Saltalamacchia struggling in July

BY foxsports • July 19, 2012

Note: All stats are prior to games on Thursday.

Regulars of this space are acquainted with my affinity for Franklin & Bash, the bro-medy dealing with the adventures of two lawyers whose “don’t play by anybody’s rules, not even our own” approach has led to a ’72 Dolphins-esque unblemished record in the courtroom. So you can imagine my delight when discovering this quote from the show’s star, Breckin Meyer, a.k.a Franklin, while researching (read: web surfing) for this week’s column on first-half fantasy pretenders:

“For a while, I got stupid about only wanting a leading-man role, but I have no illusions. I know I'm not Brad Pitt.”

Undoubtedly, Meyer was referring to acting offers in his career, but the core of the idea is easily applicable to the rotisserie world. Many of you have inquired on the forecasts of unforeseen fantasy stars like R.A. Dickey, James McDonald and Chris Capuano. More likely than not, a regression to the mean is in store rather than a continuation of pitching excellence.

But before you rush off to unload these arms, don’t misconstrue this message as condemnation. Will Jose Quintana carry a 2.60 ERA into the fall? Highly doubtful. Yet the South Siders’ offense should make him a solid candidate for victories, and his miniscule walk rate will keep his WHIP in an adequate frame. Moreover, fellow owners’ proposals for your surprise commodities will likely fall short of what their statistics should command.

Attempt to mirror Meyer’s attitude toward your roster. Dickey’s output at the end of 2012 won’t mirror the pedigree of a Cy Young winner. However, emulating his past two seasons, where he held a 3.08 ERA and 1.20 WHIP for the Mets, is not a bad consolation prize.

These upstarts brought you to this interval of the season in good hands. Let them carry you to the Promised Land.

Start ‘Em

C: Yasmani Grandal, Padres
We highlighted Grandal a short time ago in the Rookie Review section, but with a lack of options on the waiver wire at this juncture of the season, Grandal’s .294 average, four homers and seven RBI since June 30 are good enough to earn our nomination this week. Owned in just 4.6 percent of leagues, managers may be wary of the negative influence of Petco Park on Grandal’s output. However, batting fifth should render itself to a decent allotment of ribbie opportunities, even in the Padres lineup. If he replicates anything close to his minor-league onslaught (six homers, 35 RBI, .335/.443/.521 in 56 games at Triple-A Tucson this season), Grandal could be a steal.

1B: Adam Lind, Blue Jays
Last week’s waiver-wire proposal has propelled to a Start’Em candidate thanks to nine hits in his first 17 at bats after the All-Star break. Better yet, Lind made the most of his base knocks, bringing in six RBI in five contests. An injury to Jose Bautista won’t help the surrounding landscape, though that should vault Lind into the heart of the Toronto lineup. While Lind’s .254 BABIP suggests further progression, proprietors shouldn’t get their hopes up for anything more than a .260 average. Nevertheless, a solid walk rate and sterling power makes Lind a must-have heading into the dog days of summer.

2B: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Usually I’m an opponent of advocating a) the apparent, as you, the astute fantasy owner, probably don’t need counsel to start Mike Trout and b) the injured, as historical evidence has illustrated the lack of harvest from bruised batters. Unfortunately, the pickings are slim at second this week, meaning Pedroia, set to return from the DL on Thursday, automatically earns implementation into your starting lineup. Thumb injuries are usually a red flag, but Pedroia has not experienced any pain in the cages the last few days, plus the man is one of the toughest SOBs in the game. In his 11 contests prior to hitting the sidelines, the 2008 AL MVP was batting .302 with seven RBI, six runs and a .388 OBP.

3B: Chase Headley, Padres
For a guy with a .366 OBP, 46 RBI and 45 runs in 92 games, it’s bewildering that Headley is available in over 53 percent of leagues. Like Grandal, don’t let the stigma of San Diego’s diamond deter you from giving Headley a shot, as he’s a viable commodity when on the road (eight homers, 26 RBI, eight steals, .279/.378/.497 slash). He’s also worth storing in the conjecture of a trade, as an exile out of that pitchers’ paradise should lead to increased production at the plate.

SS: Marwin Gonzalez, Astros
Let us preface this direction as a target for NL-only or deep, deep, DEEP formats. Jed Lowrie is set to miss the next four-to-six weeks, opening the door for the 23-year-old from Venezuela. Gonzalez has been relishing his chance, racking up seven hits in his first three games back with the big-league ball club. Gonzalez hit .288 with a .343 OBP in 124 games at two minor-league levels last season, and was hitting .333 in Triple-A Oklahoma City before his call-up. Though he doesn’t hold much muscle, Gonzalez should be a contributor of runs and average sitting in the two-hole in the Houston lineup.

OF: Lorenzo Cain, Royals
Cain’s conquest in the Cactus League in March (.371/.450/.743, five jacks, 11 RBI, 20 runs in 27 games) earned the KC center fielder sleeper status heading into the 2012 campaign. Alas, just five games into the season, a groin injury sent Cain to the disabled list, and his recovery was stagnated by a hip aggravation. Yet since his activation on July 9, Cain has been working the pole with temerity, hitting .474 with two homers, six RBI and six runs. As an added bonus, Cain has been working from the middle of the lineup, providing his owners unexpected run construction. His walk rate, or lack thereof, makes him a tougher sell in OBP formats, yet Cain’s alternative assistances should negate that inadequacy.

P: Doug Fister, Tigers
In his last six outings before the All-Star break, Fister was far from formidable, relinquishing 26 earned runs in 31 1/3 innings. In his defense, the Motown hurler was battling a side strain, yet his results were miles away from his mound magnificence in 2011 (8-1 record, 1.79 ERA, 0.84 WHIP in 11 games with the Tigers). However, hope appears to be on the horizon, as Fister has submitted two straight gems against daunting challengers in Baltimore and Anaheim, holding the squads to a combined two runs in 15 innings while recording 18 Ks. His sabermetrics further cement this optimism, as his .309 BABIP, 3.62 FIP and 3.16 xFIP showcase that Fister has been better than advertised.

Sit ‘Em

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox
In our Midseason Fantasy All-Star piece, I selected Salty as my catcher thanks to 17 homers and 41 RBI in the first half from a player that went undrafted in the majority of leagues. Regrettably, the Boston backstop hasn’t exactly been wielding the wood as of late, with just four hits in his last 40 at bats. He’s also been struggling mightily against left-handed pitching this season, with a .179 batting mark in 42 plate appearances. With Bobby V. giving Saltalamacchia two straight off-days, hopefully the short sabbatical gets Salty’s mind right.

1B: Lance Berkman, Cardinals
There’s so much not to like regarding Berkman that it’s hard to narrow the instigating issue down. Our top qualms with Fat Elvis: skipping a rehab assignment after missing two months of action; his concession that his bat speed is subpar; not seeing regular playing time for the foreseeable future. Not exactly features you look for in a fantasy entity, no?

2B: Chase Utley, Phillies
He’s only been back for 15 games, but the early reviews have not been pretty for the five-time All-Star, as his lateral movement and plate discipline is shaky. And as mediocre as his .226 average and sub-.300 OBP may appear, subtract two three-hit games and Utley suddenly finds himself on the interstate with a .139 average in his other 13 contests. In his defense, the second baseman is starting to see his leash lengthened in terms of playing time. He still deserves a roster spot, but until he gets back into the swing of things, he’s better left on your bench.

3B: Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
Lawrie hasn’t been bad this season (.278/.324/.407), but he certainly hasn’t been as good as publicized during the preseason. (Oh, wait, that’s right, we warned you Toronto’s hot corner wasn’t going to live up to the hype. Now if we could only get a mulligan on that whole “Troy Tulowitzki as the No. 1 pick” ordeal…) The former first-round pick has eight bombs in 87 games, disappointing since he clobbered nine shots into the outfield seats in 43 games last year, and has been caught on the base paths a league-leading eight times. Worse, Lawrie is mired in a slump, hitting .213 in his last 15 games and exited Wednesday’s game with a calf issue. While Lawrie has announced he should be good to go by Friday, don’t imagine fireworks for his return.

SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
He may have been given an invite to the Midsummer Classic, though Cabrera has not been at an All-Star-caliber level since the spring. Before logging three hits versus the Rays on Wednesday, the Cleveland shortstop was batting a prosaic .242 in his last 56 games. Equally concerning is Cabrera’s sudden disappearance of speed. After lifting 17 bags in 2011, Cabrera has just two steals on the current campaign. His line-drive percentage states he should see progression in the upcoming weeks, but time is running out.

OF: Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays
The bomb barrage was fun while it lasted. Rasmus has been unable to duplicate the fervor displayed in the finish of the first half, managing just two hits in his last 25 plate appearances. And with Bautista on the sidelines, say sayonara to lineup protection. Rasmus’ .267 BABIP should be higher for someone with a 20.5 line-drive percentage, and his brute strength is an enticing asset, but be prepared for prolonged slumps with Rasmus on board.

P: Jon Lester, Red Sox
Wow, lot of hate for the AL East this week, eh? Lester’s afflictions continued on Tuesday night as the White Sox laid the smackdown to the tune of seven hits, three walks and six earned runs. This latest disaster gives the Red Sox ace a 5.61 ERA in his last 10 starts, seven which led to Boston losses. The sabermetrics (.331 BABIP, 3.68 FIP, 3.63 xFIP and 65.7 left-on-base percentage) indicate these sufferings should end, and the Blue Jays’ battered lineup may provide a respite for these woes. Unfortunately, Fenway has not been kind to Lester in 2012, with a 6.29 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 11 appearances. As his next start comes at the Green Monster, it would behoove oneself to keep Lester away from the rubber.

PEN-demic Update
When will this madness end? Minnesota was mistaken on the extent of Matt Capps’ shoulder injury, equating to the All-Star arm out indefinitely. In his absence, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins will share fireman duties, though Perkins’ recent misfortunes should parallel to extended opportunities for Burton. Just southeast of the Twin Cities also sees a change of the guard, as the Brewers reached the end of the rope with John Axford (5.35 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, six blown saves) leaving…you guessed it… Francisco Rodriguez! Dude’s been in the closer role for just two days and already made things interesting, surrendering three hits and three walks in two innings, albeit notching the save on both occasions. Also keep an eye on Washington, where Tyler Clippard is starting to look shaky. With Drew Storen nearing recovery, another rough outing could mean a return to the set-up role for Clippard.

Waivers Watch: Todd Frazier, Reds
Fans in the Queen City have been pleading for further time for the third baseman/folk hero for months, and it appears the fan base will finally have its’ prayers answered. Awkwardly, these requests were envisioned as a substitute for the fading Scott Rolen, not at the expense of MVP Joey Votto, who hit the DL with a torn meniscus and is expected to be sidelined for three-to-four weeks. Still, Frazier has done his part to earn your trust, hitting .341 with three long balls, eight RBI, 10 runs and a .408 OBP in his last 14 games. In fact, here’s an enlightening comparison:

Player A: 195 AB, .277/.343/.554, 10 HR, 30 RBI
Player B: 273 AB, .278/.349/.458, 8 HR, 26 RBI

Player A is the aforementioned Frazier. Player B? Bryce Harper. Tragically, Harper would win the NL Rookie of the Year award running away if voted on today despite Frazier throwing up better figures in a reduced role. And for haters that think Frazier’s production derives from Great American Ball Park’s diminutive dimensions, Frazier is hitting better on the road this season, with six homers, 15 RBI and a .284/.354/.588 line in 33 away games.

Trade Talk
Time to put your roster depth to good use. With All-Stars Votto, Bautista and David Ortiz on a fantasy furlough, approach the disheartened managers that employ these sluggers with one of your heavy hitters. Not only will these owners be looking for battery assistance, but they’re probably lacking a clear mindset, meaning they may pull the trigger on some uneven deals. Hey, who said Machiavellianism couldn’t be applied to rotisserie baseball?

Rookie Review: Brian Dozier, Twins
Dozier’s been with the big-league ball club since Cinco de Mayo, yet just as of late has been starting to show he belongs. In his last 14 games, the Southern Mississippi product is hitting .296 with seven RBI, seven runs and a respectable .345 OBP. Though not one to challenge the fences, Dozier did post a .305 average and .379 OBP in four minor-league seasons, and has the added bonus of owning a slick moniker: “Bull Dozier.” Corny? Yes, but beats whatever Nyjer Morgan is calling himself nowadays.

The Real Debate
Somewhat of a quiet week on the baseball front, as mostly-baseless trade rumors are filling the airwaves. Luckily, when all else fails, we have the Royals to entertain us, as Kansas City signed Jason Kendall…yes, that Jason Kendall…to a minor-league deal on Thursday. But the discussion shouldn’t center on the validity of a cellar-dweller signing a geriatric, dilapidated catcher; rather, the Real Debate should be this: how bad does Humberto Quintero feel right now? Quintero, who shared starting backstop duties with Brayan Pena during the first half of the season, was released when Salvador Perez returned from injury. I’m guessing Kendall is being utilized in a Crash Davis type of role, but if that’s the case, pretty sure Quintero fits that frame. If anything, he seems like a guy that would rather lavish up-and-comers will tales of the Show rather than, you know, actually playing.

This Week in Sam LeCure
LeCure worked three more scoreless outings this week, including the tenth inning of a 3-2 victory over the rival Cardinals. Yosemite Sam now brandishes a career-low 3.48 ERA in 26 games this season. In related news, I have a 10,000-to-1 bet with my roommate that the main twist in The Dark Knight Rises is LeCure revealing himself as the main antagonist, Bane. Long shot? You bet, but I borrowed advice from Kevin from The Office, who once stated, “Anytime someone gives you 10,000-to-1 odds, you take it. If John Mellencamp ever wins an Oscar, I am going to be one rich dude.” Hard to argue that logic.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
So much for that “Buccos fading in the second half” nonsense. In his first five games after the All-Star break, Captain Cutch went 11-for-20, featuring four bombs, five RBI and six runs. Still two months on the baseball calendar, but the NL MVP is his to lose.

Spit Your Tobacco at: Ozzie Guillen, Marlins
Remember when Ozzie used to be eccentric, and his outspoken mantra was viewed as entertaining and fresh?...Neither do I. Bet you feel like a manly man picking on a 19-year-old, don’t ya Oz?

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