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June 28, 7:38 AM ET
Fantasy Baseball w/Tristan H. Cockcroft

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:00 AM)

Good morning everyone! Let's get right to your fantasy baseball questions...

JD (NJ)

McGowan has not been good on the road... start him @ SEA tonight?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:02 AM)

You are right, JD, Dustin McGowan has been, um, not good on the road, with a 2-4 record and 6.19 ERA in 10 starts. Still, a game at Seattle, at that pitcher-friendly ballpark, against that offense, that righty-heavy lineup, is the perfect tonic to ail a guy like this. I'm leaning towards McGowan's talent ahead of the matchup. I think he's fine. Not a standout, but a-OK, right in the quality-start cutoff range, with good win potential.

Ron (DC)

Will Wheeler be the closer in Tampa, or will it be a committee with Balfour getting some save ops too?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:05 AM)

I've been waiting all morning to tackle the Grant Balfour question. I'll be totally frank, I've always been a bit dismissive of Balfour, and yes, I'll stoop to making the "Ball-four" nickname joke, because he has had spotty command at best so far in his career. This year, though, he has been lights out, really taken me by surprise. I nabbed him in all my leagues in which he was available, not because I think he's the main guy, but more because when a guy gets the first save when the closer goes on the DL, he often gets the second chance. And third. And so on. I still like Dan Wheeler better, but it's now what I'd call a 50/50 shot between 'em. Wheeler had merely worked three straight nights, to note. As for Balfour, I've got a comparable for you: Derrick Turnbow. Look at his career, the ups, the downs. This <i>could</i> be a year like that great one Turnbow had, but I say the name to emphasize the risk.

Ryan (Boston)

should I drop izzy for grant balfour? it doesn't look like izzy will ever regain the closer's role in st. louis.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:06 AM)

I'll pick this question more to address the topic of Jason Isringhausen, since I just talked about Balfour. Straight answer? I probably would. I like the short-term with saves unless the long-term is overwhelmingly promising. And I don't think it is with Isringhausen, who is looking like an aging, brittle reliever these days. I don't think he's within a matter of days of reclaiming his old closer's role. Might not be weeks, either. Might be months.

Frank (Worcester)

Concerned by Harden's dip in velocity last night?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:07 AM)

Honestly, Frank, I did not get to catch that game. (Can't see 'em all, I have to admit.) But if you're asking about my concern for Rich Harden, I'm <i>always</i> concerned about Rich Harden. I think I've made that point fairly clear here over the past year. I still say sell high, if you can.

Jordan (Toronto)

Liriano or Clay Bucholz? Who will have a bigger fantasy impact in the 2nd half?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:08 AM)

That is actually a very tough call, because I think Buchholz has the higher upside for this season, while Francisco Liriano has the better chance to contribute as a regular starter. So I'm going to leave that a choice to you, which you prefer, but if it's me and it's a yearly league? I'd probably go Liriano. I think opportunity is more important than the risk/reward type at this particular stage of your season.

Mark(DC)

How many questions have you gotten so far because ive submitted some awesome one's?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:09 AM)

A lot, Mark, think hundreds, and I do get this asked a fair amount. I do my best to catch as many as I can, but remember, it's a lot to check and a quick time frame. Just to give everyone a general sense of things.

joe

Start Gil Meche tonight against Baltimore? He's been pretty sharp lately.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:10 AM)

Yes he has, but Baltimore is no pushover, either, and I'd probably say Meche warrants deeper-league consideration more because his opponent (Daniel Cabrera) is ice cold than that I expect a lights-out effort. Good, not great.

Tony (Toronto)

What's the deal with Max Scherzer? Is he going to be fantasy relevant this year? Drop him for Justin "the Duke"?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:12 AM)

You know, I have a very bad feeling that Scherzer's shoulder problems are going to rule him out as a contributor this season. If they weren't, we'd have heard some more promising news by now. By all means, yes to your question. But to those of you in yearly formats still stashing Scherzer, I would lower my expectations considerably at this point.

Mark(DC)

Over/Under - 3.80 ERA for Garza going forward?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:13 AM)

Matt Garza -- and I want to throw John Danks into this comment, too -- is one of the pitchers who has most impressed me with the improvements he has made this season. I say both are legit, so that registers you an "under," and I'd say it's for sure.

Big Unit (Arizona)

am I done?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:15 AM)

Might be. It's scary to say that, but I keep taking closer looks at Randy Johnson, and I see right-handed hitters obliterating him with ease, and on a consistent basis. He's really starting to become a Paul Maholm-esque pitcher. And I think us fantasy owners know how we feel about Maholm. No stud, for sure.

Derek (MA)

Start Dice K tonight? Saunders?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:16 AM)

I adopt my "I don't play for wins" strategy in granting Daisuke Matsuzaka my OK. No guarantee he beats Scott Kazmir, who has historically owned the Red Sox, but I think the outing itself should be fine. As for Joe Saunders, the A's really don't hit left-handers well, so by all means, yes.

The Mayor of Parraville (PA)

FURCAL is an issue on my team? please help me settle it.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:18 AM)

I'm more concerned about Rafael Furcal than ever. Don't know if you read my chat where I addressed the topic a few weeks back, but let's take that degree of concern I had and step it up a few notches. So many setbacks is not at all a good sign.

Chris (Diamond Bar, CA)

Morning Tristan! Who would you rather: Eric Hinske, Pedro Feliz, or the Kooz?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:19 AM)

I would rather have Kevin Kouzmanoff. But then that's the gut talking, and I could see this coming down to a matchups question. There will be times where without question Hinske or Feliz is your better choice. Overall, it's Kouz, I bet he has a comparably strong second half to his in 2007.

Matt (Chicago)

You should note that nearly all the swings Balfour got from Boston were on pitches out of the zone - some well outside. Lucky, I'd say.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:20 AM)

Derrick Turnbow, Matt, Derrick Turnbow. And I'm going to admit, because every writer needs to admit when he was wrong every now and then, but the year that Turnbow broke out I said repeatedly that I couldn't believe a guy with his shoddy command was putting together the kind of season that he was. And needless to say, he didn't last too long as a member of fantasy's elite.

Ralph Chicago

"Pedro"....bench him till he works out the problems? St Louis is hot.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

I see nothing in Pedro Martinez to make me believe he's trustworthy. I'd steer clear of that matchup if I could. Frankly, I think he's going from the six-inning pitcher he appeared to be before his recent injuries, to more of like a four-inning pitcher who crumbles shortly thereafter.

Tipper Gore (TN)

What are your thoughts on Mat Gamel? Do we see him in the majors, and what kind of potential does he have?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:22 AM)

I think of Gamel as very, very much a similar player to Ryan Braun. And if you think back to when Braun first broke into the bigs, it was clear he'd have been up sooner had his glove not been brutal at third base. And of course, now he's in left field, he was so bad at the hot corner. Gamel looks like a literal Braun clone. I really feel that's the case. His bad defense probably keeps him in the minors all year, but Gamel's 2009 could very much be like Braun's 2007. I could so see that happening.

Marc (Albany, NY)

Tristan, if you get hundreds of questions then why do you use more than one post on any one player or topic? 2 posts on Grant Balfour is 2 too many if you ask me. Now what about MCab for the 2nd half??

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:25 AM)

Marc, part of it is because there's a pressing issue of each certain day, and I feel like it needs a little more press than usual, because so many people are asking or it's something that's going to have a big, immediate effect on leagues. Let's get to your Miguel Cabrera question, though, still plenty of questions to tackle! I see the Tigers as a sleeping giant; or let's just use the cliche, waking up from hibernation? Cabrera will only get more comfortable, and as his team heats up, so will he, I'd say.

Pookie (Atlanta, GA)

Comparisons have been made between Slowey and a younger Greg Maddux. Comments?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:26 AM)

Greg Maddux is a very popular comparable, but he's also among the most misleading comparables you can toss around. Why? It's because Maddux is unique, a truly special arm. Can you really say Kevin Slowey is going to win 300-plus games for his career? I doubt it. That said, if you want to call him a strike-throwing, low-walk guy without overpowering stuff but throws the ball exactly where he wants it with regularity, then I'd say you're right on. I love his improvements this year, especially in the home run department. Very nice sleeper, underappreciated. I was tempted to put him in that group from the earlier question, where I mentioned Garza and Danks.

Mike (Boston)

I think slowey to brad radke is more like it than to maddux.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

See, that might have people thinking a little more realistically in terms of overall fantasy value. Seems fair.

Justin (New York)

Is Nolasco a slam dunk tonight against Washington?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

Absolutely. He's in the midst of a scorching hot streak (by his standards).

stu (kcmo)

Can you make me feel any better about trading braun and a gonzalez for howard in april? neither of them were hitting in april. can braun get hurt or something?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:29 AM)

I cannot, Stu, I'm sorry. But I posted your question because I think people need frequent reminders why they should be patient with their highest-round draft picks. There's a reason they go that high, it's because they usually revert to their old norms pretty quickly.

Conan (Philly)

So, drop Myers or stash him if you have a bench spot (and your pitching has been disastrous)?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:30 AM)

It's going to depend on your league, bottom line. I have a feeling that most of our players are going to be best-served cutting him. That's just how I feel about it. Now, in LABR (13-team NL-only), there's no way Brett Myers will or should be cut. No way. I'm also in a nine-team NL-only, and probably wouldn't cut him. Though, I'll say, in that latter league, I own Rich Hill and I'm about to cut him, he's been that bad. So it's not a crazy thought in the format to let go Myers, too, if you see something you absolutely must have.

travis (ny)

better santana 2nd half?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:31 AM)

Ha! You mean Johan Santana versus "former Johan Santana" (yes, Ervin once went my that name)? It's Johan. Closer than you think, but I still say it's a fairly easy decision.

Mickey (Brooklyn)

Need a replacement for Magglio. Rank who would you want most out of Thames, Luke Scott, Elijah Dukes and Jose Guillen?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:32 AM)

Probably Jose Guillen. Though, to be fair, Luke Scott and Marcus Thames deserve ownership at this point in all but the most shallow mixed leagues. And I'd probably take the three in that order.

Hank (NH)

Who's a better closer for the 2nd half: Rauch or Jenks?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:33 AM)

Wait until you see my column today, which will have some interesting numbers on the topic. Doubt many people would debate that it's Bobby Jenks, though.

Ira (Silver Springs, MD)

Great chat! Cueto looks to be maturing as a starter. Would you rather have him or Scott Baker for the balance of the year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:34 AM)

That's risk/reward versus safe/consistent, in my mind. And I'll probably take the latter, in a redraft league. I think Scott Baker is pretty underappreciated, and a bit better at preserving your ERA/WHIP numbers.

Edinson Volquez Owners (everywhere)

talk us off the ledge, the recent poundings aren't unexpected, but what happened to the K's?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:36 AM)

One pounding, one pounding. No, his recent start wasn't great, but I refuse to call it a "pounding." And by the way, <i>every</i> pitcher goes through a cold spell at some point during a season. You can't possibly be unhittable for 33 starts. Even Johan Santana in that unbelievable 2004 of his had a poor May, if memory serves. I do think Volquez's ERA will stick closer to three in his remaining starts, but that's still a very good pitcher to own.

Stephen (Louisville)

If the Cubs do trade for another starter, who leaves the rotation? Gallagher or Marquis?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:37 AM)

<i>Should</i> be Jason Marquis, but contract and experience for him seem to make Sean Gallagher a more logical candidate to be bumped.

Tony (so cal)

lucky me I was able to trade Volquez 2 weeks ago for Tex :)

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

Now, I do like that deal.

Gil - Houston

Tristan, Why Scott over Thames? Have you seen Thames last month? 320 15 11 18 - That's money my friend.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

It is, but again, streaks, streaks, streaks. I love Thames' power, but I think he's a batting-average risk in the long haul. More likely to bat .250 than .300 over the course of a season. It's so very close, though.

Ali (TX)

Thoughts on Hardy?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:39 AM)

I'm mad at J.J. Hardy because I let him go in one of my most important leagues to play a far superior on-paper matchup. But I'd say he's a decent guy to own, a little above-average. No star. Kind of guy who can bat .265ish, 20 homers or so.

Jay(Boston)

Is Gardner mixed league worthy? Its too bad he plays for the Yanks and doesnt get to take advantage of Jorgie's cannon.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

I don't think so. I think he might fit better as a fourth/fifth outfielder long term. And he hasn't looked at all good in his brief big-league time, so I'd say he's got a lot of work to do to figure it out. Even AL-only owners would have to think long and hard about picking him up.

John (Hartford)

Hardy, Drew, or Aviles?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:41 AM)

Stephen Drew in the long haul.

Fernando (Pembroke Pines)

What is the deal with Matt Capps. Back to back blown saves, rumors of velocity issues. Is it possible he losses the closing job?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:43 AM)

He was asked to pitch so very much in 2006-07, this cold spell doesn't entirely surprise me. I keep thinking about how Salomon Torres was abused as a setup man by the Pirates a few years back, and look at what that did to him (not this year, you have to look back a bit). Is Capps' job security threatened? Perhaps, though I don't see another option who would be a great stand-in. Could be that Capps is hurt, there's risk of that, but I'd say if he loses the job, that probably ends up being more of an ugly bullpen than one where there's a great sleeper to be had.

Don (Chicago, IL)

Alexei Ramirez is better than Robinson Cano. Discuss.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:44 AM)

OK, I will, Don. Cano is going to surprise you in the second half. Great, great second half player, and I have a very hard time looking past that knowing he's hitting a little better the past month than he did in April/May.

Bill (Jersey)

Is Ponson a good spot start today against the Rangers after what happened earlier this year? Yanks are due to score some runs anyway.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:46 AM)

You know, Bill, interesting point, the motivational factor. In AL-only leagues, I wouldn't laugh at anyone who uses Sidney Ponson. Still, I have such a hard time recommending him. I watched his 2008 Yankee debut, and I wasn't at all impressed. He had pretty good stuff, but his command was awful. He loaded the bases twice and allowed two runners in another inning in his first three frames. So he was pretty lucky, I'd say. Texas can hit, so that's a very high-risk, but moderate-reward, scenario. Mixed leaguers need to steer clear, just too much of a gamble.

Mark(DC)

Lets speculate for a minute and say Joe Borowski keeps pitching like Joe Borowski and Wedge decides to make a change soon. You do you like to take over the closer's role?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

I could see it happening, Mark. But then I'm not at all a Borowski fan. I do see a committee replacing him if needed, with Masa Kobayashi, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez sharing the duties until one steps up as the clear go-to guy. You know, I keep having this feeling that Perez might be a very good closer given the chance, only that he's not being given the chance because he's the team's best lefty specialist.

Jesse (St. Paul, MN)

Who's more likely to come back to earth? Aaron Cook or Joe Saunders

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:49 AM)

Cook's team situation is more tenuous, so I'd say him.

Joe (Tampa, FL)

Thoughts on Casey Blake? He seems to be doing well lately.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:49 AM)

Good hot-streak guy. I've seen him do this before. You ride the streak, but don't count on it extending for all that long. He'll cool, and you'll then need someone else.

Jordan (Toronto)

Do you expect a big second half from Carlos Pena? (probably not eh)

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:51 AM)

I actually feel about the same about Pena as I did heading into the season. OK, maybe a bit less. And if memory serves, at the time I felt like he could bat in the .250-.270 range, belt 35 homers or so. The power's legit, in my mind. He can just crush the ball. I'll slide the scale backwards a tad on those numbers, so let's say he could bat .250ish for you, belt 15 homers or so. That's not bad. It's not great, but it's not bad, either.

Jon (San Diego)

Tristan, I've done my homework on Matt Kemp. He has a .383 BABIP for the year, is striking out about once per game and really can't hit righties. Do you see significant improvement for this year? How would you rank him against the sinking McLouth?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:53 AM)

Yes you have, Jon, though I do have his BABIP a little lower as I see it in a few places (.372). Negligible difference, though. And you're right, he's effectively a platoon specialist right now. I'd call this ranking something that depends very much on your own opinion on how much Joe Torre will let Kemp play looking forward. I really think that's his problem, Kemp isn't getting regular enough at-bats to develop a groove. I'm faithful enough that I'd give him the slight edge, but that's me. I have faith in what I'd consider a bit better raw talent.

Jay (NYC)

Start Campillo against the Phillys tonight?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:54 AM)

I'd really rather not. I know he's pitching well, but the Phillies are a great offense and are stacked from the left side of the plate.

Chris (Illinois)

Tristan, Who do you like better in the 2nd half, Markakis or Quentin?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:55 AM)

I still love Nick Markakis, especially knowing he's a strong second-half player.

Joe NY

Tell me something about Todd Healton? Is he going to start perfroming better in the 2nd half?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:56 AM)

Probably, yes, as it'll help that he finally has the Rockies' regular lineup surrounding him for once. They're healthier now, can you believe it? Still, Helton is only a shell of his former self. You can't expect him to do much more than bat, say, .300 or so from today forward, and maybe belt, say, eight more homers.

Bryan (Fort Worth, TX)

Today Detroit plays the Twins, and the two DH's are Kubel and Sheffield. Who would you rather have today, and going forward for the rest of the season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:57 AM)

Gary Sheffield's health questions terrify me, and I feel pretty good about Jason Kubel's sleeper status on both counts.

Mike (Denver)

Bigger fluke this season- Bradley or Cantu?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:58 AM)

Jorge Cantu. Though I do think both will remain pretty valuable. I just find it more surprising a guy with Cantu's plate discipline is doing what he's doing. With Milton Bradley, it's more a question of for how long he can stay healthy. I don't really doubt his raw ability, oodles of K's against the Yankees aside.

Dan (Boston)

Any word on Aaron Hill? 2nd half prediction for him? Many of us were expecting a lot from him.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

I should check for the latest on Hill, Dan, but the last report I got was a pretty damning one. I seem to remember some rumors of "out for the season." Not trying to create a panic, but I don't believe he's all that close to coming back and being helpful.

Jose Contreras (ChiTown)

You starting me tonight?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:01 PM)

Sure. Not like the Indians do much offensively.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:01 PM)

Well, that's all for today. Thanks for all your questions, and sorry if I didn't get to yours. Don't forget, we're back again this afternoon to chat with you again! Take care...