Happy Flag Day everybody! It is at this point every season where I feel the need to remind fantasy players to be hoisting up the red, white, and blue flag and not just the all white one.
It is only June 14, and there is plenty of baseball left to be played. Nobody is out of it quite yet no matter how far back you reside in the standings. Just look at the Colorado Rockies, winners of 10 straight games. Anything is possible still providing you are committed to making the necessary moves to get your team back on track.
Those moves begin right here, my friends, every week on The Hot 8.
This week I will be providing a plethora of right-handed arms to get you through the dog days of summer and the dreaded tired arm syndrome. But don't worry, those of you in need of a bat...I've got a power hitting middle infielder and a sweet swinging lefty poised to join the middle of a lineup in the very near future.
1) Sean Rodriguez (Second Base)—Angels
In the May 24 edition of The Hot 8, I ranked Rodriguez as a must watch player who had cut down dramatically on his strikeouts after a disappointing stint with the Angels last season. If you had taken my advice then, right now you'd be sitting with the most coveted waiver pickup since Tommy Hanson.
In the slim chance he is available, make the move right now! A middle infielder who can hit for power and has a bit of speed is a rare find in today's market and an absolute must for anyone even if you already own Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler.
Keep Rodriguez away from the competition or at least make them pay a nice price for his potential.
2) Ryan Madson (RHP, closer)—Phillies
I realize that I am not starting out this weeks Hot 8 with any real surprises. But passing over a guy like Madson can be a critical mistake down the road.
Madson is pitching lights out this season and has taken over the closer duties after Brad Lidge's "injury" to his knee. The fact is that Madson could remain the Phillies closer even after Lidge comes back, especially if he continues this torrid pace. He is registering a K/9 ratio of 10.1 going into this week and has two wins and four saves to go along with a 0.98 WHIP.
The Phillies will have plenty of save opportunities going forward and in shouldn't be long until Madson is considered among the top 10 fantasy closers in baseball this season.
3) Neftali Feliz (RHP, starter)—Rangers
I have decided to keep pounding Feliz's name into your heads until he finally gets the callup sometime in July. I have no doubts that the Rangers will go to him for their stretch run and I envision him being the young catalyst for their eventual World Series run.
Plenty of wins, strikeouts and hype will be accompanying Feliz in the weeks and months ahead. Come October it will seem funny how in June many of us didn't even know who he was or what he could do.
Here is a brief scouting report I posted last week about Neftali Feliz: "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."
His time is coming soon my friends.
4) John Bowker (OF/1B)—Giants
Bowker should be getting a call to the majors in the very near future. He is hitting .338/.451/.547 for Triple-A Fresno right now with eight HRs and 40 RBI. He has been red hot, too, making him all that more likely to join the Giants soon.
With the up and down seasons of Randy Winn and Nate Schierholz, Bowker could see a lot of playing time once he does get to San Francisco and also will likely hit in the middle of the Giants order. This sweet swinging lefty is known for spraying line drives to all parts of the ballpark and also for having a great eye and a patient approach.
He did OK last year in the big leagues, hitting 10 HRs in 3326 ABs. Don't be fooled however by his 10 stolen bases for Fresno so far this year, he has little speed or stolen base upside to speak of.
5) Luke Hochevar (RHP, starter)—Royals
It would absolutely stun me if Hochevar was to be sent down again this season. His time as a big league pitcher has come and the Royals must start to actually let him develop in the major leagues the way Zach Grienke was allowed to do the past few seasons.
Hochevar's three-hit complete game, in which he threw just 80 pitches, was a masterpiece and a sign of what could be if he is given the chance. I believe in his ability to get hitters out either by strikeout or by pitching to contact as he did against the Reds last week.
His two seam fastball has natural sink and can induce groundball after groundball out and his curve has a nice late break that can have hitters waving at it all game long, if on.
There will be some ups and downs, but Hochevar is here to stay and should be considered a solid pitch and ditch guy right now and a hold for those with an eye toward the future.
6) Barbaro Canizares (first base)—Braves
This is more of a short term play, but one that is worth noting for sure. Canizares will have a big couple of weeks while on the big league club.
There are many reason why I know this, the most important of which is because of how teams pitch to former Cuban League players. They will either try to bust him in with fastballs, trying to knock the bat out of his hand, or they will feed him a steady diet of off-speed rollers in the dirt trying to get him to fish.
Canizares will turn on an inside fastball at nearly any speed and deposit it into the left field seats or off the wall. He also has good pitch recognition and a patient approach that many Cubans do not share. He'll get on base at a good clip and probably hit a HR or two while filling in for Casey Kotchman.
Who knows, he may even stick around awhile if Bobby Cox likes what he sees out of him.
7) Homer Bailey (RHP, starter)—Reds
I can almost hear the collective groan pour out amongst my readers: "Oh, no...not Bailey!!"
Well my friends he is on a tear down in Triple-A, having gone 6-3 with a 2.16 ERA in 66.2 IP recording 59 Ks and a 1.22 WHIP over his last 10 starts. His past four starts have been fantastic, lasting at least seven innings in each and striking out a minimum or six.
There is a good chance that Bailey gets traded as Reds management just doesn't have the patience for him. But I have heard that a mechanical error in Bailey's delivery while pitching out of the stretch was causing his fastball to straighten out and also control problems.
Louisville pitching coach Ted Power has worked on this with Bailey all spring long and it appears to be corrected and the results are impossible to ignore. Whatever team ends up getting Bailey will be getting a big time talent who may be finally on his way.
8) Vin Mazzaro (RHP, starter)—Athletics
Mazzaro's early success is no fluke. He is the type of pitcher that projects to have long term success in the league not because of his arsenal of plus pitches, but what he does with the few that he has got.
Mazzaro shows a low 90s fastball that he can run in to right handers, sink to induce ground balls or cut it in to left handers. This ability alone with his fastball keeps hitters off balance and guessing on location even after they recognize the fastball is coming. He has been able to command the fastball well over the past two seasons of minor league ball and is now doing it in the show.
Mazzaro also throws a hard mid-90s sinker that is just like his fastball but with much greater drop late in the zone. While he does not have a real off-speed pitch, he does change speed well with his fastball and hard slider that keeps the hitters timing off just enough.
Most of his strikeouts will come due to good command of the strikezone and not over powering stuff. Mazzaro is a solid starter that will not hurt you in ERA or WHIP the way that so many other young pitchers can and will making him quite valuable fantasy player.
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