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AL Player Spotlight - July 26th, 2009

Luke Hochevar (SP—Royals) There is little doubt that Luke Hochevar has plenty of upside and after Saturday’s start against a potent Ranger lineup where he struck out 13, you might suspect that there is a sense that Hochevar might be coming into his own. Counting his last outing against the Rays, Hochevar has struck out 22 batters in 13.1 innings. Not too shabby. He still has a hefty ERA of 4.84 but he has shaved about a half a run off of it over the two starts. Even more good news is that Hochevar has an ERC of 3.93, so he has actually pitched better than his ERA would represent. His ERA is largely due to a low strand rate of 65.9%. But if he keeps the strikeouts coming, that strand rate should increase as his ERA lowers. Hochevar is a must have in long term keeper leagues and after two excellent outing he may be ready to add in deeper mixed leagues and AL leagues as well.

Gio Gonzalez (SP—A’s) About a year ago there was a lot of talk and hype about the A’s adding one their top pitching prospect Gio Gonzalez to the major league club. Unfortunately, Gonzalez was not able to translate the dominance he showed in the minors to big league hitting. He found out the hard way it’s a different ballgame at the major league level and Gonzalez was stung last season with a 1-4 record and a 7.68 ERA. He allowed almost 2.5 home runs per game last year. But the opposition did only bat .256, which was not terrible and he did manage a strikeout an inning. But the walks!! Oh those awful walks that come back to haunt the pitcher. He gave up better than 6.6 per nine innings. So flash forward a year, Gonzalez has continued his excellence in the minors. The A’s were now prepared to see Gonzalez’s maturity after spending more time at triple A and see some of that dominance at the parent club. Only it looks like he was still overmatched going into Saturday with 9.48 ERA and hitters batting .378 against him. He’s still averaging a strikeout an inning but at the moment nothing else looked like it did when he pitched in the minor leagues. His last start he was practically mauled by the Twins allowing 11 ER in less than 3 innings and you had to figure that he was left in there that long as a “character building experience”. On Saturday, Gonzalez maturity may have surfaced as he beat the Yankees, pitching 6.2 innings of 2 hit ball, striking out 6 and allowing 1 run. Right now though, unless he builds a whole lot of character develops really quickly, Gonzalez doesn’t have much fantasy value other than in long-term keeper leagues. Stay tuned as eventually he may turn out to be a fantasy star but a little more development needs to happen before then.

Phil Hughes (SP/RP—Yankees) Being banished to the bullpen seems to have agreed with Phil Hughes as he has been much more effective as a reliever than he has been as a starter this season. In 17 relief appearances dating back to the start of June, Hughes has an 0.74ERA and has held opponents to a .145 BA. To add to that he has a next-to-nothing WHIP of 0.699 and has an impressive K/BB ration of 5.60. What will be interesting is to see how the Yankees handle Hughes through the rest of the season. The Yankees are sensitive to Joba Chamberlin’s pitch count and as a means of preventing wear on his arm, may decide that he might be more effective working out of the bullpen towards the end of the season as preparation for how they may use Chamberlin in the playoffs (assuming they get there of course). This could mean that Hughes’ value may go up as he may fill in as a starter for Chamberlin. But with limited success in that role, it will be interesting to see where the Yankees go with this. For now, Hughes is a definite consideration if your league tracks holds and certainly a must-have in keeper leagues. But look out for Hughes as his role may change as we get closer to October.

Erik Bedard (SP—Mariners) Last season Erik Bedard was frequently criticized for his efforts on the mound, never really wanting to push himself beyond 100 pitches and then calling it a day. In what was his shortest outing of the season on Saturday, Bedard lasted only 3 innings, struck out 6, but gave up 2 ER on 2 hits and 4 BB. This time though, he only made it to 80 pitches before he was pulled by manager Don Wakamatsu. Until this outing, Bedard has been solid with a strong ERA of 2.82, a 1.163 WHIP and averaging 9.5 strikeouts per game. But when looking over his past 5 games dating back to the beginning of June, Bedard has not been able to work deep into games, never getting past the 6th inning. In fact, he has averaged about 5.2 innings per start this season. There is some concern in the Mariner’s camp that Bedard may be dealing with an injury. For many fantasy owners this has been the pattern with Bedard: while being exceptionally talented, he is often injured and doesn’t seem to be anything close to the workhorse that a #1 starter should be. Fantasy owners should be cautious of a possible injury, but if none is identified that would make trading him difficult, it’s probably best to get what return value you can on him now while he still has strong numbers. It does you no good to have an ace pitcher with ace-like stuff, who can barely get through the 5th inning.

Aaron Hill (2B—Blue Jays) Back in May, I had suggested a sell high strategy for Aaron Hill as I felt that he was playing over his head when he was hitting .351. Since the end of May, Hill’s overall numbers are solid but he has hit only .240 over that time as his BA has dropped 63 points. If you had decided then to hold onto Hill, you may be due for an upswing as he went 3-6 Saturday with 2 home runs, making it 24 on the year. He also currently has a BHIP of .288 which is another indicator that better times are ahead. One area that has been a pleasant surprise is that Hill has been able to maintain his power stroke as he is on a pace for 36 home runs. This combined with a solid season BA has made Hill one of the best values of this fantasy season and there is little doubt that he will be a wanted player on draft day next year in a shallow position. One weakness of Hill is that he has a poor EYE of 0.38 which has had a drastic effect on his OBP which stands at a poor .328. This OBP has affected his overall OPS as it stands at an average .828. If Hill can improve his EYE, his value would increase even further but even now a middle infielder with a SLG of .500 is reason enough to have Hill as a must start in all formats.

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