1. Stephen Strasburg (SP - Nationals) - Strasburg was masterful once again. He improved his record to 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA and has an incredible K/9 of 11.7. Of course, Strasburg's fantasy value may be limited a bit because of an imposed innings limit on the young phenom. MLB Network projected that if Strasburg gets about 10 days off around the All-Star break and averages about 6/0 IP per start for the rest of the season, he will reach the 165 IP limit the first week of September (right around the time the Nationals may be pressing for a playoff spot, but, perhaps more importantly for you, the same time you may be pushing for a fantasy championship). While the Nationals claim no exceptions to this rule, I find it difficult to believe the Nats will shut-down a possible Cy-Young candidate in the middle of a pennant race. The safest bet is to try to sell at a decent value and get a more reliable option NOW for the home stretch.
2. RA Dickey (SP - Mets) - Dickey's name is never used when discussing the top-tier of fantasy pitchers, but he probably deserves the credit. Sure, it is easy to look at his last four starts of not allowing an earned run that has brought his ERA to 2.20 for the season, but it goes beyond that. Dickey is posting a K/I of exactly 1.0 (90 K's in 90 IP) and has only allowed 19 BB. He only has one non-QS this year to bring his QS% to 12-for-13 with a sub-1.00 WHIP. This dominance goes beyond just 2012, yet he was a waiver wire floater for many mixed leagues at the beginning of the year. Over the last two seasons from 2010 to 2011, Dickey posted a 3.08 ERA in 383 IP with a 1.21 WHIP and a QS% of 71% (41-for-58). The K's are way up this year which is the real surprise as he was averaged a K/9 under 6.0 during the past two years. Perhaps it is the psychology behind the knuckleball that keeps people away, but Dickey has been fun to watch and he shows no signs of slowing down. He'll be a 2-start pitcher next week against the Orioles and the Yankees.
3. Matt Cain (SP - Giants) - What can you say about Matt Cain? He made history last night hurling the 22nd perfect game in major league history and tied Sandy Koufax for the most K's in a perfect game with 14. The Fantistics crew has been on the Cain bandwagon for quite some time and 2012 is the year the hype is paying off. He is 10-for-13 in QS with only one of his starts yielding more than 4 ER (his first start of the season). Even more impressive is his solid K/I of 1.0 to go along with a 0.85 WHIP. He'll be in the running for the Cy-Young at the end of the year if the Giants don't revert back to prior-year habits of no run support.
4. Aramis Ramirez (3B - Brewers) - A-Ram had his 4th multi-hit game of the month and looks to be poised for a break-out 2nd half. His first half has definitely been slow with a .257/.335/.437 with an AB/HR of just 41.2 (off from his career-rate of 20.3), but he does tend to be a better 2nd half player. Looking at his career splits between halves, A-Ram has an OPS in the 1st half of .817 compared to a 2nd half OPS of .872. That includes a change in AB/HR of 22.9 versus 17.9. Now might be the best time to buy low if you're looking for a little pop out of the 3B spot.
5. Angel Pagan (OF - Giants) - A rare 0-for-4 from Pagan last night (just the 8th hitless game of the season for him) as his average drops to .315. He really has been great this year with a line of .315/.355/.462. Add a dozen SB to his line and Pagan has been a great late-round / FA pickup for this year. Even if the average normalizes closer to his career rate of .283, the SB should remain as he swiped 32 last year and 37 back in 2010.
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