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MLB Skinny: Deep impact

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

In the Yahoo! Friends and Family League, I'm pulling 11 points in batting average out of 14 teams. This despite carrying some pretty heavy dead weight in the BA category – Russell Martin(notes) (.244 in 205 ABs); Jose Lopez(notes) (.247 in 235 ABs); Josh Hamilton(notes) (.240 in 125 ABs); CoCo Crisp(notes) (.228 in 180 ABs); Mike Aviles(notes) (.183 in 120 ABs); Eric Byrnes(notes) (.223 in 103 ABs); and a combined contribution of .193 from Adam Kennedy(notes), Ty Wigginton(notes), Chad Tracy(notes) and Seth Smith(notes) in 171 ABs.

How I've managed to bubble to the top of the league in batting average despite getting a .226 contribution from the collective above – which has accounted for 42 percent of my team's at bats – can be summed up in two names: Ichiro(notes) and Jason Bartlett(notes). They are two of just three players hitting .360 or better in 150-plus at bats – Joe Mauer(notes) being the other.

Ichiro, in particular, is well known for his batting average prowess in fantasy leagues, not just because of his .332 career mark, but also because he doesn't draw a lot of walks and he rarely misses a game, and this contributes to a high total of at bats, which leads to a very weighty batting average. Ichiro is only ranked No. 85 in the Yahoo! game but according to BaseballMonster.com, he is the third-most impactful player on the batting average category behind Mauer and David Wright(notes) – and all three of these players are well ahead of No. 4 on the list – Mr. Bartlett.

In short, Ichiro has allowed me to carry some pretty distasteful batting averages from those mentioned above without much consequence. And that's more valuable for my squad than his No. 85 rank would indicate.

I was recently offered a deal in which I'd receive Carlos Quentin(notes), Kosuke Fukudome(notes) and Brian Wilson(notes) (I really need saves) for Ichiro. At first I was tempted to jump on the offer. But when breaking down the importance of Ichiro to my lineup, thus far, it gives me pause. It's simply irresponsible to say I'm going to trade batting average for saves. If I replace Ichiro's impact to my team so far with that of a .277 hitter in the same number of at bats (basically, subtracting 20 hits from my team's total), I'm suddenly pulling a five in the category as opposed to an 11. Now, I'll accept that Brian Wilson's saves impact could make up that difference, but saves, in general, hold more volatility than any other category, especially from a pitcher with some control issues, a career ERA north of 4.00 and in just his second season as a closer. If I make the deal, it's because I feel Quentin is going to return at full strength before August and that he's going to hit the ground running when he returns – as it stands, that's a leap of faith. As for Fukudome, he doesn't factor – he's a league-average commodity and there are comparable players available in the league's waiver pool. So I'm inclined to hold onto Ichiro because he's holding me up in at least one category, and he's about as close to a guarantee as you'll get in baseball.

With Ichiro's impact in mind, I thought I would quickly dig up the players making the deepest impacts in the league across the standard 5x5 categories, ranked in order of their impact (values from Baseball Monster):

1. Carl Crawford's(notes) 36 stolen bases – Not only is Crawford's steals mark the most impactful stat accrued in fantasy, thus far, he's also the No. 1 ranked player in the game when accounting for the combined batting average, runs and steals categories, followed not so closely by Chone Figgins(notes), David Wright and Jacoby Ellsbury(notes).
2. Joe Mauer's .414 batting average
3. Dan Haren's(notes) 0.81 WHIP – Haren is also the leader in combined ERA and WHIP impact. No. 6 on that list is the 13-percent owned Reds middle reliever Nick Masset(notes), who hasn't allowed a run since April 24th.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury's 25 stolen bases
5. Roy Halladay's(notes) 10 wins
6. B.J. Upton's(notes) 24 stolen bases
7. Prince Fielder's(notes) 62 RBIs
8-10. The 22 home runs of Adrian Gonzalez(notes), Raul Ibanez(notes), and Albert Pujols(notes)

Alright, let's move on to the latest market report …

CORNER INFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Derrek Lee(notes), ChC, 1B – Past 23: .371, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 12 R
Mark DeRosa(notes), Cle, 3/2/O – Past 11: 15-for-43 (.349), 5 HR, 14 RBI, 11 R
Casey McGehee(notes), Mil, 3B – June: 16-for-32 (.500), HR, 7 RBI, 9 R, 3B-high 1.318 OPS

Adrian Gonzalez, SD, 1B – Ten in the tank: 6-for-32 (.188), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 4 R in past 10
Joe Crede(notes), Min, 3B – Dirty dozen: 8-for-42 (.190), HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 12 K in past 12
Miguel Cabrera(notes), Det, 1/3 – Still sinking: 8-for-54 (.148), HR, 2 RBI, 5 R in past 16

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Adam LaRoche(notes), Pit, 1B (37%) – OK, owners, the well-known requisite waiting period on LaRoche is coming to an end. For most players, you can discount month-to-month swings as anomalous. But LaRoche has set a precedent for following a path of first-half failure followed by second-half recovery. For his career, he's a .271 hitter, but he has failed to hit above .300 in the second half just once in his five seasons prior to '09. This season, he was sitting on a lowly .224 average on May 20. But he's hit .351 in the 17 games since then. The power hasn't followed suit in that span (1 HR), but it should come – he owns a .907 OPS mark for his career after the All-Star break. I'd count on the continued ascension of LaRoche, and I'd be offering him an employment opportunity if he were available in my leagues.

Prospecting
Brandon Wood(notes), LAA, 3/S – In recent call-up Sean Rodriguez(notes) and Wood, the Angels have two K-per-game infield prospects with prodigious power. And the team doesn't appear to be in any hurry to fully commit to either of these two any time soon. But just as Rodriguez forced the issue with a conspicuous 21 home runs in 57 games at Triple-A Salt Lake City, Wood is also demanding to be heard with a line of .301, 15 HR, 40 RBI and a .980 OPS in 48 games for SLC – he's now slugged 69 home runs in 266 games at the Triple-A level. The recent demotion of Howie Kendrick(notes) has allowed Rodriguez to come up and get some action in three of the team's past four games – he's gone 2-for-10 with a home run and three strikeouts. It's conceivable that if Rodriguez doesn't pan out, the team could opt to move Chone Figgins to second base, which would open a spot for Wood at third base – he played 32 games there for the Angels last season, but he's played mostly shortstop this season. Another possibility is Wood getting a shot to play some first base – he logged some time at the position recently, and Kendry Morales(notes) has struggled a bit of late. The point is that Wood has been hitting well, he's got the versatility to play a variety of positions and he's at a point (24 years old) where something has to give (a trade, perhaps?). He's someone to keep an eye on as we get closer to the trading deadline, especially with the Angels closing in on the Rangers in the AL West and continuing to deal with injuries in its pitching staff.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Willy Aybar(notes), TB, 1/2/3 – Past 13: 13-for-44 (.295), 3 HR, 10 RBI, 10 R
Alberto Callaspo(notes), KC, 2/S – Past week: 12-for-23 (.522), 2 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R, 6 games
Troy Tulowitzki(notes), Col, SS – Past nine: 11-for-27 (.407), 3 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R, 4 SB

Jhonny Peralta(notes), Cle, SS – Past 10: 5-for-35 (.143), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB
Kelly Johnson(notes), Atl, 2B – June swoon: 8-for-46 (.174), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 0 SB, 12 games
Skip Schumaker(notes), StL, 2/O – Past 11: 5-for-37 (.135), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 4 R, 0 SB

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Chris Coghlan(notes), Fla, 2B (14%) – Coghlan has taken a shine to the leadoff role. He's led off most of June for the Marlins and has now hit .322 with three steals and 11 runs in 15 games at the top of the order. For the past two weeks, he's been the eighth-most valuable fantasy middle infielder. Coghlan says that he's still waiting for manager Fredi Gonzalez to give him the green light on the base paths, and it only seems like that should come before too long – he's yet to be thrown out in four attempts for the Marlins this season and he owns a respectable 81-percent success rate as a professional. If you can afford the non-factors that Coghlan will offer in home runs and RBI, he's got nice three-category upside for a middle infielder.

Prospecting
Eric Young Jr., Col, 2B – Junior Young is well on his way to his third 70-plus steal season in the minors, having stolen 40 bases in 60 games, thus far, for Triple-A Colorado Springs. He's also hitting above .300 for the Sky Sox and his 30 walks has his On-Base Percentage sitting just shy of .400 (.391). Unfortunately, his path is blocked in Colorado by Clint Barmes(notes), who has performed well enough to avoid scrutiny for the time being. Young is also capable of playing outfield, but there's not much available there at the moment, either. Although he's strictly a speed guy, he's done enough to warrant a promotion, and he should be one of the next in line when opportunity presents itself.

CATCHERS

Three Up/Three Down

Bengie Molina(notes), SF, C – Past 10: 11-for-34 (.324), 2 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R
Ronny Paulino(notes), Fla, C – Seven up: 10-for-24 (.417), 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R past 7
Jason Kendall(notes), Mil, C – Past 13: 14-for-41 (.341), 0 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R, SB

Rod Barajas(notes), Tor, C – Past 6: 2-for-20 (.100), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R,
Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes), Tex, C – June: 7-for-33 (.212), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 11 K, 10 games
Ramon Hernandez(notes), Cin, C – Past 16: 6-for-57 (.105), 2 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Miguel Olivo(notes), KC, C (14%) – Olivo's 50/2 K-to-BB ratio may be the most ridiculous stat split in baseball in '09, thus far. But he's sporting a hot bat at the moment and, if you don't have one of the top handful of catchers in the league, riding the hot hand isn't a bad way to go. In his past 14 games, Olivo is hitting .333 with six home runs, 11 RBI and 10 Runs. With John Buck(notes) out with a lower back injury, Olivo has seen extensive playing time, and he's on pace for a career-high 143 games. Buck probably won't return until sometime around the All-Star break, and there's a good chance that he'll fill a backup role if Olivo continues to flash pop with the bat. He's got no chance to maintain his 29 percent HR/FB rate, which is third-highest in the league among those with 100 plate appearances, but he's certainly capable of maintaining his current .257 batting average while hitting another 10-12 home runs and swiping a half dozen more bases the rest of the way. Don't mistake this for a glowing endorsement, though – don't hesitate to cut bait at the next signs of trouble.

Prospecting
Max Ramirez(notes), Tex, C – The '09 season hasn't been the smashing success that '08 was for Ramirez, but he's showing signs of a turnaround, going 8-for-27 in his first seven games back from a recent DL stint to boost his average from .238 to .247. It's a baby step of progress for a catcher who stormed onto the fantasy radar last season by hitting .339 with 19 home runs in a combined 79 games between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City. His efforts earned him a No. 10 ranking within the Texas organization by Baseball America prior to the season. If he continues to dig himself out of this slump, he should get another big league shot before too long (Texas brought him up for 17 games last season). The team has a log-jam behind the dish with Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden(notes), so a trade before the deadline would make a lot of sense.

OUTFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Scott Podsednik(notes), ChW, OF – 21 run: 31-for-90 (.344), HR, 10 RBI, 13 R, 5 SB in past 21
Jeremy Hermida(notes), Fla, OF – Six-packed: 11-for-25 (.440), 3 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB in past 6
Andrew McCutchen(notes), Pit, OF – Debut dozen: 18-for-54, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 9 R, 2 SB in past 12

Ben Francisco(notes), Cle, OF – Past 14: 8-for-61 (.131), 0 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, SB, 13 K
Vernon Wells(notes), Tor, OF – Past 15: 6-for-51 (.118), 0 HR, 4 RBI, 7 R, SB
Mike Cameron(notes), Mil, OF – Dirty dozen: 5-for-42 (.119), HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 0 SB, 19 K in past 12

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Juan Rivera(notes), LAA, OF (36%) – In the past month, Rivera is hitting .351 with eight home runs and 21 RBI, landing him at No. 31 in the Yahoo! game for that span. Soon to be 31, Rivera has had trouble gaining traction in his major-league career because of a myriad of injuries that have limited him to just a combined 103 games in '07 and '08. But he's got legit 25-home run pop when healthy – he hit .310 with 23 home runs and 85 RBI in just 124 games for the Angels in '06. This season, he's on pace (.315, 26 HR, 91 RBI) to best that line. His key peripherals are in line with his career averages (there's not a flukiness factor here), and if he can stay healthy and keep his hold on that cherry No. 5 spot in the lineup behind the lethal contingent of Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu(notes), Torii Hunter(notes) and Vladimir Guerrero(notes), you have to like his chances to hold the line.

Prospecting
Drew Stubbs, Cin, OF – The Reds are the proud owners of the worst hitting outfield in the league, with a combined average of less than .230. Enter Stubbs, the team's first-round pick in '06. The centerfielder is currently tied for sixth in the International League with a .312 batting average, and he's pacing the league with 24 stolen bases. He's at the age (24) and has the pedigree to warrant attention from the Reds, especially given their issues in the outfield. Expect to start hearing his name pop up more and more in the next couple weeks.

STARTING PITCHERS

Three Up/Three Down

Brad Bergesen(notes), Bal, SP – Past 4: 3-0, 1.69 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 15 K, 32 IP
Aaron Cook(notes), Col, SP – Past 5: 3-2, 2.57 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 18 K, 35 IP
Joe Blanton(notes), Phi, SP – Past 4: 2-0, 2.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 28 K, 27 IP

Derek Lowe(notes), Atl, SP – Past 4: 1-2, 5.78 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 10 K, 23.1 IP
Dave Bush(notes), Mil, SP – Past 5: 0-3, 8.64 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 8 HR, 20 K, 25 IP
Chris Volstad(notes), Fla, SP – Past 4: 0-4, 7.66 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 10 K, 22.1 IP

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Phil Hughes(notes), NYY, SP (38%) – I still like Jordan Zimmermann(notes), who I slotted here last week, but I'll switch to Hughes this week for the sake of variety. Chien-Ming Wang(notes) is down to his last shot to keep a hold of a spot in the Yankees' rotation. If he scuffles in his next start, Hughes is expected to take his place in the rotation. Hughes has posted a 3.42 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 29 K in 23.2 IP (5.2 IP in relief) over the past month, landing him at No. 42 in the Yahoo! game among pitchers for that span. Hughes has a power arsenal that includes an average fastball (92.5 mph) that has been a tick better than that of Tim Lincecum(notes) and teammate Joba Chamberlain(notes) this season, and he's currently 19th among pitchers (40 IP min.) in K/9 (8.7). Control lapses and the long ball plagued him early on this season, but he's issued just four free passes and one long ball in the past month. Make the speculative play now and, if Wang somehow manages to retain his starting spot, throw him back into the pool.

Prospecting
James McDonald(notes), LAD, SP – I was bullish on McDonald entering '09, and more so after he made the team's rotation out of spring training. But he bombed in April in four starts and was moved to the pen for the first half of May before being demoted back to Triple-A Albuquerque. Once he landed back on the farm, he struggled, allowing 10 runs in 16.1 IP in his first four starts. But his most recent two starts have shown the kind of promise that had Baseball America ranking him as the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect entering '09. In his latest two turns, he's combined for 14 innings, six hits, one earned run, three walks and a whopping 23 strikeouts. His efforts earned him PCL Pitcher of the Week honors. A sweeter reward would be a return trip to Los Angeles, and speculation has already begun that the wait might not be long. McDonald is lauded for his poise and an arsenal that features a low 90s fastball, and a quality curve and change. He's been at better than a K-per-inning in his minor league career and he'd warrant attention in deeper mixed leagues if/when his second chance occurs.

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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League type:
Free Yahoo League
League size:
10 players
Draft time:
Aug 28 9:00 am
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