Carlos Guillen, Tigers (Owned in 10% of Yahoo leagues)
Guillen endured an injury-plagued 2009 season, missing a huge chunk of time from early May to late July with a left shoulder ailment. His line — .242/.339/.419 in 322 PA, with a .328 wOBA — combined with increasing fragility and a gradual slide down the defensive spectrum led many owners to write off the switch-hitter as over the hill.
Apparently, someone forgot to tell Guillen that he’s toast. That ’09 triple-slash was misleading, as his strong secondary skills (12.1 BB%, .177 Isolated Power) were obscured by a .263 BABIP. Guillen’s expected BABIP was .322. Injury has slowed Guillen again this season (a left hamstring strain that DL’d him from late April to late May), but his BABIP has bounced back to .309, and he’s batting .283/.337/.461 in 166 PA.
The former Astros prospect and Mariner has been unusually aggressive at the dish, hacking at 34.3% of pitches thrown out of the strike zone (28.4% MLB average). That explains why he’s walking 7.8% of the time. But Guillen’s hitting with the same power as in ’09 (.178 ISO), and he has become a much more intriguing fantasy option with a move back up the defensive ladder — he’s manning the keystone spot for the Tigers. As a 34-year-old with a history of knee, hamstring, back and shoulder maladies, Guillen’s no sure thing. But a guy with a .278/.353/.459 rest-of-season ZiPS and position eligibility in the outfield and at second base is worth a roster spot.
Dallas Braden, Athletics (41%)
A 24th-round pick out of Texas Tech in the ’04 draft, Braden has achieved some level of fame by telling Alex Rodriguez to get off his mound and then twirling a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 9th. He remains on the wire in most fantasy leagues, though, despite showing considerable improvement.
In 2009, Braden posted a 3.89 ERA in 136.2 innings before a nerve injury in his left foot ended his season in late July. His peripherals suggested he pitched more like a high-four’s ERA starter, however — with 5.33 K/9, 2.77 BB/9 and a very low ground ball rate (36.4 GB%), Braden had a 4.80 xFIP. While fewer fly balls become dingers at the Coliseum than most other parks (a HR/FB park factor of 92 from 2006-2009), Braden’s 4.7 HR/FB% looked primed to climb.
It has — Dallas is allowing homers on nine percent of fly balls hit against him. Yet his ERA is actually slightly lower, at 3.83. Unlike in 2009, Braden has done more to earn that mark. Tossing 94 frames so far, the 26-year-old lefty has struck out 5.55 batters per nine innings, walked just 1.53 per nine and has increased his ground ball rate to 42.4%. The result of Braden’s improved control and more neutral GB rate is a 4.06 xFIP. He’s never going to miss bats in the majors at anywhere near the insane clip that he did on the farm, but he’s more than an A-Rod agitator who had his 15 minutes of fame in May — Braden’s an above-average starter.