Our soccer-loving friend is away for a few weeks, and this week it falls upon me to pick up the Hot/Cold gauntlet. It’s a shame Ray couldn’t entertain us with any soccer stylings this week, what with the English Premier League starting up again. One of these days I’m going to pick a club to root for and delve into that world; for now, we’ll keep our focus on baseball as the season winds down.
Joe Mauer – Last Month: 47/110 H/AB, 22 R, 10 HR, 28 RBI, 2 SB, .427 BA
I pity anyone that drafted Russell Martin over Mauer this year. The Twins’ catcher entered the All-Star Break with a .373/.447/.622 slash line, and he’s improved on all those numbers. He’s hitting a homer per 11 at-bats over the last month, a power surge that puts him at 25 HRs for the season. Remember when we thought 13 HRs was his ceiling? We weren’t even half-right. In August alone he’s hit seven dingers and turned in an unbelievable .449 average. Albert Pujols has been amazing this season, but considering Mauer plays at a position scarce of talent, he must receive fantasy MVP consideration at this point.
Derek Jeter – Last Month: 48/126 H/AB, 25 R, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB, .381 BA
In last night’s blowout loss to the Red Sox, Jeter went 0-for-3. Before that shellacking, the New York SS had turned in six consecutive multi-hit games. His average now sits at .331, which would be his best mark in the category since 2006. His 21 SBs are also the most he’s had in the past three years, while the 15-HR power hasn’t been seen since 2005. Mark Teixeira will get a lot of deserved credit for the prospering Yankee offense, but Jeter has been on his game the entire season as well. Fantasy baseball’s second-best shortstop is primed to continue this torrid stretch and help many teams to titles.
Carlos Gonzalez – Last 11 Games: 12/40 H/AB, 10 R, 6 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB, .300 BA
Sometime it pays to be the Sleeper of the Week. To be fair, Gonzalez was already in the middle of a blazing-hot streak when he was targeted as our Cafe sleeper this week, but he’s continued to mash since. Considering he’s done the majority of his damage on the road, his numbers could be even better than the 25/25 pace he’s riding. Of course, it’s quite possible he never sees a hot streak like this again, but the former top prospect is finally fulfilling the hype that’s traveled with him to every destination (to say he’s been traded a lot is comparable to saying J.P. Ricciardi likes handing out big contracts).
Rich Harden – Since All-Star Break: 44 IP, 3 W, 55 K, 1.64 ERA, 0.77 WHIP
You won’t find many pitchers that are more of a fantasy roller coaster than Rich Harden. He’s at the top of his game now, allowing no more than two runs in any of his outings since the All-Star break. Unfortunately, you know a big dropoff is on the horizon, and the ride down won’t be fun, as his 5.47 pre-ASB ERA indicates. One of the very best in the league when on top of his game, fantasy owners are just going to have to hope and pray that this dominance continues for the rest of the season.
Neftali Feliz – Since Promotion: 14.1 IP, 1 SV, 19 K, 0.63 ERA, 0.35 WHIP
Feliz battled control problems in the minors this year, but a move to the pen and a promotion to the majors have produced dividends. Blessed with triple-digit speed on his fastball, Feliz has routinely made hitters look silly. Last night was no exception, as Feliz held the Rays hitless while getting eight outs, allowing just one walk in the process. He’s pitched more than one inning in every appearance this year, and he’s worth owning in all fantasy leagues right now. Suffering through heart-stopping Matt Capps or Kerry Wood saves? Dump them for this guy.
Geovany Soto – Since Return: 5/36 H/AB, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, .139 BA
Yesterday, the Cubs’ catcher recorded just his fifth hit since returning from the DL, a span of 36 at-bats. Clearly, he’s not at full-strength right now. If not for the six walks he’s drawn, he’d be practically useless. Fantasy owners can’t afford to play the slumping Soto right now — I suggest benching him (or cutting him, if in a ten-team league) until he gets things figured out.
Brandon Inge – Last Month: 17/94 H/AB, 9 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, .181 BA
Inge is another catcher-eligible fantasy bat that’s just not getting it done right now. He turned in another oh-fer last night, bringing his average down to .238, which is the lowest it has been this season. After smacking 21 HRs before the ASB, Inge has added just three dingers to his total, posting a .514 OPS in the process. It’s time to cut loose the clearly-hobbled Inge, as a return to early-season form is just wishful thinking at this point.
Manny Ramirez – Last Month: 27/103 H/AB, 11 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, .262 BA
Now, Manny Preggers isn’t a guy you should cut by any means, but he’s had a rough time of it since the break. Ramirez has hit just four HRs in 123 post-AB at-bats, and his average has tumbled 47 points to .308 on the season. Will he rebound in time to save both the Dodgers’ season and your own? I think so — it’s not like Manny to disappear for an entire half. I know most trading deadlines have passed, but if you do still have the opportunity to acquire the guy on the cheap, pounce.
Dan Haren – Last Month: 36 IP, 2 W, 30 K, 5.75 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
Many people were quick to point to Haren’s second-half struggles over his career as a harbinger of doon. Sell high, they said repeatedly, while I fastidiously denied their advice. Well, who’s the smart one now? Oh, I guess it’s not me. Haren’s recent implosion was a five-inning, six-run stinker in Philadelphia. All we Haren owners can do at this point is cross our fingers, or enact any and every other lucky routine that comes to mind. If your fantasy season ends up falling short of the title, we can all cope together.
David Aardsma – Last Week: 2.2 IP, 1 SV, 3 K, 10.13 ERA, 2.25 WHIP
Aardsma has only turned in one scoreless outing in his last four tries. In the process, he’s accrued two losses and two blown saves, giving up six runs in 3.1 innings. While his job is likely safe, we’re seeing the effects of a long season starting to wear on Aardsma. Thursday’s blown save was the first time he’s allowed multiple walks in an outing since May. Without much to play for and with no one waiting in the wings, expect Aardsma to hang on to the closer gig.
That’s going to do it for this week. Check back in next week for another guest writer to the column. Until then, be champions!
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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