It has been pretty illuminating, pointing out slumping players of whom we expected more, but got less this year, at least so far. So, as with a few names over the past weeks, like first sackers Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt--both of whom we recommended, and both of whom have heated up--this time we have a litany of veterans to review.
But, let's start with those ever-lovable prospects, beginning in my own back yard with Oakland's new back-up catcher, Derek Norris. Happily, Oakland has dispensed with the likes of Josh Donaldson and Andrew Reddick--both of whom were never more than Quad-A players despites the Athletics best hopes or dreams. But Norris, acquired niftily along with Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez, is the real backstop deal.
Blessed with both solid power (77 minor league homers over 486 games) and a solid OBP 0f .395 (364 walks to 460 whiffs), Norris can not only handle the load in supporting present catching incumbent Kurt Suzuki, but he could make the popular Oakland start expendable. Catching the final two games of the Bay Bridge series, Norris got his first hit Saturday giving "Zuk" a day off, and Sunday because he had caught rookie starter A.J. Griffin in Sacramento. Norris responded with a game winning three-run walk off jack with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Expect more, and while he might only be a back up for now, he should be a good one. As in Landon Powell, realized. Grab him in your ultra format.
Salvador Perez, signed by the Royals as a free agent out of Venezuela, the 22-year old catcher was on the road last year with K.C. hitting .331-3-21 over 148 at-bats, when a torn meniscus got in the way. Now back in the majors, with his knee intact, coming off .340-0-7, Perez is possibly even a more interesting prospect than Norris, for all that stands in his way is veteran Humberto Quintero. Add him in AL only leagues, and keep an eye in mixed formats.
Tampa, struggling now with injuries to Jeff Niemann and now Jeremy Hellickson, brought up Chris Archer, a fifth-round selection of the Tribe in 2006, Archer went to the Cubs in 2008 as part of the deal for Mark DeRosa, and then was packaged last year along with Sam Fuld and a bevy of prospects for Matt Garza. The owner of a 39-40, 3.89 mark as a minor league starter, Archer can post the whiffs with 669 over 668.1 innings, but is vulnerable to the walk (338). Archer had a nice first major league start (six innings, seven whiffs, three hits, but a loss) against the Nationals for his debut last Wednesday, and though he is a rookie pitcher, Archer has some chops and is on a good team. Worth a risk in an AL only format.
Ok, let's move along to some (un)seasoned vets, starting with a couple of guys I drafted myself. I took Francisco Liriano for my Scoresheet team thinking largely of his good 2010 (14-10, 3.62) anticipating a nice bounceback from last year (9-10, 5.09) especially following Liriano's hot spring (2-1, 2.33 over 27 innings, with 33 whiffs and five walks). Bad initial choice, as Liriano was 0-3, 11.02 in April, though he improved to 1-2, 4.56 over 23 May innings. In June, though, the "old" Liriano seems to have come back in June with an 0-2 mark, but the 3.33 ERA over 24.1 innings with 27 strikeouts and a terrific 0.95 WHIP. Though Liriano is not on a team that will win a lot of games, he may give some good totals, especially with the pressure off. At least I have put him back in my Scoresheet rotation, but a lot of that has to do with injuries to Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum.
I also own Justin Masterson in the XFL, and had owned him in Tout Wars till a couple of weeks ago when I swapped the Indians starter to my bud Andy Behrens for Carlos Pena. Masterson struggled a lot in April, going 0-2, 5.40 (1.467 WHIP), then 2-2, 4.93 (1.51 WHIP) and as a result, as much as I like Masterson, he became expendable for a hitting gamble. Well, though I have a pair of homers so far from Pena, Masterson has rewarded Andy's trust in June, going 2-2, 1.24 over four starts and 29 innings, with 27 whiffs, just one homer, and a 0.862 WHIP. He's back!
I have always had a sort of up-and-down relationship with the Brave Jair Jurrjens: probably not too different from the rest of you. After the 14-10, 2.60 2009, Jurrjens struggled at 7-6, 4.64 and injuries contributed to disappointment in 2010, but Jurrjens bounced back well with 13-6, 2.96 2011 numbers. However, completely out the window was everything this year with 1-2, 6.75 numbers. We know Jurrjens is a control guy, with 492 strikeouts over his 792.1 innings, meaning he has to be be fine to be successful. Jurrjens can do that, as witnessed by his 2009 and 2011 totals. Looking again at those 1-2, 6.75 totals, remember that Jurrjens picked up his win earlier in the week, with 7.2 good innings, reducing his ERA from 9.37. Forget his ever confusing 3-4, 5.18 minor league numbers at Gwinnett this year, and figure that for now, Jurrjens has his mojo back. Just remember that unlike Masterson and Liriano, dominance is not part of his game, so be prepared to let go, and quickly, as necessary.
Last year Adam Lind hit .251-26-87, though with a crappy .296 OBP. The year before he was .237-23-72, with an even worse .285 OBP, but inexplicably, in 2009 Lind was .305-35-114 with a terrific .385 OBP (58 walks to 110 whiffs). Of course, this year he was as bad as bad could be with Toronto hitting .186-3-11, so off to Las Vegas it was, and there Lind could more than hold his own, hitting .395-8-29 over 124 at-bats, with a .451 OBP (15 walks to 26 strikeouts). Lind should hit well at AAA, though, but those bad on-base numbers at the Show of the last two seasons cause concern. Lind was recalled, but I am thinking a change of scene might be what he needs. In other words, if you are in an AL only or other deep format, you have to give him a shot. Otherwise, pass for now, leaving Lind on your bench till he gives you a reason to do otherwise.
Kevin Youkilis has literally changed Sox--from Blue to White--and this is a great chance for him. Injured largely with Boston this year, Youk not only never got on-track, but with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford down, the table was not set as expected. With the Pale Hose and Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn helping out, playing a position that has been a deep dark hole for the White Sox, expect Youkilis to bounce back.
Meanwhile, if Boston had to swap Youk, Brent Lillibridge--who can play all over the place, offer some speed, and some pop--is a perfect antidote. Lillibridge is not a full-timer, meaning his only value is in an AL only or deep mixed format, but despite the .175-0-2 numbers this year, he does have seven swipes, and last year, the outfielder/first baseman/second sacker hit .258-13-29 over 186 at-bats. Like Youk, expect Lillibridge to enjoy the new scene, but again, he won't be a starter, especially with Crawford and Ellsbury on the way back.
Finally, I have Erick Aybar in a couple of leagues: that same Scoresheet League, and also Tout Wars. As he was an expensive ($25 in Tout, and one of eight freezes in the Murphy Scoresheet format) so I was wed to the Angels shortstop. Aybar hit .222-0-5 in April, and not much better at .223-0-6 in May, however, this June, the shortstop has settled back in with .329-1-8 totals, raising his season numbers to an almost respectable .254-1-19. If Aybar keeps it up, and I think he will, expect the average back up around the .280 range, and even figure he can hit double digits in homers, and 15-20 swipes.