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This Week In Streaming Strategy

First, a word of regret.  In last week's column, I advised against playing Dan Uggla in the Braves' four-game series against the Reds due to the fact that Cincinnati was sending four right-handed starters to the mound during the series. I backed up this advice by saying, "The "sit Uggla" item is the official Mark's Public Apology choice of the week, as if Uggla has a big series in Cincinnati, I promise to rebuke my bad advice in next week's column."

Well, Uggla went 2-for-12 over those four games, with those two hits being a home run and a double. Uggla also added four walks during the series, adding up to a total line of .167/.375/.500.  Clearly, that was good enough for your fantasy lineup, so to Uggla owners everywhere, I apologize. In the words of the legendary Smooth Jimmy Apollo, when you're right 52% of the time, you're wrong 48% of the time. Let's see if I can make up for it with some better streaming recommendations for this coming week...

* Bronson Arroyo. The veteran bounced back from two subpar outings with a terrific start against the Braves last week, and we may be able to officially state that Arroyo is having a comeback year.  Arroyo has a 3.22 ERA (3.71 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, 3.68 SIERA) in nine starts and has a league-leading 1.2 BB/9.  Even if the right-hander regresses at some point, it almost surely won't be this week, as Arroyo is scheduled to face two of the league's worst offenses in the Pirates and Astros. Arroyo is owned in just 8% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, so he is the perfect candidate to fill that week-to-week streaming fifth starter's role in your fantasy rotation.

* Mike TroutRoto Authority's Mike Axisa sounded the warning bell on Trout earlier this week, noting that it was unrealistic to expect the rookie to keep putting up superstar-caliber numbers at age 20.  Sure enough, Trout has started to come back to earth, hitting just .091 in five games before stroking two hits on Saturday. I agree with Mike's overall point and, in fact, just dealt Trout in one of my fantasy leagues in what will hopefully end up as a sell-high maneuver for me. That said, this upcoming week looks pretty favorable for the right-handed-hitting outfielder. While the Halos are scheduled to face right-handed starters in four of six games this week, two of those righties are the strugglng Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.  (Trout's splits actually show that he performs better against RHP, but with only 250-odd Major League plate appearances, it's too soon to say that Trout is a reverse-splits guy.)  Keep Trout in your lineup through the Yankees series, but maybe sit him down when the Angels face Yu Darvish and Colby Lewis later in the week.

* Yonder Alonso. Don't be scared off by his unimpressive power numbers (one homer, 14 RBIs) since otherwise, Alonso has been the second coming of Tony Gwynn. Alonso entered Saturday's action with a .349/.438/.494 line in May, equally good both at and away from Petco Park and was even beating the splits and torching southpaws to the tune of a .917 OPS in 48 plate appearances.  Like Trout, there's bound to be some regression given that Alonso's BABIP sits at a whopping .370, but Alonso is showing all the signs of becoming a solid, money-in-the-bank contact hitter. The Padres face right-handed starters in four of their six games this week, and by this point, I have enough confidence in Alonso to start him against almost any left-handed starter too. I believe "showing confidence in a Padres hitter" is one of the top entries under the heading of Famous Last Words, but still, there's a lot to like about Alonso.

* Scott Diamond. [obvious sportswriting cliche] The young southpaw has been been a real Diamond in the rough of the Twins' 2012 season!  [/Obvious sportwriting cliche]  Diamond has been terrific in his four starts, posting a 1.78 ERA and a 5.67 K/BB ratio. He has a very high 61% ground ball rate, but other than that, Diamond has thrived on skill, not luck -- his FIP/xFIP/SIERA are a still-terrific 3.02/2.77/2.69, respectively, and his BABIP is an even .300. Diamond is scheduled for two starts this week, one against the light-hitting Athletics and the other against the Indians, who are susceptible to left-handers (a team OPS of .652 against southpaws, 23rd in baseball) since their everyday lineup is heavily comprised of left-handed bats. You can still mine some value from Diamond (groan) this week before he turns back into (easy setup) a lump of coal.

* Ricky Romero. The Blue Jays ace has been battlng control problems all season long, with a 5.1 BB/9 rate that is well above the career 3.5 BB/9 rate that he carried into the year.  Romero has had three shaky starts in a row and now faces two hot offenses in the Orioles and Red Sox this week, both of whom rank in the top five in team OPS against left-handed pitching this season. I would consider sitting Romero against Baltimore on Tuesday just to be safe and, even if he pitches well, I'd probably sit him against Boston on the weekend simply because the Sox are Romero's toughest opponent -- he has a career 6.45 ERA in 14 starts against the Red Sox, though he dominated them in a start back on April 11.

* Every Pirates batter besides Andrew McCutchen.  Those of you with weak stomachs may wish to skip this section. The Pirates are averaging a measly 2.83 runs per game this season, having scored a league-low 130 runs over their 46 games.  (The historically-bad 2010 Mariners lineup managed 3.17 runs per game.)  The Bucs are at or near the bottom of the league in virtually every major offensive category.  Aside from McCutchen and hot-hitting Josh Harrison, no Pirate has an OPS above .700. Several Pittsburgh batters who were thought to be decent fantasy options going into this season --- Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, Alex Presley --- have ranged from disappointments to outright failures. I can make four observations from this mess.  First, it's a testament to Pittsburgh's underrated pitching staff that this banjo-hitting team has a respectable 22-24 record. Secondly, McCutchen is suddenly a great bet to lead the league in internentional walks. Thirdly, if you have any non-McCutchen Pirate in your fantasy lineup, park him on the bench or drop him outright. Fourthly, it's going to be awfully embarrassing come football season when the Steelers' Troy Polamalu gets more hits than half the Pirates' lineup.


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