24 and there's a very tangible upside – let's kick the tires on this story and see where it leads.
Colorado's outfield depth worries a lot of fantasy players but Fowler should be safe so long as he's continuing to be moderately productive; the Rockies will probably settle for a Fowler-Gonzalez-Hawpe outfield if those players are all healthy. And the schedule plays nicely for the next week – Colorado gets another six games at home, and Coors Field has been handing out plenty of offense over the last few weeks. Get in on this, gamers.
Some roto scribes will aggressively hedge when it comes to a young, unestablished player like Fowler; they'll tell you to pick him up in an NL-only league (gee, thanks) or make some ridiculously general statement that doesn't help anyone. I want to be specific in my recommendation of Fowler – unless you're in a very shallow mixed league, this guy should be rostered in your pool, hopefully on your team. He's not going to be a power and RBI guy, of course, but he's got the chance to be a three-category impact player, and having a stake in Coors Field is always a good thing. If you're unsure who to drop to accommodate Fowler, try me in the comments, I'll give it a look. Fowler's currently trading at six-percent owned, but that number deserves a major spike in the next 24-48 hours.
• I'd appreciate it if everyone in a mixer would go grab Sean Rodriguez(notes) (26 percent owned) so we can stop talking about him. The raking Ray forced his way into the fantasy equation with a bang-up June and he's kept it going in the new month, going 8-for-19 over the last four days (including a Sunday homer into the Minnesota flower bed). You're getting a dual-position guy in Rodriguez (second, outfield), a Joe Maddon favorite, and someone tied to a sound Tampa offense. The K/BB ratio might make a few people nervous – oddly, it's probably caused by Rodriguez taking so many pitches early in the count – but good things are happening when the kid makes contact.
• Adam Wainwright(notes) keeps spinning his magic, throwing a five-hit, complete-game gem at the Brewers (1 R, 0 BB, 9 K). Wainwright only needed 99 pitches from liftoff to touchdown, and he's now got a tidy 1.00 WHIP and 2.24 ERA on the season (along with an NL-best 123 strikeouts). He's just about a sure thing at home these days, collecting 24 consecutive quality starts at St. Louis over the past two seasons. Wainwright almost never gets mentioned when people talk about the best pitcher in baseball, but he's got the stats to at least compete in the argument (don't forget that 53 percent ground-ball rate) and I'll stump for him anytime.
On the other side of the diamond, it was a tough day for Milwaukee's Alcides Escobar(notes) – he booted two consecutive plays in the third inning, leading to a big inning that broke the game open, and he hit into a pair of double plays at the plate. Escobar hasn't been much of a fantasy factor in his rookie year, posting a mediocre .244/.300/.331 line, stealing just six bases, and spending most of his time in the eighth spot in the order.
• DeWayne Wise(notes) had a carnival ride in the Bronx on Sunday. On the plus side were his homer, two outfield assists and four RBIs but the play everyone will remember came in the bottom of the sixth, when he lost a routine fly ball in the sun and gifted an inside-the-park homer to Brett Gardner. The Jays fought gamely and tied the score in the top of the ninth against Mariano Rivera(notes) (a Wise single pushed the run across), but David Purcey(notes) gave the game away in the 10th on a couple of walks and a bloop single. What else would you expect on George Steinbrenner's 80th birthday?
• The wind was the story at Wrigley Field, as a 20 mph jet stream turned the friendly confines into an awfully small park for most of the day. Oddly, the visiting Reds were the only side that really took advantage – Cincinnati clubbed seven homers en route to a 14-3 laugher. Drew Stubbs(notes) hit three of the dingers and continues to post a useful if strange season – he's got a messy .240 average and .313 OBP, but so long as he keep scoring runs (44 thus far) and giving us the power-speed mix (11 homers, 16 steals), we'll find a spot for him. Usually you don't want to be tied to al NL hitter that spends most of his time in the bottom third in the order, but Stubbs has been an exception to that rule in 2010.
• I realize that not everyone needs to speculate on the Arizona closing situation, so if you're not one of those unfortunate save chasers, you have permission to move to the next item. Aaron Heilman(notes) has been asked to work in the eighth inning twice in the three-game Kirk Gibson era, and Heilman surrendered a game-deciding homer to Matt Kemp on Sunday. It seems like a possible closer change could be in the offing, especially considering that Gibson is managing to make an impression and has no ties to the previous roles and handling patterns.
Chad Qualls(notes) hasn't been scored upon in his last three appearances – a modest run but hey, we'll take what we can get – while Juan Gutierrez(notes) made some strides in June (3.00 ERA and a strikeout per inning, though he also had a 1.56 WHIP). And then there's Sam Demel(notes), who's been steady since arriving in the desert (7.1 IP, 3 R, 1 BB, 7 K). Perhaps there's no right answer in this bullpen, just a bunch of wrong ones, but I get the idea Gibson will not go to Heilman when the Snakes see a save opportunity this week.
• I'm not going to spend too much time on the All-Star selections in the Closing Time proper – maybe we'll discuss them in the comments, maybe we won't. Sure, Omar Infante(notes) makes no sense to me, same as everyone else (Jeff Passan tackles it here). And as Keith Law pointed out, it was strange to see the American League ignore eight of the top 10 pitchers in WAR when assembling its staff. Jered Weaver(notes) and Joey Votto(notes) were two of the more notable snubs, but there are several others. Have at it, amigos.
Injury Blog: Yovani Gallardo(notes) left his turn in the third inning with a strained muscle on his left side. He should have been in the dugout earlier, but Escobar's rock-pulling marathon extended the inning. … Ian Stewart(notes) missed Sunday's game with a sore elbow and is considered day-to-day. … Shin-Soo Choo(notes) (thumb) is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks of time, which clears the way for Michael Brantley(notes) to finally get a look. Brantley batted leadoff and went 0-for-4 Sunday. … Coco Crisp's(notes) biggest problem has always been staying healthy, so we have to be careful with any ache and pain tied to him. He started on Sunday but left the game in the second inning with tightness in his upper left hamstring. … Brandon Webb(notes) had a bullpen session on the weekend and all reports were good; he's hoping to start a rehab assignment in a week or two. I'll believe in his 2010 prospects when I see him pitching in live games. … Felix Pie(notes) (shoulder) asked for one more day of rehab, so he's now slated to rejoin the Orioles on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see what happens to Corey Patterson's(notes) role when Pie returns. … Clay Buchholz(notes) (hamstring) will probably go on the DL but he might need to miss just one start. … Aramis Ramirez(notes) is having problems with his thumb again, another hit to the train wreck that is the 2010 Cubs. What does this team have to do, make a rum sacrifice to the baseball gods? … Jorge Posada(notes) is day-to-day after taking a foul tip off his ring finger.
Speed Round: Mark Teixeira(notes) is finally coaxing owners off the ledge, hitting .328 over his last 15 games with nine extra-base hits and 15 RBIs. Not that anyone rational was worrying about this guy, of course. … The Cardinals really need to do something about the back of their rotation – they're just 12-18 when someone outside of their Big 3 (Wainwright, Carpenter, Garcia) starts a game. … Although Elvis Andrus(notes) is a modest 21-for-31 on steal attempts, the Rangers don't have any plans to give him the red light. But you know that wacky Ron Washington, he's known for changing his mind on a whim. … Torii Hunter(notes) is normally all about quiet efficiency on offense, but Sunday's production was emphatic: two homers, seven RBIs over the Royals. … Justin Smoak(notes) took the predictable collar against Mark Buehrle(notes) on Sunday night. The buzzy first-base prospect is hitting just .205 on the year, and he's got a crummy .135 average against lefties. I'll be very surprised if the club doesn't look into some platoon situation in the second half.
Ty Wigginton(notes) is in an 18-for-102 slump but it didn't keep him from making the All Star Team on Sunday. Wigginton's versatility aided the cause, and the fact that most of his teammates are in the midst of putrid seasons (Baltimore is assured at least one representative like everyone else). … Add Kyle Drabek(notes) to the Year of the Pitcher celebration: the Toronto prospect twirled a no-no for Double-A New Hampshire on Sunday. He didn't have eye-popping stuff truth be told – just three strikeouts, notably low for him – but they mobbed him afterwards, just the same. … When Hong-Chih Kuo(notes) is healthy, he's unfair. Check out the six strikeouts he racked up at Arizona. …Last but certainly not least, let's cut the cake and say "Happy Birthday, USA." Hope everyone had a good meal, a cold drink or too, and a safe, enjoyable day on The Fourth. Maybe I don't say it enough, but there's no place I'd rather be.