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Sunday 23rd Apr 2017

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

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

  • June: .386 BA, 12 R, 7 HR, 14 RBI in 46 PA

A month ago, the Twins shook up their roster and told Plouffe to sink or swim. He picked it up a little on May 16, the date on which he hit the first of three home runs in the span of four games, but really took off this month. He tacked on two more ding dongs on Friday.

Undoubtedly, someone has been telling you that Plouffe won't keep this up because there's not much of a track record. Duh. Of course he won't. But that message has come with a condemnation: He'll eventually revert to the .163 form that was on display in the season's first two months.

Plouffe has made some adjustments in the past couple of seasons that have allowed him to tap into his potential. Despite the linked article's assertion to the contrary, plenty of observers both in and outside the organization believed that he had above-average power to unlock.

He's still a bit of a hacker, so he's certainly no threat to win a batting title. He could be a fantasy asset for a while, however, at least in deep leagues, and especially because of that eligibility.

Ryan Cook, RP, Oakland Athletics

  • June: 2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 6 K in 4 IP

Last weekend, following another crappy Brian Fuentes appearance, Bob Melvin told the media that the A's would close games by committee. Roto owners have been reading between the lines - or have seen the results of Oakland's last two contests against the Colorado Rockies.

Although he's trade bait, Grant Balfour lurks as an alternative. Cook, 24, flirts with danger (5.14 BB/9), and his ERA is due to rise. But Melvin had already been using him in high-pressure situations regularly. Don't expect Cook to receive every chance, at least right away, but he's the best bet to lead the A's in saves.

Torii Hunter, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Last 8: .412 BA, 10 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB in 39 PA

Hey, this vet still has some life left. Anyone in shallow leagues who dumped him may have forgotten that. It doesn't hurt to bat second, where Hunter has been for the past week, now that No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols has a pulse.

Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners

  • Last 15: .410 BA, 10 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB in 65 PA

More and more rotisserie players are buying into Saunders, years ago one of the organization's top prospects who could finally have found his secret to success.

Yes, this 20-20 threat may have staying power. Saunders has been hitting sixth or seventh lately and will play in left now that Franklin Gutierrez is back. A more realistic average is probably .250 or .260, though.

Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox

  • Last 4: 3-0, 1.45 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 28 K in 31 IP

Folks who jumped off the wagon are probably kicking themselves. Considering the time that he missed last season, it shouldn't have been a surprise that Buchholz wasn't in peak form in April. But the right-hander was just awful, which is why ditchers feared that something more was wrong (and why his season-to-date numbers are still off-putting).

Buchholz has resolved whatever the issue was, that's for certain. It won't remain this good for the rest of the season because he's still vulnerable to the long ball, but he's reduced that BB/9 drastically. More coming.

Matt Harrison, SP, Texas Rangers

  • Last 5: 4-0, 1.42 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 21 K in 38 IP

He can't be this good. The left-hander faced Seattle twice to open this five-start run; the Halos, San Francisco Giants (complete-game shutout) and struggling Arizona Diamondbacks followed.

If roto owners temper their expectations, they could be content, however. Harrison continues to learn on the job. He's evolving into the kind of hurler who can succeed regularly in Arlington (2.08 BB/9, 51.3 percent ground balls). He'll hit some more bumps, but he has the kind of stuff that may allow him to add strikeouts in future years, if he gets this pitch-to-contact thing down pat.

Ben Revere, OF, Minnesota Twins

  • Last 16: .406 BA, 12 R, 6 RBI, 8 SB in 72 PA

Revere has been a fixture, essentially, in the two-hole since his recall in mid-May. Frankly, it's taken fantasy players too long to become familiar.

This 24-year-old may not be a .300 hitter at the MLB level, but the Twins have helped him improve his ability to bunt for hits. He has five of those already, one more than he recorded in 2011 in the bigs in more than three times the PAs. Revere has the wheels to steal 50 bases in a full campaign.

Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Seattle Mariners

  • Last 7: 1 W, 3 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.41 WHIP, 10 K in 9 2/3 IP

Brandon League's demotion was supposed to be temporary - and it probably still is, by order of the front office. You know how it is: Trade bait looks more attractive if it has more saves to its name.

But League still isn't pitching well, whereas Wilhelmsen has put a rocky May behind him and regained the form that has made him so intriguing to this organization. Wilhelmsen, 28, has real-deal strikeout stuff and has dibs on the closer's gig once League is another uni. If you can afford to keep him around until after the deadline, he may continue to reward you.

Carlos Marmol, RP, Chicago Cubs

  • Last 3: 1 W, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 4 K in 2 2/3 IP

Nothing prompts roto players to run to their computers faster than the scent of a new closer. Except, perhaps, the scent of an old closer regaining his title.

Marmol escaped a bases-loaded jam in Friday afternoon's victory against Boston, but one runner reached because of a fielding error. Dale Sveum confirmed that the right-hander was back on the job. The skipper is pleased that Marmol has been much more willing to throw his fastball often, and for strikes, to set up his slider.

This isn't to say that he's solved the puzzle. Any schmoe can post a K/BB of under 1.00, but it takes someone special to do it when he strikes out more a batter per frame.

And the Cubs aren't suddenly better at generating save opportunities because he's handling them again. But, Marmol is a closer, and to his credit, he's been more aggressive. If he continues to be, it bodes well.

Aaron Harang, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Last 8: 4-1, 2.37 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 34 K in 49 1/3 IP

This right-hander wedged a clunker in the middle of this stretch, but he's been pretty good for the past month and a half otherwise. Last season, Harang was mostly a PETCO Park product; this year, it's more of the same. Dodger Stadium isn't as friendly as the San Diego Padres' home digs, but it'll hold your hand and say nice things about you.

Nothing about Harang's numbers screams that he's turned over a new leaf. He remains heavy on the two-seamer. If you don't want to think too hard, just make sure to deploy him properly (2.51 home ERA, 4.37 road ERA), and you'll probably do OK.

Those six innings of one-run ball at Coors Field? A bit of a head-scratcher. Don't go gettin' all bold because of that outing.

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

Felix Doubront, SP, Boston Red Sox

  • Last 5: 4-1, 2.40 ERA, .212 BAA, 3.33 BB/9, 10.20 K/9 in 30 IP

Some teammates, coaches and scouts have long praised Doubront's nasty stuff and expressed high hopes for him if he could command it. He finally appears to be headed down that path. His peripheral marks this season look a lot like those from his last handful of starts.

Doubront isn't a stranger to moderate injuries and may peter out later this season. The AL East will be tough to navigate successfully on multiple trips through it, too. The 24-year-old is a talent worth riding to see how far he goes, though, despite his latest hiccup versus the Washing Nationals.

Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies

  • Last 11: .450 BA, 15 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB in 48 PA

Even those in the shallowest of leagues are catching on to Fowler, although they should take note that he's cooled off in June. Once the shine wears off, it'll become a debate for those in 10-team mixed leagues: Hang on or cut him loose?

Fowler has become more confident at the dish, as noted last week, but the reduced temperature coincides with the beginning of his club's recent road trip. If he's really in the midst of a breakthrough, he'll continue to hit well at home, but in very shallow leagues, he may frustrate.

Gordon Beckham, 2B, Chicago White Sox

  • Last 10: .318 BA, 8 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI in 44 AB

Where did this come from? It's been in there all along, as most roto vets will recall. The encouraging thing here is intangible: Beckham is known for being very hard on himself, which isn't a proven method for handling adversity; he's told interviewers that he's handling the everyday tribulations with more of a level head nowadays.

Will it last this time? Impossible to say. Mental roadblocks can be difficult to overcome. In his last 20 contests, the maligned MI has batted .273 with six bombs and 13 RBIs, so perhaps this is the start of his maturation.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners

  • Last 24: .295 BA, 11 R, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 1 SB in 104 PA

It appears that those in shallow leagues have remained skeptical of Smoak's production from the past few weeks. His 2011 marks (.234/.323/.396) and sketchy BB/K (0.35) make that understandable.

The 25-year-old switch-hitter's strikeout rate is in line with that of previous years, but he's swinging and missing less often. Smoak is picking the ball up better, too. He may not be the stud some projected him to be when he was in the Texas Rangers' organization, but he's an accomplished batsman.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Last 16: .414, 12 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB in 67 PA

Those in shallow leagues didn't have the patience for Goldy, either, but boy has he picked it up. He's brought his average up to .288, and most of his power production has come in this period.

The 24-year-old slugger doesn't have the profile to keep up this kind of BA, but his environment (home park, lineup, etc.) makes him more enticing that Smoak, frankly. Now that he's gotten going, he may keep pounding them out.

Ernesto Frieri, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Last 14: 4 SV, 0.00 ERA, .023 BAA, 6.90 BB/9, 18.84 K/9 in 14 1/3 IP

Frieri hasn't given up a run and has served up only one knock since he's joined the Halos. He's been receiving more save opportunities (and delivering, obviously). He may be sharing that role with Scott Downs, but Frieri is in the more attractive matchup seat.

So here's the thing: No one is making him pay for all the walks he issues. And here's what's nuts: He throws strikes more than three-fifths of the time. What a tough SOB to hit, and check out those K's. Might finish with Kenley Jansen-Aroldis Chapman figures.

Quintin Berry, OF, Detroit Tigers

  • Last 15: .306 BA, 14 R, 0 HR, 7 SB in 69 PA

The Tigers are thrilled with what this Austin Jackson fill-in has given them. They've already talked about keeping him around while Andy Dirks (strained Achilles' tendon) is sidelined.

The problem with his long-term outlook is that he strikes out much too often to keep this up, and he's a .267 hitter in the minors. A-Jax will be back from his strained oblique within a couple of days, and Dirks is already feeling better. Don't hesitate to jump ship.

Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners

  • Last 9: .487 BA, 9 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 SB in 41 PA

With five multi-hit games in the span of a week and a half, Saunders jacked up his average from .224 to .277. He's cut down on the strikeout rate this year, especially lately.

This hot streak has coincided with Eric Wedge's lineup shakeup, which removed Saunders from the two-hole and closer to the bottom of the order. The unusual offseason hitting routine Saunders developed continues to pay off. He may have roto utility all season: When Franklin Gutierrez (plantar fasciitis) comes back in a couple of weeks, Saunders isn't the likeliest to lose out.

Garrett Richards, SP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Last 2: 1-0, 1.13 ERA, .143 BAA, 2.25 BB/9, 9.00 K/9 in 8 IP

Those in deep leagues are all over this right-hander, who was stellar in his first start of the season (seven innings, four hits, one run, two walks, eight strikeouts). One of the club's top pitching prospects almost won the fifth spot in ST, so he's legit.

The replacement for Jered Weaver (back discomfort) has really struggled with his control this season in the minors, as he did last year in the bigs. Weaver shouldn't be out for long, either. Consider the opponent - the Seattle Mariners - in Richards' first start and the likely length of his stay before committing. He'll be back up at some point; perhaps then it'll be to stay.

Drew Hutchison, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

  • Last 5: 4-1, 2.70 ERA, .207 BAA, 3.60 BB/9, 7.20 K/9 in 30 IP

Another hot hurler in deep leagues, and this one has a little more staying power. This span of his last handful of starts includes a four-inning, six-run blowup at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, too.

Fantasy owners are going to have to accept this: Hutchison, 21, is going to be unpredictable. The right-hander is very talented, but he has no experience at the Triple-A level - although that's partly because the Jays prefer to develop their most promising arms at Class AA, and they fast-tracked him.

His farm record and batted-ball profile indicate that he may continue to reduce his rate of free passes and HR/9, but he won't necessarily continue to post big totals in K's. There's some definite long-term interest, but not yet enough to carry him to shallow formats.

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

Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins

  • May: .290, 4 HR, 12 RBI in 31 AB

A two-homer effort (on Thursday versus the Chicago White Sox) will get the attention of roto owners in shallow leagues real quick.

Morneau has hit only .248 this season, but two things are especially encouraging: (1) He's already hit eight bombs, twice as many as he hit last season in fewer than half of the number of at-bats; (2) there have been no signs of serious health concerns thus far. The wrist thing that required a DL stint was just a lingering effect of surgery and didn't surprise his doctor.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers

  • May: .400, 3 HR, 21 RBI in 75 AB

Mixed leaguers who have to play two backstops were already plenty familiar with this up-and-comer. Lucroy introduced himself to a larger crowd with his two-jack, seven-RBI effort on Sunday against Minnesota. All three of his homers this month have come in the past week.

Lucroy's .349 batting average is sure to decline, but his BA indicators suggest that, since getting his feet wet in 2011, he's settling in. Power displays will be intermittent, but he'll hit.

Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox

  • Last 10: .368, 5 HR, 11 RBI in 38 AB

The Tank has cooled off a little, par for the aggressive swinger's course if he's been hot for a bit. It appears that the strides he took in the patience department in 2011 haven't carried over yet, either.

His streakiness will put off some fantasy players in shallow leagues, but they can afford to be patient, it may pay off. Viciedo is shaking his early-season doldrums, appears to be approaching locked-in status ... and still has last year's 8.0-plus walk percentage to shoot for. The talented batsman will hit for a .300-plus average on balls in play; he's not finished.

Mitch Moreland, 1B/OF, Texas Rangers

  • May: .327, 4 HR, 10 RBI in 49 AB

It's hard to go wrong with someone on the Rangers, even their No. 9 hitter. Moreland's seven round-trippers confirm that his wrist is fine and he's rebounding in power categories. He's a good hitter with a sound approach.

Texas has a few right-handed batters who can man first base, so Ron Washington rarely lets Moreland face a southpaw, though. His PT compared to other first basemen will probably frustrate some mixed leaguers, especially when things aren't going his way.

Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres

  • May: .354, 1 HR, 10 RBI in 79 AB

The Friars could platoon Jesus Guzman with Alonso at first base, but the left-handed hitter has been too hot to sit - against either hand. In 2012, Alonso has actually hit southpaws better, and his BB/K against them has been about as good as it is against righties - which is pretty good.

PETCO Park's Death Alley will hamper Alonso's home run output, but the one thing really missing from his game was the ability to hit lefties. Early signs are incredibly encouraging, and PT shouldn't be a problem for the first baseman who arrived as part of the package in the Mat Latos deal.

Freddy Galvis, 2B/SS, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Last 15: .345, 2 HR, 14 RBI in 58 AB

Chase Utley's stand-in has been unexpectedly hot. The big-league game hasn't been too big for Galvis, 22, who has hit only .250 but has made contact on more than 85 percent of the pitches at which he swings.

The catch-22: The switch-hitter has been batting seventh or eighth, where opportunities to drive in runs like he has don't come along so often. If he keeps hitting, Charlie Manuel could move him up, but then he wouldn't get pitches as good as those he sees while hitting in front of the pitcher.

He's short-term adequate in shallow leagues and long-term adequate elsewhere. It'd be nice to see him run a little, like he did in the minors, but he won't get a green light often while he's near the bottom of the order.

Ernesto Frieri, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Last 9: 1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 6 BB, 19 K in 8 2/3 IP

Since the Halos acquired this right-hander from San Diego, he's been unhittable. On Wednesday, he picked up a save, which undoubtedly poured kerosene on the flame that competitive rotisserie players carry for him. Frieri has longed for an opportunity to be a closer, and Mike Scioscia may be giving it to him.

Scott Downs remains in the ninth-inning picture, though, and Jordan Walden is close to painting himself back into it. Regardless, since he's become a reliever, Frieri has handed out plenty of free passes, but he's also been much tougher to score upon. No matter how it turns out, it probably won't hurt to have him around.

Roy Oswalt, SP, free agent

  • N/A

Those in deep leagues, wisely, aren't waiting for someone else to scoop up the right-handed vet now that word has spread: He's looking to sign soon and has worked out for a few teams. The list of possible destinations includes Texas, the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia and the Boston Red Sox.

Oswalt turns 35 in August, and back problems remain a potential threat to his availability. However, he still boasts the ability to post a K/BB of close to 3.00 and an ERA of around 3.50. An NL city would be preferable, but a spot with the Rangers - in the AL West - may not be so bad.

Elliot Johnson, 2B/3B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays

  • Last 17: .345, 2 HR, 8 R, 5 SB in 58 AB

Last year, Johnson seemed to stick around because he could play several positions and run in a pinch, and he was out of options. He hit .194. But in the minors, he flashed occasional power and was a decent base-stealer. He's been playing because of the injuries to Evan Longoria (partially torn lefy hammy) and Jeff Keppinger (broken toe).

The good news: In the minors, the switch-hitter stayed on hot streaks for long periods. The bad news: On the farm, he also went thru long down stretches, he doesn't make contact often enough to maintain a good BA, and this ain't the minors. As long as the PT is available, those in deep leagues can see how long it'll last.

Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

  • Last 2: 1 W, 2.25 ERA, 9 H, 6 BB, 8 K in 12 IP

Fantasy players in deep leagues have hopped on the pitcher who's taken Jeff Niemann's spot in the rotation. No doubt they recall Cobb's 3.42 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 6.32 K/9 in nine starts for the Rays last year. If he performs, he should hold the job for the full couple of months. He's off to a good start.

It'll be interesting to see how Cobb's 2012 work will compare to last year's standard. He's really struggled with his control at the Triple-A level this season. It was a bit of a problem in his first MLB stint and almost was in his second such outing of 2012, too. AL East opponents won't be forgiving on a regular basis, but June's interleague slate may offer some reprieve.

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

Carlos Quentin, OF, San Diego Padres

  • Last 3: .583, 5 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI in 12 AB

Quentin was sidelined for two and a half months because of a knee ailment that required arthroscopic surgery. It looks like he was worth the wait.

Unfortunately, his first three games came against the pitching-poor Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. New Quentin owners in shallow leagues will probably be disappointed to see what the .254 lifetime hitter's output looks like in the long haul, particularly when he's at home.

Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox

  • Last 16: .444, 15 R, 8 HR, 23 RBI in 63 AB

The Tank has moved up this list and has been perhaps the hottest stock on the roto market. In his last seven games (29 at-bats), he hit .552 with four bombs and 13 RBIs. A week ago, he actually walked once.

This is rare territory for an MLB hitter. Viciedo is in total control, even if he isn't adept at controlling the strike zone. He may not go on another streak like this in 2012, but he's as good as the marks where he sits (.291/.312/.515), which is still plenty good for the balance of the campaign.

Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies

  • Last 5: .611, 10 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB in 22 PA

This popular preseason sleeper hadn't started in four straight games (because of some weighted combo of a turned ankle and shoddy hitting) before he clubbed a pinch-hit home run on Sunday at Great American Ball Park. He ended up back in Colorado's leadoff spot the next day and hasn't stopped.

Fowler attributes this outburst to increased confidence. He didn't say how much Coors Field contributed to that poise. The 26-year-old switch-hitter has been wildly inconsistent and sub-par on the road. He's maturing and may be on the brink of reaching a new performance plateau, though. The HR-SB promise makes him worth keeping around.

Jeff Francoeur, OF, Kansas City Royals

  • Last 17: .362, 12 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB in 69 AB

All five of Frenchy's dingers and his lone theft have come in the last two and a half weeks. Before that, his career-best year in 2011 looked like a fluke, as many suspected.

This season, Francoeur has made contact more often than he did last year - or in any other campaign prior. He told the team's official site that he made an adjustment in BP earlier this month, and it led to a significantly reduced load time.

He hasn't flashed the same aggressiveness or efficiency on the base paths, either, but KC in general has been the same way. Francoeur, 28, isn't the safest bet in roto because of his lack of selectivity, but maybe he's ready to establish himself as a No. 4 or No. 5 OF in mixed leagues.

Chris Davis, 1B/3B, Baltimore Orioles

  • May: .309, 14 R, 5 HR, 11 RBI in 100 PA

Those in shallow leagues simply must not have believed that Davis' hot start to this campaign would last. The left-handed hitter fanned 30 times in 100 May plate appearances, so in the long haul, the skeptics are probably right.

Regardless, Davis should've been available in fewer leagues. The batting average will come down, but he hits the ball extremely hard when he does make contact, so he has the skill to avoid Adam Dunn territory. The 26-year-old seems to be a lot happier by the Inner Harbor than he was in Arlington.

Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians

  • Last 19: .347, 10 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB in 77 PA

Brantley is a line-drive hitter who makes contact frequently has gradually improved his plate discipline - until this year, when his indicators have been suggesting that he's figured things out. His hot streak accounts for seven of his nine steals.

The left-handed hitter could stand to walk more if he wants to be a leadoff man, but the encouraging development has been his sudden willingness to run. The organization forecasted thievery prowess based on his farm record and speed. Brantley, 25, must finally be comfortable with his timing of pitchers, and getting on base a little more often helps.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Boston Red Sox

  • Last 16: .373, 11 R, 6 HR, 14 RBI in 51 AB

So the Texas Rangers were wrong, and the BoSox were right. Salty jacked 16 in 358 at-bats last season, but he has 10 in his first 128 at-bats of 2012.

The switch-hitter won't cede playing time to Kelly Shoppach at this rate. This rate - his .281 BA - won't continue with a contact rate as dreadful as his, though. Don't expect Saltalamacchia, 27, to be more than a No. 2 backstop in mixed leagues.

Roy Oswalt, SP, Texas Rangers

  • N/A

Those in shallow leagues haven't shown the inclination to add the veteran right-hander, even after he found a home. If their benches aren't deep, it may be hard to justify the spot on a pitcher they won't use for a few weeks. Players in very competitive leagues have gone after him with vigor, however.

Casual fantasy owners may also be apprehensive because of Oswalt's new home park, but they may want to follow the deep leaguers' lead. The 35-year-old has spent his entire career playing in hitter-friendly yards. A scout who has been watching Oswalt throw told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that the hurler's stuff looked crisp, too. Texas still has quite a few tilts remaining against the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners, too.

Jordan Pacheco, 1B/3B, Colorado Rockies

  • Last 18: .343, 10 R, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB in 68 PA

Playing time became available regularly not long after the club recalled Pacheco, who isn't sharp with the glove but figures to remain at the hot corner as long as he hits. He has a solid BA profile and the best home environment to do his business.

Pacheco, 26, has been a popular deep-league grab, but he doesn't hit for much power and is pretty slow afoot, making it highly unlikely that those in shallow leagues will pick up the trend.

Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins

  • Last 1: 1 W, 0.00 ERA, 3 H, 2 BB, 9 K in 6 IP

In his return to the rotation, the left-hander tossed six shutout innings and struck out nine ... A's. It was an impressive showing, and fantasy owners shouldn't leave Liriano in the free-agent pool because of his capabilities.

But it's not all glamour and glitz for 28-year-old. Earlier this week, Tim explored the reasons that roto players should proceed cautiously.

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

Andy Dirks, OF, Detroit Tigers

The most popular new player in roto? Dirks crossed Tim's desk last week, just as the love for the left-handed hitter was creeping up. The 26-year-old's high-effort style has helped him to become a bit of an overachiever. His numbers have reflected that once he's had time to adjust to a new level.

His second year of exposure to major league pitching appears to be no different. It's been tough to get a good pitch by the man with a bit of power, a bit of speed and an ideal lineup spot (No. 2, for now). Dirks will slow down sometime, but he may be good enough to hold value in deep mixers.

Christian Friedrich, SP, Colorado Rockies

His debut (17 K's, two runs in 13 innings) is a carry-over of what looks like a breakthrough season (thanks to much improved control) at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Friedrich, 24, was once one of the game's better pitching prospects, but injuries and poor results at Double-A sidetracked him.

Beware: The 24-year-old dominated two lowly offenses (San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants). Still, he has the talent, especially the strikeout ability, to be an asset for a long stretch, at least in deep leagues.

Josh Reddick, OF, Oakland Athletics

Tim mentioned Reddick's rising steam last week, too. Folks might be catching him on the tail end of an incredible hot streak, but he has staying power in five-outfielder mixed leagues. His new owners will need to learn a little patience, though, because Reddick hasn't yet, completely.

Allen Craig's love will probably come to a halt now that he's hit the DL because of a hamstring strain. His bat is too good to let that factor in, or to ditch him.

Dale Thayer, RP, San Diego Padres

Huston Street (strained lat) is a few weeks away, and it's been Thayer, not Andrew Cashner or Luke Gregerson, who's filled in. Thayer isn't special, but he gets the job done without prompting Bud Black to reach for antacids. Saves are saves. The same goes for the Toronto Blue Jays' Casey Janssen, another trendy, short-term roto reliever.

Brian Fuentes, RP, Oakland Athletics

The A's demoted Grant Balfour, a move that probably came too late if it was going to happen. Fantasy players know Fuentes' name and that he's been a source of saves before. He's reduced his BB/9 drastically in the early going, but he's not necessarily a great bet to retain the closer's job.

Fuentes has been the fad, but the Chicago White Sox's Addison Reed is slowly gaining FAAB attention that is much more deserved.

Raul Ibanez, OF/DH, New York Yankees

Wisely, the Bronx Bombers haven't allowed him to face southpaws very often. Ibanez has been playing because the Yanks' outfield depth is depleted for a few weeks, and he went on a home run binge last week - while he was at home. The inconsistency may drive fantasy owners nuts, and the PT will dwindle in June, especially during the interleague slate.

A.J. Ellis, C, Los Angeles Dodgers

Ellis has seized opportunity in Hollywood and has a solid BA profile, which has produced bonus stats because of the Blue's hot start. In two-backstop mixed leagues, he's more of the "C who won't hurt me" type, so some probably won't stick with him once he slows down.

Roto players are running out of chances to grab Carlos Ruiz, who is adding power and speed - apparently - to his game.

Scott Diamond, SP, Minnesota Twins

It was an impressive beginning (no runs, nine hits allowed, plus 10 K's) to this left-hander's 2012 MLB ledger. His much improved curveball is most responsible for his increased confidence and effectiveness, and the Twins are desperate for good pitching. As long as he's average, he'll stick, and he can be that for a while, but he's too hittable to last in mixers.

Maybe roto managers are hoping for a Diamond in the rough because they're too late on the Cleveland Indians' Derek Lowe, whose sinker is back in style. On Tuesday, Lowe pitched a complete-game shutout without striking out a batter. Those marks won't continue, but he's a safer bet than Diamond.

Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore Orioles

This Asian left-hander is legit, at least to the degree that he's good enough to stick around in 12- and 15-team mixed leagues. Tim chronicled the reasons that Chen's music has the kind of beat you can dig.

Carlos Zambrano, SP, Miami Marlins

The Pittsburgh Pirates' James McDonald is, justifiably, quickly disappearing on lists of available free agents.

Hot on those heels: Big Z, who has reined in his BB/9 a bit while fanning more than seven per nine. With a new lease on baseball life, Zambrano, 31, could be a commodity all year in mixed affairs, at least while making half of his starts in that big park.

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