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Saturday 23rd Sep 2017

Who are the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball games? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?

Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

  • Last 7: 1 W, 2 SV, 1.29 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 10 K in 7 IP

They come in droves when a manager names a new closer. Q: How long is the shelf life of this one?

Closer Hot Seat mentioned on Wednesday that team decision-makers want to see John Axford back in the role as soon as they believe that he's ready for it. Plus, there's still the outside chance that the Brew Crew trades K-Rod. A: Probably not very long.

Ben Sheets, SP, Atlanta Braves

  • 7/15: W, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K in 6 IP

The Bravos' newest starter is an old name with an unfamiliar approach: Sheets has incorporated a changeup fairly heavily, and it may help him to stay healthy as well as succeed.

All future outings won't look this good, and he's no longer a fireballer. But if Sheets keeps hitters off-balance, he could produce a low WHIP, an ERA of about 3.00 to 3.75, some W's and something like seven K's per nine.

Cody Ross, OF, Boston Red Sox

  • Last 4: .500 BA, 5 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI in 14 PA

Ross is back on everyone's list after he began the week in two-hit style. A monstrous, two-tater game on Wednesday followed by his walk-off heroics (a three-run bomb) on Thursday quickly put him back in the fantasy consciousness.

Ross has often been a hot-or-cold hitter who warrants ownership in shallow leagues when his switch is on. The temporary absence of David Ortiz (strained Achilles' tendon) frees up a few at-bats, too.

Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins

  • Last 10: 3 W, 2.84 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 77 K in 63 1/3 IP
 

Those in shallow mixed leagues who were too skeptical to pick up Liriano not long after he re-entered Minnesota's rotation are jumping on the bandwagon. Back-to-back games in which a pitcher totals 25 strikeouts can do that.

The southpaw has dealt to only one high-quality opponent (Chicago White Sox), and his control problems are creeping up on him again. Liriano has been on his game, so enjoy it while you can. It'll be interesting to see how he pitches if he's traded to a contender.

Steve Cishek, RP, Miami Marlins

  • July: 1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 9 K in 8 IP

Ozzie Guillen is handling save opps by committee because Heath Bell continues to give him fits. Roto managers from all walks seem to be aware that Cishek heads this group. He's had the club's best bullpen arm in 2012.

Matchups will probably be a factor. Lefty Mike Dunn picked up the Fish's only other save since the break. Righty Juan Oviedo (sprained UCL) is no longer in the picture.

Bell is the biggest threat to the committee. He could reclaim the job, but it'll take more convincing than it did last time.

Chris Carter, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics

  • Last 11: .310 BA, 10 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI in 36 PA

The A's haven't played their former top prospect every day since his late June call-up, but the masher is convincing them to increase his PT. Brandon Moss, Carter's main competition for ABs, has shockingly - kidding! - cooled quite a bit since Oakland turned to him at first base.

Carter's production against right-handers is just a continuation of the work he did on the farm this season. The BA will certainly come down, but his much improved BB/K implies that his reported newfound respect for the need to make adjustments to pitchers is paying dividends. Carter may have turned a corner.

Daniel Straily, SP, Oakland Athletics

  • N/A

Many fantasy players in deep setups didn't want to take the chance that a league-mate would beat them to this minor league right-hander. According to Susan Slusser, the A's plan to give him a look should they trade Bartolo Colon.

In 126 1/3 stanzas between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento, Straily has gone 6-6 with a 2.64 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP and an 11.54 K/9. Wow. He's been superb in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (1.10 ERA in six starts) so far.

Reports suggest that Oakland is highly unlikely to trade their portly right-handed veteran. Some evaluators believe that Straily isn't as good as his marks suggest. At least fantasy players know who the next man up should be, and with numbers like that, he can't be ignored.

Paul Maholm, SP, Chicago Cubs

  • Last 5: 4-0, 0.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 20 K in 30 1/3 IP

He's not an ace, but he's on fire. Maholm has piqued the interest of contending teams with his recent performance.

The left-hander isn't suddenly a transformed hurler. His 4.09 ERA, 5.88 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9 for the season are more indicative of the type of pitcher he is. Maholm induces a decent rate of ground balls and is in a groove, which could last for another week or a couple of months.

Anthony Gose, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

  • Last 2: .200 BA, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB in 5 PA

The Jays called up their top position prospect when they placed Jose Bautista (wrist irritation) on the disabled list. Gose has moderate power and is a high-end base-stealer whose plate discipline could still use some work.

The 21-year-old certainly deserves attention, but not in most roto leagues for now. Joey Bats may miss only the minimum, fortunately. Brett Lawrie (calf contusion) seems to have avoided a serious injury. And Toronto called up Travis Snider, who's expected to play regularly for the time being. Gose's fantasy future probably won't really begin until sometime in 2013.

Travis Snider, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

  • N/A

Speaking of! Diamond Market went over the Jays' post-hype prospect on Friday. Snider, 24, is finally getting the shot that he's clamored for this season. Some of his 2012 minor league stats may be evidence that he's maturing as a hitter.

Toronto hasn't always given Snider a fair shake, but much of the onus is on him. He still has a pretty swing, good power and a willingness to run on occasion. He's worth a shot in many formats.

Who are the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?

Tyler Colvin, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies

  • Last 23: .353 BA, 16 R, 10 HR, 27 RBI in 93 PA

Colvin heads this week's list, which is loaded with repeat offenders. Just about every league has someone who has finally brought the Colorado outfielder aboard. Yes, beware, his PITCHf/x marks in the plate discipline categories certainly don't foretell continued BA fortune of this nature.

A cooling period is in store, but the forecast doesn't say when. It may not come until next year; Colvin has been hitting like this all season. It's the left-handed hitter's playing time and lineup spot that have changed for the better. The Rockies, like roto managers, will ride him for as long possible.

Lance Berkman, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals

  • 2012: .333 BA, 8 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI in 49 PA

Fantasy owners in shallow leagues have made sure to get the jump on their competition for the services of last year's fantasy revelation of the year. The Cards will activate Berkman (arthroscopic knee surgery) on the first weekend of the second half. Don't leave him out there.

New Berkman owners may need to be patient. He went through intense rehab and baseball-related workouts to get back as soon as possible. He badly wanted to avoid a minor league rehab assignment, and he did. The 36-year-old's timing may be off, and initially he may need occasional rest. Berkman's recuped knee could also affect his performance.

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Miami Marlins

  • Last 11: .439 BA, 7 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB in 46 PA

There was no stopping this Tampa Bay Rays retread as the season's first half closed. Even the activation of Emilio Bonifacio from the disabled list can't put him down. The Fish had to place right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (surgery to remove loose bodies in right knee) on the DL!

Ozzie Guillen will pencil in Ruggiano as long as the 30-year-old is hitting like this. The manager may also stick with him for a while after the right-handed batter isn't, however. Fantasy owners shouldn't make the same mistake.

There's been a lot of panning of Ruggiano, somewhat justifiably, because of his past MLB failures in limited time and his modest minor league record. But the one thing that seems to go unnoticed is his dramatic improvement in contact rate in the past couple of seasons.

Totally legit? No. The contact rate still isn't great. A little reason to be optimistic that he'll be serviceable depth in deep leagues for several more weeks? Sure, why not.

Norichika Aoki, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

  • Last 15: .397 BA, 12 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 6 SB in 68 PA

Somewhat quietly, Aoki has put together a fine line while hitting first or second regularly for the past month and a half. It's his hot streak that gained him attention from those in shallow leagues, of course.

The left-handed batsman has a very nice approach at the dish and hit for high averages in Japan for nearly a decade. His pop isn't as potent in the States, but he can swipe some bases, too.

Just keep in mind that the frequency of stolen bases may not be as great as his hot streak implies. Aoki thieved four bases in the first game of the stretch noted and hasn't been quite so aggressive otherwise.

Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals

  • Last 13: .383 BA, 9 R, 4 HR, 8 RBI in 47 PA

The formats and lineup requirements of the leagues change, but the theme remains the same: Perez is the hottest backstop commodity on the market. He should be, and when he cools off, fantasy owners shouldn't be quick to discard him.

In the minors, Perez, 22, displayed the ability to hit for average. He'd only hinted at the kind of power production that was in store in the long run. His 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame made it easy to imagine many bombs in his future.

Perhaps it's just that major league pitchers bring out the best in him. What's most encouraging: In his small MLB sample, he hasn't sacrificed any of that BA acumen. He probably won't continue to hit them out at this pace, but Perez could be a great one, for a long time.

Delmon Young, OF, Detroit Tigers

  • Last 12: .333 BA, 8 R, 5 HR, 11 RBI in 51 PA

Detroit Tigers OF Delmon Young
Mo' HR, RBI comin' for Motown

OK, to be more precise, it's Young's last four contests before the break (6-for-14, four home runs) that really spurred the widespread fantasy community's lust for him. Hitting behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder is really beginning to pay off.

Although Young isn't going to contend for a batting title any time soon, his second-half outlook is sunny. He's past a nagging injury from the beginning of the season and sits pretty in a great lineup. As long as he avoids another ailment, Young should be a roster fixture in most setups.

Juan Oviedo, RP, Miami Marlins

  • N/A

There isn't much that gets past those in competitive leagues. The artist formerly known as Leo Nunez is eligible for activation from his suspension on July 23. The right-hander is on a minor league assignment (one hit, one run, one walk and two K's 2 2/3 innings) until he proves to the Fish that he's ready to retire big leaguers consistently again.

Ozzie Guillen's move to a committee in save situations couldn't have come at a much better time for the club's former closer. The big free-agent closer whom the Marlins signed, Heath Bell, has been awful for much of the season.

Steve Cishek is the lead arm in this case-by-case system and may deserve to stick there. Randy Choate is a LOOGY possibility. Bell may yet work his way back into favor. But no one knows what'll happen.

Nunez wasn't then a top-notch closer, and Oviedo has been away from the bigs for a while. But the former was decent and made great strides, and the latter turns only 29 in August. He's worth a shot.

Zach McAllister, SP, Cleveland Indians

  • Last 3: 2 W, 2.60 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 19 K in 17 1/3 IP

This right-hander has been pretty darn good since the Tribe promoted him to take Jeanmar Gomez's spot in the rotation. This season, in seven starts for the parent club, McAllister is 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA, an 8.72 K/9 and a 2.13 BB/9.

The 24-year-old's results have been much better this season than they were last year in his initial taste of MLB action. However, many of his peripheral marks have improved only marginally. That's not a bad thing, because those numbers looked solid in 2011.

McAllister's stuff isn't spectacular, and on the farm he's been a hittable pitcher as a result. His ERA won't remain so pretty, but those in deep leagues may rightfully believe that he can be serviceable post-break.

Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals

  • N/A

Those in spirited leagues can't wait for their competitors to get the jump. Rotisserie managers are pouncing on the player whose call-up is most anticipated now that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are doing their thang.

Are these fantasy owners jumping the gun? Although KC wasn't expected to consider Myers for a promotion until later this season, chatter about a move has picked up steam. The Royals are willing to deal Jeff Francoeur, and Lorenzo Cain's performance may dictate the club's commitment to him in the second half.

At Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, combined, the right-handed-hitting outfielder has hit .328 with 27 home runs and five stolen bases. He's kind of good. (Caveat: You'd like to see him strike out a little less often, so adjustments may take a little more time in the majors.)

There's no potential call-up who has more ability to affect rotisserie standings for the rest of the season. Those in deep and competitive leagues probably can't afford to wait any longer to set Myers aside.

Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets

  • N/A

This past week, Tim gave us the skinny on the Mets' most MLB-ready prospect, whose arrival has gone from "distant" to "imminent" because of the unfortunate medical condition that affected Dillon Gee. In addition, I explained why Miguel Batista probably won't interfere.

Yep, those in deep, competitive leagues don't wait around for the ill-informed. Harvey has some control issues, but take a look at these numbers. This righty has the strikeout stuff to make a mark in fantasy leagues - at least the deep ones - for a month or two.

Who were the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues this past week? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?

Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox

  • June: .281 BA, 10 R, 3 HR, 15 RBI in 73 PA

Many might've ditched him after Kevin Youkilis returned from the DL. The (of late) Greek Gawd of Gawdawful was sent packing, though, and the rush back to the Middlebrooks bandwagon looked like a stampede to see The Who.

His penchant for whiffing and infrequent walking could catch up to him as the season and his young MLB career wears on, but you're keeping him for the power he offers in a tumultuous hot corner class. Selling high for a secure commodity wouldn't hurt, though, if you'd have depth without him in your offense.

Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

  • 6/28: 2 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 3 K in 4 IP

Bauer Power didn't have much juice in his Thursday introduction, but he left with a minor groin injury after four frames. The righty said the strain had affected him for about half of the 16 minors starts he logged this year; it shouldn't keep him from taking his next turn, per Kirk Gibson.

Yesterday was a poor opportunity to judge Bauer's abilities accurately, but his 2.23 minors ERA shows the lower-half balkiness didn't affect his tune-ups. There'll be some diaper moments, but his diverse arsenal carries elite upside and, if he heals properly, could deliver this season.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

  • Last 2: 3-for-8, 2 2B, 1 RBI

Will his long swing continue to hinder his pickup of MLB pitches, especially against left-handers? At least the Pacific Coast League master will try capitalizing on his plate punch in a better ballpark, especially one with the lefty power boost that Wrigley Field offers.

Safe to think that as part of Theo Epstein's rebuilding year, Rizzo will get every opportunity to face as much adversity as possible, so at least PT seems safer than it was last year. In many cases, after a rough first taste of the bigs, highly touted tykes have that "Eureka!" moment next time around. He's talented enough for that to happen now, even if it comes with some trials.

Cody Ross, OF, Boston Red Sox

  • Last 10: .306 BA, 9 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 39 PA

It wasn't hard to jump back on this formerly scorching ride after his activation from the DL. He's hitting well enough to keep a starting gig after Carl Crawford (elbow) and Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) come back, whenever that will be.

Ross is still hacking, but the 31-year-old loves using thah Monstah for tahgit prahctice - he's a pull pelter, after all - and is making harder contact on the whole. Though he's looking more like his Miami Marlins incarnation, you're better off planning on his streakiness ending than you are hoping he'll carry you the rest of the way.

Bobby Parnell, RP, New York Mets

  • June: 1 SV, 2.70 ERA, 9 K in 10 IP

He's the savior with Frank Francisco (oblique) on the DL. Parnell has revived his career thanks to keeping his pitches down and incorporated a knuckle curveball. Heck, if he establishes mo' while Frank Frank sits, it could become a coup; Francisco was bought for the role, but Parnell may turn the present into the future. Of course, the Metropolitans might seek bullpen help as July 31 approaches, but that likely leaves Parnell a month to change New York's mind.

Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox

  • Last 5: 2 W, 2.43 ERA, 20 K in 33 1/3 IP

Sure, he's earned an extensive opportunity in the White Sox's dinged rotation, but Quintana's Friday struggles versus the New York Yankees shouldn't have been your first sign that Quintana has benefited from good fortune. Sure, the crafty 23-year-old has exhibited pristine control in his limited farm duration (only 48 2/3 frames above Single-A), but his 91.8 percent left-on-base percentage and the hard contact opponents make against him show he's living on the edge with his low-90s stuff.

The stat line above notes efforts against the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers - a mixed bag of hitting, for sure. His long-term volatility should tell you to tread carefully.

Unlike what The Dude said about another Quintana, this creep cannot roll, man.

Franklin Morales, SP, Boston Red Sox

  • Last 3: 1 W, 2.00 ERA, 24 K in 18 IP

Nick expands on why the southpaw may finally be growing into the power arm many thought he'd become years ago. Easy to forget he's just 26; following his years-long detour to the bullpen, his live limb might be hitting another level. He's taking the breakout baton from the tiring Felix Doubront, and Morales' ring-ups alone warrant attention.

Andrew Cashner, SP, San Diego Padres

  • 6/28: 2 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 9 K in 6 1/3 IP

Cash Money? Maybe, if he can work his mid- to high-90s heat the way he did Thursday, his first start after his farm stretch-out stint. Cashner's San Diego bullpen role was temporary in the big picture; San Diego merely sped up the process because of their gaping rotation holes.

Whether he can take a leap in his control as a starter will determine his immediate utility; frankly, it might make him a matchup start in shallower leagues. He's off on the right foot so far, as small as it is. Deeper setup participants should live with the rough spells to take advantage of PETCO Park, his NL placement and his tantalizing strikeout profile.

Jair Jurrjens, SP, Atlanta Braves

  • Last 2: 1 W, 2.03 ERA, 4 K in 13 1/3 IP

Jurrjens is often an insomnia cure in fantasy baseball drafts. He's pitched above his indicators for a few seasons, but he's been brutal often, considering he's not a K artist. Even his control has been off this year, and he's allowing fewer grounders.

At this point in 2012, though, and despite his erratic history, those looking for SP sparks should give him a longer look. He improved his velocity, and in turn the gap between his four-seamer and changeup, at Triple-A Gwinnett. A chronic knee issue probably has hindered him since last year, as well, and a sturdier base could turn him around.

The bum knee could crop up again, but at least you know what you're getting with this mixed dice roll. Maybe he'll run off another streak of good fortune in his favorable environment. Worth a shot....

Luke Hochevar, SP, Kansas City Royals

  • June: 2 W, 3.38 ERA, 25 K in 34 2/3 IP

Folks are finally starting to catch on to his success, which stems from a mix of curveball mastery and more efficient work. He's looking a lot like the second-half hurler that prompted a hint of sleeper buzz this spring and appears to have found a definitive out pitch.

Deep mixed leaguers should've already started considering him. Wins won't come in bunches, and he doesn't strand many runners, but his combination of skills might finally start jelling over the long haul to at least be a passable dual-universe back-ender for the balance of 2012.

Who were the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues this past week? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?

Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Last 30: .340 BA, 24 R, 7 HR, 22 RBI in 101 PA

For once, hitting cleanup for the Buccos isn't a stigma. Unfortunately, his 3-for-17, one-RBI line versus left-handers remains a shameful tattoo. He'll continue sitting against them for the most part. Plus, PNC Park still doesn't play kindly to pull hitters - or any hitter, for that matter - and how long can Jones benefit from being overly aggressive and sacrificing his penchant for walks?

It's a hot streak, though, and those count, especially if you can deploy him with a week full of righty opponents on the hill. His power, though not elite, is legit and has conquered his hostile home environment over the last few campaigns. He should safely reach 20 homers again, which goes a long way for mixed depth.

Michael Fiers, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

  • Last 5: 2 W, 0.94 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 7 BB, 33 K in 28 2/3 IP

The righty, who wasn't touted among Milwaukee prospects coming into the season, touches only the low 90s with his heat most of the time, but his over-the-top arm action adds some proverbial bite to his finesse-oriented arsenal.

Such a profile worked for Josh Collmenter last year in big-leaguers' first taste of his trickery, so it very well could here, especially since this 27-year-old doesn't shy away from the black. His 2.07 FIP and 3.10 xFIP don't point to a correction, but many who snared him from their waiver wire might be getting only the downside from here on out. First off, his 9.64 K/9 should come down, considering he doesn't elicit many empty hacks.

He's a prime NL-only sell-high asset but probably will garner too much skepticism in mixers to flip for anything decent. Even if you're stuck with Fiers while he loses some oxygen, he'll play as decent back-end material for dual-universe players. Some arms that rely on deception can last longer than their stuff permits.

Alexi Amarista, 2B, San Diego Padres

  • Last 8: .448 BA, 9 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB in 30 PA

That line encompasses his current hit streak. Amarista had some help in his recent homer binge, but the mighty mite looks to be maturing as a stick handler in general. Inhabiting the two-hole of any lineup, even one with San Diego's holes, augments a player's value.

His speed game plays well with PETCO Park's spacious dimensions. He can easily turn Texas Leaguers into doubles. The spark Amarista and shortstop Everth Cabrera have provided since San Diego's middle-infield makeover extend their lineup leashes. As long as you're prepared for him to fizzle out, a la Jose Altuve's correction, Amarista still warrants a shot for the MI-starved, even at this stage of his run.

Tyler Colvin, OF, Colorado Rockies

  • Last 12: .341 BA, 8 R, 4 HR, 16 RBI in 47 PA

Michael Cuddyer has spent more time at first base lately so the Rox can incorporate the scorching Colvin in either center or right field. Colvin's streakiness casts some season-long doubt, but he's making a case for this arrangement's permanence thanks to his .326 clip versus southpaws. He hit .057 versus them in a shielded 35-at-bat sample size in 2011. Colvin has sacrificed power against them, but he's squaring more of their pitches, a common cure to such splits ailments.

The 26-year-old has carried this upside for a while and is unleashing it with a regular gig. His performance against left-handers will determine the longevity, and playing him away from Coors Field, despite his balanced splits so far, justifies more skepticism. But overall, it isn't a fluke.

Clayton Richard, SP, San Diego Padres

  • Last 7: 4 W, 2.19 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8 BB, 27 K in 49 1/3 IP

To be fair, Richard's opponents in that window: Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, at Seattle Mariners, at Oakland Athletics, Seattle, at Houston Astros, at Arizona. Not exactly prime competition, even though he pitched well in some hostile hurler environments.

Some fundamental improvements say the 28-year-old could perform regardless of ambience, though. Richard has pitched above his peripherals in recent years, so this isn't new territory. After all, he won 14 games in 2010. His slider is producing more K's, and his two-seamer/sinker, which he's leaning on more heavily than he did last year, has induced more grounders. His control has been pristine since April (15 walks in 82 frames).

Though his approach offers hope for more consistency, he's optimally used as a home platoon starter. At least he has a solid chance, depending on how SD resets its rotation post-KC, to pitch in as many as three favorable pitcher's parks this month (Chavez Ravine, AT&T Park and Marlins Ballpark).

Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets

  • Last 8: .469 BA, 5 R, 3 HR, 15 RBI in 33 PA

His two-homer June 27 marked the first time he cleared a fence since July 16 of his injury-shortened 2011. In 2012, the contact-first bat probably won't match his 12 round-trippers from 2009, especially because he's putting rawhide into the air on only about a quarter of his batted balls. His surge also comes from increased early-count confidence, at least lately. Murphy profiles as more of an opposite-field stick, and his splits reveal he's leaning in that direction once again.

Knee injuries cut into last year and erased his 2010, so many are under the impression there's more thump hiding in his lumber. His diverse positional eligibility aids that wishful thinking.

Southpaws still hinder his output, though, and sitting him against them remains a solid idea. This isn't a season-long mixed commodity, though said roster flexibility amplifies his single-universe worth. If the situation is right, that's worth manipulating in NL-only trade talks.

Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals

  • Last 11: .425 BA, 8 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI in 40 PA

That's the number of games Perez has played since coming off the DL. That's also the number of consecutive contests in which Perez has at least one hit; he has four multi-knock efforts in that time, including a 4-for-5 display Thursday.

His contact-first approach carried him over 158 plate appearances last year, during which he hit .331. He's not one for free passes, but his liner- and grounder-slanted in-play tendencies say he can keep sniffing .300. He doesn't have Matt Wieters pop, but Perez, now 22, showed a significant farm uptick in 2011 (9 HR in 309 PA with Double-A Northwest Arkansas) and has the frame (6-foot-3, 245 pounds) to support continued development there.

He'll slow down a bit, but not enough to prompt regret for adding him. His components remain alluring.

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Miami Marlins

  • Last 15: .455 BA, 11 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB in 53 PA

The latest center field filler with Emilio Bonifacio (sprained thumb) on the DL, Ruggiano, a former Tampa Bay Rays system backup, has delivered. He's not as much of a steal threat as Boni is, but the 30-year-old, who produced a stat-sheet-stuffing power-speed combo in his Triple-A Durham years, has some pickup along the base paths.

Though his liner increase calls for optimism, Ruggiano's .442 BABIP is all but certain to come down, and despite his improvements there, he's not a stable contact stick. Plus, Bonifacio's on a rehab assignment that's slated to bring him back to the bigs July 13 if all goes well. Maybe Giancarlo Stanton (knee) will miss more time and keep Ruggiano on the card, but the long-term payoff from the journeyman hardly looks safe.

Phil Hughes, SP, New York Yankees

  • Last 6: 5 W, 2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9 BB, 40 K in 13 1/3 IP

Some seem late to the party. Homers will continue to be a problem for Hughes (19 in 94 1/3 frames this year), but he's been more assertive with his entire arsenal, as well as in the strike zone, and has posted an upgrade of four-seam velocity.

Since he sometimes can leave pitches flat, he's a hurler that makes you fear his 4.60 FIP. The fact he's learned to pitch deeper into games should complement his elite run support, though, and give him a better shot at earning victories than other pitchers in his tier. Don't chase wins, but don't ignore those in better situations for them.

Travis Wood, SP, Chicago Cubs

  • Last 6: 3 W, 1.83 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 12 BB, 28 K in 34 2/3 IP

Wood has seemingly teetered on consistent fantasy utility. He's not a flamethrower and had allowed too many fly balls while playing in dangerous home digs. This year, he's cut down on the lofts while featuring his slider more often. That and his cutter have carried him so far.

Still, that 83.0 left-on-base percentage is well above his career average and the league mean. He's still allowing a tad too much contact while not professing much dominance. If you're counting on him for long-term help in mixed leagues, you're living on the edge, kind of like how the 25-year-old has looked in the bigs for most of his career.

Who were the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues this past week? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?

Trevor Plouffe, 3B/SS/OF, Minnesota Twins

  • June: .385 BA, 16 R, 9 HR, 17 RBI in 73 PA

Plouffe's still going "poof!" off waiver wires. Following a two-homer contest June 15, the weekend he first graced this space, he's 6-for-17 sans a homer with just one RBI. It's news when he doesn't leave the yard.

Albeit in a small sample size, the 6:3 walk-to-strikeout ratio in his cool-down period is promising, considering the hacker rep that he's trying to dispel; he's contributing in other ways when he isn't clearing fences. Plouffe's seemingly budding on-base penchant supplements his cornucopia of eligibility as a valid reason to extend your patience with him, particularly considering his middle-infield eligibility.

Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics

  • Last 14: .283, 11 R, 7 HR, 12 RBI in 51 PA

The man who booted Kila Ka'aihue (when will he get a legit shot!?) made the A's look like geniuses for a bit. Last week, he smacked five homers in a span of four games - three of which came at Coors Field - and has seven so far.

With Bryan LaHair's early-season blast this year, we saw another mini-breakout from a Quad-A type. Could Moss, seemingly a charter member who'll turn 29 in September, be next? Considering his 15 K's in 46 at-bats and the fact that his home park being the polar opposite of Denver's, it's not a smart long-term bet in mixed leagues.

Ride the wave, but remain ready to bail off the board. Since he's given Oaktown some semblance of stability at 1B, however, he should maintain at least a month's worth of AL-only playing time value.

Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants

  • Last 9: .414 BA, 5 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB in 35 PA

During Aubrey Huff's anxiety-related DL stint starting in late April, Belt hit .324 with five RBIs in 34 at-bats. He kept Huff mostly as a reserve even after the vet returned, and now Huff is back on the DL with a sprained right knee. Bruce Bochy has no excuse to avoid playing Belt, and it looks like he's coming around on the kid ... finally.

Belt has tapped into his plentiful power profile in June, and his stat line sample marks his current hit streak. In mid-May it was revealed that Belt is standing upright at the plate, so he's seeing the ball better now. All three of his homers have come against southpaws, and he's hitting .286 against them compared to .255 versus righties. That bodes well for his development that he's already competent against his handedness-matching opponents, contradicting Bochy's previous platoon protests. Buy.

Colby Rasmus, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

  • Since May 25: .323 BA, 19 R, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 1 SB in 106 PA

Take that, TLR! Considered a lost cause as recently as May, Rasmus has reminded us why he was a highly touted youngster with the St. Louis Cardinals. He's embracing his fresh start up north - a bit late, but better than never, eh? Returning to his old batter's box placement aligned him properly to attack the strike zone and helping him cut down on K's. Dwayne Murphy and the Jays have a knack for tapping into hitters' potential, especially if they're pull mashers like Rasmus.

Eleven of his 12 taters have been guided to right field, so maybe pitchers will adjust and throw more outside rawhide. And since he had to work to get his BA up to .259, you can't count on him being helpful there down the road unless his increased liner rate creates a new in-play baseline. Not foolish thinking, but hardly a guarantee.

Since outfield is a plentiful position, consider selling him if you need help in another area. His streaks can both carry and destroy a squad. Believe in the growth, but capitalizing on his latest upward fluctuation in redrafts makes sense.

Ryan Cook, RP, Oakland Athletics

  • June: 4 SV, 0.00 ERA, 11 K in 6 2/3 IP

Another repeat inclusion: He's the "first choice," per Bob Melvin, for A's saves. You can view him as the unofficial closer. He should be owned everywhere.

The blowtorch can K them like a textbook bow-tier but still carries control issues. He'll probably go through a regression (0.59 ERA, 92.6 percent left-on-base percentage), but remember that relievers keep small sample sizes and could easily defy expectations if they're hard to hit. Cook needs to get ahead on batters more often, but this is a horse that could give you 20-plus saves this year.

Melvin will come to his senses. As usual, Oakland has nothing better to do than try out their future.

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Last 5: .529 BA, 8 R, 5 HR, 10 RBI, in 21 PA

The streaky free swinger just had another one of his bash binges, which broke up a long stretch of the clip crippling we've come to expect. Two two-homer games defined his current run, though he added his other one Thursday night.

Alvarez is only in your lineup for home runs. Most would be surprised to know that Alvarez hit .393 to the opposite field last year and is trumping that with a .438 clip this year! Unfortunately, not much is different about his contact peripherals - he's even hacking more often, even. Expect more of the ups and downs from the sometimes brilliant, more often frustrating bat.

Phil Hughes, SP, New York Yankees

  • June: 3 W, 3.51 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 28 K in 25 2/3 IP

Great timing with his pickup rush for him to allow four homers Tuesday, reminding you of his biggest flaw (19 fence-clearers in 78 1/3 frames this year), but he's had a notable improvement at each calendar flip, culminating in this month's ERA in 25 2/3 innings. He's averaging nearly a K per inning and corrected his walk woes thanks to a more aggressive approach and some technical advice from Andy Pettitte.

Hughes will have plenty of outings like his last disaster and be a safer play when he's away from Yankee Stadium or any other hitter-leaning park. You'll have to manage him even more meticulously than the Yanks have in his career to extract the best from him, but his revived approach will keep him useful in the strikeout column, and he should push his 4.94 ERA back to the border of 3.00 and 4.00.

Carlos Marmol, RP, Chicago Cubs

  • Last 4: 1 W, 2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 5 K in 3 2/3 IP

Funny how drafters weren't rushing to pick Marmol before the season. This is his second straight appearance in the Top 10. That's the way the inseason chase goes. Your ex-closer often looks great with save-deprived beer goggles.

He's looking like a more aggressive pitcher, which should please the organization, who earlier in the year grew tired of his slider-heavy nibbling game. Of course, he needs to show a longer period of improved control for us to be entirely comfortable. Plus, Marmol remains in danger to leave ChiTown - and save opportunities - as a potential part of what's expected to be a Cubbies clearance sale.

Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks

  • June: .369 BA, 12 R, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB in 72 PA

... and over his last six games: .429-4-8 with eight plate crossings in 28 at-bats.

Keith chatted about Hill's torrid pace on Thursday. The streaky keystoner has had fluctuating output over the last few years but has righted many of the wrongs he's committed since his breakthrough 2009.

Sure, the 30-year-old carries a few warning signs. His same-field tendency - the same one that led to a rough regression following that campaign - all 10 of his homers landed beyond the left-field wall, and seven have cleared Chase Field's walls. He's not as potent hitting to center or right field this year and throughout his career. Considering his bloated .313 BABIP and fly-ball tendency, his limited spray further justifies the belief that his clip will finish closer to .260 than .290

On the other hand, don't let his usual approach belittle the growth he's taken in free-pass taking (9.2 percent after 6.1 last year). He's tweaked some things in the batter's box, hits in a favorable stadium and thieves bags for an aggressive basepath squad. His power-speed combo will continue to aid his owners even if you have to endure his clip correction.

Doug Fister, SP, Detroit Tigers

  • First start back from DL: W, 3 H, 1 BB, 6 K in 6 IP

Most likely, players in shallower leagues took advantage of those who dropped the righty because they couldn't stash him during his second sideline stint this year. The right-hander came back with a bang in his comeback start. The control artist should be owned everywhere.

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