Fantasy baseball: July proves either a cruel or kind month for players

After an elongated stint on the bench, L.A.'s Rivera is blazing hot

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2006

As the Major League Baseball trading deadline rapidly approaches, here's a look at who's heating up in July or settling into the dog days.

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All stats are current through Tuesday.

Who's Hot

Chipper Jones, 3B/OF, Braves

Everyone knows Jones is a good player; he has been for years. Coming into this month, he was putting up good, but not great, numbers - hitting .291 and slugging .457. Since then, however, Chipper's been hotter than a Scottsdale solar panel. The veteran boasts a .526 batting average, a .591 on-base percentage and a staggering 1.035 slugging percentage (.526/.591/1.035) for July with seven bombs and 20 RBIs.

Juan Rivera, OF, Angels

Rivera has belted nine homers this month, good for second-best in all of baseball behind David Ortiz's 11. The former reserve has been so hot he forced longtime left fielder Garret Anderson to the DH position while Rivera is hitting behind Vladimir Guerrero. The Angels OF missed some time in early May so his overall numbers (15 HRs, 49 RBIs) don't jump out at you, but that is changing.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs

Coming into July, Ramirez was slugging just .463 with just 14 HRs and 43 RBIs. Not great numbers if you're supposed to be one of the game's premier young sluggers. This month the 28-year-old turned it on, slugging 763 and has smacked as many HRs (9) as strikeouts. Although opposing pitchers might start pitching around him, especially since Derrek Lee headed back to the 15-day disabled list on Monday, Ramirez is a good bet to push his numbers even higher.

Luis Gonzalez, OF, Diamondbacks

Gonzalez entered July hitting just .254/.353/.400, which is not what you want to see from a corner outfielder making more than $10 million. This month he's found his stroke, hitting over .400 in July with 12 doubles. He's also been rumored in several possible trade scenarios.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres

Over the first three months of 2006, the 2000 top overall draft pick hit .280/.321/.459 with just 11 HRs and 28 RBIs. Now he's starting to become the player scouts thought he could be - a high-average hitter with 30 HR potential. After knocking out seven homers and driving in 24 runs this month, he has a chance to become the first 30 HR hitter at Petco Park - a notorious pitchers paradise.

Who's Not

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds

The Reds got Phillips for a song just after the regular season started and looked like the steal of the year early this season. From April to June, he hit .320, knocked in 44 runs, and was 15-for-15 in stolen bases attempts. The league has caught up to Phillips in July, however. He hit just .197 and was caught stealing twice in five attempts so far this month.

Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers

In 2003, at the age of 22, he hit an incredible .300/.350/.522. Since then he's slowly regressed in terms of slugging and batting average. Fantasy owners might have been fooled into thinking he was rebounding in '06, as he entered July with and 54 RBIs and a .282 average. Since July 1, he's hit just .239 with two paltry extra base hits.

Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners

Lopez earned a trip to the All-Star game after slugging .472 and knocking in 57 runs. This month, he's picked up just one RBI and has no extra-base hits. Although Lopez remains a very good young player with lots of potential, perhaps we should have tempered our early-season images of Bret Boone's second coming.

Matt Holliday, OF, Rockies

Heading into to July, Holliday was putting together one of the best seasons in either league, hitting .349/.394/.608. Since then, his power production has fallen like, well, a rock. He's hit only two home runs and knocked in six runs in July.

Nick Swisher, OF, Athletics

Swisher energized A's fans by slugging .530 and driving in 49 runs through the season's first three months. July has been a different story for Swisher, though. He's hit just .172 with only seven RBIs.

Trade deadline shakes things up

Fantasy owners should be on high alert for the next week as general managers make their final trades before the July 31st deadline. This is the time of the year when teams start making room for promising young players or acquiring steady veterans for the stretch run.

Pay close attention, especially if you're looking for more saves. Cleveland recently traded Bob Wickman, opening up a spot for Fausto Carmona as the Indians' new closer.

Trades like this are common around the deadline and can open up chances for lesser-known, but talented, players to emerge.

Note on stats: It's customary to list "rate" statistics in the following order: batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. This is sometimes called their "hitting line," or simply, "line." A hitter with a line of .300/.400/.500, therefore, is hitting .300, getting on base at a .400 clip, and slugging .500.

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