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Wednesday 28th Jun 2017

Who are the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?
Oakland Athletics SP Brett Anderson
Agent Smith among his pursuers

Todd Frazier, 1B/3B/OF, Cincinnati Reds

  • Last 15: .444 BA, 13 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB in 61 PA

Though reports say this repeat listing will lose playing time to Scott Rolen when Joey Votto (knee) returns from the disabled list, it's hard not to take the bet Dusty Baker will change his mind on letting the semi-youngster play. Indeed, the 26-year-old Rookie of the Year candidate has done little to warrant riding the pine, but there's at least an acknowledgeable chance that Baker will tip the scales toward Rolen's glove as Cincy moves closer to the postseason.

Frazier's positional flexibility could keep other PT doors open, though, and Votto's timetable is unknown, though he's likely to return sometime next month. Don't let Frazier sit unclaimed because of a future decision that might not happen.

Jaime Garcia, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

  • 8/19: 2 R (0 ER), 5 H, 10 K in 8 IP

Not a bad return from the DL: He didn't walk a Pittsburgh Pirate, either. Expecting that K load every time out is a pipe dream, but the southpaw seems to be over his early-season shoulder woes and stands to be an impact arm down the stretch.

Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics

  • 8/21: 1 ER, 4 H, 6 K in 7 IP

Not a bad return from the DL, Part Deux: The Minnesota Twins will boost anyone's chances of domination, but one scout noted Anderson looked particularly sharp when he "carved them up" with his curveball and changeup He didn't walk a batter. Typically, returnees from Tommy John surgery regain control last, however, so expecting some stumbles the rest of the way would be wise.

But he's lost about 20 pounds since last year, which might aid his transition back into the ace-like form he's teased for so long while his health stuck out its tongue at the fantasy community. Any A's arm, especially one with his K-grounder combo, deserves your attention.

Kris Medlen, SP, Atlanta Braves

  • Last 5: 4 W, 0.83 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 29 K in 32 2/3 IP

It's the second straight week he's been hotly pursued. Sure, his left-on-base percentage in his five starting rubber toes stands at 94.6 percent, but that doesn't take away from his skills. Atlanta has employed a six-man rotation for a reason, and Medlen has seized his opportunity so emphatically that the Bravos won't chop him anytime soon.

Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Last 46: .319 BA, 31 R, 11 HR, 39 RBI in 177 PA

He made the list last month and has continued that momentum. Even during an early-month power drought, he kept making contact. Jones is in a groove because he's experiencing positive in-play fortune when going the opposite way; he's been hitting flies to left most of the time.

Maybe he's learning how to do it effectively, but the ratio of in-play hit types don't back it up. Still, even if he cools soon, he'll remain a decent platoon play against right-handed pitching.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim SS Erick Aybar
Toeing the line during rebound

Grant Balfour, RP, Oakland Athletics

  • Last 36: 1 W, 5 SV, 1.45 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 33 K in 37 1/3 IP

Guess more people read last week's report, and leftover owners finally realized he's the new Oakland stopper, a title he's primed to keep as long as he keeps them rolling along.

Jeremy Guthrie, SP, Kansas City Royals

  • August: 2 W, 0.94 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 23 K in 28 2/3 IP

Nicholas Minnix did the heavy lifting on this one last week. Tread carefully, but Guthrie's previous AL experience at least means he should continue offering competent innings.

Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • August: .406 BA, 15 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 SB in 66 PA

Aybar has endeared himself to shallow leaguers that forgot he existed. In fact, he's typically a better hitter once May ends. Mike Scioscia and former hitting coach Mickey Hatcher weaned Aybar off a toe tap he used to time his left-handed hacks, and it seems to have squashed his early-2012 struggles.

Even hitting near the bottom of the order in this lineup can pay off. Middle-infield seekers that find him on their wires at this stage will receive a gift, especially if thefts elude them.

Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics

  • Last 38: .299 BA, 27 R, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 12 SB in 171 PA

Pick him up for the speed and ride the rest out. He's actually taking more walks than he did last season, otherwise remaining the same peripheral-wise. It's chiefly been about health with him, and now that he's on the field, he's a difference maker in helping your steals climb.

Tyler Colvin, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies

  • August: .362 BA, 12 R, 1 HR, 11 RBI in 74 PA

Twice a featured entry in July, Colvin's playing time is now freed up by Michael Cuddyer's potentially season-ending right oblique strain. Though his power has dipped of late, Colvin has grown as a hitter in all facets this year and is worth owning in even the most basic of setups, even if it's just to see if he can rediscover his early-year pop display.

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

Manny Machado, 3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles

  • Last 7: .308 BA, 5 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI in 27 PA

He's two for his last 10, chilling a bit since a raucous start to his career. But that's not preventing picker-uppers from trying the super-prospect for the second consecutive week, and expecting that pace was a dream anyway despite the big pop he holds. Can the 20-year-old show the beyond-his-years plate discipline that helped him surge up the farm ladder? Or will he suffer more because of his weak walk work so far?

Either way, wouldn't you rather control his fate - even with trade offers - in your league so others don't have the potentially immense pleasure?

Kris Medlen, SP, Atlanta Braves

  • Last 4: 3 W, 1.05 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 22 K in 25 2/3 IP

All he needed was a chance. The highly skilled pitcher has had a highly favorable schedule in this quartet: Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, at New York Mets, San Diego Padres (his first career shutout Thursday), but this merely was an exaggeration of his talents.

The Bravos will use a six-man rotation during their ongoing run of 19 straight days with a game, so Medlen will stick even though Tommy Hanson (back) returned Friday. Expect more earthbound numbers than what Medlen has shown so far, but that shouldn't discourage you from owning him. His long-awaited upside is finally starting to materialize.

Todd Frazier, 1B/3B/OF, Cincinnati Reds

  • Last 40: .310 BA, 22 R, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB in 155 PA

Joey Votto's DL stay has opened another avenue for the versatile Frazier to display his pop. Even when "Vottomatic" returns (which might happen further down the road than initially expected), Frazier should frequently, if not permanently, kick Scott Rolen out of the hot corner.

Frazier made hard contact in most of his minors duration, but the late-blooming 26-year-old has displayed more lift - a promising development for a dweller of Great American Ball Park that has actually clubbed eight of his 15 taters on the road this year.

For frozen-ropers like him, high BABIPs (.333) are justified, to a degree. Because he still strikes out a tad too much, expect some cooling as September comes, but there's still plenty to like about his skills that act as a foil for his sweet positional eligibility.

Eric Young Jr., OF, Colorado Rockies

  • Last 12: .469 BA, 12 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB in 54 PA

When speed finds a lineup spot while also learning how to hit, the waiver-wire dash begins. Young should keep his role even with Michael Cuddyer back from the DL; EYJ has provided too much of a card-topping spark to sit. His outfield defense has improved, too. Even when he quiets down, Young could serve as a pivotal swipes compiler down the stretch.

Dale Thayer, RP, San Diego Padres

  • Last 14: 1 SV, 1.17 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 8 K in 15 1/3 IP

Thayer has staked his claim for Round 2 of replacing Huston Street (strained quadriceps), who'll stay out of MLB action until at least early September. With Street's penchant for dragging recoveries, it could easily last longer. Though he's had a decent run of late, too, Luke Gregerson isn't a clear and present danger.

Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

  • Last 4: 3 W, 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 21 K in 28 IP

Matchups against the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays inflated these stats a little, but don't scoff at Cobb going seven frames in each contest and walking just three overall. The grounder specialist doesn't induce many empty hacks, but he's looking like another developmental victory in the Rays' long line of useful home-grown SPs. He's improved his fastball command, curveball deployment and preparation leading up to his starts.

Cobb is contributing to the surplus but could soon be a casualty. Will he get the boot whenever Jeff Niemann (broken leg) returns? That could come in a few weeks, and Niemann was having a breakthrough of his own before he went down. Cobb makes the most sense to lose out, but maybe Jeremy Hellickson's recent stumbles tag him with a 'pen assignment. A six-man rotation would mean cutting down David Price's appearances. No thanks.

Cobb visits the Angels next, followed likely by hosting the surprising Athletics and, unfortunately, traveling to the Texas Rangers. He might be running out of steam by then anyway, so keep an eye on the future if you jumped on board.

Ryan Doumit, C, Minnesota Twins

  • August: .347 BA, 7 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI in 51 PA

As he's moved around the diamond, Doumit keeps mashing as he rides in with his second straight entry here. Other than a weak clip versus left-handers on the year, the switch-hitter's plate peripherals don't show an imminent regression overall. He'll wind up as one of the biggest profit earners this season among backstops.

Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cincinnati Reds

  • Last 50: .320 BA, 26 R, 14 HR, 39 RBI in 195 PA

The last few stragglers are hopping on board. Ludwick was hitting .203 on the year before that stat period commenced June 12. He stands at .268 and has already matched his 22 homers from 2009 in 200 fewer plate appearances. The 34-year-old can credit revisiting the squared contact he made in past excellent years (23.2 liner percentage in '12) along with a minor but important uptick in cuts taken within the strike zone.

Ludwick's long-standing hacker tendencies should prompt a drop-off warning, though, and his stock won't be more sellable than it is now; his team's hot streak and home digs accentuate his value. Riding out his season wouldn't be a bad alternative, but if you have depth in the outfield, you can swap him to fill another need.

Grant Balfour, RP, Oakland Athletics

  • Last 33: 1 W, 2 SV, 1.54 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 30 K in 35 IP

Those two wrap-ups have come over his last pair of appearances while he retook the Oaktown saves reins. Ryan Cook has looked a tad better lately, but the competing A's won't ditch Balfour - at least from top preference - if he keeps this up.

Eric Chavez, 3B, New York Yankees

  • Last 12: .500 BA, 10 R, 5 HR, 11 RBI in 41 PA

A healthier, platoon-protected Chavez has paid off for the Bronx Bombers with Alex Rodriguez (wrist) hurt. A-Rod should return sometime in September, but Chavez could still find time at the hot corner if the Yanks decide to rest Rodriguez as October nears, so that'll mean some corner-infield utility even as a part-timer for deep mixers.

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

Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cincinnati Reds

  • Last 10: .459 BA, 9 R, 5 HR, 17 RBI in 40 PA

He does this from time to time. His power has proven better against right-handers, so that helps, not like he'd be taken out of the lineup anyway, at least the majority of the time, while he's smoking. Cincy is clicking without Joey Votto (knee), and Ludwick has been a big part of that.

With the amount of liners he's raking this year, it wouldn't surprise if he at least sustains his clip at season's end. Any Great American Ball Park masher who does this deserves a little more faith than many others.

Josh Rutledge, SS, Colorado Rockies

  • 2012: .375 BA, 12 R, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB in 75 PA

Since appearing on this list last week, he's .435-4-8 with six runs in his last 23 at-bats - not a bad showing for the stick who skipped Triple-A before locking down the Rox's shortstop gig with Troy Tulowitzki's groin injury. Rutledge would slide over to 2B if Tulo returns this year; that's not looking good, though.

Rutledge's quick, compact hacks are facilitating his streak and adding pop to his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame that many didn't expect so soon. He's playing above his head - he doesn't take many walks and hits plenty on the ground - but the 23-year-old moved up to the two-hole after Marco Scutaro was traded to San Fran, so he'll see some tantalizing pitches hitting in front of Carlos Gonzalez.

He isn't leaning on Coors Field yet, and he'll stick as a solid play there even if he tapers off. Signs are pointing to his drop-off being less severe than originally believed.

Greg Holland, RP, Kansas City Royals

  • Last 35: 2.10 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 46 K in 34 1/3

Any newly crowned closer will garner attention on the waiver wire. The Royals might try out Kelvin Herrera at some point, but Holland should have a stalwart saves and skills stretch similar to how he ended 2011.

Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets

  • 2012: 1 W, 1.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 18 K in 11 1/3 IP

Another returning entry who continues to garner pickup love, Harvey came down a bit in his second outing but fanned seven in six frames. The punchouts will be his most guaranteed offering.

Keep in mind the typical growing pains that come with a young, walk-happy hurler, and the Mets will probably cap his innings at 165 or 170 this season. He's at 121 1/3 combined between the bigs and Triple-A Buffalo, so he'll probably have at least another month's worth of outings.

Paul Maholm, SP, Atlanta Braves

  • Last 7: 5 W, 1.00 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 32 K in 45 IP

He was an inclusion last week as a Chicago Cub. He was shipped to a much better home park, defense and supporting lineup. The soft tosser has gained a bit more punch to work in the strike zone, thanks to his improved slider, but he's a grounder- and contact-first arm that'll taper off before we reach October.

A.J. Griffin, SP, Oakland Athletics

  • Last 5: 2.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 27 K in 31 IP

For the second week, fantasy players were hopping on the Griffin bandwagon. He's doing the same voodoo he was doing before last week - efficiency over dominance. Oakland starters have the cushion of their home park, which keeps them relevant even coming down off highs like these.

Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

  • Last 10: .351 BA, 13 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 5 SB in 45 PA

An incomplete skill set that has been carried by erratically brilliant swipe tears might be coming together. Gomez actually has a better history versus right-handed pitchers than left-handers, and a five-homer July might be the byproduct of a 26-year-old finally growing into his frame.

You're better off counting on a proportional boost of his 20 steals on the year, but he's giving you more across-the-board reason to stick with him. His BB/K (this year, a horrific 0.25) means he'll slow down soon. As fantasy players know, though, thievery is an OK reason to hang on even after that happens.

Colorado Rockies SS <b /><a target=
Rocky Mountain rolling

Mike Minor, SP, Atlanta Braves

  • Last 5: 1.74 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 27 K in 31 IP

The soft-tossing southpaw is maturing, right? Meh - unfortunately for his long-term worth, that handful of outings was comprised of home games against the Chicago CubsSan Francisco Giants (sans Hunter Pence), Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins, along with a contest at Miami's spacious confines.

His rotation gig was in jeopardy less than a month ago. His shaky fly-first skill set is masked by his environment and his recently cushy schedule. He has the Philadelphia Phillies (road) and San Diego Padres (home) coming up, but he lines up to face two of the following: the reloaded Los Angeles Dodgers, the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants.

In the next few weeks, Minor is staring at a major variation in his results.

Chris D. Johnson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Last 12: .457 BA, 7 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI in 51 PA

The streaky bat, an entry here earlier this season, swapped teams but gained another park that favors lumber (even if it does less so than in previous years), especially right-siders. He has replicated his hot 2010 stretch and should, at least with his power, continue on that pace here on out. That's useful in many circles.

Of course, you're wise to predict simultaneously a drop-off in batting average, as well. In mixed leagues, he remains just a corner infielder hot-streak surfboard.

Chad Billingsley, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Last 2: 0.68 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 6 K in 13 1/3 IP

Many shallow leaguers are likely revisiting the enigmatic right-hander, thanks to his sparkling return from a mid-July DL stint that, in conjunction with his painful lines from earlier this campaign, probably cost him many a roster spot.

He has a penchant for nibbling around the plate, and his dominance has dwindled because he's trying to counteract that. Still, his walk rate has actually been 2.61 or lower in every month except May, and he's revisited his empty-hack percentage from 2010 (8.9) with his current 8.5. Count his improved first-strike percentage among the causes.

He's posted better numbers away from arm haven Chavez Ravine so far. The possibility of him improving that makes him an alluring own for the rest of the season, especially with LA's newly retooled offense behind him to boost his odds of netting wins.

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

Chris D. Johnson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Last 10: .342 BA, 6 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI in 40 PA

Johnson was rockin' in his last nine games with the Houston Astros, but his move to the Snakes and a big-time power surge put him on the fantasy radar of those in shallow leagues in a hurry. Ride this while it lasts. Don't bank on it, but the improved surroundings may help him remain relevant in 12-team mixers from here on out.

For someone who strikes out nearly a quarter of the time, Johnson has an almost adequate contact rate. As Tim noted last week, the third baseman is streaky. The handful of ding dongs wouldn't be surprising now that he's in Arizona ... except that they've all come on the road.

Manny Machado, 3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles

  • 8/9: 2-for-4, 1 R

Which infield prospect is a better roto pickup? Jean Segura, whom the Milwaukee Brewers' called up at the beginning of the week, or the O's No. 2 prospect? Check out this past week's DMs for each (punch: Segura, Machado) for the bg info.

Bottom line: Machado spent his entire 2012 campaign, prior to his call-up, at the Double-A level, just like Segura did. Machado, 20, is one year and eight months younger, however. The No. 3 overall pick in 2010 has more upside right away because of acumen and ability to make adjustments much more quickly.

Scott Feldman, P, Texas Rangers

  • Last 3: 3 W, 1.19 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 14 K in 22 2/3 IP

The pitcher of whom Roy Oswalt has a voodoo doll may have discovered the secret since his brief return to the bullpen in mid-July: a good attitude. OK, the right-hander has three solid weapons, a couple of which have helped him induce more grounders in the past couple of months.

The real Feldman isn't nearly as bad as the one who moved to the rotation initially out of need, but he's not quite as good as the one who's sticking in it because of want (Ron Washington's). The control artist is a little closer to the latter version, however, so he may ride it through September.

Eric Chavez, 3B, New York Yankees

  • Last 9: .467 BA, 9 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI in 32 PA

The beneficiary of the absence of Alex Rodriguez (non-displaced fracture in left hand) has been en fuego. Chavez, 34, is also experiencing a resurgence that seemed nearly impossible before this season began.

A-Rod will be out for at least another five weeks. There may be some ups and downs, but Chavez is certainly capable of putting up quality numbers while playing on the good side of a platoon and hitting in that lineup.

Jim Henderson, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

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

Twice, Henderson received the CHS treatment because of his sudden emergence as a closing candidate for the Brew Crew. Roto players across the universe took notice immediately.

The right-handed fireballer has a good slider, too, and he did improve his BB/9 on the farm to ... 4.12 this year. OK, there's definitely a chance that Henderson's control problems catch up to him in 2012. Of course, some of us kept thinking the same thing about John Axford.

Franklin Morales, P, Boston Red Sox

  • 8/5: W, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K in 6 IP

Tim's DM write-up on Beantown's (re-)addition to the rotation will tell you a little of what you need to know about the southpaw's prospects from here on out, and he points to a previous DM that gives you the rest of the goods.

Morales seems likelier to stick around this time. Aaron Cook may continue to fall apart, and Felix Doubront could be hitting a wall, too. Morales has more upside than either, easily.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins

  • Last 20: .354 BA, 16 R, 4 HR, 16 RBI in 88 PA

Some folks in shallow leagues needed just a bit of a reminder: When he's healthy, this Morneau fella is pretty darn good.

The 2006 MVP hasn't experienced any complications from past concussions this season. As long as he's upright, Morneau should be owned in pretty much all formats.

Ryan Doumit, C, Minnesota Twins

  • August: .393 BA, 4 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI in 29 PA

Like his teammate Morneau, Doumit has been putting up solid numbers for much of this campaign. A quality July (.307 BA, 10 R, 3 HR, 15 RBI in 96 PA) wasn't enough to make those in shallow leagues take notice, so the switch hitter went on a hot streak to get their attention.

Doumit has played a variety positions (and has slotted in at DH, which has helped to keep him healthy). The catcher eligibility and Minnesota's capable offense, when all are present, should keep him employed in many mixed leagues.

Steve Cishek, RP, Miami Marlins

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

Cishek has been leading Ozzie Guillen's "committee" of closing options lately. In fact, the righty has been the committee. He has the skills to keep that role for the rest of the season.

Thursday's CHS highlighted the one real obstacle for Cishek's value for the rest of the season: Miami's repeated desire to re-establish Heath Bell as an option in the ninth stanza. Bell has blown his opportunities a few times already (and his Aug. 9 appearance isn't earning him points), though. Cishek is a must-retain for the rest of the season for roto managers who are trying to pad their saves total.

Marco Scutaro, 2B/3B/SS, San Francisco Giants

  • Last 13: .346 BA, 5 R, 1 HR, 14 RBI in 58 PA

Wait a minute. So, this guy leaves the club that plays its home games at Coors Field for the team in San Fran, and now he's a hot property? The Giants' offense has been unusually potent lately, although most of their runs have come in three or four contests since they acquired Scutaro.

The 36-year-old is a solid player, and his eligibility at multiple positions is sweet. He's still not much of a force on offense. His grand slam - part of a seven-RBI night on Wednesday - is probably what caused him to appear near the top of free-agent lists and look like a great pickup.

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

Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets

  • 7/26: W, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K in 5 1/3 IP

His electric 5 1/3 innings of 11-K ball in his Thursday MLB debut have escalated his pickup stock. He walked three, as well, which harkens back to his problems in the minors. You can reasonably expect Brandon Morrow-type numbers: plenty of K's, thanks to his high-90s top-offs, along with his likelihood of issuing plenty of free passes.

Someone might overbid for the arm in your league's FAAB period. Heck, if you own him, maybe you can shop him to see if someone bites hard on Harvey's miniscule sample size. Even if no one does, if the Mets keep him up for the rest of the season, he'll play well for deep mixers in the whiffs column. What should temper your bid is whether the Mets will keep him on the big club for the remainder of 2012.

Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

  • 7/27: 2-for-4, R, HR, RBI

With a bang: first-pitch homer, 2-for-4 in his major league debut. Marte, 22 in October, stands to be a plate discipline risk, and this debut, like Harvey's, will no doubt increase the rush for his services.

His base thievery says that he might meet the buying price anyway - if you need SBs, he's probably worth the dart throw, especially since only two months remain in the season.

Ben Sheets, SP, Atlanta Braves

  • 2012: 2 W, 7 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 11 K in 12 IP

On this list for the second straight week, Sheets followed up on his season debut with a three-walk, five-hit effort, but he fanned six in six shutout innings. He must vary his arsenal to compensate for his velocity, which might not reach past levels but could get a small uptick as he warms up.

Still, this is a smart pitcher you should back in mixed leagues.

Danny Espinosa, 2B/SS, Washington Nationals

  • July: .341 BA, 14 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 4 SB in 89 PA

The streaky bat is in the middle of an upswing, including an 11-game hitting streak, thus fantasy owners once again embracing the likely widespread early-season roster casualty in mixed leagues. He's eliminated the loop in his left-handed swing, which has improved his timing.

With Ian Desmond (oblique) on the DL, Espinosa has earned shortstop eligibility, too. While it increases his worth, it doesn't change the fact that he carries the same strikeout-heavy patterns, even if he's streamlined his hacks. On the bright side, his power-speed combination will make up for the likely downfall of his .335 BABIP.

Josh Rutledge, SS, Colorado Rockies

  • 2012: .356 BA, 6 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB in 48 IP

Troy Tulowitzki (groin) might be out for the season, but even if he isn't, he'll need a few more weeks of prep before he even goes on a rehab assignment, so Rutledge should remain in control of the 6 job. Even better, once Tulo comes back, Rutledge might go back to his natural position at second base if the Rox trade Marco Scutaro.

Rutledge has a hint of power promise, but it probably won't be of much use this year. That .395 BABIP should come down, too, at some point, and he doesn't take many walks. Ride the wave.

Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals

  • July: .340 BA, 8 R, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB in 55 PA

KC's center fielder had a few multi-hit games recently and caught the eye of some folks this week after coming back hot from his DL activation earlier this month. He'll continue hitting near the top of the order as the Royals see if Cain can be regal as a long-term solution.

He posted a great spring and will have every opportunity to continue. He probably won't run much for a while as he tries to regain form after his hip flexor strain, but he might as the campaign winds down. He's a fine outfield cap in mixed leagues.

Paul Maholm, SP, Chicago Cubs

  • Last 6: 5 W, 0.94 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 27 K in 38 1/3 IP

Since taking a spot on this list last week, Maholm tossed his second straight eight-inning, one-run affair with a Tuesday gem. His refined slider looks to be part of his success, which includes a modest bump in swinging-strike percentage (5.7 last year to 6.8 this year). The southpaw is stranding some more runners, too.

He's very much the same soft-tossing, control-based arm he's always been, though. Would someone give you something valuable for Maholm? Probably not, but in NL-onlys, it's worth checking on.

Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds

  • July: 4 W, 1.43 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 34 K in 37 2/3 IP

In four of his five July outings, the 26-year-old has fanned at least seven. In all five, he has allowed no more than two earned runs and gone at least 6 2/3 frames. Of course, he's faced the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros, along with the competent St. Louis Cardinals, so the schedule has been kind to him.

He's seemingly become more efficient with much of his other peripherals staying the same. But despite his recent binge, overall his K's are down as he's tried to have cleaner outings, and like a few of the other Cincy SPs, Bailey's on pace for a career high in innings. Maybe his new approach will keep him fresh, but he might fade a bit as the season winds down, and perhaps when he faces stiffer competition.

A.J. Griffin, SP, Oakland Athletics

  • 2012: 3 W, 2.25 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 29 K in 36 IP

Griffin's zone-pounding ways and suffocating curveball have produced whiffs so far, but expecting it to last at this level is lofty. Still, his craftiness produced 44 K's in 43 IP at Double-A Midland, and his Triple-A Sacramento K/9 reflects his 7.25 MLB figure so far. The A's have a great environment for buying staff-capping arms in mixed leagues. Everyone was buying Tom Milone or Jarrod Parker for that in the preseason. Griffin has been the real beneficiary lately.

Griffin doesn't induce many grounders, but at O.co Coliseum, that isn't as big a deal. If he comes back down to earth, at least his home starts will still be smart plays.

Jeff Karstens, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Last 4: 3 W, 1.86 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 22 K in 29 IP

Those three victories came with Mike McKenry behind the dish, over which Karstens logged a 0.82 ERA. Expect the backstop to be paired with Karstens for the foreseeable future, which could preserve the right-hander's effectiveness in the short term.

With a 6.07 K/9 in eight starts so far, he's posting the best dominance pace of any season in his career. He hasn't walked more than two batters in any of his five starts since coming off the DL in late June. Like Maholm, his mixed-league worth is tied to his control and hot streak; you have a right to be skeptical of the overpowering showings he's had in his small sample size.

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