By: Jack Moore
Each week we’ll be providing you with insight into the best (and worst) baseball players to play in your fantasy baseball league.
1. Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN: Liriano has been fantastic since returning to the starting rotation. After tossing 6.2 innings and allowing just one run this week against the Rangers, Liriano has now allowed just 15 runs in his last 49.1 innings, striking out 52 against 24 walks. More importantly, Liriano's performance against Texas should do wonders for his trade value. If he gets dealt away from the Twins and their poor defense, his stats should go up across the board.
2. Tyler Colvin, OF, COL: Colvin slugged an absurd .932 over the last two weeks – thanks to six home runs! – and has his season line up to .305/.335/.626. He always showed decent power as a prospect and then with the Cubs, but he's really leveraging it now that he's playing in Colorado 81 times a year. Not that his .284/.310/.537 road line is bad at all, mind you, but his .330/.366/.739 performance at home makes him an elite bat when the Rockies stay in Denver.
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS: Zimmerman's .242/.306/.383 line is among the most disappointing of the first half. But the original face of the Nationals has come alive over his last 14 games, hitting .311 with five home runs. Usually such small samples aren't terribly meaningful – and this one might not be either – but seeing a struggling star player show he's still capable of playing that way is never a bad sign. He's capable of big things when healthy, and he's finally playing like it.
4. Juan Carlos Oviedo, RP, MIA: Even though he has a new name, the former Leo Nunez might be in line for saves as soon as he returns from his suspension following the All-Star break. Heath Bell blew another one Sunday and Ozzie Guillen says Oviedo could be in line for saves as a result. Oviedo is hardly a great pitcher himself – his three-year ERA+ is just 107 – but saves are more about opportunity than ability. It would hardly be a stable situation, but particularly at this point in the season, saves off the waiver wire are very hard to find – most of the closer shakeups happen in the first month or two.
Josh Johnson, SP, MIA
: If you want a buy low option on the pitching side, Johnson's the one. His FIP of 3.07 – based on a 2.5 K/BB and typically excellent home run prevention – is among the league leaders. He's been on fire since May 9, with a 2.93 ERA in 70.2 innings. When he's on and healthy, Johnson has the potential to be the single best pitcher in the major leagues. Even if he's a little worse than he used to be, he could still very easily be an elite starting pitcher.
1. Carlos Santana, C, CLE: There are, quite plainly, no bright spots for Santana this season. He's hitting .222 with very limited power (five home runs, 13 doubles). He still strikes out 20% of the time. He's hitting far more ground balls than fly balls. His BABIP is under .270 for the second straight season. The upside right now looks like .250 with moderate power – certainly not what owners paid for. It might be worth seeing if a rival owner will pay for his name in a trade.
2. Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI: Ryan Howard made his return to action Friday. The first season Ryan Howard was truly a superstar was 2006 – he hit 58 home runs, batted .313, and knocked in 149 runs. It was also the last time. He has never hit over .280 since -- all the way down to .253 last season -- and his 30-homer power just isn't special at first base. Considering he's coming off an injury and the Phillies' offense is as poor as it's been in years, I'm not buying. He may not even be a top-12 first baseman any more.
3. Doug Fister, SP, DET: Fister has an 11.30 ERA over his last three starts, largely due to four home runs allowed. Fister thrived last season thanks to a miniscule 0.46 HR/9 rate. Even though his ground ball rate is up to 51.3%, hitters have homered on 17% of his fly balls this season. Although that number will almost certainly come down, it probably won't get back to the 5% he finished at last season. Expect a roughly 4.00 ERA for the second half, making him a marginal fantasy play at best.
4. J.J. Hardy, SS, BAL: Hardy hit just .113/.161/.189 over the two weeks heading into the All-Star break, continuing a slump that has him hitting just .224. His BABIP is a meager .233, which is usually a sign that a hitter is unlucky – we'd usually expect a mark around .300. But in Hardy's case, he's only been over .280 twice in his career. He'll probably be able to hit around .250 for the rest of the season, but it's unlikely the Orioles will squeeze much more out of him.
5. Santiago Casilla, RP, SFG: Casilla has blown three of his last four save attempts and has a 7.27 ERA in 12 games since June. The problem for Casilla is if he ever gives up the job, he probably won't get it back. Sergio Romo is one of the best relievers in baseball, posting a 0.72 ERA this season, and if he gets a few opportunities at a save Bruce Bochy may see too much to ever let Casilla close again. Casilla owners would be wise to handcuff him with Romo if he's on the waiver wire.
Jack Moore is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Mathematics and Economics. His work can also be found at FanGraphs.com, DisciplesOfUecker.com, RotoWire.com, AdvancedNFLStats.com and ESPN. Follow him on twitter at @jh_moore.
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