It’s all about PITCHING this week. After six weeks of regular season baseball, it is time to start reading into some of the trends and stats that we are seeing develop.
There are some real good starting pitchers who are being used for nothing more than pitch and ditch purposes, and it is time for wise fantasy baseball owners to pick these guys up and keep them while ditching other starters who just aren’t getting it done this season.
Therefore, this edition of The Hot 8 is heavy on starters with a sprinkling of closers and middle infield help as well. I've even thrown in an extra name this week, so we could actually call this The Hot 9, or at least The Hot 8.5.
1) Mat Latos – RHP – Padres
The Latos situation is an interesting one. Here is a kid with outstanding stuff, the kind of stuff Cy Young Award winners possess. He has a sharp downward plane fastball that runs 95 MPH on a regular basis. His slider is already one of the better ones in the game with tight two-plane movement down and away to right-handed hitters.
His command gets poor at times, however, and he will go through phases where he cannot find the strike zone. His stuff has such good break that it's hard for him to command all his pitches each time out, and thus when hitters are patient against him, the walks will rack up.
He also is a fiery kid with a big chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t take to coaching well and has been known to ignore the catcher's signs at times and throw what he wants to throw and when. This attitude will come off as passionate and aggressive when the team is winning and times are good. But when the team is losing or he is struggling, it can become a distraction. Think Carlos Zambrano without the violence.
So, with the Padres winning right now it is no coincidence that Latos is getting better and better with every start. He is playing with great confidence right now and is making his run. Inevitably, the league will catch up to both him and probably the Padres, and thus it will be necessary to watch his demeanor during the poor stretches.
For now, he is a must add starter with great strikeout and win potential. The upside of Latos is well worth the risk involved with his attitude issues, especially right now while all is well in San Diego.
2) Derek Holland – LHP – Rangers
Holland has the look of a young pitcher who has figured out the art of getting hitters out. While he isn’t trying to strike out everybody, he is allowing his natural stuff to do the work for him. Holland was called up after absolutely dominating in AAA with a 0.93 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in six starts.
The key for Holland this season has been his slider, which he has developed into a perfect bridge between his high 90s fastball and extreme fade changeup. He’s also attacking hitters early in the count and finding that they are not able to square him up very often.
With the Rangers leading the AL West, I am certain that Holland will stick around for as long as he’s rolling along, and he can be a big find at this point in the fantasy season. Don’t let him slip through your mitts, people.
3) Mike Aviles – SS/2B – Royals
Sure, the focus of this week's Hot 8 is pitching, but I would not be doing my job if I didn’t mention Aviles and his resurgence this season. He is one of the few Royals who are hitting right now and thus has become a fixture in the starting lineup.
Aviles, you will remember, had a dynamic rookie season where he hit .325 with 10 HRs and 51 RBI. When healthy he is a productive hitter, as seen by his .378 current batting average. Aviles is a good middle infield addition right now, especially for teams dealing with injuries or slumping players like Jose Reyes, Alexei Ramirez, or Marco Scutaro.
4) Jose Contreras – RHP – Phillies
It was a long debate over whether or not to include Contreras in the Long-Term Investments area, as he is even more likely now to hold onto the closer job in Philadelphia. Brad Lidge is just not healthy, and Ryan Madson won’t be back for a long time, leaving Contreras to compile saves for the Phillies.
Contreras is a big game pitcher who is more than capable of nailing down one-inning saves over and over again.
This is the last time I am going to warn you guys. You want Jose Contreras on your team right now even if your closer situation is adequate enough. Making yourself dominating in one category is never a bad idea, and it will also free you up to make deals for areas you do need more desperately.
What you don’t want is for one of the teams in your league who are weak at saves, WHIP, and ERA to pluck Contreras and solve a need, making them a whole lot better free of charge.
5) Mike Leake – RHP – Reds
Leake has been nothing short of amazing since becoming just the 21st player ever to bypass the minor leagues after being drafted the year before. He is 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in six starts compiling 46.2 innings. He is a huge part of the Reds' surge of late and a must have ingredient if they are to sustain this success throughout the season.
As with any young pitcher, there will be adjustments that need to be made, but he has already passed the most difficult test of all, and that is adjusting to pitching in the major leagues. The rest should be a piece of cake.
6) A – Jason Vargas – LHP – Mariners
Vargas was at one point a highly thought of prospect with the Florida Marlins. Since an impressive rookie season in south Florida, he has bounced around until finally finding a home, it seems, in Seattle. Vargas is 3-2 with a 2.93 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 33 K’s in 46 innings.
At this point Vargas has established himself as a starting pitcher, something neither the Marlins, Mets, or Mariners thought he was. With a big ballpark as his home field and the best defense in the major leagues behind him, there is good reason to believe in Vargas as a longer term solution to your starting pitching woes.
6) B – Doug Fister – RHP – Mariners
Like Jason Vargas, nobody expected Fister to have any real fantasy value coming into the season. Furthermore, he is available in over 80 percent of fantasy leagues still because nobody believes that it will last.
No matter how skeptical you are of either Vargas or Fister, the fact is both guys are getting it done each and every time out, and your fantasy team would be far better off with them than waiting for Bud Norris, Rich Harden, or Kevin Slowey to turn it around.
7) Chris Volstad – RHP – Marlins
This is going to be a good week for Volstad, as he draws the last-place Diamondbacks and the anemic White Sox as his two starts for Week Seven. Both of these matchups are very winnable, and he should be able to put up low ERA and WHIP totals while collecting plenty of strikeouts.
Volstad has been on the come lately and after this week will likely double or triple his ownership in fantasy leagues. It’s time to get on board early and enjoy the ride this week and possibly have yourself a guy you can keep for the longer term or pawn off in a deal for a bigger need.
8) Manny Corpas – RHP – Rockies
It is embarrassing to have Corpas on this list; however, it would be ignorant to ignore him in your waiver searches this week. Franklin Morales is out with left shoulder trouble, and Huston Street just suffered a setback in his elbow recovery while pitching in AA. Corpas will have the job at least for another week or two and could easily collect decent save totals during this stretch.
Also, keep an eye on Esmil Rogers here in Colorado. If Corpas falters early on here, Rogers could be the guy the Rockies go to next, and he has the stuff of a quality closer.
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