By Matt Buser
August 14, 2008
Change is one constant in fantasy sports. Players get hot and cool down, get hurt and get well, and move in and out of roles. Fantasy owners are constantly reacting to these changes (or at least they should be). Let's take a look at the Buzz Index from the past few days to see which players are currently causing the most change in fantasy baseball, and take a deeper look at what the fuss is all about.
Buzz Index (Baseball) – adds
Melvin Mora (Bal – 3B) 34,791 adds
Mora has been doing his best to make up for lost time over the past six weeks. His line was just .227/.298/.380 as of July 4 – over his past 31 games, he's batted .358 (43 for 120) with 18 runs, 16 extra-base hits (9 2B, 7 HR) and a whopping 40 RBI.
Upshot: He's doubled his season RBI total (now 80) and raised his season line to .264/.324/.445 in the process. The uptick in production has coincided with a move from second in the order to third, and the Orioles' offense has been clicking for the most part. With that said, it's been four seasons since the 36-year-old hit above .283 and he typically finishes the season much worse than he starts it – if you are just joining the party at this point, cross your fingers that he keeps it up but don't be surprised if he doesn't.
Marlon Byrd (Tex – OF) 33,335 adds
Byrd has been taking advantage of excess playing time in a fairly massive way – he's batting .455 (30 for 66) over the past 17 games, with 19 runs, 12 extra-base hits (8 2B, 4 HR), 18 RBI, two steals, and a 10:4 BB:K ratio.
Upshot: He's been the team's fourth OF for much of the season, but successive injuries to Milton Bradley and David Murphy have pressed him into everyday duty. Most of his at bats have come at fifth or sixth in the high-scoring Rangers' lineup – he won't be lacking for counting stats. What remains to be seen is what his role will be with a healthy Bradley and Murphy – Bradley is finally making his way back into the lineup, while Murphy could be out until the end of August.
Lastings Milledge (Was – OF) 27,577 adds
Milledge has a 13-game hitting streak going and has been dialed in during the month of August – in 12 games, he's batted .396 (19 for 48) with eight runs, five home runs, nine RBI, and three steals.
Upshot: Milledge gets some in-depth run here and here. In a nut-shell, this one-time uber-prospect has a good shot at being a real difference-maker for fantasy owners down the stretch.
Brad Ziegler (Oak – RP) 21,417 adds
Ziegler has recorded saves in each of his past two appearances, and still has yet to allow a run in his major league career (now spanning 38.0 IP).
Upshot: Ziegler has replaced the floundering Huston Street as closer, at least for now. If the 28-year-old rookie remains stellar, however, there's little reason to think he'll give way to Street moving forward. Go get this guy.
Jeff Karstens (Pit – SP) 19,983 adds
Karstens was the top streaming option this week after tossing 15.0 scoreless innings in his first two starts for the Buccos – his line was a bit more pedestrian on Tuesday (7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 2 K).
Upshot: His brilliant first two starts aside, the 25-year-old is a fairly low-ceiling player at this point, considering his average-ish minor league numbers (3.52 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.5 K/9). In 22.0 innings, he's walked almost as many batters (7) as he's struck out (8). Be looking for the next best thing in all but the deepest of leagues.
Chris Perez (StL – RP) 19,525 adds
Perez notched his second save of the season on Monday and has two in his past three appearances. On the season, the 23-year-old has compiled a 3.62 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and .229 BAA in 27.1 innings.
Upshot: Perez has the advantage in the Cardinals' bullpen because he has the most upside (12.0 K/9 in the minors), and he's been at least slightly less bad than the other options (Jason Isringhausen and Ryan Franklin). Nobody is a sure thing in this situation, but Perez seems like the safest gamble.
Paul Byrd (Bos – SP) 14,857 adds
Byrd has been fantastic over the past month (4-0, 29.0 IP, 1.24 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) and his fantasy stock got a helper when he was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday.
Upshot: While the deal to the Red Sox improves his chances to rack up an extra win or two, that still won't offset his pathetic strikeout rate (3.8/9). Anything short of a rebirth for the 38-year-old (season 4.53 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) would mean that he'll do as much harm as good to fantasy owners who plan on chasing wins.
Dave Bush (Mil – SP) 14,669 adds
Bush allowed one run or less for the fourth time in six starts on Monday, bringing his numbers to a 2.81 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over that span (41.2 IP), with a 41:5 K:BB ratio.
Upshot: Bush is a very good option in fantasy when he's got it working, and that's clearly the case right now. Over his past 12 starts (85.2 IP), he's compiled a 3.15 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 63:13 K:BB ratio. We've seen a run like this before, so we know he has it in him – now it's just a matter of his keeping it up.
Buzz Index (Baseball) – drops
Orlando Hudson (Ari – 2B) 42,617 drops
Wrist surgery has ended Hudson's season at 107 games – he hit .305 with 54 runs, eight home runs, and 41 RBI.
Lowdown: He's currently the 13th-ranked 2B in the Yahoo! game (200th overall) so it's not exactly a crippling loss to fantasy owners. Augie Ojeda and his negligible fantasy impact are expected to fill in for Hudson, but a more intriguing scenario involves Mark Reynolds getting a crack at 2B, which also helps clear space for the newly-acquired Adam Dunn.
Carlos Lee (Hou – OF) 40,936 drops
Lee is at least done as a major contributor in fantasy in 2008 – he's expected to miss six-to-eight weeks after undergoing surgery on Monday to repair a broken left finger.
Lowdown: This one is a bit of a doozy, as I can personally attest to – he's currently the 14th-ranked player, thanks to a .314 average, 61 runs, 28 home runs, and 100 RBI. Even on the short side of that timeframe, he'll be available for a few token games at the end of the season. Michael Bourn would be slated for more playing time if he could get on base above a .284 clip – since it appears that he can't, Darin Erstad figures to see most of the playing time in Lee's absence.
C.J. Wilson (Tex – RP) 23,121 drops
Wilson's season has come to an end, as well – in his case, bone spurs in his left elbow are the culprit. Wilson recorded 24 saves on the season, but also ended with a 6.02 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 46.1 innings, including a 7.76 ERA and 1.98 WHIP since May 10 (31.1 IP).
Lowdown: Go pick up Eddie Guardado. That is all.
Mike Pelfrey (NYM – SP) 17,608 drops
Pelfrey's been mostly bad since the All-Star break, compiling a 5.83 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and .311 BAA in 29.1 innings (5 GS).
Lowdown: He's also allowed five home runs after allowing just four in 108.2 innings before the break. It's worth noting that two of his four post-break starts have been against the Marlins, who have beat him up in his three starts against them on the season (12.2 IP, 10.66 ERA, 2.13 WHIP) – he's compiled a 3.45 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 125.1 innings against everyone else. Pelfrey is likely to have some more good starts before it's all said and done, so he's at least a Watch List candidate. One thing to watch out for, however, is that the Mets may try to limit his innings heading down the stretch.
Chris Carpenter (StL – SP) 12,622 drops
Carpenter hit waivers in a number of leagues after his so-so start Sunday (5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) was followed by news that he'll miss his next start because of a muscle strain in his right shoulder.
Lowdown: The news could be worse, but standard leaguers can't really be blamed for not wanting to wait around for the 33-year-old to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. Keep tabs on the situation, though – he's only supposed to miss one turn in the rotation if all goes well.
Huston Street (Oak – RP) 12,544 drops
Many of those who picked up Brad Ziegler this week were undoubtedly dropping Street to do so. He's been off for a while now (4 L, 4 BS, 7.10 ERA, 2.00 WHIP since June 20) and finally lost his grip on the closer's role.
Lowdown: As mentioned previously, it would probably take a Street-like meltdown from Ziegler for the two to switch roles again, so this is a fairly safe drop. The 25-year-old Street has a number of years ahead of him as a closer elsewhere, but it's likely that he's done saving games for the A's.
Aaron Harang (Cin – SP) 11,588 drops
Fantasy owners who waited a month for Harang to return from the DL suffered through arguably his worst start of the season (4.0 IP, 9 H, 8 ER), and that's saying something.
Lowdown: Harang now stands at 3-12 after logging 16 wins in each of the past two seasons. He was effective in his lone rehab start (6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R), but clearly didn't have it on Sunday. Could it be that a relatively heavy workload (677.2 IP over the past three seasons) has caught up with him this season? Whatever the case may be, it's adding up to a lost campaign for the previously steady Harang.
Carl Crawford (TB – OF) 10,951 drops
Crawford was a high-volume drop on Tuesday after reports emerged that he would undergo surgery on his hand, a procedure that should sideline him for six-to-eight weeks.
Lowdown: Despite an active 11-game hitting streak, Crawford had batted just .248 since June 28 (33 G) and he's slugging just .400 on the season. His ADP was 17.1 this season, but he's likely to slip to the third round in many drafts in 2009 after this disappointing campaign. The team hopes that Rocco Baldelli can stay healthy and productive now that they are without Crawford and Evan Longoria.
Matt Buser is a Yahoo! Sports fantasy expert. Follow him on Twitter. Send Matt a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Thursday, Aug 14, 2008 3:28 pm, EDT
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