Power isn't easy to come by in 2012, which makes me wonder why roto players are ignoring Ryan Ludwick. The Cincinnati outfielder has been a Top 25 fantasy outfielder over the last two months, hitting .292 with 14 homers and 37 RBIs. He sparked Tuesday's victory over San Diego, clubbing a ball into the seats and knocking in four runs.
And yet, he's only owned in 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Time for us to go under the scope, see what's happening here.
I grabbed Ludwick as a streaming play last week because I liked the schedule — the Reds passed through Colorado and faced three lefty-starters, a great matchup for the veteran (1.011 OPS against southpaws). Ludwick came through capably in the thin air, homering twice and scoring four runs over two starts (pesky Dusty Baker sat him on Sunday). But Ludwick's profile doesn't scream out platoon player; he's still slugging .508 against righties, and his OPS only has a 30-point differential, home and away (surprisingly, he's doing better on the road).
Some of the Ludwick reluctance makes sense: he turned 34 two weeks back and he only has two strong seasons on his resume (a monster 2008 and a solid 2009). He was an out machine with the Padres in 2010 and 2011, and the Pirates didn't get much out of him late last year, either. He's going to hurt you a little in batting average and he runs the bases ultra-carefully. But at the end of the day, I'll make room for someone slugging .540 with 18 homers. Who's with me? Let's kick some tires.
Special K (USP)• Kris Medlen had to dodge raindrops in Tuesday's turn against Miami, but otherwise it was an enjoyable walk around Peachtree Street. Special K worked five solid innings (4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K) and collected seven ground-ball outs. Not too shabby for your first big league start of the year.
Medlen's three Triple-A turns a few months back weren't encouraging (4.72 ERA, 1.58 WHIP), but he's been sharp in the Braves bullpen otherwise (2.48 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 39 Ks, 13 BB). The Braves need to keep Medlen in the rotation now that Tommy Hanson has hit the DL (who didn't see that coming?), and Sunday's home assignment against Houston looks appealing. Club Med is open for business in 93 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so make your weekend reservations now.
• Sticking with the Atlanta arms race, are you ready to let Mike Minor back into your world? I'm taking the plunge Thursday, with Minor at home against that stripped-down Miami offense. Minor's posted a 1.98 ERA and 0.73 WHIP over the last month, with just under a strikeout per inning. If he can just keep the ball in the park, the rest of the stuff will take care of itself — and heck, how many Marlins are deep threats right now? Minor is ready to own in 31 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
I was temped to dial up Washington's Ross Detwiler (22 percent), but he's facing off against Cole Hamels. The Athletics should be favored over the Blue Jays, but I'm not comfortable with Bartolo Colon (17 percent) these days, though his recent numbers are good. And I'm not going to trust Ryan Dempster in the AL until I see a start or two; he's a risky play in Arlington, especially against Mike Trout and his Merry Pranksters.
• I've been rooting for the Wilton Lopez story for a while, but maybe it's just not meant to be. The Astros essentially named him the closer on Tuesday afternoon, but a few hours later he was scratched for the night — he's dealing with tightness in his elbow. The club doesn't want to make a big deal about the tweak, but keep in mind Lopez was on the DL from the middle of June until early July.
A healthy Lopez is this team's best reliever by far, but if he can't heal up and handle the ninth, maybe lefty Wesley Wright (3.16 ERA , 1.24 WHIP, better than a strikeout per inning) will get a look. I know, I know, we've devoted a lot of closing words lately to a team that almost never wins. Do what feels right, gamer.
• I fully expected the Giants to make a bullpen addition at the trading deadline, a nod to how shaky Santiago Casilla has been of late (6.89 ERA since June 1) and the durability concerns of Sergio Romo. The club had other ideas, opting to stand pat with the pitching staff. It would be nice if someone could take this closing gig and solidify it, but we might be chasing the situation for a while.
Lefty Jeremy Affeldt closed up shop in Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Mets, recording six easy outs; Affeldt struck out three and didn't allow a ball out of the infield. Casilla and Romo were in line for a night of rest, but perhaps this outcome will push Affeldt to a meatier role going forward. Although Affeldt is dominant when he holds the platoon edge, he's been capable against right-handed bats as well (.253 average, six walks, 19 strikeouts). I'd be surprised if he got the ninth inning to himself at any time, but if you're in a saves-for-blood chase, he's certainly worth adding for depth now. He's good to go in 99 percent of the Yahoo! world.
Speed Round: The street cred with Carlos Gomez must be rising, because he was hit twice by pitches (hand, wrist) in the last two days. Gomez took extra umbrage to Tuesday's plunking. He batted .274 in June, with a tasty 18-5-13-11 line, and seems settled into the No. 2 slot in Milwaukee. He's still a hacker, but you can't argue with the recent results. … Although Tommy Milone had a flat line (6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 4 K) opposite the James Shields gem, I'm still dialing up Mayday on the weekend, at home against Toronto. … Those Ludwick bombs are going to be needed, as Joey Votto's rehab is at a deliberate pace and Brandon Phillips left Tuesday's game with a strained left calf. … Nothing is a surprise in the world of A.J. Burnett anymore, certainly not his one-hit masterpiece at Wrigley Field. He's at home next, up against Arizona. … Jason Vargas continues to spin beautiful music at home (2.63/0.93), but it's a 4.67/1.31 story on the road (along with 19 homers). He's at Baltimore next week, a stay-away. … Travis Snider had a snappy day in Pittsburgh's leadoff spot, scoring two runs (1-for-4, walk). You gotta like a guy who calls himself "lunch box hero."