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
Cody Ross (Fla – OF) 37,776 adds
A massive four-game streak of production has brought Ross to the forefront. From July 3-6, he went 12-for-20 (.600), scored six runs, hit two home runs and drove in 15.
Upshot: Ross's monthly splits couldn't be more extreme. We're talking a dismal April (.159/.188/.227 in 44 AB as part of a CF platoon), a massive May (.280/.379/.880, 10 HR in 50 AB), a weak June (.239/.280/.413 in 92 AB) and a terrific start to July. He's hit safely in 16 of the past 17 games, batting .403 (27 for 67) with four home runs and 19 runs batted in. He's in no danger of being platooned again any time soon, and his plus-power is no joke. His current .267 average is a fairly good estimate of where he'll eventually end up, but he should remain a good (albeit streaky) source of HR/RBI.
Ricky Nolasco (Fla – SP) 34,593 adds
Nolasco is the second-most added player for the second consecutive week. In two starts since his previous appearance on the Buzz Index, he went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.53 WHIP, with 15 strikeouts and zero walks.
Upshot: Nolasco appears to have figured out lefties, a huge development as they were at .283/.344/.546 (205 AB) against him at this time last week, and now are at .255/.312/.502 (231 AB). He's 9-1 over his past 12 starts, with a 2.82 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 79.2 innings, with 68 hits, 18 walks and 67 strikeouts. Yeah, those numbers play in fantasy.
Jerry Hairston Jr. (Cin – 2B, 3B, SS, OF) 30,356 adds
Any fears of a Hairston/Jeff Keppinger platoon seem to have been put to rest since Hairston returned from the DL. He's played nearly every day over the past few weeks, batting .333 (16 for 48) with eight runs and three steals in 12 games.
Upshot: Keppinger and Edwin Encarnacion have been sharing time at third base, and Hairston has also been seeing time in the outfield. With Ken Griffey Jr. and/or Adam Dunn likely to be traded by the deadline, it's doubtful that a healthy Hairston won't be a lineup fixture for the Reds. While it's unlikely that the career .258 hitter will maintain his .335 average, his runs and steals sure do come in handy at either MI spot.
J.J. Hardy (Mil – SS) 26,465 adds
Hardy has been destroying opposing pitching for the past month or so, hitting safely in 19 of the past 20 games, batting .432 (35 for 81) with 16 runs, 19 extra-base hits (11 2B, 8 HR) and 20 runs batted in.
Upshot: He was batting just .242/.319/.343 as of June 10, but now he stands at .295/.363/.490. Much of his damage has come in the two-hole, before Ryan Bran and Prince Fielder. He's batted .359/.395/.684 in 117 at bats there and .246/.346/.358 in 134 at bats at seventh while Mike Cameron (.227/.312/.488) was tried out at second in the order. It's doubtful that he'll be moved down in the order again any time soon, good news for Hardy and his current or soon-to-be fantasy owners.
Hiroki Kuroda (LAD – SP) 22,334 adds
Kuroda took a perfect game into the eighth in his most recent start and has been dominant in two appearances (16.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) since returning from a DL trip because of a sore shoulder.
Upshot: His gem on Monday gave him two shutouts on the season and a 4.15 ERA and 1.41WHIP in his other 14 starts on the season. He's a low-volume strikeout pitcher (5.2/9), even when he pitched in Japan, so he's got to really be on point to warrant significant fantasy interest. He's certainly a good option if he can stay on a roll.
Rick Ankiel (StL – OF) 18,756 adds
Ankiel is on one of those hitting binges right now. He's hit .311 (23 for 74) with nine home runs, 16 runs batted in and 15 runs scored over the past 18 games.
Upshot: As I mentioned in a recent Splitsville, Ankiel has been nothing but ups and downs since being promoted to the bigs last season. Don't plan on dropping him when his production wanes a bit. Get him to the bench and be primed for his next offensive outburst.
Grant Balfour (TB – RP) 16,651 adds
Balfour has been exceptional on the season (18.2 IP, 0.96 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, .115 BAA) and is now the presumptive closer for the Rays while Troy Percival is on the DL.
Upshot: Balfour's high-90's heat is very effective when he's locating his pitches, so he's got a chance to be successful even with a spotty track record. Even if he's back in the mix after the All-Star break, Percival is as likely as anyone to miss more time over the course of the season, so Balfour makes for a very attractive option for saves prospectors.
Andy Sonnanstine (TB – SP) 16,101 adds
Sonnanstine has not lost in six straight decisions (4-0), compiling a 2.88 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in his past 34.1 innings, with 35 hits, seven walks and 23 strikeouts.
Upshot: Sonnanstine makes up (for the most part) for a lack of stuff with pinpoint control and the ability to limit opposing home runs. While opponents are batting .293 against him, his walk rate (1.7 BB/9) and home run rate (0.7 HR/9) are both exceptional. He hasn't given up a home run in his past eight starts, spanning 45.0 innings. You could do a lot worse for your end-of-the-rotation starter.
Buzz Index (Baseball) – Drops
Justin Masterson (Bos – SP) 31,700 drops
Masterson is among the most dropped players for the second straight week. Last week it was because of a string of unimpressive starts, and this week it's because he's been sent to Triple-A where he will be converted into a reliever.
Lowdown: Masterson figures to be very effective out of the bullpen. He's limited right-handed hitters to a line of .170/.255/.261 thus far on the season (.236/.379/.453 vs LH). With that said, solid middle relievers aren't exactly impossible to find, and he'll serve only so much purpose for fantasy owners.
Elijah Dukes (Was – OF) 24,127 drops
Dukes is on the DL for up to six weeks with a right knee injury that required surgery on Wednesday.
Lowdown: The injury couldn't have come at a worse time for Dukes or his fantasy owners. He's ranked 36th in the Yahoo! game over the past month thanks to a .314 average (32 for 102), 16 runs, five home runs, 13 runs batted in and seven steals. Deep keeper league owners should hang on, but standard leaguers can move on, for now. Add him to your Watch List and track his rehab.
Ryan Church (NYM – OF) 21,432 drops
Church's season is in question now that he's back on the DL with lingering post-concussion symptoms.
Lowdown: "I still have the aches, pains. When I move my head around, I can feel my brain swishing around in my head," Church said. Clearly, he's got a ways to go. Be sure to keep him on your Watch List. If he is able to get healthy, he could be a difference maker as a free agent down the line.
Joe Borowski (Cle – RP) 20,937 drops
After struggling with injuries and effectiveness during his 18 appearances for the Indians, Borowski was designated for assignment on Friday.
Lowdown: Amazingly, he led the league with 45 saves last season despite a 5.07 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. Needless to say, we've seen the last of Borowski's days of fantasy relevance. Masa Kobayashi figures to see most of the save chances for the Indians moving forward, with Rafael Betancourt also potentially in the mix.
Troy Tulowitzki (Col – SS) 14,754 drops
The nightmare season continues for Tulowitzki. He's back on the DL with a hand laceration that resulted when he slammed his bat into the ground after an at bat and it shattered.
Lowdown: The 23-year-old Tulowitzki hit .291 in 2007 with 104 runs, 24 home runs and 99 runs batted in. Of note: 15 of the home runs and 61 of the runs batted in came after the All-Star break, so he's still got time to turns things around in 2008, at least somewhat. If you've got a bench or DL spot to use, it's not a terrible idea to use it on Tulo to see if the kid can right the ship and put up some numbers in the season's second half.
Jeff Francoeur (Atl – OF) 14,542 drops
After scuffling for three-plus months (.234/.287/.374 as of July 3), Francoeur was sent to Double-A by the Braves and sent to waivers by fantasy owners.
Lowdown: His trip to the minors lasted three games (7-for-13), and he was back up and in the starting lineup on Tuesday (1 for 5, 1 K). We'll see if the quick turnaround still serves to shake up Francoeur, but it's doubtful that he'll warrant standard league consideration any time soon.
Todd Wellemeyer (StL – SP, RP) 11,709 drops
One of the early season's biggest surprises, Wellemeyer has been getting shelled in his recent outings. He's 0-3 in his past four starts, compiling an 8.35 ERA and 2.07 WHIP in 18.1 innings, with 33 hits, five walks and 11 strikeouts.
Lowdown: Wellemeyer began dealing with right elbow issues in early June and, despite a DL stint, you have to imagine that much of what we're seeing is the result. There wasn't a lot in his track record that suggested he was headed for much success, so don't be surprised if it was simply a case of his peaking early in the season.
Rafael Furcal (LAD – SS) 11,541 drops
Furcal has gone from early-season revelation (.366, 34 R, 5 HR, 8 SB in 32 games) to a continuous source of consternation. What was originally thought to be a stiff back in early May eventually turned into back surgery this past week that will keep him out for at least eight weeks, and potentially the rest of the season.
Lowdown: Sadly, it's doubtful that Furcal makes anything of an impact over the remainder of the season. Nomar Garciaparra has made four starts at shortstop since returning from the DL, his first starts there since the 2005 season, but he'll be replacing Furcal only in name.