Roto Arcade

Shuffle Up: How I learned to stop worrying and love Melky Cabrera

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Cash Cow (USP)

This week's Shuffle Up experience comes in the outfield. What's happened to this point works as an audition, but we're looking to judge the value for the final two months. Players at the same price are consider even, and all that matters is how the commodities relate to one another — don't obsess over the prices in a vacuum.

Assume a 5x5 rotisserie scoring system, because we're reasonable men. And remember that players on your own team don't gain 10-20 percent of bonus value. Keep both cleats on the ground as you negotiate the list.

I welcome your intelligent and respectful feedback; win the debate, win the rank. I'll tweak this list as the day goes along, and I'll try to answer as many worthwhile inquiries as I can. We're all in this together, gamer.

Just the prices for now, consider this Volume 1.0. Commentary will be up a little later. Make the jump, run some laps with us.

$30 Ryan Braun
$30 Mike Trout
$29 Andrew McCutchen
$28 Matt Kemp
$26 Carlos Gonzalez
$23 Curtis Granderson
$23 Mark Trumbo
$22 Josh Hamilton
$22 Matt Holliday
$21 Adam Jones
$21 Yoenis Cespedes
$20 Adrian Gonzalez
$20 Michael Bourn
$20 Jacoby Ellsbury
$20 Melky Cabrera
$20 Shin-Soo Choo
$20 Allen Craig

I don't see any clear or simple answer on Josh Hamilton. He's obviously in a monstrous slump right now, hacking at anything and everything, but keep in mind he chase a ton of pitches out of the zone when he's going well. Is there a vision issue at play? Is the contract stress looming over him? Maybe it's just random variance at play, I suppose. The backdrop of Arlington and Hamilton's massive potential keep him somewhat buoyed in these rankings, but think back to how much he would have commanded if you sold in mid-May. That's why your entire roster should be considered available at all times, no matter how well they're playing. Never deem anyone untouchable.

It's difficult to find any fly in the Melky Cabrera ointment right now. He's crushing against lefties (1.207 OPS, just silly) and terrific against righties (.325/.364/.446). He's hitting .341 at home, .370 on the road, .317 during the day, .384 at night. His worst fantasy month came in April, when he hit .300 with 14 runs and five stolen bases. He's become a player I will stop and observe, dropping everything else, whenever he strides to the plate.

I know the statheads have to note the .389 BABIP and shout out "Regression!" — but that's never a destination for us, not a final answer. What level does Cabrera regress to? I'm not going to worry here because I know he's making a lot of his own luck: he's hitting line drives 22.8 percent of the time and his ground-ball rate has pushed up to 52.1 percent (highest of his career, adds some batting-average points). He's carrying an elite contact rate and he's trimmed his swinging strike rate slightly. Maybe he won't be hitting .356 when the year is over, but he'll be well over .300, along with a contribution in the other four key categories. Enjoy the ride.

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Call it a comeback (USP)

$19 Alex Rios
$19 Jason Kubel
$18 Nelson Cruz
$18 Jason Heyward
$18 Josh Willingham
$18 Austin Jackson
$17 Hunter Pence
$17 Adam Dunn
$17 Josh Reddick
$17 Jay Bruce
$17 Andre Ethier
$16 Michael Cuddyer
$16 Desmond Jennings
$16 Michael Morse
$16 Bryce Harper

In a lot of ways Alex Rios was the batting equivalent of Ryan Dempster entering 2012; a guy screwed over so badly by luck last year, it had almost no chance of repeating. Rios raised his line-drive rate and improved his contact rate in 2011, which should have helped his batting average. Instead, he hit a paltry .227, driven by a black-cat unlucky .237 BABIP. And his power dip in 2011 was tied to his career-worst HR/FB number. This year Rios is enjoying life on the other side, as his hit rate is 12 points higher than his career baseline and his HR/FB rate is a personal best. He's been reliable in all venues, too, as there's virtually no difference to his home and road numbers.

It's nice to see Jay Bruce 7-for-8 on the bases, not that the final total will be a move-the-needle number. But his batting average is going to drop for the third straight year and he's never passed 84 runs in a season. Bruce is still trying to figure out lefties, a long running theme (.219/.283/.362, 36 strikeouts in 105 at-bats). You're getting nice power production from this guy, but make sure you note the flaws as well. He's one of those players who is consistently overdrafted every March — power gets everyone's attention, but pop isn't everything in the 5x5 world.

Desmond Jennings still has ugly seasonal stats, but we've seen an uptick in July: 14 runs, two homers, 6-for-6 on steals. And while it's just a 15-game sample, he is batting .280 after the All-Star break. The Rays haven't given up on him (he's jumped into the leadoff spot for the last five games) and neither should you; category juice is a wonderful thing.

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Clipped bird (USP)

$15 B.J. Upton
$15 Emilio Bonifacio
$15 Colby Rasmus
$14 Carlos Beltran
$13 Ben Zobrist
$13 Shane Victorino
$13 Corey Hart
$13 Chris Young
$13 Lorenzo Cain
$12 Justin Upton
$12 Nick Swisher
$12 Alfonso Soriano
$12 Coco Crisp
$12 Ben Revere
$12 Martin Prado
$11 Alejandro De Aza
$11 Drew Stubbs
$11 Dexter Fowler
$11 Chris Davis
$11 Michael Brantley
$11 Todd Frazier
$11 Garrett Jones

Carlos Beltran isn't someone I have a lot of faith in going forward. Although he swiped five bags in April, he's basically shut that part of the game down since (4-for-7). He's moving gingerly in the outfield, he's in a .187 funk this month, and the Cardinals already have a glutted roster of viable bats, which results in occasional down time for players like Beltran. Now might be a good time to try to sell off the seasonal numbers; perhaps you can still get out while the getting is good. Keep in mind this is a 35-year-old with a history of physical ailments.

If I could be sure Coco Crisp would stay healthy for the balance of 2012, he'd be in the $15-16 range. But you know the history there. … Todd Frazier pushes up an extra buck for the three positions of eligibility (and the snappy Sinatra walk-up music is cool as well). Another post-hype kid makes good. … Martin Prado is a nice player with the batting average and sneaky speed, but there isn't much in the power categories and he has a modest 54 runs scored. Everyone else seems to like him more than I do. … Something obviously isn't right with Justin Upton, be it physical, mental, or both. Let him be someone else's 2012 problem.

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New stripes (USP)

$10 Alex Gordon
$10 Brennan Boesch
$10 Justin Ruggiano
$10 Ichiro Suzuki
$9 Carlos Quentin
$9 Carl Crawford
$9 Angel Pagan
$8 Carlos Gomez
$8 Lance Berkman
$8 Torii Hunter
$8 Ryan Ludwick
$7 Seth Smith
$7 Dayan Viciedo
$7 Howie Kendrick
$7 Nick Markakis
$7 Cody Ross
$7 Cameron Maybin
$7 Delmon Young
$7 Starling Marte

If you desperately need a push up in batting average, Ichiro Suzuki makes a lot of sense as a trade target. He's carrying the worst BABIP of his career (.261) despite the fact he can still run (16 steals) and square up the ball (25.9 percent line-drive rate). He no longer has to toil at Safeco Field (.216/.259/.292 slash this year) and the Yankees will sit him against some lefties, a good thing (he's batting .238 against them). I'll set Ichiro's over/under at .285 for the rest of the way, and it wouldn't shock me if he hit much higher than that.

A lot of rotoheads went gaga when Starling Marte cranked a homer on the first MLB pitch he saw, but it hasn't been sunshine and lollipops since then. He's just 1-for-12 over the rest of his first week, with three strikeouts (no walks) and one pickoff on the bases. Keep in mind this is a raw 23-year-old; a toolsy kid who's still learning how to play the game and how to work the strike zone. I still think he's worth a flier for medium and deep mixers, but if you play in a shallow format and only need three outfield fills, Marte isn't good enough for your roster yet.

I can't guarantee you the Carlos Gomez story is going to last, but he's collected five homers and 10 steals this month (through Sunday's action) and he's always had elite wheels. This is the exact type of guy you grab with the fluid back-of-roster spots; keep him if it lasts, and go on to the next story when it doesn't. Players emerge from out of nowhere all the time. And heck, Gomez is still just 26.

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Running Raj (USP)

$6 Carlos Lee
$6 Bryan LaHair
$6 Juan Pierre
$6 Rajai Davis
$5 Travis Snider
$5 Jordany Valdespin
$5 Kendrys Morales
$5 Alexi Amarista
$4 Denard Span
$3 Quintin Berry
$3 David Murphy
$3 Mike Carp
$3 Casper Wells
$3 Jerry Hairston Jr.
$3 Jon Jay
$3 J.D. Martinez
$3 Michael Saunders
$3 Norichika Aoki

There's one wonderful theme tied to Rajai Davis — he can run, and he'll run whenever he gets the chance. Lefties and righties, it doesn't matter. Game situations, who cares? Davis has his sites on another swipe. But the Blue Jays have never felt comfortable with him as a starter, and I wonder if Davis's spot could be in jeopardy on the heels of a .206/.282/.365 slash this month. Toronto is still close enough to the Wild Card spots that it has to take the 2012 games seriously, and there's a ton of outfield depth in this organization. We might have already seen the high-water mark for this rabbit.

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French in low places (USP)

$2 Matt Joyce
$2 Wilson Betemit
$2 Gregor Blanco
$2 Tyler Colvin
$2 Yonder Alonso
$1 Willie Bloomquist
$1 Brandon Moss
$1 Alex Presley
$1 Jesus Guzman
$1 Roger Bernadina
$1 Steve Lombardozzi
$1 Raul Ibanez
$1 Jordan Schafer
$0 Tony Campana
$0 Scott Hairston
$0 David DeJesus
$0 Daniel Nava
$0 Johnny Damon
$0 Bobby Abreu
$0 Anthony Gose
$0 Jonny Gomes
$0 Juan Rivera
$0 Brandon Belt
$0 Gerardo Parra
$0 Shelley Duncan
$0 Andruw Jones
$0 Andres Torres
$0 Chris Denorfia
$0 Skip Schumaker
-$1 Jeff Francoeur
-$2 Nyjer Morgan

We had a lot of good times, Frenchy. You bought food for the fans in the bleachers, you flashed that smile and that great throwing arm on the field. We had a blast in 2011. You've always been easy to root for. But that .238/.275/.366 slash line doesn't deserve a spot in the lineup any longer, and you're just 1-for-6 on the bases. It's time to move on, amigo. And it's time for the Royals to see what Wil Myers can do.

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