Bringin’ the Noise: Socked away

Sadly, every season countless fantasy owners are victimized by the same tired story.

Boy spends early-round pick on outfielder coming off a breakout season. Boy becomes smitten with last year’s totals. Boy foolishly raises bar of expectations. Boy watches beloved pick slumber through first two months. Boy gets socked in the face when man-crush is DL’ed by an unpronounceable injury. Boy misses prime free agents due to occupied roster spot. Boy spirals into depressive state. Boy becomes uninterested in canoodling attractive women. Boy seeks counsel from Captain Morgan. Boy routinely cries himself to sleep. Boy prays tainted asset can salvage season upon return …

For Carlos “San” Quentin owners, the above scenario is all too familiar. Encaged in solitary confinement for the past two months, supporters of the outfielder have experienced feelings of frustration, rage and insatiable eagerness. Their emotions are completely justified.

Due to a plaguing foot injury, handshakes and backside spanks have been few and far between for Quentin.
(US Presswire)
Around this time last year, the very deserving former D-Backs top prospect was basking in All-Star glory at Yankee Stadium. Over the first-half, the year’s biggest offensive surprise had accumulated gaudy numbers – 339 at-bats, .277 BA, 22 HR, 70 RBI, 62 R, 5 SB. Per Baseball Monster, that output ranked eighth overall among hitters, sandwiched between fantasy goliaths Grady Sizemore(notes) and Chipper Jones(notes). Though Quentin’s production dipped slightly over the second half, he finished with the 27th-best line regardless of position. Naturally, he was selected on average around pick 30 or the mid-third round in 12-team mixed leagues this past March.

Shelved since May 26 with a painful heel injury more common on the gridiron than the diamond (plantar fasciitis), the 26-year-old is grinding out at-bats in the minors, preparing his body for a second-half surge. Cutting in the field has been a cumbersome task, but offensively Quentin has showed plenty of promise. In stints with the Charlotte Knights and fantastically named Kannapolis Intimidators, he has collected eight hits in 24 at-bats (0 HR, two 2Bs) with six RBIs and a terrific 1:6 K:BB split. Based on Quentin’s progress, teammate Jim Thome(notes) expects “big things” upon his activation. But White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker has expressed a more cautiously optimistic view of the slugger’s post-break prospects:

”Obviously, I’m pulling for ‘Q’ to come back and play well. I’m pulling for him personally to get healthy and play well, but [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] always says you have to worry about the guys that are here. We check up on him almost every day, get the reports, but we’re not going to count on him until he gets here.

”He needs to be healthy when he comes and swinging the bat well because the guys we’re running out there right now are doing the job. Obviously, before he got hurt last year, he was a leading candidate for the MVP. If we can get him back playing at that level, it would be a huge boost for us. But the guys we have out there now are doing fine and playing good baseball. We’ll just take it as it comes. Until he gets here, we won’t worry about it.”

Though Walker’s words imply Quentin might be eased back into regular playing time, the Sox will be hard-pressed to keep the slugger’s thunderous bat out of the lineup. Collectively, the Sox have averaged a disappointing 4.6 runs per contest, the fourth-lowest mark in the American League. In order to catch the division-leading Tigers, they desperately need his bat. Even if he can’t play the field, he should log extensive appearances in the DH slot until ready. Barring a setback, he could make his triumphant return on Friday.

Prior to his derailment, the former first rounder had performed admirably – at least, peripherally speaking. On the surface, his .229 BA was without question appalling, but his unfortunate .208 BABIP suggests Lucky Charms weren’t part of his diet. For the most part, the rest of his underlying stats (i.e GB/FB and HR/FB%) were in line with ’08. More encouragingly, his contact rate increased noticeably (’08: 79.5, ’09: 84.5), another strong indicator his BA was destined to climb back near .280.

If Quentin can tolerate the discomfort and regain his long-ball stroke, he should be fantasy’s strongest bounce-back player in the second frame. Thrifty owners in search of an outfield power upgrade should acquire his services before the injury discount expires. This week he was shipped for Clint Barmes(notes), James Shields(notes) and Aaron Harang(notes) in one-for-one Plus league moves.

Up to this point, Quentin owners have endured a tepid tale. But in the season’s second chapter, their diligence will likely be rewarded.

Fearless Forecast (post-break): 235 at-bats, .274 BA, 14 HR, 42 RBI, 39 R, 1 SB

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

Fantasy Flames
Rafael Furcal(notes) LAD SS 506 83
Market Value: Strong Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Furcal's pre-break production can be summed up best in one word: pathetic. However, over the past few weeks the shortstop's contributions have been trending in the other direction. This month, he's racked a .372 BA with a homer, five RBIs, 11 runs and a stolen base. His renewed concentration on "making better contact and having better at-bats" has helped the 30-year-old recapture his turf-pounding stroke (52.6 GB% since July 1). Having buddy Manny Ramirez(notes) in the lineup has also accelerated his game. He's still on pace for an underwhelming 11 steals, but reinserted back into the leadoff spot earlier this month, Furcal will have ample opportunities to run down the stretch. Anticipate appreciable three-cat returns in the second act.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 240 at-bats, .284 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 40 R, 11 SB
Jake Fox(notes) CHC 3B, OF, C? 906 23
Market Value: Strong Backstop Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: If Harry Caray was still kickin', a Jodi Davis-like "King of the wild frontier" serenade would surely be sung to Fox. The Cubs' minimally used barrel of TNT could earn eligibility at catcher in Yahoo! formats in the very near future. The oblique injury Geovany Soto(notes) is currently dealing with will likely sideline the reigning NL ROY for approximately one month, paving the way for Koyie Hill(notes) and Fox to net additional playing time. The 26-year-old has extensive minor league experience behind the dish and looked very comfortable catching two innings against archrival St. Louis last Sunday. Because of his previous experience, prodigious pop and anxiousness to play, the youngster will probably be a favorite of manager Lou Piniella from this point forward. He will continue to log occasional time at third and outfield, but within two weeks, he'll likely acquire enough starts at catcher to earn eligibility. Batting .313 with four homers and 15 RBIs on the season, he could easily enter the Russell Martin(notes)/Yadier Molina/AJ Pierzynski(notes) backstop class with 185 at-bats.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 187 at-bats, .288 BA, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 26 R, 1 SB
Dexter Fowler(notes) COL OF 233 20
Market Value: Strong Speed Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: No ACME invention could successfully assist the Wiley Coyotes of the NL from stopping Colorado's Roadrunner. According to Jim Tracy, the fleet-footed rookie is "without question, one of the fastest player's [he's] ever managed." After a rather vanilla May/June (.262 BA, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 19 R, 9 SB), the lanky leadoff man has blasted off in July batting .306 with three RBIs and a pair of sixes in runs and steals. More importantly, he's exuding more discipline at the dish, posting a 9:10 K:BB in his past 36 at-bats. He's also driven the ball more vigorously into the turf (50.0 GB% since July 1), maximizing his blazing speed. Fowler will need to maintain a fair level of consistency to remain productive, but given the Rockies' offense and his electrifying speed, he should be a very reputable runs and steals source going forward.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 228 at-bats, .272 BA, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 37 R, 15 SB
Garrett Jones(notes) PIT 1B, OF 921 20
Market Value: Moderate Power Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: As crooned by the Piano Man last Sunday, Jones' recent power jolt has shocked the fantasy world. Provided an opportunity after Nate McLouth(notes) and Nyjer Morgan(notes) were shipped out to Atlanta and Washington respectively, he's excelled as the Buccos' everyday leftfielder, collecting 13 hits, including five bleacher shots, in 42 at-bats (.310 BA). Widely considered a Quad-A commodity by many scouts, the 28-year-old hook performed admirably in Triple-A stints with the Twins and Pirates. Earlier this season at Indianapolis, he compiled an impressive line – 277 at-bats, .307 BA, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 44 R, 14 SB. Because of John Russell's confidence in Jones, the multi-positional asset will continue to see regular PT for the rebuilding Pirates. Based on his plus power, surprising speed and favorable 3-to-5 spot in the order, he will likely yield respectable totals in HR, RBI and steals post-break.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 230 at-bats, .274 BA, 11 HR, 31 RBI, 25 R, 6 SB
Eric Hinske NYY 1B, OF 858 1
Market Value: Moderate Power Buy (14-team mixed), Strong Power Buy (AL-only)
Lowdown: Traded from Pittsburgh to New York two weeks ago, Hinske has vaulted from outhouse to penthouse. So far in pinstripes, three of his first four hits have cleared the fence. Due to the lefty-swinger's scorching stick, he will likely earn additional action the rest of the way. Earlier this week, Joe Girardi noted he will institute a five-man outfield rotation post-break. Hinske is expected to split time with Nick Swisher(notes) and Melky Cabrera(notes) in right. Obviously he's a stream-only play in mixed leagues, but because of Yankee Stadium's jet stream in right, the Bronx Bombers' potent lineup and Hinske's reasonable power upside (career 11.3 HR/FB%), he could accumulate a noteworthy long-ball total in a limited number of at-bats. Treat him similarly as Andruw Jones(notes).
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 135 at-bats, .266 BA, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 15 R, 1 SB
Scott Feldman(notes) TEX SP 247 39
Market Value: Strong Sell (14-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: The towering 6-foot-5 righty has been a wire treasure for owners in deeper formats. Posting a sparkling 8-2 record with a 3.83 ERA and superb 1.18 WHIP pre-break, Feldman currently ranks ahead of perennial favorites A.J. Burnett(notes), Roy Oswalt(notes) and Carlos Zambrano(notes) in overall value. The development and improved command of his secondary pitches (2.90 BB/9), particularly his filthy cut fastball, explains the rapid ascension. But despite his unforeseen success, the Rangers righty is in line for a major wake-up call. His fateful .242 BABIP and 4.68 FIP are harbingers of darker days. Due to his contact-heavy ways (4.30 K/9) and occasional vulnerability to the long-ball (1.03 HR/9), his dramatic rise and fall could be reminiscent of another Feldman, Corey – at least in the short-term.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 70 IP, 4 W, 4.79 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 38 K
Carl Pavano(notes) CLE SP 938 21
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: The subject of constant ridicule due to his disastrous tenure as a Yankee, Pavano has achieved moderate success for the basement-dwelling Indians. Though June was a forgettable month (6.14 ERA), Alyssa Milano's former chew toy has certainly increased his trade value in recent weeks, totaling two wins and a 2.54 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in his past three outings. Ignore his superficial season totals. Under the hood, Pavano's terribly unlucky .340 BABIP, pinpoint command (1.68 BB/9) and groundball-coaxing arsenal (1.43 GB/FB) indicate an ERA decline is imminent. More enticingly, he may receive a slight value boost if dealt to a contender. Consider him an excellent No. 5 in deeper mixed formats from here on out.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 101 IP, 7 W, 3.95 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 74 K
Pedro Martinez(notes) PHI SP 336 24
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Volatile is the best word to describe Pedro at this point in his legendary career. Brought aboard by Ruben Amaro Jr. for a cool $1 million, the 37-year-old reportedly looked impressive in two workouts last week, routinely touching 88-91 mph with some vintage movement. More impressively, he sported a rather svelte figure – a surprise to one scout. Before dumping a proven commodity for the brand label, it's important to remember how deplorable he looked with the Mets last year. If his sputtering command and home run proneness resurface, he will completely obliterate team ERAs. Obviously, he's worth a semi-beefy bid in NL-only formats ($15-$20), but tread cautiously. He is a shell of his former self.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 79 IP, 6 W, 4.97 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 63 K

Fantasy Lames
Ian Kinsler(notes) TEX 2B 15 98
Market Value: Hold (all leagues)
Lowdown: Spurned by Joe Maddon for homer selection Carlos Pena(notes) on the All-Star roster, Kinsler can blame his somewhat lackluster play since early May (.225 BA) for the snub. Ignoring the BA, the popular early-round pick is on pace for a historic 37-103-116-33 campaign. Only two second basemen in the history of the game – Brandon Phillips(notes) and Alfonso Soriano(notes) – have joined the exclusive 30-30 club. Still, because many managers believe a downturn in one category can be burdensome his bland BA has been harmful. Plagued by an unsustainable 13.6 line-drive rate (career 20.0), eventually his average will march northward. Based on his outstanding 85.9 contact percentage and laudable K:BB splits, he profiles as a .285-plus hitter.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 250 at-bats, .287 BA, 13 HR, 41 RBI, 49 R, 12 SB
Victor Martinez(notes) CLE C, 1B 61 98
Market Value: Moderate Buy(all leagues)
Lowdown: In recent days, V-Mart shelves have not been fully stocked. With change-of-address prospects lingering over his head, the Indians catcher has appeared mentally and physically drained. Fruitless at the dish, he's gone 4-for-46 since June 27, slicing 33 points off his average. His fantastic peripherals, especially his 88.3 contact rate and 1.05 K/BB, support a rebound, but the incessant trade rumors may extend his slump. The All-Star hopes to stay and "retire as an Indian," but donning different threads may resuscitate his flat-lined bat. Swapped this week for Troy Tulowitzki(notes), Max Scherzer(notes) and Edwin Jackson(notes) in Plus league one-for-one deals, Martinez is an excellent player to target while his average is sagging. Remember, he's a career .310 hitter after the break.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 220 at-bats, .306 BA, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 33 R, 0 SB
Adrian Gonzalez(notes) SD 1B 79 98
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Gonzalez may have unnaturally large sound receptors, but he's barely heard his bat crack in recent weeks. After storming out of the gates in April and May, the heavily owned one-bagger has stumbled. Over the past month plus, he's tallied a ghastly .200 BA with just four homers, 12 RBIs and 12 runs. Per Baseball Monster, that line ranks 254th overall, one spot ahead of another struggling superstar, Alfonso Soriano. Despite the slide, Gonzalez continues to draw a commendable amount of walks and still boasts one of the finest HR/FB rates in the game (24.7). His humiliating two-homer performance in the Derby only deflated owner confidence further, but his mammoth power is bound to reappear. More importantly, a trade out of Petco would greatly enhance his value. As Pads GM Kevin Tower said earlier this month, "put him in Philadelphia or Cincinnati and he could easily hit 50 home runs." Pitch a lowball offer.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 255 at-bats, .277 BA, 18 HR, 57 RBI, 51 R, 1 SB
Aubrey Huff(notes) BAL 1B, 3B 180 92
Market Value: Moderate RBI Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Bothered by a mild man-region strain, Huff has seen his overall worth slowly eroded over the past couple weeks. Since July 1, he's found green pasture just six times in 41 at-bats with a homer, four RBIs and three runs. His disturbing GB/FB spike (1.31), in line with his disappointing '07 campaign, proves the 30-homer pop of last season isn't likely to resurface. Still, his attractive contact rates (82.4) and entrenched cleanup spot in a high-scoring lineup arrow to a top-15 3B effort post-break. Owners in search of dependable RBI production from the corner infield position should seek out his services. This week in one-for-one Plus league deals, Huff was swapped for Alex Rios(notes), John Danks(notes) and Brian Wilson(notes).
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 255 at-bats, .271 BA, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 34 R, 0 SB
Elvis Andrus(notes) TEX SS 526 29
Market Value: Moderate Speed Buy (14-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Quietly, the baby-faced Elvis has endeared himself to menopausal women AL ROY voters. The 21-year-old's flawless defense and fair offensive contributions are a major reason why the Rangers could extend their season well into October. However, since July 1, Andrus' production has left the building. During that stretch, he's collected a mere four hits in 29 at-bats. To keep him fresh, Nelson Cruz(notes) killer Ron Washington plans to give the youngster 14 days off in the second half, slightly decreasing his value. But because of his strong contact total (86.5), worm-burning approach (2.39 GB/FB) and plus speed, he should be a trustworthy source of swipes and runs for deep leaguers. Keep in mind he's currently on pace for 65 runs and 30 steals.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 200 at-bats, .266 BA, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 32 R, 15 SB
Cole Hamels(notes) PHI SP 905 99
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Drafted on average around pick 40 in Y! Plus leagues back in March, the Camel has humiliatingly spit on his supporters. On the year, he ranks 93rd among starters in net fantasy value per Baseball Monster. With a 6.88 ERA in his past three starts and only two wins in his last eight, Hamels has his owners understandably concerned that this season may be a complete wash. Rich Dubee's declaration last weekend that Hamels has "lost the feel for his changeup," only dampens his chances for a turnaround. But despite the negative forces, the World Series hero is a pitcher to invest in. His grossly unfortunate .348 BABIP, 3.90 FIP and 4.72 K/BB paint a rosy outlook the rest of the way. If he can avoid the long-ball by consistently keeping balls down in the zone, his appalling 4.87 ERA should decrease substantially. Buy on the bear.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 92 IP, 7 W, 3.68 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 84 K
Yovani Gallardo(notes) MIL SP 120 98
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Lately, El Chupacabra has sucked far worse things than goats. Riddled by poor command, the Brewers' ace has failed to reach the sixth inning in back-to-back starts, surrendering nine earned with nine walks in 10 innings. Based on his precarious 4.32 BB/9 and 1.10 HR/9, Gallardo has flirted with disaster for much of the season. Combine that with a good-fortuned .264 BABIP and unappealing 4.05 FIP, and the universally owned hurler is an asset to worry about. When on, his stuff is unquestionably wicked, but considering the names he's lured in solo Plus league deals with this week – Jonathan Papelbon(notes), Chone Figgins(notes) and Nelson Cruz – it's time to maximize profit, especially if you have a commanding lead in strikeouts.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 93.1 IP, 6 W, 4.16 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 95 K
Joba Chamberlain(notes) NYY SP, RP 932 92
Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Yankees fans who clamored to strike the Joba Rules probably now wish they were still enforced. Chamberlain's full-blown transition from bullpen hand to starter hasn't been seamless. Dave Eiland recently remarked that because Chamberlain is getting deep into counts, he's become more predictable. More alarming, his velocity since June 1 has been consistently clocked lower when compared to previous outings. With a wretched 6.87 ERA, 2.44 WHIP and 2.55 HR/9 in his past three starts, the overrated Chamberlain has become expendable in shallow leagues. Due to his erratic control (4.25 BB/9), gopheritis, 4.78 FIP and underachieving 7.89 K/9, deep-thinking owners should strongly consider salvaging some value via trade. This week, he was dealt for Scott Kazmir(notes), Scott Rolen(notes) and Andrew Bailey(notes) in one-for-one Plus league moves. The future remains bright, but until his command is harnessed, he's untrustworthy.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 72 IP, 5 W, 4.52 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 61 K

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 long-ball tally will be noted each week. Remember, the original bet was over/under 25 homers.

Caribbean Cruz connections since last week: 2
Season total: 22
Moonshots to the money: 4
Pace: 41