Oh, so now you start listening to me about Ben Paulsen! I’d be more sarcastic, but will let everyone slide due in part to the cortisone shot in my left shoulder, which tends to make me view the world in a brighter, more optimistic manner (at least for 18-24 hours).
Still….this sudden spurt of appreciation for Paulsen is a bit baffling since he’s been the Rockies’ 1B since Justin Morneau’s latest (and perhaps last?) bout with concussion-like symptoms led him to the disabled list in mid-May. At the time of his arrival from Triple-A, this what I had to say about Paulsen:
Paulsen was batting just .256 in Triple-A, yet 13 of his 32 hits were of the extra base variety. The lefty-hitting Paulsen should see considerable action versus righties, so if he establishes himself early, those who picked him in NL-only leagues will look all the better for it.
He (sort of) established himself early, yet Paulsen found himself in the middle of a timeshare at first with the now-can-be-seen-in-Colorado Springs Wilin Rosario, which stunted his value in mixed leagues. When the Rockies sent Rosario to the minors a couple of weeks ago, it served as a seal of approval for Paulsen’s job security, which also inspired a stretch of play from him that now has nearly 20 percent of you on my train of thought regarding him.
A .429 start to August has been the gravy on the chicken fried steak for Paulsen’s second half run, one that has seen his slash line sizzle to the tune of .333/.368/.571 with a .939 OPS. He entered Thursday’s play with a .300 batting average, eight homers, 34 ribbies and a .865 OPS. Still under the radar of sorts, Paulsen’s ownership, which was at 6.4 percent last week, has nearly tripled, as he is currently in the possession of owners in 19.7 percent of polled leagues.
Paulsen’s potential had always been there in the minors, yet with Todd Helton and Morneau katy-barring the door to opportunity, his role had been nothing more than the occasional cup of coffee. Those of us in the know about his upside silently hoped some AL team would listen to our deepest, darkest desires and trade for him, a move that I promise would have led to a FAAB frenzy. His walk rates steadily improved to the 11.7 percent rate he accumulated at C-Springs before being called up. His .212 isolated power with the Rockies is also on par with the climb it has made over the past 2.5 seasons..
While it may have been a stiff kick in the knickers for Rosario owners, who held out hope he would have been traded last week, the signs are clear; Paulsen is going to be the Rockies’ first sacker for the immediate future. Like most Rockies players, his numbers are markedly different outside of Coors Field (.264/.302/.418 slash line on the road this season), he should finish the season with a .286-14-57 line (again, Out of the Park Baseball is a great, great simulation for Fantasy players. It’s worth the time you’ll eventually lose getting caught up in it) with the promise of bigger totals next season.
With the Rockies clearly heading toward another rebuild this winter, Paulsen will likely be the second-most valuable Fantasy player on the roster, provided Corey Dickerson can stay in the lineup for more than a week. He’s the type of player that goes ignored for much of the season but becomes very productive after the trade deadline. Now is the time to begin paying attention to Paulsen. Even with facial hair that evokes images of him co-starring with Dirk Diggler and Chest Rockwell in a bid to woo Roller Girl, Paulsen can provide some Boogie Nights for your Fantasy squad.
There are other Paulsen-like players available in this post-deadline world of ours, as last week’s revolving door opens the key to opportunity for those who were once denied more playing time. Let’s ponder some while we celebrate the stylings of a song that defined my freshman year at a new high school, which was already in the midst of the Summer of South 30 years ago.
Welington Castillo, C, Diamondbacks: The phrase “Welington Castillo is Fantasy-viable” is a sentence I didn’t imagine writing back in March, yet life tends to lead us down paths we never expected (trust me on that one). After a brief visit to the Mariners via a trade with the Cubs, Castillo has batted .299 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs since June 1, yet is owned by just 15.5 percent of polled leagues. Kids, always remember that all catchers don’t travel down the Joe Mauer/Mike Piazza road to instant Fantasy success. Castillo has always been regarded as a solid defensive player, yet it appears now that the bat is finally catching up. The key to his success has been an improved walk rate (8.0 percent) along with an isolated power (.250) that mirrors the numbers he showed in the minors. Castillo feels like he’s been in the league since Ron Karkovice was in his prime, but he’s only 28. Career year? Not this season, but this will be the precursor to bigger things down the road.
Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies: Consider Brown a once-promising stock that became worth pennies as you cursed Jim Cramer. Guess what? That penny stock is showing signs of growth, as Brown finally hit his first two homers of the season last week to help raise his batting average to .246. He’s owned in five percent of polled leagues, and at age 27 it’s difficult to believe that Brown’s .272-27-83 from 2013 was a mere fluke. There’s some upside lying dormant and it’s capable of busting out during the last two months, which could either usher him into better graces within the eventual regime change in Philly or perhaps a fresh start elsewhere.
Michael Bourn, OF, Indians: This week’s contestant on Wheel O’ Cheap Steals is this former speed merchant who has three multi-hit games in his last ten starts along with six steals, raising his total to 13. Owned in five percent of polled leagues, Bourn should be able to reach the 20 SB plateau, which would mark the eighth time he’s eclipsed the mark in the last nine years. Steals are hard to get this time of year, and while you won’t get things like homers or RBIs, Bourn can provide a rush of speed if your roster needs it.
Daniel Norris, P, Tigers: Detroit’s shiny new toy looked impressive in his Motor City debut on Monday, limiting the Orioles to just four hits and one earned run over 7.1 innings and getting the win. The featured piece from the Blue Jays in the trade for David Price also saw his ownership in polled leagues rise to 20 percent this week, a number that will climb as the season progresses. Norris has only solidified his status in keeper/dynasty leagues, especially if he can dial down his control issues. One caveat: his drop from last year’s 13 K/9 to the 7.74 he had in Triple-A this year is a bit of concern in that his value takes a bit of a hit if that number falls closer to the five hitters Norris struck out on Monday.
Jon Gray, P, Rockies: His debut was less than stellar (4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) versus the Mariners on Monday, but the hope is that Gray can finally become the hurler who spits in the face of Coors Field. At least nine percent of you in polled leagues also believe that, as his ownership took a sudden hike once news of his arrival hit the streets. Gray will make his next start this Monday at Citi Field, which represents an obvious polar opposite of Coors. He averaged 8.7 K/9 in Triple-A, and while he’ll take his share of bumps, my hunch is that if Gray keeps that whiff rate up, there’s value in making that play for him.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Rays: Only the recent weather in the Pacific Northwest was more surprising than the bat of Cabrera, who batted .480 over the last week as part of a ten-game run that also saw five multi-hit games and 11 runs scored. Cabrera got his bell rung when he was hit in the face by a ball on Wednesday; if he comes back quickly, expect his ownership to rise above the 13 percent that currently possess him. With seven homers thus far, it looks like Cabrera will hit the double-digit mark in dingers for a fifth straight season, a facet few middle infielders on the wire can claim.