Who are the hottest pickups in fantasy baseball leagues? Can you trust them on your fantasy baseball teams?
Carlos Quentin, OF, San Diego Padres
- Last 3: .583, 5 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI in 12 AB
Quentin was sidelined for two and a half months because of a knee ailment that required arthroscopic surgery. It looks like he was worth the wait.
Unfortunately, his first three games came against the pitching-poor Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. New Quentin owners in shallow leagues will probably be disappointed to see what the .254 lifetime hitter's output looks like in the long haul, particularly when he's at home.
Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox
- Last 16: .444, 15 R, 8 HR, 23 RBI in 63 AB
The Tank has moved up this list and has been perhaps the hottest stock on the roto market. In his last seven games (29 at-bats), he hit .552 with four bombs and 13 RBIs. A week ago, he actually walked once.
This is rare territory for an MLB hitter. Viciedo is in total control, even if he isn't adept at controlling the strike zone. He may not go on another streak like this in 2012, but he's as good as the marks where he sits (.291/.312/.515), which is still plenty good for the balance of the campaign.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies
- Last 5: .611, 10 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB in 22 PA
This popular preseason sleeper hadn't started in four straight games (because of some weighted combo of a turned ankle and shoddy hitting) before he clubbed a pinch-hit home run on Sunday at Great American Ball Park. He ended up back in Colorado's leadoff spot the next day and hasn't stopped.
Fowler attributes this outburst to increased confidence. He didn't say how much Coors Field contributed to that poise. The 26-year-old switch-hitter has been wildly inconsistent and sub-par on the road. He's maturing and may be on the brink of reaching a new performance plateau, though. The HR-SB promise makes him worth keeping around.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Kansas City Royals
- Last 17: .362, 12 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB in 69 AB
All five of Frenchy's dingers and his lone theft have come in the last two and a half weeks. Before that, his career-best year in 2011 looked like a fluke, as many suspected.
This season, Francoeur has made contact more often than he did last year - or in any other campaign prior. He told the team's official site that he made an adjustment in BP earlier this month, and it led to a significantly reduced load time.
He hasn't flashed the same aggressiveness or efficiency on the base paths, either, but KC in general has been the same way. Francoeur, 28, isn't the safest bet in roto because of his lack of selectivity, but maybe he's ready to establish himself as a No. 4 or No. 5 OF in mixed leagues.
Chris Davis, 1B/3B, Baltimore Orioles
- May: .309, 14 R, 5 HR, 11 RBI in 100 PA
Those in shallow leagues simply must not have believed that Davis' hot start to this campaign would last. The left-handed hitter fanned 30 times in 100 May plate appearances, so in the long haul, the skeptics are probably right.
Regardless, Davis should've been available in fewer leagues. The batting average will come down, but he hits the ball extremely hard when he does make contact, so he has the skill to avoid Adam Dunn territory. The 26-year-old seems to be a lot happier by the Inner Harbor than he was in Arlington.
Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians
- Last 19: .347, 10 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB in 77 PA
Brantley is a line-drive hitter who makes contact frequently has gradually improved his plate discipline - until this year, when his indicators have been suggesting that he's figured things out. His hot streak accounts for seven of his nine steals.
The left-handed hitter could stand to walk more if he wants to be a leadoff man, but the encouraging development has been his sudden willingness to run. The organization forecasted thievery prowess based on his farm record and speed. Brantley, 25, must finally be comfortable with his timing of pitchers, and getting on base a little more often helps.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Boston Red Sox
- Last 16: .373, 11 R, 6 HR, 14 RBI in 51 AB
More frequent SB attempts, finally
So the Texas Rangers were wrong, and the BoSox were right. Salty jacked 16 in 358 at-bats last season, but he has 10 in his first 128 at-bats of 2012.
The switch-hitter won't cede playing time to Kelly Shoppach at this rate. This rate - his .281 BA - won't continue with a contact rate as dreadful as his, though. Don't expect Saltalamacchia, 27, to be more than a No. 2 backstop in mixed leagues.
Roy Oswalt, SP, Texas Rangers
Those in shallow leagues haven't shown the inclination to add the veteran right-hander, even after he found a home. If their benches aren't deep, it may be hard to justify the spot on a pitcher they won't use for a few weeks. Players in very competitive leagues have gone after him with vigor, however.
Casual fantasy owners may also be apprehensive because of Oswalt's new home park, but they may want to follow the deep leaguers' lead. The 35-year-old has spent his entire career playing in hitter-friendly yards. A scout who has been watching Oswalt throw told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that the hurler's stuff looked crisp, too. Texas still has quite a few tilts remaining against the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners, too.
Jordan Pacheco, 1B/3B, Colorado Rockies
- Last 18: .343, 10 R, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB in 68 PA
Playing time became available regularly not long after the club recalled Pacheco, who isn't sharp with the glove but figures to remain at the hot corner as long as he hits. He has a solid BA profile and the best home environment to do his business.
Pacheco, 26, has been a popular deep-league grab, but he doesn't hit for much power and is pretty slow afoot, making it highly unlikely that those in shallow leagues will pick up the trend.
Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins
- Last 1: 1 W, 0.00 ERA, 3 H, 2 BB, 9 K in 6 IP
In his return to the rotation, the left-hander tossed six shutout innings and struck out nine ... A's. It was an impressive showing, and fantasy owners shouldn't leave Liriano in the free-agent pool because of his capabilities.
But it's not all glamour and glitz for the 28-year-old. Earlier this week, Tim explored the reasons that roto players should proceed cautiously.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.