Joey Votto is one of the most popular players in baseball today, and it's easy to see the reasons why. He's smart, and a frank interview. He's dealt with (and overcome) personal problems, in a very human way. He's Canadian. He's modern with his approach to the game.
Those are all good things. But fantasy baseball is a cruel, bottom-line business. And right now, Votto looks like just another guy, and someone struggling to contribute.
Votto missed four weeks with a quad injury back in the spring, and he hasn't been sharp since he returned 20 games ago. Here are the numbers: .267/.378/.360, zero homers, 14 walks, 14 strikeouts. He's still grinding out at-bats and getting on base at a good clip, but there's not much pop here. You watch him play and he looks like someone playing through an injury. Heck, just about every swing looks painful.
Often times an organization will be coy with this sort of situation, but the Reds have been refreshingly honest. A month ago, GM Walt Jocketty conceded Votto might not be 100 percent the rest of the season. And in late June, manager Bryan Price openly admitted "I know he's not 100 percent."
You can hold on with Votto if you like, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It's your team, he's your big-ticket item. But in many leagues, I bet you can cash out at a lofty level, get out before public confidence completely disappears. I'm not bullish on Votto the rest of the way, but a lot of my industry colleagues still are.
Votto continues to hold a very lofty ranking on most fantasy sites; I looked around and found him on just about everyone's Top 50-60 going forward (you know how it goes with name brands; some pundits won't rank Devin Mesoraco over Joe Mauer until it's too late). This is good. This is your window of opportunity. You don't need your entire league to believe in him, you just need one owner to write the ticket. The time to shop is now.
And don't tell me I'm slamming your window shut. Surely you can find someone in your league who doesn't agree with me (or pay any attention to me). I hear from that first group every day.
Maybe you can get your shopping done in Cincinnati. Can you land Todd Frazier for Votto? I'd have no problem doing that immediately; Frazier covers multiple positions and is performing in all five categories. Billy Hamilton? He was fantasy's No. 4 batter in June, showing he's much more than a one-trick pony.
Let me know how your expedition goes. I'm all for Votto's future, but I'm very nervous in the present. Use the latest Corner Infield Shuffle Up (where I've lowered Votto's price significantly) as your road map.
• Three true outcomes? Rick Porcello laughs at such silly things. He threw the oddest of shutouts Tuesday, stopping the A's on four hits. No walks, no strikeouts, 18 ground balls. Redcoat burgers for everybody.
Porcello hasn't allowed a run over his last three turns, covering 24 innings. His ERA is down to 3.12, his WHIP trimmed to 1.13. Maybe it's a good time to sell those ratios. FIP suggests an ERA of 3.74, while SIERA spits out 4.10.
Porcello's control is outstanding, always has been, but it's hard to fully trust a pitcher who only strikes out 5.2 batters per nine innings. A .266 BABIP is suspiciously low as well (it's 42 points below his career number). While I try to be realistic in these cases - I doubt anyone is banging down your door, demanding Porcello - this sure looks like a good time to move him. You don't have to be obvious about it; include him as part of a bigger trade, perhaps, or let your opponent come to Porcello after you give them a choice of options.
• Smooth saves, 1-2-3 innings, Addison Reed doesn't believe in them. He picked up his fourth blown save, and fourth loss, in Tuesday's heartbreaker at Pittsburgh. To be fair, Reed inherited a mess in this case - he didn't start the ninth inning, he took over for a tiring Wade Miley. But a ringing Starling Marte double and a clean Ike Davis single, with an intentional walk in the middle of things, ended the game promptly.
Reed's allowed at least one run in 14 of his 36 appearances, and he's served up eight homers over 34.2 innings. He's actually improved his walk and strikeout rates this year (thanks, National League), and a 19-for-23 clip on saves might keep the Snakes from making a move. Nonetheless, I'd keep Brad Ziegler warm in medium and deeper leagues. I still think he's the most reliable reliever in the desert, and don't forget he finished 2013 as the team's stand-in closer. Talk to us, Ziggy.
Speed Round: The follow-up was a breeze for Timmy Lincecum, eight scoreless against the scuffling Cardinals. He faces his old Padre friends on the weekend . . . Is Vance Worley the latest Ray Searage miracle? Worley is on a 1.74/0.97 run over his last 20.2 innings, making him an intriguing look-ahead streamer for Thursday . . . No new tale to tell on Steve Pearce (another homer) and James Jones (6-3-3-2). We've talked about them, we hope you have them . . . The Astros were the perfect tonic for Hisashi Iwakuma, back on the beam (6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K). If you're looking to cash out on Justin Verlander (sharp of late), Iwakuma is one of my recommended targets . . . It's past time to worry about James Shields, who has been mediocre in seven of his last eight starts. And look at the pedestrian Minnesota lineup that kicked him around (9 H, 5 R, 4 ER) Tuesday. His control and velocity both look fine, but he's getting the worst swing-strike results of his career. He's not a Top 40 starter for me right now . . . An oblique injury pushed Mauer to the DL. You can find someone else to hit .271 with two homers, I suppose . . . Mike Minor continues to get knocked around (4.73 ERA), and note it was a pair of lefties (Granderson, Murphy) who went deep on him Tuesday. Something's not right here . . . Stephen Strasburg cruised over the Rockies, the home dominance we've come to expect from him. And a pair of lefty-killers (Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth) filled the boxscore nicely. The Nats face another pedestrian southpaw Wednesday, so saddle up in those daily leagues.