Victor Martinez, Indians: You knew the guy would hit. You knew he'd be a star. But did you think it would happen this fast? Martinez pounded three home runs on the poor Mariners on Friday (and hit another on Sunday, 8 RBI in three games) and now has numbers that rival hitters who don't play catcher. Martinez, without speed or a flashy batting average and really, without a lot of runs scored, has cracked our Player Rater Top 50 on his power numbers alone, which is incredible. His power numbers are better than Ivan Rodriguez. In a keeper league, Martinez is a tremendous keeper, the best at catcher easily (Joe Mauer would be second). But you knew that.
Greg Maddux, Cubs: Is this the start of something big for the 38-year-old Maddux, or will he remain relatively inconsistent in the season he earns his 300th win? Sure, Maddux spun a six-hit shutout on the Brewers over the weekend, but before the All-Star break his ERA jumped from 3.91 to 4.51 in four starts, one of them a bad pounding at the White Sox. Maddux has stats similar to seasons past (4.18 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), he's just giving up more hits. I don't know why that would change in the second half.
Bucky Jacobsen, Mariners: The purge from underachieving veterans to young bucks with upside has begun in Seattle, and Jacobsen is already showing that when it comes it batting, he's no John Olerud. Jacobsen, if you don't know, is a righthanded DH-type who mashes the ball. He had huge power stats in the minors this season, then went and won the Triple A home run derby. Olerud, for comparison, was on pace, for a full season, to hit nine home runs. How weak. Jacobsen might hit his ninth this month. Watch out for a falling average at some point - plate discipline is not his specialty - but he should hit for power.
Wily Mo Pena, Reds: Remember what happened last season with Jose Guillen? Career minor leaguer but a definite tools guy, all of a sudden he gets a chance and then he starts raining line drives out of the Cincy stadium. That could be Pena this season. With Austin Kearns and Ken Griffey Jr. out, Pena has turned into a valued member of the Reds outfield, and blasted 12 homers in sporadic playing time. Recently he's been getting more notoriety, with four homers in his last five starts. So, can this continue? Why not? He's always had power, tools and upside. Now he's showing it off.
Mike Maroth, Tigers: Anyone who tosses a one-hit shutout against the Yankees is certainly hot, but let's not all jump out there and grab Maroth from the free agent lists. He's a usable lefty who has a career ERA over 5. Last year was a nightmare, and in very deep leagues Maroth can be a suitable fifth or sixth fantasy starter who eats up innings for you. There may come a point in time where Maroth goes seven innings with every outing, and turns the corner like Tom Glavine did. Rremember, as a rookie, Glavine lost 17 games, and was almost as bad as Maroth. That time isn't yet, but in a year, don't be shocked if Maroth is more like Jarrod Washburn.
Matt Herges, Giants: Some might be wondering, does Herges have incriminating photos of manager Felipe Alou? Herges has now blown seven saves, none worse than the Sunday effort, in which the Rockies blasted a pair of homers in a three-batter span, while also registering two other base hits. Herges wasn't around when the winner scored, but his line was 0 innings, 4 earned. Nice. His season ERA is 5.86. Nice. He's allowed 61 hits in 43 innings. Nice. But, with Felix Rodriguez struggling, the Giants really don't have lots of options. Maybe a trade for Ugueth Urbina is only days away.
Jason Giambi, Yankees: OK, so the guy hasn't gotten a hit in his last 11 at-bats. No big deal. Unless...you look closer at Giambi's fading stats and see this trend has been going on for six weeks. Giambi hit .222 in April. Nobody panicked, and he hit .310 in May. But a .167 average in June and .189 in July is below that Mendoza line, way below. Should you trade Giambi? I said it on ESPNEWS last week, and already this week; if you get offered one of those highly productive but no-name first baseman plus other stuff for Giambi, you do it. (We're talking Travis Hafner, Paul Konerko, maybe even Tino Martinez.)
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays: It made sense that when you saw Halladay pitching more like a fifth starter than the Cy Young winner of old that something had to be wrong with him. And now we know, there is. Halladay has been lit up in three of his last four outings, and seen his ERA rise from 3.66 to 4.35. And now he's got a meeting with that famous Dr. James Andrews. They're not getting together to discuss the latest movies. A visit to Andrews for a pitcher is like the kiss of death. Hopefully, Halladay won't need major work on his arm, and rest will bring him back to respectable stats.
Josh Phelps, Blue Jays: Not to pick on our fave AL team north of the border, but Phelps belongs on this list after the way he embarrassed fantasy owners since his hot streak. You remember Phelps going nuts, bashing three homers and knocking in 13 runs in a three-game series against Seattle. Fantasy owners figure it's the beginning of a decade of 30-100 seasons and then ... nothing. Phelps has a single and a double since then. He's 2-for-19 since the big series, and it would be hard to convince fantasy owners to stick with him through this.
Livan Hernandez, Expos: Now here's a guy with a track record, and this season and last it's been very good. But Livan's left something to be desired in his last two starts, as he's allowed 13 earned runs in 6.1 innings. Is this a harbinger of doom for the rest of the season? Not likely, as Hernandez has a rubber arm for a starter and both times he got lit it was against resurgent Atlanta. It's a smart time to buy Livan, if you can get him reasonably.