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Week 17 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Stock Market: Jump in a Lake

Chicago Cubs center fielder Junior Lake
Chicago Cubs center fielder Junior Lake

Jul 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Junior Lake (21) in the tenth inning during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

With plenty of call-ups, trades, and injuries in the past week, fantasy owners have plenty of new names to target on the waiver wire this weekend. Let’s take a look at whose turn is up in the never-ending closer carousel and whose fantasy stock has run dry in this week’s stock market.

Junior Lake: Speculative Buy. It’s hard to string together a better first six Major League games than Lake has, going 14-for-27 with two homers, five runs batted in, three doubles, three runs, and a steal. The Dominican import has a lot of tools but it’ll be interesting to see how they translate to the Majors. In the minors, he has consistently struggled with batting average and strikeouts. His .295 BA through 40 games this season is by far the best we’ve seen from him. His minors career average is .271. He has some pop but the most homers he’s ever hit is 12 through 445 at-bats. Unlike Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, similar players who were brought up by the Marlins earlier this week, he doesn’t make up for his iffy pop with extra-base hits. He has 16 XBH through 40 games this season and had 39 XBH last season and 39 the year before. His biggest tool is his speed, he stole 38 bases in 2011 and has 14 steals through 40 games this year.

As with every prospect, minor league production only counts for so much and he has certainly showed improvements in his batting average, slugging percentage, and strikeouts. I’m on the fence with him and would personally wait and see but he’s off to a hot start and could definitely be worth a pickup in deeper and NL-only leagues.

Jim Henderson: Strong Buy. With Frankie Rodriguez shipped off to Baltimore, Jim Henderson is set to move back to the closer role for the Brew Crew. The 30-year-old has had an impressive second season in the Bigs, putting up 11 saves, a 2.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 42 K/15 BB. It’s unlikely that Milwaukee would look John Axford‘s way again so the job should be Henderson’s the rest of the way.

Mark Melancon: Strong Buy. Jason Grilli has hit the DL with a strained forearm and reports vary how long the All-Star closer is going to be shelved for. Regardless, the Pirates are one of the best teams in the game right now and fellow All-Star Mark Melancon is a must-own until Grilli returns. Melancon has been ridiculously good for the Pirates, saving three games and putting up a 0.93 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and 48 K/6 BB.

Brad Ziegler: Solid Buy. Unlike the other two closers, Ziegler is a short-term solution to a season-long problem. Heath Bell has been terrible and J.J. Putz has not impressed anyone so Ziegler becomes the team’s third closer this year by default. He’s had a nice season, putting up a 2.33 ERA and 1.06 WHIP but lacks closer stuff and blew 10 out of 29 opportunities when the A’s experimented with him as their closer. He’s worth a pickup but I don’t see him lasting in the ninth-inning the rest of the season.

Miguel Gonzalez: Solid Buy. Gonzalez has now pitched as many innings as last year and has basically matched his 2012 production. Through 213 career innings, Gonzalez is now 17-7 with a 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 156 K/69 BB. Over his last eight starts, Gonzalez is 6-1 with a 2.35 ERA and .216 BAA. Over his last three starts, Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA and .222 BAA. He lacks the strikeouts you’d like to see from a fantasy pitcher but is a solid producer in every other category.

Sell:

Francisco Rodriguez: Jim Johnson has the closer role locked down so K-Rod figures to be a set-up man for the O’s. The only teams that should still own him are deep-league teams where closers are at a premium, hoping for a Jason Grilli-like scenario.

Josh Johnson: Many fantasy owners have been waiting to see if Johnson could eventually turn it around and the answer seems to be a resounding “no”. Johnson has given up four or more runs in four of his last six starts, going 1-4 with a 7.36 ERA, .300 BAA, and giving up six home runs over 29.1 IP. Just cut bait and hope for the best next season.

Chad Gaudin: Gaudin enjoyed a nice little run for a few starts but pitchers rarely prove to be better than their 10-year career would indicate. Gaudin has a career 4.46 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, that’s who he is. Over four starts between June 20 and July 19, Gaudin had an impressive 0.77 ERA and .156 BAA. Between his last start before that four-game stretch, and his most recent outing, Gaudin has given up 10 runs, 15 hits, six walks, and two homers over 8.2 IP. He’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but he has certainly leaned Hyde for most of his career.

Jeremy Hefner: Hefner had the best stretch by a Mets starter not named Matt Harvey this year. Between June 4 and July 12, Hefner strung together a beautiful eight games, going 3-1 with a 1.76 ERA, .216 BAA, and 40 K/8 BB. It’s easy to get swept up in that but he did have a 5.00 ERA before he started to get hot. Like most hot streaks, the fuel has run out, and Hefner has given up 14 runs, 16 hits, and four home runs in two starts (just 6.1 IP) since the All-Star break.

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