First and foremost, Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's out there! Yeah, I know that it feels like just another day to us, but soak it in while you can. Take some time today or if you're like me and stuck working (you call this work?), set aside some time during the week to spend quality time with the kids. Go ahead and take them to a ballgame, or the race track or to a nearby field or park to play. It's OK to do something you want to do today but include them and let them see why you love going to these places so much and how much fun it can be. Time goes bye so fast and before you know it all you'll get for Father's Day is a phone call that you know they felt obligated to make.For this special Father's Day edition of The Hot 8, I have decided to include a BONUS player who should be able to make a quick impact for your fantasy team. But you'll have to read all the way to the bottom to find out who that bonus baby is...
RED HOT...RIGHT NOW
1) J.P. Howell (LHP - Closer) -- Rays -- Howell is slowly starting to distance himself from the other Rays relievers in the bid to earn manager Joe Madden's trust to finish games. Howell is 2-2 with a 1.93 ERA, three saves, 41 K's in 32.2 IP and a 1.10 WHIP. He had been used primarily as a lefty specialist the past two seasons but has seen plenty of time and actually has been more effective versus righties this season. As it stands now, Howell is the one who will get the most chances to saves games for the Rays going forward. His only real competition may wind up being career minor leaguer and strikeout ace Winston Abreu. Howell is a much safer closer choice than a Mike MacDougal or Kerry Wood and he has more upside than a Matt Lindstrom or Jason Frasor. So, take a moment...open a new window or tab and pick up Howell right now.
READY TO IGNITE
2) Neftali Feliz (RHP - Starter) -- Rangers -- I told you a couple of weeks ago that I will put Feliz in The Hot 8 every single week until either the Rangers call him up or his ownership gets above 5 percent in Yahoo and CBS leagues. Since neither has happened yet here is yet another cry for you to go out and get Feliz while you still can. Since last week Feliz has been roughed up twice in starts for AAA Oklahoma City and his numbers are now looking more pedestrian than when I began this campaign a few weeks ago. But that doesn't affect the most important reasons on why he will get the call to Arlington soon. First of all he has amazing stuff. As one trusted scout told me several weeks ago, "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." The second reason on why you should make the play for Feliz is that the Rangers, as always, need pitching. There is no way they can fight the temptation of what Feliz can bring to the table during a stretch run for the AL West division title or a World Series run. This will be the last week I push Feliz on you though. If you guys don't see the possibility of what Neftali Feliz can bring to the Rangers AND your fantasy team by now then I doubt you ever will. Enjoy second place!
3) Kyle Blanks (1B/OF) -- Padres -- As I prepared for the Thursday edition of Fantasy Baseball Tonight, I did some promotional emails and the such touting a couple of prospects I was going to go into detail with on a segment we call The Farm Report. One of those players was Kyle Blanks to which even my co-host responded with a resounding, "Who?" A day later Blanks was on a plane to San Diego to join the major league club. In my usual tour through minor league boxscores and video highlights this week I happened to notice that Blanks was all of a sudden playing left field. He is actually a pretty good defensive first baseman and a top prospect for the Padres so the move really stood out. I figured that they were getting ready to bring him up and let him play some OF and DH in the next few weeks to see what he could do and that is exactly what happened. Blanks is a huge beast with plus natural power in his right handed swing. He stands 6'6" tall and weighs a solid 285 lbs and can hit the ball a country mile. What makes him even more dangerous is that he has a great eye for the strike zone and is willing to take a walk or hit the ball up the middle or to the opposite field to get on base. I said on Thursday that he reminds me of a young Frank Thomas and the similarities are scary. Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Blanks are the future middle of the Padres order for sure and if Blanks can get off to a decent enough start these next few weeks he may never see minor league ball again.
4) Juan Rivera (Outfield) -- Angels -- I have been waiting and waiting for Rivera to cool off these past few weeks and it just hasn't happened yet. I have never been a big Rivera fan, going all the way back to the hype surrounding his clutch playoff hits for the Yankees back in 2002. Now seven years later he is for the first time resembling the player we were promised all those Octobers ago. He is currently hitting a nice .312/.353/.509 with 10 HR's and 36 RBI in 218 AB's this season. He has kept the Angels offense afloat for the past month while they have been struggling to find the right lineup mix and replacements for their struggling younger players. If the regular playing time holds up which at this point is a no brainer, he is likely to match or exceed his career high in HR's (23) and RBI (85) both set in 2006. You can never really count the Angels out so if they are to get back into the playoff race they will have to do so behind the big bats of Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera. Since he is still available in 65 percent of fantasy leagues right now, it is time we all stop ignoring and start fanning these flames.
5) Marcus Thames (Outfield) -- Tigers -- If you are looking for some power and so many of us are these days, then Marcus Thames is your guy. He is finally fully recovered from a severe rib cage strain suffered in spring training and has been tearing it up of late. In his last 10 games he is hitting .370 with 4 HR's 9 RBI and 5 runs scored while getting steady playing time with the benching of Magglio Ordonez. Thames is one of the best pure power hitters in the game but it consistently undervalued by fantasy players. Even in part time duty, he is sure to get close to 20 HR's and 50+ RBI with big upside if and when he sees full time action as he has the past couple weeks.
WHERE THERE'S SMOKE...
6) Kevin Frandsen (2B/SS) -- Giants -- Frandsen is about to be recalled from AAA Fresno and will right away become the starting 2B for the Giants. The demotion of Emmanuel Burriss cleared the way for Frandsen who is hitting a whopping .335/.383/.517 this season is AAA. While he doesn't possess the speed or pure athletic ability of Burriss, Frandsen will provide another steady bat in the Giants everyday lineup something that is desperately needed. Frandsen has always been a good contact hitter who puts the ball in play much of the time and has decent gap to gap power. With such few options available to us at middle infield positions I suggest grabbing Frandsen now before the vultures swoop down and pluck him from your grasp.
7) Drew Stubbs (Outfield) -- Reds -- This is one of the most exciting minor leaguers I have seen the past few seasons. Stubbs is an all out player who gives it everything he's got in every game and in every at-bat. For those who have not seen him play yet, you will enjoy the heck out of Drew Stubbs. He has the ability to be a superstar in this league. His best skill is his amazing speed. He has 100 stolen bases in just 3 1/2 minor league seasons. He also has made great strides in taking walks and hitting the ball on the ground in order to get himself on base. I believe in the big picture, Stubbs can hit close to 20 HR's a season as well as he has a big enough frame and is strong through the zone. Early in 2008, he made an adjustment in widening his stance which helped him make more solid contact but seems to have sacrificed a bit of power. Either way he is the Reds CF of the future without a doubt. The more Willy Tavaras struggles, the more likely the prospect unfriendly Dusty Baker will be to finally give Stubbs a chance. We could see him as early as July 1 or at late at Sept. 1 but when he finally makes it, he will bring a smile to any fantasy player that needs some speed.
8) Luis Valbuena (2B/SS) -- Indiana -- It could be just the wind at Wrigley Field but Valbuena put on a clinic this weekend and has been as hot as anybody this past week. He hit .421 this week with three HR's seven RBI and five runs scored. Valbuena was traded to the Indians in the offseason after playing so well in a stretch for Seattle last season that he pushed Jose Lopez over to first base. He is a stocky guy who will surprise people with his quick bat speed and ability to work the count and make contact. Has the power to hit over 12-16 HR's in a season of steady playing time. He's got average speed but is not much of a base stealer. It will be interesting to see what happens when Asdrubal Cabrera comes back in a week or so but in the short term give Valbuena a shot in your middle infield spot.
John Smoltz (RHP - Starter) -- Red Sox -- Everybody and their brother is recommending picking up Smoltz as he is ready to make his first start for the Red Sox this week. I am not very high on Smoltz, though pitching for the Red Sox alone makes him fantasy relevant. We are all speculating on what the Red Sox do with their seven starters going forward. That's right, I said said starters. Have you SEEN what Clay Bucholz is doing in Triple-A Pawtucket? Dice K is going to take a break for now which is actually good news for all Boston starters. A 6 man rotation would hurt each of their fantasy values as less starts mean less numbers. I think Smoltz will start out hot for the Sox. But this is not a situation I trust for the long term. Smoltz age, arm troubles and bullpen experience are all factors in him possibly not being a durable fantasy starter. Ideally, he is the perfect pitch and ditch candidate but with so many homer Red Sox fans out there that is a very unlikely scenario for most fantasy leagues.
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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