Peruse any major league roster and you're bound to uncover a heartfelt comeback story fit for the silver screen, one which could cause any emotional sports softy (e.g. my colleague Brandon Funston) to stream reservoirs of joyful tears.
In Texas, Josh Hamilton's astonishing recovery from the perils of drug and alcohol addiction has been retold ad nauseam. In St. Louis, Rick Ankiel's role reversal from anguished pitcher to prodigious bomber has been nothing short of miraculous. And in Chicago, Kerry Wood's captivating transition from delicate, Dusty-fied starter to shutdown closer has mesmerized North Side audiences.
The resurgence of Mets outfielder Fernando Tatis is equally amazing.
Nine years ago, it was a different century. Pluto was still a planet. Moviegoers recited the rules to "Fight Club." Y2K doomsayers constructed backyard bunkers for protection from falling planes. Jose Reyes had barely entered puberty. And a comparatively hairless Manny Ramirez was still unhappy, albeit in Cleveland.
In that year, 1999, a Monchichi-eared Cardinal exploded onto the fantasy scene, compiling one of the most memorable seasons by a third baseman in the broadband age. Benefiting from Mark McGwire's 65-homer hulk, Tatis hammered out a .298 BA with 34 homers, 107 RBI, 104 runs and, get this, 21 stolen bases. Unforgettably, he also clubbed two grand slams in the same inning, both off Chan Ho Park, the only player in major league history to record such a milestone.
It seemed the 21st century would yield bountiful yearly riches for the well-balanced hot corner. Unfortunately, Tatis' fantasy value ended when Times Square partiers ushered in the new millennium.
After an injury plagued season with the Cards in 2000, Tatis was dealt along with pitcher Britt Reams to Montreal for Dustin Hermanson and Steve Kline. While in Canada, his physical deterioration intensified. Within three years the injury imp's relentless grip forced him out of baseball. The then 28-year-old Tatis, who was supposed to be in the prime of his career, lost his faith:
“The hardest thing in baseball for a player is to get hurt. When you get hurt, that’s it. You’re just not going to be the same player. That’s what happened to me. It felt like it was one thing after another. It was a very frustrating time.”
From '04-'05, Tatis pondered his future from his home in the Dominican, wondering if and when he would be given another chance.
Then divinity intervened.
Motivated to make enough money to build a church in his native San Pedro de Macoris, Tatis worked on his defense, prayed and, most importantly, healed.
Finally in 2006, the Baltimore Orioles signed the downtrodden journeyman to a minor league contract. Although he played most of the season for Triple-A Ottawa, the opportunity reinvigorated his desire to play, as he told MLB.com May 24:
"When I was in Baltimore, I wanted to learn [to play outfield], because I know something can happen. In Triple-A, I played a lot of games in the outfield. When I was back in the Dominican, I played a lot of games in the outfield. I worked so hard in the winter. I took ground balls. I took fly balls in the outfield. And I'm seeing the results right now. When you work hard, you're going to see the results."
Tatis filed for free agency in '06 and was promptly picked up by the Dodgers, but was released two months later. The Mets signed him shortly after and assigned him to Triple-A New Orleans where he played the entire ’07 season, ironically alongside Park. In 497 at-bats with the Zephyrs, he blasted 21 homers with 31 doubles and 67 RBIs.
Tatis resigned a minor league deal with the Mets in January. After injuries felled Moises Alou and Ryan Church, he was called up May 13, finally ending his circuitous journey back to the National League.
Since then, the now 33-year-old has improbably resurrected his career, fueling the Mets magical turnaround. More stunning, he's become mixed-league relevant once again.
Over the past month, the 97-percent available Tatis has rapped a .397 BA, six homers, seven doubles and 18 RBIs in 73 at-bats. His searing stick has thrust him into aristocratic company in Y! leagues. During that stretch he's the 13th-best outfielder, sandwiched between Carlos Lee and, interestingly, Ankiel. Eligible at corner infield and outfield in Y! leagues, he'll likely continue to yield surprising power numbers for owners in deep-benched 12-team leagues. Given his dynamite 25.0 LD%, gap-splitting stroke, renewed confidence and sixth-spot in a loaded order, he could amass two-month totals around .300 BA, 10 HR, 30 RBIs, 30 Rs and 3 SBs.
Almost unfathomably, Jerry Manuel has anointed Tatis, who has slapped three multi-hit and multi-RBI games in his past five, the Mets everyday left-fielder for the rest of the season. An elated Tatis expressed to Newsday earlier this week:
"It's amazing the way I feel at the plate right now. I thank God for the confidence."
Fantasy followers hoping to have a similar Hollywood ending are thanking a higher power for Tatis' impossible revival, too.
Here are this week’s flames, lames and stars of video games:
.255 BA, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 23 R, 0 SB, 35:27 K:BB
Strong Buy (all leagues)
The Ass-O-Meter's needle has entered Nicolette Sheridan territory. We can only hope Butler will someday serenade the desperate cougar with sappy Michael Bolton love songs. Butler exaltations are to the Noise what non-stop Brett Favre reports are to ESPN, annoying, but KC's Mr. Belvedere is finally giving Buttheads something to shout about. Since the break, the 22-year-old masher has launched four homers and tallied 14 RBIs. His soaring fly-ball rate (Post-ASB FB%: 52.5, season: 35.4) shows he's smacking the ball with more conviction. Trey Hillman believes his increased selectivity (1 K in past 45 at-bats) is the reason behind the power surge, "Since the break he's looking at more pitches and not unloading right away. It gives him better rhythm and timing at the plate." With his all-fields power growing and given his absurd 85.2 CT%, Butler will continue to blossom juggling between the fifth and sixth spots in the Royals order. He's definitely worthy of a roster spot in deep-benched 12-team mixed leagues.
.319 BA, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 21 R, 5 SB, 19:17 K:BB
Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Norm's Tire pitchman Ron Gardenhire has finally found trusty leadoff wheels in Span. Though not as prolific on the basepaths as average-killing teammate Carlos Gomez, the 24-year-old centerfielder is better-rounded at the dish. Span is a very patient hitter (12.8 BB%) who pounds pitches into the ground (55.9 GB%) in an attempt to maximize his speed, similar to former Twinkie and current Mets second baseman Luis Castillo. He possesses minimal power and his base burglar instincts are still developing, but his 89.4 CT% and entrenched spot atop the Minny lineup means he'll be a quality source of BA and runs over the season's final two months. Shockingly over the past month in Y! leagues, Span ranks ahead of Lance Berkman, B.J. Upton and Hunter Pence in outfielder rankings (.333 BA, HR, 9 RBI, 16 R, 3 SB). Michael Cuddyer's activation from the DL in about a week will complicate playing time in the Twins outfield, but Gardenhire commented to the Rochester Post-Bulletin July 30 that Span is not in jeopardy of losing at-bats: "I'm just going to keep him playing as much as I can." If you're in the market for a BA or runs catalyst, Spic n' Span is your man.
.321 BA, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB, 9:2 K:BB
Moderate Buy (deep mixed), Strong Buy (AL-only)
With a name like LaHair, Richie Suxon's replacement might just be Seattle's new Zohan. Compared to Sean Casey in style and substance by "Baseball America," the 6-foot-5 rookie is a long, lanky hitter with a strong work ethic who covers the plate well. His keen eye (14.3 BB% with Triple-A Tacoma) and slightly above average pop (HR per 26.5 at-bats in minors) proves the 25-year-old could accumulate appreciable stats for deep-leaguers during his two-month audition. As former Tacoma and current Mariners teammate Jeff Clement described him to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer July 17: "He uses the whole field well. He hits a lot of doubles. He's a complete player for sure." The lefty-swinger has recorded a hit in six of his past seven games with two homers and two RBIs. Because of his struggles against southpaws (.183 BA vs. LHP at Triple-A), LaHair will occasionally sit, but he's certainly rosterable in Grand Canyon-deep mixed and all AL-only formats.
5.0 IP, S, 0 W, 3.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 6:1 K:BB
Strong Buy (all leagues)
Charlie Weis better have a defibrillator handy. Samardzija is poised to enter several pressure-packed situations over the next few days. As first reported in last week's Weekly Rundown, the Windy City "Jaws" has the stuff to sink his teeth into the competition. Tenacious, ultra-competitive and composed, Samardzija has oozed moxie in his very brief big league career. That combined with his spectacular repertoire – 96-99 mph heater, mid-80s change, splitter – improving command and ability to coax abundant groundballs (1.53 GB/FB ratio in minors this year) are the reasons why Lou Piniella has thrust him into a split-closing role with Carlos Marmol while Kerry Wood's blister mends. With Wood potentially out another 1-2 weeks, the former Notre Dame wide receiver will be given numerous opportunities to stiff arm opponents in the ninth. Skeptics will point out his unimpressive minor league track-record as reason enough raise a red flag, but his 9.64 K/9 in his last 37.1 IP at Triple-A Iowa paired with his initial success at the big league level are clear deterrents of that logic. He is the NL's version of Joba Chamberlain. Don't be surprised if he's the biggest bullpen and/or rotation surprise the rest of the way.
133.0 IP, 10 W, 3.79 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 84:40 K:BB
Strong Buy (all leagues)
When Moyer first toed the major league rubber 22 years ago, one-hit wonder Nu Shooz was blowin' up speakers at Skateland rinks. The 45-year-ancient Moyer has reinvented himself this season. Citizen's Bank Park has notoriously been known to confound pitchers and with that in mind, the geriatric hurler has eliminated sliders from his arsenal, throwing more splitters to attract soft contact. That tweak has worked flawlessly. Compared to last year, his GB% has rocketed skyward ('07: 39.4, '08: 44.9), while his FB% has dipped sharply ('07: 39.4, '08: 33.9). It's no wonder Moyer has registered seven quality starts in his past 10 outings. Given his impeccable command (2.71 BB/9) and plentiful run support (6.16 RS/9), the Moyersaurus will continue to defy the wrinkling effects of Father Time. Sure, his strikeout numbers (5.68 K/9) are undesirable, but his contributions in other areas will prove invaluable. He's definitely worth owning in shallow 12-team mixed leagues.
.269 BA, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 48 R, 26 SB, 35:29 K:BB
Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Instead of satisfying his inner P-Diddy, Rollins really needs to focus energy on rediscovering his power stroke (1 HR in past 144 at-bats). The unforgiving Philadelphia media has heavily scrutinized J-Roll for his lack of heart and all-around production. After showing up 15 minutes before game-time for a crucial clash with the rival Mets last week and given his statistical regression back to '05 levels, the press' disgruntled feelings are justified. Compared to '06 and '07, seasons in which he blasted 55 combined homers, Rollins' GB/FB ratio has acutely risen ('07: 0.81, '08: 1.36). The lingering effects of an ankle injury along with the media pressures could be taking a physical and mental toll on the reigning NL MVP. With a .239 BA since the break, he's become taxing for his fantasy owners. Due to the poor production at short this season, Rollins will continue to be an elite contributor. However, if you have sizable depth at middle infield and are comfortable in steals, it might be wise to shop him. This week in one-for-one Y! Plus league transactions Rollins was swapped straight up for Magglio Ordonez, Johan Santana and Chase Utley.
.275 BA, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 40 R, 0 SB, 94:44 K:BB
Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Some spontaneous public league owners are probably debating whether or not they should dump Geo for Indians fire-wielder Kelly Shoppach (14.5 percent owned). Don't be that obtuse. Yes, Shoppach recently became the eighth player in major league history to collect five extra-base hits in a game, which is one more base-knock than Soto has recorded in two-plus weeks, but the Cubs backstop is primed for a statistical binge. During his recent 6-for-36 (.167 BA) swoon, the All-Star has been scorned by Lady Luck. Despite lacing a stout 23.1 LD% and 50.0 FB%, he's yielded just two extra-base hits since July 19. With the North Side offense rejuvenated and based on Soto's recent unlucky peripherals, the crystal ball foresees a BA surge. Chicago Tribune beat writers believe he could be tiring a bit, but if Piniella continues to give him routine rest, he should have enough energy to produce profitable numbers down the stretch. Recently shipped for Chris Carpenter, Alex Rios and George Sherrill in Y! leagues, Soto is someone to pitch an offer for while his value is on the downswing.
266 BA, 14 HR, 67 RBI, 61 R, 7 SB, 68:29 K:BB
.Hold (all leagues)
After a torrid April/May, Murphy's bat has slowed. Since June 1, he's hitting just .242, including a recent 7-for-39 (.179 BA) slide. The culprit in the 26-year-old's downturn has been a dramatic spike in flyball percentage. Since the break, he's posted a 54.5 FB%, significantly higher than his 40.9 season mark. When perplexed by a similar decline earlier this month, he remarked to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram that his leg kick was too pronounced, a clear indication of fatigue. It's possible he's experiencing a similar setback. Still, his fantastic 84.2 CT% and RBI friendly third/sixth spot in a loaded Rangers order should rekindle his lumber. Because he's yielded appreciable results across the board even when slumping, he's not expendable in deeper mixed leagues. Expect a rebound soon.
116.2 IP, 5 W, 4.40 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 69:31 K:BB
Moderate Buy (all leagues)
The English translation of Kuroda must be "corrosive." Tattooed in his past three starts, the 33-year-old Japanese import has surrendered 17 earned runs (13.11 ERA) and posted an upchuck-worthy 2.40 WHIP. Kuroda's outward frustrations have led to his own demise as he's made several mental mistakes on defense and with pitch location. As Joe Torre remarked to MLB.com after his latest implosion July 28 versus San Francisco, "His splitter was good and the fastball was it. He just isn't finishing off, reaching out. We remind him. This was one of the problems he had when he was hurting. He assures us he's not, but it might still be in his mind." Amazingly, Kuroda has walked just 1.61 batters per nine and notched an off-the-charts high 62.9 GB% in those rough outings, positive signs that a turnaround is imminent. Considering how well he's performed at Chavez Ravine (3.55 ERA, 5.25 away), he could generate respectable numbers over the next two weeks. Three of his next four starts (Ari, at SF, Phi, Col) are at Dodgers Stadium. Kuroda, dealt straight up for Manny Parra, Jason Kubel and Brandon Lyon in Y! Plus league one-for-one swaps this week, should be sought after in deeper leagues.
123.0 IP, 8 W, 4.61 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 126:63 K:BB
Strong Sell (all leagues)
Sanchez has not only spearheaded the wall, his noggin is logged in it. In his past five efforts, the 25-year-old southpaw has struggled immensely. Over that stretch, he's compiled a detestable 8.57 ERA and 1.95 WHIP in 21 IP. Physically, Sanchez, who has never pitched more than 126 innings in a year at any level of professional baseball, claims he's fine, but the rigors of an arduous full-season are apparently causing him to mentally unravel, indicative in his 6.85 BB/9 in July. Although Brian Sabean may disagree, the Giants have no shot at a playoff spot. Because of Sanchez's long-term upside, he could be shut down soon to prevent injury. Get what you can before his value completely vanishes. This week in Y! Plus leagues Sanchez was swapped for Johnny Cueto, Joel Hanrahan and James Loney in one-for-one transactions.
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 July 30
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?
Brad, how valuable do you see Jeff Samardzija turning out to be? Sure, he is closing right now, but when Kerry Wood returns will he get pushed back behind Marmol in the pen? I am in need of relief pitching (both saves and holds) and currently employ Soria, Soriano, Marte, Wheeler and Downs. Is Samardzija worthy of burning my #1 waiver priority, or should I hold off for David Price?– Wes, San Francisco, Calif.
Noise: To clarify, the "Shark," as discussed above, is involved in a committee until Wood's plaguing blister heals, which should be another 1-2 weeks. Despite his increased role in the Cubs bullpen, I firmly believe Sweet Lou will eventually bounce Marquis – we can only hope – from the fifth rotation spot to the pen in favor of Samardzija once Wood returns. Yes, the ex-Golden Domer's strikeout potential is libido-driving, but there is no way I would sacrifice a chance at Price for his services.
Price is a phenom who will foster man-crushes from coast-to-coast once recalled, presumably no later than September 1. The current Montgomery Biscuit (Double-A) is 5-0 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 45.0 innings pitched. His 7.60 K/9, 2.40 BB/9 and sick 1.54 GB/FB ratio are sensational peripherals that point to immediate and long-term success at the big league level. The southpaw will be stellar if given the opportunity this year.
Dude – you sold yourself short on your prognostication prowess. I have been following you for years now and your lines on players are insightful, thought out and thorough. Success is not measured in accuracy of the results, but in the basis of the prediction. I'll take someone giving me a tip on a potential breakout BEFORE the breakout happens any day. Of course I temper it with my own analysis, but you are a starting point. Congrats on your new child. I'll take an extra grain of salt with your coming columns due to lack of sleep. :) – Chad, Calgary, Alb.
Hey Brad. On behalf of the entire fantasy community, congratulations on little Noise the sequel. We wish you and your family all the best. By "entire fantasy community," I really mean me and like five buddies who read your column/articles because I really can't speak for everyone (especially those who loathe the Ass-O-Meter and those who despise C.C. fat jokes, and that apparently consists of a helluva lot of people). Just what we need, another adjective-throwin', bold prediction makin', man-crushin' son-of-a-gun roaming around, right? In any case, keep up the good work bud and we (all five of us) will be looking forward to reading your upcoming works vis-à-vis the upcoming football season. All the best. –Andrew, Toronto, Ont.
My god, a baby. Hopefully this person doesn't get your writing genes. Your columns make me nauseous using about 15,000 words to get a point across that warrants maybe 50. Congratulations! – Paul, Chicago, Ill.
Noise: A quick psychoanalysis of Paul would likely reveal that: 1) He's a CrackBerry drone, 2) He survived Lit courses in college only because of Cliffs Notes, 3) When playing Madden, three minute quarters are the default setting, 4) He enjoys bass-thumping night clubs where DJ's annoyingly only play snippets of songs and 5) He traded Robinson Cano for Micah Owings back in May because he ran out of patience.
Look, the Noise is not for everyone. Those who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, homophobia and Billy Butlexia would agree this column isn't digestible. Yes, the longwinded, sometimes flowery introductions could be chopped down to a few straight-forward lines, but where's the excitement in that? My weekly goal is to entertain, enlighten and educate the reader with a unique perspective on fantasy. Fascinating backstories, like Tatis', allow me to creatively intertwine fantasy with reality, something I've come to relish. If 500 introductory words cause sensory overload, by all means, skip down to the Flames and Lames, skim the text and focus your attention on the Fearless Forecasts.
Oh, and so you know, long musings and unhealthy obsessions for certain fantasy commodities is a genetic Evans trait. My great-great-great-great grandfather wrote lengthy letters to friends about King Kelly's statistical, and vaudevillian, prowess in the late 1800s. With one of the sweetest handlebar moustaches of the dead-ball era, even Jason Giambi would've been infatuated with the King.
I hope the little Evans is born with six toes and one ear. Your crap projections cost me my league! – Steve, Columbus, OH.
Noise: I guess this means the miniature Noise is destined to be the next Antonio Alfonseca. He'll destroy future fantasy rosters with inflated WHIP totals and blown saves, similar to how his pops misled countless owners with "crap projections." Stay classy, Steve.
Of all the baseball players to name little Brad Jr. after, my vote is with "Boof" as in Boof Bonser. How could you go wrong? – Mike, Mount Kisco, NY.
Noise: Unfortunately, Mike, if Noise Jr. was graced with the name "Boof," an Amber Alert would be issued in Illinois. Why? Andy Behrens would abduct my kid.
So you know, we're seriously thinking of naming the boy "Oil Can."