Are You For Real? Cameron, Marshall, Cust

Updated: July 2, 2007, 5:46 PM ET
By Will Harris and Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

One of the best ways to keep tabs on streaking players is by sifting through 30-day sortable stats. While the rosters for the All-Star Game were announced Sunday, we thought it would be more interesting if we covered that next week and used this week to take a look at a trio of players performing on an All-Star level recently.

While they may not be All-Stars in the truest sense of the word, your fantasy team knows only statistics, not names. This week, Are You For Real analyzes whether these performances are part of a bigger trend or are simply a short-term hot streak.

Mike Cameron, OF, SD

After hitting below the Mendoza Line in April, Cameron has hit .302 since and has a .984 OPS and six home runs in his last 30 days. Can Cameron continue to play this well and approach last season's 22 home runs and 25 stolen bases?

Adam: Unreal. Although Cameron has quietly been on fire with the bat the past two months, the more disconcerting trends are his lack of stolen base attempts and lack of success. Cameron's attempt rate hasn't drastically changed; he has been on first base 74 times this season and has attempted to steal 12 bases, which amounts to a 19 percent attempt rate (note: This is a quick-and-dirty method that doesn't include things like fielder's choices and attempts to steal third). Last season he was on first base 154 times and attempted to steal 34 bases, which results in a 22 percent rate. He is attempting a similar number of steals when he can, but his lower walk rate is the reason he isn't getting on base enough to match last season. He is on pace for about a quarter fewer walks than he netted last season; unless his walk rate dramatically improves, he will have to make up the value in terms of power, which will be difficult to do playing half of his games in a severe pitchers' park.

Will: For Real. Mike Cameron is indeed a consistent 20/20 threat, and I expect him to reach those numbers this year. Cameron has always been a streaky hitter, and it looks like 2007 is offering up more of the same. At the end of the year, however, expect him to be right around that 20/20 mark while keeping his average above .260. Cameron's skills have been stable for years now, but he did show an improved batting eye and a rising fly-ball rate last year, both good omens going forward.

Sean Marshall, SP, CHC

Marshall had a rough rookie season, ending up with a bloated 5.59 ERA in 24 starts, but since being called up in late May this season, he has a 2.44 ERA in seven starts. Has the 24-year-old officially turned the corner?

Adam: For Real. Marshall has a successful minor league track record -- a career 2.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 274 minor league innings -- so a certain amount of success is not too surprising. While Marshall assuredly can't keep this pace up, his current peripherals, for the most part, are solid and not significantly out of line with his history. But what really makes me believe Marshall is a smart bet to be successful is the Cubs' soft schedule and the excellent defense he has behind him. The Cubs rank third in defensive efficiency, which gives Marshall significantly more margin for error, and as a left-hander on a solid team facing a rather soft schedule, Marshall should do enough to serve as a solid No. 3 starter.

Will: Unreal. Marshall does indeed have solid minor league numbers, but he's been much worse in the high minors than in Class A. His track record indicates that he is unlikely to maintain his excellent strikeout rate. Marshall has also been the beneficiary of a low hit percentage and a high strand rate. When those factors normalize, his ERA will rise. He's shown enough improvement in his command to make it possible that there are some real skill gains here, but it's too early to call him a No. 3 starter.

Jack Cust, DH, OAK

After being called up from the minor leagues to replace Mike Piazza, Cust caught fire, hitting eight home runs in his first two weeks. After a brief slump, he is now hitting .347 in his last 30 days. Is Cust for real, or is there a reason why he is owned in just 2 percent of ESPN leagues?

Adam: For Real. Most 28-year-old career minor leaguers would assuredly be called a fluke, but Cust has hit at every minor league level and has superb patience. With his defense no longer in question -- Cust has the Athletics' designated hitter job for the foreseeable future -- the only thing left to question is his ability to sustain production in the majors. While his batting average and power should suffer a bit in the upcoming weeks, nothing Cust has done so far screams fluke. And since he's always been a good hitter, there's no logical reason to doubt his ability to be a productive major leaguer. The A's believe in him -- Cust now hits cleanup -- so he should be here to stay.

Will: For Real. Jack Cust has always been able to do this, and what you see is what you get: tons of power, a low contact rate, an excellent batting eye and poor defense. Fielding is no longer a factor, and while he will continue to strike out excessively, Cust shouldn't have trouble maintaining his power and on-base percentage. Cust is a streaky hitter, and his poor contact ability can lead to long slumps. He's unlikely to maintain a batting average higher than .280. However, he's got legitimate 30-homer power, and there's no reason he won't be valuable enough to keep getting full-time at-bats. I agree with Adam: Jack Cust is here to stay.

Will Harris and Adam Madison are fantasy baseball analysts for TalentedMrRoto.com. Will can be contacted at WillHarris@TalentedMrRoto.com and Adam at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com

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