Fantasy Notes: Another Baby Snake on the Way
It looks like the Arizona Diamondbacks got a potential steal with Bryan Augenstein, a seventh round pick last year out of the University of Florida. The 22-year-old righty has made tremendous strides this year, pitching so well in the Midwest League (5-1, 2.16 with a 69/9 K/BB ratio) that he was promoted to High-A on June 19. While he’s been hit much harder in his six starts in the Cal League, Augenstein’s 3.48 ERA is hardly worthy of shame. Also, with 18 punchouts against just four walks, he continues to show superb command – a trait that should stead him well once he’s ready for the move to Double-A, likely sometime halfway through the 2009 season.
Rod Barajas had picked up some steam as a fantasy catcher for a while there, but it’s time to set him adrift. Currently mired in a 1-for-15 slump, Barajas’ hot start to August has gone by the wayside and he’s now batting just .224 since the break with some severely reduced power. I have my serious doubts whether he’ll be anything more than a platoon catcher in 2009; I just can’t see him holding a starting job for an extended period of time. And considering he’ll be 33 next month, I wouldn’t be seeking any breakthroughs similar to the one he hinted at in 2005 when he bashed 21 homers.
Despite tearing his left hamstring earlier this season, Eric Byrnes still believes he’ll be able to come back this season. Apparently, so do owners in the almost one-quarter of leagues in which he’s still owned. But now that Adam Dunn is in town, there’s really no reason for the D-Backs to let Byrnes hurry back. Considering he was likely drafted as high as the early fourth round in the spring, Byrnes has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of the year, especially given how poorly he performed when he was in the lineup.
How impressive has Rich Harden been since moving to the Cubs? While he’s been yielding more long balls at Wrigley (not a shock), it certainly hasn’t hurt him in the ERA department (1.80 through 35 IP). He’s surrendered just seven earned runs over his six starts, and four of those came two starts ago against Houston in what was his only poor outing as a Cub (despite striking out eight and walking just one in 5 2/3 IP). Assuming the Cubs can hold on and take the NL Central, the acquisition of Harden will have to be considered one of the keys of their season.
Good news for Evan Longoria owners, as the uber rookie’s wrist is feeling better. There’s a chance he’ll be back on the field by September 1. What a shame he went down in the midst of such a great first season. Longoria had been absolutely scorching in August before the injury, batting .310 with three homers in just 29 at bats. You’ve got to be worried about the affect this wrist injury will have on his power over the final month of the year, but if he can maintain a .300+ BA, the kid will have nice value even without the pop.
It may time to take another look at Barry Zito if you need pitching help down the stretch. He’s been about as inconsistent as they come, but when he’s on, like he was his last time out, he can help you. Zito has bookended tremendous outings with a pair of shellackings this month. But despite his less-than-inspiring 5.30 ERA for the month of August, you should note that opponents are batting just .206 against him – suggesting that he’s throwing his best stuff of the season by far. While Zito continues to be among the game’s most durable arms – leading some to suggest the number of innings he’s tossed over the past few years is wearing on him – to me the real issue which has led him to a career-worst and NL-leading 15 losses this season is a complete breakout in his command. Even in the recent outings in which he’s had impressive results, Zito is barely striking out more batters than he’s walking, and that’s just not going to cut it – in fantasy land or otherwise.
Watch out for the return of Justin Upton (oblique) within the next week. The rookie was playing his best ball of the season when he went down in early July, so I would definitely consider picking him up if you need some offense down the stretch. Expecting some rust is reasonable, but I think that Upton will be a legitimate asset in September for shrewd owners who are looking to add him over the next few days.