This week, a number of new faces have made their way onto the “Hot” and “Not” list. It’s alwaysgood to see some change, and it’s exciting when new players are able to produce at a high level.Unfortunately, some guys have made this list due to their lack of production. As Borat would say,players like this are NOT hot (if you know Borat, you’ll get it…). All things aside, check out the list belowto see if any of your fantasy baseball players made the “Who’s Hot, Who’s Not?” list for this past week.
Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE SS – After LeBron’s “Decision,” the city of Cleveland was drained of any and allexcitement in sports. The Browns were mediocre, The Cavs were destined to stink (and they did), andthe Indians weren’t supposed to offer anything special either. However, that hasn’t been the story withthe Tribe this year. In fact, they have been very special after all. Through 45 regular season games, theIndians are the best team in all of baseball. Thanks to great pitching and timely hitting, the Indians aresitting at a comfortable 29-15 with a seven game lead in the division. Many players have stepped up tohelp the Indians, but none more so than their shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera is on pace to havea career year, and over the past week he has been on fire. In his past seven games, Cabrera has done itall with a .379 BA, three homers, seven RBIs, nine runs scored, and three stolen bases. His biggest gamecame on Sunday when he collected five hits (two of which were homers), five ribbies, two runs scored,and a stolen base. Fantasy-wise, Cabrera was undoubtedly overshadowed by bigger names to begin theyear, but with shortstop being such a thin position, his consistent production has made him a must-startin fantasy baseball. Keep him active as long as he has a hot bat.
Alex Rodriguez, NYY 3B – It wasn’t too long ago when “A-Rod” was part of the “Hot/Not” list; however,his making the cut was for all the wrong reasons. After dealing with an awful slump over the past fewweeks, Rodriguez might just have found his swing over the past seven days. Over the past week, theperennial All-Star batted .419 with three long balls, four RBIs, and seven runs scored. Despite his recentsurge, some baseball pundits believe age is starting to catch up with Rodriguez (he is an ancient 35 yearsold), while others still think he is dealing with mechanical problems in his swing. Whatever the criticismmay be, Rodriguez is a proven fantasy baseball stud and he should be treated like one until he proves that he canno longer produce. With nine homers and 26 RBIs on the year, “A-Rod” is on pace for his FOURTEENTHstraight season of 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. Due to his past and the fact that he bats in a lethal lineup, keepRodriguez active in all fantasy baseball formats.
Andrew McCutchen, PIT OF – The Pirates have 18 consecutive losing seasons, which is the longest streakin all of North American sports. Needless to say, the Pirates can’t get much worse (unless they extendtheir streak to 19!). However, despite all their years of futility, the Pirates and their fans have reasonto smile to these days, due in large part to the potential of a few of their players. One of these playersis Andrew McCutchen, the centerfielder for the Pirates. McCutchen has all the talent in the world tobe a big league All-Star, and this year he is making progress towards becoming one of the game’s bestplayers. Over the past week, McCutchen put all his tools on display when he batted .409 with one homerun, four RBIs, six runs scored, and two stolen bases. On the year, McCutchen is producing some nicenumbers, and if the Pirates want to compete (they are currently 22-24), their stud outfielder will have tocarry much of the burden on his young shoulders. With his solid all-around production (BA, HR, RBI, R,and SB), McCutchen is a must-start fantasy baseball option.
Michael Pineda, SEA SP – The Mariners might be one of the worst hitting teams in the MLB, but theirstarting pitching has been absolutely phenomenal this year. In fact, the Mariners have nine consecutivestarts in which their starters have gone seven innings or more with two earned runs or less. Since 1988,
only one other team (SF Giants) has been a part of such a streak…that’s pretty darn impressive if youask me. The M’s have a “King” to lead their pitching staff, but the real story for their starting pitchingthis year has been rookie phenom, Michael Pineda. Pineda has dominated opposing hitters in 2011,and over his past two starts he was flat-out exceptional. In 14 innings of work, Pineda registered twowins while striking out 16, allowing five hits, walking one, and surrendering ZERO earned runs. Theyoung starter has pitched his way into “ace” territory, and if he is able to keep pace with King Felix, theMariners will have one of the scariest 1-2 combos in all of baseball. Definitely keep Pineda active in allfantasy baseball lineups.
John Axford, MIL RP – There is more than one pitcher with facial hair that should be feared these days,but this one doesn’t have a beard—he has a mustache. In fact, it’s a mustache that would make Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers proud. The ‘stache I am speaking of belongs to Brewers’ closer, John “The AxMan” Axford. Over the past week, the closer for the Brew Crew has been great at the back end of thebullpen. In five appearances, Axford recorded four saves, struck out nine, allowed six baserunners,and surrendered one earned run in five innings pitched. Since taking over for legendary closer TrevorHoffman, Axford has been great for the Brewers. He set the Brewers’ rookie record for saves last yearwith 24, and this year he looks to continue his solid start to a young career. Despite getting himself intooccasional jams on the mound, Axford is a reliable closer that will continue to progress and get better.Stick with Axford and keep on starting him in all fantasy baseball leagues.
Ichiro Suzuki, SEA OF – As I mentioned above, the Mariners’ hitting has been pretty bad this year.According to ESPN.com, as of May 22nd, they were ranked 28th out of the 30 teams in the MLB in totalteam batting. Simply put, they struggle with the lumber. To make matters worse, their one consistentlysolid hitter, Ichiro, has been a bit down on the year. Over the past week, the legendary hit-masterwas in a funk as he batted a lowly .192 with two RBIs, two runs scored, zero stolen bases, and zerohomers (don’t count on too much in this category). On the year, Ichiro is hitting an un-Ichiro-like .288;however, he has hit .300 or better in 10 straight seasons, so we’ll cut him a break in the batting averagedepartment and allow him to get back to form as the seasons progresses. Because of his past numbers,it easy to get discouraged with a player like Ichiro when he is not living up to expectations. Still, theseason is a long one so there is still plenty of time for Ichiro to turn things around and produce like hisold self. Recent struggles aside, keep him active in all formats because when he is hot, not many playersare capable of piling up hits like Ichiro.
Andre Ethier, LAD OF – Just a couple of weeks ago, Ethier was making headlines with his 30-game hittingstreak (second most in Dodgers’ history). Unfortunately, this week he is making headlines for a differentreason. Since his hitting streak ended, Ethier has been an entirely different player, and a bad one atthat. Amidst a 1-for-23 slump (.043 BA) over the past seven days, Ethier has also been the subject ofscrutiny for “flipping the bird” to a cameraman. Then, to make matters even worse, he crashed into anoutfield wall while running down a fly ball and had to get X-rays on his elbow, ankle, and toe. Toughluck, eh? To go along with his recent .043 BA, Ethier also failed to hit a homer or drive in a run over thepast week, but he did score one run (Congrats!). As a team, the Dodgers have really been slipping lately,and if they have any chance of contending in the NL West, they will need Ethier’s bat to help pick up theslack. Right now, Ethier is experiencing some hard times, but he has the ability to adjust and turn thingsaround in a flash. Ethier is a proven hitter so make sure to keep him active in your fantasy baseballlineup.
Ben Zobrist, TB 2B, OF – Just a couple of weeks ago, Zobrist was the top player on the “Hot” list. He wasabsolutely crushing the ball and climbing up fantasy baseball rankings, but lately he has been slumpingpretty badly. Over the past week, the Rays’ super-utility man batted a pathetic .087 with zero homeruns, zero runs scored, and one, lonely RBI. With the return of All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria,Zobrist should be able to reap the benefits of lineup protection; however, right now he looks lost atthe plate. Fantasy owners are still hoping that Zobrist will be able to return to 2009 form (27 HR, 91RBI), but if he is going to come anywhere close to those numbers he will need to produce on a moreconsistent basis. In the end, due to his eligibility at multiple positions and potentially hot bat, Zobristshould be starting in all fantasy baseball leagues.
Carlos Zambrano, CHC SP – The Cubs are struggling, and so is their hotheaded “ace.” After a strongfinish to close out the 2010 season, many fantasy owners were hoping that Zambrano could transfer hissuccess to the 2011 season. While he hasn’t exactly been bad so far, he hasn’t been too great either.In his last two starts, Zambrano failed to pitch six full innings in each outing, and in his last start againstthe Red Sox he needed 122 pitches just to get through 5.2 innings of work. Combined, his last two startslook a little something like this: one loss, one no-decision, 11 IP, 13 hits, 6 walks, 9 earned runs, and 5strikeouts. The Cubs’ right-hander has the talent to be a solid starting option; however, if he can’t get ittogether (both physically and mentally), then he will be more destructive than productive. Zambrano isworthy of being started in most fantasy baseball leagues, but keep an eye on him in case he continues tostruggle.
Matt Capps, MIN RP – Well, 2011 might just be a down year for the Minnesota Twins all around.Record-wise they are the worst team in baseball, and statistically they’re ranked dead last in teambatting AND team pitching. Basically, they stink in every part of the game so far this year. A few weeksago, the Twins’ usually-reliable closer, Joe Nathan, made the “Not” list due to his struggles in theninth inning. Now, Nathan’s replacement, Matt Capps, joins him on the “Not” list by having a roughweek as well. Despite two saves over the past week, Capps was shaky in his last outing against theDiamondbacks. In one inning of work, Capps allowed four hits and four earned runs, which ultimatelyled to a blown save and a loss. To be fair to Capps, the Twins have struggled in every facet of the gamethis year. However, they’re probably not going to blow a lot of teams away this year, so when they dohave the lead late in games, Capps needs to be able to shut the door and save games for his team. StartCapps if you want since there are not many available closers out there, but monitor his situation and seehow he continues to pitch at the end of ball games.