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Bringin' the Noise: Conquistador

If there's one commercial catch phrase that best describes Colorado starters not named Cook, unquestionably it would be "Let's vent."

You remember: the expression captured in the Coors Light spot where one guy receives a "random" phone call from a friend needing to be consoled about some pressing matter. Of course, that's not the caller's ploy. No, his real intention is to weaken the tractor beam locked on his buddy by an overbearing girlfriend so the two can "vent" – code for "slam beers" – and watch the big game.

For the few courageous Y! owners, including the Noise, who've blindly invested in Rockies pitchers, regular "vent" sessions over their missteps have greatly expanded our collective livers. Damn you, Jeff Francis, for turning me into an alcoholic.

But, despite our frustrations, we aren't ready to succumb to cirrhosis quite yet.

Although his name could easily be mistaken for that of a Spanish conquistador, Jorge De La Rosa has suddenly become statistically unchallenged. Considering his circuitous path to Denver, his recent surge is truly improbable.

Since signing with Arizona as a non-drafted free agent in 1998 the 27-year-old journeyman has lived a vagabond existence. Twice he was the forgotten footnote in two blockbuster deals, both within four days of one another. On Nov. 28, 2003, he was shipped along with four other players from Boston to Arizona in exchange for Curt Schilling. Then on Dec. 1, he and five other D'backs were flipped for Milwaukee's Richie Sexson. After an uneventful three-year stint with the Brewers, he was traded again in July '06, this time to Kansas City for utility man Tony Graffanino. Finally on March 26 this year, he was dealt from the Royals to the Rockies for Ramon Ramirez, reaching his current destination.

And historians say Hernan Cortes was well-traveled.

The reason why teams continue to take chances on De La Rosa: his stuff is electric. His deadly mixture of 90-93 mph fastballs, mid-80s sliders, low-70s rainbows and deceptive changes is a cornucopia of filth. Effectively wild and supremely confident, he's extremely difficult to touch when dealing. As Colorado pitching coach Bob Apodaca told June 19:

"He's always had the confidence in his ability. Now he can, at a moment's notice, make a pitch that's required. Now he's putting the precision with what he possesses."

In a June 20 Denver Post article, De La Rosa said the side sessions with Apodaca "have really helped." Noticing a glitch in his delivery, Apodaca has instructed the lefty to drive his right arm toward the plate to minimize flying open and sharpen his command.

At times in his past three outings those lessons have made De La Rosa "intocable," Spanish for untouchable. Against the White Sox, Indians and Royals he's registered an obscene 13.02 strikeouts per nine, issued four walks and surrendered just five earned (2.96 ERA) in 15.2 IP. Even when opponents have made contact, it's been weak, indicative in his 59.4 GB% over that span.

If he can maintain a consistent delivery, it's not unfathomable the 0.57 percent owned Mexican marvel could be a valuable No. 5 starter in 12-team mixed leagues moving forward, especially in strikeouts. In other words, he’s similar to San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez. More importantly, with Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki and Brad Hawpe healthy, his already stout 4.80 RS/9 (run support) should rocket upward, leading to more wins. Throw in a rather unfortunate .327 BABIP and all indications arrow to a second-half breakout.

Remember, fantasy is all about future gains, not past losses. And for those who've crushed mountains of Coors Light cans in frustration over Rockies tossers, vent no more.

Well, unless you're a Jeff Francis owner.

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

Fantasy Flames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Rickie Weeks
2B 269 62.4
'08 Stats: .213 BA, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 45 R, 11 SB, 50:32 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Weeks may have designs on tying the knot with Mr. Mendoza when the Brewers visit San Francisco in July, but he may break off the engagement soon. Since being activated from the 15-day DL June 22, the surprising 62-percent owned infielder doesn't seem to be bothered by his troublesome knee. As he remarked to earlier this week, "I feel real good. It's a little weak right now, but other than that, I have no problems with it at all. I mean, it's tired after the work, but other than that, it's good." Weeks showed no ill-effects in his second game back June 23 in Hotlanta, going 3-for-4 with a double and stolen base. It's unfathomable that a player with 20-20 potential this season, at a historically thin position no less, is still wading in the free agent pool in several leagues. More perplexing, owners are investing minimally in him via trade. This week in 1-for-1 Y! Plus league transactions he was swapped for Derek Lowe, Justin Upton and Jair Jurrjens. Yes, Weeks has been frustrating to own this season, but given his improved contact rates ('07 CT%: 75.7, '08: 79.3), more discerning eye ('07 K%: 28.4, '08: 20.8) and rich across-the-board contributions, he will post top-10 2B numbers over the second half, especially with the Brewers hitting their stride offensively.
Fearless Forecast: 560 at-bats, .241 BA, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 118 R, 24 SB
Brian Buscher
3B 1171 0.12
'08 Stats: 38 at-bats, .368 BA, HR, 13 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB, 2:1 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (deep mixed), Strong Buy (AL-only)
Lowdown: Booger of "Revenge of the Nerds" fame would be overjoyed to own Minnesota's Buscher. The 25-year-old rookie is the 13th player to see action at third base for the Twinkies since Corey Koskie's departure after the '04 season. His abrupt emergence could finally provide some much-needed stability to the Twins, and deep-thinking fantasy owners. Touted the "most improved player" by Ron Gardenhire this spring, Buscher has four multi-hit performances in his first 11 big league games. His 10 RBIs since June 14 are second only to the scorching Aramis Ramirez over that span. Buscher is a line-drive gap-splitter who can tally numerous doubles, similar in style and substance as Texas' stache-tastic Ramon Vazquez. Because of his superb contact (85.2 CT%) and line-drive rates (36.8 LD% last 10 days), a .300-plus BA is sustainable, at least in the short-term. Prior to being recalled he totaled a .319 BA with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 185 at-bats with Triple-A Rochester. Cast a line for his services as an everyday CI or stopgap option in 12-team and deeper mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 330 at-bats, .295 BA, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 50 R, 1 SB
Adam Lind
OF 1126 0.07
'08 Stats: 27 at-bats, .185 BA, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 0 SB, 4:2 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (mixed leagues), Strong Buy (AL-only)
Lowdown: Lind's immediate yields have been overshadowed by J.P. Ricciardi's airwave buffoonery and subsequent prank discussions with an Adam Dunn imposter. The Jays' top hitting prospect is expected to display his all-fields abilities nearly every day over the remainder of the season, making him rosterable in deep-benched 14-team mixed leagues. Prior to his promotion, the 24-year-old lefty swinger compiled a .328 BA with six homers and 50 RBIs in 189 at-bats at Triple-A Syracuse. His exceptional contact rates (81.0 CT% in 27 at-bats) and laser-lacing stroke could turn the youngster into a multi-hit machine. With four hits in his first eight at-bats since being recalled, he's living up to that label. Batting ninth won't make him profitable in RBIs or runs but he does possess 10-15 homer power. Recall that he launched 11 long-balls in only 290 at-bats last year.
Fearless Forecast: 320 at-bats, .276 BA, 13 HR, 39 RBI, 25 R, 1 SB
Ricky Nolasco
SP 352 17.9
'08 Stats: 87.2 IP, 7 W, 4.31 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 58:28 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: If Nolasco pitched in New York, L.A. or Chicago his percentage owned numbers would undoubtedly be over fifty percent. But since he toes the rubber every fifth day in front of minute crowds that rival the local WNBA franchise, his fruitful production has gone virtually unnoticed. Quietly, Nolasco has totaled six quality starts and six wins since May 9, compiling a 3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 6.89 K/9 in 56.2 IP. In the Y! game, he's ranked ahead of rotation pillars Chad Billingsley, Matt Cain and Zack Greinke over the past month. The 25-year-old righty has incorporated an effective splitter into his arsenal and has leaned more heavily on his slider to induce weaker contact. Homers continue to occasionally plague him (1.44 HR/9) but with his command harnessed ('07 BB/9: 3.80, '08: 2.87), they're not nearly as detrimental compared to '07. Still his noticeable advancements in several key areas tag him this year's Jeff Francis.
Fearless Forecast: 180 IP, 15 W, 4.41 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 121 K
Kyle Lohse
SP 172 62.7
'08 Stats: 94.1 IP, 9 W, 3.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 44:23 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (mixed), Strong Sell (NL-only)
Lowdown: Unfathomably, Lohse ranks ahead of Roy Halladay, Johan Santana, Josh Beckett, Tim Lincecum and Cole Hamels in Y! leagues over the past month, the first sign of the apocalypse. The Noise is building a concrete-reinforced bunker in his backyard. Perennially mediocre throughout his entire career, Lohse's shocking seven straight quality starts is a testament to Dave Duncan's genius. Since May 18, the 29-year-old has totaled six wins and posted a stellar 2.09 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. His 48.1 GB% and 1.47 BB/9 during that stretch are equally impressive. The peripherals are strong and point to continued success, but this is Kyle Lohse people. Because he's garnering the likes of Vernon Wells, Brian Wilson and Casey Kotchman in 1-for-1 Y! Plus league deals this week, it's time to take a profit. His next three starts at Detroit, home versus the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs, a team he surrendered eight runs to in six innings on May 3, aren't particularly favorable.
Fearless Forecast : 185 IP, 16 W, 4.08 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 89 K
Fantasy Lames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Javier Vazquez
SP 245 99.2
'08 Stats: 102.0 IP, 7 W, 4.24 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 97:29 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: When Kany-Ozzie's album drops later this year, expletive-laced rhymes about Vazquez will surely dominate the record. June has not been month for the universally owned strikeout machine. In his past 23.1 IP, the 31-year-old's command has unraveled (4.68 BB/9), leading to harder opponent contact (24.3 LD%), more earned runs (7.01 ERA) and an astronomical 1.77 WHIP. Vazquez disclosed to June 20 that his problem stems from "not getting ahead in the count," saying that the only way to remedy the situation is to "be more aggressive, get after hitters a little bit more." His incredibly unlucky .330 BABIP coupled with his strikeout proficiency points to a positive ERA correction in the coming weeks. After his second go-around with the North Siders this weekend, his next two matchups (vs. Cle, at KC) are very attractive. Vazquez, recently dealt for Brian Fuentes, Milton Bradley and Joe Mauer in Y! Plus 1-for-1 transactions, is someone to purchase at a sale price. He will again join the ultra-exclusive 15 W, 200 K club this season.
Fearless Forecast: 210 IP, 15 W, 3.87 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 206 K
Carlos Marmol
RP 97 96.8
'08 Stats: 45.0 IP, W, 3 S, 3.00 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 64:20 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy/Hold (all leagues)
Lowdown: Marmol has suddenly channeled the baseball spirit of Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, who apparently peddles his own brand of salsa and verbally assaults grade school girls basketball referees nowadays. In a Chicago Sun-Times June 23 snippet, the struggling Cubs reliever revealed he's discovered the root of his control problems. After digesting reels of film he noticed a mechanical flaw in his delivery, one which caused him to fly open too early in his release. After walking/hitting seven batters in Tampa last week, Marmol was effectively wild in one inning of work June 24 against Baltimore. The 25-year-old's unbelievably fortunate .182 BABIP points to an ERA upturn, but his gaudy 7.2 LD% and 12.80 K/9 suggests otherwise. Because he's in the David Blaine class of middle-relief magicians, Marmol is not and will not be waivers expendable at any point this year. Marmol, flipped this week for Kevin Youkilis, Manny Parra and Brandon Jones this week in Y! Plus league 1-for-1 deals, is someone worth shooting a discounted offer for if his current owner is generally impatient.
Fearless Forecast: 90 IP, 3 W, 7 S, 2.94 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 132 K
Jeff Francoeur
OF 224 85.5
'08 Stats: .247 BA, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 39 R, 0 SB, 55:18 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Francool, forever cursed by SI back in '05, has failed to live up to elevated expectations. Back on February 17 the 24-year-old was optimistic that the 17-pounds of muscle he added in the offseason would catapult his homer totals into the 30s. However, now 20 long-balls seem almost unattainable. Since June 1 Francoeur has registered a detestable .227 BA with two homers, eight RBIs and 19 strikeouts. Currently mired in a 4-for-26 swoon, his BA has bottomed out at .247. Under the surface, his sharp rise in LD% ('07: 19.4, '08: 21.6) and contact percentage ('07: 73.9, '08: 76.5) and decline in whiffs ('07 K%: 20.1, '08: 17.9) are optimistic signs that a turnaround is imminent. But Francoeur's absent power (HR/FB%: 8.9) doesn't bode well for his fantasy street value. To correct the occasional bouts of blurred vision in his right eye, "Frenchy" was recently fitted for a contact lens for use in night games. Going 2-for-4 in his second game with sharpened vision is a sign that maybe the eye adjustment will work wonders. Eventually the hits will come, but seasons of 30-40 blasts are probably 2-3 years away.
Fearless Forecast: 600 at-bats, .272 BA, 19 HR, 89 RBI, 84 R, 2 SB
Ryan Ludwick
OF 20 98.8
'08 Stats: .292 BA, 16 HR, 56 RBI, 47 R, 4 SB, 62:29 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: The only way for Ludwick, or any Cardinal, to break out of an enduring slump is to consume massive quantities of Bratzels, minus the ketchup. Arguably the most unforeseen sensation this season, Ludwick's bat has been locked away in the scooter cooler. To no one's surprise, since Albert Pujols was placed on the 15-day DL June 11 the 29-year-old nomad has gone 9-for-48 (.187 BA) with zero homers, three RBIs and 13 punchouts. Ludwick has folded under the pressure to produce largely because he hasn't seen beach-ball sized pitches with Pooh Bear out of the lineup. However, Pujols' expected return June 26 – the man is a superhuman healer – will rejuvenate the outfielder's bat. Naysayers unfairly classify Ludwick as a 'fluke' but his history of flourishing HR/FB percentages (14.3 career, similar to Aramis Ramirez 14.1) and practically unsustainable 28.0 LD% this year imply otherwise. Sure, his 25.8 K% will inevitably sink his BA to around .275 but 35 homers is certainly attainable. Steal him from a leaguemate who never buys generic. In solo Plus league swaps this week, Ludwick was shipped for Mike Gonzalez, Willy Taveras and Michael Bourn.
Fearless Forecast: 525 at-bats, .277 BA, 35 HR, 114 RBI, 98 R, 7 SB
Jay Bruce
OF 800 88.8
'08 Stats: 103 at-bats, .301 BA, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 16 R, 2 SB, 25:13 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all yearly leagues), Hold (NL-only, keepers)
Lowdown: Is the Boss' current 5-for-35 slide a "Brilliant Disguise" or has he truly become the "Nothing Man." In terms of this season, the Noise leans more toward the latter. Forewarned in this space several weeks ago, Bruce's propensity for free-swinging has caught up to him. During his recent drought, he's posted a Dave Kingman-esque 37.1 K%, swelling his season tally to 24.3, nearly in line with his minor league totals. Expect his BA to plummet further. Based on his unappreciable contact rates (72.3 CT) and unsustainable 25.3 LD%, the rookie's BA should level off in the .280-.285 range. Because yearly league owners are still wide-eyed about Bruce's explosive early June, he's still generating prestigious names in 1-for-1 deals – Brad Lidge, Bobby Abreu and James Shields – this week. Bruce will be one of the finer No. 4/5 outfielders in 12-team mixed leagues going forward, but his most memorable seasons are at least 3-4 years away. Sorry, but he's no Ryan Braun.
Fearless Forecast: 420 at-bats, .284 BA, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 62 R, 7 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 June 24

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?

For the record, THIS reader is WAAAAY in the 60%. Don't ever cave to the haters. Keep the pop culture references obscure and the man-crushes uncomfortable. Oh, and I just opened the catalogue and added Aviles . I hope your projections are on, because Furcal is not coming back anytime soon.Jeff, Fresno, CA

Come on Brad, Elijah Dukes? You're seriously pimping a .243 hitter with no power or speed? I checked my league, and I don't see a stat labeled, "turning his career around," which in my eyes could be the only stat he could help me with. Move along … there's nothing to see here.Derek, Tulsa, OK

Noise: Derek, you're oblivious observations of fantasy talent rivals Officer Barberry's bumbling policing of South Park. No speed, eh? Well, his six steals since late May are equal to the contributions of Carl Crawford and Michael Bourn. When it comes to Dukes, apply foot to break … there's plenty to see here.

Are you freaking smoking crack? You're telling me I need to keep an eye on Elijah Dukes? He only has 4 RBIs and 5 runs in his last 10 games, not to mention his stats simply suck. Dude, for a few weeks here I've thought you and Funston have been making some ridiculous suggestions on players (see Mike Aviles), but if I were you I would be polishing up my resume, because if you keep this up, you'll be looking for another job.Patrick, Dallas, TX

Noise: Dude, I live in a community surrounded by endless corn and soybean fields, crystal meth is our narcotic of choice. Although the preventive commercials routinely seen on TV in my area would scare anyone straight.

Patrick, were you under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms when you typed your response? Not sure how valuable four RBIs and five runs over 10 games is in your league of neophytes but in most competitive formats, where quality talent isn't rotting away on the waiver wire, that's sound production.

Nonbelievers are simply slaves to Dukes' exterior numbers. Peel back the wrapper and the guy has performed spectacularly in June (.310 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 11 R, 5 SB). So well in fact, he's outperformed the likes of Lance Berkman, Jason Bay, Carlos Quentin, Bob Abreu, Nate McClouth, Curtis Granderson and Torii Hunter in Y! leagues. Dukes has always possessed the physical gifts to be a 20-20 producer annually and now that his eruptive ego has been sequestered his athletic ability has taken over.

Oh, and for the record, Mike Aviles is ranked third among shortstops (11-30, HR, 9 RBI, 5 R, SB) since our (mine and Funston's) glowing recommendations last week. Occasionally we're wrong, but even the sun shines on a dog's ass sometimes. Ruff, ruff!

Perhaps if you weren't walking around with your head so far up Mike Aviles' stink hole you may have noticed that you just completely blew the call on Zack Greinke. Or is he just incredibly lucky again? Two hits over seven innings and only one walk.Jeremy, Atlanta, GA

I think Zack Greinke reads your column. And he's angry.Dave, Washington D.C.

Noise: If the Noise had known in advance that Greinke regularly devours Chipotle burritos – the sweetest pill on earth – and nestles up next to this blonde bombshell every night, the picture would have been painted more blushingly.

Grizzly Behrens and I saw Greinke's dazzling performance first-hand during our road trip to St. Louis last week. We were very impressed. Unlike his previous two starts (11 BB in 12 IP), his command was phenomenal (7:1 K:BB in 7 IP). However, if you look at the peripherals, he's still been somewhat lucky this season (.270 BABIP). Eventually, his ERA will swell into the high-threes, especially if he suffers another mental lapse or three on the mound. Unless you're Edinson Volquez (4.26 BB/9), excessive free passes usually catch up to you.

Based on what Greinke's attracting in Y! Plus league solo deals this week – Adam Dunn, Nate McLouth, Aaron Harang – the "Moderate Sell" label still sticks.

Brad, no joke about Hunter Pence and his smoking hot "girlfriend". I could see how waking up next to her in the morning might make playing ball seem a little overrated. If I were Cecil Cooper I'd tell him to check out that scene with the ice water in Raging Bull.Will, Solway, MD

Noise: Yeah, Pence's tag-team partner is the anti-slump buster. But for the sake of his fantasy owners, he needs to shack up with Amy Winehouse. Hell, one night with her face-melting powers could permanently catapult Adam Dunn's batting average over .300. Maybe then, J.P. Ricciardi would muster a trade for his services.