Flames: Cincinnati's Jonny Gomes is subterranean by design


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Mention the word "platoon" during a light conversation with a fantasy owner and the mood will instantly darken. Not even a sudden topic change to Erin Andrews' erotic bedroom dance could rectify the moment.

Outside possibly "Sizemore" there is no word that elicits more disgustful feelings in the virtual game's vocabulary. After all, timeshare players like Andres Torres(notes), Marcus Thames(notes) and Xavier Nady(notes) – though useful in "only" formats – aren't exactly stimulating to the common mixed leaguer.

However, Cincinnati's Jonny Gomes(notes) is challenging the widely accepted stigma.

Thus far, the colorful veteran has amassed attention-grabbing totals. Over 130 at-bats, he's tallied a .285-6-27-23-1 line, an output which checks in at No. 39 among outfielders according to Baseball Monster, well ahead of notable names Matt Holliday(notes), Carlos Lee(notes), Adam Lind(notes) and teammate Jay Bruce(notes).

Since he was schooled at the Dave Kingman Academy of Free Swinging (28.3 K%), a BA regression back to the career norm (.244 BA) should be expected. He likely won't finish north of .280. The missing "h" in his first name says it all.

But Gomes' muscle is very real.

Because he's equipped with a strong, uppercut swing (0.52 GB/FB ratio) he could flirt with 30 homers playing half his games in the Great American Bandbox. His increase in outside contact rate, aggressive plate approach and RBI-friendly spots in Dusty Baker's order support the forecast. If he maintains his current pace, he will finish shy of the projected long-ball ceiling, but 21 homers, 97 RBIs and 82 runs are nothing to scoff at. That's production similar to what popular commodities Ryan Ludwick(notes) and Brad Hawpe(notes) achieved last season. In this Jose Bautista(notes)-crazed season, anything is possible.

Despite routine days off, the 29-year-old credits feeling locked in for the sudden surge. From MLB.com:

"I'm seeing the ball pretty good," Gomes said. "It's still early and Laynce Nix(notes) and I have been platooning. So, our at-bats are kind of low right now and our average is going to fluctuate with a few hits here and there. But I'm just seeing the ball and working pretty hard with our hitting coach Brook Jacoby, who's a real good fit for me and he knows my swing pretty well and I've been working hard with him."

After being hindered by injury and inconsistency while in Tampa, it's no surprise Gomes has finally blossomed at a different address. The man, who's cheated death twice and possibly a third time after he exuberantly slammed Bud Light from Dioner Navarro's presumably tainted cup when the Rays clinched the AL pennant in '08, is amazingly resilient.

On a team loaded with a number of statistical marvels (Joey Votto(notes), Brandon Phillips(notes) and Scott Rolen(notes)) and hyped youngsters (Bruce and Drew Stubbs(notes)), it's understandable why the 17-percent owned outfielder is still doing backstrokes in many free agent pools. However, for owners who can see past the split situation, he could be a deep league difference maker. And a key reason why Mr. Redlegs might bust a stitch come October.

Another monster month similar to May (.343-4-15-14-1) and the Garden Gomes won't remain beneath the surface much longer.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 313 at-bats, .258 BA, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 50 R, 4 SB

Discount Den
Quality commodity owned in fewer than 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Eric Hinske(notes), Atl, 1B/3B/OF (seven-percent owned): Due to his multi-positional eligibility, the well-traveled commodity is a contortionist of sorts. To deep leaguers, considerable flexibility is invaluable. Earning regular time in left due to Melky Cabrera's(notes) mundane play; he's hit .391 with four homers 12 RBIs and nine runs this month. The veteran has an unsustainable .423 BABIP, which means the .300 BA won't last long. However, his power is legit. Recall in '08, he clubbed 20 homers in just 381 at-bats with the Rays. Owners searching for a short-term fix at CI or OF should give the 32-year-old an audition.

Ooh Stream Weaver...
Widely available plug n' play starter heading into the weekend.

P.J. Walters(notes), StL (5/27 at SD, one-percent owned): For those who think boxing a mutant kangaroo is a riskless gamble, the recently recalled prospect is immediately acquirable. Prior to being recalled, the 25-year-old finesse righty dominated PCL opponents. In 18.2 innings with Triple-A Memphis he totaled an impressive 0.48 ERA, 0.66 WHIP and 11.38 K/9 over three starts. Similar to LA's John Ely(notes), Walters doesn't possess overpowering stuff. Instead, he relies heavily on offspeed junk – his change rates as one of the organization's best – to miss bats and coax weak contact. Because Dave Duncan could turn water into wine and based on San Diego's offensive shortcomings (.243 team BA, 4.2 runs/game), the rookie is a roll-of-the-dice start which could pay a handsome profit.

Middle Relief Magic
ERA/WHIP savior, potential saves/wins vulture.

Joaquin Benoit(notes), TB (one-percent owned): Storming back with a vengeance after going under the knife to repair a torn rotator cuff in January '09, the reliever has shined as a Ray. Working in high-leverage situations, he has punched out 14 in nine innings with just two walks. Dan Wheeler(notes) and Grant Balfour's(notes) struggles as setup men in the recent past have left a bitter taste in Joe Maddon's mouth, opening the door for Benoit. Though his GB/FB ratio is a bit sky-heavy (0.44) and 7.1 line-drive rate will inflate, the former starter's increased fastball velocity and effective change are certainly attractive. Toss Nelson Cruz's(notes) body double a flotation device in 12-team and deeper leagues.

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Image courtesy of the AP

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