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Reality Check: Eclipsing early season woes

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Turn around ...

Every now and then I get a little bit tired of repeating things I've done all along.

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Turn around ...

Every now and then I like to start off my column like the parody of a famous song.

Turn around ...

Every now and then the subject mimics the lyrics just enough to make it a valid plan.

Turn around ...

Every now and then it gets a little bit hairy, but somehow I make it work in the end.

Turn around, you guys ...

Soon the baseball talk will have to start.

Turn around, you guys ...

Otherwise, this column falls apart.

And my point is fairly clear: These guys couldn't stay down forever.

And now that their production's here, you probably shouldn't say "whatever."

'Cause you know they'd be on someone's team, if they never went wrong ...

Together they can give your team a breath of new life, provided that without them you've known nothing but strife.

You don't know what to do? Need a shot in the dark? Any of these six here could give you a quick spark.

But are they really all right? You don't have to decide tonight, but know that someone else just might ...

Once upon a time you were high on these guys. Now they're finally coming around.

...

Nothing left to do but give me a chance to expound.

These six players -- all highly drafted but subsequently released due to slow starts -- may not have the best numbers overall, but over the last couple weeks, they've begun to play up to the potential that got them drafted in the first place. They've "turned around," bright eyes, which is why the use Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was totally and 100 percent necessary. Yes, really.

Though their hot streaks haven't lasted long enough for me or anyone else to declare them "back," their value entering the season suggests a rebound is distinctly possible. Thus, they represent a rare opportunity for you to nab high-end talent off the waiver wire at this point in the season. If you don't get to them first, whoever does may be holding on forever.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians
Starting ownership percentage: 96
Current ownership percentage: 78
A Cy Young candidate as recently as 2010, Jimenez went from disappointing last year to downright bad this year, posting a 5.79 ERA, 1.79 WHIP and 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings through his first 10 starts. But over his last three, he has a 2.75 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
Reasons he may be legit: On average, Jimenez's fastball is 3.8 mph slower than it was in 2010, but at 92.3, it's still well above average. It's just not hard enough to survive the wildness that had become so engrained in his approach. With his walk rate down from 6.8 per nine innings in his first 10 starts to 1.4 per nine over his last three, however, perhaps he's beginning to reinvent himself as a pitcher. And if that's the case, 92.3 is plenty good enough.

Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers
Starting ownership percentage: 88
Current ownership percentage: 72
Though Gordon's batting average dipped to .200 on May 18, it's .289 in _26 games since, allowing the second-year speedster to contribute a stolen base every 2.9 games during that stretch. That's a 56-steal pace over a full season.
Reasons he may be legit: Though considered "raw" when coming up through the minors, Gordon hit .372 last September and maintained that level of production this spring, showing he's hardly a lost cause against big-league pitching. Considering his base-stealing prowess, you don't even need him to perform that well. You just need him to stay within himself. Lately, he seems to be doing just that.

Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Orioles
Starting ownership percentage: 95
Current ownership percentage: 61
Reynolds, who has never offered much in the way of batting average, has been lacking the power numbers as well, homering just five times in 147 at-bats. But two of those homers have come in his last six games, during which he's batting .429.
Reasons he may be legit: As an all-or-nothing slugger, Reynolds is no stranger to streakiness. Granted, we've usually seen the first of his hot streaks by now, but a DL stint for an oblique strain in May interrupted the ebb and flow of his season. He has averaged 35.3 home runs over the last four seasons, so chances are that first hot streak is just around the corner.

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Ike Davis, 1B, Mets
Starting ownership percentage: 93
Current ownership percentage: 47
When reports of Davis' valley fever circulated this spring, Fantasy owners feared a dramatic loss in power for the 25-year-old, much like Conor Jackson in 2009. And so far, Davis has obliged with a .194 batting average and .598 OPS this season, leading to rumors of his impending demotion. Something seems to have clicked for him over his last eight games, though, during which he's batting .478 with a homer a six walks compared to four strikeouts.
Reasons he may be legit: Considering what has happened to Davis is exactly what some feared would happen to him, this case seems pretty straightforward, and yet Davis maintains he feels fine. So either he's being less than entirely truthful, perhaps even to himself, or his slump is more the result of something mechanical than physical. These last eight games make the former just as viable as the latter.

Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, Giants
Starting ownership percentage: 78
Current ownership percentage: 40
Though Belt has clearly fascinated Fantasy owners with his vast offensive potential over the last two years, the Giants didn't seem interested in playing him until June 9, when they sent Brett Pill down to make room for Pablo Sandoval. Over his last six games, Belt is batting .400 (8 for 20) with the first of his three home runs.
Reasons he may be legit: For starters, he has that "vast offensive potential" going for him. But the bigger development is that the Giants may have finally figured out how to tap into it, adjusting his stance by making it more open and upright just a couple weeks before this breakthrough. With all three of Belt's homers coming against lefties, manager Bruce Bochy doesn't plan to sit the left-handed hitter anytime soon.

Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics
Starting ownership percentage: 72
Current ownership percentage: 31
Crisp, who led the AL with 49 stolen bases last year, is a perfect 10-for-10 in that department this year. But his .158 batting average through his first 32 games has only been tempered slightly by his .324 (12 for 37) mark over his last 10 games.
Reasons he may be legit: Considering Crisp came down with a sinus infection in mid-April that lasted about a month, eventually forcing him to the DL, his .158 batting average through the first 32 games isn't the fairest assessment of his abilities. You drafted him for the steals, and clearly he's still plenty capable of providing those. And with Manny Ramirez now out of the picture, the Athletics should give him every opportunity to get his batting average back on track.

In the now ... A look at how recent events have impacted certain players' Fantasy value

Felix Doubront, SP, Red Sox: Doubront, who posted a 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings over a mostly unimpressive minor-league career, was enough of a surprise in Fantasy just by averaging a strikeout per inning in his first eight starts. But the assumption was his time as a relevant option would end soon. Even if he maintained the strikeouts, his walk rate and inability to pitch beyond six innings would render him just a low-end matchups type. But lo and behold, with increased opportunity, he has managed to overcome those flaws, issuing just seven walks in his last five starts, including a seven-inning outing. Nobody questions his stuff. At 92.3 miles per hour, his average fastball velocity is the eighth-highest among qualifying left-handers, according to FanGraphs.com. If he's already figured out how to harness it at this stage of his career, he might be more reliable than anybody thought. You're in good shape with him as your fifth or sixth starter in mixed leagues.

Michael Young, 1B/2B/3B, Rangers: Even with half as many home runs as usual, Young still managed to rank among the top eight players at both first base and third base in 2011. So how did he do it? He hit a career-high .338, of course. But therein lies the problem. He set a career high at age 34, which is impressive enough in its own right. Duplicating it would be borderline miraculous, as we're seeing now. With his .236 (35 for 148) batting average over his last 36 games, Young now ranks 23rd at first base and 19th at third base in standard Head-to-Head leagues. Most players' slumps are far worse than a .236 batting average, which is part of why this hole seems so insurmountable for Young. Like most 35-year-olds, his numbers are trending downward, and because his power numbers were fringy to begin with, what's left might not be enough to sustain him. For now, his second base eligibility saves him in mixed leagues.

Gregor Blanco, OF, Giants: Blanco is coming off a 21-point week in standard Head-to-Head leagues, ranking him 25th among outfielders. The most amazing part? He hit .200 during that stretch. Therein lies the magic of the player who has scored the 13th-most points among outfielders since taking over as the Giants regular right fielder on May 12. His ability to take a walk -- one that sustained him throughout his minor-league career -- combined with his ability to swipe bases keeps him productive even when the batting average is lacking and the power leaves something to be desired. At age 28, he may not seem like a high-upside player -- and technically, he's not -- but he does enough things well that he could be a surprising contributor in mixed leagues going forward. If you remember the impact Andres Torres made when he emerged out of nowhere in 2010, you'll recognize why Blanco might just be worth a waiver claim now.

Bryan LaHair, 1B/OF, Cubs: LaHair's .297 batting average is great. So is his .940 OPS. So why has his Fantasy production gone down the toilet? Why does he rank 56th among first basemen and 115th among outfielders since May 22? The Cubs have sat him for 11 of their last 24 games -- against every single lefty during that stretch. It's frustrating because it's so unnecessary. Outside of maybe Starlin Castro, LaHair is the Cubs' only real offensive threat. But because he's batting .107 against lefties, they'd rather waste their time with retreads like Reed Johnson than develop someone with real promise. If you thought you had the steal of the season when you plucked LaHair off the waiver wire in mid-April, sorry. He'll be more of a headache than he's worth in shallower mixed leagues. Unless you have a deep lineup or a large enough bench that you can afford to play matchups with him, he's droppable at this point.

Homer Bailey, SP, Reds: Bailey is 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over his last seven starts, six of which have been quality starts. His Head-to-Head ranking during that stretch is 11, and of the 10 pitchers ahead of him, one (R.A. Dickey) has two complete games, one (Chris Sale) has a 15-strikeout performance and one (Matt Cain) has a perfect game. And yet Bailey is owned in only 56 percent of leagues, fewer than Roy Oswalt, Ricky Nolasco and Scott Diamond. Yes, Bailey has allowed six earned runs in two of his non-quality starts, but that's the nature of curveball pitchers. When it's not dropping like it should, it gets hammered (see Gavin Floyd). Judging by that ranking, though, the good clearly makes up for the bad. As highly regarded as Bailey was coming up through the minors, we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss him during what could be a breakout season. If he's still unowned in your league, consider it a gift this time of year.

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Down the line ... A brief update on some of the minor-leaguers who have caught the attention of Fantasy owners

Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers: Josh Hamilton's recent illness has afforded Leonys Martin an opportunity in the majors, but it won't last long. Of course, that's probably best for his long-term value. He had been off the minor-league DL for only a week before getting the call, having missed five weeks with a thumb injury. The major-league level probably isn't the best place for him to shake off the rust. Granted, he seems to have minor-league pitching figured out, batting .344 in 128 at-bats at Triple-A Round Rock, but considering he profiles as a leadoff type in the majors, his base-stealing needs some work. He's only 7 for 14 in the minors. That said, the 24-year-old is still worth stashing in AL-only leagues for when the Rangers inevitably need him as a long-term fix.

Danny Hultzen, SP, Mariners: As far as pitchers go, most of the prospect hype this year has centered on Trevor Bauer and Dylan Bundy. But Hultzen's numbers compare favorably to both. In 13 starts at Double-A Jackson, he has a 1.19 ERA and 0.93 WHIP, averaging 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. After Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas, the Mariners rotation is anything but settled, as evidenced by their recent demotion of Blake Beavan. For now, the Mariners will bide their time with Erasmo Ramirez, but when he, Kevin Millwood or Hector Noesi bites the bullet, Hultzen is probably next in line. At age 22, he doesn't have that much more to learn in the minors.

Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds: Cingrani, who was a third-round pick in the 2011 draft, wasn't a big-name prospect coming into the season. He flunked out of the starting rotation in college and only found success after smoothing out his delivery in the bullpen. Back as a starter this year, he's taken the minors by storm. He actually led the heavy-hitting California League with a 1.11 ERA -- nearly a full run lower than the next qualifying pitcher -- before getting the call to Double-A Pensacola, where he has continued to dominate with a 2.55 ERA in three starts. With a 91-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 74 1/3 innings, the tall left-hander could be another Chris Sale in the making. He's still under the radar as far as prospects go, but long-term keeper owners should take note.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Clayton Kershaw goes eight strong for win No. 15
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:10 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw had a no-hitter going against the Padres until the sixth inning. The ace surrendered his first hit to opposing starter Tyson Ross.

Kershaw went eight innings strong for the win at home on Thursday, improving to 15-3 on the year. The southpaw permitted one run on three hits and two walks while striking out 10 in a 2-1 victory. Of his 103 pitches, 69 were strikes. He improved to 15-3 on the year, matching Johnny Cueto, Wily Peralta and Adam Wainwright for the major-league lead in victories. 

Over his last three starts covering 25 innings, Kershaw has allowed five earned runs. He has gone eight-plus innings in seven of his last nine starts. He owns a 1.82 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP over 21 starts (153 1/3 innings). He will make his next start Wednesday at Arizona.

Kenley Jansen slams door shut on Padres
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:07 am ET) Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out two and worked past a walk in a scoreless ninth inning for the save Thursday night at home against the Padres. Jansen has converted 36 of 40 save chances, with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over 52 1/3 innings of relief.

Tyson Ross goes the distance in losing effort
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:59 am ET) Padres pitcher Tyson Ross tossed a complete game but took a tough-luck loss to the Dodgers Thursday night, dropping to 11-12 on the season. The right-hander permitted two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out eight over eight innings of a 2-1 defeat.

Ross is 0-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 27 innings pitched against the Dodgers this season. The offense has only backed him with two runs over that span. He'll look to bounced Tuesday at home against Milwaukee.

Travis Wood suffers 11th loss of the season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:53 am ET) Cubs pitcher Travis Wood took the loss Thursday night at home against the Giants, dropping to 7-11 on the season. The left-hander permitted four runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out six over six innings of a 5-3 defeat.

Over his last two starts covering 11 1/3 innings, Wood has allowed seven earned runs. He owns a 4.91 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP over 26 starts (150 1/3 innings). He will look to bounce back Wednesday in Cincinnati.

Jason Heyward scores two runs Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:50 am ET) Braves outfielder Jason Heyward scored two runs Thursday against the Reds.

Heyward singled twice during the game. He would come around to score in the third inning on a Justin Upton hit, and again in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly. Heyward finished 2 for 4, with two runs scored and one RBI. 


Santiago Casilla closes out Cubs
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:47 am ET) Giants reliever Santiago Casilla struck out two and worked past a hit for the save Thursday night against the Cubs. He needed only 15 pitches to complete a scoreless inning. He has converted 11 of 14 save chances, with a 1.59 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP over 45 1/3 innings of relief.

Madison Bumgarner fans season-high 12 in win over Cubs
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:45 am ET) Giants starter Madison Bumgarner twirled a gem Thursday night against the Cubs, striking out a season-high 12 for the win, improving to 14-9 on the season. The left-hander pitched seven strong innings and allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk. Of his 116 pitches, 79 were strikes.

Bumgarner has struck out nine-plus in three of his last four starts. Over that span covering 22 innings, he has allowed seven earned runs. He owns a 3.17 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP over 27 starts (176 innings). His next start will come Tuesday at home against Colorado.

Buster Posey shrugs off injury concern with four-hit game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Giants catcher Buster Posey shrugged off any injury concerns, reaching base five times Thursday night at Wrigley Field against the Cubs.

Posey doubled in the third, homered in the fifth, singled in the seventh and doubled again in the ninth. He finished the game 4 for 4 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI in a 5-3 victory.He is hitting .284/.345/.438 with 14 homers and 59 RBI over 425 at-bats.

Derek Holland could start Tuesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Rangers pitcher Derek Holland could make his first start of the season Thursday against the Mariners, according to the Dallas Morning News

Holland was able to go 87 pitches during his most recent rehab start. Following the game, he declared himself ready to pitch in the majors. The club will need a fifth starter Tuesday with Yu Darvish sidelined. Holland is being considered for that start. 

Holland has been sidelined the entire season after having offseason surgery on his knee. 


Justin Upton drives in three
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:03 am ET) Braves outfielder Justin Upton drove in three runs Thursday against the Reds.

Upton singled in two runs in the third inning, and drove in another on a sac fly. He finished 2 for 3, with one run scored and three RBI. Upton also walked during the contest. 


 
 
 
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