Jeff Niemann (SP—Rays) You can add Jeff Niemann’s name to the list of very talented young pitchers that are in the Tampa Bay organization. Niemann’s season thus far has been peppered with outings that have been sub-par combined with some performances that have really shown what the 24-year old prospect can do. On Saturday he pitched 8 innings for his tenth victory, allowing 1 ER and striking out 7. For July, Niemann has a 2.88 ERA with an impressive 27 strikeouts in 34.2 innings while only walking 4. His K/BB ratio this month is 6.75 compared to his starts prior to that where he was sporting a 1.29 ratio. So he has been having better control and hopefully this will be a trend that will carry forward. Niemann has also been effective maintaining damage control as he has held opponents to an XBH% of 6.8% and has averaged less than a home run per nine innings. Niemann has good potential and could be a nice sleeper pickup going forward as there are some nice indicators that could indicate a strong second half
Matt Wieters (C—Orioles) It’s been a steep learning curve for Matt Wieters as he played 25% of a major league season. Wieters, one of the top prospects in baseball, has not adapted to major league pitching as quickly as many had thought. He has enormous potential especially for a catcher, with a promise to hit for power and average. But so far he has only been able to hit .279 and the power that was expected to come hasn’t been there with only 3 home runs. The good news is that Wieters has quietly put together an 8 game hitting streak with slash line of .433/.452/.467. While the hitting has been better, there has been little to no power during this streak. But hopefully this signifies a trend for Wieters where he is increasing comfort at the plate. One concerning indicator is that Wieters has a BHIP of .339 but his xBHIP is a modest .307. This would indicate that he is doing better than his expected BHIP would indicate. But sometimes you have to look beyond indicators and in Wieters case, he is far too talented not to expect more than what he has done so far.
Carlos Quetin (OF—White Sox) Carlos Quentin has missed about half the season because of injury so he has a lot of lost time to make up. Fantasy owners were happy to see Quentin back in the lineup on a regular basis for July, figuring that his slow start was a thing of the past and Quentin would start to pound the baseball like last season. But since his return, through Saturday, Quentin is hitting only .190 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI. With this slow start it leaves fantasy owners perplexed. Where is the Carlos Quentin of last year? This season, Quentin’s BHIP is extremely low at .201, perhaps being one of the unluckiest hitter in baseball. With an xBHIP of .296, we can expect Quentin to have improvement down the road. This year Quentin has improved his LD% to 18.8% compared to last year at 15.4% so one would have to think that some of those line drives will stop finding leather. Perhaps Quentin won’t be the MVP-like player he was last year, but there should be a turning of the tide that should keep him a part of every
fantasy lineup with his offensive potential
Kendry Morales (1B—Angels) During spring training this season, Angel broadcaster Rex Hudler gave a radio interview stating that Kendry Morales was going to make all Angel fans forget Mark Teixeira. Hudler tends to be over exuberant and one sometimes has to take his commentaries with a grain of salt. No doubt the Yankees are not about to do a one-for-one swap of Teixeira for Morales. But it would be certainly appropriate to say that Morales is one of the best sleepers this season. Morales hit his 20th home run and he is on a pace for 32 with close to a 100 RBI. Through Saturday, he has a 7 game hit streak during which he has hit 4 home runs and is batting .345. His overall season OPS is an excellent .900 and those that might have dropped him earlier this season because of a slow start, are probably kicking themselves now as he has provided consistency with power throughout the year. His BHIP is a reasonable .304 so we can expect this type of production to continue. While Angel fans may not forget who Teixeira is, there is little doubt that they are not lamenting his departure with Morales playing as effectively as he has. He is a must start in all fantasy formats as he continues to provide excellent output.
Casey Kotchman (1B—Red Sox) At the trade deadline on Friday, the Red Sox and the Braves swapped first basemen and Adam LaRoche was traded for Casey Kotchman who has wound up back in the A.L with the Red Sox. At first glance, Kotchman and LaRoche appear to be similar but Kotchman will provide the Red Sox with better defense. But with the acquisition of Victor Martinez, the Red Sox have many options at first base and Kotchman, who was a full time starter with the Braves, may get lost in the Red Sox shuffle. Kotchman is a competent hitter with a .282 BA but won’t provide much extra base power (SLG-.409). He does have a very good EYE at 1.14 but his OPS is poor at .764 so the Red Sox will more then likely be using Kotchman primarily off the bench or for defensive purposes. Fantasy owners that had Kotchman were probably in deeper leagues to begin with, but with his move to the Red Sox, his value appears to have lessened.
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