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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: SCOTT KAZMIR SELLING HIGH WINDOW CLOSED AMID TIGHTNESS IN SHOULDER

When it came to the fantasy baseball prospects for Oakland A's SP Scott Kazmir, the story remained the same from his tremendous 2014 comeback campaign.  While I had all the respect in the world for the way Kazmir came back from the brink as far as his fledgling career was concerned, the problem with owning the guy is that his very short and slight frame would wear done much more quickly than other guys in his pitching range.  We saw this from Kazmir last season when he lit up baseball the first half of the season in putting himself into early Cy Young consideration, showcasing a fastball that once again touched the upper 90's after vanishing for a few years under a hail of injuries that turned him into a baseball nomad.  Eventually though the innings piled up and Kazmir fell hard the second half of the season due to fatigue as his ERA and WHIP soared and the K Rate dropped sharply.  It was with this backdrop that I advised a very firm plan for investing in Kazmir for 2015.  While I did expect a big April and May like usual, the idea was to sell high by Memorial Day before the fatigue or injuries set in.  Well Kazmir did not make it out of May as he came down with tightness in his pitching shoulder in today's start and will now head for some testing.  Even before the shoulder issue, Kazmir was already starting to see his numbers go in the wrong direction.  He posted a supreme 0.99 ERA in April which jived with his early performance last season but than May saw Kazmir shoot way up toward a horrid 5.14 ERA.  Now the shoulder is injured and we have big trouble.  Guys with the slight build of Kazmir are always trouble and he accelerated the issue this season.  Keep this in mind when it comes to investing in him or other short starters in the future.  For now if you are a Kazmir owner, you can forget about trading him.  Bide your time and hope for a quick return so that trade value can build up again. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE FALLOUT: ALEX GUERRERO FINALLY GETTING HIS WELL-DESERVED SHOT

For the first two months of the 2015 fantasy baseball season, we have seen one of the more hair-pulling storylines taking place out West in Dodgers-Land under the maniacal management style of Don Mattingly.  Doing his best Dusty Baker impersonation in terms of leaning way too heavily on aging veterans at the expense of upstart youngsters, Mattingly quickly drew the ire of fantasy baseball owners of Cuban power-hitting infielder Alex Guerrero who began slamming home runs almost every time he got a chance to play.  Which unfortunately was not that often as Mattingly stubbornly stuck by fading veteran Juan Uribe.  As a result Guerrero became a part-time player who was tough to own since you were never guaranteed he would be playing on any particular day.  Eventually though, Mattingly couldn't ignore reality much longer as Guerrero hit two more home runs over the last week which helped put into motion the just-completed trade between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves where the latter received Uribe in a six-player deal.  The trade itself is nothing major as Alberto Callaspo is the only other notable name (if you count Eric Stults as an impact player, than you need to pay attention more) but he will be just a backup in L.A. 

The bottom line now here is that Guerrero should play everyday at third base and thus be able to build on his already tremendous start.  On the season now Guerrero has hit 8 home runs to go with a nice .310 batting average in only 83 at-bats.  This kid is a clear difference-making hitter if he continues to play everyday and really the only issue remaining is for Mattingly to stop taking him out of games early which he has routinely done this season.  Otherwise Guerrero could hit 25 home runs and collect 80 RBI with a useful average which is tremendous at a shallow spot like third base.  A good day for Guerrero owners and one that was clearly something that should have been done back in April when this story began to take shape. 

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: TUESDAY

David Price:  7 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 2.97.  Price has been beyond dominant his last two times out and he remains the longtime fantasy baseball ace he always has been.  The strikeouts are fluctuating more than ever from start-to-start but that is just a minor quibble.

Jesse Chavez:  8 IP 5 H 0 ER 2 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.44.  Chavez should have been picked up weeks ago as he was pitching like this is the rotation the first half of last season as well.  Fatigue will become a factor during the summer just like last season as well since Chavez spent a lot of time in the bullpen a year ago but overall this is a guy who doesn't give up a lot of hits and can strike out enough guys to be useful in all formats.

Matt Kemp:  2/5 while hitting .255.  Still stuck on one home run as Kemp has been the one import hitter for the Padres who can't solve Petco Park.  He made our Bust list this season if you remember. 

Matt Shoemaker:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K with an ERA of 5.44.  The WHIP is a very good and Shoemaker has struck out 48 batters in 51.1 innings which checks out nicely as well.  An insane 13 home runs is all you need to know here though as Shoemaker is the new Marco Estrada in that we chase the good stuff and K rate but the home runs take most of the shine away.  I would not buy low.

Joc Pedeson:  2/4 while hitting .257.  If you had benched Pederson when he went cold the last couple of weeks, get him back in as he is well over .300 the last six games.

Adrian Gonzalez:  1/3 with his 10th HR while hitting .344.  Boy did that home run rate slow up.  Gonzalez (post-San Diego) was a bit in outlier home run rate territory in April before he has settled back to his old form in May.  Still you can't argue with .344 in the average department and 35 RBI.  Remains a locked in top 5-7 fantasy baseball first baseman.

Julio Teheran:  8 ER in 4.1 IP with an ERA of 4.91.  One step forward and one GIANT step back.  WHIP is now up to 1.56 as Teheran is a complete disaster you need to bench or cut outright.  Something could be wrong with his arm or fatigue could be a factor since Teheran has thrown a lot of innings at a young age.  Either way it is not working.  I would buy low more on Shoemaker than this guy.

Clayton Kershaw:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 0 BB 10 K with an ERA of 3.86.  Nice to finally show up to the 2015 fantasy baseball season Mr. Kershaw. 

Mike Pelfrey:  7 IP 5 H 1 ER 1 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.77.  No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!

Hunter Pence:  1/5 with his second HR while hitting .326.  This is the beauty of Hunter Pence.  He always shows up and does his job, despite us always seeming to want more. 

Brandon Belt:  1/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .301.  We are now two weeks into this stretch for Belt.  Four months to go and even more importantly, four healthy months to go.

Aramis Ramirez:  2/2 with his sixth HR while hitting .236.  Amazing how we all have certain guys we always come back to.  With yours truly still waiting for David Wright to come back (and waiting and waiting), Ramirez looks like an attractive option. 

Madison Bumgarner:  6 IP 4 H 3 ER 2 BB 3 K with an ERA of 3.00.  I am always holding my breath this season with Bumgarner off his 270 innings 2014 but he might be that freak who can withstand it.  But only to a point as Justin Verlander or C.C. Sabbathia can tell you.

Denard Span:  2/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .322.  Usually Span is a 5-8 home run guy but he already smacked his fifth with four months to go.  2014 might have been just an appetizer.

Bryce Harper:  1/4 with his 17th HR while hitting .331.  I am actually not so much impressed with the power out of Harper but instead more glowing about the batting average.  Yup it all came together.  Like we knew it would.

Kris Bryant:  1/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .281.  Starting to wonder who I will have more envy of not owning going forward:  Bryant or Mike Trout?

Dexter Fowler:  1/4 with his 6th HR while hitting .251.  We all could have owned Fowler as he was sitting on the wire in almost all leagues in April.  That guy in first place got him.  Damn.

Hector Rondon:  scoreless ninth for the win with an ERA of 3.43.  Two scoreless innings since his last blown save.  Back off the hot seat for now.

Mark Teixeira:  2/4 with his 14th HR while hitting .243.  With 35 RBI and all the home runs, Tex is maintaining his solid comeback 2015 where he is one of the better UTIL or CI guys. 

Adam Warren:  6.1 IP 2 H 1 ER 0 BB 5 K with an ERA of 3.91.  It looks like Warren has figured out this whole starting pitching thing but Masahiro Tanaka's return likely will put him back in the bullpen where he belongs from a baseball standpoint. 

Nick Hundley:  1/3 with his 5th HR while hitting .317.  Since Walt Weiss absolutely abhors Wilin Rosario, Nick Hundley looks mighty attractive all of a sudden at catcher.  Moving from Petco Park to Coors Field, a hitter can't make a better park jump.

Michael Lorenzen:  7 IP 2 H 1 ER 3 BB 3 K with an ERA of 3.12.  Moved back to rotation from bullpen for the former 100th round draft pick.  Mediocre K rate and lack of any track record makes this very dicey.  Pitching is so deep that you shouldn't take chances on a guy like this.

Prince Fielder:  3/5 with his 10th HR while hitting .371.  I guess Fielder is eating meat again.  Prior to 2014, myself and everyone else went nuts in saying Fielder would be back to his old 40-home run self moving from Detroit to the great launching pad in Texas.  Well 2014 was a washout and early 2015 saw more of power outage from Fielder.  May arrives and it is like Milwaukee Brewers heyday all over again.  Maybe Fielder is finally healthy and adapted to his new park which means the rest of the way could be tremendous. 

Jason Kipnis:  1/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .335.  Unreal production here from Kipnis who is hitting everything with authority.  We are forgetting 2014 more and more by the day as Kipnis' immense talent is taking over fully.  Those who bought low which didn't include me, are being immensely rewarded.  While the average will come down, the rest of the numbers should remain potent.

Shawn Tolleson:  scoreless ninth for his fifth save with an ERA of 2.82.  Goodbye Neftali.  Won't be seeing you anytime soon.

Danny Salazar:  5.2 IP 6 H 3 H 3 BB 6 K with an ERA of 3.65.  Always have to write about every Salazar start as it is quite the sight to be seen.  The control has gotten just slightly wonky the last few outings but wow those K's are hot.

Jose Abreu:  1/5 with his 8th HR while hitting .274.  This is one of those classic "It's about time" home runs.  Abreu has been pretty ordinary at times this season but you can still forget about buying low since his owner won't bite due to the still vivid memories of 2014.  He will be just fine.

Josh Donaldson:  4/4 with 2 home runs (12 for season) while hitting .315.  My selection for this season's AL MVP is back on that award-winning track.  All Donaldson has to do is print a poster with this box score and he is good to go. 

 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ANTHONY RENDON (KNEE) PLAYS THREE INNINGS OF SIM GAME

                                               

Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon played three full innings of a simulated game on Tuesday which was by far his biggest gain playing-wise since coming down with a knee injury way back on March 12th.  Rendon has not played in one game this season as he has been stuck on the DL with the knee which was than followed by an oblique injury during an earlier rehab try.  The current plan is for Rendon to return sometime in early June barring any other setbacks.

Analysis:  Finally.  We could be nearing an end to an excruciating deal for all Rendon owners who have been missing their first or second round five-tool bat all season.  His production was a huge loss and can't entirely be made up given how much time he has missed but Rendon can carry a team when he does get back onto the field which could be soon. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JONATHAN LUCROY NEARING RETURN FROM TOE INJURY

                                                  

Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is expected to start a rehab assignment on Wednesday and play in four games there before rejoining the team Monday.  Lucroy has been out since April 12th with a broken toe but he had no complications while working his way back.

Analysis:  Great news here as Lucroy has been sorely missed by his owners.  The catching performances at the plate this season have been utterly horrendous and the worst we have seen in years, so an infusion from Lucroy is needed.  While he doesn't do any one thing great, Lucroy can help in all of the standard categories.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JOSE FERNANDEZ (ELBOW) HEADED FOR EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING

                                                    

Miami Marlins ace SP Jose Fernandez will head to extended spring training starting on Monday as he ramps up his rehab from last season's Tommy John surgery.  The current plan is for Fernandez to make three or four appearances at extended spring training and than to start a rehab assignment that could have him back with the team by July 1.

Analysis:  Those who bought very low on Fernandez in fantasy baseball drafts this spring could get a full three months out of this former top five ace.  Fernandez is truly a sight to be seen on the mound with his amazing strikeout stuff but one has to wonder how long he might need before he is back to full strength upon his return.  Overall though, Fernandez could easily be an ace quickly after returning, so good is his repertoire. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL CRISIS POINT: JOSE BAUTISTA OUTFIELDER TORONTO BLUE JAYS


Prior to the 2014 fantasy baseball season, we listed Toronto Blue Jays power-hitting outfielder Jose Bautista as a BUST candidate to be avoided in drafts.  After all some very disturbing trends were beginning to emerge surrounding Bautista, one health-related and other performance.  On the health front, Bautista had just finished a 2013 campaign where he spent a large chunk of the season on the DL for the second year in a row.  The fact Bautista was now aging a bit in his early-30’s made this a trend that was more than a little worrisome. 

In addition to the injuries, 2013 also had Bautista posting his third straight season of a declining home run rate.  For a guy whose value is almost completely dependent on home runs and RBI, this was an even bigger problem for anyone interested in investing in Bautisa for 2014.  However Bautista wouild get the last laugh as he put forth a terrific comeback year last season as he swatted 35 home runs to go with 103 RBI and 101 runs scored while batting a very solid for him .286.  Bautista’s performance last season put him right back at the forefront of fantasy baseball drafts for 2015, seeing his name called on average in the middle of the second round.  With those heightened expectations came a 2015 season where more of the same was anticipated even though Bautista was now another year older at 34. 

Fast forward to present day and what we have so far is the disappointing and heading-toward-bust Bautista that I told you all to avoid prior to last season.  Heading into Tuesday’s games, Bautista’s numbers read like this:

.215

7 HR

25 RBI

29 R

1 SB

No doubt those stats are way down from what was anticipated from Bautista and there are a few reasons why things are going badly.  The first and most troubling is the fact Bautista has been dealing with a persistent shoulder injury that has now required a cortisone shot and kept him from playing the field.  While Bautista has not hit the DL yet, he has missed a bunch of games here and there when the shoulder flares.  That is more than a little bit annoying as Bautista’s owners don’t want to have to keep checking on his playing status on a daily basis.  No doubt the shoulder is also hurting his performance at the plate as Bautista is on pace for only 24 home runs, which while not a terrible sum, is clearly not worthy of his second round status.  And then there is the average which at .215 is horrific and takes the shine away from the few home runs Bautista has hit.  Bautista has been feeling some effects of bad BABIP luck with his very low .223 mark there but he still is striking out at a 19.4 percent clip which would be his highest tally there since 2009.  When you put all these variables together, you get a very rough start to the season for Bautista and his owners.

Right now all Bautista owners have to grin and bear it when it comes to the shoulder and the hitting issues.  The power is still as good as it gets in baseball but that is only the case when Bautista is fully healthy.  Turning 35 this October, Bautista is going to unfortunately continue dealing with health woes as he ages.  That is just a fact of life as a professional athlete and Bautista is no different.  Don’t trade him as he has zero value now but I would absolutely look to get our from under this if a hot streaks begins soon.

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: MONDAY

Nori Aoki:  4/4 with his second HR and 11th SB while hitting .312.  Can't do any better than this from an outfielder 3.  The return of Hunter Pence could have been a big threat to Aoki's standing but the Giants would be beyond dumb to curtail his playing time.  Perfect fit for Aoki who is playing his best baseball since he was a rookie.

Khris Davis:  3/3 with 2 home runs (5 for season) while hitting .245.  When Davis was not hitting home runs in April and most of May, his already bored fantasy baseball owners dumped him overboard which was completely understanding since that was the only thing he brought to the table.  Feel free to see if this is the start of a hot streak but Davis is nothing but a borderline outfielder 4 in formats that use five options.

Ryan Braun:  1/3 with his 12th HR and 5th SB while hitting .272.  If this is truly a clean Ryan Braun, you have to wonder why he needed to turn to juice in the first place and completely tarnish his name.

Tim Lincecum:  5 IP 5 H 4 ER 3 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.56.  The WHIP continues to inch up as it is now a somewhat shaky 1.25 and the ERA is starting to follow suit.  While I applaud Lincecum to final giving in to his actual post-Cy Young abilities, he is still a very risky start any time out with the fastball now averaging an unreal 89 after his 97 heyday.  Ice your arm guys.  Look what happened here.

Joe Kelly:  7 ER in 1.2 IP with an ERA of 6.24.  There is no sense having a fastball that out of the blue started touching 98 and racking up a K per inning pitch despite moving from the NL to the AL if you can't get anyone else out.  My goodness the Red Sox pitching is a joke and Kelly is the biggest clown of all with Justin Masterson injured.

Denard Span:  1/3 with his fourth HR while hitting .316.  Right at the top of the most underappreciated player in both real and fantasy baseball.  Return from injury coincided with ridiculous hot streak the Nats are on and Span is doing a five-tool thing right now as well. 

Wilson Ramos:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .285.  Ramos is starting to tap into his very good power which is why you want to own the guy and grit your teeth through all of those injuries in the first place.

Kris Bryant:  2/3 with his sixth HR while hitting .282. Hitting home runs, stealing bases, hitting for average, still only a rookie.  Where have we seen this before?  I think he is a Los Angeles Angels outfielder.

Tanner Roak:  5 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 2.49.  We all know that Roark doesn't strike anyone out but in those leagues that don't have innings caps, the guy has more than proven to be a terrific pitcher in a Kyle Lohse prior to 2015 sort of way.

Hector Rondon:  perfect inning in non-save chance with an ERA of 3.60.  Likely a move by Joe Maddon to get Rondon a breather from a save chance while also getting in some work and it looked good to me.  No change happening yet but again Rondon has to convert the next save.

Tsyoshi Wada:  5.1 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.70.  Wada is a Chicago Cubs pitcher and he strikes out a batter per inning while bringing good stuff.  Ummm yes pick hi, up.  In all formats too.  I really like Wada's arm and he reminds me of a young Chan Ho Park with the K's.

Brett Gardner:  2/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .285.  Gardner has been tremendous and now he gets to bat the hallowed leadoff spot with Jacoby Ellsbury injured for an undisclosed amount of time.  So far Gardner has been just as good, if not better than his big 2014 when he finally hit double-digits in home runs with 17.  As an added bonus, Gardner has been very aggressive stealing bases again like his old days of 40-plus.  At this point we have to say that Gardner has been the rare player to graduate to another level (outfielder 3 to outfielder 2) despite passing the age of 30.

Slade Heathcott:  2/5 with his first HR while hitting .417.  The Yankees were drooling all over themselves when talking up Slade Heathcott as a top outfield prospect just two years ago but than the shin dulled badly with some poor minor league results.  Still Heathcott has tremendous athleticism and power that is developing so he could do a poor Brett Gardner impersonation and be borderline fantasy baseball relevant if he keeps it up.

Brian McCann:  1/3 with his fifth HR while hitting .235.  McCann is kind of just there at this point in his suddenly boring career.  A few home runs here or there.  Lots of shifts.  Low batting average.  Rinse and repeat. 

Nathan Eovaldi:  7 IP 8 H 1 ER 1 BB 4 K with an ERA of 4.27.  Life's great mysteries.  How the pyramids were built. Where did Stonehenge come from?  How does Nathan Eovaldi strike out so few batters despite a 98-mph fastball? 

Lucas Duda:  1/3 with his sixth HR while hitting .294.  That is now three home runs over the least week as we reach the launching pad part of Lucas Duda's season with the home run ball.

Wilmer Flores:  1/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .252.  Since errors don't count in fantasy baseball, Wilmer Flores is making himself quite usable with his home run swing at a shallow position as shortstop is.  If Terry Collins had more courage to move him up in the order, his average is capable of being better as well.

Michael Cuddyer:  1/2 with his 4th HR while hitting .250.  Not sure what all the hysteria has been regarding Cuddyer.  Did you really think he was going to put up numbers even remotely close to his Colorado Rockies slashes?  Please!  What Cuddyer is right now is what I said he would be which is his old Minnesota Twins 20-home runs self.  Nothing more other than a slight average jump.

Charlie Blackmon:  1/3 with 3 steals (10 for season) while hitting .267.  It was like Blackmon tried to do everything in one game to refute the firm evidence that he was playing way over his head last April and into May.  Sorry bro not working.    Outfielder 3 you stay.

Nolan Arenado:  3/4 with his 9th HR while hitting .287.  Arenado has settled in now after his big first two weeks of the season.  Average is right where it should be now and the home runs will continue to go out at a good but not great clip.  Still would love to have him.

Todd Fraizier:  1/4 with his 13th HR while hitting .258.  Applaud the fact Frazier went into batting average mode in laying off the home runs for awhile since we don't like looking at a .230 mark despite big power.  Now that we are close to where he should be given the K rate, Frazier now knows he has the green light to swing hard again. 

Marlon Byrd:  2/4 with his 10th HR while hitting .211.  Byrd having 10 home runs is one of those stats where you look up and say "holy crap Marlon Byrd has ten home runs?"

John Axford:  scoreless ninth for his seventh save with an ERA of 0.82.  We survived yet another one Axford fellow owners.  Starting to think we are headed for disaster any minute now.

George Springer:  3/5 with his 7th HR while hitting .224.  Love the leadoff look with Jose Altuve operating out of the two spot but alas this is temporary.  Springer is inching the average up which is nice to see and the power is holding steady as expected. Still very bright future ahead but who would you rather own going forward for the next ten years:  Springer or Joc Pederson?

Steve Pearce:  1/3 with his 5th HR while hitting .192.  The only reason we even mention Pearce now is the fact he has already or is adding second base eligibility.  Yeah still not interested.

Dallas Keuchel:  8 IP 6 H 4 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 1.98.  Even when he loses Dallas Keuchel is still great.

Jesse Hahn:  9 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 B 5 K with an ERA of 3.69.  Oakland......the AL version of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Chicago Cubs for starting pitchers. 

Tyson Ross:  6 IP 10 H 2 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 3.84.  Ross just can't see, to throw a game this season where he gives up less hits and walks than innings pitched which is the line of demarcation that separates good fantasy baseball starting pitchers from mediocre ones. 

Jered Weaver:  6.2 IP 6 H 1 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 4.06.  Now Jered Weaver on the other hand has taken a nice journey back from Suckville.  When you are as bad as Weaver was in April and than all of a sudden pitch great a month later, some mechanical adjustment was made for the better.  Whatever Weaver did, clearly it is working but with a fastball that barely goes over 85, his margin is incredible razor thin so you still have to have courage to start him.

Andre Ethier:  2/3 with his 6th HR while hitting .313.  At least Ethier is starting to earn that ridiculous contract of his.  The fact that he now is grossly outproducing Matt Kemp in much fewer at-bats shows that maybe the Dodgers sort of know what they are doing.

Jimmy Rollins:  1/5 with his 5th HR while hitting .201.  You just can't live with that average on your team no matter unless Rollins already had 10 home runs and steals which he has neither.  The already steep drop in average has only gotten worse for Rollins as he moves toward 40.

Giancarlo Stanton:  2/4 with his 13th HR while hitting .234.  Stanton is no doubt pressing since the Marlins are simply atrocious which is showing up in the woeful batting average.  While Stanton was never as good as any .280 mark he posted last season, he is not this bad either.  Something around .260 sounds right with all those K's and all those home runs.  Bottom line is that Stanton's greatest asset is the home run which he is supplying in good doses.

Charlie Morton:  7 IP 8 H 2 ER 0 BB 3 K with an ERA of 2.57.  Morton has more than proven himself in the past as a non-innings capped SP 5 in those formats so take a chance on this veteran arm.

Josh Donaldson:  2/3 with his 10th HR while hitting .300.  Donaldson is still holding onto the .300 average as we get set to go to the month of June and every other number has been stellar.  The home run rate has leveled off a bit from April but otherwise Donaldson is proving being worth every draft penny you spent.

Drew Hutchinson:  9 IP 4 H 0 ER 0 BB 8 K with an ERA of 5.12.  Starts such as this make you wonder why we don't see more of this from Hutchinson but given how vastly inconsistent he is, you don't want to own him.

Roenis Elias:  6 IP 6 H 1 ER 3 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.56.  Elias has been doing a nice job with little fanfare so far and of course the home ballpark checks out.  Why not?

Jake Odorizzi:  7 IP 5 H 1 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.31.  With the great breakout season of Chris Archer underway, the just as impressive bustout of Jake Odorizzi has been forgotten somewhat.  The K rate has been tremendous all season and Odorizzi looks like he is here to stay as an SP 2/3. 






 

Monday, May 25, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: ROBINSON CANO 2B SEATTLE MARINERS

Going to the Seattle Mariners and Safeco Field would hurt Robinson Cano.  The top second baseman by a mile in fantasy baseball would lose home runs and RBI going to the far Northwest with the spacious ballpark that eats up power hitters and at the same time offer little to no support in the perennially weak Mariners lineup.  Such was the scouting report on Cano prior to the 2014 season when he inked that monstrous contract in leaving the New York Yankees where he firmly established himself as one of the best pure hitters in the game and who settled as a very rare 25 home run second baseman who had batting title average ability.  So it went as Cano did in fact see the expected drop in home runs last season, going from 27 in 2013 to only 14 in 2014.  Cano also had a huge drop in RBI from 107 to only 82 as Safeco Park did its thing.  However Cano didn't lose all his numbers as he was in fact in the batting title race for most of the year and finished out with a terrific .314 mark which matches his 2013 performance there with the Yanks.  Add in the fact that the Mariners signed 2014's home run leader in Nelson Cruz is bat behind him this season and the thinking was that Cano would get a bunch of more good pitches to hit now that the lineup was strengthened. 

Fast forward to Monday's game on Memorial Day and what we have now is a Robinson Cano who is doing his best David Eckstein impersonation.  Unbelievably, Cano goes into Monday's action with a horrid .247 average and ONE single home run with 11 paltry RBI.  To say that Cano has been bad would be the understatement of the century.  This from a guy who despite the depressed numbers in 2014, still went as early as the late first round in 2015 fantasy baseball drafts based on his name brand and the fact second base remains very shallow.  With Cruz as hot as hot can be hitting behind him with his 17 home runs and batting title average, there is simply no excuse for Cano to be as bad as he has been.  And at a still young 32, Cano is not old enough to where he should be declining.

So what is going on?  As always we check out the advanced stats for possibly an answer.  The first number that stands out is the fact that Cano's is currently striking out at his highest ever rate at 16.7 percent.  Likely pressing and swinging for the fences due to the "1" in the home run column and for his gross salary, Cano is coming out of his approach at the dish which is leading to the spike in strikeouts and hurting his average.  In addition, Cano's BABIP is way down from his career norms.  While his current .294 BABIP is pretty neutral and not unlucky by any means, over he previous seven seasons Cano's LOWEST BABIP was .316 so he is not getting a bunch of balls to fall in based on his career tendencies.  With Cano having above-average speed despite him not being a big stolen base guy, players like him can overrun the BABIP curve more than others which is why he consistently has been in the .320-.330 range.  Maybe at 32, Cano is losing a bit of speed which his another indication that the BABIP and average are both plummeting.  The numbers simply tell the story.

Finally, Cano's walk rate of 5.4 percent is low by his career standards as he again is getting impatient.  Seeing Cruz light things up behind him no doubt is spurring Cano to swing more for the fences and get himself out with his aggressiveness.  The average is falling because of it and the home runs are drying up as well due to this new approach.

When you put it all together, Robinson Cano has been a total disaster for his owners.  Now he is not nearly this bad of course and will likely start hitting ropes again soon as he is simply too good to remain struggling like this . However his days of 20 home runs and 90 RBI are gone for good in Seattle at least like what we saw out of the depressed numbers of Adrian Beltre when he went there.  This means Cano should not be picked in even the first two rounds in 2016 based on the current level of numbers he is putting up at this stage of his career.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: SHAWN TOLLESON/BRAD ZIEGLER JOIN THE WORLD OF THE NINTH INNING, PEDRO STOP NEXT?

Monday is Memorial Day and a heartfelt thank you to all the service men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we can all be safe. 

Anyways we also have some ninth inning news to discuss as always as Closing Time is on tap:

-We officially had two closer changes over the last week and both replacement look like guys who can be very helpful (and most importantly not hurtful) when it comes to helping you in the saves category. 

The first instance occurred in Texas where the Rangers finally pulled the plug on the simply brutal Neftali Feliz.  Anyone who is a reader of mine knows that Feliz was considered by me to be a closer to avoid at all costs in the draft and that he would be one of the first to lose his job.  Well while Feliz somehow made it to May closing games, he was simply horrific as he posted a 5.09 ERA and an unfathomable 1.75 WHIP as he was fooling no one.  The bottom line here is that Feliz has never found the velocity that made him an All-Star closer prior to two seasons where he dealt with serious arm/shoulder trouble.  Once able to ratchet the fastball up to 98-mph. Feliz now struggles to consistently stay in the low-90's which is all the difference in being a dominant closer to one who is out of a job in May.

The replacement is the hard-throwing setup man Shawn Tolleson who so far has been a perfect 3/3 in saves without giving up a run.  In addition, Tolleson has struck out 29 batters in 20.1 innings this season which is a classic K rate for a closer.  Overall Tolleson has an ERA of 3.10 and a WHIP of 1.13 which followed a very good 2014 campaign in setup when he posted 2.76/1.17 marks respectively. 

So as far as Tolleson goes, he quickly has shown that closing games is not too much of a chore for him based on the early results.  Now the ERA for his career is 3.29 so this is not David Robertson or Kenley Jansen we are talking about but he represents a clear upgrade over Feliz. 

-The other story took place in Arizona where the worst closer in the game in Addison Reed was finally removed over a week ago due to his ERA sailing above the 7.00 mark with a mediocre K rate.  The quick assumption was that top setup man Brad Ziegler would be the closer but than 25-year-old Enrique Burgos was given the first two save chances since Reed's removal which he successfully converted.  The hard-throwing rookie seemed like a good fit for he closer role as he was striking out an insane amount of batters with 25 in only 13.2 innings but there were problems residing underneath namely terrible control that makes closing games dicey.  Burgos got hit around his last time out even without issuing a walk. surrendering two runs in 1 IP which spiked his ERA to the very high for a closer 4.61 and a WHIP of 1.32.  Hence the next time out Ziegler got the save which he converted. 

Ziegler added another save Sunday afternoon and is once again posting stellar ratios with a 0.86 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.  The K rate is not closer-worthy which is really the only knock but otherwise Ziegler is well-deserving of this chance.  Remember that Zach Britton is not a strikeout guy in the ninth inning either but he has been a dominant closer since ascending to the job last season.  Ziegler should be owned and used liberally in all formats.

-Meanwhile a similar situation is brewing in Chicago Cubs land where Hector Rondoin just recently finished blowing his third save of the season on Saturday that raised his season ERA to 3.79 and the WHIP an even uglier 1.37.  While Rondon is still missing bats with 18 in 19 innings, he has given up 21 hits and 2 home runs which is well up from last season.  Meanwhile Pedro Strop has been dominant in setup and he finished out Sunday's game in place of a resting Rondon with no issues for the save.  While no move has been made yet, Rondon better throw a clean inning during his next outing of the switch is likely.  Now Strop has struggled in the past closing games despite being a top setup guy but again his arm is live and saves are saves.

There you have it.  As always post your thoughts below.