Fantasy Baseball Batters Stock Watch

Fantasy Baseball Batters Stock Watch

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Mike Trout, OF, Angels: Normally we don't spend too much time promoting universally-owned players (though we will discuss them while they slump), but we can't ignore what Trout is doing. He's rocking a .345.402.543 slash line, hitting in all venues and against all sorts of pitching. If you project his 54-game clip to a full season, you get this: 144 runs, 24 homers, 96 RBIs, 63 steals. The Angels have bailed out their season, and it's largely due to what Trout has done; right now, he's the frontrunner for AL MVP.
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: He's driving the ball again (note the .370.395.716 line in June, with six homers) and the Braves have bought in: Heyward is back to the No. 2 slot in the order, where your best batter should hit and where the roto production flows freely. Heyward's healthy shoulder also shows up on defense, as he's been terrific in right field. Very quietly, Atlanta might have the best outfield in the NL (Martin Prado, Michael Bourn and Heyward).

Alcides Escobar, SS, Royals: He's never going to be the prince of patience, but a .315 average and 12 steals certainly play in our formats, and Escobar's excellent defense will keep him on the field. He should eventually develop a little more power as well; think 8-10 jacks a year. In a down year for middle infielders, you could do a lot worse.

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Bryan LaHair, 1BOF, Cubs: He's struggled to hit left-handed pitching all year, and every opposing pitcher has been a hurdle in June (.207.270.397, just three homers, 24 strikeouts). The lofty average and inflated hit rate from April gave roto players a false sense of security: this is a .250-.260 hitter with pop, nothing past that.

Delmon Young, OFDH, Tigers: Why throw him a strike when he'll swing at a ball? Young has just eight free passes this year, against 54 strikeouts, and while a .264 average might not sound like a problem, a .296 OBP and .375 slugging are not playable at an outfield corner (or in the DH spot). The Tigers need to upgrade this position if they fancy themselves legitimate contenders. (And forget about Victor Martinez, at least for 2012: he won't be able to return until mid-September, if at all.)
Brandon Moss, 1B, Athletics: He clubbed a few homers in Colorado two weeks back and people were excited, but the story has quickly collapsed around sea level: Moss has a .171.261.341 slash line since then, with 16 strikeouts in 41 at-bats. Moss is on his fourth MLB organization for a reason - there are plenty of holes in his swing.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: While Target Field isn't a major hurdle for right-handed hitters, it drives a lot of lefties crazy. Consider Morneau, who is a .604 OPS man at home in 2012, compared to a .876 stick on the road. Eight of his ten homers have come away from the home fans. Morneau also needs to take a break against left-handed pitching: they're holding him to a .096 average through 73 at-bats. Don't get tripped up by the name brand here.

Holding Steady
Quintin Berry, OF, Tigers: Apparently the Austin Jackson return wasn't enough to push Berry out of relevance - Jim Leyland is letting them play together. Maybe it's an odd idea to have a punchless stick like Berry taking up residence in left field, but a .316 average and .400 OBP are making Leyland look good. And Berry is 12-for-12 on steals, enjoying the green light. Have some fun with it while it lasts.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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