D.J. Short

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Danks for Shopping

Thursday, June 09, 2011

I don't mean to pour cold water on Anthony Rizzo's major league debut later today. I'm just as psyched as the rest of you. But let's have a quick conversation about the tendency to overvalue prospects based on hype.

Listen, I think Rizzo is going to be a nice player. He was highly regarded before the Adrian Gonzalez trade and his numbers with Triple-A Tucson were nothing short of fantastic, but I'm just not convinced that he's going to be a mixed league asset right away.

Think about it. He's going to be playing half of his games in PETCO Park, a place that is easily the least favorable environment in the majors for left-handed hitters. A place where Adrian Gonzalez could "only" muster a .442 slugging percentage and .808 OPS over 1650 plate appearances. All I'm saying is, let's temper our expectations a bit.

And really, the same goes for Dee Gordon. I like him a little more than Rizzo in fantasy since he plays shortstop, but he had seven home runs and a .383 slugging percentage over 1709 plate appearances in the minors. Not only that, but he walked in just 6.6 percent of his plate appearances. Sure, the speed is great, but it's tough to steal first base. If you need to fill a MI (middle infielder) slot for a month, fine, but just don't get carried away and drop someone like J.J. Hardy or even Maicer Izturis, who is eligible at multiple positions.

With that rant out of the way, excuse me while I go order my Anthony Rizzo jersey.


Nyjer Morgan OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 8.3 percent)

Morgan, who went 2-for-4 with a walkoff double in Wednesday's win over the Mets, is now batting .343 over his first 70 at-bats this season. Carlos Gomez is only playing against left-handed pitching these days, so Morgan should get most of the playing time in center field if he continues to produce. The speedster has batted out of the No. 2 spot in five out of his last six starts, which is a pretty good place to be with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder hitting behind him. There will likely be some correction with his batting average on balls in play, but he simply needs to be owned in more leagues right now.

John Danks SP, White Sox (Yahoo: 48 percent owned, ESPN: 38.1 percent)

Finally. After beginning the season 0-8, Danks held the Mariners to one unearned run over 7 1/3 innings Monday en route to his first victory. Yes, this is the Mariners we're talking about here, so it's not enough to say he's definitively "back," but his first 11 starts weren't enough for me to completely give up on him in the first place. While his strikeout rate is down a tick this season (6.03 K/9) from his career average (6.88 K/9), he is still averaging 3.01 BB/9 and 91.5 mph on his fastball, both of which are very much in line with his career norms. He's still a great buy low, though likely not for much longer.

Freddie Freeman 1B, Braves (Yahoo: 24 percent owned, ESPN: 36.5 percent)

Let's have some fun with arbitrary end points. Remember when I recommended Freeman back on May 12? OK, maybe you don't, but the point is, since that day, the 21-year-old first baseman is batting .322 (29-for-90) with one home run, nine doubles and 10 RBI. The weirdest thing about it is that his ownership has barely changed over the past month. It's about time to start noticing him in deeper mixed formats, especially in leagues with a CI (corner infield) spot.

Edinson Volquez SP, Reds (Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 32.7 percent)

Volquez returned from the minors Tuesday and tossed seven innings of one-run ball against the scuffling Cubs. GIve an assist to his freshly-shaved dome if you want, but the 27-year-old right-hander managed to avoid trouble in the first inning and only walked two batters against five strikeouts. That's a nice change of pace. Command is often the last thing to return for a pitcher after Tommy John surgery, which is especially problematic for a pitcher who was never all that great about limiting walks in the first place. However, if Volquez can at least get back to his 2008 levels (4.27 BB/9), we could really have something here.

Daniel Murphy 1B/2B/OF, Mets (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 28.7 percent)

While the Mets are missing Ike Davis and David Wright due to injury, Murphy has emerged as one of the most consistent bats in their lineup. Now handling first base, the 26-year-old is batting .435 over his last 62 at-bats, pulling his batting average up from .233 to .301 for the year. He recently had multi-hit games in seven consecutive starts. Sure, he doesn't have the power we normally look for from a first baseman, but his eligibility at second base should come in handy right now.

Kurt Suzuki C, Athletics (Yahoo: 48 percent owned, ESPN: 34.4 percent)

Like the rest of his teammates, Suzuki is doing absolutely nothing at the plate right now. He went 0-for-3 with a walk Wednesday night against the Orioles and is now batting .239 with four homers and 14 RBI over his first 197 at-bats this season. Still, there's reason for some optimism here. While he is striking out more often, his walk, line drive and fly ball rates are all on the upswing from last season. Suzuki was a guy who was mentioned as a potential top-10 catcher prior to the season, so I'd buy low if given the opportunity.

Jon Niese SP, Mets (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 4.7 percent)

You may be surprised to learn this, but Niese has very quietly posted a 2.83 ERA over his last nine starts dating back to mid-April. If that's not enough, he has allowed two runs or less in each of his last four outings, posting a 25/7 K/BB ratio in the process. The young southpaw has been a better play at home this season than on the road, but the opposite was the case last year. When you induce ground balls roughly 50 percent of the time, that will sometimes happen. He's undervalued right now.

Desmond Jennings OF, Rays (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 1.4 percent)

Talk about knocking on the door. Just as folk hero Sam Fuld has all but lost his grip on the starting left field job, Jennings is batting .379 (11-for-29) with one home home run, one triple and two doubles over seven games with Triple-A Durham this month. The Rays have played things pretty close to the vest as far as a potential call-up date, but as we recently learned from our friends at the Process Report, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said during a radio appearance last weekend that Jennings will be up "in a few weeks." The Rays won't call him up to sit on the bench, so his plus-speed should be an asset in mixed leagues right away.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)

Javy Guerra RP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 2 percent owned, ESPN: 1.6 percent)

No, I don't have the faintest idea what is going through Don Mattingly's head right now. The constant injuries in his bullpen have made the ninth-inning a complete guessing game. However, Matt Guerrier was used in the seventh inning Tuesday against the Phillies while Guerra pitched in the ninth inning. Granted, Guerra was pitching with a four-run lead at the time, but this has to mean something. Or not. Still, with someone who is owned in so few leagues, you could do worse than to stash him until the Dodgers' next save opportunity.

Mike Moustakas 3B, Royals (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 2.7 percent)

It's only a matter of time. Sure, Wilson Betemit is producing well enough at third base, but after a rough start to the season, Moustakas is batting .321 with six home runs and 26 RBI at Triple-A Omaha since the start of May. I actually see Moustakas as a very different case than Rizzo, who I mentioned above, as the former plays a much thinner position from a fantasy perspective. The 22-year-old should be relevant in most mixed formats as soon as he comes up from the minors. Which should be soon, by the way.

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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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