Bringin' the Noise: Fog machine

Lying concealed behind San Francisco's thick Pacific fog is a deep, dark fantasy secret of Giant proportions.

And no, it doesn't involve Tim Lincecum, Brandon Funston and recently legalized matrimony.

Actually, the clandestine commodity is another bazooka-armed southpaw who, unlike "The Franchise," most fantasy owners are completely unaware of. Someone so inconspicuous, he's owned in the same number of leagues (0.12 percent) as statistical chinchillas Josh Fogg, Freddie Bynum and former buzz sleeper turned forgettable minor leaguer Josh Barfield.

The potential end-game leviathan lurking in the murky depths of your league's free agent pool is Alex Hinshaw.

Unlike glamour boys Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Jay Bruce, no glitzy red carpet was unfurled for the Giants reliever when he was recalled from the minors on May 15. Nope, owners with high waiver priorities didn't giddily scurry to their virtual clubhouses to post a claim for Hinshaw's services. But despite the pin-drop quiet hype, the long, lanky lefty could be the biggest sleeper stopper next to Chris Perez in the National League.

Entering the season, the former San Diego State standout wasn't a blip on any radar, fantasy or reality. Not even the most trusted and respected prospect scouting service, "Baseball America," listed him among the Giants top 30 products. In a way, Hinshaw's fantasy pulse in March was as flat as the bill of his cap.

But because his swooping curve could buckle just as many knees as the more prominent 'Shaw in California, Clayton, the San Fran sensation is on the precipice of becoming a household name.

Prior to his promotion, the 25-year-old setup man dominated the lumber-heavy PCL. He was a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities and racked a very Scherzian 12.06 K/9 in 15.2 IP. Along with his nonnegotiable sweeper, Hinshaw dismayed opponents with dazzling 92-95 mph fastballs and high-70s sliders, the same array of pitches that mystified Hanley Ramirez, Jeremy Hermida and Jorge Cantu on May 25.

Since entering the Giants system as a starter in '05, Hinshaw has confidently harnessed his command and executed pitches more precisely ('07 BB/9: 4.14, '08: 2.30). With 11 strikeouts in his first 6.1 major league innings (2 ER, BB, 4 H), the results have proved fruitful. So much so, that, as Bruce Bochy told May 29, "He's a guy I won't hesitate to use late in a ballgame."

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, who compiled 252 career saves, also believes the youngster has the arsenal and demeanor of a future closer:

"We really like his makeup. When he didn't get a real long look in spring training, he kept his mouth shut, soaked up the atmosphere, appreciated the moment. He was a starter off-and-on in the minors, and he really knows how to handle himself out there. He's definitely got the stuff."

Obviously with Brian Wilson entrenched as the Giants door-slammer, Hinshaw's value is limited. However, he would be the next option if Wilson were felled by injury, ineptitude or the tactical genius of Brian Sabean – even 30 games out he would probably deal Wilson for Jamie Moyer to bolster an impossible San Francisco playoff run.

If the monster of misfortune does bite Wilson, the flat-billed flamethrower could be this season what C.J. Wilson was after the All-Star break last year, a previously undiscovered source of saves.

NL-only owners and very deep mixed leaguers seeking strikeouts need to unmask fantasy's latest secret weapon.

Here are this week’s flames, lames and stars of video games:

Fantasy Flames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Alexei Ramirez 2B, OF 1011 0.17
'08 Stats: .261 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 13 R, 2 SB, 16:4 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues), Strong Buy (AL-only)
Lowdown: Ramirez is one of the few White Sox players/staff who doesn't have Ozzie Guillen tire marks imprinted on his back. The Cuban Missile, a favorite Noise sleeper back in March, has reached DEFCON levels with Juan Uribe slowly recuperating from a strained hamstring. Since May 25, the 26-year-old has gone 16-for-44, with two homers, six RBI, seven runs and a steal. His five multi-hit games over that span have spiked his batting average 61 points. Defensively, Ramirez, a natural outfielder, is rough around the edges at second, but he's adjusted quickly to the nuances of the position, which makes him serviceable enough to remain entrenched there. As predicted back in late March, his scorching offensive contributions have led Jabbarjaw (Guillen) to play him regularly over Uribe. Given his appreciable contact (77.7 CT%) numbers, Ramirez will be a serviceable stat supplier over the next few weeks. If he continues to play everyday, he possesses the physical gifts to be a 15-15 player. Owners in 12-team mixed leagues struggling with Aaron Hill and Freddy Sanchez should give the wiry Cuban an audition.
Fearless Forecast: 400 at-bats, .277 BA, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 55 R, 9 SB
Ryan Garko 1B 334 42.1
'08 Stats: .265 BA, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 23 R, 0 SB, 27:20 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Disgruntled Tribe fans with an affinity for fire better hold off burning Garko bobble-heads, like Travis Hafner versions, in effigy. Since being benched three times late in May due to his inadequacies versus righties (.247 BA), Garko appears to have turned a corner. In his past four contests, he's collected 11 hits and scored six runs operating out of the cleanup spot. Although his power pace is languid (12 HR, 63 RBI), Garko's underlying numbers – GB/FB ratio in particular – are congruent with '07. More encouraging, his stark advancement in plate patience ('07 BB%: 6.6, '08: 10.0) is positive sign a BA resurgence is possible, especially if his LD% continues to surge upward. With Grady Sizemore (.372 OBP) and the surprisingly effective Ben Francisco (.369 OBP) hitting in front of him, an RBI and, hopefully, power breakthrough is in the forecast. Buy on a bear market.
Fearless Forecast: 530 at-bats, .278 BA, 23 HR, 89 RBI, 75 R, 0 SB
Alexi Casilla 2B 737 2.3
'08 Stats: .343 BA, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 12 R, 2 SB, 11:8 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Since becoming a regular, Casilla has been the Twinkies sugary cream filling. Remarkably, Casilla is the twelfth-ranked second baseman in Y! leagues over the past month, ahead of position monoliths Brian Roberts, Yunel Escobar and Robinson Cano. During that stretch, the scrappy two-bagger has laced a hit in 14 of 15 contests, including six multi-hit games. The Caribbean import doesn't possess double-digit power but his significant strides in plate patience (10.3 BB%) coupled with his 25-plus steals speed and runs upside makes him a lucrative wire buy in 12-team and deeper mixed leagues. Also, given his prolific contact numbers (88.1 CT%), sustaining a BA over .300 is achievable. If you're overloaded with batting average soul-destroyers at middle infield (e.g. Rickie Weeks) pick up and plug in the Minnesota Maserati pronto.
Fearless Forecast: 450 at-bats, .305 BA, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 68 R, 19 SB
Manny Parra SP 769 2.0
'08 Stats: 62.1 IP, 4 W, 4.33 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 53:32 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: "The Piranha" has sunk his razor-sharp teeth into the competition over the past two weeks. Oozing with upside, the normally inconsistent southpaw has pitched more aggressively in four of his past five starts. Take away his six earned run implosion versus Washington on May 25 and Parra has posted a dynamite 1.08 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 in his past four outings. Walks have occasionally plagued him, but if the accurate Parra from June 4 (7 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K vs. Ari) takes the mound routinely, he has the tools to be a solid No. 4 in 12-team mixed leagues. The 25-year-old's wicked arsenal – 91-94 mph fastball, knee-bending curve, deceptive 82-85 mph change, nasty splitter – bewilders hitters at times, but he must continue to pound the strike-zone assertively. Throw in a greatly improved GB/FB ratio ('07: 0.75, '08: 1.38) and all signs arrow to fruitful future production. Strikeout starved owners in 10-team and deeper mixed leagues searching for a flexible hurler should fish for the Piranha.
Fearless Forecast: 165 IP, 11 W, 3.89 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 143 K
Josh Banks SP 179 3.1
'08 Stats: 23.0 IP, 2 W, 0.00 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 13:5 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (mixed leagues), Strong Buy (NL-only)
Lowdown: With Mark Prior, who must be completely immune to the numbing effects of anesthesia, out for the season (shocker), Banks has become San Diego's premiere pitching sleeper. Plucked off waivers by the Padres on April 23, the former mediocre Blue Jay prospect has sparkled in his first four appearances. In his first start of the season May 31, the 25-year-old righty tossed nine brilliant innings (9 IP, 0 ER, 5:0 K:BB) against the powerless Giants. Equipped with a low-90s splitter, high-80s fastball, sharp-moving change and an average curve, Banks isn't overpowering, but his plus control (1.96 BB/9) is a major positive. Surprisingly, he doesn't coax plentiful groundball outs (43.1 GB%) but if he can continue to hit his spots effectively it's not implausible he could maintain an ERA under 3.75. Because he pitches to contact and will likely garner little run support, he's essentially Brian Bannister in a friendlier pitching environment. NL-only owners and 14-team and deeper mixed leaguers dismayed by inflated ERA/WHIP totals should employ the youngster immediately. However, if his quality start streak stretches further, consider maximizing profit. Once Jake Peavy and Chris Young return from injury, Banks, or possibly Wil Ledezma, will move back into a long relief role.
Fearless Forecast (next 3 starts): 18.2 IP, W, 3.48 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9 K
Fantasy Lames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Carl Crawford OF 48 99.9
'08 Stats: .275 BA, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 39 R, 15 SB, 35:18 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Luckily for his owners, the speedy Rays outfielder escaped the menacing scalpel of Dr. Death, James Andrews. Earlier this week, Crawford received encouraging news from Dr. Andrews in regards to his ailing right knee and hamstring. However, despite the relieving diagnosis, Crawford told the Tampa Tribune that bending his knee is painful, remarking he will "have to shy away from sliding catches for a little bit." Count on Crawford also shying away from base slides for at least the next week or two. Because of his cumbersome knee, soaring groundball rates (66.7 GB% since May 25) and seven hits in his past 35 at-bats, he is bench material over the next few days. Hamstring and knee setbacks can linger so it might be wise to shop Crawford to an ignorant owner. Since June 3, the speedster was dealt straight up for Manny Ramirez, Nick Markakis and Cole Hamels in Y! Plus leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 600 at-bats, .281 BA, 12 HR, 79 RBI, 100 R, 39 SB
Garrett Atkins 3B, 1B 110 99.8
'08 Stats: .304 BA, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 29 R, 0 SB, 37:9 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Injuries and slumps have been contagious in Denver and Atkins has not been immune. Since May 27, the smooth-hitting third baseman has collected just four hits in his past 35 at-bats (.114 BA), slicing 31 points off his batting average. More alarming, he's logged a deplorable 3.8 BB% on the season. Still, Atkins' sensational contact (87.1 CT%) and line-drive (23.9 LD%) percentages are congruent with past seasons, meaning a prolonged drought isn't likely. With Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe expected to return sometime next week, the Rockies cold corner should reverse course soon. Atkins, shipped straight up for Nick Markakis, C.C. Sabathia and Francisco Cordero in Y! Plus league solo deals this week, is someone to pursue immediately before the sale price expires.
Fearless Forecast: 600 at-bats, .319 BA, 24 HR, 102 RBI, 84 R, 0 SB
Rick Ankiel OF 193 76.9
'08 Stats: .261 BA, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 29 R, 1 SB, 41:21 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Apparently, Ankiel cannot bear the sting of Bactine. Sidelined one game and possibly longer with a right knee infection, the frigid outfielder's current plate funk (6-37 since May 15) is likely to endure. More worrisome, continued hand discomfort and shoulder stiffness have sapped his power – he's only reached the bleachers once since May 13. Looking under the hood, the converted pitcher has made significant strikes in BB% ('07: 7.0, '08: 10.2) and LD% (14.9, 19.4), which suggest a .270-plus BA is possible. Once his ailments heal, so will fantasy owner perceptions of him. Owners who could use a power boost should pitch a discounted offer for Ankiel's services. Since June 1, the Cardinals crusher has been swapped straight up for Jair Jurrjens, Alex Gordon and Aaron Laffey in Y! Plus league one-for-one transactions.
Fearless Forecast: 530 at-bats, .271 BA, 29 HR, 81 RBI, 85 R, 5 SB
Erik Bedard SP 603 99.6
'08 Stats: 56.1 IP, 4 W, 4.47 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 49:26 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Bedard backers, and probably John McLaren, have dropped numerous 'F' bombs over their cherished starter's recent efforts. When examining Bedard under the saber microscope several disturbing trends are swimming around in the Petri dish. For starters, his GB/FB splits have reverted back to 2004 levels ('07: 1.37, '08: 0.97). Meanwhile his command ('07 BB/9: 2.82, '08: 4.15) and, more concerning, 2-3 fastball ticks have vanished. Obviously, the decrease in velocity has hindered his strikeout totals, evident in his shrinking K/9 ('07: 10.93, '08: 7.83). It's certainly possible his touchy hip could be bothering him. Given Seattle's lack of offensive firepower and due to Bedard's inauspicious signs, his owners should be concerned. His ugly line will improve, but it's becoming more and more apparent he won't live up to his mid-30s ADP expectations. Because the Bedard market is still reasonably bullish – he was dealt straight up for Ian Kinsler, Carlos Lee and Kerry Wood in Y! Plus leagues this week – it's wise to shop him to an optimistic owner.
Fearless Forecast: 160 IP, 11 W, 4.02 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 141 K
Oliver Perez SP 913 75.4
'08 Stats: 60.0 IP, 4 W, 5.70 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 50:43 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell (mixed), NL-only (hold)
Lowdown: Mariah Carey and her incredibly effective worm burner arsenal might be more rosterable than the burdensome Perez. Absolutely shellacked by the powerless Giants on June 2 (0.1 IP, 6 ER, 5 H, 2 BB), the maligned Met saw his ERA balloon 15.3 percent rising to a season-worst 5.70. As has repeatedly been the case in his career, Perez's untamed control and long-ball vulnerability have beguiled the 26-year-old. On the year he's issued a repulsive 6.45 walks and surrendered 1.65 homers per nine. Perez attributes his problems to an inconsistent arm slot, but Willie Randolph believes the issues are due to poor in-game adjustments, or lackthereof, telling the New York Times June 4, "You need to not just haul off and throw as hard as you can. That's what it seemed lie he was doing to me." Understandably, Mets fans are clamoring for Perez's head, but without any sensible alternatives he'll attempt to work out his inadequacies every fifth day with the senior club. Considering his value has dipped to droppable levels in mixed leagues, it's senseless to shop him in NL-only formats until he enters a resurgent period, which could be several weeks away.
Fearless Forecast: 160.0 IP, 10 W, 4.54 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 140 K

Don't know what FB% means? Check out our sabermetric glossary.
Y!RNK - Overall player ranking in Yahoo! leagues
Y!% - Percentage owned in Yahoo! leagues
- All stats listed are for games played through June 5

Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Joe Borowski? 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?

Evans, what can I say? Last week's Noise was possibly the best article I've read in a long time. I found myself eating spaghetti checking up on the crap that you usually write, and laughing so hard that spaghetti flew out of my nose. Thanks for wrecking my dinner!Will, Fairfield, CA

I point to Billy Butler's demotion to AAA and then I point to your March 27th article entitled "The Butler Hit It" and I ask simply: What happened? Your whimsical talk of him winning a batting title seemed almost like another one of your man crushes (which was especially disturbing because of the donkey reference). What's next for the "phenom" of yours?Steve, Riverside, CA

Well Brad with the recent demotion of Billy "cheeseburger" Butler hitting a robust .263 it looks like you will be wearing your Red Sox swimsuit. Go with the bikini you are already humiliated anyway. Or you can pray Dustin Pedroia hits a major slump and falls below .263. I agreed one hundred percent with you when you said Butler would hit for a higher average than Pedroia. Just glad I'm not going to be wearing the swimsuit.Nathan, Albuquerque, NM

Noise: Naturally, after Butler's trip to Omaha last week, a flood of ridiculing emails entered the Noise's inbox. Honestly, the move was equally as puzzling as it was shocking. KC's "Big Donkey" performed deplorably in May (.233 BA, 0 HR, 7 RBI), but not enough to warrant a demotion, especially for a team that will likely remain in the dungeon of the AL Central.

Yes, tanning salon passes have been purchased and bikini wax appointments made in preparation for the potential BoSox swimsuit embarrassment. However, mothers don't have to blindfold their children just yet. Pedroia's average has slipped 22 points since May 22, bottoming out at .279. And remember, Butler experienced a similar letdown in 60 May/June at-bats last year (.250 BA, 1 HR, 6 RBI) before tallying a .301 BA with seven homers and 46 RBI over the final three months of the season.

Still a tender 22-year-old, the Ass-O-Meter is way too talented to remain flatulent for long. The Royals' hunky Mr. June will rise again. Oh yes, he will rise again …

Brad, I just read your most recent article and as a fan of the sport of baseball, I am completely offended that you made reference to Roy Halladay being a "top flight" number 2 pitcher. This guy is an absolute ace. Just watch him actually pitch and don't just look at his numbers, which are fantastic by the way. You should spend your time writing about Halladay instead of falsely calling him anything less than a god.Matt, Toronto, Ontario

Noise: Matt, you're absolutely right. Halladay can shoot fireballs from his eyes, hurl lightning bolts from his behind and educate mischievous teens about the dangers of hornet nests with a single flick of the wrist.

The Doctor has certainly delivered several house calls to those lucky enough to own him this season. His current 7.01 K/9 is his highest mark since 2001 and his 2.59 GB/FB ratio has significantly improved from last year's 1.83 tally. With his fastball velocity back to '05 levels (92.6 mph avg) and his ability to coax generous amounts of groundballs (58.6 GB%), "Doc" will continue to deal top-five starter numbers. In other words, labeling Halladay a No. 2 was a moronic mistake. Friendly Canadians, please don't send Rick Moranis, AKA "Dark Helmet," to break my legs.

Dude, your nicknames for people are great but you're an idiot. Anybody who listens to your advice is too! I agree with you on Jason Bergmann, spotted him in the early season. Dice-K is a win producer, probably because he is on a great team that gives him great run support. They are saving him for the post season period and that called "shoulder fatigue". How can you sell someone that is undefeated?Tyler, Atlanta, GA

Noise: Tyler, apparently you never excelled in high school economics. Given your adept investment knowledge, you probably would've invested in Bear Stearns stock at its 52-week high. Do yourself a favor. If you do ever sink your savings into the stock market, consult Lenny Dykstra first.

Look, Dice-K's gaudy record and ERA are exactly why you must sell high. His hideous 5.34 BB/9 when viewed side-by-side with his 47.8 FB% screams impending disaster. If those trends persist, inevitably he will get torched by long-balls and gapers, which will skyrocket his ERA toward 4.00. Yes, the SAWKS have been cautious with Dice-K's arm – he's averaged 101.6 pitches per game, down from 108.8 last season – but given the excessive wear over the years, experiencing "shoulder fatigue" this early in the season is a cause for concern. Sure, dealing the Japanese import now would be challenging. But once he returns from the DL it would be sage to auction him off to the highest bidder.

What is this talk of Jay Bruce hitting 20 homeruns? I'd expect this talk from casual fans but not from Yahoo experts. Certainly not from Mr. Evans, who's fearless forecasts are generally right along the lines of what's eating me. Jay Bruce has NEVER been a power hitter, and I wouldn't think he'd decide to start being one now that he's been promoted based on what's been successful for him in the minors. The Reds are expecting a guy with a top notch bat that can hit the gaps, a guy who can get on base to the tune of .350. Great numbers, maybe. But 20 homeruns? I question the math and I question the homework. My fearless forecast: .305, 11 HRs, 65 RBIs. Pat "the Bat" with a boost in average, see? Take that to the bank, Mr. Evans.Sam, Minneapolis, MN

Noise: Sam, evidently you make regular deposits at the First State Bank of Simpleton. To emphatically say that Bruce has never been a power hitter is an obtuse statement. The 21-year-old phenom reached the Louisville bleachers once every 18.4 at-bats, the major league equivalent of Carlos Lee's AB/HR rate this year, prior to his promotion. That's a fairly prolific power rate. The Noise's 19 homer projection in 425 at-bats might be a slight stretch, but it's definitely not farfetched.

Also, your Pat Burrell comparison of Bruce is grossly misrepresentative. "The Bat" not only has a pure power hitter's stroke, the same skill you questioned Bruce possessed, but also the speed of a three-legged tortoise. The dynamite youngster is a far superior athlete who compares more favorably to Johnny Damon, albeit with more pop, than the Phillies outfielder.

Sure the Bruce frenzy has encouraged his owners to flip cars, loot stores and hurl Molotov cocktails in riotous jubilation, but his value in non-keeper leagues will never be higher. Over the past three days in Y! Plus leagues he's attracted the godly likes of Hanley Ramirez, Jonathan Papelbon and Aramis Ramirez in one-for-one transactions. Believe me. Eventually, Cincy's "Boss" will find "Darkness on the Edge of Town." Take advantage of the bullish Bruce market immediately in yearly leagues.