Last week, the Hot Eight told you to do out and grab Tommy Hanson, Gordon Beckham and Ben Zobrist right now. If you made those moves last Sunday then you are now a much better team than you were before reading this little article.
Free agents moves like these are absolutely vital to winning fantasy baseball and the right moves can always turn around a struggling team. This week we've got a (mostly) new batch of talent ready to make an impact on the fantasy world.
1) Gordon Beckham (3B/SS) -- White Sox -- Last week I mentioned how the White Sox had promoted Beckham to AAA Charlotte and have been playing him at 3B. Five days later he was summoned to Chicago where he will now serve as the starting 3B for the rest of the season.
Beckham is a very talented and very confident young man who has all the tools necessary to be a big time ballplayer. He is a Derek Jeter type talent who does whatever it takes to win.
For fantasy purposes, I believe he will hit for some power the rest of the season as he'll be fed a steady diet of major league fastballs which he can handle and is hitting in a great HR ballpark in U.S. Cellular Field.
I would not expect too many stolen bases, although Ozzie Guillen likes to be aggressive on the basepaths with anybody who has functional legs. A 10 HR and 10 stolen base total this season is very likely for Beckham.
The fact that he will be eligible at SS, 3B and possibly 2B makes him a very good pickup for the remainder of this season and especially good in A.L. only and keeper leagues.
2) Carlos Gonzalez (Outfield) -- Rockies -- As I have mentioned numerous times in this column and on Fantasy Baseball Tonight, the Rockies are getting ready to unload both Brad Hawpe and Ryan Spilborghs in the coming weeks.
Gonzalez was called up last week after tearing apart the Pacific Coast League to the tune of a .339 average, 10 HR's and 59 RBI.
It appears that he'll also be given a starting role right off the bat which is a very smart move for the future of the franchise. Seth Smith. Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez are the future outfield in Colorado and the more playing time they get this year the better players they'll be next year and beyond.
All three of these guys are very talented and in my opinion will all be fantasy worthy in the second half of this season. Gonzalez will reach double digits in HR's and stolen bases this year and should be a big run producer for the Rockies once Hawpe and Spilborghs are gone.
Don't wait around for him though because if you do somebody in your league is bound to swoop in and get themselves a very good player for nothing.
3) J.A. Happ (LHP - Starter) -- Phillies -- James Anthony Happ is having himself a fine season so far. He is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. Then how come he is owned in just 30 percent of fantasy leagues according to Yahoo and CBS Sports? With the struggles and injuries to the Phillies starters this year, Happ's status in the rotation is assured.
Happ uses his fastball to get ahead of hitters early in the count and once ahead has been going to his much improved changeup to get hitters out. His minor league strikeout totals will not hold up but he's still able to punch guys out with good command and a three-way slider that can act as a cutter at times to back-door right handed hitters.
He will need to continue pitching down in order to keep the ball in the park however, something that has plagued him in the past. The wins and good strikeout numbers will be there at seasons end but there will be an adjustment in both ERA and WHIP coming up soon. Still, Happ makes for a very good third or fourth starter on your fantasy team.
4) Andrew McCutchen (Outfield) -- Pirates -- Don't get me wrong here. I like McCutchen's ability and believe he'll be a solid major league outfielder for the Pirates hence why I am recommending him to you this week. But I have heard and read far too many "experts" saying that he will hit for a high average and have above average power numbers. This just isn't true.
McCutchen, as any scout will tell you has issues with his swing which has delayed his progress over the years. He has been able to make up for holes in his swing by "cheating" on hitters counts in the minors and with pure raw talent. I don't expect him to ever hit over .290 in the big leagues and doubt that he'll go for much better than .260 most years.
His true value is in stolen bases, where I expect we'll see him reach 15-20 this season and 30+ in a full season. He's made strides in working counts and getting on base too which will help. McCutchen will hit the occasional HR too and thus is a pretty solid asset to any fantasy outfield.
5) Neftali Feliz (RHP - Starter) -- Rangers -- I would be shocked if Feliz didn't get a callup in by the end of July. With top prospects like Matt Wieters, David Price, Tommy Hanson and Gordon Beckham already getting called up, those of you who were holding onto these players the past couple months have a roster spot available.
I suspect Feliz to be this years young stud pitcher who comes in and leads his team down the stretch.
We've seen this in recent years with Bobby Jenks, Adam Wainwright, Clay Buchholz, Ubaldo Jimenez and David Price. Feliz has an electric fastball. He can rush it up to 100 MPH with an easy motion that appears to have little impact on either his shoulder or elbow.
His fastball is best when coming from a three-quarters arm angle where it reaches 96 MPH with sharp inward bite to right handers. Then he'll hit you with a sharp tight spinning curveball that has great break down.
His changeup is major league ready also registering at anywhere from 83-87 MPH with fade making it devastating when looking fastball. Feliz is the best pitching prospect the Rangers have had maybe ever. The team is doing quite well and should be positioning itself for a AL West Division title.
To achieve this, they will have to trade for another starter or bullpen help and bring this exciting youngster up. Feliz could be the difference this year for the Rangers and will be a fixture there going forward.
6) Ian Stewart (3B/2B/OF) -- Rockies -- This is the year Stewart finally breaks out and proves his major league worth. It's been a long road for the once prized prospect, but he has been a man without a position for the past few years.
Garrett Atkins has been a roadblock in Stewart's was for the past several seasons forcing the youngster to cut his teeth at 2B and in the outfield. But Atkins is facing a possible demotion soon because of a dramatic fall that has his name now linked with other "suspicious" names of sluggers who skills seem to have diminished overnight.
Either way, Stewart is part of a strong core of position players the Rockies have and as they trade off players this summer it will open up opportunities for guys like Stewart to finally blossom. I expect 20+ HR's this season and a bunch of runs batted in too.
This is a guy who will be a valuable commodity down the stretch this season. His versatility makes him all that more useful and thus he should be added to your roster immediately.
7) Chris Tillman (RHP - Starter) -- Orioles -- When the Orioles are raising the World Series trophy in a couple of years, they had better make sure to give a great big thank you to the Seattle Mariners for assisting them back into elite company in the American League.
Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio and Tony Butler all came to Baltimore for Erik Bedard and all will most likely be on the next Oriole team that qualifies for the post season. Tillman is a very polished, professional pitcher. He is a tall guy, standing 6'5" and throws on a nice downward plane.
None of his pitches are necessarily dominant, but he uses his fastball, curve and change quite well and can command all of them down in the zone. Tillman pitches to contact and will give up plenty of hits to be sure. But he'll also last longer in games that way and bring his WHIP and ERA down as a result.
Though he won't be dominant, he will be a steady major league pitcher and could be a nice pitch and ditch option when he is called up in a few weeks.
8) David Murphy (Outfield) -- Rangers -- I just like this guy, OK? I drafted him in both of my leagues and have also dropped him in both of my leagues. But now Josh Hamilton is out for an extended amount of time and an outfield position is available. Andruw Jones cannot be trusted despite having a fine year as the fourth outfielder for the Rangers.
Murphy has good power and can be a big time run producer in a lineup that is a talented as the Rangers is. It is my belief that Murphy will have himself a nice little fun in Hamilton's absence. He hit 15 HR's and drove in 74 last season in just 415 AB's.
A run like that can get any fantasy team through the dog days of summer or at least provide you with an temporary outfielder in place of the suspended Manny Ramirez, the injured Carlos Quentin or the struggling Milton Bradley.
That is the Hot 8 for this week. What do you guys think? Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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