The Doctor is in! Here is my weekly showcase of players who are most likely obtainable in your league and could be valuable to your team.
Chase Headley: 3B, San Diego Padres
Headley got called up to the majors on Tuesday and went 3-for-8 in his first two games. On Wednesday, he hit his first career home run in Yankee Stadium off of Yankees reliever Kyle Farnsworth (less). In case Headley is a new name to you, he’s a highly touted prospect who hit .330 in Double-A last season, winning Texas League Player of the Year honors. Before the call-up, he was hitting .305 with 14 HRs and 40 RBIs in AAA.
Fantasy Diagnosis: If you play in a keeper league, I guarantee he’s owned. In regular leagues, there is a chance he’s nevertheless obtainable. Just don’t expect him to go all Ryan Braun on the league. He’s played some left field in addition, which increases his value if he gains position eligibility there.
Jason Kubel: OF/DH, Minnesota Twins
He has as many home runs as Justin Morneau (10), including 4 this month. His June average (.326) and OBP (.423) are helped by the fact he has 8 walks, after having 10 in April and May combined.
Fantasy Diagnosis: Yes, he’s hitting just .254. However, he’s got some strength and drives in runs (37), which makes him a viable option as a fourth outfielder.
Mike Aviles: SS, Kansas City Royals
While most of you have heard of Headley, many of you probably haven’t heard of Aviles. Since getting called up from AAA on May 29, Aviles is 15-for-49 (.306) with 3 HR, 6 RBI, 12 R and 1 SB. He has 4 multi-hit games and a .333 OBP. He’s hitting lefties (.455), but is hitting .263 against righties.
Fantasy Diagnosis: He just turned 26, was drafted in 2003 and spent the past two seasons in AAA-Omaha. The Royals were patient with him, as they had Tony Pena Jr. playing SS, and now he’s taking complete advantage of his first chance at playing in the majors on a daily basis. He’s listed at 5’9″, 185 pounds, which makes it hard to take him seriously as a fantasy threat. I see him more as a David Eckstein-kind player, whose real life value exceeds his fantasy value. His hot start warrants a identify on your watch list though.
Mark Ellis: 2B, Oakland Athletics
Please do not confuse him with New Zealand’s Marc Ellis, the rugby game streaker who won M2 Magazine’s Man of the Year. At .261, Mark’s average is the highest it’s been all any given day all season. His June numbers (.326/4/12) are already better than any whole month he’s had this year. The RBIs are a little skewed, as he had 2 games with 4 of them this month, but the average is not. He’s had 7 multi-hit games this month and has scored 28 runs this season.
Fantasy Diagnosis: It’s easy to forget that Ellis hit .276 with 19 HRs and 76 RBIs last year, when he had the best season of his now 5+ year career. After the top tier of second basemen, those are pretty substantial numbers. Expect similar production again this year.
Mike Gonzalez: RP, Atlanta Braves
Rafael Soriano is on track to make more visits to the DL this year than Lindsey Lohan does to rehab. Manny A-cost-a-win-again has imploded (0-3, 2 blown saves, 12.00 ERA this month). John Smoltz is no longer in the picture. Bobby Cox turned to former Pirates closer Gonzalez, who returned from his own DL stint and got the save on Wednesday, making him the seventh Braves reliever to get a save this season.
Fantasy Diagnosis: Gonzalez had 24 saves in 2006 and is the only authentic option to close games for Atlanta right now. If he hasn’t been picked up in addition and you need saves, go grab him right now.
Mark Buehrle: SP, Chicago White Sox
The man with the biggest pick-up truck I’ve ever seen is finally back to earning the paycheck that bought that six-ton monster. In four June starts, he’s pitched 30 innings, allowed 7 runs, walked 6 and hit out 18. All four have been quality starts which have lowered his ERA to 4.28 and his WHIP to 1.36.
Fantasy Diagnosis: His June ERA (.210) and WHIP (1.03) deserve your attention. He’s back to being worthy of a identify on fantasy rosters. His 2.04 K/BB isn’t great, but as long as he produces quality starts, he’ll be in line for wins. However, if he starts to separate again, don’t be patient with him.
Heath Bell: RP, San Diego Padres
True story: A friend of mine used to work at a concession stand in one of the minor league parks that Bell played in. They called Bell “Snacks”, as he was always eating candy or something and would come into the stand next to the bullpen and help work the grill when he got bored during the game (yes, I’m serious). A bit of a late bloomer (he’s 30 years old), Bell’s career has really taken off over the past two seasons. In 93.2 innings last season, he had a 2.02 ERA and hit out 102. This season, he’s 4-3 with a 2.02 ERA and 33 Ks.
Fantasy Diagnosis: He’s blown 3 saves, but has only allowed one run in his last 14 appearances. There aren’t many middle relievers who prove valuable in fantasy, but Bell is one who does. He’s picked up wins in relief, strikes out batters and is next in line to close if something were to happen to Trevor Hoffman.
Aaron Laffey: SP, Cleveland Indians
His 4-4 record doesn’t catch your eye, but maybe this will. Eight of his ten starts have been quality starts. He has a 2.98 ERA in 63.1 innings. In half his starts, he’s allowed one or fewer runs.
Fantasy Diagnosis: His numbers say it all. He doesn’t strike out many (29), but doesn’t walk many (16). He’s a lot like teammate Paul Byrd, only much better looking.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Andrew Miller: SP, Florida Marlins
The Marlins wanted him from Detroit in the deal for Cabrera and D(railed)-aim for a reason. He’s got big league stuff. He’s shown flashes of possible all season, but has been horribly inconsistent. Now, in his last two starts, he’s given up 2 combined runs and has a 3.00 K/BB. He’s not worth picking up, in addition.
Jeff Baker: 2B/1B, Colorado Rockies
He’s 12-30 (.400) in June with his first 3 HRs of the season. His average, OBP and SLG have all risen dramatically this month. However, Clint Barmes is due back next week, putting Baker, who’s been playing DH during interleague play, back to playing part-time.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK
Elijah Dukes: OF, Washington Nationals
Perhaps no baseball player made as much news off-the-field as Dukes did last season. Sorry, but no fantasy points for getting into fights with teammates, arguments with coaches, threatening to kill your wife and throwing a bottle of Gatorade at a 17-year old girl you hooked up with. Now if Fantasy Thuggery existed, he and PacMan Jones would have been co-MVP’s last season. Anyway, Dukes has been a form citizen this season and after a .167 May, he’s hitting .311 in June, along with his first HR of the season and 9 RBIs. He hit 10 HRs in 52 games last year, so we know he has strength. His hot month is good to see, as he’s a talented young player.