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
Mike Aviles (KC – 2B, SS) 35,224 adds
Aviles has been on an absolute tear since his season OPS hit a low-water mark on July 6 (.756). He's hit .402 in 25 games since, with 19 runs, 15 extra-base hits (10 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR) and 16 runs batted in.
Upshot: He's raised his season average to .336 in 217 at bats and his OPS now stands at .900 (.361 OBP, .539 SLG). He also picked up eligibility at 2B along the way and is the top-ranked player there and second at SS over the past month, at 24th overall. Sure, he's unlikely to maintain his current average (.374 BABIP), but when you consider that he was hitting .336/.370/.631 at Triple-A at the time of his promotion, continued production well above average at his position(s) seems likely.
Kelly Shoppach (Cle – C) 21,516 adds
Shoppach has been making some pretty serious noise with his bat of late, batting .408 (20 for 49) over the past 13 games, with 10 runs, 12 extra-base hits (7 2B, 5 HR) and 15 runs batted in. He's the third ranked catcher over the past month, at 128th overall.
Upshot: His recent hot streak included a game (July 30) in which he tied the major league record for extra-base hits, with five (3 2B, 2 HR). Last season and in the minors, Shoppach didn't hit for much average but showed good power for the position. Victor Martinez could start a rehab assignment sometime next week, but it's doubtful he'd be back with the team before the end of August even in a best-case scenario. Shoppach is a great option while his bat is hot, but keep tabs on V-Mart and how the Indians plan to use him if/when he's back with the team.
Francisco Liriano (Min – SP) 20,442 adds
Liriano's percent owned number headed into the high 80s following his impressive first start (6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K) since being recalled from the minors.
Upshot: Andy Behrens presents some interesting food for thought to any fantasy owners thinking we're about to see Liriano revisit his 2006 form. Considering that his cost to many owners was dropping their worst player, there's little reason to not see if he can't pull a bit more of a sure thing via trade. We should know within a few starts – not in a single test against the injury-depleted Indians' lineup – whether or not Liriano is going to be a true difference maker down the stretch.
Eddie Guardado (Tex – RP) 18,644 adds
The closer carousel continues to spin, and this week it has Guardado filling in for an injured C.J. Wilson for the Rangers.
Upshot: Guardado has been flashing vintage form (44.2 IP, 3.02 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .195 BAA) and seems like a more stable option than some of the other recently-named interim closers. We'll know within a few days whether or not Wilson's bone spurs will require season-ending surgery, but don't wait that long to pluck Guardado off the wire in your league.
Randy Johnson (Ari – SP) 17,198 adds
Speaking of vintage form, that's exactly what the 44-year-old Johnson has had on display over his past five starts. He's won all five, compiling a 1.39 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 32.1 innings, with 24 hits, just two walks and 25 strikeouts.
Upshot: Amazingly, the streak has come on the heels of a serious rough patch in which he allowed seven earned runs in three of four starts (June 14 to July 1). What matters is that it's working now, so keep plugging him in until health or performance dictate otherwise.
Ubaldo Jimenez (Col – SP) 16,012 adds
Jimenez is a repeat performer on the Buzz Index thanks to a continued run of stellar starts. His most recent (W, 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K on August 1) has to rank up there with his best.
Upshot: He's 7-3 in his past 11 starts, with a 1.87 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 72.1 innings. He's allowed just 50 hits and three home runs over that stretch. I'm not sure what else needs to be said for a guy who has been getting it done for just about two months now. As long as his control remains relatively in check (3.4 BB/9 since July 1), he'll remain a top fantasy option.
Aaron Heilman (NYM – RP) 15,563 adds
Heilman is one of the latest middle relievers to get the first opportunity to close. He's supposed to fill in for Billy Wagner, who was placed on the DL Tuesday.
Upshot: Heilman's first appearance since acquiring his new title wasn't exactly a thing of beauty, as he allowed three earned runs while recording one out Tuesday night. Scott Schoeneweis actually recorded the final out of the game to record his first save of the season. While he's struck out well over a batter per inning (20 K in 15.2 IP), Heilman has an 8.62 ERA and 1.79 WHIP over the past month, so tread carefully. The Mets may end up with no other choice but to turn to youngster Eddie Kunz to close games. He had 27 saves in Double-A before his recent promotion. With that said, Wagner isn't expected to need more than 15 days on the DL and he's eligible to be activated on August 18.
Buzz Index (Baseball) – Drops
Tim Hudson (Atl – SP) 24,527 drops
Hudson was among the most dropped players last week when news emerged that he was heading to the DL with ligament damage in his right elbow. Those fantasy owners who held out a bit longer are moving on now that he's set to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Lowdown: It's doubtful that we'll see the 33-year-old Hudson any time before the All-Star break next season. Hudson's ratios (3.17 ERA, 1.16) were at their best levels since his career 2003 season (2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). It's a major blow for fantasy owners and the Braves organization. Charlie Morton will assume Hudson's spot in the rotation and is one of 10 different players to have started a game for the Braves so far this season.
Fernando Rodney (Det – RP) 21,116 drops
Rodney was among the most added players last week after replacing Todd Jones as the Tigers' closer, but he started coming off rosters after two consecutive blown saves and Joel Zumaya getting his namethrown into the closer mix.
Lowdown: Hopefully you tempered your expectations, as you were instructed. Ironically, Rodney's best performance of the season came immediately after losing his grip on the closer role. It's messy in Detroit. Rodney still seems to have as good a chance as anyone at save opportunities moving forward.
Brandon Morrow (Sea – RP) 20,287 drops
The Mariners sent Morrow to the minors Tuesday with the intention of converting him to a starting pitcher.
Lowdown: He'll get four to six weeks to adjust to his new role – you can track his progress here – and then a return to the bigs will be discussed. It's possible that he'll get a few turns for the Mariners over the final weeks of the season, but it's not a sure thing as of right now.
Dana Eveland (Oak – SP) 18,610 drops
Eveland was sent to Triple-A after a string of poor starts was punctuated by a disaster in Boston on Saturday (2.0 IP, 9 ER). He allowed 23 hits and 18 earned runs in 11.2 innings over his final three starts.
Lowdown: Eveland had a 2.90 ERA and 1.16 WHIP as of May 21 (10 GS, 62.0 IP), but has compiled a 6.00 ERA and 1.87 WHIP since (12 GS, 63.0 IP). Above-average walks (4.6/9) and below-average strikeouts (6.1/9) rarely come together to form a good fantasy option.
Mark Buehrle (CWS – SP) 14,277 drops
Buehrle had his worst start of the season on Saturday, allowing 14 hits and eight earned runs in 4.1 innings. His season ERA rose from 3.69 to 4.07 in the game.
Lowdown: The disaster came on the heels of a streak of nine quality starts in 11 turns (77.1 IP, 2.33 ERA, 1.10 WHIP), so all is not lost for Buehrle, even if the single start was a dramatic hit to his ratios. His low strikeouts can make him something of a fringe option, but I'd still be inclined to give him a mulligan this time around.
Manny Parra (Mil – SP, RP) 14,228 drops
Parra has been fairly easy to score runs against recently. His most recent start (6.0 IP, 6 ER) brought his numbers to a 5.74 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over his past five starts (31.1 IP).
Lowdown: The 25-year-old has got some serious talent, but walks (4.5/9) have limited his breakout potential this season and obviously he's scuffling right now. There's a good chance that Parra has more upside than the pitcher you are dropping him for, but upside is certainly trumped by actual production in a re-draft league.
J.J. Hardy (Mil – SS) 13,727 drops
Hardy was as cold over the past week or so as he was hot through most of June and July. He went 0-for-29 in six games from July 29 to August 4, dropping his average from .297 to .278 in the process.
Lowdown: Two hyper-productive months and one bad week makes you expendable? You probably could/should have dropped someone other than Hardy to pick up Aviles, if that's the move you made. Despite a horrific start (.242/.319/.343 as of June 10), he's currently the 11th-ranked shortstop in the Yahoo! game at 176th overall and is third at the position with 15 home runs. Let him ride out the slump on your bench and plug him back in once he starts hitting again (he had two hits on Tuesday).
Jeff Baker (Col – 1B, 2B, OF) 13,069 drops
Baker has hit a rough patch, batting just .074 (2 for 27) over the past eight games, with one run and one run batted in.
Lowdown: He was rewarded for his torrid June as a super-sub (.338, 16 R, 5 HR, 14 RBI in 19 G) with regular playing time at 2B for much of July (.287, 20 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 3 SB in 22 G), but Clint Barmes and, to a lesser extent Omar Quintanilla, are waiting in the wings if Baker continues to falter. There have been no indications that he has lost his starting role as of yet, however, so fantasy owners will regret dropping him if he can work through this slump and get back to his June/July level of production.