Whether you've heard AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" prior to any Chicago White Sox home game, in the background whenever John Smoltz digs his cleats into the box at Turner Field or over the loudspeakers when the league's best stopper, J.J. Putz, jogs in from the pen at Safeco Field, it's hard to ignore the stadium rock anthem's invigorating power.
The best AC/DC song in their enormous catalogue of hits, "Thunderstruck" is four heart-pounding minutes and 52 uproarious seconds of raucous riffs and vociferous vocals that will kick your ass – and your liver if you take a swig every time Brian Johnson shouts "thunder." For those of you that actually read books in college, that's an inebriating 23 times …
Currently second to last in homers and third from the bottom in RBI, my Yahoo! Friends and Family League team needs to get "Thunderstruck" in a hurry or it's going to be a painful 250-word highway to fantasy expert hell paved by Boston Nick.
For those of you similarly shakin' at the knees at the prospects of a second-half power slumber, here are four guys available in over 95 percent of Yahoo! leagues that can bolster your squad with a little "TNT."
Billy Butler, KC
Y! Availability: 98.6%
Watch him explode … for more dingers and a higher average than Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Swisher and Eric Byrnes in KC's remaining 73 games. Butler's recent efforts in July (.372 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI) have vaulted him from man-crush to man-passion on the fantasy infatuation scale. By the end of the year he very easily could exceed my man-lust expectations (Post-ASB Projection: .289 BA, 11 HR, 49 RBI).
Jeremy Hermida, Fla
Y! Availability: 95.6%
Watch him explode … and finally make people believe in his R.O.Y. hype of two seasons ago. "The Hermit's" natural talents have been dormant for much of his young career, but his efforts in July (.349 BA, 3 HR, 8 RBI) suggest he's about to come out of his shell. Exuding more patience (15.3 BB% since July 1), Hermida could be in store for a .290 BA, 10 HR, 35 RBI second-half.
Jason Botts, Tex
Y! Availability: 99.7%
Watch him explode … when he finally gets everyday at-bats after Sammy Sosa is traded. The Optimus Prime of sleeper power producers, Botts has boomed 13 homers, driven in 73 and has slapped a superb .322 BA in 342 Triple-A at-bats. Balls catapult out of Arlington under the sweltering Texas sun this time of year – Botts' chance to unload is coming soon.
Adam Jones, Sea
Y! Availability: 99.3%
Watch him explode … as soon as the Seattle front office quits toying with fantasy owners about his promotion. Jones has smashed 23 homers (HR/15.6 at-bats) and 75 RBI in 86 games at Tacoma. His overly anxious 92:29 K:BB means his .305 BA won't translate, but if you can stomach a .250 average he will notch low double-digit homer totals. Look for him to suit up by mid-August.
Rick Ankiel, StL
Y! Availability: N/A
Watch him explode … once the Cardinals realize So Taguchi in Japanese means panty-waist. With 26 homers and 70 RBI in 309 Triple-A at-bats, the stripped-socked one now punishes baseballs before they hit the backstop.
Here are this week's flames, lames and stars of video games:
.235 BA, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 36 R, 61:63 K:BB
I rescind my declaration from last week that I wanted to donate Burrell's ".215 BA and $13 million '07 salary to the Salvation Army" – beatnik James from Ontario will surely be disgusted. Like the Phillies number of franchise losses, most owners could give you 10,000 words why Pat "The Doormat" blows. However, his .520 BA, 3 HR and 9 RBI since July 4 have given me renewed confidence in his abilities. During his recent streak, Burrell has decreased his FB% (41.1% vs. 53.6% on the year) and has smacked line-drives with regularity (23.5 LD% vs. 17.8% for the year). On the year, his deplorable offensive numbers have overshadowed his sparkling 20.6 BB%, which ranks second to Barry Bonds in the bigs. With Michael Bourn pressing him for playing time, your opportunity to steal Burrell for the price of a Geno's cheesesteak has almost expired. Burrell, traded this week for Richie Sexson, Kenji Johjima and Scott Rolen in solo Plus league deals, could easily contribute plentiful power numbers as a No. 4 outfielder over the rest of the season. Fearless Forecast (Final 70 G): .288 BA, 13 HR, 41 RBI, 32 R.
.154 BA, HR, 6 RBI, 2 R, 5:1 K:BB
Maybe I've hit the Crunk Juice too hard, but Milledge looks like the product of a Juan Samuel-Lil' Wayne after-party hookup. Due to a rash of injuries in the Mets outfield, Milledge will be the primary left fielder over the next couple of weeks. Don't be misled by his .303 career minor league BA. Milledge is a reckless swinger who's tallied a 22.9 K% in 192 big league at-bats – at this point in his career, he is more Bill Hall than Alex Rios in BA terms. Equipped with a lightning-quick bat, above-average speed and plus-power, the free-swinging Milledge, statistically speaking, projects to be a Vernon Wells-type in his prime. His 1 HR and 6 RBI in six games is an indication of his 25-30 HR, 100-plus RBI long-term potential. Moises Alou is expected to be activated sometime next week, which will complicate Milledge's playing time. As long as the 22 year-old wields a scorching stick, he will force a platoon in right and be valuable in NL-only leagues and very deep mixed leagues when penciled in the lineup. Fearless Forecast (70 G): .255 BA, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 21 R, 3 SB.
1-for-5, 0 HR, 0 RBI, R, 0 SB, 0:0 K:BB
DaVanon – and to some extent Jeff Salazar – has dampened Scott Hairston's coming out party. The 33-year-old former L.A. Angel was activated on Tuesday (shoulder/ankle) and is expected to be Bob Melvin's primary right fielder until Justin Upton is ready. DaVanon is a versatile switch-hitter who showcases a keen eye (career 12.6 BB%), above-average power and speedy wheels (10 SB in 87 games in '06). Sure, he may not be the sexiest of waiver wire choices, but in NL-only and deep mixed leagues he's a fantastic low-dollar source of 7-10 SB speed with 5-10 HR pop and bountiful runs – especially if he continues to leadoff. Streaky at times, don't be shocked if he bares his fangs out of the gate. Fearless Forecast (70 G): .283 BA, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 33 R, 8 SB.
.226 BA, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R, 8:4 K:BB
Suzuki's fantasy value increased exponentially after Cubs GM Jim Hendry unnecessarily acquired – why not give Geovany Soto an extended look, Jim? – washed up veteran Jason Kendall (.226 BA) on Monday. The 23-year-old Suzuki is a Billy Beane "Moneyball" prodigy. In 1,198 minor league at-bats he's racked a sky-high .381 OBP and a dynamite 177:159 K:BB split. He does possess marginal power and some scouts believe he could hit 10-15 homers annually. Suzuki's .226 BA may frighten many owners, but he sprays the ball to all fields, mashes lefties and makes consistent, hard contact (.327 BABIP in the minors), which should lead to a serviceable BA. Plans for Mike Piazza to return to backstop duty have been scrapped, so it appears the "Waikiki Kid" will don the mask nearly everyday. Because many of you in deep two-catcher leagues have entrusted BA killers like David Ross, Suzuki is a tremendous buy if you're desperately seeking a backstop that can hit .250-plus. Fearless Forecast (70 G): .272 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBI,
4 W, 54.0 IP, 4.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 38:13 K:BB
For those children of the 80s, Carlyle would've have been the perfect pitchman for this somewhat psychotic Hasbro doll – damn that jingle is catchy. A second-round draft choice by the Reds in 1996, Carlyle is a journeyman starter who has played for six different organizations in nine years on this continent and two seasons ('01-'02) with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. Carlyle seems to have found his niche in Atlanta, going 3-0, with a 1.95 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and a very respectable 6.65 K/9 in his past three starts. Despite posting a gaudy 10.36 K/9 in 48.2 IP at Triple-A Richmond, he doesn't possess overpowering stuff. But, in his last start against the Pirates, his fastball registered an abnormal 94 mph on the gun – it usually clocks between 90-92 mph. Carlyle's command has been impeccable of late (17:2 K:BB in 23 IP), which has allowed him to avoid getting toasted by the long-ball (1.33 HR/9). Given his flexibility and the Braves history of maximizing marginal pitching talent, Carlyle is a viable No. 4 starter who should be snatched up in all 12-team leagues. Fearless Forecast (13 starts): 6 W, 3.46 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 55 K.
.281 BA, 6 HR, 52 RBI, 53 R, 27 SB, 73:26 K:BB
Being gored in the sphincter by an angry bull at Pamplona is the equivalent pain the Noise feels each time Crawford goes 0-for-4 – stupid A-Rod. Excluding RBI, Crawford (.281 BA, 6 HR, 53 R, 27 SB), a consensus first rounder back in March, has performed comparatively to late-round treasure Shane Victorino (.284 BA, 11 HR, 53 R, 28 SB). Many, myself included, bought stock in Crawford's upward trending power numbers over the past three years. Although on pace for 49 steals and a career-best 93 RBI, Crawford's most glaring concern is his measly six home runs. Why the power outage? When Joe Maddon forced him to the three-spot with B.J. Upton sidelined, the burden of driving in runs caused his K rates (20.3 K% on the year) and FB% (34.1) to soar, which caused his LD% (17.1%) to drift southward. Once again sandwiched between Akinori Iwamura and Upton, Crawford is more comfortable at the plate and has responded with seven stolen bases in his past 10 games. Swapped for Dan Haren, Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones in recent one-for-one Plus league trades, the 25-year-old D-Ray dynamo is a discounted superstar who will be a veritable four-cat colossus the rest of the way. Fearless Forecast (70 G): .315 BA, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 44 R, 24 SB.
.238 BA, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 48 R, 16 SB, 44:45 K:BB
Cold-cocked by a smorgasbord of injuries (oblique, back, calf, hamstring) this season, it would be Damon's luck to be randomly impaled by a fugitive javelin. Or by some Peter Pan Yankee fan. Damon's rash of injuries have undeniably sapped his ability to drive the ball, which has caused his GB% ('06: 41.3, '07: 50.4) and K% (15.0) to skyrocket and his FB% to plummet ('06: 39.7, '07: 31.2). Interestingly, Damon's inability to pull the baseball has transformed him into a more patient hitter – career-best 13.3 BB%. Despite his terrible .238 BA, his ability to draw walks has allowed him to get on base with enough regularity to swipe 16 bases in 17 attempts. On pace for 30 steals and 88 R, he should be a sound two-category contributor hitting atop one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. As for the long-balls, they won't return until his oblique completely heals, which may take several more weeks. Until then, keep buying at a slashed price – he's attracted Delmon Young, Mark Buehrle and Mark Teahen in solo deals this week. Fearless Forecast (70 G): .281 BA, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 45 R, 13 SB.
10 W, 121.0 IP, 4.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 76:26 K:BB
Prior to his July 17 start, "Doc" had been no one's Huckleberry (7.02 ERA, 1.93 WHIP in his past five starts). Largely classified as a top-ten starter back in March, Halladay has been a rollercoaster of inconsistency this season. Despite a fantastic 59.0 GB% since June 25, his recent struggles can be attributed to an abundance of free passes (3.27 BB/9 L5). Currently, his unlucky .317 BABIP and 3.58 FIP (Field Independent Pitching) indicate an ERA nosedive is imminent – his standout 7 IP, ER, 6 K effort against the Yankees is a great start. Because Halladay creates a plethora of groundballs (55.2 GB%) and has posted his lowest HR/FB (8.3%) mark in his career, his ERA should slowly shipwreck somewhere in the 3.50-3.75 range once his command is corralled. Couple that with plenty of run support (6.32 RS/9) and you're looking at a 17-20 game winner who should post comparable numbers to Carlos Zambrano, minus 60-70 Ks. Schedule an appointment with the Doc – recently dealt straight up for Barry Bonds, Bobby Abreu and Andruw Jones in Plus leagues – if you're looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter at a bargain rate. Fearless Forecast (14 starts): 8 W, 2.98 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 48 K.
.242 BA, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 68 R, 2 SB, 103:41 K:BB
Floundering with a .143 BA in July, Uggla's string of box score doughnuts is almost as unbearable to watch as Sportscenter's laughable "Who's Now?" segments. Coming into this year many pundits – myself not included – labeled Uggla a strong bust candidate, but, for the most part, he's proved them wrong. That is, until he decided to impersonate Jay Buhner. Uggla has spent a large chunk of July shackled in the 0-fer dungeon. In 49 at-bats this month, he has collected a miniscule 8 hits, 0 HR and 4 RBI. The primary culprits for Uggla's heinous play stems from a gigantic spike in strikeouts (39.1 K% in July) and a pull-happy 48.2 FB%. Last year, he struggled similarly in July (.252 BA, 3 HR, 18 RBI), but rebounded nicely in August with a .291 BA. Once Uggla tames his overt aggressiveness in the box he should return to his mashing ways – especially with Miguel Cabrera sizzling behind him (4 HR, 5 RBI since the break). If you're in need of a power surge at second, buy him on a bear market. Fearless Forecast (70 G): .268 BA, 13 HR, 32 RBI, 45 R.
1B, 3B, OF
.267 BA, 14 HR, 49 RBI, 58 R, 2 SB, 78:39 K:BB
With six punchouts in his past 13 at-bats, the mighty Casey has indeed struck out. In his past six games, Blake is a ghastly 3-for-26, which has clipped 12 points off his BA. More dark days are in the forecast. Because Blake strikes out at an appalling rate (22.2 K%) his BA should bottom out in the .260 range – in line with his career average. Also, with his LD% an uneventful 17.0, it seems unlikely he will be able to sustain his current 87 RBI pace. His power may stick, but his 12.0 HR/FB% is significantly less than his 15.7 HR/FB% back in '04 when he tallied a career benchmark of 28 homers. Blake has notoriously crawled to the finish line in his career (.219 hitter in September) and he's already beginning to labor. Traded for Roy Oswalt, Robinson Cano and Kazuo Matsui this week in Plus leagues, now's the time to put him up for sale. Fearless Forecast (70 G): .250 BA, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 39 R.
TRUE OR FALSE?
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.
Matt Garza will be the best rookie pitcher in the second-half. – Charles, Athens, GA
Answer: False. Garza has a snowball's chance in hell of outperforming Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo or Phil Hughes down the stretch. Yes, the 23-year-old has a filthy repertoire – mid-90s fastball, hard slider, fierce curve, plus change – and the bulldog demeanor to be spectacular, but his 3.03 BB/9 rate at Triple-A this year and his suspect history versus hooks tells me blackish days are ahead. Categorize him alongside Chad Billingsley as a guy you need to turn a profit on now in yearly leagues while everyone is overpaying for the hype. Garza's run of 15 scoreless innings will soon come to a screeching halt. Fearless Forecast (13 starts): 5 W, 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 50 K.
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Adam LaRoche? 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, you're forgiven for any missteps you might make the rest of the way given your Flyin' Hawaiian call. Shane Victorino is ranked in the top-40 in Y! leagues and I got him in a very competitive 14-team league based on your recommendation. Nice work! You came up very clutch!
– Charlie Hustle, San Jose, CA
Brad, a few weeks back, you mentioned a RP by the name of Carlos Marmol. Well, I cannot thank you enough. This guy has done wonders for my already healthy pitching unit. He has made my staff nearly untouchable. He's the whole nine yards for a middle reliever. You were a genius on this one my friend.
– Shawn, Kansas City, MO
Bradley, I love reading the "Noise." Not for fantasy insight, of course, but just to laugh at you. You have to be the most pathetic fantasy "expert" ever. If I recall correctly, you made a reference to Digital Underground. And your Labatt Blue simile? Please. If you were holding a beer bottle it would be to recycle it for the nickel. Tell me how your wife likes your "Mrs. Corey Hart" shirt.
– AJ, Evansville, IN
Don't you think we've all heard enough about how J.J. Hardy will not produce the same numbers as he did in April again this season? If any owners haven't heard this yet, they must be illiterate. Please, tell us something we don't know. Oh yeah, don't ever make me picture your grinning, Rogaine-enhanced head accompanied by a torso clad in a Mrs. Corey Hart or a Mrs. J.J. Hardy shirt ever again.
– Matt, Portland, ME
Noise: Matt, if I truly had a "Rogaine-enhanced head," do you think two 747 jumbo jets could land safely on my dome? If you would have actually read the snippet on Hardy from last week's Noise, you would've noticed I encouraged people to sell him before the "window of opportunity to turn a profit has closed." He's still netting quality return despite his abysmal .224 BA, 3 HR and 8 RBI line since June 1. Over the past three days, he's commanded Hideki Matsui, Cole Hamels and Francisco Cordero in solo Plus league trades. Oblivious owners continue to overpay for numbers Hardy accumulated in April and May. I suppose there must be a plethora of fantasy players out there who need "Hooked on Phonics." Eh? Oh, and here's something you don't know: I am wearing a pair of boxers with glow-in-the-dark sunglasses tattooed all over them in honor of Corey Hart. He's dreamy.
"I'm the smartest man in the world because I get paid to write about fantasy sports." You said that? That makes you a very lucky man who gets paid by talking about something you don't know. I'm sure you and the guy who hired you never played baseball. So, how can you evaluate someone's work if you don't even know how to do it?
– Boris, Pottsylvania
Noise: Congratulations, Boris! You're this year's winner of the Big Noise Nimrod Award given to the reader for achievement in idiotic and senseless comments. Get a clue, dude. Just because I would have difficulty putting wood on a Jamie Moyer fastball doesn't mean I don't have a keen eye for talent. Heck, many of baseball's current pedigree of general managers – Theo Epstein, Mark Shapiro and Brian Cashman – never stepped on a Major League field in uniform and are successful in talent evaluation. I analyze statistical data, watch hundreds of hours of game footage, scour dozens of Internet news sources and sacrifice live chickens to Jobu each week to bring you, the fantasy player, a fresh, insightful, and hopefully thought-provoking slant on the guys that drive our obsession. I played and coached the game at various levels for years and, honestly, that experience didn't turn me into a super scout – doing homework did. Go shag fly-balls with Natasha.
Your assessment of Jeremy Guthrie is way off the mark, much like your hairline. You failed to mention his 96 MPH fastball, which, coupled with Leo Mazzone's tutelage, should translate into an 8-win second-half. Still got love for you Brad, although this time you're wrong.
– Mike, New York, NY
Noise: Was my Jim Palmer Jockey comparison or my scouting report on Guthrie's recent performances wrong? Evidently, it was the former. Yes, he can dial his fastball up into the mid-90s with consistency and Mazzone's instruction is immeasurable, but the peripherals point (5.32 BB/9 L3) to an ERA spike in the second-half. As I forewarned last week, Guthrie has had difficulties keeping the ball down in the zone lately as his 44.0 FB% and six long-balls allowed in his past four starts affirms. His horrific 5 ER, 3 BB, 9 H in 3.2 IP versus the White Sox on July 12 is exactly why I labeled the guy a "moderate sell." Mike, jump the ship now before his ERA levels off in the 3.40-3.50 range. He's attracted my boy Rich Hill – did you see his last start (8 IP, 2 ER, 3 K, W)? – Aaron Harang and Jeff Kent in recent Plus league solo swaps.
Hello Brad. Welcome to espaol 101: Last week you incorrectly translated Hiram Bocachica's surname. It is "small mouth" and not "mouth girl." Just thought I'd point that out, though I liked your translation much better. Cheers!
– Tom, Vancouver, BC
Noise: And this, folks, is the reason why the Noise's pea-sized brain only retained "Donde esta el bano?" from three years of high school Spanish. Oh, and "mas cervezas, por favor." Thanks for the correction Tom …