Player Focus 7.3.08

Daniel Cabrera pulled the first Player Focus reverse jinx by going out and throwing a complete game against the Kansas City Royals last night. I guess he reads the blog! 🙂 I’m still not buying.

June Swoon Continues Downward Spiral for Gutierrez
After smacking 13 home runs in just 271 at-bats and showing the proclivity to obliterate lefties (.919 OPS), many believed Franklin Gutierrez was ready to make the leap in 2008. Instead he has gone from bad to worse to each month bottoming out last month with a .430 OPS! Worse yet is that he can’t even hit lefties (.607 OPS) anymore either. The 25-year old looked ready to offer a solid power-speed mix similar to that of teammate Grady Sizemore, albeit on a lower level. With a disgusting .222/.274/.328 line, he isn’t even getting regular at-bats right now.

Outside of the absolute deepest AL-Only leagues, it is virtually impossible to justify rostering Gutierrez. There are 10s of better outfield options on the wire in mixed leagues and almost as many in 10 to 12-team AL-Only leagues as well. I was a proponent of his coming into the season, but until he learns some discipline at the dish, he will continue to flounder. The minor leagues could also be in his future.

Another Gem Moves Billingsley Over .500
I was also a strong proponent of Billingsley entering the season and that relationship has proven to be much more fruitful. Eight innings of shutout ball against the Astros on Thursday brought his record up to 8-7 and his ERA down to 3.12. Allowing just seven base runners in the outing brought his WHIP to serviceable 1.31. Walks have been a sore spot all season (4.0 BB/9), but he allowed just one this evening. In fact, control has been the hurdle keeping Billingsley from stardom for his entire career (4.4 BB/9), but remember that he is just 23 years old.

He remains destined for superstardom given his career trajectory thus far and he is a primary target of mine if I’m building for the future. Frankly, he’s a target of mine regardless of my team’s chances this year, but he especially becomes someone to seek if he has a desirable price for next year and perhaps even 2010.

Huff Surpasses 2007 HR Total w/2 on Thursday
Earlier this week, CBS Sportsline had an article about Aubrey Huff as their lead on fantasy baseball sites. I didn’t click through and read the piece, but it was no doubt flattering the 31-year old veteran for his excellent 1st half. He made the most of his national attention with a two home run performance on Thursday against the Kansas City Royals. They were home runs 16 and 17, which gives him two more than he had in all of 2007 despite 235 more at-bats than he’s had so far this season. His vintage 1st half could make him prime trade bait for rebuilding O’s.

The surprising first half of the Baltimore Orioles (43-41) has been key to Huff’s success with respect to his runs scored and runs driven in figures. They aren’t the Texas Rangers or Chicago Cubs, but few would’ve guessed that the O’s would have the league’s 13th-best OPS (.746) at the halfway mark. Three other team members (Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and Luke Scott) have OPS totals above .800 while Ramon Hernandez, Adam Jones and Kevin Millar have had their moments as well. If you’re in an AL-Only league that punishes players traded out of the league, Huff should be considered high risk because even with their pleasantly surprising first half, the O’s are in 4th place in their division. Too bad they don’t play in the NL West. Even 90 cents on the dollar for Huff might be worth it if you’re in the thick of a pennant race where his departure would cause a significant void in your lineup.

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