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MLB Skinny: Accentuating the negative

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

Last week, I used Ichiro(notes) to illustrate the value of players that contribute extremely to one category. I thought I would flip things this week and look at the one-category killers.

For this exercise, I limited candidates to only those hitters owned in 90 percent of Yahoo! PLUS leagues. For pitchers, I went with those that are 80 percent owned (or more) in those Y! leagues. And, I've limited the categories here to just the ratios (batting average, ERA, WHIP). So, without further ado, here are the Dwight Howards (most roto hoopers know how his FT% leaves a mark) of fantasy baseball '09, ranked in order of negative fantasy impact, according to Baseball Monster:

1. Ricky Nolasco's(notes) 7.15 ERA in 61.1 IP – He's been much better in June (2.50 ERA), but his fantasy owners are still digging themselves out of a hole left by Nolasco's 9.07 ERA through the first two months of the season.
2. Francisco Liriano's(notes) 5.91 ERA in 77.2 IP – Like Nolasco, there's been improvement (3.79 ERA in June), but he's become an early season cautionary tale after posting a 6.60 ERA through the first two months this season and an April mark of 11.32 last season.
3. Jimmy Rollins'(notes) .217 BA in 290 at bats
4. Scott Kazmir's(notes) 7.69 ERA in 45.2 IP – Kazmir is the bizarro Dan Haren(notes), as he is the worst of those pitchers that are owned in 80-plus percent of leagues in combined ERA/WHIP impact.
5. Dan Uggla's(notes) .213 BA in 239 at bats
6. Alfonso Soriano's(notes) .224 BA in 272 at bats
7. Scott Baker's(notes) 5.22 ERA in 81 IP
8. Jay Bruce's(notes) .216 BA in 241 at bats
9. David Ortiz's(notes) .213 BA in 230 at bats
10. Gavin Floyd's(notes) 4.65 ERA in 89 IP

Alright, I'll plan to check back in on the one-category kings and killers some time in the second-half of the season. But for now, let's turn to the market movers:

CORNER INFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Aubrey Huff(notes), Bal, 1/3 – 8-game hitting streak (.394, HR, 8 RBI, 3 R)
Kendry Morales(notes), LAA, 1/O – Cloud 9: 11-for-32 (.344), 6 2B, 4 HR, 4 RBI, 7 R in past 9
Scott Rolen(notes), Tor, 3B – 11-game hitting streak (.458, HR, 6 RBI, 11 R, SB)

Kevin Youkilis(notes), Bos, 1/3 – 4-for-28 (.143), HR, 2 RBI, 5 R, 12 K in past 8
Alex Rodriguez(notes), NYY, 3B – Dirty dozen: 4-for-38 (.105), HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, SB, 10 K in past 12
Ryan Zimmerman(notes), Was, 3B – 7-for-47 (.149), HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 14 K in past 11

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Kevin Kouzmanoff(notes), SD, 3B (22%) – From May 15 to present, Kouz ranks eighth among corner infielders in home runs (8) and sixth in RBIs (30 in 33 games). That's quite a turnaround from his first 33 games of the season (1 HR, 8 RBI). Perhaps you can write off his start as just another April shower (his career OPS in April is more than 230 points lower than any other month). But the Padres' hot corner has also benefitted of late from a move to the cleanup spot behind Adrian Gonzalez(notes). In 14 games hitting fourth, his OPS is 1.030, 400-plus points higher than at any other spot in the order. Considering how well he has taken to his promotion in the batting order, Padres manager Bud Black is likely to be loathe to move him even when Scott Hairston(notes) returns this week from a strained biceps injury – Hairston was spending some time in the cleanup spot before landing on the DL. Assuming Kouz can hold down his spot following Gonzalez, he's a viable power option (HR/RBI) for mixed leaguers.

Prospecting
John Bowker(notes), SF, 1/O – The Giants have hit the second-fewest home runs in the league. Its first base position has produced a .785 OPS, ranking No. 22 in the league. Its left field spot has generated a .675 OPS, good for No. 26 in the league. Its right field has generated a .728 OPS (No. 24 in the league). You see where I'm going with this … At Triple-A Fresno, Bowker, who played at least five games for the Giants in '08 at each of the positions mentioned, is one of only two players still in the PCL with an OPS above 1.000 (1.033). He's also one of three players with 10-plus home runs and steals (13/10). Oh, and he's fourth in the league in walks (41) … and he's hit five home runs in his past seven games. A former third-round pick in '04, Bowker will turn 26 on July 8. Last season, he fared as well as you could expect in his 111-game rookie campaign with the Giants – .255 BA, .708 OPS, 10 HR. All of this is to say, I'm really not sure what the Giants are waiting for. His current production and age scream for another shot.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Skip Schumaker(notes), StL, 2/O – Seven up: 12-for-28 (.429), 3 RBI, 9 R in past 7
Luis Valbuena(notes), Cle, 2/S – Five alive: 10-for-23 (.435), 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R in past 5
Alexei Ramirez(notes), ChW, 2/S/O – 19-for-59 (.322), 5 HR, 11 RBI, 11 R, 2 SB in past 14

Edgar Renteria(notes), SF, SS – Giant killer: 7-for-40 (.175), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, SB in past 11
Aaron Hill(notes), Tor, 2B – Down Hill: 18-for-90 (.200), 3 HR, 11 RBI, 9 R, 0 SB in past 20
Miguel Tejada(notes), Hou, SS – Sour 16: 16-for-68 (.235), 0 HR, 6 RBI, 9 R, 0 SB in past 16

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Placido Polanco(notes), Det, 2B (34%) – The 33-year-old Motown hit machine is 11-for-30 (.367) in his past eight games, including two home runs in his past three contests. Polanco's a lifetime .303 hitter and he hasn't produced a second-half batting average below .300 since '03. Last season, he scored 90 runs and batted .307 while hitting predominantly out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup – he finished '08 as the No. 10 second baseman in the Yahoo! game. Considering that he's still positioned in the No. 2 spot in the order, right in front of Miguel Cabrera(notes), he can pile up runs in a hurry once he settles into a groove. For those that need runs and batting average help, Polanco is about as reliable as it gets from a middle infielder.

Prospecting
Howie Kendrick(notes), LAA, 2B – Figured it was time for a Kendrick update. Since being demoted on June 12, Kendrick is hitting .333 with a .940 OPS in nine games for Triple-A Salt Lake. His most recent outing was his best, as he went 4-for-4 and stole his second base at Sacramento on Sunday. Maicer Izturis(notes) made an immediate splash (4-for-4) when he replaced Kendrick for the first time, but he's just 2-for-15 in his past five games. And, the Angels other option at second, Sean Rodriguez(notes), is just 2-for-13 in his five games since being called up. If Kendrick can keep things positive for another week or so, I wouldn't be surprised if he's awarded a return ticket to SoCal.

CATCHERS

Three Up/Three Down

Yadier Molina(notes), StL, C – Past 9: 14-for-36 (.389), HR, 4 RBI, 5 R, SB
Mike Napoli(notes), LAA, C – Seven up: 10-for-24 (.417), HR, 6 RBI, 3 R in past 7
Brian Schneider(notes), NYM, C – June boon: 9-for-29 (.310), 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 R in 10 games

Jorge Posada(notes), NYY, C – Past 13: 8-for-43 (.186), 2 XBH, HR, 3 RBI, 5 R,
Jason Varitek(notes), Bos, C – 3-for-28 (.107), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 6 R in past 9 games
Russell Martin(notes), LAD, C – June swoon: 9-for-53 (.170), HR, 1 RBI, 4 R, 0 SB in 16 games

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Kurt Suzuki(notes), Oak, C (48%) – It always feels necessary to reiterate just how atrocious this position has been for fantasy purposes this season. As it stands, only four catchers have produced at a top 200 level in the Yahoo! game, and only nine have produced at a top 400 level. Among those nine is Suzuki, who ranks 14th at the position in RBI (25), fifth in Runs (30), third in SB (3), and 10th in batting average among backstops with at least 100 ABs (.278). Suzuki is one of those rare durable, every-day catcher types – he played 148 games last season and is on pace for 155 games in '09. Because of that, he should sustain relevance at the position in the counting stats because of his playing time advantage at the position – only Victor Martinez(notes) and Bengie Molina(notes) have more ABs among catcher-eligible players. And, while he doesn't have much power, he's a good contact hitter who produced a .280-plus batting average at every step of his 314-game minor league tour. He should be able to continue to hit near his current pace, making him a very serviceable backstop option in a year when those types are few and far between.

Prospecting
Angel Salome(notes), Mil, C – The team's No. 5 prospect according to Baseball America, Salome entered the '09 season with a .322 batting average in 357 career minor league games, including a .360 mark in 98 contests at Double-A Huntsville last season. He's been in Triple-A Nashville this season, where he's hitting .272 in 51 games. But he's caught fire of late, hitting .371 with seven doubles, a triple and a home run in his nine games. The Brewers could use some offensive punch from the backstop position – they rank 26th in OPS from the catcher position (.608). Of course, Jason Kendall(notes), I'm talking about you. Salome has modest power, but nothing like what you get from Kendall, who is once again pulling that trick of producing a SLG% that is actually lower than his OBP (.269 to .323). Only seven of his 44 hits have gone for extra bases. And his defense, no matter how you want to slice it (CS%, FPCT, Errors) has been decidedly subpar. Say what you want about Kendall's intangibles, but the 23-year-old Salome deserves a shot if he continues to show near-term progress at Nashville.

OUTFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Michael Bourn(notes), Hou, OF – Past 18: 24-for-71 (.338), HR, 6 RBI, 13 R, 8 SB
Tony Gwynn(notes), SD, OF – Past 23: 31-for-83 (.373), 0 HR, 3 RBI, 14 R, 2 SB
Gabe Kapler(notes), TB, OF – Sensational seven: 9-for-16, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 5 R in past 7

Alfonso Soriano, ChC, OF – Past 28: 19-for-122 (.156), 2 HR, 5 RBI, 10 R, 3 SB, 34 K
Adam Jones(notes), Bal, OF – Past 11: 8-for-45 (.178), HR, 7 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB, 11 K
Jermaine Dye(notes), ChW, OF – 3-for-29 (.103), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in past 9

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
David DeJesus(notes), KC, OF (10%) – With Coco Crisp(notes) out – it was learned Tuesday that he'll miss the remainder of the season because of a shoulder injury – DeJesus has moved up into the vacated leadoff spot, and he's finally starting to turn things around after a slow start to the season. In his past 12 games, DeJesus is hitting .294 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, 11 RBIs and seven runs. In that span, he's produced the 23rd-best fantasy results among outfielders, according to Baseball Monster. For his career, DeJesus has hit .295 from June through the end of the season. And, like Polanco (above), he should be a solid batting average and runs play the rest of the way.

Prospecting
Cameron Maybin(notes), Fla, OF – Remember this guy? After making the team on the heels of a strong spring performance, the Marlins' top prospect earned a ticket back to Triple-A by producing a .202 batting average and 31 strikeouts in his first 26 games of the regular season. When he arrived in the PCL with New Orleans in mid-May, some of the stink from his stint with Florida stuck with him and he hit just .230 in his first 20 games with the Zephyrs. But in his past 10 games he's starting to look like a big-time prospect once again. In that span, he has 18 hits in 38 at bats (.474), including nine runs and a very encouraging 6:7 K-to-BB ratio. The Marlins are getting nice production of late from its outfield of Chris Coghlan(notes), Cody Ross(notes) and Jeremy Hermida(notes), so it's unlikely something will happen in regards to Maybin in the immediate future. But Florida is always in the middle of trade talks and it seems highly likely that something will open up for Maybin by the trading deadline if he can keep himself headed in a positive direction in New Orleans.

STARTING PITCHERS

Three Up/Three Down

Ricky Romero(notes), Tor, SP – June: 2-1, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 26 K, 27.1 IP
Kevin Correia(notes), SD, SP – Past 4: 3-1, 2.02 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 20 K, 26.2 IP
Kevin Millwood(notes), Tex, SP – June: 3-1, 0.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 22 K, 28.2 IP

Paul Maholm(notes), Pit, SP – Past 6: 1-3, 6.43 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 29 K, 35 IP
Jonathan Sanchez(notes), SF, SP – June: 0-4, 7.45 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, 19 K, 19.1 IP
Johan Santana(notes), NYM, SP – June: 1-3, 7.33 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 11 K, 23.1 IP

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Trevor Cahill(notes), Oak, SP (38%) – If you look at Cahill's past 11 outings, just about any fantasy owner would have been satisfied with 10 of those starts. Throw out a 2.1 IP, 7 ER implosion at Detroit on May 17 and Cahill is sitting on a 5-2 record with a 2.27 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 34 K in 63.1 IP from May 2 to present. Cahill, a consensus top dozen prospect heading into the '09 season according to Baseball America, doesn't have a palatable strikeout total for mixed league owners, but he was better than a K-per-inning pitcher (264 K) in his 239 innings at the minor league level prior to this season. And, we're seeing his K rate rise as the season progresses – 14 K in his first 41.1 IP; 27 K in his past 44.1 IP. He's a heavy ground-ball pitcher pitching in a favorable locale (3.38 ERA at home). Considering his pedigree and the month-to-month improvement he's shown, he's a good one to roll the dice on if you need some rotation help in competitive 12-team leagues or deeper.

Prospecting
Gio Gonzalez(notes), Oak, SP – How can I not talk about Gonzo? There's not a hotter pitcher in baseball at the moment, as he's allowed just one earned run in his past five starts for Triple-A Sacramento. In that span, he's 3-0 with a 0.30 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 38 K in 30.1 IP. Gonzalez picked up two starts with Oakland in early May, but control issues, which have always been his biggest problem, bit him once again. He's now walked 32 batters in a combined 42.2 IP for the A's the past two seasons. But he's also struck out 41 hitters with Oakland, and he currently ranks second in the PCL with 71 punch outs. During his recent run of success with Sacramento, his control has improved – he's walked two or less in four of his past six outings compared to just twice in his first eight outings with the club. Still, it's likely going to take a sustained effort by Gonzalez to convince Oakland he's ready for another go-round, especially the way the rotation has performed of late.

RELIEF PITCHERS

As in the past, I defer to my colleague, Andy Behrens, on this one. He puts out an excellent bullpen roundup – "Closing Thoughts" – each Monday in the Roto Arcade blog. And, of course, all bullpen tremors are recorded in our nightly Closing Time piece.

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