Bringin' the Noise: Hart-burn

Brad Evans
Yahoo! Sports

On pharmacy shelves throughout Fantasyland, Pepto-Bismol is in short supply.

The massive Fifth-Third burger isn't responsible. Neither are coronary-inducing encased links. The real reason why the chalky pink liquid is in high demand: Corey Hart(notes).

For owners who invested an early-round selection in the Brewers outfielder, excessive Hart-burn has been a joyless experience.

Entering the season, many virtual baseball skippers had placed lofty expectations on the right fielder after consecutive 20-20 efforts. Some pundits even believed a 30-30 campaign was achievable. Due to that enrapturing optimism, several owners placed Hart ahead of other well-rounded commodities such as Shane Victorino(notes), Hunter Pence(notes) and Nate McLouth(notes) on their draft boards.

Too bad fantasy purchases don't come with a receipt.

Currently ranked 181st overall per Baseball Monster and in the same tier as batting average lowlights Jim Thome(notes) and Jack Cust(notes), the lanky 27-year-old has severely underwhelmed. He has performed abysmally away from the Land of Costumed Sausages (.236 BA, 2 HR, 12 RBI) and has collected an uninspiring .252 BA against righties. Coming off a forgettable May (99 at-bats, .232 BA, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 14 R, 1 SB), he's on pace for a mere 18 homers, 67 RBIs and nine stolen bases. If it wasn't for his projected 100 runs, he would be meat-grinder material in shallow mixed leagues. However, if his experiment in the leadoff spot doesn't fair well, he'll likely fall well short of the century mark in that category.

Photo
Photo


With only one homer and one stolen base in 99 May at-bats, the normally mild-mannered Hart and his backers are a wee bit cranky.

(AP)

Checking his peripherals profile under the microscope, several disturbing trends are visible.

For starters, his stark rise in strikeout percentage ('08: 17.8, '09: 27.2), which has negatively impacted his contact rate (77.0, 71.9), shows that he's ventured into territory inhabited by Boston's Doughboy King, David Ortiz(notes). To complicate matters, when he has applied wood to rawhide, his pull-happy approach has generated fruitless results. His GB/FB ratio (1.00, 0.87) and outside contact rate (54.5, 45.5) have plummeted while his infield fly-ball percentage has risen sharply (5.0, 9.8), clear indicators he's weakly upper-cutting the baseball. For Hart, the downturn has taken a psychological toll:

"I'm terrible right now. That's my quote. Everything in this game is mental. I just have to find a way to get out of it."

To conquer his plate demons, Brew Crew hitting coach/psychoanalyst Dale Sveum has encouraged his beleaguered student to exercise more patience and avoid jabbing at breaking balls on the outside corner:

"Corey can lose his confidence pretty quick just like everybody does. Once you lose your confidence, you're kind of in a fistfight for a week or so to get it back. You start searching for stuff. He stopped taking his walks. He's starting to chase a little bit, but when guys are struggling, that's what happens."

Milwaukee's additions of Jody Gerut(notes) and Frank Catalanotto(notes) could occasionally force Hart to the bench, especially against righties, or to another team via trade if his futile performance continues. Rumors surfaced late last week that he could soon be shipped to Detroit, San Francisco or, most encouragingly, Boston, where he would likely supplant or at least challenge J.D. Drew(notes) for playing time, in exchange for a starting pitcher.

But despite his creepy flesh-colored beard, unsettling saber trends and possible lost playing time, it's wise to chase his services at a discounted price. Since being benched on May 27, he's shown resurgent signs, clubbing seven hits in 22 at-bats, including two homers. He's also historically thrived in June, evident in his career .308 BA. Based on the marginal names he's attracted in Yahoo! Plus league deals this week – Brian Fuentes(notes), Scott Baker(notes), Tory Tulowitzki and Melky Cabrera(notes) – he's worth acquiring.

Although Kanye West's "Heartless" is a theme song most disgruntled owners would attach to the struggling outfielder, the smooth Canuck sounds of the other Corey Hart's "Never Surrender" seem more appropriate.

Just a little more time is all we're asking forâ¦

Fearless Forecast (Rest of Season): 350 at-bats, .280 BA, 16 HR, 65 RBI, 60 R, 14 SB

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

Fantasy Flames
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Ben Francisco(notes) CLE OF 160 22
Market Value: Moderate Buy (12-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Francisco might be the most overlooked 20-20 player this season. More aggressive on the basepaths and contributing plus production in power categories, the former UCLA standout is on a very serviceable 14-61-76-26 pace. His 1.04 GB/FB is a major improvement over last season's cloud-reaching rate (0.72), but his questionable K-rate is a strong indicator his BA will dawdle just under .270. Still, coming off a quietly useful May (.295 BA, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 12 R, 6 SB), a month in which he posted the 34th-best line among outfielders per Baseball Monster, the Indians outfielder is surprisingly effective.
Fearless Forecast: 315 at-bats, .263 BA, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 47 R, 11 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Luke Scott BAL OF 96 83
Market Value: Strong Trade Buy (12-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Over the past week, Luke Scott has ventured into Megan Fox territory on the hotness scale. The reigning AL Player of the Week has jacked seven homers, driven in 16 and tallied four multi-hit games since May 27. Forced to become more selective at the dish due to a strained shoulder, the slugger credits the setback for making his swing more efficient. The lefty-stroker has always possessed 25-homer pop, but has never eclipsed 500 at-bats in a season, largely due to injuries and underutilization. His obscene 30.8 HR/FB percentage is unsustainable, but because he's striking the ball more consistently and more vigorously, especially on inside pitches, it's not unfathomable he could flirt with 30 long balls and 90 RBI. His patient approach (10.6) and respectable K rate (18.9 K%) also suggest he won't be a batting average liability. Believe in the breakthrough.
Fearless Forecast: 334 at-bats, .278 BA, 19 HR, 58 RBI, 49 R, 1 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Andruw Jones(notes) TEX OF
Market Value: Strong Buy (14-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Not exactly the heaping pile of "Anpoo" most pundits had anticipated, Jones has been remarkably efficient when afforded opportunities. With Josh Hamilton's(notes) groin dangerously close to the knife, his role will likely expand according to Ron Washington. When penciled into the lineup, Jones has performed laudably against both righties and lefties. Exuding uncharacteristic patience (17.4 BB%) and driving the ball similar to '06 (0.83 GB/FB), the Rangers reclamation project has regained some vintage form. Considering the increase in playing time, expected spot in the middle of the order and monumental peripherals tide shift, he's acquirable in deeper mixed formats.
Fearless Forecast: 250 at-bats, .274 BA, 14 HR, 43 RBI, 41 R, 1 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Chris Coghlan(notes) FLA 2B, OF 930 8
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)
Lowdown: Despite his suspect outward appearance, Florida's offensive Cog has provided a much needed spark atop the Marlins lineup. Showcasing steadfast patience, he's notched an eye-catching 20.0 walks percentage in the leadoff spot. Equipped with 20-plus stolen base potential (34 SB at Double-A last year), he should be a valuable source of speed and runs over the next several weeks. His 85.0 contact percentage also forecasts a significant upswing in batting average. Toss in his position flexibility, and the minimally owned rookie is someone worth scouring the wire for in deeper mixed formats.
Fearless Forecast: 330 at-bats, .265 BA, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 44 R, 15 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Gordon Beckham(notes) ChW SS 1171 11
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed), Strong Buy (AL-only)
Lowdown: Underwear ads, pop singer matrimony and quarter billion dollar contracts may not be in this Beckham's future, but positive fantasy yields are. Recalled Wednesday after Wilson Betemit(notes) was designated for assignment, the White Sox top prospect is an immediate purchase for owners searching for depth at middle infield in deeper leagues. The 22-year-old showcases advanced strike-zone knowledge and a smooth stroke. In stints with Double-A Birmingham and briefly with Triple-A Charlotte he accumulated a .322 BA with four homers and 25 RBI in 147 at-bats. Despite the semi-attractive totals and expected PT at second, short and third, he's avoidable in shallow leagues. Because of his developing power and nonexistent speed, he's essentially an immature Yunel Escobar(notes). Beckham will eventually be a perennial fantasy starter, but expect some growing pains.
Fearless Forecast: 246 at-bats, .275 BA, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 24 R, 1 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Chien-Ming Wang(notes) NYY SP 1257 62
Market Value: Moderate Buy (12-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: For Wang, misery has loved his company. His Knicks points per game average 14.46 ERA, 2.57 WHIP and 4.45 BB/9 are undeniably horrifying, but since returning form his mental hiatus, he's shown flashes of the pitcher who won 27 games from '07-'08. In three bullpen appearances, he allowed two earned, punched out seven and, most encouragingly, totaled a 60.8 ground ball percentage over eight innings. Wang remarked in May that his early season shortcomings were primarily due to right foot stiffness. Now healthy and with his mechanics fluid again, coaxing weak contact will be a regular occurrence. Forcing Phil Hughes(notes) to the pen, he's should remain in the rotation for at least the next month or so. Ignore the rough outing against Texas. Risk-taking owners not bothered by his superficial stats should point, buy and click.
Fearless Forecast: 101 IP, 8 W, 4.04 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 53 K
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Jeff Niemann(notes) TB SP, RP 627 11
Market Value: Moderate Buy (12-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Originally tabbed as the placeholder for wunderkind David Price(notes), Niemann has quietly excelled in recent weeks. Since May 13, the former Rice Owl has posted a 2.03 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 1.74 BB/9 and 6.68 K/9, including a brilliant complete game two-hit shutout of Kansas City June 3. Elusive command and vulnerability to the long ball have occasionally plagued the former '04 fourth overall pick, but the towering hurler believes "everything is coming together." If he can continue to stay ahead in counts and induce a fair amount of grounders, he'll be a suitable rotation caboose in deeper mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 102.1 IP, 7 W, 3.97 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 70 K
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Brad Bergesen(notes) BAL SP, RP 916 2
Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Reunited with former minor league battery-mate, and overexposed world hunger curer, Matt Weiters, Bergesen is quickly becoming a player of interest in deeper formats. With the super prospect behind the dish, the O's hurler has surrendered just four earned over in his past 15 innings pitched. A control freak who pitches to contact (2.26 BB/9, 86.7 CT%), the southpaw has compiled an eyebrow-raising 1.93 GB/FB this season. Overall, he's still relatively unpolished, but his Zach Duke(notes)-like resume and budding rapport with Weiters should not be underestimated. Snatch him up in deeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 99 IP, 6 W, 4.63 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 45 K
Fantasy Lames
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Alfonso Soriano(notes) CHC OF 75 99
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Languishing in a 9-for-60 face-plant with just one homer and one RBI since May 19, the streaky Fonzy has his supporters on edge. Though bothered by minor knee soreness, Lou Piniella noted earlier this week that the injury hasn't "precluded him from playing." Soriano's aggressive plate persona has always made him susceptible to prolonged slumps. Once he exudes more patience (35.0 K% during slide) and strings together a few quality at-bats, he should recapture the missing mojo quickly. Being a brand name, you'll still have to pay a premium for his services, but the discounted rate is worth pursuing. In one-for-one Plus league transactions this week, he was shipped for B.J. Upton(notes), Shane Victorino and Josh Beckett(notes).
Fearless Forecast: 360 at-bats, .273 BA, 20 HR, 58 RBI, 63 R, 9 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Nate McLouth ATL OF 93 98
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Shipped hastily by macro-club farm team Pittsburgh to Atlanta Wednesday, McLouth, and his fantasy backers, hope the change of scenery will jumpstart his fledgling game. Closer Mike Gonzalez(notes) is thrilled he can decipher choice words in Spanish. Moving downward, the 28-year-old has recorded just one multi-hit game since May 17, trimming nearly 40 points off his batting average in the process. Over-swinging at the dish, he's totaled an unsettling 26.5 punchout percentage in his past 39 at-bats. But overall he's been more selective ('08 BB%: 9.8, '09: 11.1) and has maintained respectable contact rates (83.1 CT%), signs his BA should increase in his new surroundings. With Chipper Jones(notes) and Brian McCann(notes) entrenched in the 3-4 spots, don't be surprised if Bobby Cox slides McLouth into the leadoff position. If that happens, a significant upswing in steals and runs should be expected. Pitch a Gehlken offer before the sale price expires.
Fearless Forecast: 353 at-bats, .271 BA, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 63 R, 17 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
J.D. Drew BOS OF 167 52
Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Miraculously, "Nancy" Drew has managed to stave off the injury imp. However, the trade troll is a different story. Boston's rumored pursuit of adding another corner outfielder – potentially Jeff Francouer or Corey Hart – could be the writing on the wall for the Sox right fielder. The lefty-swinger has totaled only two multi-hit performances since May 19. His more aggressive mentality ('08 K%: 21.7, '09: 26.6) is primarily to blame for the falloff. Despite his bland .255 BA, his contact rate, especially on outside pitches ('08 O-Swing%: 51.7, '09: 62.5), has increased sharply this season, a sign his average is bound to rise. But given his DL susceptibility and pontentially forced time-share with a yet-to-be-acquired outfielder, he should be attached to a deal immediately. This week he enticed Chad Qualls(notes), Mat Gamel(notes) and Gil Meche(notes) in Y! one-for-one Plus league swaps.
Fearless Forecast: 246 at-bats, .276 BA, 9 HR, 43 RBI, 40 R, 1 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Carlos Pena(notes) TB 1B 43 98
Market Value: Strong Power Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Joe Maddon, who is quickly becoming the Mike Shanahan of fantasy baseball, may believe Pena's elongated stay in Sorry Town is due to a lack of protection, but in reality it's par for the course. Since May 1, the free-swinging bopper (35.8 K%) has compiled an unsightly .206 BA with eighth homers, 18 RBIs and 24 runs. The harsh batting average yield shouldn't be a surprise to his owners. But his noticeable decrease in inside swing percentage and GB/FB ratio and infield-fly percentage increase are. Simply put: during his slump he's been completely overpowered on pitches he would normally crush. Pena has made adjustments in his routine to conquer the plate demons, but hasn't had much success. But eventually the switch will flip. However, keep in mind, '08's .282 BA is a complete anomaly. Power hungry owners with padded batting averages should buy on the bear.
Fearless Forecast: 325 at-bats, .251 BA, 25 HR, 68 RBI, 58 R, 1 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Troy Tulowitzki(notes) COL SS 673 80
Market Value: Moderate Buy (NL-only, 14-team mixed)
Lowdown: Labeled a lame several weeks ago, Tulowitzki continues to be the bane of many owners' existence. Toyed previously with by now unemployed skipper Clint Hurdle, the former respected commodity had difficulties establishing a firm rhythm. Additionally, he's been bothered by a bruised hand, an injury he underwent an MRI for on Wednesday. Results are expected to be released today. If the reports are positive, he's someone worth chasing via trade in deeper formats. Over the past week he's worked extensively in the cage in an attempt to tweak his mechanics and solve the riddle of his lost swing. His horrendous strikeout rate (22.4), 0.82 GB/FB and 14.5 infield-fly percentage lends a discouraging outlook. But his increase in walks ('08 BB%: 9.2, '09: 12.2) and noteworthy 86.3 contact rate suggest otherwise. Considering the anguish he's caused, his base price is incredibly low, which makes him acquirable for owners desperate for MI help. Hope isn't completely lost, yet.
Fearless Forecast: 340 at-bats, .270 BA, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 55 R, 5 SB
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Ervin Santana(notes) LAA SP 1242 91
Market Value: Strong Buy (12-team mixed, AL-only)
Lowdown: Since returning from the DL, Santana has strung together two consecutive stormy starts. In those lackluster efforts, he's conceded 15 earned and 19 hits in a mere 6.1 innings. Clearly laboring on the mound, the righty recently admitted his fastball velocity has dipped from 95-96 to 92. After his latest disaster in Seattle, Mike Scioscia emphasized health isn't an issue, saying spotty location was to blame for his pitcher's woes. Obviously, Santana is using the regular season as his spring training. Come mid-June he'll be stepping on the gas. With his owners in panic mode, it would be savvy to pitch a low-ball offer. This week in Y! Plus one-for-one deals, he netted Todd Helton(notes), Chris Davis(notes) and Matt Capps(notes).
Fearless Forecast: 127 IP, 8 W, 3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 112 K
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Francisco Liriano(notes) MIN SP 1253 85
Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Fran-sucko's dramatic decline has carved an ERA path of destruction through the fantasy community. Tabbed a "moderate sell" candidate in this space back in April, his dip in velocity and K/9 were dark harbingers that a resurrection wasn't likely to occur. Obviously, the rebound never happened. In his past three outings, he's totaled three Ls and a 12.00 ERA and 2.58 WHIP. More unnerving, the southpaw admitted after his last start he doesn't always know what pitch to throw with men on base. Mind-blowing. Ron Gardenhire noted last week he's "definitely not ready" to remove Liriano from the rotation, but if the current trend continues and Anthony Swarzak(notes) compiles a couple more quality starts, the Twins skipper will be forced to rethink things once Glenn Perkins is activated from the DL. Liriano has been unlucky (.334 BABIP), but based on his 4.30 BB/9, 1.38 HR/9 and 0.95 GB/FB, pushing the eject button is a sage move.
Fearless Forecast: 78 IP, 3 W, 5.01 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 61 K
PLAYER TEAM POS Y!RK Y!%
Ted Lilly(notes) CHC SP 78 97
Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Some fantasy fans would rather trot out Metamucil-fueled rifleman Larry King than Ted Lilly every five days. The rainbow-tossing lefty has been the bearer of good fortune this season, evident in his .245 BABIP. Match that with a fly-ball intensive 0.59 GB/FB and hideous 1.39 HR/9, and it's safe to assume the southpaw's ERA will soon march north. Per his FIP, it could vault a full point once the law of averages, and not Lady Luck, seizes control. Lilly's 14-16 win pace, marvelous WHIP contributions and solid 7.44 K/9 are superb qualities, but now is the time to maximize profit.
Fearless Forecast: 135 IP, 8 W, 4.36 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 118 K


*All Fearless Forecasts are projected numbers from today forward

CRUZ COUNTER
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: 4
Season total: 16
Moonshots to the money: 10
Pace: 49