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Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees
If you’re wondering how a 24-year-old hurler on the Yankees can have an 11-4 record and 3.85 ERA and still find himself on the waiver wire, I have your answer. Just check out the 1.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Nova has had some things go his way this season such as solid run support and an uncanny ability to escape jams. Regardless, Nova has won seven straight decisions and has allowed as many as four runs just twice in his last eight starts. As long as you can deal without the K’s and a pretty high WHIP, Nova is not a bad pickup.
Jose Constanza, OF, Braves
If you’re curious why the Braves are suddenly sitting mega prospect and their everyday right-fielder Jason Heyward, there are two reasons. The first is that Heyward is struggling with just a .219 average and 30 RBI. The other reason is that the little-known and late-blooming Jose Constanza is hitting .382 with 13 runs scored. The 27-year-old is a speedster with little to no power. He swiped 23 bags with a .312 average before the call to the Majors this season. Constanza is nothing more than a hot bat who is stealing at bats away from the future of the franchise. Then again, we may have said the same thing about Jeff Francouer back in the day.
Mike Carp, 1B, Mariners
While top prospect Justin Smoak has dealt with his ups and downs and most recently a broken nose, Mike Carp has shined bright with a .320 average, four home runs, and 24 RBI in 38 games. Carp was acquired by the Mariners for closer JJ Putz a few years back from the Mets. He blasted 29 home runs at Triple-A last season, but hit just .257. This year, he blasted 21 home runs in 66 games while hitting .343. In other words, Carp has earned a serious look in the Big Leagues, and at 25-years old, he will get his chance for the remainder of the season. Feel free to take a look in fantasy leagues, though as is the case for any hitter that plays half of his games in Safeco, the odds are against him.
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays
Try explaining this, in his first 70 games, Edwin Encarnacion reached base at a rate of 28%. Since the All-Star break, Encarnacion has reached base 47% of the time. What gives? Well, we always knew that the Blue Jays slugger was one of the streakiest hitters in baseball. He also has a knack for big second halves. The 28-year-old corner infielder is also playing for his career now that mega prospect Brett Lawrie has been called up. The good news is that he remains young enough for the Blue Jays to provide him with regular at bats. So Encarnacion will have his opportunity to win over a spot for next season’s club. As far as potential, Encarnacion has plenty of it. He blasted 26 home runs back in 2008 and 21 last season in just 332 at bats.
Rafael Betancourt, RP, Rockies
Finally some noise from the closer report, the 36-year-old Rafael Betancourt will take over for the recently injury Huston Street. The last time that Betancourt allowed an earned run was July 6th, just before the All-Star break. Betancourt has nailed down one save over the last week and his 58:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season ranks amongst the best in baseball. Street will likely return at the end of the month, but if he’s out longer than that and the Rockies continue to struggle, you have to think to Rex Brothers, who at 24-years old is supposed to be the closer of the future, will get some save opportunities.
By Tommy Rancel //
Coming off his worst start of the season, Phil Hughes looks to rebound tonight against the Oakland Athletics. Sure, the five runs allowed in 3.2 innings last time out hurt fantasy owners, but it may have bought you more time with the Yankees’ young righty. While some suggest New York should be counting pitches thrown (102 pitches in his short 3.2 inning outing) and not innings, the common belief is Hughes is on an innings limit rather than a pitch limit. There is no public number, but that limit is believed to be around 170-180 innings.
In 2010, Hughes has thrown just under 145 innings. That is up from the 105 (combined major and minor leagues) he threw last season. That potentially leaves fantasy owners with 25-35 innings of Hughes to work with. We don’t know if they will all be starts, or if he makes a couple more starts and then shifts to the bullpen. There is a good chance, though, that those will be above-average innings.
Despite last week’s bump in the road, Hughes is still 15-6 with a 4.12 ERA. According to fielding independent pitching (FIP), which measures home runs allowed, walks, and strikeouts, he has actually been a tick better (4.02 FIP) than his ERA. His 7.61 strikeouts per nine innings rate (K/9) is slightly above average. Moreover, he does a good job of limiting walks (2.68 per nine). His home run rate is so-so at 1.18/9 IP, with some of that number attributable to his home ballpark being a launching pad for left-handed hitters.
If Hughes remains a starter, you might be able squeeze two or three wins out of him in the four or five starts he has left. On the other hand, if he splits his time between the rotation and the bullpen, hi ratios might actually improve.
*Phil Hughes Year-To-End Projections by Bloomberg Sports
Hughes did dual duty in the major leagues during the 2009 season. He made 44 appearances in relief, but also made seven starts. In his time as a reliever, he had a 1.44 ERA and struck out 65 batters in 51.1 innings. That translates into a K/9 of 11.43 – a number generally reserved for the elite.
Regardless of what the Yankees do, make sure Hughes remains in your plans as we shift our focus toward the playoffs. That said, make sure you have a contingency plan as well. For that, look no further than Hughes’ teammate Ivan Nova.
The 23-year-old right-hander has made four appearances for the Yankees – including two starts. He sports a shiny 1.93 ERA and his 2.89 FIP isn’t too shabby either. With Andy Pettitte injured, A.J. Burnett struggling, and Javier Vazquez in the pen, there is a chance that Nova remains in the Yankees rotation through September.
Looking at his peripheral stats, Nova’s K/9 (7.07), BB/9 (1.29), and HR/9 (0.56) suggest the kid is not just throwing hard (94.1 mph average), but also pitching well. Of course, these are small-sample size number. Still, with five or six starts left this season, pitching for a team that offers plenty of run support, Nova’s a decent pickup, especially if your league is deeper than the standard mixed format.
For more on Phil Hughes and other young starters facing innings limits, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.