A: Betts moved through the Minor Leagues at warp speed, and it is unlikely that the Red Sox called up this 21-year-old with the intention of making him a bench player. There is little doubt that Betts is an elite talent. Although he stands just 5-foot-9, he has shown a bit of power in the Minors, with 23 homers since the start of the 2013 season. But stolen-base prowess is the real reason fantasy owners want to own Betts. The speedster swiped 29 bags in 77 games before getting the call. Betts posted an on-base percentage over .400 in each of his past two Minor League seasons, so he could have a significant regression due to an adjustment to Major League pitching and still be proficient at getting on base in comparison to the average Major Leaguer. The chances are high that Betts will be an everyday player right away.
Shane Victorino cannot seem to get healthy, and Jackie Bradley Jr. has posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage this season, which casts doubt on his long-term future. Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Brock Holt are all respectable Major Leaguers, but none has the kind of talent that can hold back a prospect such as Betts. The Red Sox have yet to find a long-term replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot, and Betts could fill that role by August if he gets off to a good start. Fantasy owners should expect 15-20 steals, a few homers and a .280 batting average from the Nashville, Tenn., native in the second half.
Q: Is Dustin Pedroia gonna wake up?
A: Pedroia has been a huge disappointment for fantasy owners, and there is reason to believe that his struggles will persist to some degree for the rest of the season. The second baseman could be feeling the physical effects of a heavy career workload that includes multiple October runs and many seasons with more than 700 plate appearances. Pedroia is known as a player who sacrifices his body for the good of the team, but he seems to be wearing down from that burden. The seeds of his 2014 struggles can be found in his 2012-13 work. The 30-year-old was in a two-year decline in homers and steals before this season began, and his 2013 numbers were mostly propped up by having a key spot in a staunch Red Sox lineup.
Now that Pedroia's supporting cast is weaker, his weaknesses are more obvious for all fantasy owners to see. He lacks notable power, and it is hard to see him getting the green light from manager John Farrell when he has been caught stealing in five out of seven stolen-base attempts. Pedroia can help fantasy owners with batting average, but if he becomes a 10-homer, 10-steal player, he will no longer be a difference maker in mixed formats. The smart move for Pedroia owners would be to explore the trade market and find out if a competitor is willing to overlook his slow start on the basis of his career track record.
Q: Am I overreacting downgrading Drew Smyly? He lost me several H2H matchups, but I kept rolling him out there.
A: If you are willing to let go of Smyly, there will likely be someone else in your league who is more than willing to pick him up. Yes, his rough Sunday outing in Houston was frustrating. But prior to that start, Smyly had allowed a total of four earned runs across 25 innings in his previous four starts. The lefty had given up just five walks and two homers in that four-start stretch, so his low ratios were well-earned.
It is true that Smyly has been inconsistent this season, and that is frustrating for mixed-league owners who have other options. But the recommendation here is that he should be retained, at least until the All-Star break. He is scheduled to make two more starts prior to the Midsummer Classic; the outings should come at home against the Rays and at pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium against the Royals. Both Tampa Bay and Kansas City rank in the bottom half of the American League in runs scored. If Smyly doesn't succeed in those appearances, he can be safely sent to waivers in mixed formats. But the Tigers have been careful to pace his innings this season in hopes of having him for a strong second-half run. Patient fantasy owners could reap the same benefits.
Q: Would you drop Eric Hosmer to pick up Kole Calhoun in a 12-team H2H league? Thanks.
A: Even though Hosmer entered the season with much more value than Calhoun in the eyes of fantasy owners, this is a switch that needs to be made. The Royals' first baseman can be a solid blend of power and speed when everything is going right, but he posted a .275 on-base percentage in May, and it plummeted to .240 in June. Fantasy owners do not need to completely dismiss the possibility that Hosmer could be a useful second-half contributor, but it does not look like the turnaround is coming soon. And in a 12-team league, there will always be other options on waivers.
Calhoun is a smart addition, as he has hit .346 in June, with four homers, 13 RBIs and 20 runs scored. He has become a sparkplug at the top of the Angels' talented lineup, and he should score plenty of runs as long as he hits in front of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Even if Hosmer turns his season around, he may not be any better than Calhoun in the second half.