BY ROB SHAW
Selling Jair Jurrjens:
The Braves hurler is now in the minor leagues after an atrocious start. Jurrjens has been one of the more underappreciated hurlers of the last few years. He won at least 13 games in three of the last four seasons, twice with an ERA sub-3. However, this season, he lost some of his stuff as he failed to make it out of the fifth inning in three of four starts and not only is he walking way too many batters, but the opposition is hitting .411 off him. With his fastball in the decline, perhaps a confidence boost in the minor leagues will do the 26-year-old some good. Feel free to release him from your fantasy team.
Buying Cody Ross:
Fantasy managers may have forgotten that Cody Ross once carried a power bat in Florida, surpassing 20 home runs in back-to-back seasons. Sure, he has some World Series heroics a couple of years ago, but playing for the Giants kept him in a pitcher’s park that ate away at his power stats. That changes this season as Ross is now playing at Fenway and already has five home runs, three of which have come at home. A streaky hitter, Ross has had home runs in consecutive games twice already this season. With Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury out, Ross should enjoy regular playing time. This is a player to target for his power.
Selling Ryan Roberts:
The good news for super utility man Ryan Roberts was the 19 home runs and 18 stolen bases last season. The bad news for Roberts was the .239 average over the second half of the season. Unfortunately, Roberts resembles the second half player from last season as his average is sub-Mendoza line with just 10 hits in 66 at bats. At 31 years old, it’s fair to say that what we saw last season was too good to be true. Roberts is now losing out on playing time to Cody Ransom.
Buying Nate Schierholtz:
A 1-17 struggle has brought the average down to .283, but Nate Schierholtz remains an intriguing fantasy option and should continue to get regular playing time in the outfield for the Giants. The addition of Buster Posey has a huge impact in the lineup, and Schierholtz has proven capable of hitting with power and surprising speed over the last few years. If this is finally the first time that the veteran will get 400 at bats, Schierholtz can surprise with some fantasy value.
By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner
Both have been good for a long time, but Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner both surpassed expectations this year in their returns from Tommy John surgery. Wags found his old strikeout punch, to the tune of more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings, while Hudson focused more on getting the ground ball (64.7%, best in baseball). Because of their ages (Hudson is 35, Wagner 39), they might not make great keepers – especially with Wagner reportedly retiring – but they put in great work this year.
Biggest Bust: Jair Jurrjens
Jair Jurrjens is the clear bust for the Braves. He was injured for much of the year and could finish the season with only 20 starts, an ERA near 5.00, and the ire of fantasy owners everywhere. The thing is, Jurrjens really put up some of the same fundamental stats in 2010 that he did in 2009. His strikeout, walk and groundball rates were all similar in those two years. Instead, his luck and health went south this year. He’s an interesting bounce-back sleeper candidate late in 2011 drafts.
2011 Keeper Alert: Tommy Hanson
The one clear keeper on this pitching staff is Tommy Hanson. He has a strong three-pitch arsenal, cut his walks from his rookie to sophomore years, and features an above-average strikeout rate for a starter. Still, he showed much better strikeout punch in the minor leagues and could have further upside in 2011. In the bullpen, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are both interesting young arms, but Venters is much better against lefties than righties, Kimbrel is a little wild, and their veteran competition for the closer’s role next year is still TBD.
2011 Regression Warning: Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson, at 35, showed his best groundball rate of his career. That probably won’t happen again next year, meaning his lower strikeout rate could produce an ERA a run higher next year.