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Free-agent frenzy: Claim SPs Slowey, Porcello
You’ve got less than four weeks left in the baseball season, folks.
And now, without further ado, below are nine free agents owned in less than 75 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, starting with the first player that falls below the threshold. Please note that no players will be repeated within any four-week period. Go get ‘em!
(Note: All stats are through Monday’s games.)
Billy Butler, 1B, Kansas City (74.7 percent owned)
I know. Butler has just 11 homers and 64 RBI after a bunch of expert types tabbed him for a 30-homer breakout season. I find Butler’s power to be disappointing as well, but he is batting .313 for the season, and his HR/FB rate (7.1 percent) suggests a bit of bad luck in the power department. If you need the BA help, grab him, and if you’re in a keeper league, don’t give up on him yet. He’s only 24.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh (62.6 percent owned)
McCutchen had a bit of a swoon in July, but heated back up in August, with four homers, 15 runs scored and seven stolen bases (I’m going to conveniently ignore his .226 batting average for the month). McCutchen should be owned in ALL formats, and if you’re in a dolt-filled league that has him available, pick him up immediately.
Slowey is a solid strikeout guy with terrific control and an ERA that should hover around 4.00 most of the time in Minnesota’s pitcher-friendly park. He’s also on a pretty good team, so he should have some chances for wins in his five remaining starts. Slowey isn’t a superstar, but if you’re chasing wins and strikeouts, you could do worse. Yes, this is a lukewarm endorsement.
Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati (38.5 percent owned)
Congratulations on Bruce for making an all-time record fourth appearance in this season’s “Free-Agent Frenzy.” After a mediocre first half and an awful July, Bruce exploded in August, batting .333 with eight home runs, 17 RBI and 16 runs scored. He hasn’t played since last Monday due to a sore right side, but is expected to return to action by midweek. When you’re sure that Bruce is ready to play, he’s absolutely worth grabbing to replace a bad or injured outfielder. Also, if you’re wondering about whether I’ll tab Bruce for the third season in a row as a breakout star in 2011, the answer is: Damned straight I will.
Neil Walker, 2B/3B, Pittsburgh (18.6 percent owned)
This selection is in honor of reader Sean Galvin, who tweeted the following message to me about his last-place fantasy team: “When Neil Walker is your stud, it’s all bad.” Walker has been excellent since coming up in late May, batting .312 with 10 home runs, 51 RBI and 45 runs scored. Add in the multi-position eligibility, and he can be a fantasy godsend, even if he shouldn’t be your best player.
(For full disclosure, here’s Galvin’s tweet that started our Monday exchange: “Hey Halp, remember when you said 'Watch Justin Upton do his Babe Ruth impression in the 2nd half?’ My last place team thanks you.” Um, yeah … sorry about that, Sean.)
Hong-Chih Kuo, RP, Dodgers (18.1 percent owned)
Joe Torre seems to hate Jonathan Broxton at this point, and has declared that Kuo will be his closer unless circumstances dictate his use in the eighth inning. You know what that means? Torre is going to insert Kuo at every conceivable opportunity this month. Two-inning saves, seventh-inning jams, batting practice, spot starts – you name it. Look for Kuo to get a handful of saves before his arm falls off.
Rick Porcello, SP, Detroit (12.2 percent owned)
Porcello might be starting to put it together, folks. The 21-year-old righty has a 2.14 ERA over his last three starts, but more importantly, he’s struck out 13 batters and walked five over 21 innings. He’s probably had two bad starts out of 10 since returning from the minors in late July, and nobody has ever doubted his talent. Porcello will be able to pitch in a pressure-free environment in Detroit for the next few weeks, so he’ll fly under the radar. If you don’t pick him up now, you should be able to do so if he has another strong outing on Thursday.
Brian Matusz, SP, Baltimore (8.4 percent owned)
Speaking of guys that are putting it together, Matusz was named as the American League Rookie of the Month for August after going 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA in six starts. He allowed three runs in six innings against the Yankees on Monday, but should have five more starts remaining against the Tigers (twice), Yankees, Rays and Red Sox. Are you afraid of all those good teams? I’m not, and I’d grab Matusz if I could.
Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Washington (0.8 percent owned)
Zimmermann is back after missing a year because of Tommy John surgery, and he’s looked pretty good so far, with a 3.86 ERA and 15 strikeouts against five walks in 14 innings over three starts. Zimmermann will be handled delicately down the stretch for the non-contending Nats, but he should be able to help you, and will absolutely be a breakout candidate in 2011. I’m going to write about him so much, you’ll be sick of his name by March 15.
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