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First Pitch - Value Picks - July 23, 2008

Joe Ribando

Welcome to Fantasy Week 17 Value Picks.  There are lots of considerations this week as we start gearing up for fantasy playoffs.  Too soon you say?  Week 22, typically the last "regular season fantasy week" is right around the corner.  Perhaps some of these picks can help you climb a spot or two over the next few weeks.  If nothing else, these players should be on your radar screen as they may be snatched by some of your competitors in the coming weeks.  Let's dive right in:


NATIONAL LEAGUE


1.    Jon Rauch (Former Washington National, Newly Acquired Arizona Diamondback) - Rauch isn't exactly a new name in fantasy circles.  He has been the main closer for the Nationals all year, earning 17 saves in 22 opportunities in 2008 before being dealt to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday.  He had a 2.98 ERA and had 44 K's in 48.1 IP, almost a strikeout an inning.  Now, he goes to middle relief for the Diamondbacks, likely setting up Brandon Lyon in the short-term.  But Lyon hasn't exactly been lights-out in recent appearances.  He has given up 7 ER in his last 2 outings of 1.2 IP and has 2 blown saves in 5 opportunities this month.  While his job hasn't been questioned too much yet, a contending D-Backs team will likely have a short fuse when the playoffs are in sight.  That could give Rauch some save opportunities down the fantasy stretch.  It wouldn't surprise me to see fantasy owners turn Rauch loose if your league doesn't value Holds.  If that's the case, I'd grab him and stash him away for at least a week or so.  It could pay big dividends for cheap if Lyon has another couple of atrocious 9th innings.

2.  Troy Tulowitzki (Shortstop - Colorado Rockies) - Here's another name that is no stranger to fantasy leagues.  But as of yesterday, he was owned in less than 30% of all leagues according to CBS Sportsline.   This pick is highway robbery.  Last season, Tulo posted a 0.65 FPI with a .291 average, .351 OBP, 99 RBI, 177 hits, and 7 SB.  This season, he's posting a 0.32 FPI for a delta of 0.33!  For perspective, his average is currently .192 with a .263 OBP.  He just got off the DL after getting those stitches removed from his hand (after his little temper tantrum early in the season).  Unless you're hosting a marquee SS like Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Derek Jeter, or Miguel Tejada, grab Tulowitzki now.  If nothing else, he'll make great trade bait in about 2 weeks.

3.  Chris Iannetta (Catcher - Colorado Rockies) - Catchers are flying off the free agent wires as Jorge Posada will likely miss most of the rest of the fantasy season (and possibly the regular season) with shoulder issues.  With various names being grabbed such as Ramon Hernadez, Yadier Molina, and John Buck, Chris Iannetta remains the pick with the most upside talent for the remainder of the season.  Granted, he originally lost his job to Yorvit Torrealba but those days are over.  He is the starting catcher and is 11-for-43 in July (.256) with 3 HR and 11 RBI.  For the season, he's at .277 with 10 HR for a HR/AB of 18.4.  He's been long-touted in our Insider Baseball columns as a big-time catching prospect and that opinion remains strong as he becomes a fixture in a solid Rockies lineup.  If Posada was your catcher, seriously consider grabbing Iannetta for some power and decent average.  I also think Torrealba is a realistic trade candidate, especially since he's basically begging to traded (since he has only started 15 of the Rockies' last 40 games).  A trade would send Iannetta's value sky-rocketing, as it would show Colorado's confidence in their young catcher. 


AMERICAN LEAGUE


1.  Glen Perkins (Starting Pitcher - Minnesota Twins) - Of course, Perkins name has been floating around for a few starts now, but he's especially intriguing for Fantasy Week 18.  Not only is he a 2-start pitcher next week, but he has favorable match-ups against the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians.  Perkins, a lefty, will first face the Sox at home on Tuesday, July 29th.  The White Sox are hitting just .242 against lefties this season, ranking 27th out of a total of 30 MLB teams.  So, despite their decent record, I like that match-up for Perkins.  The 2nd start against the Indians is even better, as Cleveland ranks 29th in the league against lefties with a .233 average.  For the season, Perkins is 7-2 with a 3.84 ERA in 14 starts for the Twins. His K/9 isn't anything spectacular at just 4.7 and his WHIP of 1.42 is a little inflated given his record and ERA, but he still remains a calculated risk given the two teams he will face next week.

2.  Mike Aviles (Shortstop - Kansas City Royals) - If nothing else, the Royals' shortstop has been red-hot.  He extended his hit-streak last night to 12 straight games.  In that time-frame, Aviles is hitting .431 (22-for-51) with a .463 OBP, 32 total bases, 10 RBI, and 8 runs scored.  I think this is simply more of a hot-streak than a long-term solution, but he's still available in over half of CBS Sportsline leagues and deserves short-term consideration out of a weak fantasy position. 

3.  Matt Joyce (Outfielder - Detroit Tigers) - Still only owned in about 5% of ESPN leagues, Matt Joyce has 10 HR this season in 109 AB for a HR/AB ratio of 10.9.  20 of his 32 hits this season have come for extra bases, contributing to an OPS over 1.000.  Joyce strikes out a lot (22 K's and only 9 walks for a sub-.50 batting eye), but he's getting AB and hitting the long-ball, which makes him valuable in all leagues (especially AL-only leagues).  Like Mike Aviles above, this could be one of those hot streaks that is short-lasting.  He had 17 HR in Double-A during 2007 in 456 AB (26.9 rate) and just 11 in 465 in 2006 in Single-A.  Regardless, you need to play this guy while he's hot which makes him a solid value pick for the next fantasy week or two.

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