Monday, June 23, 2008

The Buzz Around the Bullpen: It's Time to Hawpe on the Train

Welcome back to another edition of the “Buzz Around the Bullpen”. As I sit here late-night writing this edition, I feel like Omar Minaya writing his now famous press release. Minaya paved the way for a week of “hacking” underachieving managers. Although you can disagree with how the Mets handled the situation, a change needed to be made. Willie Randolph will get another crack at managing in the big leagues. It’s quite possible that the bright lights of New York might have been too much for him in his managerial debut. People don’t realize that Willie had never managed at any level prior to his job with the Mets. There is a huge difference between being a base/bench coach and the manager. The Mets organization hoped that Willie would be the one that could take them to the next level. Unfortunately, Willie came into a situation where anything less than a World Series victory was a failure. Regardless, managers aren’t going to be scoring you any fantasy points anytime soon so let’s talk about some players that can help your team.

Big Hits

Brad Hawpe (OF, Colorado Rockies): Since returning from the DL, Brad Hawpe has been on an absolute tear. Hawpe started the year hitting .231 with 3 HRs and 17 RBIs in his first 41 games. After Hawpe’s dismal numbers early on, it was only a matter of time before he started heating up. Hawpe is often overshadowed by Matt Holliday in Colorado but this guy is a fantasy star. Last year Hawpe hit .291 with 29 HRs and 116 RBIs. Although he struggled early, I look for Hawpe to continue to recover and finish with a respectable season. It might too late to make your move on Hawpe because owners are starting to finally reap the benefits of holding on despite his terrible start.. If you were a faithful owner and stuck with him, sit back and collect some of the quietest fantasy numbers you’ll ever receive.

Mike Aviles (SS, Kansas City Royals): Aviles emerged this past week and he is showing why he was the Kansas City Royals’ minor league player of the year last year. As a rookie, Aviles has impressed hitting .339 with 3 HRs and 9 in 59 at-bats. If you haven’t heard of Mike Aviles you are not alone. He is a rookie and he plays for the Kansas City Royals. This is good news if you are in search for a SS. I’m not saying he’s stealing any Rookie of the Year honors but it looks like Aviles could be a serviceable fantasy shortstop. Before getting the call to the bigs, Aviles had 10 HRs at Triple-A Omaha. He definitely has the ability to hit with some power and his average is just an added bonus. Aviles is still available in over 50% of leagues so if you’re looking for a replacement for your struggling shortstop or even just an opportunity to ride a “hot bat”, give Aviles a look.

Jeff Clement (C, Seattle Mariners): A catcher that can hit for power. There aren’t too many out there and regardless of your current catcher, any owner could benefit from having a guy like Clement on their roster. In only 172 at-bats this year at Triple –A Tacoma, Clement hit 14 HRs. The news gets even better because the recent changes in Seattle should mean everyday playing time for Clement. If you’re looking for a new starting catcher, Clement could be worth the gamble. If you’re just looking for some trade bait, pick up Clement and let him hit a couple more homeruns like he did on Sunday against the Braves. If Clement can continue to hit with power, there will be a decent market out there for a young power-hitting catcher.

Big Miss

Jason Varitek (C, Boston Red Sox): Varitek is currently in an 0-24 slide and his season numbers continue to plummet well below his career averages. Varitek is definitely starting to show his age as his numbers have declined significantly over the past four years. Regardless of his struggles, Varitek will continue to be the catcher in Boston. However, he does not need to be your catcher on your fantasy squad. Always remember, your fantasy team does not need a clubhouse leader or a catcher that can “handle” the starting pitchers. Fantasy baseball is all about offensive production and Varitek cannot produce elite fantasy numbers anymore. Right now Chris Coste, Jesus Flores and Paul Bako are all putting up better numbers than Varitek. I know it’s tough dropping Varitek for one of these guys but Varitek’s days as a decent fantasy catcher are over.

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