Bringin’ the Noise: New sensation

Addiction can come in many forms.

For Doc Gooden it was cocaine, Ozzie Guillen certain four-letter words and A-Rod busty pop stars wrought with cougardom.

But ask any sports obsessed 10-year-old (or Chris Cooley) what’s more compulsive, crystal meth or sports cards, and they would instantly support the latter.

Throughout the summer of 1992 irrepressible thoughts of motionless players on glossy cardboard captivated the Noise’s mind. Although it was the age of overproduction, the Fleer Company did something so brilliant, so enrapturing that it sent the Upper Deck-crazed world of card collecting into a blood-thirsty frenzy, they inserted a UV-coated, gold-foiled subset into packs. Its name: “Rookie Sensations.”

Randomly inserted exclusively in jumbo packs, the elusive 20-card set featured the day’s elite prospects: Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Chuck Knoblauch. It also featured once highly touted but now unmemorable early 90s products Todd Van Poppel, Wes Chamberlain, Brian McCrae and, the Noise’s personal favorite, Phil Plantier.

Sleep was lost. Money was blown. Friendships were compromised. And collecting ethics were questioned, as incensed prepubescents pressed the translucent green wrapper against the 35-card deck to see if a dark blue strip appeared.

Without a doubt sifting through the hideous teal-colored base set hoping to uncover the ultra-rare Big Hurt consumed this writer’s life …

Today, fantasy owners are collecting their own “Rookie Sensations.” Jay Bruce, Chris Davis and Chase Headley are some of the more prominent prospects that have made significant impacts on virtual squads.

But none of them are comparable to that tough-to-find Frank Thomas.

Nope. That designation belongs to a hidden gem, Milwaukee’s Mat Gamel.

Now that Matt LaPorta is on the fast-track to an everyday gig in Cleveland and CC Sabathia is crushing chorizos with the Brewers, Gamel could wind up with the senior club soon.

The lefty masher, who was unsure he had a future in baseball just four short years ago, is primed for super stardom.

Selected by the Brewers three rounds after Ryan Braun (4th round) in the 2005 first-year draft, Gamel has carved an impressive path through the Milwaukee system. A patient, yet tenacious hitter, the bushy-haired 22-year-old has compiled glitzy numbers for Double-A Huntsville. In 366 at-bats, the Futures All-Star has slapped a mind-blowing .372 BA with 15 homers, 31 doubles and 76 RBIs. His spectacular .432 OBP, 1.044 OPS and, get this, .394 BA versus southpaws has made NL-only/deep-mixed leaguers, and colleague Andy Behrens, salivate.

The Brewers platoon of Russell Branyan and Bill Hall has performed adequately over the season’s first-half. Yes, their combined .233 BA and 109 strikeouts in 354 at-bats are detestable, but with 22 homers and 54 RBIs total they’ve managed to fend off Gamel’s inevitable promotion.

So when will that promotion be?

Defensive woes have plagued Gamel throughout his young career, as his 23 errors in 89 games with the Stars this season attest. Assistant GM Gordy Ash told in mid-June that because of his suspect glove the current plan is to “let him stay at Double-A … the Southern League, is a very solid pitching league, and we’re probably going to leave him there and let him have an outstanding year there – let him dominate.”

However, Milwaukee’s commitment to winning implies that a pre-September call-up is not only possible, but likely.

And when that happens, Y! owners with favorable waiver positions should be willing to sacrifice it for one of fantasy baseball’s most collectable “Rookie Sensations.”

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

Fantasy Flames
Cody Ross OF 176 8.1
’08 Stats: .267 BA,15 HR, 47 RBI, 28 R, 4 SB, 44:16 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Over the holiday weekend, Florida’s “Toy Cannon” recreated the rockets’ red glare in the skies above Coors Field. In four games, the pint-sized bomber hammered out 12 hits, including two mammoth homers and six doubles, driving in 15 runs. Since mid-June, Ross has outpaced fantasy studs Ryan Braun, Ichiro Suzuki and Pat Burrell in Y! leagues, compiling a .311 BA with four homers, 23 RBIs and 11 runs. Although terribly streaky, the 27-year-old has benefited greatly from hitting coach Jim Presley’s tutelage. Emphasizing more patience, Ross has shed his pull-happy ways, driving pitches routinely to the opposite field. If he exudes continued maturity at the dish, his BA totals should remain respectable. Given his tremendous raw power, adjusted approach and everyday at-bats, 30 homers and 90 RBIs is achievable. Owners in 12-team mixed leagues looking for a power spark should scour the wire for his services.
Fearless Forecast: 440 at-bats, .262 BA, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 57 R, 7 SB
Chad Tracy 1B, 3B 929 0.22
’08 Stats: .283 BA, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 9 R, 0 SB, 17:6 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (deep mixed), Strong Buy (NL-only)
Lowdown: Tracy, who could amass a fortune as a Ryan Dempster impersonator in Chicago, is starting to sizzle. With Eric Byrnes sidelined, the largely forgotten corner infielder has manned first base nearly every day. Because Byrnes is contemplating season-ending surgery on his troublesome hamstring, Tracy’s role as a regular could be cemented. Currently riding a seven-game hit streak, the 28-year-old hook’s sparkling 84.5 contact and 52.4 fly-ball percentages suggests he’ll be more than adequate in BA and homers over the remainder of the season. Remember, Tracy tallied a .308 BA with 27 homers in ’06 and followed with a .281 BA and 20 bombs in ’07. Batting fifth behind Connor Jackson, he’ll have numerous opportunities to drive in runs. Owners thin at corner infield in deeper leagues should cage this venomous Snake.
Fearless Forecast: 330 at-bats, .287 BA, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 37 R, 0 SB
Adam Jones OF 254 3.6
’08 Stats: .291 BA, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 36 R, 7 SB, 7:2 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (deep mixed)
Lowdown: Jones, who infamous prankster Kevin Millar must have slipped a “mickey” to on photo day, hasn’t wielded a slumberous bat in recent weeks. Since June 26, the former Seattle prospect has rocketed his BA upward 24 points, slapping a .432 mark (19-for-44) and tallying five multi-hit games over that span. The 22-year-old’s natural athleticism and plus tools could make any keeper leaguer’s heart pound. However, many anxious owners in yearly leagues aren’t backing him because of his lack of power. Eventually, Jones’ 20-25 homer stroke will come alive, but he must balance his unappealing 1.26 GB/FB ratio to do so. Last year in 485 at-bats between Tacoma and Seattle, he totaled 29 bleacher shots. Because he bats primarily in the 7th/8th spot in the Orioles order, Jones’ RBI totals will suffer. But given his plus speed and healthy contact numbers (76.9 CT%), he’ll be a noteworthy producer in BA and steals for owners in deep-mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 575 at-bats, .286 BA, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 67 R, 14 SB
Dave Bush SP 688 2.7
’08 Stats: 98.2 IP, 4 W, 4.74 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 53:26 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (mixed), Moderate Sell (NL-only)
Lowdown: For the most part, fantasy followers in NL-only and very deep mixed leagues have been Bushwhacked. But in his past four starts, the Brewers hurler has done just that to opposing hitters. During that stretch, the 28-year-old has won two decisions and posted a 2.57 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 28.0 IP. The former buzz sleeper possesses a variable arsenal – 87-90 mph fastball, slider, low-80s cutter, curve and change – which, when on, can be devastatingly effective. Because he suffers from split syndrome, Bush is only reliable when surrounded by costumed sausages. In eight Miller Park starts, he’s tallied a 2.87 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Conversely, he’s notched a 6.85 ERA away. Given his impeccable command (1.29 BB/9 L4) and with two of his next three starts at home, the former Toronto product will be very dependable for those that employ streaming tactics. However, due to his fortunate .260 BABIP and unattactive 45.8 FB%, NL-only owners may want to take a profit soon.
Fearless Forecast: 175 IP, 9 W, 4.86 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 98 K
Ubaldo Jimenez SP 760 32.7
’08 Stats: 107.0 IP, 4 W, 4.21 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 86:57 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy/Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: If Ubaldo strings together a few more gems, cheesy Propecia commercials are surely in his future. In his past six outings, the 24-year-old flamethrower has won three times, collecting a 1.75 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 41.1 IP. Considered effectively wild by most scouts, Jimenez is difficult to touch when hitting his spots, indicative of his 59.8 GB% since mid-June. Lately, he’s been a reliable source of quality starts, but his 4.16 BB/9 during his recent hot streak proves his command is still untrustworthy. Chip in a lucky .249 BABIP over that span and Jimenez, the 22nd best starter in Y! leagues over the past 30 days, is someone to shop. Similar to Bush, he relishes the creature comforts of home (2.67 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), but with three of his next four starts coming on the road (5.98 ERA, 1.83 WHIP away) anticipate an ERA/WHIP spike. Jimenez, shipped straight up for Rickie Weeks, Aaron Rowand and A.J. Burnett in Y! Plus league deals this week, has exceeded his true trade worth.
Fearless Forecast : 185 IP, 7 W, 4.66 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 151 K

Fantasy Lames
Rich Harden SP 72 99.8
’08 Stats: 77.0 IP, 5 W, 2.34 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 92:31 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: The naive will contest that Harden’s move to Chi-town will increase his wins and thus his overall value. Considering the 26-year-old garnered just 4.44 runs per nine in Oakland, they’re right. But those wins could come at a great cost to his ERA and WHIP. Harden’s 3.62 BB/9 and 50.3 FB% are frightening prospects pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley Field. He’s surrendered few long-balls this season (0.58 HR/9), but his number of homers yielded could march northward if the current trends persist. Not to mention he’s overdue for a prolonged DL stint. If Harden can circumvent the injury imp and rely more on his splitter to induce groundball outs he will dominate in blue pinstripes. But Harden backers who don’t have iron stomachs may want to send out a few feelers. This week he’s attracted marquee talents, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Cabrera and Brian McCann in one-for-one Y! Plus league deals
Fearless Forecast (w/Chicago): 85 IP, 7 W, 3.76 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 99 K
Dustin McGowan SP 356 82.9
’08 Stats: 111.1 IP, 6 W, 4.37 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 86:38 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Well, that should expedite A.J. Burnett’s departure. Already confounded by rising ERA and WHIP totals, McGroan could miss extensive time, pending MRI results on his tender right forearm. Cito Gaston remarked that his pitcher’s velocity had dropped off dramatically, telling July 8, “I think he only hit 94 mph one time. We could tell by the velocity that he wasn’t himself.” The mutton chops master has indeed underperformed in recent weeks. He hasn’t logged a quality start since June 10 and has registered a ghastly 5.86 ERA in his past five starts. McGowan has pitched with tolerable pain for a few starts, which explains his sharp increase in HR/9 (1.72) and 3.8 K/9 in his past 26.1 IP. Even if tests reveal minimal damage, a stint on the DL is inevitable. Toss him into the free agent pool in 12-team and shallower mixed leagues. A few widely available stopgaps: Nick Blackburn (6.7 percent owned), Chan Ho Park (6.5 percent), John Lannan (3.1 percent) and Mike Pelfrey (3.1 percent).
Fearless Forecast: 103 rehabilitation hours, 26 trainer sessions
Kosuke Fukudome OF 104 97.7
’08 Stats: .285 BA, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 58 R, 8 SB, 64:55 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: The media hype surrounding Fukudome has brainwashed more fantasy owners than Pokemon has American children. In reality, the Japanese import is nothing short of a sensation, but in the world of virtual sports he’s terribly misunderstood. Since June 28, the All-Star outfielder has recorded just six hits in 37 at-bats (.162 BA), trimming 16 points off his average. According to Lou Piniella, he’s fallen behind too often early in counts, which has caused him to chase a large number of unfavorable outside pitches. Given his dramatic increase in strikeouts (32.4 K%) and 68.2 GB% in his past 10 games, it clearly explains why he’s logged just one extra base-hit over that span. Across the board his numbers are healthy, but he’s no more valuable than less owned Giants Randy Winn and Fred Lewis. Based on the recent one-for-one trades for Fukudome in Y! Plus leagues (John Danks, Alexei Ramirez and Yunel Escobar), incompetent owners have overpaid for the brand name. In the numbers-driven fantasy world, Fukudome has been and will continue to be unspectacular in most categories.
Fearless Forecast: 570 at-bats, .290 BA, 12 HR, 67 RBI, 102 R, 14 SB
Edgar Renteria SS 389 85.7
’08 Stats: .254 BA, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 39 R, 2 SB, 37:22 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Tigers Stadium’s tumbling walls is the perfect metaphor for Renteria’s plummeting batting average. In his past 30 at-bats, the Tigers shortstop has tallied just two hits, sinking his batting average 21 points since June 30. Deflated by the long dry spell, Renteria told the Detroit News earlier this week he “feels bad,” adding, “It’s a disappointment when you’re fighting something.” Owners who’ve supported the 34-year-old through his troubles unquestionably share similar feelings. But looking at the peripherals there are uplifting signs. Renteria’s stellar 85.6 CT%, low K rate (12.2 K%) and 22.0 LD% point to a BA turnaround. Still, owners who are anticipating double-digit steals will continue to house disdainful thoughts. But he should be more than serviceable in BA, runs and homers at his position going forward. Traded recently for Carlos Delgado, Joe Crede and C.J. Wilson in Plus league solo swaps, Renteria is someone to inquire about if you’re in the market for MI help.
Fearless Forecast:575 at-bats, .278 BA, 12 HR, 68 RBI, 80 R, 7 SB
Miguel Tejada SS 80 99.8
’08 Stats: .277 BA, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 59 R, 7 SB, 44:19 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: The 72-year-old Tejada is starting to wrinkle. Just four for his past 36 (.111 BA), the ‘Stros shortstop has been a statistical abomination. With zero homers since June 19 and a cascading batting average, Tejada ranks behind such numbers titans as Willie Bloomquist and Jack Wilson in Y! leagues over the past 30 days. Still, his favorable 86.7 CT% and 25.3 LD% are positive signs his BA will soon reverse course. However, the power outage will likely extend. Until he starts driving the ball with more authority (30.9 FB%), hits will harmlessly stay in the park. At this point in his career, Tejada is a slightly better version of Yunel Escobar. If you’re in need of BA assistance buy cheap, but for those searching for a pitcher, deal him. This week in Y! Plus league solo transactions Tejada was dealt straight up for Erik Bedard and Francisco Cordero.
Fearless Forecast: 625 at-bats, .292 BA, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 103 R, 11 SB

Don’t know what FB% means? Check out our sabermetric glossary.
Y!RNK - Overall player ranking in Yahoo! leagues
Y!% - Percentage owned in Yahoo! leagues
- All stats listed are for games played through July 9

Upset you don’t have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Joe Borowski? Do you question why on earth you’re not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?

Brad, Finally, someone called out Andruw Jones for his “weinerness”! Hell, last season I recognized his terminal lack of contact, and shipped him off in both my fantasy leagues for much more productive players. My counterparts in those trades didn’t believe that his drop in production was real! He’s been sliding for 2-3 years, not just offensively (which is pretty much all that matters in fantasy), but also defensively. He still garners lots of Gold Glove votes, based mostly on his reputation, but now has to dive or slide for balls he would have caught easily 3-4 years ago. This guy was a horrendous addition by the Dodgers. I haven’t done the research, but I would bet that LA has a better record without him than they did with him.John, Osan AB, Korea

If you’re talking about the seven dirty words of baseball, I can’t believe you left out possibly the most sophomorically hilarious last name in sports history: Pujols. C’mon. That’s golden. Levi, Nashville, Tenn.

Noise: Due to my unwavering allegiance to the Cubs I couldn’t muster typing the word Pu … Puj … Pujo … damn, still can’t do it. Honestly, I’m surprised a potty house manufacturer in St. Louis hasn’t copyrighted the name.

Dude seven dirty words and you didn’t use A-Rod. I guess that could be two, but there is a hyphen. Everything about A- rod is dirty. But the seven you picked were funny.Kyle, London

Noise: Now that A-Rod’s alleged adultery is now front page news, do you think the Yankees should embroider a gothic-styled ‘A’ on his jersey.

On another note, who wouldn’t want to be A-Rod’s lawyer Ira M. Elegant right now? Not only is his last name positively splendid, he’s overseeing “Stray-Rod’s” divorce proceedings while simultaneously representing Shaq in his. That’s the equivalent of hitting the lottery twice in the same year or owning Lance Berkman and Edinson Volquez on the same fantasy team. It’s safe to say, the impending recession will have no effect on the law offices of Buchbinder & Elegant.

Geez, how could your SP wiener have been anyone but Aaron Harang? I suffered through half a season with him, before finally giving up. Erik Bedard’s numbers are actually pretty good by comparison. Bedard even has more wins pitching for a terrible team, despite having spent time on the DL. Todd, Benton, Ill.

Noise: Bedard, an Ontario native, was chosen solely because it was necessary to blame Canada for something. Jeff Francis wasn’t considered because of his striking resemblance to the Noise. Rich Harden is actually healthy for once. And Ryan Dempster has suddenly morphed into Rick Sutcliffe. So, despite having a better ERA and more wins, Bedard’s plummeting K/9 and inescapable fragility outranked Harang.

As for the bumbling ace’s value, if his right forearm stiffness doesn’t linger he will have a refreshing second half. His terribly unlucky .331 BABIP suggests an imminent turnaround. Based on what Harang was dealt for this week in Y! Plus league solo deals – Matt Kemp, Aaron Cook and Justin Upton – he’s worth the minimum investment.

Eric Byrnes should have been your outfield wiener. Like you said, “The 35 SB pace is a silver lining”, Byrnes doesn’t even come with ketchup.Bovie, Baltimore

Noise: Careful, Bovie. Even when discussing fantasy abominations it’s important we don’t ever use the word “ketchup” in the same thought as wiener. Mixing the two is not only disgusting but also grounds for incarceration in the Windy City.

You’re correct. Byrnes is All-Wiener material. He was seriously considered, but because injury was his downfall, the nomination was awarded to Alex Rios.

For those in denial, Byrnes will be of no value to any team for the remainder of the season. As discussed earlier, he’s contemplating season ending surgery on his balky left hamstring. Because of his gritty, energetic approach, he wouldn’t swipe many bases even if he did return, limiting his overall worth.

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 Wednesday, Jul 9, 2008