Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Not Lastings Long in the Bigs

• Lastings Milledge has been demoted to AAA. This really made my day, as a buddy of mine outbid me for Milledge and even went so far as to name his team "The Milledge People". As all fantasy players know, naming your team after a particular player on the squad is always the Kiss of Death. Don't do it, people.

Yes, there is a logjam in the Washington outfield, but the fact that Milledge has been demoted after just one week clearly indicates the guy is still a head case. Rumor has it Milledge was late to several team meetings and the Nats are trying to send a message. Either that, or his dynamic brand of sweater-clad gangsta rap is taking off. Either way, fantasy owners should stay away.

If you are unlucky enough to have Milledge on your fantasy squad in a deep or NL-only league, you might have to stick with him and see what happens for a week or two. If you are in a ten-team mixed league, just cut him now. There should be plenty of replacements available.

Freddie Mac

• Fred Lewis
might be good. He's 28 and batting third every day, and sports a career .800 OPS (in 660 MLB at-bats). He has some power and some speed, and is off to a very good start with an 8-game hitting streak. He also wears cool orange sunglasses, which has to be worth a few points of batting average. Lewis is likely available in your league right now (13% owned in Yahoo! leagues), but he won't be for long.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Next Hot Pickups

• Ian Stewart, 2B/3B - COL
(Yahoo: 35% owned, ESPN: 8% owned)
Stewart still doesn't have an everyday gig, but with his big power and ability to hit both righties and lefties, he will continue to find his way into a dangerous Rockies lineup. Manager Clint Hurdle clearly loves Stewart's bat, batting him fifth when he starts, and pinch-hitting him when he doesn't start. Hurdle doesn't love his glove, and prefers the uninspiring Clint Barmes at second base. Stewart should eventually win that battle, or end up starting at third base (Garret Atkins is a prime candidate to get traded or suck), first base (once Helton hits the DL with back problems), or in the outfield (if injuries strike). Of course, Stewart's 2B eligibility is what makes him a must-have in fantasy leagues. Count on 20 home runs (30 as a full time starter) and at least a .250 average. Strikeouts are his big weakness - if he can cut down on those his average could be much higher.

• Travis Snider, OF - TOR
(Yahoo: 21% owned, ESPN: 13% owned)
Most experts agree Snider is a future star; the only question is, what can he do this season? Just 21 years old, and with a high strikeout rate in his limited time in the minors, Snider may struggle in 2009. Or, he could get hot and end up the AL Rookie of the Year before the league adjusts to him. Expect a .275 average, a few slumps, a bevy of strikeouts, and at least 20 home runs. The worst case scenario is that he struggles and gets sent back down for more seasoning, which wouldn't be that surprising. Someday Snider will be a .300, 30 HR guy. You may want to bench him against lefties this season (Manager Cito Gaston might end up doing it too).

• Aaron Hill, 2B - TOR
(Yahoo: 18% owned, ESPN: 11% owned)
Back on the radar after a down year, let's remember Hill put up a .792 OPS in a full 2007 season and is entering his prime at age 27. He may not be an All-Star, but should be able to chip in 20 home runs, a .280 average and 80 runs scored batting second in a fiesty Toronto lineup. That should make Hill at least a top 12 fantasy second baseman in 2009.

• Kendry Morales, 1B/OF - LAA
(Yahoo: 11% owned, ESPN: 7% owned)
A Cuban mystery man, the switch-hitting Morales actually has a decent minor league track record, including a .341 average and 15 home runs in 317 Triple A at bats last year. He is the Angels' everyday first baseman and bats fifth, so Manager Mike Scoscia is clearly a believer to some degree. While Morales might not reach 20 or even 15 homers, he should be a solid contributor in batting average and RBI in a dangerous Angels lineup. Expect a .290 average, at least 10 home runs, and 80 RBI. And if he does crank 15-20 homers, you'll be reaping serious rewards.

• Mike Fontenot, 2B - CHN
(Yahoo: 13% owned, ESPN: 17% owned)
Pigeon-holed as a utility guy over the last two seasons with the Cubs, Fontenot is now the everyday second baseman for Chicago and will show that his 2008 line of .305/.395/.514 in limited playing time was no fluke. He can hit, and is in his prime at age 28, with close to 500 major league at bats under his belt. Fontenot is now teamed up with his old college double play partner, Ryan Theriot, and should thrive in 2009 in a very good Cubs lineup. He should be good for 75 RBI and 65 runs to go along with his .300 average. 15-20 home runs are not out of the question either (he hit 9 in 243 at bats last season).

• Jason Kubel, OF - MIN
(Yahoo: 7% owned, ESPN: 4% owned)
The oft-overlooked and un-sexy Kubel quietly smacked 20 home runs last year and knocked in 78 runs with a .272 average. If only left-handed pitchers didn't exist, Kubel might be an All-Star (he posted an .833 OPS against righties in 2008). Still just 26, Kubel has room to grow. He is desperately needed in a punchless Minnesota lineup, and will bat third against righties with Mauer injured. Manager Ron Gardenhire has access to the same stats we do, so don't be surprised to see Kubel ride the pine against many (if not all) lefties. Play Kubel against righties and take the cheap production. Expect .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI, almost all of it coming against righties.

• Dexter Fowler, OF - COL
(Yahoo: 6% owned, ESPN: 8% owned)
A toolsy uber-prospect, Fowler is making a splash in Colorado, where he has batted leadoff twice in the last three games. Yes, Fowler is young (23), and his power is questionable (he never hit more than 9 home runs in a minor league season). However, Fowler did hit over .330 in more than 700 AA at bats, so the kid can hit. And, he's already hit 2 home runs in his first four major league games, so there is hope he could reach double digits this season. Fowler has so many things going for him: the precious combination of power and speed, the opportunity to bat leadoff in a very good lineup in a hitter's ballpark, and the defensive prowess to stay on the field. Expect his playing time to increase at the expense of guys like Seth Smith. If he stays in the majors all year, 25 steals and 10-12 homers should be easily attainable. Fowler is a future 30/30 threat who may not be ready for prime time just yet, but be ready to catch lightning in a bottle if it happens.

• Rafael Soriano, RP - ATL
Solid closer-in-waiting who will get occasional save chances and may eventually take the job from Mike Gonzalez. Be ready to pounce if anything happens to Gonzalez. But be forewarned, Soriano is an injury risk.

• Jordan Zimmermann, SP - WAS
Exciting rookie has the arsenal to succeed right away in the big leagues. His team stinks but he should get plenty of starts and rack up the K's. You could do much worse for a fifth starter in fantasy - this kid has UPSIDE.

• Kyle Davies, SP - KC
This guys has struggled enough over the last three seasons to take himself off the fantasy radar. Anyone who likes baseball statistics should not look at his career numbers. On the plus side, Davies is still just 25 and ended last season strong (31.2 innings with a .198 BAA). He has never gotten many strikeouts, but he is the third starter for a decent KC team and his stuff looked absolutely electric in his first start (8 K). If you are fishing for starters in a deep league, take a flyer on Davies. He showed flashes in his time with Atlanta and he could blossom this season.

• Edwin Jackson, SP - DET
Another post-hype guy who has disappointed many a fantasy owner over the last three years, but is still just 25. He did win 14 games last season for Tampa Bay, and while his 1.50 WHIP was pretty ugly, it was also the best of his career. He doesn't get enough strikeouts to be a great fantasy pitcher, but if you are desperate for a starter in a deep league, you could do worse. He has a lot of weapons, and with his new surroundings in Detroit, maybe he can make a leap this season. Jackson is still a risky pickup, but there is a chance he could become a fantasy contributor this season or next season.

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