Fantasy Baseball: Roaming the Outfield for a Second-Half Catch

Collin HagerSenior Writer IJuly 22, 2009

BOSTON - JULY 05:  Franklin Gutierrez #21 of the Seattle Mariners scores a run in the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox on July 5, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The last two weeks have shown owners that what happens in April does not necessarily dictate what is going to happen in July. Players will get off to hot or cold starts and then suddenly turn on a dime to produce effectively.

The changes are not always easy to anticipate. Sure, some statistics lead owners to anticipate a turn for the better or worse, but often times a player’s tendencies are unexplainable.

One that has gone for the better is Ryan Ludwick, as he has been swinging a hot bat for the last two weeks. He struggled early on, and the indications from reports are that his balance has been off at the plate.

The correction has largely been made by the St. Louis outfielder. The window to buy low on him is closing, if not already closed. Ludwick has hit four home runs over the last 15 days while driving in 17 and hitting .439.

Shin-Soo Choo was drafted based on a short stint seen at the end of last season. He has fallen flat in the last two weeks, having gone seven for his last 38. Choo swings a nice bat, but the Cleveland lineup is not exactly setting the world on fire.

Grady Sizemore has struggled, Travis Hafner has been inconsistent, and Mark DeRosa is no longer around to provide help for Cleveland's ballclub.

Choo is still a decent fourth option in most leagues, but owners that can upgrade the position should not be afraid of doing so. Given that Cleveland is listening to offers for nearly everyone, a further depleted lineup is going to hurt Choo’s chances to produce.

This is not to say to go out and actively drop Choo, but owners need to be open to change.

The more owners see Jason Bay at the plate, the more concern has to emerge.

Bay has not swung a particularly good bat since April. The power numbers are still there, but he cannot hit anything but fastballs right now.

If you have seen Bay at the plate, you will notice that pitchers have been keeping the ball down and away on him of late. He has not been patient and has jumped at some poor pitches. Because he is struggling with the off-speed pitches, his ability to turn on fastballs has been somewhat impacted.

Bay is more likely to turn it around than most hitters because of the lineup he is in, but this is not the same player many drafted in early rounds. Look for him to increase his average closer to .275, but he is obviously not a .300 hitter.

The loss of Jay Bruce for the next few weeks is going to cause some lineup changes as well. He will be out six to eight weeks, basically putting a return towards the end of August, at best.

The question owners have to answer will be if Bruce can still compete at a high level and help them moving into the playoffs. In leagues with a DL spot, keep him on your roster just to have the option available.

In leagues that do not have this feature, the recommendation should be to cut ties and be able to pick up some statistics. Bruce cannot help if he is not playing, and that is going to be the case going forward.

Plenty of options are available to help stem the tide. Many of these are going to help in average much more than Bruce was while not sacrificing power.

Pittsburgh has found another diamond in the rough, but he may prove to be just coal in the long term. Garrett Jones had a 10-game hitting streak entering Sunday, hitting everything thrown his way.

During that streak, he has six home runs and has hit .325 since the start of the month. The issue for Jones is that he is being pushed by players sitting in AAA for the Pirates.

Lastings Milledge is struggling defensively but has hit the ball well for the Indianapolis Indians. Milledge is largely buying time before he is recalled to play left field for Pittsburgh.

Jones is likely to be the recipient of a demotion when the time comes. Still, for the time being, ride him while he is hot.

Jones could provide some short-term relief for owners that need a power boost. To add to his cause, he has stolen three bases in his limited at-bats.

While not necessarily pegged as a legitimate option heading into the season, Franklin Gutierrez has emerged of late to bring some complete offense to the Mariners and fantasy owners alike.

Gutierrez has had his ownership jump seven points in the last two weeks but is still available in 75 percent of all leagues. He has largely been playing every day in Seattle. His numbers over the last two weeks have produced four home runs, 11 RBI, and a .348 average.

With Magglio Ordonez repeatedly in the doghouse of manager Jim Leyland in Detroit, Marcus Thames has taken over. Thames missed the early part of the season with a rib injury but should be remembered for hitting 25 home runs in just 103 games last season. In 2007, he hit 18 home runs in 84 games, and he had 26 in 110 games in 2006.

This year, in 135 at-bats through Sunday, Thames was hitting a home run every 13.5 at-bats. It is a pace not likely to keep up at this level, but it's certainly one that could find him with another 20-25 home run season and a .265 average with moderate playing time.

Thames should most closely replicate the numbers that would have been seen by Jay Bruce owners.

It is always nice to close up with some speed options. Nyjer Morgan is taking over center field duties pretty quickly down in Washington. Morgan has picked up seven steals in the last two weeks and is still only 50 percent owned.

Not only is the outfielder stealing bases, but he has also hit .385 in that time. With Michael Bourn hitting .244 over the same period, Morgan is a much better long-term option for owners that are looking to improve in steals.

Collin Hager writes The Elmhurst Pub fantasy blog. You can get your questions answered by sending an email to He's also on Twitter @TheRoundtable.