Bringin’ the Noise: Ray of hope

Over the course of baseball history, lopsided trades have forever tainted general manager reputations, inspired comedic punchlines and alienated fanbases.

They’ve also driven a certain fantasy writer mad.

During the Noise’s 31 years annoying the general populace on this planet, several perplexing deals have left an indelible stamp on his Old Style-stained brain, including: Joe Nathan(notes), Francisco Liriano(notes) and Boof Bonser(notes) for A.J. Pierzynski(notes) (2003), John Smoltz(notes) for Doyle Alexander (1987), and the most heart-wrenching swap of all, Dennis Eckersley for three minor-league titans David Wilder, Brian Guinn and Mark Leonette (1987). Damn you, Dallas Green. Damn you.

Although it garnered little attention from the mainstream media this past offseason, the Rays and Tigers collaborated on a simple one-for-one deal that, unknown to members of the fantasy community following the move at its inception, would eventually alter the tilt of the virtual sports world.

The transaction: Pitcher Edwin Jackson(notes) shipped from Tampa Bay to Detroit for outfielder Matt Joyce(notes).

Despite being a 14-game winner for the American League champs, Jackson’s change of address warranted little uproar from the cowbell-chiming Rays community. The righty’s spotty command and sluggish statistical advancements, combined with the rise of top prospects David Price(notes) and Jeff Niemann(notes), tabbed the fifth starter disposable. But with a nearly impeccable 2.16 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 6-3 mark in ’09, the former elite pitching prospect has made the deal seem like the baseball card equivalent of swapping an ’87 Donruss Greg Maddux Rated Rookie for an ’88 Fleer Sam Horn.

Photo
Joyce certainly has the stick to overcome his trade footnote stigma. All he needs to do is marinade his Louisville Slugger in Ben Zobrist’s(notes) ball-cranking muscle juice.
(Getty Images)
However, Joyce, a Tampa native, isn’t about to horn the hometown crowd.

The heavy-lumbered 24-year-old, who was recalled from Triple-A Durham May 30, will be given an extended look in right field over the next several weeks. Though he’s produced lackluster results since his promotion (5-21, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R, SB), the lefty-swinger is a powerful bopper with substantial upside. His across-the-board contributions and passive aggressive approach has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia’s Jayson Werth(notes). Not bothered by Joyce’s .188 batting average, Joe Maddon has already become rather infatuated with the youngster:

“I’ve been saying all along, this guy’s got a special bat. It makes a different sound when it hits the ball … I still believe the best trade is a trade that benefits both sides, and I believe that’s how this is going to work out. I believe that Matt Joyce is going to be a really good every-day outfielder with the kind of power you saw tonight [June 2]. He’s a baseball player. You can see the way he moves. He’s got that looseness about his body. It’s a nice, loose, agile way about him, really loose swing with tremendous bat speed. I also believe he’s going to eventually be one of those guys who works a count well, sees a lot of pitches and hits the ball for power.”

Joyce is occasionally too pull conscious, but his mammoth plate muscle (career 18.3 AB/HR) and above average tools suggests the current value gap between him and Jackson will inevitably shrink.

Before being recalled, he showed signs of a developmental leap in Durham. In 149 at-bats, he hit .315 with five homers, 27 RBI and six steals. Most impressively, Joyce exuded refined patience (12.9 BB%) and a smoother line-drive stroke (24.8 LD%), a characteristic he didn’t posses last season with the Tigers (0.74 GB/FB). Based on the improvements, it appears he’s on the precipice of a breakout.

Southpaws will continue to be an albatross (career .231 BA), which means he’ll cede a few at-bats to Gabe Kapler(notes) or Gabe Gross(notes), but roughly five starts per week should be expected. Shallow leaguers will understandably express limited interest, but for managers in formats with few wire resources, the six percent-owned outfielder could manufacture serviceable pop and RBI production as the Rays’ sixth hitter.

As of today, the overlooked deal consummated by Dave Dombrowski and Andrew Friedman back in early December appears to be a monumental D-Town fleecing. But in the very near future, Tampa fans will have a reason to Re-Joyce.

Fearless Forecast: 255 at-bats, .262 BA, 14 HR, 42 RBI, 36 R, 5 SB

Here are this week’s flames, lames and stars of video games:

Fantasy Flames
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Andrew McCutchen(notes) PIT OF 1105 70
Market Value: Moderate Sell (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: The Steel City's newest Mack Daddy has splashed onto the fantasy scene, cannonball style. The ultra-athletic offensive cog has slapped 11 hits in his first 34 at-bats, including three extra-base knocks, with a pair of fives in runs and RBIs. McCutchen's significant advancements in plate approach have led to a sharp rise in contact rate and decrease in strikeouts. His "veteran" attitude has also drawn praise from teammates. But due to the enamored feelings he's fostered among millions of managers, he's someone to consider selling high. Remember, he's a rookie whose major league equivalents imply he's more of a .260 hitter than a .300 hitter. Unquestionably, he'll be a valuable speed and runs source, but he's definitely not yet on the same plane as the names he's enticed this week in Y! Plus league one-for-one deals – Aubrey Huff(notes), Pablo Sandoval(notes) and Carlos Pena(notes). His future is blindingly bright, but profit on the hype in non-keeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 330 at-bats, .270 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 44 R, 19 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Aaron Rowand(notes) SF OF 119 59
Market Value: Moderate Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: A hidden gem on the Left Coast, Rowand has quietly smoldered over the past several weeks. Even White House Secret Service detail has sought his services. Over the past month, Rowand is the 21st-best hitter in the Yahoo! game, amassing a .368 BA with four homers, 15 RBIs, 20 runs and three steals in 106 at-bats. After snapping a 17-game hit streak June 8, the longest of his career, he's responded with three hits, three runs and one RBI in two games versus Arizona. Examining his secondary profile, the 30-year-old's GB/FB total (1.16) and contact rate (78.9) are nearly identical to 2007, a season in which he posted career bests in homers and RBIs. AT&T's cavernous specs and the Giants' often punchless lineup will prevent a repeat of '07, but on pace for a 17-81-83-11 campaign, Rowand will continue to manufacture profitable numbers in deeper mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 340 at-bats, .291 BA, 10 HR, 54 RBI, 53 R, 6 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Ian Stewart(notes) COL 2B, 3B 182 65
Market Value: Strong Power Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Officially supplanting "Garbage" Garrett at third base, the reigning NL Player of the Week has finally earned every-day playing time. Outwardly, the youngster has remained humble about the switch, but deep down imaginary face punches probably consume his thoughts. Stewart should feel arrogant. He's arguably the hottest multi-eligible player not named Ben Zobrist in fantasy, collecting five multi-hit games, four bombs and 12 RBIs since June 3. His unsightly 31.3 K percentage and uppercut swing (0.67 GB/FB) will lead to an additional prolonged slump or two, but his prodigious power and improved contact on outside pitches are positive indicators he'll be just as valuable as Dan Uggla(notes).
Fearless Forecast: 335 at-bats, .263 BA, 19 HR, 64 RBI, 54 R, 4 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Scott Podsednik(notes) CHW OF 663 22
Market Value: Moderate Speed Buy (12-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: The former World Series igniter is thrilled to be shagging fly balls on the South Side once again. Though no longer the base stealing behemoth he was earlier this decade, a wiser, more seasoned Pods is still an above average source of speed for swipe-hungry owners in deeper formats. Impressively, he's exuded more diligence at the dish, striking out just 9.4 percent of the time, well below his 16.3 career K mark. He's also posted an otherworldly 95.0 contact percentage. Jabberjaw (Ozzie Guillen) has been astonished by Pods' resurgence. Once Carlos Quentin(notes) is activated from the DL, which now could be after the All-Star Break, his playing time will become dicey. But if the 33-year-old continues to hit, he'll likely earn most starts over Brian Anderson(notes) in center. Owners in dire straits for runs and steals should seek out Podsednik immediately.
Fearless Forecast: 285 at-bats, .280 BA, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 36 R, 18 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Tony Gwynn(notes) Jr. SD OF 862 4
Market Value: Moderate Speed Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Junior Gwynn doesn't possess the Hall of Fame qualities, or inflated table bumper, of his pops, but his fleet feet and blossoming hitting abilities are tough to ignore for managers in wire-desolate formats. Now donning the same threads as his famous father, TG2 has thrived in the leadoff spot for the Pads. Since being acquired from Milwaukee for Jody Gerut(notes) May 21, he's notched a .345 BA with two RBIs, 14 runs and two steals. Drawing more free passes, he's shown noticeable restraint on pitches off the plate, which has swelled his contact rates well over 80 and provided more on-base opportunities. That approach has also attracted adoration from Senior. TG2 swiped 15 bags in just 38 games at Triple-A Nashville this season. If he can continue to wield a fiery stick, the centerfielder will be the NL's version of Podsednik. Deep leaguers fishing for steals and runs should cast a line.
Fearless Forecast: 310 at-bats, .272 BA, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 41 R, 14 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Antonio Bastardo(notes) PHI SP 530 33
Market Value: Strong Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: With his name already enshrined in the Greatest Sports Names Hall of Fame, "Rat" Bastardo is more than a punchline. The 11th-best prospect, according to Baseball America, in the Phillies organization, the 23-year-old southpaw has pitched brilliantly in his first two big league starts, totaling a 2.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and two wins. A master of deception and a command freak, he issues few walks, typically leaning on two pitches – an 88-91 mph fastball and filthy change – to baffle opponents. Dialing the velocity back on his heater in his second start against LA, he coaxed weaker contact, indicative in his 8:5 GB:FB split. His unsavory fly-ball track-record in the minors lends an ominous outlook, especially at home, but his strong 8.10 K/9 and 2.03 BB/9 on the farm combined with a strong supporting offense points to quality No. 5 numbers in 12-team and deeper mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 111 IP, 6 W, 4.24 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 92 K
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Sean West(notes) FLA SP, RP 184 19
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Against his childhood idol Randy Johnson(notes), the towering 6-foot-8 rookie was dazzling in his last start. Notching his second quality start of the season in four tries, he surrendered a mere two hits in eight shutout innings. He also totaled a very attractive 6:1 K:BB split. Scouts have compared West to a young Unit. Equipped with a nostril-singeing 92-96 mph fastball, two varying sliders and a change, he certainly has the make-up to be a future punchout beast. It's a bummer that he's not fond of mullets. Despite the positives, his Triple-A numbers outside his terrific 10.55 K/9 were hardly libido-driving (4.64 BB/9, 4.85 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) and his ugly 0.59 GB/FB ratio with the senior club is a concern. But he has enough talent to be at least marginally effective, assuming his control isn't overly erratic. Dive in deep leaguers.
Fearless Forecast: 101 IP, 5 W, 4.57 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 79 K
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Vin Mazzaro(notes) OAK SP, RP 537 29
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed), Strong Buy (AL-only)
Lowdown: Overshadowed by ballyhooed prospects Brett Anderson(notes), Trevor Cahill(notes) and, to a lesser extent, Gio Gonzalez(notes), Mazzaro could be the best of the bunch. Oakland's mound mobster primarily relies on a hard-diving sinker that scorches the gun between 92-95 mph, a pitch Bob Geren believes is the key ingredient in the youngster's "recipe for success." Although he profiled as a fly-ball artist in his first two outings (50.0 FB%), his 59.0 groundball percentage compiled earlier this year at Triple-A is more telling of Mazzaro's true identity. He'll be a mediocre strikeouts and wins source, but his plus command (2.70 BB/9 at Triple-A) and ability to induce weak contact are admirable qualities. The Coliseum's spacious environment is also a major plus. Consider him an above average rotation caboose in deeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 98 IP, 4 W, 3.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 59 K

Fantasy Lames
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Brian Roberts(notes) BAL 2B 60 98
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Along with teammate Aubrey Huff, Roberts has applied undue pressure upon himself to general a young Orioles team brimming with talent. Unfortunately, the psychological toll has allowed Roberts' sinister "Julia" side to make more than just a cameo. Wallowing in a 6-for-34 plunge (.176 BA), he's logged just two multi-hit games since May 28. More disturbing, he's swiped only one bag in his past 20 contests. Under the magnifying glass, Roberts has coaxed fewer walks and tallied an excessive amount of fly balls (48.7 FB%), which has suffocated what he does best: running. Until he reverses his GB/FB course, diminished returns should be expected. Despite the downturn, he's still one of virtual baseball's most outstanding two-baggers. If the slump extends, buy on the bear. Keep in mind, he's still on pace for a 16-61-122-30 effort.
Fearless Forecast: 390 at-bats, .280 BA, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 61 R, 21 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Ryan Zimmerman(notes) WAS 3B 36 98
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Since captivating the baseball world with a 30-game hit-streak earlier this season, Zimmerman has taken a sharp U-turn. Over his past 22 games, he's compiled a .238 BA with two homers, 10 RBIs and nine runs. Per Baseball Monster, that line ranks 159th among qualifying hitters, one spot behind of 20-team league roster staple Joe Crede(notes). Inevitably, Zimmerman was bound to cool off, but the increase in whiffs (26.0 K% since May 25) lends pause. The Nationals' corner man is capable of maintaining a BA above .300, but he's realistically more of a .290 hitter based on his 79.6 contact rate. With his surface numbers still gaudy, consider maximizing profit.
Fearless Forecast: 365 at-bats, .285 BA, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 58 R, 1 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Orlando Hudson(notes) LAD 2B 72 96
Market Value: Hold (all leagues)
Lowdown: Battered and bruised, Hudson looks as though he's endured several rounds with Bald Bull. Physically "beat up" according to Joe Torre, the normally dependable middle fielder hasn't paid fruitful dividends of late. Over his past 13 contests he's accumulated an unsatisfactory .167 BA with one homer, four RBIs and five runs. Arguably the Dodgers' most consistent producer this season, O-Dawg's current peripherals are in line with previous seasons, which indicates his recent swoon is likely a temporary mirage. On pace to obliterate previous career highs in RBIs and runs, he will undoubtedly finish in the top ten at his position. However, if the nagging injuries persist, he may trim another 15-20 points off his BA.
Fearless Forecast: 315 at-bats, .288 BA, 5 HR, 44 RBI, 49 R, 3 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Jay Bruce(notes) CIN OF 120 94
Market Value: Hold (all leagues)
Lowdown: Due to his prolific strikeout rate (23.3 K%), Bruce has finally found the "Darkness on the Edge of Town." Taking a page out of the "Geovany Soto(notes) Guide to Disastrous Sophomore Slumps," the acclaimed outfielder has experienced a mammoth 5-for-40 slide (.125 BA). Selectivity continues to be the central issue. Until he starts making steady contact on corner-painting pitches, he won't shed his outward Kingman appearance. Although the 22-year-old has flashed a keener eye ('08 BB%: 7.5, '09: 10.6), he's also suffered from a severe case of the dips, evident in his 0.69 GB/FB. Unless he pulls a Hunter Pence(notes) '08, his lowly line-drive rate (12.9) is bound to rise, which means his BA should finish north of .250. Frustrated but still confident, Bruce has been instructed by Dusty Baker to sit next to the skipper during games to learn the art of snapping pitcher tendons "some hitting stuff." Occasional power surges will persist, but, essentially he's Adam Dunn(notes).
Fearless Forecast: 390 at-bats, .266 BA, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 55 R, 6 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Howie Kendrick(notes) LAA 2B 611 58
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Although the former buzz sleeper's dumbfounding mental errors on the bases and at the dish are in dire need of Tom Emanski's tutelage, and a demotion to Salt Lake City is still very possible, there are several encouraging signs in his peripherals profile that point to the possibility that a BA tide shift is coming. First, he's drawn more contact (78.1 CT%) and walks (4.8 BB%) this season. Second, his unsustainable 12.7 line-drive percentage is likely to move upward. Finally, he's exercised more willpower on outside pitches, a sign of growing maturity. Many owners have understandably bailed on the 25-year-old, but based on the underlying numbers and bottomed out price, he's someone worth acquiring in deeper formats.
Fearless Forecast: 320 at-bats, .295 BA, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 41 R, 10 SB
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Wandy Rodriguez(notes) HOU SP 129 95
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Prior to Wednesday's rebound against the Cubs (7.0 IP, 1 ER, 6:2 K:BB), the Magic Wandy's abracadabra powers had vanished in his previous two starts. Blasted in back-to-back games by the Pirates and Rockies last week, Rodriguez yielded 12 earned in 9.2 innings. Ivan Rodriguez(notes) believed the southpaw's reversal of fortune was due to pitch-tipping, an issue he's been troubled by in the past. If revealing his hand was indeed the true culprit for the downswing, Wandy should be trusted. His dynamite peripherals and unlucky .330 BABIP imply maintaining an ERA in the low-3s is not only possible, but very likely. If a Way-Rod owner in your league is starting to sweat, fire a low-ball offer. This week in one-for-one Plus league swaps, he was dealt for Adrian Beltre(notes), Aaron Rowand and Matt Wieters(notes).
Fearless Forecast: 110 IP, 6 W, 3.46 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 99 K
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Max Scherzer(notes) ARI SP 720 91
Market Value: Strong Trade Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: It's only appropriate in the same week Zack Morris made his triumphant return to television, "The Max" is on the verge of recapturing his dominating form. Tattooed for eight earned in 3.2 innings by Atlanta May 31, Scherzer's spotty command (4.10 BB/9) and long-ball susceptibility (1.21 HR/9) has deflated his overall worth. Still, his stellar 9.56 K/9 combined with his unlucky .324 BABIP suggest he's about to undergo an ERA makeover. Throw in the fact he's induced more grounders this season than last, and Mad Max is one of the finest trade bargains currently on the market. Health is always a concern, but he's a K king available at a pauper's price. This week he netted Nick Johnson(notes), Russell Martin(notes), Carlos Zambrano(notes) and George Sherrill(notes) in one-for-one Plus league transactions.
Fearless Forecast: 97 IP, 5 W, 3.83 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 101 K
PLAYERTEAMPOSY!RKY!%
Joe Saunders(notes) LAA SP 634 90
Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Saunders' intimate relations with Lady Luck last season has extended well into 2009. Defying the Law of Averages, he's been able to sustain an ERA below 4.00 despite a .272 BABIP and 4.74 FIP. But based on his recent mediocre performance, fortune's tables might finally be turning. In his past three starts, the southpaw has allowed 13 earned in 18 innings (6.49 ERA). His 1.20 GB/FB rate is commendable, but without overpowering stuff, his vulnerability to the long ball and occasional control lapses will eventually push his ERA near 5.00. Swapped this week for Coco Crisp(notes), A.J. Burnett(notes) and Brian Wilson(notes) in Y! Plus leagues, Saunders needs to be shipped before the halo above his head disappears.
Fearless Forecast: 123 IP, 7 W, 4.95 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 72 K

*All Fearless Forecasts are projected numbers from today forward

CRUZ COUNTER
To remind colleagues Jeff Passan and Mark Pesavento of the $50 donation they’ll be contributing to the Noise’s import beer fund, Nelson Cruz’s(notes) long-ball tally will be noted each week. Remember, the original bet was over/under 25 homers.

Caribbean Cruz connections since last week: 1
Season total: 17
Moonshots to the money: 9
Pace: 47

Brad "The Big Noise" Evans has obsessed about his fantasy teams since the days when Jeff George had value. Yahoo! Sports fantasy’s resident baseball, football and bracketology expert, Brad also lends advice on the two-time Emmy-nominated webcast "Fantasy Football Live" each NFL Sunday.
Follow him on Twitter. Send Brad a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Jun 11, 2009