2011 MLB Fantasy Fever From WhatIfSports.com image

Fantasy Fever: Relief for Rivera

Fantasy Fever Week 16

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
Aug. 11, 2011

(Note: All stats are prior to Thursday's games.)

With back-to-back blown saves, everyone seems to be in a rush to proclaim the career of the esteemed Mariano Rivera kaput. Some assert his cutter doesn't subdue hitters as it once did, while others declare that Father Time is beginning to set in. To all who question Rivera's ability to be effective down the stretch, may I offer a simple suggestion?

Calm the hell down.

Before he surrendered a sac fly to Dustin Pedroia on August 7, Rivera owned a 1.70 ERA in 44 appearances this season. He's only allowed five walks, and his 7.92 K/9 ratio remains respectable. Despite being the most dominant closer of all-time, Rivera will occasionally have a bump in the road. These are Major League hitters, after all.

Thursday's day game against the Angels offered little relief, as Rivera relinquished a three-run homer to Russell Branyan in the ninth before closing the door for the save. Even with his latest mishap, Rivera has a 1.00 WHIP and 2.40 ERA on the season.

Which is to say this: don't expect anyone but Rivera to be slamming the door shut for the Pinstripes come fall. He may be mirrored in a funk, but odds are he will be back to making hitters look foolish in no time.

Start 'Em:

C: Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers.
Torrealba has been raking the last two weeks, going 21-for-47 with eight RBI and seven runs. Currently in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak, Torrealba has raised his average from .248 to .282 in the process. The Texas catcher has historically done well in August, owning a career .272 average in the month. The catalyst for Torrealba's turnaround is the catcher's line drive percentage, with 44.8 percent of his batted balls coming as liners in August.

1B: Jesus Guzman, Padres.
To borrow a line from The Big Lebowski, "Nobody (fools) with the Jesus!" Highlighted in the Rookie Review segment last week, Guzman is hitting .413 in his last 11 games with 13 RBI and 11 runs. Although scouts claim he doesn't possess a plethora of power, Guzman does have five homers in 123 at bats this season. Even if those numbers don't gratify owners' desire for more muscle at the position, Guzman's .350 average, .389 OBP and 30 RBI should alleviate any concern.

2B: Jason Kipnis, Indians.
Initially starting his Major League career on the wrong foot (2-for-17), Kipnis has been on fire, batting .364 with six homers and 10 RBI in his last 10 games. Cleveland's trade of Orlando Cabrera to San Francisco signaled the franchise's faith in Kipnis, meaning the rookie will see consistent playing time the rest of the season. His .343 BABIP illustrates Kipnis may have been the benefactor of some recent luck, and like all rookies, he will undoubtedly have his slumps. However, his liking to the long ball at a position short on homers makes Kipnis worth the gamble.

3B: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays.
After submitting a solid performance in July (.313/.377/.531, four homers, 14 RBI and 19 runs), Encarnacion has carried his hot streak into August, hitting .423 with a .559 OBP through the first eight games of the month. As late as July 6, Encarnacion's average sat at .240, but his recent tear has vaulted that figure to .282. A reduction in strikeouts (career-low 14.2 strikeout percentage) and fly balls (46.1 percent batted fly balls) have aided Encarnacion in this crushing crusade. Well that, and stealing signs never hurts.

SS: Marco Scutaro, Red Sox.
Scutaro is hitting .395 with nine ribbies since July 29, raising his season average 20 percentage points. Scutaro's refocus at the plate appears to be the catalyst behind this improvement, with the Red Sox shortstop striking out just once in his last 11 games. Owned in just 14 percent of leagues, Scutaro can offer average and run support in the fantasy homestretch.

OF: Josh Willingham, A's.
The Oakland outfielder has been one of the hottest hitters in the second half, hitting .282 with eight jacks and 22 RBI. Although the first few days of August were unkind, Willingham has hit a homer in three straight games and has four bombs on the month. As long as Willingham can remain healthy, he deserves a spot in AL-only and deeper leagues.

SP: Luke Hochevar, Royals.
The former first overall pick of the 2006 Draft, Hochevar holds a 2.41 ERA over his last five starts (33.2 innings) with 26 strikeouts. The Royals right-hander goes deep enough into games to give the Kansas City offense enough time to garner runs, making Hochevar an asset for leagues valuing wins and innings. (For those laughing at the former part of that statement, the Royals are sixth in the AL in runs.) Don't be alarmed by his 4.79 ERA, as Hochevar holds a respectable 1.30 WHIP on the season.

RP: Sergio Santos, White Sox.
Santos has held opponents scoreless in his last 11 appearances, lowering his ERA to 2.77 on the season. Santos' BABIP of .238 indicates the closer could be in for a bumpy road the last seven weeks of the season, but his 17.5 line drive percentage and 12.02 K/9 rate make Santos a safe bet.

Sit 'Em:

C: Jorge Posada, Yankees.
Posada will no longer be featured in the New York everyday lineup due to his .230/.309/.371 line. The Yankee backstop held decent value thanks to his output in June (.382, 11 RBI), but has followed that production with a .217 average in July and 3-for-18 performance thus far in August. At this juncture, Posada doesn't merit a spot on your fantasy roster.

1B: Adam Lind, Blue Jays.
Lind was featured in this space last week, but the Blue Jay basher has done little to change his predicament. Keeping in line with his atrocious July (.210/.265/.314), Lind is right on the Mendoza Line in August with just two RBI. Apparently Lind is not utilizing Toronto's, um, "home-field advantage." Don't waive Lind just yet, but he certainly belongs on your bench.

2B: Jemile Weeks, A's.
With a recent drought in swipes (just two steals in his last 20 games), Weeks loses most, if not all, of his fantasy worth. Weeks is batting just .222 in August and has just two runs and two RBI on the month. As he offers nothing in the OBP, power and run departments, drop Weeks from the team if he doesn't start to accumulate some bags.

3B: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox.
Youk has just 11 hits in his last 63 at bats (.175) with six RBI. Owners of Youkilis should be concerned, as the third baseman historically struggles in September/October with a career average of .253. Youkilis has uncharacteristically been hitting a flurry of fly balls, correlating to his decline in average. Sit the Greek God of Walks until he awakes from his slumber.

SS: Alexei Ramirez, White Sox.
Ramirez usually experiences a slight decline in production after the All-Star break, but the Sox shortstop has been stuck in a slump since the Midsummer Classic, hitting .217 with just two long balls and seven RBI. The cause for this collapse is Ramirez's lack of line drives (9.7 percent), as well as a bit of bad luck (.172). In a related note, due to Ramirez's down year (.263, 11 homers, 47 RBI), the "Cuban Missile" nickname is conceded to Aroldis Chapman, who has 38 strikeouts in 21.1 innings since being recalled from Triple-A in late June with a 1.27 ERA.

OF: Chris Young, Diamondbacks.
While the Arizona outfielder has never been known for maintaining a high average, Young's recent swoon (.150 in his last 18 games) is disconcerting. He still possesses the rare duo of speed and power, but not many fantasy teams can afford the average hit Young brings. Until he reduces the amount of infield fly balls off his bat (20.2 percent), Young is a liability in your lineup.

SP: Tommy Hanson, Braves.
Heading into the All-Star break, Hanson was one of the more dominant arms on the Senior Circuit, posting a 2.44 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .190 average. Since? Not so much. In his past five starts, Hanson has an 8.10 ERA and 1.76 WHIP. Killing Hanson has been the long ball, surrendering eight bombs in just 26.2 innings in the second half. Hold off on starting Hanson until he regains command of the mound.

RP: Chris Perez, Indians.
The Tribe has been making a charge in the AL Central, no thanks to Perez. Before pitching a scoreless inning on August 9 against the Tigers, Perez had allowed a run in seven of his past nine appearances.

Waiver Wire: Casey Kotchman, Rays.
Kotchman has been doing work all season, with his "down" month coming in July with a .301 average. His .340 batting mark is good for second in the majors, and owns a strong .399 OBP. However, many owners view Kotchman as a detriment to their power categories, as the Tampa Bay first baseman only has seven homers and 38 RBI on the season. While this concern is comprehensible, it's astounding that Kotchman is available in 80 percent of leagues. His average and OBP are certainly conducive to a DH or utility role, and with the arrival of Desmond Jennings, Kotchman's RBI total may get a boost.

The Real Debate
As riffed on above, the Blue Jays have been accused of stealing signs, with a rouge individual in the center stands acting as the facilitator for these signals. Yet the real story shouldn't be that the Blue Jays are spying on their opponents; rather, how are the Blue Jays 13 games back utilizing this distinct advantage? The Jays are only two games above .500 as is; can you imagine that disparity if they played by the rules? And shouldn't we allow Toronto to continue on this endeavor to even the playing field thanks to the ridiculous payrolls of Boston and New York? The real loser in this controversy is Jose Bautista. This dispute seems like another way to discount his power production from the last two seasons. The poor guy will eventually be forced to take a drug test before at bats and hit blindfolded to get the credit he deserves.

Rookie Review: Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays.
Wow, four Toronto-centric segments! Has to be a record for a fantasy article. Lawrie was this close to being called up in late May before a hand injury delayed his promotion. Ranked as the 40th prospect by Baseball America heading into the season, Lawrie hit .353 with 18 homers and 61 RBI in Triple-A Las Vegas before his call up. Since arriving to the Show, Lawrie has not disappointed, hitting .389 in his first five games, highlighted by a grand slam on August 10.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Dan Uggla, Braves.
Uggla's 3-for-5 performance on Wednesday extended his hitting streak to 31 games. Not bad for a dude batting .224 on the season.

Spit Your Tobacco At: C.J. Wilson, Rangers.
Wilson made some news this week with barbs aimed at Oakland's team and fans. Attaway to kick a man while he's down, Wilson. You do realize that this a club that starts Conor Jackson, right? It's easy to pick a fight with the league weakling. Start talking smack to Anaheim and maybe then we will respect you.

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