Believe it or not folks, this is a critical time of year.
Right now is when the free agent and trade moves you make can define your season. We have all sat around and watched the first month of the baseball season.
In most cases, teams have given their players time to work out of early season slumps. This has worked out well for players such as Justin Upton and Chris Davis. For others such as Derek Lee and Matt Holliday, we are still waiting for the turn-around.
We are also approaching the eighth week mark that allows teams another "control" year for top prospect, such as Matt Wieters and Tommy Hanson.
This week's edition of The Hot Eight features some big upside starting pitchers that you absolutely must pay attention to right now. Opportunities to pickup bona fide starting pitchers like this do not happen often during the course of the season.
1) Matt LaPorta (Outfield) - Indians
On the April 21st edition of Fantasy Baseball Tonight (FBT), I mentioned that LaPorta was on one of his tears at AAA Columbus and that it wouldn't be long before he got the call to Cleveland.
Since that performance and his appearance in last week's Hot Eight, LaPorta has become the hottest free agent acquisition since Emilio Bonifacio. If you would have taken my advice soon after the show, you would now be sitting on a big-time power hitter and excellent trade bait.
If you waited, chances are you have missed out on LaPorta and someone in your league is ready to make you pay for this mistake. It pays to listen to FBT and read The Hot Eight EVERY WEEK people. If there is any chance LaPorta is on the free agent market, then pick him up now. He is crushing the ball right now and has the chance to put up some fine power numbers with the Indians.
2) Luke Hochevar (RHP - Starter) - Royals
Hochevar is now 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 21 K in 32 Innings. He is ready for the big leagues without a doubt.
With Sidney Ponson getting beaten up in each and every start, and the Royals contending so far, this seems like a no-brainer move for Kansas City. I expect Hochevar to be called up by this time next week. He has been working on a cut fastball this year in order to get left handed batters out.
If you look at the splits from his 2008 season in KC, you will see that Hochevar was very good against righties but struggled against lefties. If he can work his cutter and changeup better to lefties, then I see Hoecevar being the perfect complement to Gil Meche and Zach Grienke in the Royals' rotation.
I strongly suggest plucking him off of the free agent pile right now.
3) Alberto Callaspo (2B/SS) - Royals
Second week in a row for Callaspo in The Hot 8 mostly because he is still available in nearly 80% of fantasy leagues right now! That is just ridiculous considering all of the trash owners are handing onto like Chris Getz and Emmanuel Burriss. Callaspo has a very real chance top be this years Mike Aviles. I am telling you guys right now, this guy is going to hit like this all season long. He has always been a good batting average guy and will continue to produce runs for the Royals for the long haul. Understand these words: Callaspo is a starting MI for a championship fantasy baseball team this season.
4) Scott Richmond (RHP - Starter) - Blue Jays
I love this guy's story. He didn't play baseball until college and was a solid shortstop tuned relief pitcher. He didn't even get a shot as a starter until his last of three seasons playing in Edmonton of the Northern Independent League. Toronto signed him after a try out and sent him to AA New Hampshire.
He has made the most of his opportunity this year, going 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 20 K in 23 innings. Richmond is not a flame-thrower or a guy with tremendous stuff. He is a pitcher. He locates his fastball well and has a nice mix of a hard sinker and power slider that breaks in to left handers. He is an intelligent guy also who knows what he wants to do with each and every hitter. He is going to stick in the Blue Jays rotation and I wouldn't doubt if he is their No. 2 starter behind Halladay when all is said and done this year.
5) Huston Street (RHP - Reliever) - Rockies
Street is back as the Rockies' closer after Manny Corpas once again blew his opportunity and Street has since found his changeup again. He looks more determined of late and is once again dominating right handed hitters the way he did when he was on in Oakland.
There are a bunch of closer happenings around the league right now with many jobs at stake. I like the look of Huston Street right now and believe of all the guys currently in the mix for saves, he has the best upside. However, I strongly recommend reading Todd Farino's Closer Report for the daily low-down on all closer happenings.
6) Ken Takahashi (LHP - Starter) - Mets
It is very likely that by the time you're are reading this, Takahashi has already replaced Oliver Perez in the Mets' starting rotation. Takahashi had been working in long relief in AAA so far this year but the 40-year-old Japanese import was doing so mainly to be stretched out for an eventual starting role.
Jerry Manuel has mentioned Takahashi as a possible option if the Mets needed rotation help, which at this point they desperately do. He currently has a 0.77 ERA with 9 K in 12 innings.
I wouldn't expect much from Takahashi as far as strikeouts, but I do feel that he would be a nice, stable addition for the Mets right now; something they can really use behind Johan Santana. Takahashi could have a good ERA and some wins pitching in the Mets' new pitcher-friendly ballpark.
7) Lou Montanez (Outfield) - Orioles
Whatever happened to Luis Montanez, the high school SS who was drafted third overall by the Chicago Cubs in 2000? Well, he became Lou Montanez, a career Minor League outfielder who all of a sudden has found plus power and plate discipline.
Montanez had an outstanding run in 2008 that finished with him hitting .295 with 3 HRs in 112 ABs for the Orioles last September.
He is a fairly lousy outfielder, but word out of Baltimore is that Montanez will be replacing the struggling Felix Pie as the Orioles starting left fielder. Personally, I believe that both Pie and Montanez are keeping the seat warm for Nolan Reimold, the eventual starting LF in Baltimore. But, if Montanez can replicate his '08 success, he will make some fantasy owner pretty darn happy over the next few months.
8) Melky Cabrera (Outfield) - Yankees
I am putting Cabrera in The Hot Eight this week to make a point.
It seems that nobody has really picked up on the fact that Cabrera has replaced Brett Gardner as the starting CF for the Yankees and done a pretty good job in doing so.
Cabrera is hitting .321 with a .397 OBP and 4 HRs while serving as the fourth outfielder for the Yankees. But as the pinstripes search for a spark until A-Rod comes back, it is without question that Cabrera is now the starter and actually worth taking a shot on at this point.
There is no doubt he is motivated and as long as he's getting on base, the numbers will be solid.
That is The Hot Eight for this week. What do you guys think? Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org