The Hot Eight: Week Nine

Todd Farino@truegurufarinoCorrespondent IMay 31, 2009

KISSIMMEE, FL - MARCH 3:  Pitcher Tommy Hanson #73 of the Atlanta Braves throws during an exhibition game against Panama at Champion Stadium March 3, 2009 in Kissimmee, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Another week and another batch of Hot 8 players are making a splash. Last week's list featured David Price, who picked up his first win in dominating fashion on Saturday. Ross Detwiler, who won his first two starts after being called to the big leagues and Jake Fox who finally got the call up from Iowa and has gone 3-4 all as a pinch hitter. Not to mention Sean Rodriguez who is about to be called up by the Angels any day now...dammit! I am not supposed to let that one slip, my bad!

This weeks Hot Eight features a couple of players who's tickets are also about to be punched and a few players you may have given up on prematurely.

1) Tommy Hanson (RHP - Starter) -- Braves -- With Tom Glavine coming back very soon and a rotation that is performing quite well it looks like Hanson may have to wait awhile longer before joining the Braves.

No way, Jose! Hanson is making it impossible for the major league team to ignore him as his numbers are nothing less than staggering. Hanson is 3-3 with a 1.48 ERA. He has 82 K's in just 60 2/3 innings pitched with a ridiculous 0.86 WHIP. He loses another year of arbitration if not called up by the beginning of this week which suits the Braves just fine. But knowing there is no possible way to squeeze another year out of him there is no doubt in my mind that Hanson is pitching in Atlanta in the next two weeks. Time to make a play for him right now my friends before this ship sails in one of your opponents wind.

2) Gordan Beckham (SS/3B) -- White Sox -- Earlier in the year I made a vow because I am a White Sox fan to ignore the "Beckham-Mania" that has swept through my fair city this spring. As a baseball writer, it is crucial to judge "your team" as evenly and as fairly as you do the rest of the league. I take pride in doing that. But, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't alert you all to a couple very interesting facts.

The Chicago White Sox promoted Beckham to AAA Charlotte this past week. Big deal you say? Well it is considering the Whitesox AA Birmingham club is the apple of their organizational eye. This is where they have stored their entire future collection of talent. Birmingham is blasting their way through the Southern League and have hopes of capturing the title this year. Interesting then that the best player from that team would be promoted at this juncture of the season without a near suitable backup for him in place. Furthermore, Beckham is playing 3B for the Charlotte Knights and not his customary SS.

In the past month, the White Sox have moved Beckham to both 2B and 3B to get him more familiar with those positions. This leaves no doubt in my mind that he is now being groomed to take over Josh Fields 3B job or possibly Chris Getz 2B gig in the very near future. As much as I don't buy into the hype of Beckham, the kid can do it all on the diamond and if promoted to Chicago is an absolute must grab middle infielder.

3) Ben Zobrist (2B/SS/OF) -- Rays -- By now I hope that if you are in need of a middle infielder, you have made the move to pickup Zobrist. With Akinori Iwamura out for the season the 2B job is all Zobrist's. The fact that he is eligible at SS and OF positions make him all that more valuable fantasy acquisition.

Zobrist has been around awhile and is by no means a prospect. What Zobrist brings to the table is the ability to get on base and hit for a very solid average. This season he has shown more power then he has in the past with the eight HR's, something I don't believe will continue. I would expect a total of 13-16 HR's for Zobrist this season to go along with 20 stolen bases.

The key here is that he has been hitting at the top of the Rays order as well which means more opportunities to score runs. All told, Zobrist is an extremely useful fantasy player that is going to serve some team very well the rest of the way. If he is still available in your league, make sure that someone is you!

4) Ben Francisco (Outfield) -- Indians -- Grady Sizemore has finally landed on the DL with a sore left elbow leaving Ben Francisco as the primary center fielder for the tribe.

Francisco is a nifty little player. He is pretty much a poor man's Grady Sizemore as he offers a nice mix of speed and power without much of a batting average or on base percentage. With steady playing time he'll continue about on his current pace which projects as a 20-20 season.

Who knows how much time Sizemore will actually miss or if he will ever be 100% this season. Thus, Francisco should see close to 500 AB's and is quite a fantasy steal if picked up right now.

5) Desmond Jennings (Outfield) -- Rays -- This is for the more aggressive fantasy players out there, and you know who you are. If you haven't heard of Desmond Jennings here is a little refresher. Jennings is in my opinion the premier leadoff prospect in all minor league baseball. He is a supreme athlete with a know-how of how to play the game of baseball. He has great strike zone discipline and despite above average power, uses his legs or whatever means necessary to get on base.

He is currently in the Rays AA Montgomery affiliate with a stat line of .366/.433/.586 with six HR's and 17 stolen bases. Injuries have curbed Jennings development over the past two seasons at least as far as getting to the major leagues is concerned. But this guy is about as good a fantasy prospect as there is. The Rays have not been shy at using their prospects from any level to aid their big league clubs run at a title.

With Zobrist now a fixture at 2B, they have one less RF platoon player now. Then there are the struggles of B.J. Upton who is still flirting with the Mendoza line. Jennings is obviously too good to be in AA right now and my feeling is that we'll see him in Tampa sometime around mid-July. Put him on your watch list and make sure you grab him if and when another Rays OF goes down or as the trading deadline approaches. You'll thank me later...

6) Clayton Richard (LHP - Starter) -- White Sox -- I guess for this week I am a bit of a homer. But Richard is owned in just five percent of fantasy leagues right now despite being on a major roll since entering the White Sox starting rotation. He is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 30 K's in 40 IP.

Richard, like John Danks before him is thriving while emulating the timing and poise of teammate Mark Buerhle. Richard has greatly shortened time between pitches and is throwing more to the hitters bat than trying to strike everybody out. He has also improved his control since joining the starting rotation. While his WHIP and strikeout numbers will not be anything of a top end starter, at the very least Richard is a guy you must use if you live by the pitch and ditch method. He is available in almost all leagues and will give you quality innings most times out for sure.

7) Dexter Fowler (Outfield) -- Rockies -- I can't believe how many of you have given up on Fowler already. You have to understand that a player like Fowler will be of far more use to you later in the season then he is right now. Still, Fowler has been pretty productive in platoon duty this year scoring 22 runs and swiping 11 bases.

The Rockies fired Clint Hurdle and are now actively trying to trade both Brad Hawpe and Ryan Spilborghs before the trading deadline. This will open the door for both Dexter Fowler and Seth Smith to play a full time role in the second half of the season. Fowler has some power and blazing speed. He'll hit 15 or so HR's and steal 30+ bases in a full season while compiling plenty or runs and a solid batting average.

I believe him to be a future star in the league but at the very least he'll be a Johnny Damon type fantasy player which is pretty darn good. It is time to start thinking about how some of these players will finish this season instead of how they began. If you are going to challenge for a fantasy title this year, you will need to start acquiring some of the players who will make you stronger in August and September rather than the ones who will keep you afloat right now.

8) Andrew Bailey (RHP - Closer) -- Athletics -- I had Bailey in the Hot 8 in week 6 and said at the time that it wouldn't be long before he was the A's closer. In case you haven't noticed, Bailey is the A's closer now and doing a mighty fine job at that.

He is only owned in 50% of both Yahoo and CBS fantasy leagues which means you have a 50% chance of picking up a free closer. Bailey has struck out 37 in 30 IP while amassing a 0.95 WHIP and a .190 batting average against this season. Sure the save opportunities in Oakland have been few and far between this season, but fantasy owners are always on the prowl for saves, strikeouts, and WHIP. Other than my announcement a few weeks ago, Bailey has been under the radar for much of the season. Make that work into your favor by going out now and picking up the young right hander and adding some depth to your fantasy bullpen.

That is the Hot 8 for this week. What do you guys think? Post your comments below or email me at jeff@fantasybaseballsearch.com


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