Tag Archive | "Starting Pitcher"

Show Me Your “O” Face

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Show Me Your “O” Face

Posted on 13 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Office Space FTW!

Your mission (should you choose to accept it) consists of explaining how in the world the Baltimore Orioles reached mid-September with a statistically plausible chance at making the playoffs.  How exactly does a team that ranks 16th in runs scored, 21st in batting average, 23rd in OBP, and 12th in slugging hang with the big bad wolves of the AL East?  More importantly, how can someone explain with a straight face that the same team that sits 18th in ERA, 25th in quality starts, 20th in WHIP, and 16th in batting average against also has a tenuous grip on either the 2nd wild card spot or the division lead?

Without a crack team of researchers (or maybe a team researching crack), one might think such a thing impossible.  Below average pitching combined with sub-par hitting somehow results in a playoff contender.  If a Baseball Urban Dictionary exists somewhere on the interwebs, the Orioles’ team photo must be pictured under the section on “logical incongruity”.  Explain the anomalous nature of this Baltimore beast, or be relegated to watching Golden Girls reruns.

The Orioles have exactly 3 players who have accumulated more than 2.0 oWAR – Adam Jones (4.8 oWAR) and Nick Markakis (2.4 oWAR), and Matt Wieters (2.1 oWAR).  Moreover, Markakis just went down for the season with a broken left thumb.  Of all the players who qualify for MLB’s statistical leader boards, Markakis was the batting average leader for the team at .298.  Total number of qualifying players hitting .300+?  Zero.  After Markakis at .363, the next highest OBP belongs to Adam Jones at .351.  Jones happens to have the highest OPS at .848.  For perspective, the Rangers have 3 players above that OPS mark.

The Orioles have exactly 1 starting pitcher with 10 wins or more, and that happens to be Wei-Yin Chin at 12-9.  The Cardinals have 4 starters at 13 or more wins, and they are struggling to lock down the 2nd wild card position in the NL.  So, exactly how can the O’s success be explained?  Please rationalize how a team can play 11 games ahead of Pythagorean W/L pace.

  • Opportunistic offense:  The team has hit .251/.324/.436/.760 with runners in scoring position which translates to 407 runs scored in 994 opportunities.  By comparison, the Yankees have hit .253/.350/.424/.775 with runners in scoring position, but the Bombers have only pushed across 452 runs despite having 135 more opportunities than the Orioles.
  • Doing just enough:  The Orioles lead the majors in winning percentage in games decided by 1 run with a 25-7 record.
  • Playing a hard 9….10….11:  The Orioles are currently tied with the Nationals for the most wins in extra innings in baseball (12).  The Nationals have gone into bonus baseball 19 times and lost 7.  The Orioles have gone extras just 14 times and lost only twice.  2.  The deuce.  That’s 12-2 when the number of innings hits double digits.
  • Relief work:  Combined ERA for all Baltimore pitchers in relief – 3.15.  That group has accounted for 58 “holds” and 46 saves.  By comparison, the Rangers have the best record in the AL, and their relievers have combined for a 3.29 ERA, 54 holds, and 37 saves.  The difference?  The Orioles have relied on the bullpen for 468.0 innings this season.  The Rangers have used relievers for just 388.1 innings.

Maybe the Orioles can keep it going by getting just enough offense at the right time.  After all, the team has made it 141 games using this not-so-secret formula.  Perhaps maintaining a negative run differential while staying 17 games above .500 will prove unsustainable.  Just don’t let the Orioles know that.  It would be a shame for them to realize how much of an uphill battle they are fighting (and winning).

NOTE: This was written before last night’s walk-off win that pushed the Orioles to 26-7 in games decided by 1 run.



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Starting Pitching Valuation (SPv) Leaderboard

Posted on 16 August 2012 by Dylan Cain

Loyal Full Spectrum Baseball readers may remember an article I wrote a while back about an innovative new stat, one I call Starting Pitcher Valuation (SPv).  For a brief introduction to the statistic for those who have not read the article, SPv is a stat that encompasses 1) the number of base runners a starting pitcher has allowed, 2) how many earned runs he’s allowed, 3) how many batters he strikes out as opposed to how few batters he walks 4) and how well he can lead his team to a victory.

I have taken all these stats and “blended” them together, creating a pitching stat that ranks starters (not relievers) on a scale of 100%-0%. This gives analytically-minded  fans like you the chance to see one stat that is “easy-to-digest” as opposed to reading a long line of the 10-15 most commonly used statistics.  I wrote this article in hopes of providing a weekly “leaderboard” of SPv and to also give my opinions and some notes about how they (starting pitchers) have done of late.  Here are your season-to-date SPv leaders (as of  August 12th). Enjoy!

1) Jered Weaver (84.87%)- The Angels’ ace has been dealing this year, even in an offensive powerhouse division like the AL West. He’s only lost one game this year and with the offensive production of the Halo’s lineup, he doesn’t seem to have that much pressure on him.  With guys like Mike Trout (.340 AVG) and Albert Pujols (Did you hear about his 24 homeruns?? Talk about coming back after a slow start…), any pitcher would feel relaxed on the hill.  His fastball isn’t Aroldis Chapman caliber but it’s enough to get the job done.

2) R.A. Dickey (81.19%)- The Tim Wakefield impersonator has looked slightly more human of late, with his ERA going up .74 points since his second consecutive one-hitter.  Remember, he still has the best SPv in the senior circut, meaning he is on track to have the best season a knuckleballer has ever had, statistically. His 15 wins are tied for the most in the the bigs, he still makes batters look silly, and he is still very likely in line to win the NL Cy Young Award.

3) Chris Sale (80.96%)- The lanky southpaw for the Chicago White Sox has given his rotation a big boost, even with his young, inexperienced arm.  He puts on a show with the radar gun and can shutdown powerful lineups.  He does have an advantage of facing some weaker offensive teams in the AL Central, however.  Six of his 13 wins have come against the Royals, Indians and Twins.  He is a great pitcher but needs a little more experience to convinced me. The addition of Jake Peavy helped him greatly and Francisco Liriano will give him more of an advantage.

4) David Price (79.77%)- The three-time All-Star is on pace to get the most wins of his career and as far as the AL Cy Young Award voting is concerned, he is breathing down the neck of Sale and Weaver.  The only thing he actually lacks is a big bat to support him offensively.  Evan Longoria coming back will hopefully help with that problem.  If any pitcher can help Tampa Bay get a playoff spot from the A’s it will be Price.  He WILL have a Cy Young Award on the wall before his career is done.

5) Justin Verlander (78.62%)- Finally on the list, Verlander comes in at fourth place in the junior circuit, quite surprising for the Detroit Tigers ace. In my opinion, he is the most overrated pitcher in baseball.  Sure, he has a blazing fastball. Sure, his ERA is under two and a half.  But, he has been inconsistent at moments and is on pace to have the most losses in his career since 2008.  I will give him credit, however, because he tends to dominate one of my favorite statistics (WHIP).

6) Stephen Strasburg (77.71%)- The Strikeout king is now on the list and he is very deserving.  In seven of his twenty three games this year, he has struck out nine batters or more!  That is 30.4% of the time.  Looking for a whiff?  He’s the guy you have to call.  His innings limit has been in the news lately and I think if the Nationals want to keep winning he must be in the rotation. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.

7) Matt Cain (76.7%)- “Mr. Perfect”, “Cain-O Insane-O”, “The San Fran Man”…regardless of what you call him, he is still a dominant force on the hill out on the west coast.  His ERA is under 3 for only the second time in his career but he’s currently regarded as the best pitcher in the Giants’ stacked rotation.  This is due mostly to Tim Lincecum‘s recent struggles, and the fact that most of the rotation is considerably “young talent”.  One of his statistics which catches my eye the most is the fact that his walks per 9 is the lowest in his career.

8) Felix Hernandez (76.44%)- “King Felix” is one of my favorite pitchers and I feel he is very underrated.  Although he may only have 10 wins, he already has 3 shutouts, leading the league.  He continues to strikeout batters (he is nearing his 1,500th strikeout) and his ERA is staying low.  His division rivals include the Texas Rangers and the LA Angels, two huge offensive teams.  Hernandez continually gets the job done, though.

9) Madison Bumgarner (76.4%)- When looking at the ERA leaders, you could easily think his fellow teammate Ryan Vogelsong has the edge. However, Bumgarner has a higher SPv for a couple of reasons.  One, he strikes out more batters and walks less, as opposed to Vogelsong.  And secondly, Bumgarner has a better WHIP.  Walks plus Hits divided by Innings Pitched is a crucial statistic in the makeup of SPv.  The first round pick in the 2007 draft is off to a good start in his career and he makes a good #2 behind Matt Cain.

10) Kyle Lohse (76.27%)- I was very surprised when I realized Lohse had made the Top 10. When we look at his stats, he has the second most wins on the St. Louis Cardinals staff (12, just behind Lance Lynn‘s 13) against only has 2 losses.  He hasn’t had much popularity since 2008 when he had 15 wins but the baseball community should know that Kyle still has his stuff.  His WHIP and ERA are at career bests and along with Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn, they are filling the hole left by the Chris Carpenter injury quite nicely.

11) Johnny Cueto (76.18%)- I can truly say that in my mind, Cueto is the best pitcher in the packed NL Central.  I say this because he doesn’t allow many base runners, keeps batters guessing and even when things do get out of hand, he can still often get the win.  This is because of an offense led by Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips.  These athletes, led by Cueto, will help the Reds gain an even larger lead over Andrew McCutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates as the season winds down.

12) Jordan Zimmermann (76.14%)- I know I say the word underrated too often, but it’s one of the few words that describes Zimmermann accurately.  The reason I feel he hasn’t had instant stardom is due to the fact that, earlier in the year, he lacked run support.  At one point he had a losing record with an ERA under two and a half.  He doesn’t strikeout very many batters but he doesn’t walk many either. This keeps men off the base, keeping his WHIP low.  If anyone on this list will win the NL Cy Young Award in dramatic fashion, it’s Zimmermann.

13) Cole Hamels (75.75%)- This southpaw has been the talk of trade rumors year in and year out, but he remains in Philly, being the only pitcher to have double-digit wins for the Phillies.  He also has the most strikeouts, most innings pitched, leads in ERA+ and the lowest hits per nine innings.  Once the #2 pitcher to Roy Halladay, he is now the ace of the struggling team.  He just signed a huge, $153 million contract, so expect him to stick around for a while.

14) Clayton Kershaw (75.17%)- “The Claw” is the same man as he has been his whole career but isn’t quite as dominant as he was last year.  He is in the very pitching dominant NL, hurting his chances of winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards.  He strikes out a whole batter less per 9 inning than he did last year but he still has a WHIP of 1.027.  He leads the league in shutouts (2), is still the ace for the NL West leading (tied) Los Angeles Dodgers and no longer has to face Melky Cabrera due to a 50 game suspension.

15) CC Sabathia (75.06%)- CC has been on the DL for an extended period of time.  I think the Yankees are in a good enough position to where they can retain first place in the AL East without him.  If you asked me a year earlier, I would’ve told you that New York couldn’t have competed without Mariano Rivera and with Sabathia out, however, that’s exactly what they are doing.  Yankees’ fans just need to hope that C.C. can bounce back from the injuries, and continue on the pace where he left off.

16) A.J. Burnett (74.81%)- I would’ve expected the Pirate’s righty to be higher on this list, with 14 wins and a new beginning in Pittsburgh, however, he is not.  Like many of the pitchers ranked above him, he doesn’t possess a high number of K’s.  Through 21 starts, he already has the most wins in his career since 2008 in Toronto.  Not only does he have a career low WHIP (with 21+ games started), but he has a one-hitter under his belt.

17) Ryan Vogelsong (74.64%)- The reason this guy may not quite be a household name is because he hasn’t performed in the past, as he is just showing signs of greatness.  The last season that he had 25 or more starts before San Fransisco, he had an ERA of 6.50 with a 6-13 W-L record. He has redeemed himself, however, in his second stint for the Giants.  His two years back have been astounding, posting 249 strikeouts and a 23-13 record.  He does walk a few too many, but nothing to worry about. Expect him to have more than one all star selection in his career.

18) Scott Diamond (74.35%)- I consider this young man the only “stud” in the Minnesota Twin’s rotation.  He isnt like many of the guys on this list as far as strikeouts are concerned (5.0 strikeouts per 9 innings), but he makes up for it because he doesn’t walk many either (1.3 walks per 9 innings, a league lead).  He’s only pitched 18 games, and I really don’t expect the trend to continue, as he allows almost a home run a game.  That’s low enough to be a quality pitcher, but not to consistently be on this list.

19) Gio Gonzalez (74.15%)- Gio is one of the best parts of the Washington Nationals “Big 3″ (Strasburg and  Zimmerman included).  He has the most wins out of all of them (15, 2 away from a career high), he has the league lead in home runs per 9 innings (0.4), and the league lead in hits per 9 innings (6.9).  His wicked curveball is similar to those of fellow teamate Stephen Strasburg and Barry Zito.  With Strasburg supposedly being out of postseason play, Gio is the man who needs to step up even further, if possible.  This would be by walking less and staying consistent.

20) Ryan Dempster (73.62%)- The Texas new-comer is lucky to even be on this list.  His ERA has gone up 79 points in 4 games, but I think he still has some success in him.  He is aging, however, and is struggling to get wins.  He is a great #3 or #4 in the Rangers rotation, and run support won’t be an issue anymore, as it was with the Cubs.

Think one of your favorite pitchers deserved to be on the list or would you like to just discuss Starting Pitching Valuation, contact me on Twitter @pitchingstats or use the comments section below. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about about this list, how to calculate SPv and/or how to apply its usage to fantasy baseball. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next week.

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Shark Week: The Jeff Samardzija Evaluation

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Will Emerson

We are in the midst of one of the greatest weeks of the year folks. That’s right, it is Shark Week ladies and gentleman! No better time to try and figure out the real fantasy value of Jeff “The Shark” Samardzija than by taking a bite out of his numbers! You see, The Shark has actually been very solid for the Cubbies this season. Even more solid than his 8-10 record would indicate. Even more solid than his 4.06 ERA would indicate. And yes, even more solid than that 1.28 WHIP would indicate. Don’t believe me? Well then, let’s dive on in and look inside his numbers this season.

Generally, I do not hold much stock in a starting pitcher’s win-loss record because there are just way to many factors that are out of the pitcher’s control, like the rest of their team for example. Shark’s team, the Cubs, have been one of the worst offensive teams this season. Their wOBA is better than only the Mariners and no one has scored fewer runs this season than the Cubs, so the run support is not always there. Thus, I am not too concerned about the actual  win-loss record Shark is sportin’. Instead, let us take a look at his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as compared to the rest of the qualifying starting pitchers in the majors. Samardzija has a WAR of 2.8, which is tied with Madison Bumgarner this year for 23rd best amongst qualifying starting pitchers this year. Samardzija is owned by less than 50% in ESPN and Yahoo! fantasy leagues, yet at the very least, in real life, he is worth more wins above a replacement player than the much more widely owned likes of Yovanni Gallardo, CJ Wilson, Mat Latos and Jon Lester. Now, sure WAR does not necessarily translate into fantasy value, but it is a good jumping off point for our purposes. Now, hows about we get into some advanced stats and see what Shark has been doing this season, shall we? That was a rhetorical question.

While his actual ERA is up over four his xFIP is over a half of a run lower at 3.51, which is a highly decent number. Decent enough for 19th among all qualifying starting pitchers this season. That xFIP is better than that of some of your no name pitchers like Matt Cain, Jered Weaver, Tim Hudson and Dan Haren. Now let me be clear, I am not necessarily saying Samardzija is a better pitcher than these other fellas. Don’t go trading Jered Weaver for Samardzija or anything crazy like that, but just keep an eye on the Shark. Shark also shows that he has the stuff to get to that 3.60ish ERA with a SIERA of 3.59. In case you were wondering, and I know you were, his SIERA is better than that of Jered Weaver, again, Yu Darvish, Mat Latos and Yovanni Gallardo, among others. Again, it is not that Shark has been better, per se, but for a guy with these numbers, you would think he would be owned in a few more fantasy leagues. Now I realize this is what he has done this season, and he has had some bumps in the road (read June), so while in my mind he has been somewhat undervalued this year, the question is, are his numbers sustainable to make him a future fantasy stud? Or, in other words, is this season and an advanced stat anomaly? Well let us take a looksie!

Samardzija has an 9.09 K/9, good for 8th in the league among qualifying starting pitchers and this number is the real deal. The Shark’s average fastball is 95 MPH, and only Stephen Strasburg and David Price, perhaps you’ve heard of them, have a faster average fastball. When you can throw gas like that you can tend to miss quite a few bats. But that is just the straight gas, he also mixes in a two-seamer, a cutter and a split-fingered fastball into the repertoire as well. He just started tossing the cutter and the splitter more this season, allowing him to use the straight four-seam fastball less than usual, down to 54.5% of the time, the lowest of his career by almost 5%. The average velocity of the Shark’s cutter is 92 MPH and his average two-seamer has been about 94.7 MPH, meaning these come in to hitters close to the same speed as his four-seamer, but with some more movement. His mixing of these pitches has led to batters chasing balls out of the strike zone a little over a third of the time, up 3% from last season. In comparison, David Price has batters chasing balls out of the zone only 25% of the time and he has never had that percentage over 30%. Cy Young candidate R.A. Dickey? He is getting batters to chase 34.5% of the time which is higher than Samardzija, but not by much, so Shark is showing that he has the tools in place to be a must have fantasy starter.

From the numbers above, and remember these numbers are with a clunker of a June thrown in there, you can see the potential and judging by the fact he is still unowned in over half of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues this season, he could be a heck of a sleeper pick for a fantasy playoff team down the stretch and a nice fantasy sleeper pick in 2013. Now this is only his first full season as starter, so it is a small sample size, but things are looking good for Shark. The Ks should stay in the same range and look for that ERA to drop into the mid to high threes, say the 3.50-3.75 range. I see him as hovering the top 25 of starting pitchers next season, meaning he will be a solid two, most likely, three starter for your fantasy rotation, but you should be able to get him for fourth or fifth starter prices on draft day. Samardzija is gonna be fantasy gold, so get on the bandwagon while you can and prepare for next year to be the year of the Shark!

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The Curious Case of Tim Lincecum

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The Curious Case of Tim Lincecum

Posted on 16 July 2012 by T.J. McDonald

By now almost all fantasy gamers know of Tim Lincecum‘s struggles this year. If you personally own him you have been dealing with the curious case of Tim Lincecum. Tim Lincecum is a 27 year old two time CY Young winning pitcher for the San Francisco Giants with career numbers of 72-51 with a 3.25 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 1242 Ks and 430 BB. While his numbers have been trending slightly downwards since the 08-09 season he was generally recongized as a top ten starting pitcher in all of baseball coming into this season.  This year he has been anything but however. In the first half of the season he went 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA, 1.58 WHIP 104 Ks and 50 BBs which statistically made him the worst pitcher in baseball.  He has had one start, post All Star break, which was very promising going 8 innnings with no earned runs 11Ks and only 1 BB.  However this start was at home against the hapless Houston Astros so it could be fools gold rather than a sign of things to come.

Now that I have spoke a little about Tim Lincecum‘s troubles, I’d like to talk about what to do next.  Unfortunately I do not have the answers regarding if he is injured, on the verge of an injury or even if or when he will bounce back.  I do have some recommendations on how to handle him going forward in all league formats and that will be the main focus of this piece.

First up is yearly league formats. In yearly league formats you have four options: starting, trading, benching or even dropping him. In regards to just flat out dropping Lincecum to your waiver wire, I do not recommend this even with his horrid start to the season. Do realize that the size, depth and quality of each league’s waiver wire will vary.  While I don’t personally recommend a drop depending on the quality of replacement on your wire, I could see why you might.  Just take into consideration if he bounces back he may very well already be on another league mates team.  I do fully recommend benching him for the time being and this is mainly why I don’t condone dropping him. You can always bench a player, no reason to let your opponent get their hands on him especially a player with his stellar track record. If he bounces back this year and helps lead your opponent to the championship, you will rue the day you dropped him instead of just benching him. If you have the room as well as a suitable replacement on your roster I would always suggest a benching over a straight drop. As for trading him, on the surface it seems like a great idea. However his market value is so low you mostly likely won’t get much in return. Again much like with dropping him, if traded for very low return and he rebounds you won’t be very happy. It is always hard to sell low but if given the right offer I would strongly consider pulling the trigger.  Your fourth and final option is to start him whether with blind faith every outing or playing opponent match ups, ballparks match ups or at home games only. As his home ERA was 3.43 prior to the All Star break and his road ERA was 9.  This fourth option as well the benching option are the two I personally recommend in yearly leagues with a slight nod to the benching option because as shown by his overall numbers he has not been a good play in general so far this season.

If you are in a dynasty/keeper league what to do with him is a little more complicated.  I personally own him in a twenty team ten player keeper league, so hopefully I can give you a little extra insight into the situation. As well as how I am personally handling the keeper situation.  You have five options in a keeper or dynasty league: starting, trading, benching or dropping him as well as the added decision of keeping him or dropping him when your league rules define you must enter your keepers.  Let me first say just like in a yearly league I would never just flat out drop him.  In a keeper league I feel even stronger about not dropping him as he is just to valuable as a keeper asset and even a possible trade asset whether in season or off season, pre keepers.  As for the benching option, just like in yearly formats I recommend this for the time being.  He is hurting every ones lineup when played and unless you just don’t have a quality option off the bench it has come to a point where it is extremely hard to just plug him in your lineup every start.  He can be a decent match up play and is much stronger at home than on the road but as his overall numbers indicate he hasn’t been a good play anywhere in general.  Now for trading him in a keeper league.  In a keeper league he may have slightly more trade value than he does in a yearly league.  If you are out of it this year you could possibly trade him to a contender for a few nice prospects or up and coming young players. Even to another owner in general who is expecting a bounce back next year who may keep him in anticipation of this.  In keeper and dynasty leagues whatever you decided to do with him for the remainder of the year, you will have a very big decision when it comes time for keepers.  Depending on your format and number of keepers he could be flat out not kept.  While I am personally going to keep him, If you choose not to keep him I would advise you to try and trade him now for players with possible keeper potential.  This way you have something of potential value instead of nothing to show for what was once a high valued player and keeper commodity. Your last and final option in these leagues is you could keep him.  Personally that is what I will be doing in my keeper league where I own him.  Call it a hunch but I strongly believe a bounce back is coming in the second half and at the very latest next year, he just has to strong of a track record to be given up on just yet. If he has another year like this year, next year, I will strongly consider dropping him come keeper time but I am willing to roll the dice and give him one more chance. The potential bounce back reward is just to enticing in my eyes.

Now that I have given you options to consider for both yearly and keeper/dynasty formats and also personally how I will handling the situation come keeper time in my keeper league, what will you be doing?  In all formats what to do going forward is no easy decision and hopefully I have given you some good recommendations as well as personal keeper insight into what another owner will be doing with him come keeper time.  This is the game we play in and many times can be the difference between a championship or having to wait till next year.  I would love to hear your plan going or forward as well as keeper wise in the comments or on twitter @FantasyzrTJ

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Players on the mend: 6 players returning from injury after the Break

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Players on the mend: 6 players returning from injury after the Break

Posted on 12 July 2012 by T.J. McDonald

With this being the eve of the second half of the baseball season, today I will be profiling six players returning from injury either immediately or shortly after the All Star break. Some of these players may be on your own team’s disabled list. Others may be good trade targets and some of them may even be available for pick up via your league’s waiver wire. All of these players can help and impact any fantasy team for the remainder of the fantasy season.

The first three players profiled below could quite possibly be available on your league’s waiver wire for pick up with the next three either returning from your DL or could be a strong potential trade target with their owners possibly becoming frustrated with the players injury woes this season.

Lorenzo Cain- OF Kansas City Royals, percent owned: 2% ESPN, 7% Yahoo & 27% CBS

Cain was highly touted coming into the season having had a great AAA season last year, hitting .312, 16 SBs,16 HRs and 81 RBIs and following this up with a strong spring.  Expectations were high in Kansas City for him entering the year as the starting CF but unfortunately things have not gone as hoped. Five games into the season he was injured running into the center field fence in Oakland  and  has been on the DL ever since.  His initial injury was a left groin strain, then tearing his hip flexor in the same left leg while on his initial rehab assignment in April, causing him to be placed on the 60 day DL.  He seems to finally be healthy and after a recent rehab assignment where things seemed to have gone well, he was activated from the 60 day DL and is scheduled to make a full return and start Friday, Kanas City Royals first game after the All Star break. He is under 10% on Yahoo, ESPN & CBS and it is highly likely he is available on your league’s wavier wire and could be a valuable waiver wire pick up for those needing immediate outfield. Projected return July 13th.

Neftali Feliz- SP/RP Texas Rangers, percent owned: 37.8% ESPN, 40% Yahoo & 76% CBS

Feliz was converted from the team’s closer to a starting pitcher this season. While things started off fairly well, on May 21st he was placed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation and has been on the DL ever since. Feliz was lights out as a closer and had 40 Saves and 32 SVs in 2010 and 2011 respectively.  He was 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA, 37 Ks and 23 Walks starting this season.  He recently threw a bullpen session July 7th and seems to be on track for a late July return.  At this time it is unclear if he will return as a starter or a reliever. With him being under 41% owned in both Yahoo & ESPN, there is a possibility he will be available on your league’s waiver wire. While his ownership is higher on CBS he could be a strong trade target if the owner is worried about his uncertain role upon  return. One thing to keep an eye on is what role he will  return to. If he returns as a starter as all indications are recently pointing to, he is a good fantasy play. Even if he returns strictly in a relief role in leagues that count holds, he will still be a valuable asset. He is scheduled to throw to live batting today and if there are no setbacks he is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment and pitch two innings this Sunday the 15th of July with anther three innings Sunday the 18th of July. Projected return late July.

Lance Berkman- 1B/OF St. Louis Cardinals, percent owned: 58.7% ESPN, 64% Yahoo & 82% CBS

Berkman had a great bounce back season last year hitting .301, 31 HRS and 94 RBIs.  After bouncing back from his 2010 struggles many thought he was back to his old form with many websites even having him ranked in their preseason top 100.  However 13 games into the season he went down with a torn meniscus in his right knee.  After surgery and an extensive rehab of the knee he is projected to begin a rehab assignment after the break with a return shortly after. Berkman has recently stated he would not need a rehab assignment but the team has announced he will be going on one before returning to the club. Although he is 58% owned  or higher there is a chance he may be available via your league’s waiver wire or could make for a good seond half trade target. Projected return late July early August.

Carl Crawford- OF Boston Red Sox, percent owned: 71% Yahoo, 80.8% ESPN & 88% CBS

By now most of you know the problems Crawford has had in the last year and a half since he signed his 7 year $142 million contract before last season.  He has only played in a total of 130 games  in 2011 & 2012, missing 32 games last year while hitting only .255  and has missed all of this year so far.  However in 2010 he hit .307, 47 SBs, 19HRs & 90 RBIs.  It is also important to mention he was very durable prior to last year. He had wrist surgery in the off season that caused him to miss the start of the season with his elbow also feeling discomfort at this same time. He was recently diagnosed with a sprained UCL, an injury that will most likely require minor to possibly major surgery this off season, with most even predicting Tommy John surgery.  He recently embarked on a rehab assignment but did have a minor setback unrelated to his UCL sprain: a tweaked groin He is expected to be back rehabbing in Pawtucket today. With him being over 70 % owned he is probably not available on your league’s waiver wire but there is a small chance he may be, also being a high risk high-reward trade target especially in dynasty/keeper leagues. His owner could be becoming frustrated with his poor play last year and injury woes this season. Projected return July 16th.

Emilio Bonifacio- 3B/SS/OF Miami Marlins, percent owned: 76% Yahoo, 88% CBS & 90.8% ESPN

Bonifacio is coming off his best season in the big leagues hitting .296, 5Hr, 36 RBis and 40 SBs last year. In 39 games this season he hit .268, 6 RBIs and 20 SBs with the 20 SBs leading the league at the time of his injury. He has been out of action since May 19th with  strained ligament damage in his left thumb which required surgery. While Bonifacio is over 75% owned and won’t be available on most league’s waiver wire, he would make a strong trade target as he is eligible at 3B, SS and OF and is a strong source of steals for teams needing help in the steals category. He is projected to return Friday, July 13th.

Jacoby Ellsbury- OF Boston Red Sox, percent owned: 94% Yahoo, 98% CBS & 99.7% ESPN

Ellsbury is coming off a career year. Last year he hit .321, 39 SBs, 32 HR and 105 RBIs and finished 2nd in the American League MVP voting. This year, however, has not been the same, he struggled out of the gate hitting only .192, 3RBIS with zero HRs and SBs. He then sustained a dislocated shoulder only 7 games into the season and has not played since.  While Ellsbury could now be considered injury prone with this being his second major injury in three years, he should come back 100% healthy and contribute to the Red Sox immediately. His 20 day rehab assignment is set to expire July 19th but it was announced Tuesday that he would be activated Friday, July 13th. Being 94% owned or higher he will not be available via your waiver wire but would be a solid buy low trade target, as well as big boost to any team that is currently stashing them on their DL. Projected return July 13th, July 19th at the latest.

Whether the players listed above are available on your leagues waiver wire, coming off your own DL or are a trade target for your roster, they all should be back very shortly after the break and can strongly impact any and all fantasy teams. Feel free to comment in the comments section and as always feel free to follow me on twitter @FantasyzrTJ to continue this discussion as well as getting updates on fantasy baseball and baseball in general.

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