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Is Stephen Strasburg really that good? What is the long term outlook for Michael Brantley? Is Norichika Aoki worth a look the rest of the way? Is Chris Carter, about the best power hitter going right now, doing something different that leads me to believe a light has gone on for him? These and other questions answered in the Mailbag.

– Curious who do you like more next year in a 6x6 roto Michael Brantley or Justin Upton?

Can I let you know next year? We've still got six weeks left this season, so why don't we let this thing play out before rendering our decision? Why the hurry? I guess if you are making a trade you need to know right now.

Brantley has long been one of my favorites, and I always thought a breakout effort was possible. I didn't think it would be to this level though. Brantley has 17 homers. He hit 16 the past two years. Thank a 14.9 percent HR/F ratio for that. Considering that mark is more than double his 6.8 percent career mark it would be wise to set expectations in the 15 range for next season. He's stolen 13 bases. He's averaged 14 steals the past three years. He's driven in 76 runs, already a career best. His career mark of .321 with men in scoring position is impressive, and that number is up at .346 this year. That's a huge number though. Brantley already has a career best 77 runs scored. Thanks goes to his .384 OBP that is .044 points clear of his career rate despite seeing his walk rate increase by less than a percentage point. Fact is that his OBP is up because his batting average is .040 points above his normal at .324. His BABIP is .325 compared to .308 for his career. His GB/FB ratio is 1.61 compared to his career 1.60 mark. So why the increase in average? His line drive rate, an impressive 23 percent for his career, is in the stratosphere at 26.6 percent. It's just not a sustainable rate for anyone. 

Brantley is way more likely to hit 15 homers than 25 next year.
Brantley's steal pace is pretty normal.
Brantley's OBP is artificially inflated because of an artificially inflated batting average. The result has been a big increase in his runs scored rate. 

What I'm saying with Brantley is that this is likely the best he can do. It's also not likely to be a level that he will be able to duplicate completely in 2015. I will side with Justin Upton who, by the way, is on pace to hit .280 with 28 homers, 90 RBIs and 10 steals. 

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Norichika Aoki, Charlie Blackmon or Angel Pagan ROS? Need Runs & AVG. Thank you! 

Aoki has been a huge disappointment this season. He's hitting a blahtastic .269-1-29 to go along with 13 steals. He is hitting .303 since the break and .343 in August. Over his last 22 games he's finally getting on base with a .384 OBP leading to 13 runs scored in 22 games. but there's really not much to see here in terms over overall production. Still, your stated goal has nothing to do with power so he's a reasonable option to consider. He averaged 81 runs his first two seasons with the Brewers. His current pace for the Royals, over 150 games played, would equate to 79 runs scored.

Blackmon has predictably fallen off a cliff after an unbelievable start. Still, a .282 season with 14 homers and 20 steal... given that he wasn't drafted in the majority of mixed leagues, is an excellent season. However a lack of walks, just 24, has led to a league average .328 OBP, and that has caused his runs scored mark to lag a bit (57 in 114 games). Blackmon also has two other issues. (1) He's batting .189 over his last 21 games. (2) He's hit .227 with a .571 OPS on the road this season. Yikes.

Pagan is finally healthy, and in the five games he's played since he's returned to action he's picked up a hit in each outing. He's also not scored and struck out in every game, so it's not all rosy with him. At the same time he's hit .2941 with a .341 OBP in 293 games as a Giants, and over his last 139 games he's stolen 21 bases with 81 runs scored. Can you trust him to stay healthy? I'm not sure the asnwer to that question is yes.

I'd like to say Pagan, but with his inability to stay healthy, I'll pass. I'd like to say Blackmon but know if you go that way he can only start when at home. Might leave Aoki as the safest option if you just want to set your lineup and let it go.

– Is Chris Carter doing something different (and sustainable), or is this just an amazing hot streak to enjoy while it lasts? 

Carter has 28 homers on the season and he's hit 15 since the start of July, the most in baseball. He's also hit .315 with a .371 OBP and .732 SLG in that unbelievably hot stretch. He's also struck out 38 times in the 33 games. If you have him on your roster hope the run continues through the end of the year. However, I don't think this changes his long-term outlook whatsoever. Carter is a flawed hitter who never walks and strikeouts out about as often as I daydream of Playmates (which is a lot). With his approach here is what will happen (as I say all the time). When locked in he will crush the ball. When “off” he will be dominated by pitchers. Carter has elite power though, and 30+ homers each year are well within reach. At the same time, face it, he really cannot hit. Even with his amazing work the last month an a half he's batting .230. He still has only 34 walks and 125 strikeouts in just 104 games on the year as well. Both numbers are horrible. Because he never walks his OBP is .303. Do you know that he's a career .223 hitter with a .312 OBP? Basically, if you pull back from 40 days and look at the entire season he's exactly what he has been and what he will be – a flawed power hitter.

– Which side? Cole Hamels $15 and Dee Gordon $6 for Stephen Strasburg $27 and Josh Donaldson $11? 

You want the Hamels/Gordon side. Here's why.

Stephen Strasburg costs more than Hamels/Gordon... by 22 percent. I know that Donaldson is a fantastic value at $11, but he too is way more expensive than the hitter on the other side at nearly double the cost of Gordon. 

Just compare the two hurlers this season to see what I'm talking about. There are two wins separating the duo. Strasburg has a 3.68 ERA while Hamels is at 2.37. Strasburg has a 1.23 WHIP while Hamels is at 1.11. Hamels is simply a better pitcher right now, even if Strasburg has 42 more punchouts.

There's also the little issue of the fact that Strasburg still has never thrown 185 innings in a season. He should easily get there this season, he's at 156.1 innings, but he's still not been there. Might also want to consider that if we talk about Strasburg since the start of the 2012 season he's only 31-25 with a 3.27 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. In the same time frame Cole Hamels is 31-26 with a 3.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. I'm not paying double to add Strasburg over Hamels. Oh, and Gordon leads baseball in steals (51) while playing in the middle of the infield diamond. 

 – You need a 4th OF. You have Anthony Rendon at 3rd. You're offered Kole Calhoun for David Wright. Do you do the deal? You're also in 1st. 

Wright is batting .274 with eight homers, 56 RBIs, 45 runs scored and six steals. This is going to be his worst season of 120 games played, ever. He's also fallen even further the last 25 games batting .232 with no homers, eight RBIs and four runs scored. I believe in the track record and the talent, but given that it's been MIA nearly all year, and that things are still trending in the wrong direction, I'm not opposed to making the move you suggested. Never thought I would have written that.


You can follow Ray Flowers and send him your thoughts on Twitter @BaseballGuys. For up to the minute baseball reports on trades, injuries, lineups etc. see @FantasyAlarm.

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