Fantasy Baseball

Felix's output unfit for a king

Hernandez has been shelled in his last six starts.
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Joel Beall

Joel Beall is a writer for FOXSports.com and WhatIfSports.com. He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall.

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Note: All stats are prior to games on Thursday.

Overreaction is a universal fallacy in fantasy forums. Unfortunately, this faux pas is amplified in baseball thanks to the day-to-day nature of the beast. Forget making erroneous evaluations from perceived prolonged slumps, for which rotisserie player among us is not accountable for this particular occasional offense? We’re referring to the rash wrongdoings founded from a few weeks’ worth of inadequacy. True story: after going o-fer in his first two games following his promotion, a fellow manager dropped Mike Trout. Just spitballin’ here, but that pronouncement might have been premature.

Phils

KISS OF APPROVAL

See which players comprise the starting lineups for the 2012 All-Star Game on FOX.

Yet when does one have enough evidence justify trepidation? Case in point: the esteemed King Felix, the ace of the Seattle Mariners and 2010 American League Cy Young winner, has watched an auspicious start to the season (3-1 record, 1.89 ERA and 51 strikeouts in his first seven games) slowly succumb into a succubus, surrendering four or more runs in five of his past six outings. This slump has humbled Hernandez’s figures to a pedestrian 4-5 record, 3.70 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Before brushing this off as merely a bumpy tract on the season’s long journey, there’s further corroboration that something’s amiss in the Emerald City:

- In the protection of pitcher-pleasant Safeco Park, Hernandez owns a 2.72 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Away from Seattle, those numbers vault to a 4.63 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Until this season, Hernandez had been historically better on the road.

- Hernandez is relinquishing nearly three free passes a game, the second-highest walk rate in his career. His 0.92 HR/9 mark is equally disconcerting, not allowing that degree of dingers since 2007.

- While his .321 BABIP suggests a little bad luck has been in play, Hernandez’s 3.71 FIP and 3.62 xFIP negate any claims of casualty from the baseball gods. Rather, this lofty average is a correlation from an elevated line-drive percentage conceded.

The most perturbing proof of regression? Take a look at Hernandez’s velocity charts from Fangraphs.com. His speed has seen a perpetual plunge since 2010. It should be noted that the two-time All-Star is just 24 innings away from hitting the 1,500-inning plateau despite turning 26 in April, making one wonder if a tired arm could be the culprit.

Before Hernandez possessors panic and banish their expected untouchable arm, King Felix has faced some of the tougher offenses in baseball the past month, taking on the Rangers, White Sox, Yankees, Angels and Indians. Furthermore, he’s currently rocking a career-best 8.62 K/9 ratio. However, for managers expecting Hernandez’s output to resemble his past three-year production (15 wins, 2.73 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), you may be waiting for a revival that never comes.

Start ‘Em

C: Jason Castro, Astros
Making his return from a torn ACL that sidelined him for the entire 2011 campaign, the Stanford standout has started to showcase the plate finesse that earned such exalted praise in his short stints in the minors. In his last 10 starts, Castro is hitting .394 with seven ribbies, six runs and a .475 OBP. He works near the bottom of the Houston lineup, though don’t confuse this seemingly logistical nightmare as fantasy castigation, as the Astros rank right in the middle of the pack in team runs. Sporting a solid 21.9 line-drive percentage, Castro should be a steady sponsor for your team’s average and warrants a look in NL-only leagues.

1B: Lucas Duda, Mets
Duda maintains eligibility for his forays at the position last year, and judging by the continuing woes of Ike Davis, may see a return to first in the near future. Duda, owned in barely 24 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, enters Thursday with a .333 average over his last 13 games with five bombs, 14 RBI and a .404 OBP during this stretch. His patience has improved, evidenced by the jump in Duda’s walk rate, and with Citi Field no longer hindering its’ homeowners from the homer, the 26-year-old possesses a newfound power stroke (seven long shots at home in 99 at bats this season versus two home runs in 142 at bats last year). Duda is a definite add in NL-only and deeper leagues, and deserves a gander in most standard formats.

2B: Marco Scutaro, Rockies
Aside from Trevor Plouffe (who was highlighted in this discussion last week), no infielder is swinging a sweeter stick than Scutaro, flashing a .389 average with two homers, nine RBI, 10 runs and a .407 OBP in his last 13 games. The second baseman, who is seeing time at short in replacement of Troy Tulowitzki (who recently suffered a setback in a rehab assignment), is definitely taking advantage of the thin Rocky Mountain air, hitting .307 at Coors Field versus a .242 mark on the road. Yet don’t let this deter your resolve in starting Scutaro away from Denver, as his 22.7 line-drive percentage states it’s only a matter of time before his visiting stats see a bump.

3B: Brandon Inge, A’s
Inge first made our radar after hitting a walk-off grand slam in early May, but it was more for spectacle than fantasy seriousness. After all, who would endorse a supposedly washed-up 35-year-old playing in one of the most spacious parks in the game? Yet a mere month later and Inge has our full attention, thanks to a nine-game tear featuring two round-trippers, 12 RBI, six runs and a .486 OBP. He continues to whiff at a ridiculous 23.4 percent, yet Inge could compile 20 homers and 80 RBI when it’s all said and done. Considering the injuries at the position, it would befit owners in AL-only formats to give Inge a look.

SS: Everth Cabrera, Padres
Recently cleared of a domestic violence charge, the weight off Cabrera’s shoulders seems to be linking to his suddenly-dangerous lumber. In his last eight contests, the San Diego shortstop is 10-for-26 with a home run, six ribbies, five runs, four swipes and a .484 OBP. Batting in front of Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin should pilot Cabrera to an ample amount of runs. His .356 BABIP may frighten a few owners, but Cabrera’s speed is the catalyst for this vigorous number.

OF: Ben Revere, Twins
Speaking of speed, no one has done a better Speedy Gonzalez impersonation than the Twins outfielder, stealing seven bags in his last 13 starts. Yet harping on his wheels is but half the story, as Revere is hitting .355 in 20 games since his recall on May 17. The former first-round pick has no power (zero homers in almost 600 big-league at bats) and his walk rate stands at a diminutive 3.3 percent. Still, for someone who’s going to contribute average, runs and swipes, it’s dumbfounding how Revere is available in almost 98 percent of FOXSports.com leagues.

P: Charlie Furbush, Mariners
We’re selling Furbush to the niche market that values holds, but he’s a commodity with significant appeal. The one-time starter has not given up a hit in his last nine appearances, with a ridiculous 13:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Even in deeper leagues that don’t account for holds, Furbush’s flurry of punch-outs (10.41 K/9) merits consideration.

Sit ‘Em

C: Carlos Santana, Indians
Stroking for average has never been Santana’s forte, yet since returning from a concussion, the Cleveland catcher is just 4-for-30, lowering his 2012 batting mark to an inadequate .227 figure. While the backstop has been battered and bruised seemingly all season, Santana has been a colossal catastrophe in fantasy, as many pegged him and Mike Napoli as the premier players at the position. His walk rate remains strong, but unless he sees a boost in average and run production, Santana will continue to underwhelm.

1B: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
In his first 10 games back with the Sox, Youk showed that he wasn’t willing to concede his spot to Young Master Middlebrooks, hitting .314 with eight runs. Alas, it appears the Fenway Faithful’s turn on Youk is taking its toll on his psyche, evidenced by his latest affirmation of unhappiness with his predicament, as well as a .103 average with eight Ks in his past nine games. Despite his success the previous six years, it might be time for Boston to pull the plug on Youkilis. While we’re on the topic of Boston…

2B: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
In defense of Pedroia, you have to respect the second baseman’s toughness, playing through a torn muscle in his thumb. Unfortunately, this fortitude has not paralleled to proficiency at the plate, as the 2008 MVP is hitting just .167 since returning with the injury. Pedroia has rid himself of a brace that was allegedly hampering his control of the wood, and did go 2-for-5 in Wednesday night’s game against Miami. Monitor his situation closely, however, in case his handle issues do not progress.

3B: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
To echo the venerated Michael Corleone, “Just when I thought I was out, Hanley pulls me back in!” A 12-game streak at the end of May (.444, three homers, 9 RBI, 11 runs) seemed to be the turning point in Han-Ram’s 14-month slump. Sadly, it appears this fury was merely a tease, as Ramirez has returned to his underwhelming ways, recording four hits in his last 29 at bats. Forget El Nino reverting to his 2009 season harvest (24 homers, 106 RBI, 101 runs, .342 average); if Ramirez can finish the current campaign above .280 it would be reason to rejoice.

SS: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals
Furcal’s BABIP indicated that regression was on the horizon, but not to the extent of a .140 average on the month. Worse, the St. Louis shortstop is hitless in his last 19 at bats. Furcal endures as a viable asset, yet those who believed he was an elite performer at the position are in for a dose of reality.

OF: Desmond Jennings, Rays
Collecting hits in six of his first eight games since returning from a knee sprain would theoretically be viewed as a positive, but batting leadoff tends to assist in racking up ABs, meaning Jennings is just batting .200 in his comeback. More alarming is Jennings’ lack of speed displayed in his return, an aspect of his game that’s a major facet of his worth. Perhaps the best route in utilizing Jennings is a spot on your bench until he strings a few solid outings together. If you choose to implement him into your lineup, lower your usually-heightened expectations on the Rays outfielder.

P: Yu Darvish, Rangers
The rookie from overseas has been smacked around in his last four appearances, holding a 6.53 ERA in that span. The launching pad effect of Arlington is not the pretext for this performance either, as three of the starts have come away from the Lone Star state. Also worth mentioning that Darvish’s 4.03 FIP and 4.21 xFIP state the pitcher has been somewhat lucky in his affairs. The Rangers’ explosive offense will navigate Darvish to his fair share of Ws, but your team’s WHIP and ERA totals could be sufferers of this play.

PEN-demic Update
Peace out, Brian Fuentes. I should be more sympathetic to his plight, but considering I once employed Grant Balfour earlier this season, good riddance. Ryan Cook, who has been lights-out this year with a 0.64 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in 28 innings, will get the nod as Oakland’s fireman. In other news, Shawn Champ appears to have won the, uh, “battle” for the closing gig in Wrigley. And, as absurd as it sounds, Cincinnati may have a storm brewing, as Aroldis Chapman has conceded runs in three straight outings. If the Cuban Missile explodes, then truly the apocalypse is upon us.

Waivers Watch: A.J. Burnett, Pirates
What’s more staggering: Burnett’s ERA, when subtracting his slip-up against St. Louis on May 2 (2.2 innings, 12 earned runs), stands at a ridiculous 1.98 mark, or that the Pirates pitcher is owned in only 24.6 percent of FOXSports.com leagues? I’m leaning toward the latter. Granted, every bon vivant of the Bronx Bombers is refuting this claim, evidenced by his output from the previous two years, but given the rejuvenation powers of PNC Park (it’s mid-June and somehow Erik Bedard hasn’t missed a game, proving that miracles really do come true) it’s mind-blowing more managers aren’t hopping on the Burnett Express. The Pittsburgh offense may not facilitate its fair share of runs, yet the 35-year-old owns a 6-2 record on the season. More importantly, he’s brandishing an 8.09 K/9 rate while curtailing the free passes that have historically haunted the right-hander. If he’s still available in your league, snatch him up.

Trade Talk
A rule of fantasy thumb states never pay for steals and saves. While I see the virtue in this adage, I think it’s often cited strictly for its alliteration appeal. The PEN-demic has illustrated the threats of investing in or trading for relievers, but another stat that doesn’t get the proper forewarning is victories. The “W” is predicated more on a team’s offensive output rather than the performance of a pitcher. Yes, truncated integers in the ERA and WHIP departments help the cause, but as Max Scherzer proved last season, prosaic pitching numbers don’t necessarily connect to losses. If you need to improve pitching, look to improve the WHIP column first, as the enhancement should flow to the ERA and Win categories.

Rookie Review: Lucas Harrell, Astros
Quick rant: baseball needs to revamp their qualifications for “rookie” status, as this is Harrell’s fifth major-league stint in three years, yet he remains eligible for various rookie honors for 2012. Kind of degrading to the player in question, no? In Harrell’s case, he appeared in 17 big-league contests, rendering the “wet behind the ears” idiom a little dry. But I digress…

Harrell’s 4.83 ERA may seem massive, but subtract a calamity in Coors Field (five innings, nine earned runs) and that number comes down to a more manageable 4.05. If he can diminish his penchant for free passes (3.3 BB/9), Harrell could become a factor in deeper formats.

The Real Debate
Matt Cain made noise with the 22nd perfect game in MLB history Wednesday night, striking out 14 Astros on his way to the pitching Promised Land. But the question shouldn’t concern Cain’s feat, which might go down as the greatest mound exploit of all-time; rather, the Real Debate is this: what were the Mets thinking when they petitioned for R.A. Dickey’s one-hitter to be overturned to a no-no? It’s bad enough New York is milking Johan Santana’s feat for all it’s worth by selling replica tickets and game-used items, now you’re trying to scam your way into history? You know, I hope baseball does change the controversial call. No, not Dickey’s slow roller to David Wright, but Carlos Beltran’s liner down the line that was called foul but clearly fair. Do not mess with the baseball deities, for they will unleash their wrath. Although one could make the argument that being a Mets fan is punishment enough.

POWER RANKINGS

See if your favorite team is pointed in the right direction this week.

This Week in Sam LeCure
Another multi-inning scoreless appearance from LeCure, who has lowered his ERA to a commendable 3.47 in the past two weeks. Reader Len Topler weighs in on the magnificence of Yosemite Sam:

“I saw the Stache in person for the first time (Friday) night. It was miraculous. Clearly the most well-groomed facial hair these eyes have ever seen.”

As much as I love the man, I’d pump the breaks on such a proclamation, in case the charlatan of whiskers, Ron Swanson, comes across this piece. Yet I understand your enthusiasm, and glad that others are starting to appreciate the awesomeness of LeCure. Now if he could only start flashing the six-shooter after strikeouts, I can die a happy man. Balls in your court, @mrLeCure.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Jim Thome, Phillies
Thome has taken advantage of extending playing time, hitting .476 in his last five games with two homers and 10 RBI. Even at 41, dude is still raking.

Spit Your Tobacco at: “That’s a clown question, bro.”
Sorry, not seeing why this is such a viral hit. I’d say that I’m behind the times, that I don’t understand kids today and their loud rock ‘n’ roll music. But I’m 25 years old, so…yeah, let’s just chalk it up to people making Bryce Harper’s retort a bigger deal than it is.

Tagged: Red Sox, Angels, Indians, Twins, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Reds, Astros, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Rockies, Marlins, Rays, Brandon Inge, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, Rafael Furcal, A.J. Burnett, Marco Scutaro, Carlos Quentin, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Cain, Dustin Pedroia, Everth Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Jason Castro, Desmond Jennings, Ike Davis, Ben Revere, Sam LeCure, Lucas Harrell, Lucas Duda

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