Bringin' the Noise: Curb your enthusiasm

Brad Evans

Throughout the history of the game, baseball has been enveloped in brotherly love.

Devoted fans have endured world famous DiMaggios, PED-injecting Giambis, masked Molinas, tyrannical Youngs and brittle Drews.

But of all the famous sibling combinations past and present, the Uptons may someday be deemed the greatest baseball brothers in major league history.

Naturally, the Cansecos would tell you otherwise. That is, if you actually attended their press conference.

So far this season, the Upton pair has headed in opposite directions. B.J., who thousands of owners outstretched arms for in the early rounds, has traveled down the Billy Ripken path toward kinship irrelevancy. His unsightly power totals (0 HR, 4 RBI) and batting average (.179) are deserving of an expletive-laced phrase scrawled on his bat handle.

Thankfully, younger Justin has washed away the stains that have tarnished the family name.

The incredibly gifted outfielder, who is barely old enough to legally imbibe a margarita, has launched into the stratosphere. Blessed with a swooping swing capable of slicing through a reinforced steel wall, Upton, whose 18-game hit-streak was snapped May 13, has tattooed seven long-balls, driven in 17 runs, scored 18 times, swiped three bags and has raised his batting average 116 points since April 24. Over that stretch, only Carl Crawford(notes), Jason Bay(notes), Evan Longoria(notes), Ryan Zimmerman(notes) and Adam Jones(notes) have been more valuable according to Baseball Monster.

Based on his recent torrid performance, many owners who invested heavily in the Arizona outfielder steadfastly believe the 21-year-old has embarked on a break out journey. Teammate Jon Garland(notes), who watched Upton obliterate a Jake Peavy cutter 410 feet, is an optimist:

"That's a grown man hitting a ball. In this ballpark at night (Petco), barely getting off the ground off a pitcher like Peavy, that says a lot for him … When he's out there defensively and he gets a little bit of that swagger going, feeling good, usually things take over at the plate."

Promoted from the 6-7 spot in the order to the three just prior to Bob Melvin's dismissal, the future perennial All-Star has exploded in his new spot, batting .387 with three homers, six RBIs, nine runs and two steals in 31 at-bats. Although current skipper A.J. Hinch plans to keep him entrenched in that spot, owners need to maintain tempered expectations.

Compared to his uneventful '08, Upton has seen marginal, not spectacular, improvements in his peripheral profile.

The positives: his GB/FB ratio has diminished and his HR/FB percentage has increased, both clear signs he's driving the baseball with more authority. Historically, comparable talents, Ken Griffey Jr.(notes), Rueben Sierra and Gary Sheffield(notes) all took a significant step in their development in those departments at Upton's age.

The negatives: his strikeout (31.3 K%) and contact rates (67.8 CT%) are nearly equal to his '08 returns and are similar to notorious BA soul-crushers Ryan Howard(notes) (30.3 K%, 67.6 CT%), Carlos Pena(notes) (34.1, 66.3) and Josh Fields(notes) (33.9, 70.3). In other words, his present .306 average is grossly inflated. Assuming the current trends persist, he's bound to finish the season in the .265-.275 range. Couple that with his power pace (32 HR, 83 RBI, 97 R), and he's essentially Hunter Pence(notes) '08 – a fantasy commodity who ranked 75th among hitters and 37th (No. 4 OF in 12-team mixed leagues) among outfielders.

Unquestionably, the venomous D-Back has the potential to vault into the early rounds as soon as next year. But given his tender age and unfavorable peripherals resume, turbulent times are still ahead. Melvin, just before he was canned, pegged Upton perfectly:

"He's had periods like this before. For me, he needs to play a whole season. He's gotten sidetracked a little bit – the first year, he wasn't here the whole year, and the second year, he was injured. Once he gets a full year under his belt, a full year of making adjustments and going back and forth, he'll be off to the races."

Owners may feel a "bro-like" connection with the younger Upton, but his '09 value has reached its zenith. Next season, he could be one of the most treasured outfielders in virtual baseball, but, right now, non-keeper leaguers should consider severing the tie.

Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 400 at-bats, .261 BA, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 73 R, 8 SB

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

Fantasy Flames
Chris Duncan(notes) STL 1B, OF 206 49
Market Value: Moderate Buy (10-team and deeper mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Duncan, who excruciatingly endured intolerable shoulder and neck pain, was a walking Walgreen's a year ago. Now healthy, he's regained his stroke, rebuilt his confidence and rectified his often rocky relationship with Redbird, and fantasy, fans. So far this month, he's collected three multi-hit games and driven in nine runs. More impressively, he's batting .375 with runners in scoring position on the season. Because no sane human being should pitch to Albert Pujols(notes), the lefty-swinging Duncan will continue to see softball-sized pitches. With Ryan Ludwick(notes) DL'ed, it's likely he'll bat exclusively in the cleanup spot over the next couple weeks. With his GB/FB ratio trending heavily toward fly-balls again, he should continue to be an above average source of pop and RBIs in moderately deep mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 331 at-bats, .277 BA, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 48 R, 1 SB
Casey Kotchman(notes) ATL 1B 283 27
Market Value: Strong BA/RBI Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Kotchman may not showcase a Helton-branded goatee, but his numbers could be eerily similar to the Rockies standout by year's end. In his past nine contests, the Atlanta hook has accumulated four multi-hit efforts, blasted two homers and tallied 11 RBIs. A strong contact hitter who rarely whiffs (11.9 K%), the former Angel has generated more loft and stroked more liners this season, indicative in his sharp rise in line-drive ('08: 17.8, '09: 22.1) and fly-ball percentage ('08: 29.5, '09: 36.5). He likely won't eclipse 15 homers, but his batting average and RBI contributions should continue to yield fruitful results in 12-team and deeper mixed formats.
Fearless Forecast: 370 at-bats, .295 BA, 11 HR, 61 RBI, 47 R, 1 SB
Emmanuel Burriss(notes) SF 2B, SS 621 21
Market Value: Strong SB/R Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Investing coin in a Giants leadoff hitter may seem equal to rostering a 49ers quarterback, but Burriss possesses a specific quality owners, and Pablo Sandoval(notes), would probably sacrifice a limb for: speed. Promoted to the top of the order earlier this week, the cheetah-legged middle infielder received a significant value boost. Yes, the Giants have extreme difficulties manufacturing runs, but Burriss will aggressively seek out second base to bolster his team's scoring chances. In OBP terms, he's Juan Pierre(notes)-like, but if he can continue to slap singles (.368 BA since May 5), 50 steals and 70-plus runs are achievable. Frankly, he'll probably be more valuable than Emilio Bonifacio(notes) come September.
Fearless Forecast: 385 at-bats, .270 BA, 1 HR, 23 RBI, 66 R, 38 SB
Eric Byrnes(notes) ARI OF 630 16
Market Value: Strong Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Two years ago fantasy owners wanted to be the syrup on Byrnes' waffle. Their affections were completely understandable. He was the first 20-50 player since Ricky Henderson in 1993. However, two shredded hamstrings later, he's largely considered an afterthought. But the hard-grinding outfielder has garnered more playing time in recent weeks and will continue to do so with Conor Jackson(notes) on the 15-day DL. With four multi-hit games in his past six, the yank-happy D-Back should produce serviceable across-the-board totals. His current BA is ghastly (.200), but Byrnes may post one of the quietest 20-20 seasons in recent memory.
Fearless Forecast: 356 at-bats, .268 BA, 14 HR, 54 RBI, 47 R, 18 SB
Nolan Reimold(notes) BAL OF 974 8
Market Value: Moderate Buy (12-team mixed), Strong Buy (AL-only)
Lowdown: The sidekick to future franchise hero, Matt Wieters(notes), Reimold has raked at Triple-A. In 106 at-bats, the 25-year-old has terrorized opposing pitchers, notching a .394 BA with nine homers, 27 RBIs and six steals. His 1.228 OPS is otherworldly. Keen-eyed and grizzly bear-strong, the 25-year-old has reached his minor league maturation point. The O's front office concurs. Because Felix Pie(notes) is an embarrassment and Adam Jones and Luke Scott(notes) are ailing physically, the highly touted outfielder was recalled late Wednesday night. Dave Trembley stated in late-April once Reimold was promoted that he would "not be a reserve," but it's unclear if he will be promptly thrust into the starting lineup. Owners in deeper formats drowning in BA, homers and RBIs, should pluck the Baltimore basher immediately off waivers.
Fearless Forecast: 288 at-bats, .279 BA, 12 HR, 36 RBI, 27 R, 4 SB
Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) COL SP 738 61
Market Value: Moderate Buy (12-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: The Rogaine of the Rockies is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. Shelled over the first three weeks, Jimenez's honed command and renewed swagger has dominated opponents in recent outings. Over his past three appearances he's reached the seventh inning in each start, posting a 2.14 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 6.43 K/9 and 1.29 BB/9. Even Lance Berkman was awestruck by the movement Jimenez generates on his 98 mph fastball. When in control, the power righty coaxes abundant groundball outs, evident in his 52.5 groundball percentage this month. Inconsistent periods should be expected, but because of his effective punch out contributions and ability to draw weak contact, he's a respectable No. 4 in 12-team mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 150 IP, 8 W, 4.03 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 132 K
Brett Cecil(notes) TOR SP 131 51
Market Value: Moderate Buy (12-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Cecil, arguably the Jays' most promising pitching prospect, has soared in his first two big league starts. In those outings, he's surrendered just one earned and punched out 12 in 14 innings. Equipped with a hard-diving low-90s fastball, devastating slider, change and curve, he induces ample groundball outs by attacking hitters' hands, an admirable trait for any young pitcher. Between three levels last year, he totaled a dynamite 62.5 GB%, 9.26 K/9 and 2.94 BB/9. With Ricky Romero(notes), Jesse Litsch(notes) and Casey Janssen(notes) expected to return by month's end, the southpaw will have to perform at an extraordinary level to lock down a rotation spot. A few bumps are expected, but based on his superb peripherals profile, more successful starts, and a permanent promotion, are on the horizon.
Fearless Forecast: 128 IP, 7 W, 3.95 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 116 K
Kiko Calero(notes) FLA RP 107 35
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Calero's personal trainer must be Billy Blanks. The journeyman reliever, who worked out extensively this past offseason with guided assistance, has regained the strength he lost from a torn rotator cuff early last year. No secret to owners in leagues that score for holds, Calero has been spectacular thus far. His sharpened command ('08 BB/9: 5.79, '09: 3.06) has sent his K/9 rate into a different dimension (11.72). Due to his fly-ball-heavy ways (57.9 FB%), the long-ball will harm him at times, but if he can continue to mitigate free passes the damage can be minimized. On pace for 109 strikeouts, he's a middle relief magician who can do wonders for any owner plagued in ERA and WHIP.
Fearless Forecast: 58.2 IP, 3 W, 3.09 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 69 K
Fantasy Lames
Jorge Cantu(notes) FLA 1B, 3B 51 98
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: The Mexican masher has finally returned from Planet Pujols. In 47 May at-bats, he's found green pasture a mere eight times (.170 BA) and has totaled a 9:2 K:BB split. More alarming is Cantu's revelation of persistent "knife-like" pain he's experienced in his wrist, a setback he suffered when Daniel Cabrera(notes) plunked him with a 94 mph fastball in early April. The 27-year-old's peripherals resume is a carbon-copy of last year, which does suggest another 29-homer, 95-RBI campaign is in store. However, given his discomfort and unfavorable May track-record (career .253 BA), it's wise to advertise his services. This week in Y! Plus league one-for-one deals, Cantu was shipped for B.J. Upton(notes), Hunter Pence, Adam Dunn(notes) and Justin Verlander(notes).
Fearless Forecast: 388 at-bats, .267 BA, 17 HR, 70 RBI, 56 R, 1 SB
Garrett Atkins(notes) COL 1B, 3B 736 87
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: If Atkins was a cold-activated beer label, he would constantly be colored blue. Immersed in a despicable 22-for-113 slide, the normally consistent third baseman has recorded just eight extra-base hits this season. Given a two-day mental vacation by Clint Hurdle last week, Atkins analyzed tape and worked extensively in the cage in an attempt to adjust his flawed mechanics. When he returned to the lineup May 10, he was dropped to sixth in the order, a spot where he will remain until, as Hurdle remarked, he strings together a few "quality at-bats." Examining his slump under a magnifying glass, he's unsuccessfully chased several outside pitches, evident in his rise in O-Swing percentage ('08: 19.1, '09: 22.6). He's also pounded the turf at an uncharacteristic rate ('08 GB%: 37.0, '09: 47.4). Atkins experienced a similar dry spell early in '07 (.223 BA April/May) only to rebound with a .338-22-91-66 line after June 1. Considering how cheaply he can be acquired, he's well worth the risk.
Fearless Forecast: 500 at-bats, .302 BA, 17 HR, 81 RBI, 70 R, 1 SB
Jim Thome(notes) CHW DH, UTIL 200 57
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Over his past two contests, the South Side slugger has started to shake off the rust. Against the Indians he's gone 4-for-7 with two homers and a pair of fours in RBIs and runs. But despite the brief turnaround, Thome is valuable in historical significance only. The 500-homer member looks every bit of 38 years old. He's admitted to striking out excessively, especially against righties (.208 BA). Couple that with his appalling increase in infield fly-ball percentage (22.7) and O-Swing percentage (career: 17.5, '09: 26.2), and Thome has the look of a rapidly aging liability. He'll finish with fair power totals, but his awful BA says he's expendable in most mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 360 at-bats, .241 BA, 20 HR, 59 RBI, 57 R, 1 SB
Dexter Fowler(notes) COL OF 191 37
Market Value: Hold (14-team mixed, NL-only), Moderate Sell (12-team mixed)
Lowdown: Subtract his five-steal outburst against the San Diego sloth Chris Young and Fowler has yielded minimal statistical reward. Currently mired in a 6-for-33 nosedive, his BA has tumbled over 30 points. Just as Jordan Schafer(notes) proved earlier this season, boom and bust cycles are the norm for most young hitters not named Longoria. Given a couple days off late last week by Clint Hurdle to eliminate the "Nike swoosh" in his swing, the rookie hopes to rebound in Ryan Spilborghs(notes), not Garrett Atkins, style. His spot atop the Rockies lineup is attractive, but until he cuts down on the Ks and slams the ball into turf with more regularity, his BA will wallow under .270. If you're desperate for speed, keep him around, otherwise its sage to abandon ship in shallow mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 395 at-bats, .268 BA, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 52 R, 16 SB
Kevin Kouzmanoff(notes) SD 3B 875 13
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed), Strong Buy (NL-only)
Lowdown: Like a fine wine, the Kouz must ferment for a prolonged period before reaching peak flavor. A notoriously slow starter, the Padres snail has once again crawled out of the gates, collecting a .216 BA with one homer and eight RBIs. It may seem senseless to pitch an offer for such an unappealing commodity, but usually around this time each year the free-swinging veteran blasts off. Last season, he cracked 21 homers and drove in 76 runs after May 1. Obviously his BA will continue to be a burden until he exercises patience (3.8 BB%, 24.0 K%), but for those in very deep mixed and NL-only leagues, his plus power history is worth pitching a low-ball offer for. This week he was dealt straight up for Jon Garland, Chase Headley(notes) and Mike Pelfrey(notes) in Y! Plus league solo deals.
Fearless Forecast: 408 at-bats, .267 BA, 20 HR, 68 RBI, 46 R, 1 SB
Jon Lester(notes) BOS SP 922 97
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Baffled by his recent rocky efforts, Lester believes the sinister side of Lady Luck is to blame for the misfortune. According to his horrifically unlucky .394 BABIP, the starter's assumption is correct. Although his GB/FB split has trended downward ('08: 1.49, '09: 1.11), there's a great deal to like about Lester. His increased velocity and polished command (2.83 BB/9) have led to a meteoric rise in strikeouts ('08 K/9: 6.50, '09: 10.67). Gopheritis can be an issue at times for the southpaw (1.74 HR/9), but assuming his fortunes reverse, he should rebound very quickly. Lester, acquired this week in Y! Plus league solo deals for Andre Ethier(notes), Carlos Zambrano(notes) and Carlos Quentin(notes), is one of the finest pitching bargains around.
Fearless Forecast: 140 IP, 11 W, 3.64 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 134 K
Paul Maholm(notes) PIT SP 655 74
Market Value: Hold (all leagues)
Lowdown: After a dazzling start, the Buccos ace has failed to take his sword into battle. Winless in his past three, allowing 14 earned in 17.2 innings, the southpaw's once sparkling ERA has swelled two-plus points, topping out at 4.06. The primary culprit for Maholm's swoon is his control. Because he's not overpowering, he must locate pitches accurately to draw weak contact. Unfortunately, he's routinely missed spots. Still, his superb 1.67 GB/FB ratio and 2.84 BB/9 are signs his current dark episode will be short-lived. In the end, his numbers will settle close to last year's final tally.
Fearless Forecast: 150 IP, 7 W, 3.73 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 97 K
Brad Lidge(notes) PHI RP 773 98
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Despite being knocked around in four consecutive appearances, Lidge is convinced the worst is behind him. Battling through knee inflammation, the premiere stopper has closed the door just once since May 2, and has seen his ERA balloon from 6.52 to 8.56. More disturbing, his fly-ball percentage has risen from 32.3 to 53.5. Until he can keep the ball down in the zone, homers will be an ongoing problem. Charlie Manuel noted earlier this week that Lidge's velocity is improving but his command is still a work in progress. Rough patches may occur in his next couple performances, but now is the perfect time to pitch a discounted offer.
Fearless Forecast: 55 IP, 2 W, 31 S, 2.77 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 72 K

*All Fearless Forecasts are projected numbers from today forward

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: 0
Season total: 7
Moonshots to the money: 19