By: Jack Moore
Each week we’ll be providing you with insight into the best (and worst) baseball players to play in your fantasy baseball league.
As I turn in this week’s column, I own a three strikeout lead on my opponent in my one head-to-head league, and he still has Jonny Venters in the Sunday Night game. If I don’t turn in a column next week, it’s because the suspense has killed me.
1. Norichika Aoki, OF, MIL: Aoki has moved into an everyday role in right field for Milwaukee, forcing their hand with his performance so far this season. Another 2-for-4 day Sunday raises his average to .313 with decent doubles power and a healthy 8.4% walk rate. He has 11 runs in 95 plate appearances and that rate should skyrocket with regular plate appearances in front of Ryan Braun. He won’t provide much in RBI or HR, and he only has one stolen base, but it can be extremely hard to find high-average guys at this point in the season and Aoki could be one.
2. Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, SEA: With Brandon League out as closer in Seattle, the Mariners are going to a committee. Expect Wilhelmsen to come out on top. The 28-year-old righty has 30 strikeouts in just 24.1 innings and is the best righty in the Mariners’ pen at this time. Don’t be fooled by his 4.44 ERA – a 3.24 FIP suggests that number will come down, and with a hot start he could entrench himself as Seattle’s closer.
3. Colby Rasmus, OF, TOR: Rasmus scorched the ball this week, going 10-for-28 (.357) with two homers, two steals and five RBI. The main scourge behind his .227/.298/.411 line remains a .260 BABIP. Owners who pick him up now likely won’t have to deal with that and can reap the benefits of hitter-friendly Rogers Centre as he heats up. He could be a sneakily cheap source of both power and steals.
4. Adam Wainwright, SP, STL: Wainwright followed up a shutout gem earlier in the week with a six inning, one run start Sunday against the Phillies, giving him just one run allowed in his last 15 innings. It’s time to buy on Wainwright. He’s seen his velocity tick up, particularly on his cutter, and that could indicate he’s returning to the form which had him competing for Cy Youngs in the latter part of the last decade.
5. Matt Moore, SP, TB: Moore’s 7 IP, 10 K, 2 ER start against the White Sox on Memorial Day was overshadowed by Chris Sale’s gem (and understandably so). But let’s not lose sight of the future ace — he now has four straight starts with at least six strikeouts and has allowed no more than three earned runs in each. He has a 30:10 K:BB ratio in those four starts (covering 22 innings) and looks like he might be turning a corner. Don’t get left behind.
1. Derek Lowe, SP, CLE: Lowe was beat up in two starts this week, allowing 10 runs on 16 hits in 8.1 innings. Lowe struck out just five batters and has a swinging strike rate of just 4.6% on his career. What we saw last week is just what happens when a pitcher gives up as much contact as Lowe does – he allowed 16 hits, including a homer, and even his pristine control (just one walk) doesn’t always help with major league hitters in the batter’s box.
2. Michael Young, INF, TEX: Young has struggled mightily to open 2012, and another down week (.222/.236/.278 in 55 PA) has his overall line down to .282/.305/.379. His power is almost completely gone; he has just a .097 ISO, and at 36 there doesn’t seem to be much reason to believe it will come back. Young always seems to have fans somewhere, so a reasonable return could probably be had here, too.
3. Derek Jeter, SS, NYY: The Jeter cool-down has begun. The Captain is hitting just .250 in his last two weeks (12 games, 54 PA) despite a BABIP of .297 in that span. He’s certainly not worth giving up on – he’s probably a .280-.290 hitter with a very good run total at the end of the season – but if you can capitalize on his .338/.380/.465 start, do so and do so quickly.
4. Matt Capps, RP, MIN: Capps finally blew his first save of the season Sunday, giving up a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera to lose the game for the Twins. The problem with Capps is that he just doesn’t miss bats any more – he has just a 4.5 K/9 and in many ways is the relief pitcher version of Lowe. He’s had exceptional control thus far, walking just one batter all year, but if he does lose track of the strike zone, it could fall apart very quickly in Minnesota for Capps.
5. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF, NYM: Nieuwenhuis was a darling early in the season as he put up a .325 average in April. May has not been so kind. The 25-year-old has just a .261 average in May, and he may not even sustain that going forward. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout Sunday, his 53rd of the year in just 47 games. It’s almost impossible to maintain any sort of a reasonable batting average with a 30% strikeout rate or higher, and Nieuwenheis is now at 30.5% on the year. Expect him to be closer to .250 than his current .288 for the rest of the season.
Jack Moore is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Mathematics and Economics. His work can also be found at FanGraphs.com, DisciplesOfUecker.com, RotoWire.com, AdvancedNFLStats.com and ESPN. Follow him on twitter at @jh_moore.