Sliders: It's time to go with Pedro
Pedro Martinez has converted yet another non-believer in our Scott White, who says owners should have confidence in him in crunch time. He touches on that and the sudden downturn of James Shields in his latest edition of Fantasy Sliders.
Have you ever wanted to blow up the waiver wire?
I mean make it explode, physically, which is impossible since it's more of a concept than a thing.
Still, I've wanted to do it. When I already had the best team in the league and no room to add anyone else to it, that waiver wire could only help someone other than me. It stood in the way of my theoretical championship, and I wanted it gone.
Well, now I stand in the way of your theoretical championship, directing all your opponents to that same waiver wire you want destroyed.
Perhaps I should move to a safer location.
Sliders These guys haven't just gotten hot or cold. Their recent play has caused their Fantasy appeal to "slide" one way or another.
Pedro Martinez , SP, Phillies
Just a few short weeks ago, I counted myself among the non-believers.
It's easy to do, to write Martinez off as another old man who thinks he's still got it. He's supposed to feel that way. He was once the best of the best, and the best don't accept bad until long after the scouts and box scores do.
But the truth is Martinez didn't have it last year. He didn't have it during the exhibition season, and he didn't have it when he threw 86-90 mph for a Yankees scout back in June. He took the mound hoping to coast on his own ego, and it didn't work. He had run out of options, and everyone but him knew what would happen next: Coming off shoulder surgery and by far the worst numbers of his Hall of Fame career, he'd either give in to retirement or spend the next year flopping around like a fish out of water.
Guess what? Everyone but him was wrong.
Pedro knows best, and he proved through sheer determination he could overcome not only age, but a procedure known for destroying hard-throwing pitchers. He has his fastball back up to 91-93 mph, and that's all he needs. It might not give him a 2.00 ERA like he had during his Cy Young days, but it creates enough separation from his change-up to keep hitters off balance and prevent them from making solid contact.
Is he a must-start? No, not yet, but he proved he can become one. Nine strikeouts in seven innings, like he had in his last start against the Giants, doesn't happen for pitchers with no stuff.
Don't let him go unowned.
James Shields , SP, Rays
For a while, I could overlook Shields' struggles this year.
So what if he couldn't buy a win? He had some bad luck; that's all. So what if his ERA and WHIP rose a few points? It wasn't enough to move him into another tier.
But that was before July, before he had a series of starts bad enough to expose those subtle increases as a full-fledged downfall.
In his last 13 starts, Shields has a 4.80 ERA, which makes him practically worthless in Fantasy when you consider he no longer qualifies as a strikeout pitcher, averaging 6.5 per nine innings.
That's two straight years now of an increasing ERA and WHIP with a decreasing strikeout rate. I don't like the trend.
Maybe he just couldn't handle all the innings he threw in the postseason last year, but I think we also have to consider the possibility he overachieved each of the last two seasons. He wasn't really a prospect, remember, even if everyone quickly gave him the benefit of the doubt, myself included.
Not anymore. I'll need some convincing to put Shields in the top 35 starting pitchers next year, and you can give me Scott Feldman or Jorge De La Rosa over him now.
Rajai Davis , OF, Athletics
If you look at the top 10 hitters since Fantasy Week 17 (July 27-Aug. 2), you'll see mostly the names you expect. Certainly Albert Pujols , Hanley Ramirez , Joe Mauer , Ryan Braun , Matt Holliday and Prince Fielder will garner first-round consideration. Andre Ethier has benefited from the return of Manny Ramirez , and Kendrys Morales and Ryan Zimmerman have both emerged as top options at their positions.
Then there's Rajai Davis , who still goes unowned in 51 percent of Fantasy leagues.
See what I did there? In a way, I don't like it. It gives the impression Davis is far better than he actually is. But at the same time, someone needs to say it. If we use a sample size so significant that nine of the top 10 hitters are exactly the ones you'd expect, what does that say about the other one?
If nothing else, he deserves some credit. He didn't just get hot one week, causing a spike on the meter that five weeks' time would have covered up. He sustained that performance to the point that after everyone had gotten a chance to regress to the mean, only he and the big boys remained.
Of course, he also hit .336 during that stretch, which I don't honestly think he can sustain. He doesn't walk much either, making someone like Denard Span more valuable in the long run. But as long as he hits around .290 with doubles power and a green light on the bases, he should continue to score 20-25 points per week.
And that's enough to make him a Slider even if he doesn't rank anywhere close to Braun, Holliday, Morales or Ethier.
Ricky Romero , SP, Blue Jays
Haven't we caught on to the rookie wall yet?
It happens when young pitchers reach a certain number of innings, and there's nothing subtle about it. They stop contributing -- period. Oh, they'll still take the mound every five days, but they'll do about as much good for your Fantasy team as Nolan Ryan would. Maybe less.
Case in point: Since the beginning of August, a span of five weeks, Romero has a total of eight points. Eight. That's less than Reid Gorecki . He has a 5.63 ERA during that time, with 21 walks in 38 1/3 innings to give him a WHIP of nearly 1.50.
And yet he's owned in 73 percent of leagues.
I don't get it. Every piece of evidence, from the rookie wall to the team he plays for to his minor-league track record, suggests Romero won't suddenly rediscover his form. A high walk rate usually scares Fantasy owners away, too. Jonathan Sanchez never got a leash this long, and he struck out more than a batter per inning.
The only argument anyone can make for Romero is his status as a former first-round pick, and yes, that bodes well for his long-term future. But if that's all you want, why not go after Tim Stauffer instead? He might at least net you more than eight points.
I can't imagine starting Romero in any league at this critical point in the season. If you do, then you certainly have no shortage of courage. That's the nicest way I can put it.
Angel Pagan , OF, Mets
His name sounds like a spiritual compromise, but if you ask the Mets, they'll tell you Pagan descended straight from heaven.
In a year when every one of the team's best hitters -- Jose Reyes , Carlos Beltran , Carlos Delgado and even David Wright , for a time -- succumbed to injury, Pagan, ironically the one known as injury prone, has emerged as its best offensive weapon.
Seriously. Wright might have the advantage in OPS (.872 to .832), but Pagan has outslugged him .490 to .462.
Yeah, that's the surprising part: the emergence of power. Pagan still wouldn't hit 25 bombs in a season, but 12-15 puts him in Shane Victorino territory.
I'll admit I've always approached Pagan with skepticism, seeing him as no more than a career reserve who got the "potential" label attached to him as a product of New York hype, like Omir Santos or Ty Wigginton or anyone else who happened to have a good game at a time when everyone was paying attention. To a certain degree, I still see him that way.
But I can't deny the value he has in Fantasy right now. Since July 20, he ranks 16th among outfielders in standard Head-to-Head scoring, ahead of All-Stars like Victorino, Jayson Werth , Jason Bay and Ben Zobrist , not to mention an equally unexpected player who has gotten far more attention from me, Josh Willingham .
Right now, Pagan is arguably the more attractive sleeper of the two, particularly if you need steals.
Hanging Sliders These guys look like Sliders, but not so fast! Their recent play might cause you to misinterpret their Fantasy appeal.
Evan Longoria , 3B, Rays
I know all of you Longoria owners want to see me backtrack on the future star after he had his best week since April, and to a certain degree, I will. Hey, a 44-point performance changes a lot. Suddenly, he ranks behind only Ryan Zimmerman (really?) and Mark Reynolds at third base in standard Head-to-Head scoring.
But I can't overlook the fact most of that damage came in April. One month doesn't make a good player into a great one, especially when mostly mediocrity followed. Unless Longoria can sustain this pace through the end of September (which is possible, and I'll acknowledge it if it happens), I still think his season will go on record as a disappointment after all the praise heaped on him in April and May.
But what does that mean for you? Your approach with Longoria shouldn't change the rest of the way. You'll still start him in the playoffs and keep him in keeper leagues. I wouldn't advise against any of that. Shoot, you could even take him in the second round next year, as long as you do so banking on upside more than past performance.
Change-ups Some predictions go horribly wrong. At times, I have to "change up" my own just to save face.
Garrett Jones , 1B/OF, Pirates
The arguments against Jones made sense. The Braves released him. The Twins let him walk. He didn't get a full-time look in the majors until age 27. That kind of stuff doesn't happen to good players.
Then again, baseball doesn't always make sense, and after bursting onto the scene with 10 home runs in July, Jones has proven he won't go away, batting .307 with eight home runs over his last 127 at-bats.
If he has any holes in his game, they haven't shown up against right-handed pitchers, against whom he's batting .347. As long as you remember to sit him whenever he faces more than two left-handers in a week, you'll want to take advantage of him. He's averaging more Fantasy points per game than Mark Teixeira , for crying out loud.
That doesn't make him Teixeira, but it makes him at least Jason Kubel . I'll draw a conversion chart at some point.
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Sliders in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.
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