Bringin' the Noise: Bondsophobia

For those unfamiliar right coasters who lose nightly battles to heavy eyelids, since 2004 San Francisco fans have single-handedly cornered the rubber chicken market.

Nicknamed "Walk'ers," the Giants faithful have displayed these dummied fowl along AT&T's right field wall in response to gutless teams who've intentionally pitched around glory-seeker Barry Bonds. Only 10 homers shy of Henry Aaron's jeweled crown and on pace for an insane 55 homers and 116 RBIs, Bonds backers will certainly dust off the classic cluckers and vengefully twirl them over the next few weeks.

Like coward pitchers, when it comes to Barry, the Noise is the Swedish Chef.

Bork! Bork! Bork!

You see, I have Bondsophobia – a fantasy fear of hulky age-defying sluggers who tempt owners based on their previous achievements. It's this bone-chilling anxiety that led me to label Bonds my top "player to avoid" back in March. And you know what? Eleven bleacher shots and 23 ribbies later, I'm still not touching him with an AT&T telephone pole.

What Bonds has achieved in his four-week assault on Aaron's record is nothing short of miraculous. Healthy and exuberant for the first time in three years, love him or hate him, it's impossible to dismiss the 42-year-old's '07 accomplishments.

Sure, Bonds will continue to exceed his 132.4 Draft Day ADP, but, because of the four-letter network's incessant hype of his chase for immortality, you've got to maximize profit.

Yes, he'll likely blast 25-30 homers, drive in 80 runs and tally a .300 average, but will he give you a stark advantage over an Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Bay, Johan Santana or even Manny Ramirez – all of whom have been traded straight up for Bonds in Yahoo! leagues over the past week – come August?

No sir.

Then again, maybe I'm spewing "chefspeak."

Roobber checkee, anyone?

Fantasy Flames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Shane Victorino OF 50 47.9
'07 Stats: .282 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 18 R, 13 SB, 17:14 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy
Lowdown: The unforeseen power surge by Jimmy Rollins has "Flyin' Hawaiian" owners sipping on a glass of "Tiny Bubbles." Sandwiched between J-Ro and Chase Utley, Victorino has taken advantage of pineapple-sized pitches notching four multi-hit games in his past six. More importantly, Victorino's BB% (11.2) has soared this season, which, along with the influence of thieving mentor Davey Lopes, has transformed Victorino into one of the game's elite base stealers (8 SB since Apr. 28). If his OBP remains above .350, he'll be more valuable than Juan Pierre given his 8-12 homer ceiling. Projected by yours truly on March 6 to "vault well over 25 swipes this year," 45-plus thefts with 100 R and a .290 BA are certainly attainable. Keep buying.
Craig Monroe OF 179 24.6
'07 Stats: .243 BA, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 14 R, 31:7 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: One of my favorite late-round sleepers back in March, in his past seven games Monroe has wailed the whammy bar in the "Rock City." Since May 1, Monroe has collected 10 hits, launched three homers and knocked in eight runs. Notoriously streaky, the Tigers' seventh hitter continues to log a lackluster BABIP (.306) and insanely high K rates (28 K%). However, if he can exude more plate patience, 30-35 homers is not implausible. Remember, Monroe is a strong second-half player, indicative of his 15 HR, 50 RBI effort after the break last year. Ride him as a fifth OF in 12-team mixed leagues and anticipate final numbers around: .260 BA, 30 HR, 98 RBI, 85 R.
Reggie Willits OF 631 0.49
'07 Stats: .364 BA, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 8 R, 4 SB, 10:9 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: "What 'cha talkin' about" Willits, in terms of offensive production, is the AL equivalent to Cubs sparkplug Ryan Theriot. A prototype leadoff man with gazelle speed, gap power and a watchful eye, the 25-year-old mid-tiered prospect amassed 31 steals and 77 walks in 352 Triple-A at-bats last year. Filling in for the injured Garret Anderson – out for a month with a torn hip muscle – Willits should be a quality source of BA, R and SBs in the short-term. Hitting safely in nine of his last 11 games with two steals, and available in over 99 percent of Y! leagues, 13-team mixed and AL-only formats should invest if you need a speed solution.
Jeff Suppan SP 95 80.6
'07 Stats: 5 W, 48 IP, 2.63 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 27:9 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell
Lowdown: For those of you who still believe Captain and Tennille are hip – were they ever? – Suppan may remind you of Brewer great Moose Haas, circa 1980. Unlike Hass' magical season, Suppan won't sniff 16 wins. Overachieving much like the Brewers collectively, Suppan has, and always will be, a back-of-the-rotation fantasy starter. Although he does possess an effective curve, the 32-year-old hurler does not overpower hitters and must rely on pinpoint location to generate outs. An examination of Suppan's early-season numbers clearly shows his success is due to a steep decline in BB/9 and HR/9 totals from his career averages. Despite the improvement, with a 4.55 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 308 career starts, his numbers are bound to balloon. In Yahoo! leagues he's garnered the likes of Gary Matthews Jr. and Chone Figgins in one-for-one-trades in the past week. Push him down Bernie's beer slide.
Jeremy Accardo SP 146 4.4
'07 Stats: 14.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 13:5 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: In the topsy-turvy world of fantasy closers, Accardo could become the eighth reason in six weeks why you wait to address saves on Draft Day. Jason Frasor's (7 ER, BS in last 4 IP) recent pitfalls have created an end-game audition for Accardo, Shaun Marcum and Scott Downs. Based on Manager John Gibbons' comments on May 3 that Accardo "will get his chance," and, because he's armed with a whistling mid-90s fastball and deadly slider, if he successfully converts on his initial opportunity, it will be curtains for everyone else. Sitting on 95.6 percent of Y! waiver wires, with B.J. Ryan out until at least mid-June, snag him and see what transpires.
Fantasy Lames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Scott Rolen 3B 736 95.0
'07 Stats: .200 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 10 R, 14:6 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: The excitement level for Rolen's string of putrid performances ranks up there with nonstop Queen coverage on C-SPAN. Bogged down in a 2-for-38 slump, Rolen's BA has plummeted 81 points since April 26. Plaguing back spasms and a two-day bout with food-poisoning are the main culprits for his recent swoon. The Josh Hancock tragedy has sent an already deplorable offense reeling as the Redbirds have mustered an average of 1.8 runs/game since May 1. Rolen probably won't touch 100 RBIs this year, but once Albert Pujols (.259 BA) goes bonkers, the maligned three-bagger will rally and finish close to .280 BA, 20 HR, 90 RBI. Offered to me recently for hotshot Dodger rookie Andy LaRoche in the Y! Friends and Family League, his value won't be a blue-light special much longer.
Chone Figgins 2B, 3B, OF 1018 96.5
'07 Stats: .103 BA, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB, 5:1 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy
Lowdown: Whether you call him "Shawn" or "Cho-knee," two weeks removed from the DL, the L.A. Fig Newton has been caught eating cookies in bed. Just 2-for-29 after missing a month with fractured fingers, it's apparent his extended vacation has oxidized his bat. On May 1, Figgins noted there's still residual soreness that he'll "feel for a while," which means his downcast efforts could be prolonged. Since Figgins' value is solely speed driven, with a horrific .133 OBP, his worth is minimized. Because his position flexibility is very attractive, if I were shopping for steals, I'd swap a Snicker bar and a forty of O.E. for him all day. By mid-June he'll be running wild.
J.D. Drew OF 320 91.4
'07 Stats: .255 BA, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 14 R, SB, 21:16 K:BB
Market Value: Hold
Lowdown: Drew should legally change his name to Nancy – at least that way he would have enough gumption to solve the mystery of 0-fers. After a scorching April start in which Drew registered a hit in his first nine games and tallied seven RBIs, he's cooled rapidly going 4-for-38 with three RBIs since May 6. Part of his drought can be pinned on a sharp rise in GB%, while the remaining blame rests on a viral infection that sapped Drew's strength for much of early May. Batting fifth behind a resurgent Manny Ramirez (12 hits in last seven games), he'll soon reverse his fortunes and finish with numbers in the range of: .280 BA, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 85 R. Stomach the always-present injury risk if you're in need of an OF.
Chad Cordero RP 746 95.7
'07 Stats: 15.1 IP, 4 S, 4.70 ERA, 2.09 WHIP, 13:10 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell
Lowdown: Cordero might as well don a fluorescent orange jumpsuit and shackle himself to Paris Hilton – his four blown saves since April 18 have imprisoned his owners. As my esteemed colleague Andy Behrens pointed out on Monday, if not a member of the unpatriotic Nationals, Cordero's job would be in jeopardy. To take Behrens' musings a step further, I believe his days in Washington are numbered. With the Nationals destined to flirt with 100 losses, playoff-bound suitors desiring bullpen hands will court his services by the July trade deadline. For insurance purposes, NL-only owners and deep mixed leaguers should keep a close eye on 6-foot-11 mound Sequoyah Jon Rauch (0.4 percent owned). His frightening presence, mid-90s fastball, and adequate slider and curve could make him a reputable stopper – especially if he excels this week with Cordero on bereavement leave. Then again, the Nats actually have to maintain a lead.
Jeremy Sowers SP 1092 25.1
'07 Stats: 0 W, 30.2 IP, 5.87 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 8:12 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell
Lowdown: Winless on the season and with a pitiful 8.89 ERA in his last four starts, Jeremy better hope his April Sowers turns into a bouquet of May flowers. After a wretched 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 IP effort on May 5, Sowers said he "wasn't pitching confidently" and was "predictable." Victimized by uncharacteristic wildness with his changeup (12 BB in 30 IP), without blazing stuff, Sowers' effectiveness is location dependent. Jake Westbrook is out for the next 3-5 weeks with an abdominal strain, which cements Sowers spot in the rotation for now. However, if Fausto Carmona (1.5 percent owned) – who should be picked up in all 12-team leagues – continues to throw gems (4 straight QS) and premiere prospect Adam Miller continues to impress at Triple-A Buffalo (31 IP, 2.32 ERA, 30:11 K:BB), Sowers could be relegated to bullpen or minor league duty if his command continues to elude him.

We've all seen these seemingly ambiguous statements on exams and quizzes since elementary school, now the classic test teaser gets a fantasy makeover. Each week, I'll tackle pressing diamond topics with a direct, succinct answer. Please, keep your eyes on your own paper.

A healthy Derrek Lee is capable of batting .400 this year. – Frank, New York, NY

Answer: False. As a hopelessly devout Cubs fan, I would love to see D-Lee earn a membership into one of baseball's most exclusive clubs, but he's no Splendid Splinter. Ted Williams was the last player to reach baseball's BA zenith in 1941 and the New York Giants' Bill Terry was the last NL player to attain the milestone in 1930. After a blazing April in which Lee smacked the most doubles (14) by a Cub in 50 years, although his power has been dormant, he's on pace to obliterate Earl Webb's 76 year-old MLB doubles record (64) and establish a new career watermark in RBIs (117). Sure, he has the eagle eye and lineup protection to be capable of slapping a .400 BA, but in all likelihood his sick .402 mark will fallback to the .330-.340 range by July. Oh, and don't freak out about the lack of homers. Inevitably, his gap power will translate to 32-37 bombs.

Chipper Jones is currently overvalued. – Robert, Phoenix, AZ

Answer: True. If Chipper's cursed injury luck is anything like Freddy Garcia's, he's destined to get entangled in the Phille Phanatic's four-wheeler, ending his season. Jones, whose logged 106 DL days since 2004, complained that his brittle "feet were hurting me a little bit" on May 6, which forced him to the bench for one game. Evident in his searing .292 BA, 10 HR, 22 RBI line, when close to healthy, Jones is an elite contributor. However, because of the endless depth at third in most mixed leagues, owners have a serviceable backup, which makes Jones expendable. Now is the time to get a peak return. So, what's he worth? In Yahoo! leagues he's netted Miguel Cabrera, Aramis Ramirez and Matt Cain in recent one-for-one trades.

Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Richie Sexson? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?

I just had to point out to you under the "they pay these guys to write this stuff?" category: Regarding Freddy Sanchez you said, "His K% has raised sharply, an indication he's not making nearly enough contact." No kidding? Thanks for the insight Captain Obvious! With that said, I really do enjoy reading your column. It's well-written and the subtle pop culture references are outstanding. No one can get it all right regarding player predictions, but at least your opinions seem to be well informed and reasoned. Keep up the good work man.

Steve, Philadelphia, PA

"… He sports an 18.0 HR/AB mark in 1260 minor league at-bats – Pence might be the best hitting prospect in the NL." Wow! 18 HRs every at bat, eh? Beats the pants off A-Rod, Pujols and Ryan Howard. So, is it like cricket where he just keeps circling the bases?

Ben, Petaluma, CA

Brad, I LOVE your writing style, but your math skills leave a lot to be desired. In last week's Fantasy Flames you stated Hunter Pence sported an "18.0 HR/AB mark" in the minors. Huh? Either my world is upside-down or your math is. Keep up the great writing, but drop $5 on a calculator.

Peter, Buffalo Grove, IL

Noise: Ben, classic cricket line my friend – I laughed out loud. As you guys correctly ascertained the odds of the Noise getting past third-grade math on "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" are minute. Of course the line should have read "Pence averaged a HR every 18 at-bats in the minors." BTW, for those of you worried about Pence's .250 BA, 7:1 K:BB start, chill. As Tim Lincecum showed in his disappointing debut on Sunday, every rookie, regardless of position and prior performance in the minors, goes through an adjustment period. Once Pence logs 100-plus at-bats, he'll be gangbusters – especially if Luke Scott continues to rake.

Would you guys shut the hell up about Pence! How am I supposed to nab him with the seventh waiver priority when you guys keep singing his praises? You're rewarding the (expletive) who don't pay attention to what is going on in the world of baseball. Wait until he's available on the wire for crying out loud!

Michael, Springfield, MO

Noise: Even when I offer fresh perspectives on new faces and do my jobsome people are still dissatisfied. Because I want to level the playing field in Michael's ship-of-fools league, keep a close eye on Milwaukee masher Ryan Braun. The 23 year-old 3B has carried over his torrid spring to Triple-A Nashville, where he currently ranks in the PCL top-five in three fantasy categories (.358 BA, 8 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB, 9:11 K:BB). With the putrid combo of Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino batting a combined .220 with a homer and 15 RBIs, once the Brewers slip, Braun, whose defense has improved, will be Ned Yost's regular third baseman possibly by mid-June if his current wrist and groin injuries don't linger. Look at it this way, Michael, your higher waiver priority gives you a better shot to score Braun. Right?

Oliver Perez is back!!!

Sam, New York, NY

Noise: Hypothesizing life at my local watering hole last week I watched "Access Hollywood" and had an epiphany: Britney Spears and Oliver Perez's careers mirror one another. Seriously.
1. Both reached their pinnacle almost immediately.
2. Brit, in the midst of the K-Fed era, bottomed out the same year Perez lost a kicking contest with a laundry cart in St. Louis, which turned his numbers south.
3. Over the last several months, both wandered aimlessly through mental anguish and/or rehab stints. 4. Finally, last week, through some unexplained cosmic connection, Perez struck out 10 batters 24 hours after a hard-bodied, sober Brit returned to the stage.
Coincidence? Stupidly available in 46 percent of Y! leagues, with a 29:5 K:BB in his past 24 IP, Perez's stuff is "Toxic" once again. My man-crush for Ollie P is coming dangerously close to Rich Hill territory.