Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market: Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Villanueva, more

by Tim Heaney on July 8, 2013 @ 13:25:00 PDT


Pages 1 | 2 | all's Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market gives you candid reviews and ratings of fantasy baseball players making MLB news in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball leagues. Are they trade bait? Are they worth your FAAB dollars in your fantasy baseball games?

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SP Ricky Nolasco, Los Angeles Dodgers

Fantasy owners must've read Keith's recent entry in droves. The subsequent trade to the Dodgers affirmed Nolasco's intrigue with a change of scenery -- plus, in this case, an offense that has exploded in recent weeks. Yay, run support. He'll make his Blue debut Tuesday against the middling Arizona Diamondbacks.

Chicago Cubs P Carlos Villanueva
Villanueva back in rotation, style

Nolasco has dodged high rates of liner allowance over much of his career because he's typically around the strike zone. He's been dancing around the plate a bit more this year, though, and hitters have actually helped him with more outside-the-zone whiffs. In turn, he's punched out more batters; his per-nine rate of 7.21 sits at its highest level since 2010. His much-improved slider and two-seamer/sinker have been leaving chasers empty.

The 30-year-old should remain comfortable working home contests in another pitcher-friendly NL domain while offering useful, not outstanding, depth innings. He has a better chance of yielding occasional brilliance, though, in his new threads.

1B/OF Logan Morrison, Miami Marlins

Nolasco's former teammate joins him. He's back to showcasing his high-walk ways and, more importantly with four homers in 70 at-bats since returning from the DL, teasing the power that made him a breakthrough candidate in recent years.

The worm-burner frequency that has kept him from the next power level partially stems from his penchant for contact, which so far has prompted him to connect on more pitches he's supposed to avoid (a whopping 79.2 percent). Getting back in a groove will help him lay off settling for dinks and pick his spots for slam dunks; his eye will help him eventually once the eagerness wanes.

He'll turn only 26 in August; talk about having time to develop thump from a 6-foot-3, 245-pound framework. Morrison will rest that bulky build here and there to stay fresh and avoid certain left-handed hurlers, but (especially in OBP leagues) he's a versatile upside piece for this season and might be one of the draft steals of 2014. You'll simply have to absorb the dense cloud of injury risk that comes with him.

1B/3B Juan Francisco, Milwaukee Brewers

With an 11-for-37 (.297) run, including four homers and eight RBIs, over his last 10 contests, Francisco continues to seize the playing time offered by knee injuries at the corner-infield bags to Corey Hart (season-ending) and Aramis Ramirez (potential DL stint).

Though he'll offer spectators ample breeze, Francisco has boosted his walk rate to a respectable (for him) 7.9 percent, which will at least preserve his PT. One area of concern is the number of infield flies he's accumulated and its combination with his increasing grounder rate, which make his 26.2 percent HR/FB all the more tenuous.

Still, the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder has enough natural oomph to overcome that, especially on mistake pitches, and yield CI value in deep mixed leagues the rest of the way. Though he'll probably stall in every other column, he should reach 20 homers by October and could easily top that.

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Owned in fewer than 50% of league polled

SP Carlos Villanueva, Chicago Cubs

Villanueva returns to the starting quintet following the Scott Feldman trade. He stretched out to four frames Sunday, allowing one run on three hits and a walk while striking out five. The 29-year-old should continue building up his pitch count, improving his odds to log wins and quality starts as the summer wears on.

Chicago White Sox 2B Gordon Beckham
Bend BA like Beckham

Though his 6.90 K/9 doesn't reflect it, he's kept his swinging-strike rate on an above-average cloud (9.8) in his mixed role. Over eight starts earlier this year, he posted a 3.93 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP (2.39 BB/9) over 52 2/3 stanzas, though he struck out only 36. The improved control, however, says that he could notch longer outings, and his diverse arsenal will play well over longer stretches.

It'd help if he can continue taming his homer allowance (a bane for him most of his career) via his notable bump in opponents' grounder rate. Even if he logs something short of but resembling the 8.41 K/9 and 2.45 BB/9 he put forth as a SP last year, he could wind up a cheap, surprising value play the rest of the way.

2B Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox

With seven homers after the end of last July, Beckham showed enough flickers to earn plenty of preseason followers heading into 2013. They're still going: He's hitting .345/.373/.451 with a homer and nine RBIs following his June return from a broken hamate bone in his left hand, thanks to the crouched stance he's carried over from late last year.

One drawback is that Beckham said he wants to focus on making solid contact and doesn't necessary have a motivation for more homers yet. Beckham falls in the pile of middle infielders that must display overwhelming power to provide consistent value; the fall-off risk rises for below-average SB contributors that rely on batting average as a chief asset yet rarely take a free pass.

Of course, power should come, regardless of Beckham's preference, as he regains sturdiness in his lower hand to streamline his follow-through. For the pennies he likely will cost in most universes, ride this stretch while preparing for him to slow down. In deeper leagues that require an MI body, there are worse chances to take.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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