FA Frenzy: Super Nova heating up

BY John Halpin • July 26, 2013

The trade deadline is almost here, and when notable deals happen between now and July 31, we’ll analyze them from a fantasy perspective at the FOX Sports Fantasy Buzz Blog. Try to follow along, OK?

Here’s our latest edition of Free Agent Frenzy. Please note that, as in past seasons, no player will be mentioned in this space more than once in a four-week span, because we don’t want to beat you over the head all year long about the same players.

Let’s get going!

Catcher: Russell Martin, Pirates (owned in 18.4 percent of FOXSports.com leagues)

Among qualifying catchers, Martin is eighth in batting average (.251), T-8 in homers (nine), seventh in runs (37), 10th in RBI (36) and first in stolen bases (eight). In what format, exactly, should he be unowned in?

Digging deeper: Rookie Mike Zunino (1 percent owned) is playing regularly for the Mariners, and while he’s not great, he’s not terrible either. He’s batting .242 with a couple of homers in 29 games, and has walked five times in his last seven games. Maybe it’s a fluky small sample, but maybe he’s figuring things out. In a deep mixed league, grab him and find out.

First base: Justin Smoak, Mariners (owned in 3.9 percent of FOXSports.com leagues)

Speaking of the Mariners’ explosive fantasy offense – yes, I’m kidding – Smoak ranks 14th with a .785 OPS among first basemen with 250 or more plate appearances. He’s batting .266 with nine home runs, and that’s not terrible if you need someone to fill a dead spot.

Digging deeper: Have you seen Christian Yelich’s (3.8 percent owned) sweet lefthanded swing? It’s … well, it’s really sweet. Yelich has been promoted to become the Marlins’ everyday left fielder, fresh off nine homers and five steals in 56 games between A ball and Double A. He might struggle, but you should snatch him up in NL-only leagues (and deeper mixed versions) if he’s available at your next weekly pickup deadline.

Second base: David Adams, Yankees (owned in 0.1 percent of FOXSports.com leagues)

Yes, the guy batting .192. Adams struggled in an earlier stint this season, but his minor-league track record suggests that he can hit a bit. With Alex Rodriguez’s return date still a mystery and Luis Cruz on the DL, Adams is getting another shot at the hot corner for the Yankees. This time, he figures to be better, and his 2B/3B eligibility will be nice for your deep mixed league roster.

Digging deeper: Matt Kemp is on the DL again? Skip Schumaker (0.3 percent owned) to the rescue! Schumaker won’t play every day, but he’ll see plenty of action, and brings a .286 career batting average to the table for your NL-only team. As middle infield free agents go, he’s OK.

Third base: Alberto Callaspo, Angels (owned in 3 percent of FOXSports.com leagues)

Callaspo is about as vanilla as fantasy third basemen get, but he plays most days and hits for a decent batting average (.257 this season, .273 career). If you’d like to try Mark Reynolds’ power and .214 BA instead, have at it. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Digging deeper: Junior Lake (12.9 percent owned) is the Cubs’ new leadoff hitter and everyday left fielder, but he’s also eligible at third base. Lake batted .295 with four homers and 14 stolen bases in 40 games at Triple A, and has been on fire (15-for-31, two home runs) in seven games since his promotion. Try Lake in a deep mixed league if he’s still available – your competitors might have missed him when last week’s pickups went through.

Shortstop: Nick Franklin, Mariners (owned in 14.5 percent of FOXSports.com leagues)

Franklin has been terrific since his late May promotion, batting .265 with eight home runs, 27 RBI, 19 runs, five stolen bases and a .792 OPS in 49 games. His low ownership percentage suggests that many of your peers have been slow on the draw … but you’re not, and that’s why grabbing Franklin will make you better than they are.

Digging deeper: Jonathan Villar (0.2 percent owned) is the Astros’ new shortstop and leadoff hitter. He had eight homers and 31 stolen bases at Triple A before his promotion, and that’s not the kind of production NL-only owners (or their deep mixed counterparts) should pass up on the wire.

Outfield: Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays (owned in 9.7 percent of FOXSports.com leagues)

Is Rasmus a disappointment? Sure, but he’s far from terrible, with a .266 average and 16 home runs. A lucky .353 BABIP and sky-high strikeout rate suggest that Rasmus’ BA might go down, but you can enjoy the home runs and worry about those things later.

Digging deeper: Twenty-six-year-old Cuban defector Henry Urrutia (0.7 percent owned) was called up last weekend to be the Orioles’ DH against righthanders. Urrutia batted .365 with seven home runs, 43 RBI and 45 runs in 67 games during his first minor-league season before the promotion, and is worth a look in AL-only leagues.

Starting pitcher: Ivan Nova, Yankees (owned in 12.8 percent of FOXSports.com leagues)

I think I swore last year that I’d never go near Nova again, but after five strong starts since coming back from the minors, here I am! Nova has a 2.72 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP and 32 strikeouts over 36 1/3 innings in those five starts. Nova has credited his recent turnaround to a new two-seam fastball, and he’s been good enough to warrant a look in any league. He still keeps the ball on the ground with the best of them, too. Nova’s next start will be Saturday against the Rays.

Digging deeper: Alex Wood (2.6 percent owned) got knocked around a bit by the Mets on Thursday, but he might have a temporary spot in the Braves’ rotation in the wake of Tim Hudson’s season-ending ankle injury, and you never know what might happen if a guy throws a good game or two. Wood had a 1.31 ERA with a strikeout per inning in 11 minor-league starts this season, and is scheduled to take the hill again versus the Rockies on Tuesday.

Relief pitcher: Mark Melancon, Pirates (owned in 15.7 percent of FOXSports.com leagues)

The verdict on Jason Grilli isn’t in yet, but he might be done for the season, and Mark Melancon is perfectly capable of taking over the closer’s role for the surprising Bucs. As we say in this spot most weeks: Simple, right?

Digging deeper: Kelvin Herrera (3 percent owned) has seven strikeouts in four-and-two-thirds innings since returning from Triple A, and still throws nine bajillion miles per hour. Is it that far-fetched that the Royals could lose a few games this weekend, become sellers, trade Greg Holland, and make Herrera (or maybe Aaron Crow) their closer? Maybe, but even if that doesn’t happen, Herrera could post a useful strikeout total in many formats.

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