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April 8, 2011

Fantasy Focus

Don't Believe the Hype, 4/8

by Marc Normandin

On Monday of this week, we introduced the column Don't Believe the Hype, a weekly look at add/drop trends in fantasy baseball. The idea is to provide a way for you to find out if you should be following the wisdom of the crowd, or if that so-called wisdom doesn't have much substance to it. The thing is, it seems like you folks want this thing to run on Fridays, so that you have the weekend to ponder moves. So, here we are: Don't Believe the Hype will now run on Fridays instead, starting right now, and Mondays will see fantasy-oriented prospect coverage instead.

Since we're running two of these this week, some names are going to overlap—Matt Harrison, for instance—so I'll take the opportunity to go a little further down the list than normal in order to bring you some new information.

Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels (61 percent owned, +50 percent)

It's amazing how valuable a player looks once he is able to rack up those saves. Walden took over for deposed closer Fernando Rodney on Tuesday, which magically transformed him into a pitcher worth owning. By the way, I hate saves.

Walden has the potential to be an impact reliever in the bigs, regardless of whether he is closing out ballgames or pitching in front of an inferior guy like Rodney in the seventh or eighth. For fantasy purposes, though, saves are king—that's how Rodney, who shouldn't even be trusted to pitch in real baseball given his track record—ended up on more than half of CBS's fantasy rosters when the season started. I wrote about the reasons why you should pick up Walden earlier this week—he's gone from 18 percent ownership to 61 percent in those few days, so get moving if you need saves and would like a closer who can contribute in more than one category.

One more note: Rodney leads the way among dropped players, with a -23 percent showing in the last week. That is deserved, so follow suit if you have him. Also, draft better.

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (51 percent owned, +29 percent)

From Monday's Don't Believe the Hype:

Guthrie is a bit of a risk—I would be more inclined to jump on rookie teammate Zach Britton to give him a shot, considering he is a groundballer, whereas Guthrie is a flyball pitcher. Sure, Britton is a temporary fix unless one of the other baby birds gets bumped for him, but if you require a full season of Guthrie in anything other than an AL-only league, your pitching is already in a bind that Guthrie won't be able to fix.

Guthrie's bout with pneumonia probably helped, but it looks like everyone followed the advice above. (Even the people who didn't read me followed it! This is powerful stuff.) I'm a huge Britton fan—I don't think he'll be punching out a batter per inning, as he's more of a league-average punchouts guy, but hooray, grounders!—so scoop him up if you can. He has become much more popular since Monday, despite having just the one appearance, but he may spend as much time this year doing his Brandon Webb impression as Webb will spend being himself, so it's no wonder the people are excited.

Ben Francisco, Philadelphia Phillies (43 percent owned, +26 percent)

With Domonic Brown out, Francisco is the man in right in Philly. Brown's pre-season popularity is bleeding over to Francisco, as more people realize that a strong performance from Francisco lessens the chance that Brown will make a fantasy impact in 2011. Francisco has just 27 plate appearances thus far, but he's made the most of them with a line of .320/.370/.600 that includes a pair of homers, seven runs, and five RBI. He's more like a 2.5-category outfielder than a four-cat guy, and even that is only possible because of the playing time he is getting. Still, that is better than the one-star rating I handed him back in February. In the month following that rating, he hit like crazy in the spring, Brown injured his hamate, and Francisco became the guy to look for—it's no wonder he made his entry in the fantasy rankings obsolete.

If you need outfield depth, Francisco is intriguing, but he's not going to single-handedly win you a league, despite his hot start.

Sean Burnett, Washington Nationals (36 percent owned, +25 percent)

Burnett is just one more reason why spending $20-plus or an early draft pick at auction for a closer is a silly endeavor. For one, saves just appear out of nowhere throughout most of the season, and at a cost of your waiver priority or some FAAB money—notice we led off with Walden? Second, Burnett was barely mentioned in the discussion for closer early in the spring, as it appeared to be Storen's job to lose, and maybe Tyler Clippard's job to take over.

Burnett started the year with majority control of the ninth, though, and has made the most of that: three strikeouts in four innings, no runs, no walks, and a pair of saves. As Mike Petriello noted, as long as Burnett is allowed to retain the role—and pitching well will keep it his, despite Storen's long-term presence on the club—he'll pick up saves, so point your waiver claims this way. He's not the Sean Burnett of Pittsburgh any longer, so having him on your team won't sink your pitching stats.

Kyle Drabek, Toronto Blue Jays (88 percent owned, +20 percent)

It looks like this will be the final weekend for adding Kyle Drabek, as he is becoming a mainstay in standard mixed leagues. He struck out seven batters in his first seven innings this year while allowing just the one run and three walks, and that was enough to get owners to jump all over him.

I'm a bit more cautious—sure, you should acquire Drabek if you can, but you don't necessarily need to start him every time out. That strikeout rate isn't reflective of his actual whiffs talent, and he has problems with his walk rate, meaning he may damage your WHIP as well.

I'm a big Drabek believer in the long term, but until we see a few more starts out of him in 2011 that clearly separate him from his 2010 production—remember, the highest level he pitched at before last year's 17 major league innings came at Double-A—I wouldn't be very liberal with my use of him unless you're dying for counting stats. Scoop him up, but play matchups until you trust him to perform each time out.

Related Content:  Sean Burnett

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Premium Article On the Beat: Ninth-Inn... (04/08)
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