When the Rockies recalled Josh Rutledge in the wake of Troy Tulowitzki's broken rib, it was assumed that Rutledge would just be plugged into the lineup at shortstop and all would be well with the world.
However, through the first five games of the Rutledge 2.0 era, Rutledge has played shortstop twice, played second base twice, and has sat for a game. After homering in his first game back with the team, Rutledge has gone hitless in the following three, sporting a .056 average and .327 OPS with a .000 BABIP.
So what does a Fantasy owner do with Rutledge? In deeper leagues (12-team Roto and beyond), I'm still starting him. I managed to add him in a couple of 12-team Head-to-Head leagues, where he serves as depth at second base or shortstop, and I'm keeping him there, anticipating a turnaround coming soon.
When Rutledge was demoted, he was on pace for a 20/20 season. In 89 Triple-A at-bats, Rutledge was hitting .348 with two home runs and a 1.003 OPS. He's shown a solid power/speed/batting average combo throughout his career. And his ability to play both second base and shortstop gives him the ability to get in the lineup regularly.
With the call-up buzz wearing off, his owners may look at Rutledge's mini-slump and decide to drop him back to the wire for a Brandon Crawford or Neil Walker. Be ready to gobble Rutledge back up if that's the case; he's a much better hitter than he's shown this season and his middle infield eligibility has value by itself.
The Big Leaps
Jordan Lyles, SP, Astros (39 percent ownership, up from 11 percent)
Lyles has been on a roll in his last seven starts -- a 1.61 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 15 strikeouts in his last two starts. This run has lowered his ERA to 3.22 and his WHIP down to 1.28. It has also bumped his ownership up to 40 percent. The former top prospect (Baseball America ranked him in their top 100 in 2010 and top 50 in 2011) and first-round draft pick seems to have finally corralled his talent.
|Player Name||% owned|
|1.||Josh Rutledge, 2B, Rockies||35|
|2.||Jordan Lyles, SP, Astros||29|
|3.||Mike Carp, OF, Red Sox||22|
|4.||Rick Porcello, SP, Tigers||21|
|5.||Eric Stults, SP, Dodgers||20|
|6.||Adam Lind, 1B, Blue Jays||19|
|7.||Corey Kluber, SP, Indians||19|
|8.||Esmil Rogers, SP, Blue Jays||19|
|9.||Zack Cozart, SS, Reds||18|
|10.||Kyle Blanks, OF, Padres||17|
Maybe the most encouraging aspect of Lyles' success is that his peripherals aren't jump-out-at-you noticeable. His BABIP is .297, right around league average (if not a little high, meaning he could still correct downward). His 78.9 percent strand rate is a bit high, but it's far from a warning sign. His HR/FB rate is down, but it's still hovering around 10 percent, which is right around league average (it's 10.8 percent in 2013).
In short, trying to find a reason to not believe in Lyles -- outside of just a gut feeling and pointing to his previous stints in the majors -- is somewhat of a challenge. Even his xFIP is sitting at 3.70, suggesting that whatever correction may be on the horizon isn't going to be a hugely dramatic one. Lyles won't strike a lot of batters out, and he can't be fully trusted to keep up this run, but he may be worth a gamble in 14-team Roto leagues until he starts to sputter.
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.95
Over/under on WHIP (season): 1.27
Over/under on K/9 (season): 6.5
Unadvised Drop of the Week
Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds (70 percent, down from 83 percent)
It may have actually hurt Cingrani's value to shift him to the bullpen -- the next time a Reds pitcher pops up with an injury, Cingrani is going to have to get stretched out, instead of just called up. But the fact that he stayed in the majors with the Reds gives his owners a chance to collect strikeouts and holds, while helping to lower ERA and WHIP, as they wait for the next opening.
Cingrani has been spectacular over 40 2/3 major league innings this year. He has a 3.10 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, while striking out 48 batters. He's the no-doubt next-in-line for starts. This is somewhat important because the Reds had a rotation that was incredibly durable in 2012 (all five starters made 30 starts). This now becomes a matter of perspective. I'm from the camp of things tending to even out, guessing that the rotation is due for an injury beyond Johnny Cueto's couple of DL trips to equalize the good luck they had in 2012.
Someone else may think that the good health wasn't an accident, and could be a trend for the Reds (which isn't out of the question, considering Bryan Price's track record as pitching coach). This would make Cingrani a less-attractive option. Whatever the case, though, Cingrani has proven to be a stellar pitcher who is worth hanging onto in most Fantasy formats for at least another couple weeks.
I included Cingrani in a mid-April column when he was making his initial imapct on the waiver wire. I'm just going to repeat his over/under here, because I still believe in these numbers.
Over/under on K/9 (season): 8.5
Over/under on ERA (season): 2.99
Over/under on starts (season): 20
The Flavor of Next Week
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians (Owned in 16 percent of leagues)
Chisenhall was hitting .213 with three home runs and a .604 OPS when the Indians optioned him to Triple-A on May 13. He promptly tore apart minor league pitching to the tune of a .390 average and 1.132 OPS, hitting six home runs in 27 games.
Chisenhall returned to the majors Tuesday and slammed the brakes on any momentum he had gathered, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
So which Chisenhall should we expect? I vote for the minor league version. Chisenhall was the No. 25 prospect in 2011. In his two minor league seasons with more than 300 at-bats, he hit double-digit home runs (22 in 2009 and 17 in 2010). He's never struck out 100 times and walks at a somewhat decent rate (keeping his K/BB ratio -- at least through the minors -- close to 2:1). His .239 BABIP in 2013 also suggests improvement in batting average is on the way.
Chisenhall is far from a sure bet, and that's what makes him a somewhat attractive option in most leagues. He'll probably play third base every day in a solid Indians lineup, and sports potential in power and average. Yet a lot of Fantasy players have an aversion to him, because of his early-season stint and failure to really capitalize on minor league promise.
But keep in mind that Chisenhall is still just 24 years old, could carry that minor league momentum into the majors, and is playing a position (third base) that has been disappointing so far this year. With a solid week -- or even something like a two-homer weekend -- Chisenhall should start to see his ownership rise heading into Week 13.
Over/under on average (season): .265
Over/under on home runs (season): 18
American League-only fun
Miguel Tejada, 3B, Royals (0 percent owned)
I've been one of the most vocal Moustakas supporters this season. I've pointed to his strikeout rate being the lowest of his career, his walk rate being the highest, and his BABIP being about .100 points below league average. When George Brett was brought on as interim hitting coach, I may have written analysis urging owners to buy low on Moustakas, because, perhaps, it was the old regime's philosophy that had Moustakas hitting at a sub-.200 clip with just four home runs.
After 14 June games, though, Moustakas is still failing to break out. He hasn't homered since May 10. He hasn't had an extra-base hit since May 25. His last RBI came on May 23. Here's a not-so-fun fact: in the month of June, Moustakas has accrued more HBPs than RBI, homers and doubles combined.
I don't know what will fix him, or how it will be done. He's started four games in a row and has a .267 average in that stretch, but with the Royals playing markedly better baseball lately, there's a chance they may send Moustakas to the minors to hone a new approach for a couple weeks.
Enter Miguel Tejada.
I want to make it clear that Tejada's value lies in AL-only Roto leagues, where a couple bench spots may be dedicated to deep prospects or Triple-A pitchers who may or may not get called up to make a spot start (the Jair Jurrjens-types). This is where an add of Tejada makes sense. In 59 at-bats this season, Tejada is hitting .305 with two home runs and nine RBI. He's played sparingly this season but has picked up the pace a bit in June, with 17 at-bats and a .353 average. The 39-year-old is not going to steal the starting job, but if the Royals decide to demote Moustakas for a couple of weeks, Tejada's playing time would take a big jump. And regular at-bats in an AL-only league means instant value.
Over/under on at-bats (season): 185
Over/under on average (season): .275
National League-only fun
Carlos Zambrano, RP, Phillies (3 percent ownership)
The last time we saw Zambrano, he was laboring through a lost season with the Marlins, relegated to a relief role after sporting a 4.54 ERA in 20 starts last season. It was Zambrano's second season in a row with an ERA over 4.00, and just the third time in 12 years that Zambrano didn't finish a season with that sub-4.00 ERA (his only other time was in his first season, when Zambrano pitched 7 2/3 innings).
With all the Zambrano follies of late -- smashing Gatorade coolers, pretending to retire, and being ordered to take anger management classes -- it's easy to forget that he was actually a very good pitcher over a long period of time. From 2002 to 2010, Zambrano compiled a 3.55 ERA, striking out almost a batter per inning while pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley Field. His unlikely comeback attempt for the Phillies has helped to jog some memories -- Zambrano has a 0.95 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in five minor league starts.
With his future still somewhat unclear (Zambrano says he's been ready to pitch in the majors for weeks, the team has suggested he may work out of the bullpen, some reports have him joining the rotation next week), it's tough to fully embrace the 32-year-old. But he deserves more than 3 percent ownership.
Zambrano has proven over the course of his career that he can pitch well at a major league level. With the way he's pitching in the minors, he's worth a gamble in most NL-only formats. And even if he starts in the bullpen (the unlikely route, but it's still a possibility), it probably won't be long until he's in the rotation.
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.75
Over/under on starts (season): 12
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