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Sleeping Beauties: Valuable Free-Agent Pickups

Josh Beckett was obviously pretty impressive throwing his first career no-hitter Sunday, allowing just 3 walks while striking out 6.  It took him a career-high 128 pitches to get there, so hopefully it won’t affect him negatively going forward, but as a veteran who’s pitched in many extremely high-leverage situations in his career, he’s likely to be less affected by outlier pitch counts than most pitchers in the game.  The bigger concern is that this gem may have finally woken everyone up to the great season Beckett’s been having so far, and the few buying windows remaining may be slamming shut soon.  He jumped from 45% owned (in Y! leagues) to 51% overnight, and I expect that number to keep on rising before his next start.

While the wins have been slow to materialize (only 3 on the year after Sunday), Beckett has excelled this year allowing more than 2 ER in only 2 of his 9 starts so far, as a return to health and the NL seem to be just what the doctor ordered for him.  His K% is the highest it’s been since 2008 (23.3%), and while his BB% is a bit higher than usual (9.0%), it’s nothing to sound the alarm about.  His .211 BABIP allowed is bound to rise some (his career BABIP allowed is .289), but maybe not as much as it would seem as he’s only allowing line drives 16.4% of the time, the 2nd best mark of his career (to 2007, when he went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA for the Red Sox).  At this point, I think Beckett deserves a spot on any competitive fantasy team, as I think you can safely project about 10-12 wins, 8.0 or better K/9, and an ERA in the 3.50 (or better) range from here on out.

Add another name to the post-hype sleeper file: Lonnie Chisenhall is finally starting to make some noise in Cleveland, as an 8-game hitting streak has him up to .381/.437/.558 on the year. He has five multi-hit games during that span, as well as an RBI in 6 straight games heading into play Monday. Chisenhall jumped 15% in ownership overnight, as his hot streak is starting to get noticed, but he’s still just 27% owned in Y! leagues, so it may not be too late to jump aboard this story. 3B has been a minefield for many so far this season.

Kolten Wong has impressed since getting called back up, going 10-for-27 and stealing 4 bases while getting a hit in all 7 games he’s played since his return.  The power is still developing with Wong, but he should be able to maintain a solid BA while swiping bases at a good clip, all from a pretty shallow 2B position.  The Cardinals have every reason to keep him in the lineup most days, so he has a good chance to deliver 20+ SB and 50+ Runs with a .280-ish BA the rest of the way.  Those numbers can help a lot of teams from a MI position, and he’s still available in 83% of Y! leagues.

Ike Davis has gone 30-for-99 (.303) in 32 games since coming over to Pittsburgh from the Mets.  The power has been a bit slower to come around, as he only has 2 HR and 11 RBI in that span, but he did have a HR and 4 RBI last week while putting together a 6-game hitting streak that included three multi-hit games.  Davis is notoriously streaky (especially with his power), and he’s still a young player and in a new environment, so his recent good hitting could be a sign of things to come.  Ike is still only 9% owned in Y! leagues, so there is plenty of time to get in on the ground floor, and he may be just what you’re looking for if you recently lost Jose Abreu, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, or Brandon Belt.

I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about Brandon McCarthy every single post I’ve made this month, but as long as he keeps throwing gems on waiver wires, I’m going to keep trying to get him on your teams.  Most recently, McCarthy subdued the intimidating Cardinals with 6 innings of 1-run ball, only to be stuck with another no decision.  Outside of a forgivable hiccup in Chicago against the White Sox, McCarthy has given up 2 ER or less in 5 of his last 6 starts (with the 6th being only 3 ER), all while striking out 44 batters over 42 IP during that span.  His 1-6 record obviously isn’t ideal, but we know that pitchers don’t have a lot of control over won-loss record, and in this case it’s helping to mask his value.  McCarthy is still only 11% owned in Y! leagues.

Jake Odorizzi threw another gem on Sunday, albeit in a no-decision, by going 6 one-run innings with 5 Ks, only 4 hits, and one BB against the Red Sox.  That gives him only 4 ER over his last 21.2 IP, to go with 31 Ks.  Yes, his division can be rough on pitchers, but his home park is quite favorable and he has one of the best defenses in the league behind him.  He should be owned in much more than 9% of Y! leagues.

Josh Harrison has inserted himself into the mixed-league conversation, as he answered a promotion to a starting role last week with hits in 6 of 7 games.  He’s also gone 7-2-4-0 over that span, displaying some impressive counting stats for a MI-eligible player.  He’s eligible at both 2B and RF, a rare but useful position combination, and is only 3% owned in Y! leagues.  If he stays in the starting lineup most of the year, he has the skills to make a run at a 12-12-.285 type of season.

Could Ryan Vogelsong be making (another) comeback?  After throwing a gem against MIN this weekend (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K), Vogelsong has now given up more than 1 ER only once in his last 6 starts, with 35 K over 40 IP during that stretch.  He’s down to 3.20/1.24 on the year and, obviously, the recent returns are even better.  This is a guy who has had success before, pitches in a great pitcher’s park, and has the guile to get by with diminished stuff, as he has exhibited in the past.  He’s still only 21% owned in Y! leagues, but owners of struggling SPs may want to inquire about his services while he’s riding this incredible hot streak.

Batting Gloves

Michael Brantley has turned a hot start into what looks like a breakout year as he’s gone 30-9-38-7-.302-.883 to start the season, good for the 11th best ranking in all of fantasy baseball so far.  Whatever you paid for him at the start of year, you got a steal…Everyone knows by now that Prince Fielder will be down for the rest of the year after electing to undergo spinal fusion surgery to repair the bulging disk in his neck.  Thus, a sputtering season ends with a whimper, and we are all left searching for lessons to be learned from the ordeal.  Hopefully, the Rangers have already learned that it’s not a great idea to take on a nine-figure contract without giving the player a physical first…Troy Tulowitzki gave us all a scare on Sunday, as he was removed from the game after hitting himself in the ankle with his backswing.  Luckily, he appears to have avoided serious injury and should be back in the lineup Monday…David Wright may be starting to break out as he has now hit in 9 straight games with 5 multi-hit efforts during the streak.  We’re still waiting on the power to come around, but Wright has been streaky in that area most of his career, so it could be right around the corner…Charlie Blackmon has just 7 hits in his last 11 games, with only one SB and no HR.  His BA has dropped from .352 to .319 during that time.  It may be worth checking to see if he can still command an early-round price tag in a trade while his surface numbers still look great.

Rosin Bags

What has happened to Justin Verlander? After his most recent mauling Sunday (5.1 IP, 6 ER, 11 H, 3 BB, 1 K vs. TEX), he’s up to 4.04/1.51 for the year with only 50 Ks in 71.1 IP. You really can’t trust him going forward, but unfortunately a lot of teams may not be in a position to bench him if he was drafted as their ace…Many people were scared off Nate Eovaldi after a rough outing in SF May 15, but he followed that up with a win (albeit a mediocre one) against PHI and a gem Monday at WAS (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K). Though the Ks have been down over the last 4 starts, I trust his velocity and still think he will be a plus contributor in that area (and in general) all year…Madison Bumgarner has been a bit up-and-down this year, but his start Sunday should have rebuilt some confidence in his stock as he went 7 one-run innings while allowing only 3 hits and striking out 10. He’s elite, and if you’re in a league where his owner disagrees, see what you can acquire him for while his WHIP is still in the 1.30s…Tyson Ross is turning into Mr. Automatic, as he’s given us four straight outings of 7 IP and only 1 ER, while posting 8 Ks in each of his last 3. After an uneven start to the year, he’s back to what most thought he would be during draft season…Chris Sale returned from the DL with a bang last week, striking out 10 Yankees while only yielding one hit over 6 dominant shutout innings. It’s starting to appear that selecting Verlander over him as my ace in one league was a very large mistake, possibly one that will cost me chance to win the league. Hopefully you made the right choice if you were presented with the same dilemma.

Send me any questions/comments/general discussion to @RotoClayton on Twitter.  Thanks for reading, and good luck.