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Risers and Fallers: Andrelton Simmons, Neil Walker and Others

Alex Kantecki identifies a pair of risers and fallers for Week 17, and includes his thoughts on Andrelton Simmons and Neil Walker.

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Andrelton Simmons

A quick glance at Simmons' 2013 slash line -- .249/.287/.373 -- isn't going to make you run to the waiver wire, but the Atlanta shortstop has been a much better player in July, hitting .277/.327/.574 with 13 runs and 17 RBIs. Much like the Cubs' Starlin Castro, Simmons doesn't get on base without hitting his way on, but he's been a surprising source of power at the plate thus far. With five long balls in July, Simmons is up to 11 home runs on the year, which is tied for the fourth most at the shortstop position with Hanley Ramirez. With two days to go in the month, Simmons has collected 10 multi-hit games, while striking out a whopping total of two times in July. He's back to hitting more line drives (23.5% in July; 9.3% in June), and his ground ball rate has dropped nearly 10 percentage points from the previous month. After hitting at the top of the lineup, Fredi Gonzalez smarted up and moved Simmons and his low on-base percentage to the eighth spot, where he's responded with a .271 batting average to go along with three home runs, five runs and 11 RBIs in 13 games. Still available in 56% of Yahoo! leagues, Simmons should be the first shortstop scooped up when and if the shortstops connected to Biogenesis (Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera) experience the grumpy grapes of Bud Selig's wrath.

Neil Walker

Lost in the success of the National League juggernaut Pirates is Neil Walker, who has missed a significant portion of the year with an oblique injury. While he received a routine day off on his third day back, Walker has come back with a hot stick, collecting six hits in seven games, while adding seven runs and four RBIs in the process. Remember, just last year, Walker hit a career-best 14 home runs with 62 runs, 69 RBIs and seven steals despite missing 33 games. A career .275 hitter, Walker should start seeing his batting average climb significantly from his current .245/.349/.385 line. He's hitting plenty of line drives (25.2%), while his ground balls are down and fly balls are up from 2012. Hitting behind Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin, Walker should see plenty of RBI chances down the stretch, and I also see him moving up the Pittsburgh lineup in time. He's still available in 63% of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, and I'd rather roster Walker than Arizona's Aaron Hill and Atlanta's Dan Uggla in the final two months. If he stays healthy, he can provide a big boost to your middle infield.


Daniel Nava

After it was looking like he was on his way to being 2013's waiver wire gem, Nava has taken significant steps back in recent weeks. (And his 2013 season might now be remembered by this play at the plate from Monday night's division tilt with the Rays.) While he still sports a solid .284/.371/.423 line, Nava hasn't hit a home run in over a month (22 games), and he's added just eight runs and three RBIs in 17 July games. Fairly or unfairly, I never viewed Nava as a full-time player before the season, and maybe -- again, fairly or unfairly -- his drop-off in production is a sign that he's better suited for a part-time role. Over the past month, Nava's lost playing time to less-than-thrilling options in Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp, as Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino (when healthy) are locked into center and right field, respectively. It really is a shame, because I think Nava could still contribute healthy fantasy stats if the playing time was consistent (which would entirely debunk my original analysis of Nava). But now, if you own Nava, you're waiting everyday to see if he's penciled into the Red Sox lineup (FYI, he's been out of the starting nine in four of Boston's last nine contests). Nava was a first-half fantasy All-Star; now, you're most likely digging through a list of free agents looking for the guy to pull a Nava in the second half.

Leonys Martin

Arguably the American League Rookie of the Year in the first half, Martin has experienced a turn of misfortune in July, hitting .236/.282/.292 with no home runs and four steals after contributing three home runs and nine steals in June. The home runs have predictably disappeared (he has a 26.2% fly ball rate), meaning Martin's speed becomes an even bigger factor in determining his value the rest of the way. The good news is the Rangers recently promoted Martin to the leadoff spot as the team's offense is in a funk, meaning his steal attempts should theoretically get a boost. The bad news is Martin was caught three times in seven chances in July, which was one more time than the first three months combined. On top of that, Martin's strikeout rate has climbed significantly in the past two months (25.3% in July; 16.9% in May), and his walk rate has remained consistently low (right around 6%). Again, in theory, Martin's runs could see a boost in the leadoff spot, but I don't expect his batting average to be a plus the rest of the way -- he has two full months with a batting average in the .230's. Temper your expectations.

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Alex Kantecki is a fantasy baseball writer for Fake Teams. He also writes the "Closer Chronicle" for Vigilante Baseball every Thursday, ranking and tiering all 30 MLB closers. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @rotodealer.