Summer is right around the corner, and things are starting to heat up (and we’re not just talking about the temperature here). As the fantasy baseball season enters the month of June, a number of players are really in a groove right now, but a handful of others are still struggling to find their way in the 2011 season. Check out the list below to see if any of your fantasy baseball players have made this week’s “Who’s Hot? Who’s Not?” list.
Jay Bruce, CIN OF – Nobody has been hotter than “Bruce Almighty” lately. Nobody. In the month of May alone, the budding Reds’ star has hit 11 home runs, and he now has a total of 15 to lead the National League. Over the past week, Bruce hit a solid .353 with four long balls, 13 runs batted in, and six runs scored. Unfortunately, the Reds’ are scuffling as of late (2-8 in their last 10), but Bruce has done everything he can to keep his club competitive in the NL Central race. At only 24 years of age, Bruce is beginning to showcase his awesome talent, and 2011 is beginning to look like a breakout year for the Reds’ outfielder. With his incredibly hot bat, Bruce is an obvious must-start in fantasy baseball.
Carl Crawford, BOS OF – It’s about time that Crawford appeared on the “Hot” list. After signing a monster deal in the offseason, it was expected that Crawford would contribute immediately to the potent Red Sox lineup. Well, that didn’t exactly happen. After getting off to arguably the worst start of his career, Crawford has begun to turn things around over the past week. In his past seven games, Crawford batted an astounding .423 with three homers, eight RBIs, nine runs scored, and one stolen base. He still has a long way to go in order to prove that he was worth a $142 million contract, but his recent surge is certainly promising. Despite his slow start, Crawford’s past All-Star seasons and power-speed combination make him a must-start in fantasy baseball.
Kelly Johnson, ARI 2B – After having a breakout year in 2010, many expected Kelly Johnson to repeat his stellar season and climb up the second baseman rankings in fantasy baseball. Unfortunately, for all those who believed in Johnson, his 2011 season has been anything but stellar. He struggled terribly coming out of the gate and quickly became a must-sit only a month into the season. However, things have been going good lately in Arizona, and Johnson has definitely benefitted from the Diamondbacks’ recent hot streak (9-1 in their last 10, sole possession of first place). In his past seven games, Johnson hit .364 to go along with two home runs, five RBIs, seven runs scored, and two stolen bases. It appears as though the Diamondbacks are firing on all cylinders right now, and Johnson has been a big contributor to their recent success. In terms of his fantasy status, Johnson needs to produce on a more consistent basis before he becomes a must-start. For now, fantasy baseball owners should ride this streak and hope that Johnson’s hot bat wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
Yovani Gallardo, MIL SP – Big things were expected out of Gallardo coming into this year after he had solid seasons in both 2009 and 2010. Unfortunately, he got clobbered early on in 2011 and fantasy owners everywhere were left panicking. However, over the past month or so, Gallardo has been locked in and he looks like a completely different pitcher. In his past two starts, Gallardo has recorded two wins while striking out 14, allowing nine hits, two walks, and one earned run in 15 innings of work. The Brewers’ ace is simply on fire right now as he is tied for the league lead in wins with seven. As a team, Milwaukee has been streaking lately (8-2 in their last 10 games) and they are now in second place in the NL Central. Gallardo is beginning to look like the All-Star he was in 2010, so keep him active because he is definitely a must-start fantasy baseball pitcher.
J.J. Putz, ARI RP – Obviously the temperature is hot in Arizona, but their baseball team might be even hotter right now. With their recent hot streak, the Diamondbacks now sit atop the NL West in first place. Their starting pitching and hitting have kept them in ballgames lately, but the backend of their bullpen has been clutch in closing out games. Over the past week, the Diamondbacks’ closer, J.J. Putz, was lights-out. In four appearances, Putz recorded four saves while surrendering zero hits, zero earned runs, and one walk. With 16 saves on the season (second in the league), Putz has catapulted himself towards the top of the closer rankings. If the Diamondbacks keep playing well, Putz will most definitely be an integral part of their success. Keep him active because he is one of the top closing options in fantasy baseball.
Grady Sizemore, CLE OF – To be fair, Sizemore just came off the DL, but he makes the “Not” list because you never know what you’re going to get with him. The Indians’ centerfielder has had an injury plagued career, and after starting the 2011 season on the DL, he came back strong and showed glimpses of his five-tool talent. But then he went on the DL…again. And now he is back…again. In 12 at-bats since returning from his latest injury stint, Sizemore is hitless and hasn’t contributed in any other facet of the game either. Additionally, he hasn’t been in his usual leadoff/centerfield spot, but rather, he has been filling in as the DH and hitting sixth in the order. Fantasy-wise, Sizemore needs to prove that he can stay healthy before he can be nominated as a must-start. He has all the potential in the world, but because he is made of glass he is a frustrating fantasy baseball option. Start him if you want, but beware of his fragility.
Adam Dunn, CWS 1B, DH – Boy, is Dunn frustrating. Right now he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. He leads the league with 69 strikeouts and his .181 BA is absolutely pathetic. In fact, the usually-powerful Dunn has been so bad lately that skipper Ozzie Guillen had no choice but to drop him to seventh in the order. Over the past week, things haven’t gotten any better for Dunn either. In his past seven games, the “Big Donkey” batted a lowly. 091 with one homer, two ribbies, and three runs scored. Dunn has the strength of 10 men, and in the past he has proven that he can absolutely crush the ball (seven straight seasons of 35+ homers), but right now he isn’t worth the frustration. Until he starts to prove that he is worthy of being started, it might not be such a bad idea to keep Dunn on the bench in fantasy baseball. Hopefully he is able to turn things around, but in all honesty, don’t count on it right now.
Brett Gardner, NYY OF – No power, weak average, and in the one area in which he excels (stolen bases), he is currently failing (caught six times in 14 attempts). After breaking out in 2010 with 47 steals and a .277 average, fantasy owners were drooling at the possibility that Gardner could improve on those numbers. Unfortunately, that drool might have turned into vomit because Gardner has been awful so far in 2011. He sits against lefties on a consistent basis, and unless he starts to increase both his batting average and success rate on stolen base attempts, Gardner won’t be of much use in fantasy baseball. Due to the value of stolen bases, it’s alright to start Gardner; however, if he continues to get caught stealing then he isn’t worth much to fantasy baseball owners. Keep an eye on his progress and pray that he can bounce back.
Bronson Arroyo, CIN SP – As a unit, the Reds’ pitching has really struggled on the year. They currently rank in the bottom sixth of all pitching staffs, and after a recent 2-8 slide, things aren’t looking so great for the defending NL Central champs. To make matters worse, the veteran leader of the Reds’ staff, Bronson Arroyo, is really struggling to find his groove this year. In his past two starts, Arroyo has been destroyed by opposing hitters. In only 5.2 innings pitched over two outings, Arroyo received a loss and a no-decision while surrendering 14 earned runs and giving up 19 hits. For the week, his ERA and WHIP are 22.24 and 3.71 respectively. Not good. In all fairness, Arroyo’s back has been bothering him lately, but if the Reds want to defend their NL Central crown, they will need to get quality starts from their number one starter down the stretch. Fantasy-wise, it’s not a bad idea to bench him until he starts to feel better AND pitch better.
Joakim Soria, KC RP – The Royals have been playing decent baseball this year thanks to a crop of young stars on the rise. Unfortunately, the one consistent bright spot for their team over the past few years has been anything but in 2011. Joakim Soria, the Royals’ All-Star closer, has really struggled early on in the season, and over the past week things didn’t get any better. In three appearances, Soria blew two saves and received two losses while giving up five earned runs and seven hits in 2.1 innings pitched. On the year, the normally-reliable Soria has blown four saves and his ERA and WHIP are unacceptably high at 5.57 and 1.57 respectively. As a team, the Royals won’t blow many opponents away, so when they do have the lead they will need Soria to shut the door in the ninth. He has proven before that he is an elite option, so unless he continues to spiral downward, keep Soria active in hopes that he will rebound.