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Setting the Trends: Give these guys a chance

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There's one baseball term that has always struck a nerve, maybe because of its cruel nature, maybe because of the pomposity associated with its use: Quadruple-A. The name implies failure, with a twist of sci-fi -- inventing a fake level of baseball where a gaggle of players too good for Triple-A, yet not good enough for MLB, would fall, and, supposedly, flourish. It's a harsh term, and so far this season, it's getting turned on its head

"Quadruple-A" was used to dismiss some players who -- whether through bad luck, skill, timing, development or some other unhappy set of circumstances -- just never lived up to the hype. It reared its ugly head this year when some critics wrote off Bryan LaHair as a Quadruple-A player, unable to produce in the majors. He, so far, has proved them wrong. LaHair isn't the only player who has popped up this season and grouped in that category: Chris Davis, Justin Smoak, Brandon Moss, Matt LaPorta and Steve Pearce have gotten the scarlet AAAA. Davis has managed to shed that label, while Smoak has displayed flashes, Pearce and Moss are in the process of showing just how handsomely patience can pay off, and LaPorta gets an incomplete, as the situation he was brought up in idn't give him the chance to really prove what he could do.

It's still mid-June, giving players plenty of time to revive the "Quadruple A" terminology; but if the early going of 2012 has shown us anything, it's that the label -- if not totally wrong -- should at least be held off until a player's 29th birthday.

Most Added Players (as of 6/19)
Player % increase
1. Trevor Plouffe, SS, MIN 49
2. Brandon Moss, OF, OAK 29
3. Aaron Harang, SP, LAD 22
4. Brian Roberts, 2B, BAL 20
5. Ryan Cook, RP, OAK 19
6. Brandon Belt, OF, SF 15
7. Phil Hughes, SP, NYY 15
8. Scott Diamond, SP, MIN 14
9. Jake Arrieta, SP, BAL 14
10. Wade Miley, SP, ARI 14

Most Added Highlights

Trevor Plouffe, SS, MIN
Jump in Ownership: 49 percent (from 34 percent to 83)
Reason for the jump: Plouffe is currently raking for the Minnesota Twins.
Why you should join the crowd: Most of the time, when a Fantasy owner is searching for middle infield help this late in the season, he will pull up the free agents, sort by something like "home runs," and pick up the guy who has three homers, as opposed to the guy with two. Plouffe, a former first-round pick, has been a hugely popular aberration. Through Wednesday's games, Plouffe, who is eligible at third base, shortstop and outfield in most leagues, has 14 home runs in 152 at-bats. Just for the sake of comparison, the other three players who have 14 home runs on the season (Miguel Cabrera, Corey Hart and Giancarlo Stanton) have hit theirs in 268, 251 and 239 at-bats, respectively.
Devil's Advocate: Those three other players who have hit 14 home runs also sport .310, .251 and .272 batting averages, respectively. Plouffe is hitting .243. They also have three, one and three steals, respectively (yes, Stanton and Cabrera have a combined six steals, and yes, it's getting just as annoying to write "respectively" as it is to read it); Plouffe has none, and has been caught stealing twice. Additionally, while Plouffe does have some decent power numbers in the minor leagues, they are far from overwhelming. The 2011 season was the first in which Plouffe's OPS (1.019) was over .736; for his minor league career, Plouffe has just a .726 OPS. It's not out of the question to see a player develop his power during his age 25 season, but a jump of this proportion might signal an eventual slow-down at some point this year. Proceed with caution, but enjoy it (as long as you can handle the average hit) while it lasts.

Less than 50, more than 50
Players owned in less than 50% of leagues who should be owned in more than 50%
Player % owned
1. Andrew Bailey, RP, BOS 49
2. Wilin Rosario, C, COL 49
3. J.D. Martinez, OF, HOU 48
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC 47
5. Dillon Gee, SP, NYM 43

Brandon Moss, OF, OAK
Jump in Ownership: 29 percent (from one percent to 30)
Reason for the jump: In the last week, Moss has hit .348 with five home runs, 10 RBI and a 1.130 OPS.
Why you should join the crowd: Moss, a former top prospect, was once so highly thought of that he was one of the players involved in the Manny Ramirez/Jason Bay (this was in 2008) three-team deal between the Dodgers, Pirates and Red Sox. But his career stalled out after a few stints in the majors with the Pirates, and he was bounced around from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, to his most recent off-season signing with the A's. In 51 games with Oakland's PCL affiliate in Sacramento, Moss hammered 15 home runs, coupled with 11 doubles. In two previous seasons, he had hit 22 and 23 with Indianapolis and Lehigh Valley, respectively. So the power is there. And, in Oakland, Moss will see plenty of playing time, having supplanted both Daric Barton and Kila Ka'aihue at first base, while having the ability to play the outfield or DH, positions currently held by a combination of Seth Smith, Josh Reddick, Collin Cowgill, Jonny Gomes and a hobbled Yoenis Cespedes.
Devil's Advocate: As is the case with many power hitters, Moss tends to strike out a lot, having 181 career major league strikeouts against 64 walks in 260 games. In the minors, he has 900 strikeouts against 393 walks. He won't contribute much to your Fantasy team with steals (beyond one or two), and will likely see his power numbers take a bit of a hit as he plays in a pitcher-friendly home park. With 714 career at-bats, Moss has been given chances to succeed before and there's no guarantee he won't do anything different now.
But...: That all being said, Moss is still just 28 and has plenty of opportunity in Oakland, with a team that embraces other organizations' castoffs and turns them into Fantasy producers (Josh Willingham's 29 home runs in 2011, Rajai Davis' 50 steals in 2010 and 41 in 2009, Jack Cust's 33 homers in 2008).

Future Roster Trenders
Players owned in less than 20% of leagues who should be owned in more
Player Ownership %
1. Rod Barajas, C, PIT 19
2. Daniel Nava, OF, BOS 18
3. Jacob Turner, SP, DET 19
4. Everth Cabrera, SS, SD 16
5. Chris Young, SP, NYM 15

Steve Pearce, 1B, BAL
Jump in Ownership: Two percent (from zero percent to 2)
Reason for the jump: Since being sold by the Yankees to the Orioles early in June, Pearce has hit .297 with nine RBI and three doubles.
Why you should join the crowd: Pearce has quietly been accruing plenty of at-bats in Baltimore's lineup since the purchase and has started the last eight games. The 29-year-old has a career .294 average and .895 OPS over parts of eight seasons in the minors. Maybe the best comparison for Pearce would be Bryan LaHair, who, at 29, is enjoying a breakout campaign in Chicago after toiling in the minors for most of his career. Both got looks in the majors with the teams that drafted them (LaHair with Seattle, Pearce with Pittsburgh), and both can play the outfield and first base. Pearce's OPS is actually higher than LaHair's (.865). If you missed the boat on LaHair, Pearce could be a handsome consolation prize. Even when Nick Markakis or Nolan Reimold make it back, Pearce could still have a role at the opposite corner, first base or designated hitter, thanks to plenty of moving parts in the Orioles lineup.
Devil's Advocate: Pearce has a career .237 average in 502 at-bats in the majors. He pretty much fizzled in parts of five seasons with the Pirates, most recently in 2011, when he hit .202 with a .515 OPS in 105 at-bats.
However: In 2011, Pearce managed "regular" playing time (five starts in a row) just once, from May 16 to May 28. He hit .313 with one home run and six RBI over those five games.

Marco Scutaro, SS, COL
Jump in Ownership: 13 percent (from 61 percent to 74)
Reason for the jump: In June, Scutaro is batting .350 with two home runs and eight runs scored over 60 at-bats.
Why you should join the crowd: While Scutaro hasn't stood out in any one category, he has been delivering lately for the Rockies, raising his average from .257 to .279 so far this month. The secret? Perhaps it's his new spot in the order. As a leadoff man, Scutaro, over 37 games, was hitting just .235 with no home runs and three RBI. But, in 23 games batting second, Scutaro is sporting a .333 average with three home runs and 14 RBI. His OPS is .865 (the same as Bryan LaHair's minor league total!). Scutaro has hit second in the lineup the last 18 games, a span during which he has hit .351. Over the last 21 days, Scutaro is the 24th-best player in H2H points leagues. Throw all those splits away and Scutaro has still been impressive toward the top of the Colorado lineup, with his 38 runs scored putting him in the top 20 of the National League.
Devil's Advocate: For all of Scutaro's recent solid play, he ends up being a somewhat unspectacular Fantasy player. He's hit more than 10 home runs just twice in his career and stolen more than 10 bases just once. His value lies more in points leagues than Rotisserie/category set-ups, as he does manage decent double and walk rates, while keeping the strikeouts low.

Breaking points
The most deactived non-DL'd players
Player % deactivation
1. Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL 40
2. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, BOS 28
3. Wei-Yin Chen, SP, BAL 19
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS 19
5. Rafael Furcal, SS, STL 18

Carlos Marmol, RP, CHC
Jump in Ownership: 10 percent (from 27 percent to 37)
Reason for the jump: Marmol has re-captured the closer job for the Chicago Cubs.
Why you should join the crowd: Despite all the Fantasy hate thrown in Marmol's direction, he does have two seasons of 30-plus saves, coupled with an outstanding (11.7) K/9 rate over his career. His 3.46 ERA is a little high for what an owner would want out of a closer, but his 1.31 WHIP is probably lower than many would guess. The Cubs will get save opportunities this year and they've already exhausted most of their other options in their bullpen, finally landing, again, on Marmol.
Devil's Advocate: Marmol probably doesn't need much more piling on, but he does tend to walk plenty of batters -- his 10.6 BB/9 this season is actually higher than his K/9 (10.1). And his stint in middle relief didn't exactly inspire confidence: on May 5, the day after he was removed from the closer role, his ERA was 5.59. As of his third save, on June 15, his ERA was 5.79.

Andrelton Simmons, SS, ATL
Jump in Ownership: 7 percent (from 10 percent to 17)
Reason for the jump: Simmons is currently hitting .333 after 15 games as Atlanta's starting shortstop.
Why you should join the crowd: Just look at that line: 15 games, two home runs, six RBI, two doubles and four runs! On top of that, Simmons has a career .299 average in the minor leagues and has double-digit steals in all three of his seasons. He also had 35 doubles in 2011.
Devil's Advocate: Simmons is in just his third season of professional baseball, with none of his minor league experience coming at a level higher than Double-A. In 2011, he coupled his 26 steals with a whopping 18 times caught stealing -- in High-A ball -- which may explain the team's reluctance to let him loose on the basepaths so far this season (although, to his credit, he had 10 stolen bases against just two time being caught so far this season in the minors). He's just 22 years old and the lack of expereince at a high minor league level may eventually be exposed at some point this season. Simmons may be closer to a .260 hitter than a .300 hitter by September and if the Braves don't let him steal bases, a great deal of his Fantasy value disappears.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to return to Japan
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda will return to pitch in Japan next season, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. A Hiroshima newspaper was the first to have the report.

The 39-year-old Kuroda spent seven seasons in the United States. He posted a career 3.45 ERA over 1319 innings. After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Dodgers, Kuroda joined the Yankees. He remained with the organization for three seasons, but made sure his contract went year-to-year so that he could return to Japan when ready. Kuroda plans to continue his baseball career in Japan, and will pitch for the Hiroshima Carp next year. 


Report: Giants my look at Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:14 pm ET) The Giants may look into acquiring Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist, according to Gammons Daily. 

Gammons notes that several general managers believe the club will deal prospects to acquire the 33-year-old Zobrist. San Francisco is currently slated to start Joe Panik at second, but Zobrist can play multiple positions. It's unclear where the Giants would elect to use Zobrist the most. He hit .272/.354/.395 in 570 at-bats last season. Zobrist is entering the final year of his contract, and is due $7.5 million next season.


Report: Yankees have yet to be informed of Hiroki Kuroda's plans
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:57 pm ET) The Yankees have yet to be informed of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda's plans for next year, according to the New York Times.

A Hiroshima newspaper reported Kuroda will return to Japan next season, ending a seven-year run in the United States. The 39-year-old posted a 3.71 ERA over 199 innings with New York last season. Kuroda had signed one-year deals the past couple of offseasons so that he could return to Japan when ready.


1B Clint Robinson hooks up with Nationals
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:05 pm ET) The Nationals have signed first baseman Clint Robinson to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

Robinson had been in the Dodgers organization. He compiled a strong .312/.401/.535 slash line at the Triple-A level a year ago.


Report: RHP Hiroki Kuroda heading back to Japan
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:58 pm ET) Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is heading back to Japan, thereby ending his career with the Yankees, per various reports.

Kuroda, who will be 40 years old in February, pitched seven seasons in the major leagues, including the last three in the Big Apple. He finished 2014 with an 11-9 record and 3.71 ERA.


Astros LHP Downs, IF Petit heading to Fresno
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:07 pm ET) The Astros have outrighted left-hander Darin Downs to Triple-A Fresno after having cleared waivers. 

The team has also announced that infielder Gregorio Petit has accepted an assignment to Fresno. He and Downs are set to join the squad in spring training.


Nationals taking chance on 2B Dan Uggla
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:48 am ET) Second baseman Dan Uggla, who has spent most of his recent years creating a breeze at the plate, has signed a minor league deal with the Nationals with a spring training invite.

Uggla received a career-low 141 at-bats last season with Atlanta and San Francisco. He compiled a disturbing slash line of .149/.229/.213 with 46 strikeouts. His batting average has fallen in each of the last four years.


Diamondbacks bring in LHP Dan Runzler
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) Left-hander Dan Runzler did not stick around in Japan for long. He spent the last two months of the 2014 season there, but is back in the states after signing a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks.

Runzler compiled a 3.30 ERA and fanned 53 in 46 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level for San Francisco last season before bolting to Japan.


RHP Juan Gutierrez remains with Giants
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:52 am ET) The Giants have re-signed right-hander Juan Gutierrez to a minor league contract. The deal likely includes an invitation to spring training, per Baseball America.

Gutierrez appeared in 61 games for San Francisco in 2014, compiling a 3.96 ERA and allowing 60 hits in 63 2/3 innings.


Darin Downs outrighted to Triple-A Fresno
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:41 am ET) The Astros sent left-handed reliever Darin Downs outright to Triple-A Fresno. Downs made 45 appearances with the Astros last season. He posted a 5.45 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and 27:19 K:BB ratio over 34 2/3 innings.

 
 
 
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