Change is one constant in fantasy sports. Players get hot and cool down, get hurt and get well, and move in and out of roles. Fantasy owners are constantly reacting to these changes (or at least they should be). Let's take a look at the Buzz Index from the past few days to see which players are currently causing the most change in fantasy baseball, and take a deeper look at what the fuss is all about.
Buzz Index (Baseball) – adds
Jack Cust (Oak – OF) 21,364 adds
Cust is hitting again in a big way. Over his past 17 games, he's batted .373 (25 for 67) with 17 runs, seven home runs, and 19 RBI, raising his season average 62 points in the process (from .218 to .280).
Upshot: Ride the hot streak while it lasts – that's the obvious when it comes to Cust. He was among the most dropped player in the game when, in a span of 19 games from May 22 to June 14, Cust hit just .135 (7-for-52) and did not hit a home run.
Chad Billingsley (LAD – SP, RP) 21,184 adds
Billingsley was masterful in his most recent start, 7.0 shutout innings versus the Padres on July 1, in which he allowed just three hits, walked none, and struck out nine.
Upshot: Billingsley is a talented pitcher and worth a roster spot, but be aware that his success will hinge on his control. After posting an exorbitant walk rate of 5.8/9 last season, he lowered it to 3.3/9 in his 23 relief appearances in the season's early going. Since replacing Jason Schmidt in the Dodgers' rotation, he's walked six batters in 14.2 innings (3.7/9). He's likely to remain on a low pitch count for a few more starts, and it would be wise to stay wary of the matchups with Billingsley until he shows relatively good control on a consistent basis.
Mark Ellis (Oak – 2B) 17,191 adds
Ellis has been one of the better fantasy options at second base over the past month. He's hit .319 (38 for 119) over his past 30 games, with 17 runs, five home runs, 18 RBI, and four steals.
Upshot: There are two good signs for Ellis' fantasy owners. First, his current performance is similar to that of his 2005 season, during which his numbers grew progressively better by the month and he finished with a .316 average and 13 home runs. Second, he's proven to be a second-half hitter, even when you include his down seasons. He has a .256/.324/.371 line in 1,075 career at bats before the All-Star break, and a .285/.360/.445 line in 979 career at bats after.
Ryan Braun (Mil – 3B) 15,899 adds
Braun has been one of the best options in fantasy baseball as a whole over the past month, as the third-ranked player in the Yahoo! game. His numbers over that time include a .377 average (40 for 106), 24 runs, six home runs, 23 RBI, and six steals.
Upshot: Go get this kid! There's no reason for this five-category contributor to not be universally owned at this point. He's more than settled in as the No.3 hitter for a Brewers offense that is seventh in the league in runs scored.
Carlos Marmol (ChC – SP, RP) 15,864 adds
Marmol has been lights out for the Cubs this season, posting a 1.07 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and .178 BAA in 25.1 innings so far this season, and is second in line behind Bob Howry for saves while Ryan Dempster is on the DL.
Upshot: Howry hasn't exactly been untouchable since taking over for Dempster, blowing one of his four save opportunities and posting a 6.35 ERA and 1.77 WHIP in 5.2 innings; in 40.1 innings on the season, Howry has an un-closer-like 4.24 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and .272 BAA. Marmol is the better roster option at this point.
Shannon Stewart (Oak – OF) 15,456 adds
Stewart is hitting .468 (22 for 47) during his current 10-game hitting streak, with 11 runs scored, three home runs, and two stolen bases.
Upshot: Stewart is devoid of upside at this point of his career, but he's too hot right now to ignore, if you have a roster spot you can use on him. Don't expect the power surge, in particular, to last.
Mark DeRosa (ChC – 2B, 3B, OF) 14,175 adds
Although he's not locked in at any one defensive position, DeRosa has been a regular in the starting lineup and red-hot in recent weeks. He's hit .363 (29 for 80) over the past 23 games, with 17 RBI, including 13 in seven games from June 25 to July 2.
Upshot: While he's on pace to score just 55 runs, DeRosa is also on track to hit 14 home runs and drive in 90. He's a decent option at second base, particularly if you are looking for some run production.
Chad Gaudin (Oak – SP, RP) 13,146 adds
Gaudin was a popular roster addition on the heels of his 7.0 shutout innings against the Yankees on June 30, during which he limited them to a Johnny Damon single and three walks.
Upshot: While his performance against the Yankees was impressive, I'm paying more attention to his five other June starts, in which he had a 5.02 ERA and 1.88 WHIP, and walked more batters (18) than he struck out (15). His season WHIP (1.36) isn't likely to get much lower.
Javier Vazquez (CWS – SP) 12,440 adds
Vazquez allowed just one earned run for the third consecutive start on July 3, a complete-game victory over the Orioles. He allowed just four hits, zero walks, and struck out seven.
Upshot: Vazquez has been a very effective pitcher over his past seven starts – he's posted a 2.76 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, striking out 49 batters in 49.0 innings. Vazquez tends to pitch better in the season's second half, but is already (and very quietly) eighth in the league in WHIP (1.08) and 13th in strikeouts (100). There's no reason for him to be a free agent in any but the shallowest of leagues.
Tim Lincecum (SF – SP) 12,098 adds
Lincecum threw 7.0 shutout innings for the second consecutive start on July 1, striking out a career-high 12 Arizona hitters. He's allowed seven hits and struck out 20 in his last 14.0 innings.
Upshot: Remember when Lincecum was flying off of rosters after he allowed a combined 13 earned runs in back-to back starts in mid-June? That wasn't exactly forward thinking on those fantasy owners' parts. Pick him up if he's out there, and play the matchups, at the very least (like when he faces the Padres or Diamondbacks, for example).
Buzz Index (Baseball) – drops
Mike Napoli (LAA – C) 28,410 drops
Napoli was slumping – he hit .158 (six for 38) in his past 13 games – before being placed on the DL on July 2 with a high ankle sprain.
Lowdown: Napoli was among the hottest catchers in baseball from mid-May to mid-June, but the honeymoon is over. Even without the injury, he's waiver material until he happens to get hot again.
Ian Kinsler (Tex – 2B) 18,990 drops
Kinsler was placed on the DL on Monday with a stress fracture in his left foot, an injury that is expected to sideline him for at least three weeks.
Lowdown: Kinsler's fantasy owners just can't catch a break. He was actually starting to hit a bit, after an anemic .193 average over 41 games from May 1 to June 16. In the nine games prior to the injury, Kinsler batted .313 (10 for 32) with 14 runs and three home runs. He's worth stashing on the DL if you've got an open spot, but at least keep him on your Watch List if you don't have room for him at this point.
Oliver Perez (NYM – SP) 18,933 drops
Sticking with the theme, Perez was placed on the DL on Monday with lower back stiffness, and he is expected to be out until after the All-Star break.
Lowdown: Once again sticking with the theme, Perez is certainly worth holding onto if you have a DL spot, as his injury is not expected to have long-term ramifications. Despite some control issues in June, Perez still has a 3.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .207 BAA, and 85 strikeouts in 94.2 innings pitched.
Yovani Gallardo (Mil – SP) 15,865 drops
Gallardo has been bumped from the starting rotation, and he allowed five hits and three earned runs in 2.2 innings versus the Pirates on Tuesday in his first relief appearance.
Lowdown: His performance against the Buccos aside, Gallardo should post a high strikeout rate and solid ratios in the always underappreciated middle relief role. If Claudio Vargas continues along his current course (13 earned runs over his last 16 innings pitched), there is also a good chance that Gallardo will be back in the rotation towards the end of the season. Don't give up on him quite yet.
Scott Podsednik (CWS – PF) 13,949 drops
Pods lasted all of nine games before finding himself back on the DL, this time with a strained ribcage muscle. He hit .235 (eight for 34) in those nine games.
Lowdown: If you are desperate for steals in an exceptionally deep league, then Pods is worth keeping an eye on. Otherwise, take White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's words to heart. "It's hard to say I count on this kid when I know I can't," Guillen said.
A.J. Burnett (Tor – SP) 13,523 drops
Burnett lasted one very unproductive start before finding himself back on the DL due to shoulder soreness, and he is expected to miss up to a month of action.
Lowdown: Don't count on much of anything from Burnett moving forward, either, as he's had a long history of arm troubles. It's safe to cut him loose, but keep an eye out for progress reports.
Al Reyes (TB – RP) 12,578 drops
Yep, Reyes is on the DL, as well. He was sidelined as of Tuesday with what is being called a mild strain in his right rotator cuff.
Lowdown: Reyes was scuffling before he hit the DL – he allowed eight earned runs in his last 4.0 innings – but the injury is not considered serious and there isn't anyone remotely worth taking a chance on in the D-Rays' bullpen outside of Reyes. Hold on to Reyes unless the prognosis suddenly turns grim.
Jorge Sosa (NYM – SP, RP) 12,223 drops
I'm starting to feel like a broken record. DL stint? Check. Lackluster recent numbers? Check. Sosa was placed on the DL on June 30 with a strained left hamstring.
Lowdown: I was never on the Sosa bandwagon to begin with. Now is as good of a time as any to cut ties and look elsewhere for pitching help.
Randy Johnson (Ari – SP) 10,433 drops
I'm just filling in an empty template that I made at this point – [Johnson] is back on the DL for the [third] time this season, this time with a [herniated disk in his back].
Lowdown: While the injury is not considered serious, Johnson is considered old and very brittle. He has been sent home to work with a personal trainer, and will be re-evaluated when he is eligible to come off of the DL (July 14). D-Backs' manager Bob Melvin said "It is what it is" and "It'll be a work in progress" when discussing Johnson's health, and you should expect, at best, sporadic stints as an active player for the 43-year-old over the course of the season.
Kelly Johnson (Atl – 2B, OF) 10,292 drops
Johnson has been very average of late. He's batted .255 (14 for 55) over his past 18 games, with six runs scored, zero home runs, and four RBI.
Lowdown: Johnson has been bumped from the leadoff spot by Willie Harris and has been losing some playing time at second base to Yunel Escobar, as well. He's still got some value in leagues that count on-base percentage, but otherwise, there are likely to be a number of better options on the wire.