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
Corey Hart (Mil – OF) 49,299 adds
Hart has been on a five-category tear in recent weeks, batting .325/.419/.638 over his past 20 games, with 19 runs scored, seven home runs, 14 runs batted in, and eight steals. Hart is the eighth-ranked player in the Yahoo! game for "Last Month (total)" stats.
Upshot: A full-time gig and the leadoff spot for the Brewers appear to be agreeing with the 25-year-old Hart, who was moved to the top of the order when Rickie Weeks went on the DL at the end of May (Weeks has been batting eighth since being activated earlier this week). Hart was on a roster in less than 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues at the beginning of the week, but that number will (and should) be up substantially by the end of the week.
Shaun Marcum (Tor – SP, RP) 38,994 adds
Marcum has been impressive since injuries forced him into the Blue Jays' rotation in mid-May. In seven starts, he's compiled a 2.38 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, while striking out 39 in 41.2 innings, including 11 in 7.0 innings during his most recent start.
Upshot: Marcum is one of a handful of starting pitchers (Jeremy Guthrie, Justin Germano, etc) who have emerged as very solid fantasy options recently. A few of Marcum's metrics stand out, however: his BABIP (.238) and strand rate (86 percent) suggest that a regression is in order, and his home run rate (1.5/9 as a starter) could become problematic if his BAA (.205) starts to creep up. For now, keep plugging him in, but be sure to temper expectations.
Sean Marshall (ChC – SP) 24,687 adds
Marshall was a popular pickup in the days leading up to his start on Tuesday. The 24-year-old has been effective overall in his six starts since being called up from Triple-A, as he currently boasts a 2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and .225 BAA in 38.0 innings, with 31 strikeouts.
Upshot: While he's been effective overall, Marshall was not effective on Tuesday. He allowed four earned runs, by way of three home runs, and walked three in 4.0 innings against the Rangers, and he was subsequently dropped 12,118 times. Marshall gets a mulligan, as he met up with a hot Rangers offense that has averaged 5.8 runs over its past 11 games. He's still worth carrying as a back-of-the-rotation fantasy starter with upside.
Brendan Harris (TB – SS) 18,632 adds
Harris has been crushing the ball during the month of June, putting together a .316/.373/.618 line in 19 games, with 13 runs scored, 12 extra-base hits, and 18 runs batted in.
Upshot: While there is little reason to expect him to maintain a .600-plus slugging percentage, Harris has shown enough to suggest that he'll be a fine fantasy option at shortstop moving forward.
Chad Billingsley (LAD – SP, RP) 17,749 adds
Billingsley has been moved into the Dodgers' rotation in place of the injured Jason Schmidt. His first start of the season will be on Thursday versus the Blue Jays
Upshot: The 22-year-old was effective from a baseball standpoint as a starting pitcher (for the most part) in 2006, going 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 18 appearances, but he also walked 58 batters and had a horrific 1.67 WHIP. He's been stellar out of the pen this season, lowering his walk rate from 5.8/9 last season to 3.3/9 this season, and raising his strikeout rate from 5.9/9 to 10.3/9. Billingsley even struggled with walks in the minors (3.7/9, 1.21 WHIP in 405.0 innings), but he made up for it with an exceptional home run rate (0.6/9) and strikeout rate (10.2/9). Simply put, he'll have to do the same in the Dodgers' rotation to be a viable fantasy option over the rest of the season.
Yovani Gallardo (Mil – SP) 17,111 adds
Gallardo was reasonably effective in his major league debut, allowing four hits and three runs in 6.1 innings, walking three and striking out four. The 21-year-old had been fantastic in Triple-A this season, going 8-3 in 13 starts with a 2.90 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and .189 BAA in 77.2 innings, striking out 110 batters.
Upshot: Gallardo figures to get one more start before Chris Capuano returns from the DL, but then his role is up in the air. It's highly unlikely that the Brewers would use him out of the pen, but the question remains as to whether or not they would bump one of their middling starters (Claudio Vargas, Dave Bush, or Jeff Suppan) in his favor. Plug him in for his next start (likely versus KC), but don't be surprised if he's headed back to Triple-A once Capuano is activated.
Kenny Rogers (Det – SP) 16,989 adds
The 42-year-old Rogers, sidelined by surgery to remove a blood clot from his left (throwing) shoulder all season, is expected to make his season debut on Friday. Rogers was 17-8 in 2006, with a 3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 99 strikeouts in 204.0 innings.
Upshot: Fantasy owners are likely to get some wins from Rogers, much like last season, but be prepared for rough outings in the early going, and even more meager contributions from Rogers in the three "other" starting pitcher categories (ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts) than what he was good for last season.
Joe Blanton (Oak – SP) 15,972 adds
After a rough May, Blanton is back on track during the month of June. He's gone 3-1 in four starts, with a 1.44 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and .195 BAA in 31.1 innings, with just four walks and 16 strikeouts.
Upshot: Take a look at Blanton's career splits and you'll see monthly stats that are all over the map. He's likely to have a few more hot and cold stretches before it's all said and done. Some positive signs for Blanton overall: his strikeout rate is up (6.2/9), his walk rate is down (1.8/9), and his BAA (.238) is back to its 2005 level (.236).
Jose Bautista (Pit – 3B, OF) 15,957 adds
The Pirates moved Bautista to the top of the batting order, and he's responded in fantastic fashion. In 24 games at leadoff, the 26-year-old has put together a .313/.393/.535 line, with 21 runs scored, 13 extra base hits, and 15 runs batted in.
Upshot: Bautista now has a career .278/.365/.478 line in 71 games and 291 at bats at leadoff. As long as the Pirates leave well enough alone (sadly, no guarantee), he should continue to be an above-average fantasy contributor.
Dan Wheeler (Hou – RP) 14,611 adds
Wheeler has been re-instated as the Astros' closer, as Brad Lidge hit the DL on Tuesday with a strained left oblique.
Upshot: That sure was a quick turnaround, as Lidge had only reclaimed the job as of June 12. If you were among the 50,000 or so fantasy owners who dropped Wheeler over the past 10 days, then you have my condolences (unless, of course, you were able to pick him back up).
Buzz Index (Baseball) – drops
Jason Schmidt (LAD – SP) 44,336 drops
Schmidt had season-ending shoulder surgery on Wednesday. Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said that the "hope" is that he'll be at 100 percent by spring training of next season. The 34-year-old Schmidt's season ends with a 1-4 record, 6.31 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, and .296 BAA in 25.2 innings over six starts.
Lowdown: Fantasy owners are left to wonder what they could have better spent, on average, a ninth round pick on, while the Dodgers are left to wonder what they could have better spent $47 million over three years on.
Braden Looper (StL – SP, RP) 24,404 drops
Looper had an 8.82 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, and .356 BAA in three June starts before being placed on the DL on June 16 with a right shoulder strain.
Lowdown: Looper had allowed at least six earned runs in four of six starts leading up to his removal from the active roster. Fantasy owners should rest assured that his best fantasy contributions are behind him (as in, during the month of April).
Jorge Sosa (NYM – SP, RP) 19,113 drops
Sosa had his second consecutive troublesome start on Tuesday, and, in the two appearances combined, he totaled 16 hits, 11 earned runs, three walks, and two strikeouts in 9.0 innings.
Lowdown: Contrary to what his early-season success may have suggested, it appears that Sosa did not suddenly become a consistently good Major League starter at the age of 30. I've been asked numerous times over the past few weeks, "What should I do with Jorge Sosa?" My advice has been steadfast: find the most beneficial way to remove him from your roster, and follow that course of action.
Tim Lincecum (SF – SP) 16,844 drops
The 23-year-old phenom has followed up a fantastic May (2-0, 3.24 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, .186 BAA, 3:1 K:BB) with a putrid June (0-2, 10.61 ERA, 1.98 WHIP, .303 BAA, 1.5:1 K:BB).
Lowdown: A straight drop is a short-sighted move, and ill-advised in all but the very shallowest of leagues. He's struck out more than a batter per inning (9.3/9), and his BAA is a paltry .232. A kid with this level of talent warrants a bench spot for a bit longer.
Brad Lidge (Hou – RP) 14,457 drops
Lidge was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a strained left oblique, and he is expected to need more than the 15 days in order to recover. Houston manager Phil Garner said "it'll be a while here where [Lidge] won't do any throwing activity."
Lowdown: This appears to be yet another short-sighted move. Lidge should move right back into the closer role when he is ready to return, although it's uncertain exactly how long that will be.
Julio Lugo (Bos – 2B, 3B, SS) 9,712 drops
Lugo has followed up a pathetic May (.209/.241/.336) with poor numbers of epic proportions in June (.109/.183/.172). In 65 games, Lugo has a .201/.265/.299 season line.
Lowdown: Lugo has now hit .207 in his past 114 games, dating back to August 1 of last season. Breaking up with Lugo is still hard to do, due almost entirely to the fact that he's eighth in the league with 19 steals, and has yet to be caught stealing. His current BABIP (.219) is almost 100 points below his career number (.316), so he's been a bit unlucky. With that said, his line drive percentage (13.6 percent) is almost five percentage points lower than his career average (18.4 percent), so he's struggling to make solid contact. He'll occupy a bench spot in leagues that I own him in for at least a while longer, but I can't necessarily blame fantasy owners for giving up at this point.
A.J. Burnett (Tor – SP) 9,704 drops
Burnett lasted just 4.2 innings during his most recent start (June 12) before leaving with a right shoulder strain. On Tuesday, the Blue Jays placed him on the DL in order to "err on the side of caution," and Blue Jays general manager added that Burnett "could have made" his scheduled start this past Saturday.
Lowdown: Burnett threw 130 pitches in 7.0 innings in the start prior to his June 12 appearance, something that shouldn't have even been a consideration for a pitcher with Burnett's injury history. He's currently fifth in the league with 100 strikeouts, second only to Erik Bedard (10.7/9) in strikeout rate among starting pitchers (10.0/9), and 10th in the league with a .219 BAA. If the DL move was more precaution than necessity, as the Blue Jays are suggesting, then Burnett shouldn't have hit waivers in any leagues.
Randy Wolf (LAD – SP) 8,446 drops
Wolf has struggled mightily in June. He's lasted more than 5.0 innings in only one of four starts, compiling a 6.86 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, and .344 BAA in 21.0 innings. After striking out 35 batters in 30.1 innings in May, Wolf has struck out just 13 in June.
Lowdown: Wolf was as effective as any fantasy starter during the month of May, but his numbers have regressed (4.24 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .265 BAA) to very close to his career averages (4.21 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .254 BAA). His strikeout rate should come back up a bit, but don't expect above-average ratios again anytime soon.
Aaron Hill (Tor – 2B, SS) 7,951 drops
Hill has been stone cold during the month of June. In 17 games, he's put together a .217/.294/.350 line, with eight runs scored.
Lowdown: Hill has been in a slow but steady decline since May 1, and he hit two more home runs in 25 games in April (five) than he's hit in 45 games since (three). If there is a better option on the free agent list, pull the trigger.