By: James Sargent
Carlos Pena: Carlos Pena finally awoke on the season. Pena had a consecutive home run streak of six, which was the longest since Frank Thomas did it with the Athletics. The man was swinging at a beach ball and everything was carrying out of the ballpark. I am a huge fan of Pena, but only for the home runs he will give you. If you are looking for average, Pena is not your man, but with little streaks here and there I believe Pena will top the 40 home run mark and be in the top five in the AL for the category.
Sean Rodriguez: Sean Rodriguez is starting to really come into his own, especially since he is playing everyday due to the injury Jason Bartlett sustained. He is currently on a 14-game hitting streak and last week he batted .478 while blasting two home runs and driving in five runs. Rodriguez is definitely worthy of a roster spot, and if you need a second baseman, third outfielder or utility man, surely put him in and watch as his stats begin to increase.
Chris Young: Chris Young is finally starting to play like the athlete I knew he could be. The man is a five-tool player, but as of the last couple years, he had been under performing substantially. As a Diamondbacks fan, it was great to watch Chris have a good week. He hit three home runs last week and one of them was a walkoff shot against the Cardinals. Young is also batting a career-high .277 which is due to the contact he is making and the less number of strikeouts. With 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases, the 26-year-old outfielder is primed for his second 20/20 campaign, and first since 2007.
Matt Kemp: The slumping Matt Kemp does not have a hit in his last five games, which resulted in a breather on Sunday. Last week, Kemp batted .100 and only recorded two hits all week. June has definitely been an awful month for Kemp, but he still has time to get out of this cold spell before the All Star break and turn his mediocre season (compared to last year) around. Keep Kemp on your bench until he is proving that he is fully back and playing to the caliber he normally does.
Matt Holliday: Last week was a week to forget for Matt Holliday. The superstar had three hits all week and scored only three runs. His poor performance led to his average dropping to below .300. This is a guy who certainly will get out of this funk soon, especially batting behind Albert Pujols. As time goes by, also look for Holliday’s power numbers to increase. He is a previous batting title winner and will soon show you why in the upcoming months.
Lance Berkman: Man, it just feels like every week I’m putting in a Houston Astro’s player in the cold section. Lance Berkman fits in quite well though as he only tallied one hit last week. I feel that Berkman could be following suit with Roy Oswalt and is demanding a trade soon. This very well could be the reason for Berkman’s lack of effort and cold streak. Having sat the bench on Sunday and getting the day off today could also help Berkman for this coming week and give him time to figure out what he is doing wrong.
Ted Lilly: Ted Lilly took a no-hitter all the way into the ninth inning against the White Sox before Juan Pierre ended it. This start was his seventh consecutive quality start, and poor Ted Lilly has a 2-5 record to show on the season. Run support is the main reason Lilly isn’t winning games. He has a 2.90 ERA for the season and is striking out batters like it’s his job as of late. The Cubs are seven and a half games out of first and need to take advantage of these Lilly starts if they want to catch the Reds.
Jason Hammel: Jason Hammel is a pitcher that is available in most leagues and his past two starts have been damn good ones. Last week, Hammel pitched 15 and a third innings of no run baseball and recorded two wins. He also tallied nine strikeouts total in his two starts. Hammel is 3-0 with a 0.99 ERA in his last four starts and is definitely a worth while contender for a team in need of a starting pitcher.
Jonathon Niese: Jonathon Niese tossed a one-hitter for his first career complete game, and it was his second stellar start since coming off the disabled list. In the two gaems that he has been back, Niese is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA compared to 1-2 with a 4.79 ERA before he was injured. Niese is another pitcher who is in most leagues free agency and could be a very good spot starter from time to time.
Ricky Nolasco: Ricky Nolasco’s struggles continued as he allowed three home runs and five earned runs in his last start and only managed to complete two and one-third innings. His season ERA has reached a 5.05 and his mechanics are all out of whack. Drop Nolasco from your team and wait until he has a few decent starts under his belt before thinking of adding him again.
James Shields: James Shields isn’t pitching much like an ace. Shields allowed 10 runs while lasting just three and one-third innings last week, and like Nolasco, his struggles definitely are not going away. This was Shields fourth consecutive loss and he is pitching about the worst I have ever seen in his career. Shields will turn it around soon because he has a great team around him, and right now he is just going through a rough spot as all pitchers do at some point.
Rick Porcello: Porcello, who allowed eight runs in three and one-third innings in a loss to the White Sox on Wednesday, is 4-6 with a 6.09 ERA in 12 outings. Manager Jim Leyland says Porcello will skip his next start so he can work on his sinker and the rest of the problems that are effecting his pitching. Porcello is going to take this one step at a time and will hopefully look to lower that 6.09 ERA.