It's been a long time since anyone took Carlos Gomez seriously in our pretend baseball world. He's a free-swinging hacker who won't take a walk, right? His batting average stinks, right? He's not even a full-time player, right?
Alas, the game is all about the numbers and not the names, and over the past 25 days Gomez has been doing some nifty roto work. It's okay if you don't want to pick him up after I'm done with this propaganda piece. Just consider the argument first.
You can say almost anything you want with arbitrary endpoints, but that's how we'll start things off. Gomez has four homers and nine steals (on 10 attempts) in his last 18 games (12 starts). He's scored 12 runs, driven in nine. If you rank all the fantasy outfielders over that span, Gomez checks in as the No. 7 guy — and that's despite playing about 60 percent of the time. Perhaps this is a story worth chasing. I've added Go-Go on a couple of my deep-league rosters.
I can't tell you his underlying skills have improved significantly, but Gomez's walk rate and strikeout rate have improved slightly this year, and he's pushed up his isolated power by 21 points. And at least he's making more hard contact: his line-drive rate was a paltry 11.9 percent last year, but it's 17.8 percent in 2012. Take those numbers for whatever they're worth to you.
Gomez has a mere .250 average and .316 OBP during his four-week binge, so I'm not going to tell you this is a magnificent real-life player. But given the new baseline in MLB's world (scoring, power and speed are all down from last year), I'll take category juice just about anywhere I can get it. Gomez will probably get a chance to take a job and run with it, and he's free to grab in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He's still just 26.
Maybe this story will fade away quickly, or maybe this is one of those out-of-nowhere finds that will spark our late-season rallies. You decide what it means to you.
• Meet the new Coco, same as the old Coco. The first Francisco Cordero save chance in Houston was a failure: three hits and three runs, two walks, one homer allowed. The ninth-inning rally sparked Mike Leake to a victory (nice stream, kid) and took a win away from Lucas Harrell. Tough times in H-Town.
The Astros have a logical reason to try Cordero in the closer's chair — if they could flip Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon, they can flip almost anyone — but I wonder if Cordero might force a quick change in the closer position, given how poorly he's thrown this year. He had a 5.77 ERA and 1.81 WHIP in Toronto and the AL batted .340 against him. He's already allowed eight homers in 36 innings this year. Why would you want this man handling any high-leverage situation?
Unheralded Houston righty Wilton Lopez is one of my favorite stash-and-hold relievers of the moment. He's posted an ERA under 3.00 in each full season, and his 2012 profile grabs your attention: 2.61 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 30 strikeouts, just five walks. Lefties hit him fairly well in 2010 and 2011, but they're slashing a mere .234/.269/.234 against Lopez this year. If and when the Cordero cord is cut, Lopez should be next in line.
• Whoever closes for the Astros the rest of the way won't have Wandy Rodriguez to set the table. The Houston lefty was dispatched to the Pirates on Tuesday, essentially a salary-relief move (the Astros did receive three unexciting prospects). It's a kick forward for Rodriguez's fantasy value, as PNC Park is a pitcher's haven (look at what it's done for A.J. Burnett) and the Bucs are no doubt a contending ballclub with a strong bullpen.
Rodriguez can now re-apply for Circle of Trust membership; I'll get back to him by the end of the week. He's carrying a 3.79 ERA and 1.27 WHIP at the moment, but I expect both of those ratios to drop over the final two months.
• What are we to make of the R.A. Dickey slump in July? He's allowed 39 hits and 21 runs (19 earned) over 26.1 innings, good for a 6.49 ERA. That .404 BABIP is crazy-unlucky, sure, but he's also allowing line drives 24 percent of the time. The K/BB ratio is in place, with 23 whiffs against just five walks. He's allowed three homers.
I know Dickey throws the knuckleballer harder than anyone else has and his first-half run was ridiculous, but I can't help but think of mad knuckler runs from the past and how they ended. Tim Wakefield had a 1.65 ERA through 17 starts in 1995, but he crashed over his final 10 appearances (5.60 ERA).
Is Dickey still a Top 20 arm to you? A Top 30 arm? What's the best pitcher you'd give up to acquire him right now? What's the weakest arm you'd accept in a trade? Let's try to get through this together. I don't have Dickey on any teams, something I've regretted most of the year. But I don't envy his owners right this second.
• The Yankees might have unceremoniously stolen Ichiro Suzuki while in Seattle, but the Emerald City doesn't have to sit through any more Alex Rodriguez at-bats this week. A-Rod took a Felix Hernandez pitch off the left hand Tuesday night, resulting in a fracture. He'll be down 6-8 weeks, and perhaps it will push New York into the trade market for a third baseman. San Diego's Chase Headley looks like an interesting possibility; he's rocking a .279/.378/.488 slash on the road this year, and that doesn't include the homer he crushed off Tim Lincecum on Wednesday afternoon.
Fantasy owners need to scout a replacement as well, so let's get some options cooking. In the shallow formats, consider Pedro Alvarez (53 percent, still love the pop), Daniel Murphy (59 percent, on fire this month), Chipper Jones (39 percent, Funston approved) and Headley. If you need to look deeper, Todd Frazier (10 percent), Jordan Pacheco (three percent) or Wilson Betemit (five percent) might be worth a click.
• I'm surprised Lorenzo Cain is only owned in 24 percent of Yahoo! pools; he's long gone in every competitive mixer I've sampled. The Rampaging Royal cranked another homer Tuesday and he also stole a base. He's hitting .321 on the year (slugging .536) and Ned Yost slots him in the middle of the lineup. Cain was a sleeper-pick staple back in March, and he's finally healthy again. What's not to like?