'J.J. Hardy, Michael Brantley' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ Sometimes unlikely sources of production pop up and help you to overcome the failures of players that you were counting on in the fantasy game. Today I'll touch on both ends of that spectrum.

Dustin Ackley hit .226 last season, and he's batting .233 this year for the Mariners. Why? Good question. Not only has he hit .290 during his minor league career but he also batted .273 as a rookie in 2011. He's produced a league average 19 percent line drive rate the past two years though his BABIP is a bit low in the .270's, though that is hardly the explanation as to why his average has languished. The Mariners say they need to find out what they've got in Ackley so he figures to see a lot of time in the outfield the rest of the season. He just might be a sneaky AL-only addition if you can pry him away from his current owner.

Jake Arrieta will take a shot at starting for the Cubs, replacing Carlos Villanueva in the rotation. Arrieta has made six forgettable starts this season with a 1-2 record, 6.07 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, but he's got a good arm and certainly should have a future as an effective big league hurler. Tough to trust him as anything other than an NL-only league option. Villanueva is 1-7 as a starter this season with a 4.50 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 2.17 K/BB ratio. He didn't pitch poorly, but he also didn't stand out in any way.

Let's check in with Starlin Castro, shall we. The Cubs' shortstop continues his disappointing season. After hitting .300, .307 and .283 his first three seasons it's a shock to see him batting .247. His OBP has taken a similar tumble, it's at .282 which is below his career batting average, and his BB/K ratio has fallen all the way down to 0.19 as his walk rate is a career-low and his K-rate a career-high. He's also hit seven homers after swatting 14 last year, and his total of 32 RBIs is less than half the 72 he averaged the past two seasons. My goodness, he also has only eight thefts after going over 20 the past two years. He's as disappointing as any middle infielder in baseball who has been healthy all year.

The last 30 days Paul Goldschmidt is hitting a mere .235, a disappointing mark for the burgeoning superstar. Easy to cut him some slack though when we also note that he has eight homers in that time, the most in baseball. Toss in four steals, 16 RBIs and 17 runs scored... we all wish we could have a “slump” like that.

Should we talk more about J.J. Hardy? How many shortstops are better power threats than the Orioles pivot? He blasted 30 homers in 2011, 22 last season and he's up to 22 big flies this year. In 2011 he drove in 80 runs, he had 68 RBIs last season and he's at 66 pushed across the plate this season. The only shortstop with more homers since the start of the 2011 season is... wait, no one has more than his 74 big flies (Troy Tulowitzki is second with 58 homers). Hardy also leads all shortstops with 214 RBIs, 10 more than Asdrubal Cabrera.

To see how others are evaluating Gomes and every other player don’t forget to go to Fleaflicker.com where you can check out the owned percentages of all big leaguers.

X-rays were negative on the right ankle of Matt Holliday. That's the sound of a sigh of relief by his current owners. Holliday started off slowly this season, but he's started to heat up as we all expected he would. Matt has a hit in 10-straight games and he's batting .409 over his last 18 contests. You can only keep a good man down for so long. His hitting streak has pushed his average up to .293, hardly a surprising number given that he's hit .296 and .295 the past two years.

Some folks just love to hate. Never understood why that is, but they are everywhere.

Justin Morneau has hit seven homers with 15 RBIs the past 30 days. Of course he's offset that success by hitting .229 with a .277 OBP. Still, seven homers in 25 games is heartening after he hit seven in his first 86 contests this season.

Dioner Navarro has been an excellent hitter this season. Yes, I used “excellent” and Dioner Navarro in the same sentence. The backup backstop is batting .288 with 10 homers this season... in 163 at-bats. That's right, he's on a 30 homer pace over 500 at-bats. Wow is right. Moreover, in a totally unreported story, the Cubs have gotten big time production from their catchers this season. Add together the efforts of Navarro and Welington Castillo and here are the numbers you end up with: .279-14-43-55. To compare, A.J. Pierzynski is batting .278 with 13 homers, 47 RBIs and 34 runs scored.


By Ray Flowers


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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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