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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: JASON KIPNIS (ABDOMINAL) OUT WED.

                                                        

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is out of the lineup Wednesday due to the abdominal strain he suffered Tuesday night.  A decision on the DL has not been made yet but Kipnis at the very least is scheduled to miss a few games.

Analysis:  This one could go either way as far as the DL is concerned but I would bet that Kipnis ends up there as most abdominal injuries do.  An announcement should come later on tonight.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: YANKS-MARINERS, RED SOX-RAYS, ORIOLES-PIRATES ALL POSTPONED DUE TO RAIN

Joining the already cancelled Mets-Phillies game Wednesday, the Yankees-Mariners, Orioles-Pirates, and Red Sox-Rays games have all been postponed due to rain.  The Rays-Red Sox will play a doubleheader on Thursday, which the Orioles-Pirates will do as well.  The Yankees-Mariners meanwhile have not announced a makeup.

Analysis:  The horrible weather that affected the Midwest on Monday has now moved into the Northeast with all its fury Tuesday and Wednesday.  There will be light lineups all around on Wednesday due to so many big time players not being active tonight.  Try and pick up as many doubleheader bats that are available for tomorrow in an effort to stock up on as many potential stats as you can.

FANTASY BASAEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: MARCUS STROMAN HAS NOTHING LEFT TO PROVE, PITCHES SIX HITLESS INNINGS TUESDAY WITH 10 K'S

Toronto Blue Jays top pitching prospect Marcus Stroman surely made any decision regarding a possible promotion easier Tuesday when he turned in his most dominant start of the season for Triple-A Buffalo.  Stroman had it all working Tuesday in pitching six hitless innings while striking out 10 which lowered his season ERA to a tiny 1.69 while upping his Ks to 36 in 26.2 innings.  Speculation ran wild on Monday when Stroman was held up a day to pitch Tuesday which would coincide with the start of struggling Blue Jays SP Dustin McGowan.  All fantasy baseball owners of Stroman needed was for one more bad outing from McGowan and the callup would be made.  McGowan however refused to go along with the script as he gave up only two runs in six innings in a tough-luck loss Tuesday that the bullpen threw away.  McGowan gave up only 3 hits but walked 3 while striking out 2.  Despite the good outing, it only helped to lower McGowan's season ERA to a still ugly 5.87 amid loud calls for Stroman's promotion.  Nothing was said publicly from John Gibbons about the matter and the Jays have a few days to decide since both McGowan and Stroman won't pitch again until Sunday or Monday.  Since McGowan threw well, the Jays may try to give him another turn so as to buy more time until the June 1 deadline to hold back arbitration by a year.  However if the Jays want to seriously try and contend in the loaded AL East, they owe it to the team and the fans to promote Stroman.  This could go either way but Stroman should be added in all formats pronto.  The ceiling is immense.



FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: METS-PHILS POSTPONED WED. DUE TO RAIN

The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies game set for Wednesday night has been postponed due to rain.  Despite the game being set for tonight at 7:00 ET, widespread rain and thunder forced the team's to call the game and schedule a makeup on June 2.

Analysis:  Bartolo Colon will be pushed to Thursday and Kyle Kendrick to Friday as far as today's pitcher's were concerned.  Once again widespread rain on the East Coast will throw Wednesday's schedule into chaos. 

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: TREVOR BAUER SP CLEVELAND INDIANS

                                                           Trevor Bauer

The writing was certainly on the wall.  When the Cleveland Indians officially announced on Tuesday that struggling SP Carlos Carrasco and his near-6.00 ERA was mercifully headed to the bullpen, the rumor mill quickly began to surge that the open slot would be filled by faded prospect Trevor Bauer who was pitching for the team's Triple-A affiliate.  Bauer certainly would deserve the call due to the fact he has been lights out for season on the farm, pitching to a 1.40 ERA while rocking a terrific 9.82 K rate.  Perhaps most encouraging was Bauer's 2.45 walk rate which as big an improvement as he could possibly have there given how truly horrific his control had been to that point when given a chance to pitch in the major leagues.  While the Indians have not come out and said it, all indications are that come next Tuesday Bauer will be toeing the rubber for the team as he gets another chance to realize the vast potential he has always carried through some turbulent times in the past.

In taking a quick trip down memory lane, it seemed Bauer was destined for greatness after being picked third overall in the 2011 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of UCLA.  Blessed with a fastball that approached 100-mph, Bauer was considered a can't miss prospect whose lack of control was compared to an early Clayton Kershaw and which many believed would eventually be solved just like the Dodgers ace did.  Despite racking up some Tim Lincecum-like minor league K rates, Bauer did nothing but fail miserably when given the chance to pitch at the major league level.  It all started in 2012 when Bauer was called up by Arizona to get his first crack at MLB hitters and the results to say the least were disastrous.  Bauer pitched to an ungodly 6.06 ERA which was accompanied by a hard to even fathom 7.16 walk rate.  His control was so bad that the name Rick Ankiel was mentioned in conjunction which was not what any Bauer loyalist wanted to hear.  However at 21-years-old most chalked up Bauer's struggled to inexperience and his youth.

Arizona didn't completely buy into that however and to compound matters, Bauer reportedly had a few run-ins with the front office and coaching staff both at the major and minor league level.  Being branded a prima donna in some circles in combination with awful pitching seemed to make it easy for the Diamondbacks to ship Bauer off to the Indians in a "I give up" mode.  Well things didn't exactly get any better in 2013 as Bauer struggled for the Indians' Triple-A squad to the tune of a 4.15 ERA and again control was a sizable issue with a 5.41 walk rate.  It seemed like Bauer's mechanics were just not going to jive with his power fastball and K potential.  A 5.82 ERA in four starts with the Indians that season did nothing to change that assessment.

When 2014 spring training came around, Bauer was no longer in the discussion as one of the top prospects in baseball.  He was clearly omitted from the Sonny Gray, Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha discussions and was an afterthought when it came to 2014 fantasy baseball drafts.  However a funny thing has seemed to happen along the way.  Despite still being very young at 23, Bauer began taking positive steps right out of the gate this season in placing himself into the post-hype sleeper column of which many of today's biggest stars did a stint in.  Showing vastly improved command to go with his blazing fastball, Bauer racked up the strikeouts and kept the walks to a minimum a Triple-A to the tune of that 1.40 ERA and tiny for him 2.45 walk rate.  Small sample size sure but Bauer also excelled in a spot start for the Indians, going six innings and giving up only 1 earned run with 2 walks and 8 strikeouts against the San Diego Padres.  Now with Carrasco to the bullpen, the time is now for Bauer to finally make good on all of that potential we have spoken about.

When you break it all down, Bauer absolutely deserves another chance to see if he can finally harness his stuff.  As I said earlier, Bauer would be just the latest in a long list of post-hype sleepers who finally made good on their talent after so much initial struggle.  The power arm is impressive and Bauer's ability to collect strikeouts has never been in doubt.  As long as Bauer can keep the walk rate under even 4.25, he could easily be an SP 3.  I have been very critical of the guy in the past more so for his rotten attitude but I have never doubted his ability.  Give him another shot.  The talent could really flow here and the numbers could pile up in a major way.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RYAN BRAUN, JEAN SEGURA, ARAMIS RAMIREZ ALL OUT WED.

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, shortstop Jean Segura, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez are all out of the lineup again on Wednesday due to their respective injuries.  Braun and Segura have both been out since Saturday with an intercostal strain and facial laceration respectively, while Ramirez will sit for the second straight day with a hand injury after getting hit by a pitch on the elbow Monday. 

Analysis:  Braun is still possibly going to go on the DL, with Segura and Ramirez could return in a day or so.  Nothing changes with any of their injury assessments presently but Braun's situation has to be monitored in order to see if he goes on the DL as many expect he should do.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JASON KIPNIS LIKELY TO HIT DL WITH ABDOMINAL STRAIN

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis will likely be placed on the DL Wednesday due to the abdominal strain he suffered that forced him out of Tuesday's game.  Kipnis admitted afterward that it felt like he was punched in the back but that he was feeling better after the game.  He will undergo testing early Wednesday but a team source indicated as DL stint is "almost a foregone conclusion." 

Analysis:  Not a shock as any kind of muscle pull or tear in the abdominal/oblique region is almost a lock for the DL.  Kipnis has run hot and cold early on but is one of the best fantasy baseball second baseman in the game who is capable of contributing across the board.  Stay tuned for an update later.

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: TUESDAY

Mark Teixeira:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .231.  I told you the other day to pick up Teixeira if he were rotting away on the free agent wire.  Power is still precious even though Tex is a shell of his former All Star self.  He tends to get locked in with the home runs for a stretch and we all know some of his best works comes after April.

C.C. Sabbathia:  5 IP 9 H 4 ER 0 BB 6 K with an ERA of 5.11.  Listen all of those strikeouts and the 9.97 K rate Sabbathia is rocking right now are extremely encouraging given what we saw last season and his remaining lost velocity.  However he still has a 5.11 ERA and has had only ONE start where he has given up fewer hits and runs than innings pitched.  SP 4 status remains. 

Marlon Byrd:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .277.  Byrd is just "there" right now.  He hit a home run every now and again and has useful average.  Excuse me while I go lay down to ward off this sudden about of tiredness from talking about how much of a yawner Byrd is.

Cole Hamels:  4.2 IP 8 H 6 ER 5 BB 3 K with an ERA of 6.75.  Thank you very much bro.  After significantly improving my team ERA in the Experts League in painstaking fashion, this horse's ass goes out and takes a blowtorch to that stat and my team WHIP as well.  A few things on this:  one is that Hamels always gets torched by the Mets of all teams for some reason.  Two is that he was having visible trouble with the mud on the mound given the rain that fell during the game.  Still with Jon Niese dominating on the other side on the same mound, I don't want to hear it.  Always big time concern when a guy gets rocked right off of the DL so this bears watching.  Hamels' control has always been stellar and he was abominable there last night.  Oh and in one of my leagues I had only two pitchers make an appearance for me:  Hamels and Sergio F-ING (81.00 ERA) Santos!!!!!  Fun times.

Jon Niese:  7 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 5 K with an ERA of 2.20.  We have more than enough to go on to make a fantasy baseball book about Niese and he can be extremely good in spurts like he is now.  The lefty will never dominate in strikeouts but good ERA's have been a part of the equation for awhile now.  Health has been the biggest problem but the Mets are winning and Niese is helping to lead the rotation.  He remains a lock solid SP 4.

Billy Hamilton:  3/4 with his first HR and 10th SB while hitting .244.  Don't count on seeing more than 3-5 more home runs the rest of the way so contain the overenthusiasm.  Everything about Hamilton is overrated as he even has managed to get caught 5 times stealing in 15 tries.  The average is creeping up but at .244 that is still no saying much.  He was just cut loose in the Experts League and I took a waiver stab only to stash Hamilton on the bench as a plug in when I need a steals boost.  That is where he fits best.

Jeff Samardzjia:  5.2 IP 8 H 3 ER 4 BB 4 K with an ERA of 1.98.  I can overlook this as Samardzjia has been money all season.  The K's are still down though and more than a bit as I hold to my theory Samardzjia has taken some bite off the fastball in order to control it better and keep the walks down which didn't seem to work in this one.  Overall it sounds like I am making a ton of excuses for the guy.  His pronounced struggles as 2013 went on bear watching for 2014 but I wouldn't let this start cloud any judgment yet.

Alfredo Simon:  6 IP 5 H 1 ER 2 BB 5 K with an ERA of 1.60.  I am actually shocked that this run is still going on but than not so much when I think about how Simon (once put on trial for murder) probably had his cronies threaten to harm every hitter and the bat boy prior to every start if they so much went to first base.

Giancarlo Stanton:  1/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .269.  This is Stanton saying "Hey Abreu I am coming up behind you quick in the power department."  Standard operating fair here for Stanton right on down to the sliding average.   .300 is never going to happen folks.  Forget about that pipe dream.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia:  3/4 with his fifth HR while hitting .284.  Salty is quite possibly the hottest hitting catcher in fantasy baseball so don't ignore the run.  You don't want to keep trudging him out there on an everyday basis into June but riding out streaks like this is always smart at the up and down catcher position.

Alex Wood:  7 ER in 5 IP with an ERA of 2.93.  I spoke a week ago about how Wood's ridiculously lucky BABIP was eventually going to catch up to him and create quite the mess.  You welcome to those who sold high.  The BABIP gods spare no one.  Don't get me wrong I still like the kid and believe he could be a solid SP 3 but he was not as good as he had shown prior to this correction.

Jose Fernandez:  8 IP 2 H 0 ER 2 BB 8 K with an ERA of 1.59.  Channeling my inner Tina Turner "Simple the best.  Better than all the rest."  Wow.....better yet WOW is the only word to use for this kid who has no doubt taken the fastest rise to pitching stardom I have ever seen.

Martin Perez:  8 ER in 4.2 IP with an ERA of 2.95.  Was scared about Perez in this one off two straight complete games.  The arm can only throw so many innings in such a short time span before all goes to hell as it did here for Perez.  He doesn't strike guys out so when Perez is bad you get beatings like this which limits his overall value.  Hold him still but again keep expectations to the SP 4 level.

Scott Kazmir:  5 IP 7 H 3 ER 1 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.11.  The 2.68 walk rate is amazing and if Kazmir would have done that during his early Tampa Bay days, he would have won the Cy Young.  Well today he is now 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA so maybe that award is still possible.  Not really of course as a .267 BABIP has helped the cause and Kazmir will scream for mercy in late July when the innings skyrocket.  If he can even get that far without a health woe.  Boy did I really just turd all over this feel-good story.

Justin Verlander:  7 IP 6 H 3 ER 3 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.48.  Once again Verlander gives up more hits and walks than innings pitched which is a trend that started last season and shows no signs of letting go.  The WHIP remains ugly as a result and the 6.98 K rate is a huge red flag.  Just look at how Verlander's K rates have gone since 2012:  9.03, 8.95, 6.98.  Also look at the walk rates during that span:  2.27, 3.09, 3.38.  All bad trends all the way around.  Get the heck out of owning Verlander now.

Jose Bautista:  1/3 with his 8th HR while hitting .295.  What is really nice here is that Bautista's .300 BABIP is showing neutrality but the 24 percent K rate speaks to trouble ahead.  The power will always be there and the Blue Jays should consider finding out how to let Bautista play in a glass uniform so he can avoid the second-half injuries that have finished him early during each of the last two seasons.  The nice start to 2014 has re-established Bautista as a solid outfielder 1.

Edwin Encarnacion:  1/5 with his second HR while hitting .240.  If you can look bad in a game you hit a home run in, I present to you Edwin Encarnacion.  He has been all over the place with his swing this season, spiking the K rate dramatically as it shows up in the .240 average.  I suggested buying low here and still do but his .301 BABIP shows that Encarnacion has been legitimately bad with no poor luck involved.  At this point with May showing up tomorrow, you can forget 40 home runs which was the major drawing card in projecting him as a first round pick.

Sergio Santos:  3 ER in .1 IP with an ERA of 8.31.  I already cursed out Santos earlier in this post in written form and lord knows I did so plenty in verbal form last night.  The guy is a complete joke right now and should be cut in all formats.  No way in hell can Santos be put out there to close the way he is going.  The problem is that Brett Cecil (2 ER) was equally bad and he has a nasty 5.23 ERA so he is out.  Aaron Crow and Steve Delabar are options but this is a mess that only the Chicago Cubs bullpen can understand.

Jayson Werth:  2/4 with his fourth HR while hitting .290.  Next year when Werth gets drafted as an outfielder 3 and than hits like an outfielder 1 again, people will say "oh well he is getting old, he is injury-prone, wow he still gets paid a ton, the beard is weighing his bat down, he pees sitting down" and on and on it goes.

Carlos Gomez:  1/5 with his sixth HR while hitting .288.  It will be interesting to me to see where Gomez' average falls this season since he still strikes out a ton at over 28 percent which is higher than last year's 24.  I said in the spring that .265 was possible which changes the overall outlook slightly to the negative but the power/speed juice is extremely good so still good times ahead.

Allen Craig:  1/4 while hitting .194.  I have been trying to buy low on Craig for over a week now.  Guys who can hit as well as Craig eventually figure it out and than before you know it are hitting .300 again.  Go get him.

Yadier Molina:  1/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .350.  Geez .350.  Molina is basically what Joe Mauer was supposed to be. 

Kyle Lohse:  6 IP 6 H 3 ER 1 BB 9 K with an ERA of 2.70.  I have never owned a Lohse stock before but I am annually impressed at how good he pitches with such middling K's.  Until now it seems as Lohse is currently sporting a 9.00 K rate which is in extreme outlier territory for him.  If someone in your league is falling for it, I would talk up the overall numbers and see what you could get. 

Troy Tulowitzki:  2/3 with his 7th HR while hitting .376.  Tulo is on one of those classic insane hitting runs of his that only one or two other guys are capable of.  Named Miguel Cabrera and right now Jose Abreu.

Carlos Santana:  2/4 with his third HR while hitting .156.  The BUY LOW window will last until Santana is hitting .200 which given how he has looked pretty good the last few days, could be by the end of the week.

Joe Smith:  scoreless ninth for his second save with an ERA of 3.00.  All Ernesto Frieri owners cried when they saw this.  No one knows if it were tears of sadness or joy.

Buster Posey:  1/3 with his 6th HR while hitting .253.  Someone mentioned to me yesterday in the Catcher updated rankings that Posey's current average doesn't befit "batting champ" material as I have labeled him in the past.  Well Posey was hitting .220 a week ago.  Next week he will be hitting .280.  Upward and onward we go. 

Yusmeiro Petit:  6 IP 3 H 0 ER 0 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.61.  We have seen this in fits and starts from Petit the last season-plus so he should be watched.  Guy has some decent strikeout stuff and of course we love the ballpark. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS SP MICHAEL PINEDA OUT 3-4 WEEKS WITH STRAINED BACK MUSCLE

                                                         

Updating and earlier item, New York Yankees SP Michael Pineda will miss the next 3-4 weeks with a Grade 1 back strain.  Pineda injured the back during a simulated game Tuesday and testing done on the area revealed the strain.  He was in the middle of a 10-game suspension for having pine tar on his neck during his last start.

Analysis:  Here we go again.  Pineda is becoming fragile as glass as he could only make it through a few starts after missing all of 2012 and 2013 with injury.  If you can stash him try to do so as Pineda still has a ton of ability but I also won't co crazy if you move away from this mess.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JASON KIPNIS LEAVES WITH POSSIBLE OBLIQUE INJURY

                                                           

Cleveland Indians All Star second baseman Jason Kipnis was forced to leave the team's game Tuesday night with a possible oblique/side injury.  Kipnis injured himself during a fourth inning at-bat and held his side as he jogged to first base.  He soon left the field and headed to the dugout. 

Analysis:  Uh-oh.  If there is an oblique injury than Kipnis is guaranteed to hit the DL.  He has been a bit slow out of the gates to start the season and this injury won't help pacify his impatient owners.  Stay tuned.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TOMMY JOHN SURGERY SET FOR A'S SP A.J. GRIFFIN

                                                   

Oakland A's SP A.J. Griffin, who has been on the DL the first three-plus weeks of the 2014 season due to elbow soreness, has decided to undergo Tommy John surgery.  Griffin joins rotation-mate Jarrod Parker in having to undergo the procedure as the elbow pain he felt going back to spring training has not improved much at all.  He will miss all of the 2014 season as a result.

Analysis:  Not a shock as this is usually the deal with most elbow injuries these days.  Griffin was only a marginal fantasy baseball starter anyway so no great loss.  Cut him loose if you haven't for some reason done it already.



FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: JACOBY ELLSBURY OUT TUES. FOR YANKS WITH HAND SORENESS

                                                  

New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is out of the lineup Tuesday for the team due to a bout of what is being called minor hand pain.  The Yanks were concerned enough that tests were ordered on the hand which came back negative and Ellsbury is now considered day-to-day.

Analysis:  There is a very good chance the Yankees' game gets canceled Tuesday due to heavy rain in the area so this could be a non-issue for Ellsbury's fantasy baseball owners.  Any health problem is a concern when it comes to Ellsbury but overall this looks like a minor deal.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS' MICHAEL PINEDA HEADING FOR TESTS AFTER COMING DOWN WITH SORE LAT TUES.

                                                  

New York Yankees SP Michael Pineda is heading for testing after coming up with a sore lat muscle during a simulated game Tuesday.  Pineda is suspended for ten days after last week's pine tar incident and was scheduled to pitch next Monday.  David Phelps has already been told to be ready in case Pineda can't go.

Analysis:  Lat injuries often land on the DL and if the Yanks do so they can't start the clock on the 15 days until the suspension is up next Monday.  After a terrific start to the season, Pineda is quickly causing heartburn for his fantasy baseball owners.  Stay tuned.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: PIRATES/ORIOLES RAINED OUT TUES.

The Tuesday night game between the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates has been cancelled due to rain.  The game will be made up Thursday night and Tuesday's scheduled starters Chris Tillman and Charlie Morton will be pushed back a day.

Analysis:  Terrible weather in the Northeast could also cancel Mets-Phillies and Yankees-Mariners so stay tuned for that.  Looking like a night full of open slots on fantasy baseball rosters.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: NATS' BRYCE HARPER UNDERGOES THUMB SURGERY

                                                  

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper underwent successful thumb surgery Tuesday on the torn ulnar collaterel ligament in his thumb and will be out of action until July.  Harper tore the ligament sliding into base on Friday and a subsequent MRI revealed the tear.  Nate McLouth will take his place in the everyday lineup.

Analysis:  This is old news now but it still stings that Harper is out for so long.  Stash him away and hope for an earlier comeback.  A buy low would not be the worst idea either as Haroper's owners will likely want to get out from under this in order to salvage a big roadblock on their season.

FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: KRIS BRYANT COULD BE UP SOONER THAN LATER, ARCHIE BRADLEY SLUMPING

Tuesday starts our weekly examination of some of the top hitting and pitching prospect in all of baseball from a fantasy baseball angle as we continue to try and stay on top of all the imminent call-ups and those who will likely need more time on the farm.  So with that said let's take our fist tour around the minor league system and check in on how some of our favorite sleepers targets are doing.

-Arizona Diamondbacks SP Archie Bradley during spring training had a small but realistic shot to make the rotation out of camp after the team lost SP for the season with Tommy John surgery.  Blessed with a 98-mph fastball, Bradley only had to harness his sometimes awful control in order to force the club's hand.  After some early success in spring training, Bradley hit the skids which made sending him to the minors a no-brainer.  Things haven't exactly gotten better on the farm either as Bradley failed to pitch into the fifth frame for the third straight start Saturday after he gave up five earned runs on 7 hits and 4 walks in only 4 innings.  Bradley now sits with a horrid 5.18 ERA and 1.56 WHIP as opposing teams are hitting .277 off of him.  Yeah a .356 BABIP is partly to blame but Bradley has not helped himself with so many walks.  Still D-Backs GM Kevin Towers has spoken publicly on more than a few occasions how highly he thinks of Bradley and a call-up after June 1st is very likely.  However his fantasy baseball outlook for 2014 is not looking very promising as Bradley's lack of control will gest exposed big time at the highest level.  I already dropped Bradley out of my one NA spot for Miami's Andrew Heaney as a result.

-We have already spoken at great length regarding how Toronto Blue Jays top pitching prospect Marcus Stroman is in line to get promoted as soon as this Tuesday.  Stroman has been lined up to pitch this Tuesday which his the same day the struggling Dustin McGowan will make what could be his last start in the rotation.  Stroman has been terrific since getting drafted and despite his short size and smallish frame, has racked up strikeouts to the tune of 26 in 20.2 innings this season at Triple-A with a 2.18. ERA.  A PED suspension took some initial shine off of Stroman's name but he has reclaimed that with a nice start to 2014.  Overall the kid reminds me of a young Roy Oswalt who has a smallish frame himself but that didn't stop him from becoming an immediate ace pitcher for the Houston Astros.  While I won't go so far as to say Stroman will pitch like an ace this season, his stuff points to a front-of-the-rotation guy.

-Chicago Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant is tearing the cover off the ball so far this season as he went 2-for-6 Saturday which included his fifth home run.  Bryant is now hitting .312 on the year with the 5 home runs and 5 stolen bases.  A move to the outfield is being discussed and only the woeful Mike Olt stands in the way of Bryant at third base if he sticks there.  Despite his young age, Bryant could force a call-up after June 1st as he joins top shortstop Javier Baez on the trek to the majors.

-Kevin Gausman struggled mightily at times during his initial cup of coffee run with the Baltimore Orioles last season but his stature has not diminished with regards to his outlook as an impact power pitcher.  Gausman has been on somewhat of a pitch count in the minors, having never exceeded 80 pitches in any one start.  This suggests that the Orioles are conserving his innings in preparation for calling him up after June 1st and thus join the rotation for a playoff run.  The fastball touches 98 and the secondary stuff is solid so Gausman should continue to be viewed as a guy who could make a nice impact when he does get the promotion. 

That's all for now.  As always check back in for all the latest prospect news. 

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FANTASY BASEBALL STAT OF THE DAY: STARLING MARTE DROWING IN K'S

                                                      Starling Marte

Through his first 105 at-bats of the season, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte has struck out 37 times which has shown in his terrible .229 average.  While Marte has supplied the steals with 7 so far, a 31.6 percent K rate is a sky-high number that is hurting his overall value.  I said in the winter that the one big concern I have with Marte is his propensity for striking out and if this keeps up he could be moved out of the leadoff spot which would be a major drag on his steals.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NO BREAKS FOUND IN ROCKIES CATCHER WILIN ROSARIO'S HAND

                                                       

An MRI performed on Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario revealed no breaks and instead showed only inflammation.  Rosario has missed two straight games with soreness in the hand and remains day-to-day.  The fact no breaks were found means Rosario likely won't be placed on the DL.

Analysis:  Great news here as Rosario should be fine in a few days.  He has had some rotten BABIP luck early on but retains 25 home run power with a useful average so don't even think of cutting him loose or selling low.  Try instead to snag a trade for the guy if his owner is antsy in your league. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TREVOR BAUER TO BE CALLED UP INDIANS

The Cleveland Indians will call up Trevor Bauer to take Carlos Carrasco's spot in the rotation according to multiple reports.  Carrasco will be moved to the bullpen after pitching to a horrible 6.95 ERA in four starts which will clear the deck for Bauer to make his 2014 second 2014 start.  Bauer would be in line to start next Tuesday in what would have been Carrasco's spot.

Analysis:  Time to stash Bauer.  I have been a big critic of Bauer's in the past and rightfully so due to his horrible control and he is no sure thing due to his utter lack of control at times.  However this is a big time power arm filled with potential so if Bauer can make inroads with the walks, he could start paying off on his ability.

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: MONDAY

Sonny Gray:  9 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K with an ERA of 1.76.  While most of young pitching sleeper fraternity (Cole, Wacha, Wheeler, Cingrani) have generally pitched well, Gray and Wacha have stepped to the front of this group.  Clearly Gray gets a little boost from the ballpark but the K's are very solid and the first round pedigree shows he is no fluke.  Was all over the guy during the winter and nothing I have seen has changed my glowing opinion.

Carlos Santana:  2/4 with his second HR while hitting .140.  You wonder if Santana is once again going through that whole catcher "my mind is at max capacity trying to figure out this position and also having to hit" after moving to third base this spring.  Doing an Adam Dunn impression at third is not the way for Santana to endear himself to his owners.  Actually for Santana to do a Dunn impression he has to hit home runs which until last night he wasn't doing either.

Justin Masterson:   ER in 7.1 IP with an ERA of 4.84.  So happy to once again have my very enjoyable hobby back of ripping into the horrible pitching of Masterson.  He is already hitting the wire en masse and rightfully so.  Very short track record here and I told you all that 2013 was in plain outlier territory.  Never pay for a career season is Fantasy Sports Boss Rule #25.  Right Chris Davis owners?

Joe Smith:  scoreless ninth for his first save.  Nice start by Smith but again like with Jim Johnson in Oakland you anticipate Ernesto Frieri to get back to the ninth at some point.  Hold Frieri.

Charlie Blackmon:  0/3 while hitting .389.  I already get the nagging suspicion we have seen the best run out of Blackmon by far and that he is a sell high.  I bet you the average is .290 by next month.

Troy Tulowitzki:  3/3 with his 6th HR while hitting .366.  Tulowitzki went all Coors Field in one.  For like the fourth season in a row Tulo is taking no prisoners in April and reaffirming his place as one of the most awesome fantasy baseball performers in the game.  When he is on the field of course.

Justin Morneau:  2/4 with his 6th HR while hitting .351.  Not loving Morneau hitting in the sixth spot but so loving this comeback story.  This was always possible as Morneau was not ancient.  All he needed was a clear mind concussion-wise and the major ballpark boost Coors Field supplies.  I would hold Morneau all the way as his overall value has not rebounded to the point where you can get equal value.

Wade Miley:  7 ER in 6 IP with an ERA of 5.36.  After this start I don't plan on talking about Wade Miley maybe ever again.  Not that I did much in the first place. 

Brandon Hicks:  1/4 with his fourth HR while hitting .226.  All he does is hit home runs.  Nice at second base for sure but this falls squarely into "let's see a whole lot more."

Madison Bumgarner:  4 ER in 5 IP with an ERA of 3.74.  Bumgarner continues to put up ugly results but a .390 BABIP is the main culprit plus his control has been wonky.  Still by the end of the season I believe he will remain a top ten guy. 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WRAPUP: BRYCE HARPER DONE UNTIL JULY, RYAN BRAUN LIKELY TO JOIN HIM ON THE DL

The news came down Monday afternoon regarding Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper regarding the injured left thumb he suffered during Friday night's game and the news was grim to say the least.  Instead of a strain or a bruise that would only have kept Harper out a few days, an MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb which will require surgery and thus keep him out until July.  It was a shot right to the gut for Harper's fantasy baseball owners who are now without their second or third round pick until the summer.  This marks the second straight season Harper has dealt with injury that removed more than a few games from his ledger and thus we have reached a point now in his still very young career where some things are becoming a bit more clearer.  For one, Harper can now firmly be considered an injury-prone player.  We have spoken extensively regarding his all-out and sometimes reckless play in the field and one the bases leaving him more susceptible to injury and it was his hustle into the bag while sliding that caused the tear in the first place.  While we can applaud anyone who plays as hard as Harper does, a line does have to be drawn where a guy puts himself in harm's way.  In addition, Harper's hitting has taken a step back from his eye-opening 2012 debut due mainly to a K rate that is very high and power that has yet to totally take off yet which is a bit understandable given he is only 22.  The sky remains the limit for Harper but his physical issues and holes in his swing are combining to derail his potential rise to stardom. 

Now as far as what Harper's screwed owners should currently do, Nate McLouth will slide into everyday playing time for the Nationals and he is only a year removed from hitting 12 home runs with 30 stolen bases.  Some other potential options who could be on the wire are Nick Castellanos, Chris Denorfia, Garrett Jones, Lucas Duda, Jarrod Dyson, and Jason Kubel.  Clearly these guys would be a step down from Harper but as they say those are the breaks. 

-On a related note, it is looking now like a certainty that the Milwaukee Brewers will place outfielder Ryan Braun on the DL with a strained intercostal muscle he suffered over the weekend.  Manager Ron Roenicke originally said Braun would be out 3-5 days but little improvement has been felt by his player since the injury.  Really when you break it down, intercostal muscle strains are almost always automatically DL situations.  While Braun has hit well enough when on the field. his increasing propensity for injury going back to 2012 is now well-documented and leave him open for linkage to past dalliances with PED's.  It should be just a 15-day deal with Braun with regards to this injury but of course we now have to start anticipating the next health issue.


Monday, April 28, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: THE HECTOR RONDON SHOW IS AT HAND

It is Monday and so once again it is time to check back into the world of the ninth inning and the closers who inhabit them.  Let's check out all of the latest news coming from this always volatile group.

-Hector Rondon it is now your turn to sit in the hot seat, a.k.a. the ninth inning.  We got a glimpse of what the new back end configuration of the Cubs' bullpen looked like on Sunday as manager Rick Renteria went with Pedro Strop in the eighth inning and than had Rondon pitch the ninth with a 4-0 lead which is customary closer territory.  Rondon responded by striking out the side in a perfect frame and all the numbers check out now for him being the best man for the ninth inning.  The fireballer now sports a 0.97 ERA and 0.73 WHIP while striking out 14 in 12.1 frames.  The fact Rondon misses bats at an above-average rate makes him a solid fit to close games but there is the gigantic concern about how he will handle the mental aspect of the gig.  We have seen way too many examples of guys who have explosive stuff that dominates in setup but than who turn to mush when they wait an inning later to pitch and have to deal with the pressure that goes with it.  Rondon is no lock to succeed but he at the very least has interesting current numbers to be worth a look.

-There were some rumblings in the St. Louis front office about possibly reinserting Jason Motte into the closer role when he returns in May from Tommy John surgery due to the unexpected struggles of Trevor Rosenthal early on.*******THE REST OF THIS FEATURE IS FOR INSIDER SUBSCRIBERS ONLY.  USE THE BUY NOW TAB BELOW TO PURCHASE YOUR SEASON PASS TO ALL INSIDER FEATURES FOR A NOW SEASON-LOW  $24.99.******

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FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BREWERS' RYAN BRAUN LIKELY TO HIT DL DUE TO INTERCOSTAL STRAIN

                                                         

Updating an earlier item, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is expected to be placed on the DL in the next 24-48 hours if the strained intercostal muscle he suffered over the past weekend doesn't improve.  Braun is still in quite a bit of pain in the area according to reports and manager Roe Roenicke conceded the team might have to go another route in dealing with the issue.

Analysis:  You can draw the continued propensity for injuries when it comes to Braun to his past steroid use.  He is fair game to be linked to that and honestly his health has been a mess for more than a full season now.  Intercostal strains are almost always DL stints so I was surprised when initially the Brewers said he would miss only 3-5 days.  In his defense Braun has hit well while on the field but he just can't be depended on to play a full season anymore.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NATS' BRYCE HARPER OUT UNTIL JULY DUE TO TURN LIGAMENT IN THUMB

ington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will be out until July after it was revealed he needs surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his injured left thumb.  Harper jammed the thumb sliding into base Friday night and went for a Saturday MRI which revealed the tear.  Nate McLouth will fill in during his absence.

Analysis:  Ugh!  On and on it goes with Harper who once again will fail to realize his vast potential.  While he is still very young and has all the talent in the world, injuries and his high strikeout rate have conspired to atjjnt his growth.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RYAN BRAUN (INTERCOSTAL STRAIN) AND JEAN SEGURA (FACIAL INJURY) OUT OF LINEUP MON.

                                                       

Both Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and shortstop Jean Segura are out of the lineup again on Monday with an intercostal strain and facial injury respectively.  Braun and Segura are both considered day-to-day. 

Analysis:  Braun is still a possibility to hit the DL as he could be out the next 3-5 days as the Brewers said over the weekend.  If he is still not right by the end of that timetable, the Brewers will just DL him and backdate it.  Segura meanwhile should return in a few days after he has a procedure to fix the lacerations on his face after getting a smash to the face by Braun's bat.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: YOENIS CESPEDES (HAMSTRING) OUT AGAIN MONDAY

                                                     

Oakland A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is out of the lineup again on Monday due to the hamstring he strained last Thursday.  He is still considered day-to-day and could be in line to return either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Analysis:  The longer this goes the better chances the A's are just going to DL Cespedes and get on with it.  While Cespedes' power has been consistent since breaking into the majors, his high K rates show no signs of letting up which means a woeful batting average. 

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL UPDATED CATCHER RANKINGS

Some new names make their first appearance on the 2014 fantasy baseball catcher rankings so let's get right to where everyone stands two weeks into the season.

1.  Buster Posey;  Absolutely killing the baseball with 2 home runs in the first two weeks to go with batting champ average.  Already putting somewhat disappointing 2013 season behind him.
2.  Yadier Molina:  Molina has moved up to the number 2 spot out of the Santana, McCann, Rosario tier as he is the only one among that group that is hitting early on.
3.  Carlos Santana 
4.  Evan Gattis:  The average will drop but Gattis is showing the immense power which could get close to the 30 range. 
5.  Matt Wieters:  Wieters is locked in right now and there is always the feeling the big monster season that was always forecast for him could be finally ready to be unleashed.  So far so good.
6.  Devin Mesoraco:  Only thing he needed was for Dusty Baker to leave town in order to show off a bat with power potential and even a good average.  Looking like all those years of calling him a deep sleeper might be paying off.  A hamstring injury stunts the growth a bit though. 
7.  Jonathan Lucroy:  The guy I told you all to draft is doing it all, right on down to stealing a base.  8.  Brian McCann
9.  Wilin Rosario
10. Joe Mauer
11. Salvador Perez
12. Jason Castro:  Hitting home runs but the average has sunk as I predicted due to striking out at a very high rate.
13. Yan Gomes:  Looking very solid at the dish and has two home runs the first two weeks.  Power is the name of the game here and Gomes still has a mystery to his name as far as how good he could be.  The fact Carlos Santana is holding up at third base helps.
14. A.J. Pierzynski
15, Mike Zunino:  Not much below Mesoraco on the breakout scale.  Gets lost a bit in Seattle. 
16. Yasmani Grandal
17. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
18. Travis D'Arnaud:  So far nothing yet out of the top catching prospect but give it time since this always seems to be the trend with these guys.
19. Miguel Montero
20. Wellington Castillo
21. Derek Norris
22. Russell Martin
23. Tyler Flowers
24. Carlos Ruiz
25. Nick Hundley


FANTASY BASEBALL STAT OF THE DAY: DILLON GEE AN SP 2?

Going back to last May 30th, New York Mets SP Dillon Gee has a composite ERA of 2.75.  That is SP 2 territory.  Despite a limited K rate, Gee has been consistently good for almost a full season now and has earned the right to be an everyday starter in those formats that don't have an innings limit.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: LIGAMENT DAMAGE COULD SHELVE BRYCE HARPER FOR TWO MONTHS

A team source close to the Washington Nationals front office said on Monday that ligament damage is suspected in the left thumb of outfielder Bryce Harper and if confirmed, the ailment could sideline him for up to two months.  Harper injured the thumb last Friday while sliding into base and an MRI was conducted late Saturday, which led to the Nationals placing him on the DL.  The Nationals are expected to lend more clarity to the injury later Monday.

Analysis:  This is what we have been hearing since yesterday and if true we won't see Harper until July.  This would be a horrendous turn of events for Harper's fantasy baseball owners but injuries are now par for the course with the talented but underachieving outfielder.  Stay tuned. 

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: SUNDAY

Hector Rondon:  struck out the side in the ninth with a 4-0 lead while Pedro Strop pitched the eighth.  Rondon has been very good this season as he now sports a 0.73 ERA.  This was as close to a save situation as one could get and Rondon was dominant.  He is the guy for the ninth inning right now and while he is far from a sure thing, the K rate checks out.

Starlin Castro:  3/4 with 2 home runs (4 for season) while hitting .292.  No doubt Castro is off to a nice start this season after bottoming out in 2013.  It is possible Castro got a bit too full of himself after achieving instant success at the MLB level at 20 years old and maybe he did need to hit rock bottom before turning it around as he so far is doing.  Would absolutely pick him up if lurking on waivers somewhere.

Jason Hammel:  7 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.08.  While I am never in the habit of picking up Chicago Cubs starting pitchers, you can do a hell of a lot worse than having Hammel as your number 5 guy. 

Jose Altuve:  2/4 with his first HR while hitting .292.  Altuve has a tiny bit of pop in the 5-7 range so he is capable of hitting one out every once in awhile.  Almost a month into the season, today was every once in awhile.

Colin McHugh:  8.2 IP 2 H 1 ER 3 BB 7 K with an ERA of 0.59.  Hmmmm.  Second start in a row McHugh was beyond good and the strikeouts have been huge.  Listen if you want to take a test drive I won't stop you since McHugh shoved it to all of us who said his first start was a one-time deal.  We always are in love with K's and at least so far McHugh making a statement there.

Jhonny Peralta:  2/2 with 2 home runs (6 for season) while hitting .195.  Peralta continues to hit for power despite a BABIP that is dragging way under into the bad luck realm.  Nothing changes as far as my dislike for the guy due to the fact he has no speed at a speedy position but 20 home runs from a shortstop does carry sizable value.

Adam Wainwright:  8 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 1.20.  Maybe I was a year too early in picking Adam Wainwright to win the NL Cy Young. 

Edinson Volquez:  6 ER in 5.2 IP with an ERA of 3.21.  Leave it to the infuriating Volquez to get ripped apart on the day he makes it into the ADDS list for this weeks ADDS/DROPS.  He only walked one though which is encouraging.  Still interested given the shining recent examples of Pittsburgh being the Lourdes for pitchers.  Just ask A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano.

Johnny Cueto:  8 IP 3 H 0 ER 3 BB 11 K with an ERA of 1.15.  Holy crap with the guy.  The strikeouts are off the map right now with Cueto and his 0.77 WHIP shows how utterly out of this world he has been.  Going into this start though Cueto's BABIP was .160 which is right at the top of the most lucky in all of baseball.  Even when the ERA rises a full run and a half which it will when the luck changes, Cueto looks ready to give Adam Wainwright some competition.

Julio Teheran:  8 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 5 K with an ERA of 1.47.  Lost in the hoopla over Jose Fernandez, Cueto, and Wainwright has been the stellar pitching of Teheran as well.  He is somewhat of a mystery in the sense that his K rate and velocity have dropped this season but clearly he is getting it done no matter how he is doing it.  Teheran looks like a guy who is taking yet another step this season towards near ace status.

Nate McLouth:  1/3 with his first HR while hitting .118.  Only hours after I told you all to pick up McLouth, who is back to playing every day in place of the injured Bryce Harper, he goes out and hits a home run.  More numbers are in store at least for the next week so do what your supposed to do.  Right now McLouth is hitting at the bottom of the lineup but his speed could get him moved up very soon under which he would gain terrific value since he could use his speed more there.

Ian Kennedy:  7 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 9 K with an ERA of 3.16.  This one was obvious enough.  Kennedy is reclaiming much of the value he lost the last two seasons now that he is out of Chase Field.  Sure he was on the road in this one but Washington is as close as you can get to Petco Park in the vast size of the place.  Kennedy has always been a good strikeout guy and with fewer home runs to worry about, there is no reason he can't continue to pitch like this.

Jose Abreu:  2/4 with his 10th HR while hitting .262.  31 RBI for April and we are not even through the month yet.  Amazing stuff we are seeing out of Abreu who is already looking like a guy who could hear his name called in round 1 of the draft next season. 

David Price:  6 ER in 6 IP with an ERA of 4.75.  Wow has Price been ripped a new one his last two starts.  Just when I got finished praising the guy's stock due to the return of his strikeouts, Price decides this season he wants to get hit a whole bunch more.  I think this is ultimately just a bump in the road as Price has a very solid 1.18 WHIP and K rate of over 10.00.  I am buying low.

Chris Young:  1/3 with his second HR while hitting .194.  Right now Young is just another name on more than a few waiver wires and that won't change after this one.  His home run swing is getting into gear but Young is still showing no desire to steal bases which makes that ugly average looks so much worse.

Dillon Gee:  8 IP 3 H 0 ER 4 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.88.  Gee is moving into the Tim Hudson realm as one of the best non-K starters in fantasy baseball.  He has been terrific going all the way back to last June so the fluke factor has been removed.   You want to start Gee at home every time out and pick and choose when on the road.  Play it that way and he should be a help to you.

Omar Infante:  2/3 with his second HR and 6 RBI while hitting .279.  I am only talking about Infante  because he hit a home run and had 6 RBI.  Next.

Nelson Cruz:  1/4 with his seventh HR while hitting .284.  The Mets have got to be kicking themselves for using $7 million on Young right out of the gates in free agency and than months later Cruz signs with Baltimore for the same amount. 

James Shields:  7 IP 3 H 2 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.03.  Shields gave up his requisite home run but he remains completely locked in on the mound.  Maybe one of these years Shields will get the respect he deserves.  Winning a Cy Young would help. 

Danny Salazar:  7 IP 5 H 1 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 6.04.  Of course.  I mean you knew Salazar would dominate the start after we all finally threw our hands up.  If we started him again he would have given up 6 earned runs in 2 innings.  In fact I am shocked Salazar didn't throw a no-hitter.  Or that the Indians didn't have a doubleheader, Salazar started both, and tossed two no-hitters.  Yup that is how it goes.  Insert curses below. 

A.J. Burnett:  8 IP 5 H 0 ER 0 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.15.  No truth to the rumor Burnett was still wearing his old Pittsburgh Pirates jersey underneath his Phillies uniform.  Hey whatever works. 

Yan Gomes:  1/3 with his third HR while hitting .270.  Gomes is holding his own right now but not wowing anyone either.  He deserves to stay in your lineups for the time being to see what direction he takes.  Unless he continues to tread water like he is doing right now.  Still like the power potential in the bat.

Hyun-Jin Ryu:  6 ER in 5 IP with an ERA of 3.23.  Ryu has been much more good than bad so we can look past this one.  However the tone has quieted a bit after his tremendous first two starts and three out of four.  Has settled back to being a very solid SP 2 which is good enough.

Kyle Seager:  2/4 with 2 home runs (5 for season) while hitting .228.  Nailed this one cold.  Told you all to buy Seager over a week ago when his bat was went BABIP-limp.  Five home runs in the last four games say it all.  Another proven vet who just took a bit extra time to get going.  The numbers always come if said player is in prime like Seager is.

Garrett Richards:  7 IP 3 H 2 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.53.  Richards was lighting up the radar gun all night so he was both visually and physically impressive.  Once again though I will stick to my guns on telling you not to go overboard here as Richards still spots an ugly 4.50 BB/9 and a ridiculously lucky BABIP of .195.  The first number is sustainable which is bad and the second number is no sustainable which is also bad.  It could get ugly at a moment's notice.

Mark Teixeira:  1/2 with his second HR while hitting .229.  By all means pick up Teixeira if available.  I have ripped the guy I new one over the years but that doesn't include picking him up for free off waivers. 

Masahiro Tanaka:  6.1 IP 5 H 2 ER 4 BB 11 K with an ERA of 2.27.  This is the first time Tanaka struggled with his control but he struck out 11 which shows you how potent his stuff remains.  It is looking like we missed the boat when we said in the winter that Tanaka would not have the strikeouts that countryman Yu Darvish has.



Sunday, April 27, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL ADDS/DROPS

Another week has arrived in 2014 fantasy baseball and as always there are prime adds and drops to concern yourself with which you can read about below.

ADDS

Joe Smith:  By the time you read this Smith could have already nailed down his first save in place of the awful Ernesto Frieri.  Like with Jim Johnson, Frieri has generally been a very solid closer who is prone to extended struggles.  When those struggles come at the start of the season, jobs get yanked.  Smith has been a terrific setup man since breaking into the league, routinely posting ERA's in the mid-2.00 to mid-3.00 range. 

Andrew Heaney:  The next Michael Wacha is tearing it up at Double-A, averaging a K/IP and absolutely dominating almost every time out.  The Marlins have showed no hesitation in the past in promoting their top prospects and Heaney is every bit one of the best pitchers in the minors.  I call him the next Michael Wacha due to his extremely good control, vast array of pitches, and better than one would think K rate.  Stash him now.

Hector Rondon:  Up next in the closer carousel for the Chicago Cubs has to be Rondon who has pitched well all season in setup and as of this writing has 11 K's in slightly more than 11 innings pitched.  No guarantee Rondon will fit the bill in the ninth inning either but he at least should get the next shot.

*******THE REST OF THIS FEATURE IS FOR INSIDER SUBSCRIBERS ONLY.  USE THE BUY NOW TAB BELOW TO PURCHASE YOUR SEASON PASS TO ALL INSIDER FEATURES FOR A NOW SEASON-LOW  $24.99.******

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FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: MARCUS STROMAN TO GET CALLED UP IF DUSTIN McGOWAN'S STRUGGLES TUESDAY

Top Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect Marcus Stroman had his start pushed back to Tuesday so as to line him up on the same day that struggling fifth starter Dustin McGowan goes for the team.  The current plan is for McGowan to get the start as a last ditch means to show he should stick in the rotation and that if he struggles, Stroman will get called up to take his place.  Stroman has been terrific while on the farm this season, pitching to a 2.16 ERA while striking out 26 in 20.2 innings.  This is an actionable move right at this very moment as we all know McGowan is not long for the rotation and that Stroman has big time upside as a power arm despite a slight frame.  Make the add now and get ready to see the call come as soon as Tuesday.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TIGERS/TWINS POSTPONED DUE TO RAIN SUNDAY

The Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins game Sunday has been postponed due to rain.  No makeup has been announced but Justin Verlander and Kyle Gibson are expected to be pushed back to Tuesday.

Analysis:  Adjust your lineups accordingly. 

FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUE: SCHEDULE LOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

With many fantasy baseball leagues using a weekly format where you set it and forget it as far as your rosters on Sunday for the next seven days, here is a quick look at how the schedule breaks down with regards to maximizing stats for your hitters.  Also included is a look at the two-start pitchers this week and their rankings.


SEVEN GAME TEAMS THIS WEEK

-Brewers, Rays, Reds, Rockies

FIVE GAME TEAMS

-Astros, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Tigers, Nationals.

OFF ON MONDAY

Astros, Blue Jays, Braves, Dodgers, Orioles, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees.

OFF ON THURSDAY

A's, Angels, Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Giants, Indians, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Tigers, White Sox.

TWO START PITCHER RANKINGS

1.  Jose Fernandez
2.  Michael Wacha
3.  Yu Darvish
4.  Max Scherzer
5.  Zack Greinke
6.  Madison Bumgarner
7.  Alex Wood
8.  Jeff Samardzjia
9.  Tony Cingrani
10. Sonny Gray
11. Yovani Gallardo
12. Kyle Lohse
13. Jason Vargas
14. Tyler Skaggs
15. Justin Masterson
16. C.C. Sabathia
17. Jon Niese
18. Jose Quintana
19. Wade Miley
20. John Lackey
21. Tyson Ross
22. Kyle Gibson
23. Alfredo Simon
24. Chris Young
25. Erik Bedard
26. Tyler Chatwood
27. Franklin Morales
28. Dustin McGowan
29. Jake Odorizzi
30. Mike Pelfrey
31. Andre Rienzo



FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: JEAN SEGURA OUT SUNDAY AFTER BEING HIT BY BAT, PLASTIC SURGERY ON TAP

Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura is not in the lineup on Sunday a day after getting hit in the eye with a bat by teammate Ryan Braun in the dugout.  Segura needs plastic surgery to hear the wounds from the smash but is not expected to be put on the DL.

Analysis:  Huge news that no breaks were found on Segura's face after such a horrible accident.  He should return sometime in the middle of the week. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: MATT WIETERS TAKING REST DAY SUNDAY

Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is taking a scheduled rest day on Sunday and will be replaced by Steve Clevenger in the lineup.

Analysis:  Wieters continues to swing a hot bat this season but missed a few games this past week which is a tad annoying.  Nothing to worry about though as Wieters has no physical issue to discuss.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RYAN BRAUN OUT SUNDAY WITH INTERCOSTAL STRAIN

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is not in the lineup on Sunday due to the intercostal strain he suffered in Saturday night's game.  It was surely an eventful Saturday for Braun who also smashed shortstop Jean Segura in the face with his bat while taking warmup swings in the dugout during the first inning.  Braun is considered day-to-day.

Analysis:  Yet another nagging injury for Braun to deal with.  You can say all of these maladies are due to the steroids and honestly we can all speculate on that since Braun was a busted user.  He is not going to go on the DL with this according to reports but I also don't expect Braun to return until mid-week.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: EVAN GATTIS GETTING DAY OFF SUNDAY

Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis will get the day off on Sunday, with Gerald Laird manning the plate.  Routine day off for Gattis as the Braves don't play in an American League park to use the DH.

Analysis:  Gattis has been tremendous all season and while the 22 percent K rate will start taking some of the average way, 30 home runs remains a possibility this season. 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: NATS PLACE BRYCE HARPER ON DL, WELCOME BACK FROM THE DEAD NATE McLOUTH

Updating an earlier item, the Washington Nationals in the last ten minutes placed outfielder Bryce Harper on the 15-day DL with a thumb injury suffered in last Friday's game.  Harper jammed the thumb sliding into first base and an MRI was done to reveal any possible damage.  A Nationals source is indicating that ligament damage might have been found which is why the team rushed to place Harper on the DL and backdate it to April 26th.  Once again for Harper and his fantasy baseball owners, injuries continue to mar what could be a special career from the power-hitting outfielder.  We have spoken too many times to count recently about Harper's propensity for getting injured and his all-out play, while admirable, sets him up to continue becoming a permanent resident of the disabled list.  If there is in fact ligament damage, Harper could be out a month or more.  The Nationals will update the MRI results prior to Sunday's game.

The result of Harper's absence means that fourth outfielder Nate McLouth once again becomes an everyday player.  McLouth had a major comeback season for the Baltimore Orioles in 2013, hitting his way to the leadoff spot on an everyday basis.  Showing that he hasn't lost much in the way of speed, McLouth stole 30 bags in 37 attempts while also hitting 12 home runs and batting .258.  While McLouth has struggled to a woeful .097 average going into Sunday's game, a lot of that can be blamed on the difficulties of being a guy whose playing time is not consistent.  McLouth should be picked up in all formats as there is more speed and decent run skills to be had while Harper is out.  As far as Harper is concerned, I mentioned recently how he is starting to go into the overrated file and this latest injury doesn't help matters.  Even before he hurt the thumb, Harper was not hitting all that well with 1 home run and a rising K rate.  Obviously you have to hold him if you are an owner but the name is outweighing the production until he starts getting back on the field and hitting again.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MRI DONE ON BRYCE HARPER'S THUMB, OUT OF THE LINEUP AGAIN ON SUN.

The Washington Nationals ordered up an MRI on the jammed left thumb that outfielder Bryce Harper suffered during Friday's game and he will be out of the lineup for the second straight day on Sunday as a result.  The MRI results are expected sometime during the day Sunday and a stint on the DL is contingent on what the read.

Analysis:  Ugh.  This is sounding worse by the day.  The Nationals want to rule out a break or a ligament issue which is why they did the MRI and Harper reported no improvements on Sunday with the pain.  Once again he is a chronic injury guy who dots the infirmary reports every day it seems.  The numbers are just not there yet either when on the field as Harper begins to enter that phase where he could slide in the way the fantasy baseball community values him.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: DAVID ORTIZ TO GET REST DAY ON SUNDAY

Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz is not in the lineup Sunday as he takes a rest day on the bench.  A.J. Pierzynski will DH and David Ross will be behind the plate.

Analysis:  Nothing to talk about as Ortiz is getting the standard Sunday veteran's day off.  The numbers are not exploding off the bat yet for Ortiz but he has more than earned the right to be given a long leash. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NO IMPROVEMENT SEEN IN ROCKIES OUTFIELDER MICHAEL CUDDYER'S HAMSTRING

Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer admitted Sunday that he has seen little improvement in the hamstring injury that sent him to the DL early last week.  "Every day kind of feels the same," said Cuddyer. "It's obviously not good to not have improvement, but, at the same time, it's not worse."  With Cuddyer eligible to come off the DL on May 3rd, the failure to see any improvement likely means he will stay out longer.

Analysis:  Bummer.  Cuddyer has been as good an outfielder 3 as you can get in fantasy baseball over the last year-plus but the hamstring is giving him big trouble.  A mid-May return now seems more likely as the Rockies won't take a chance of him re-injuring it by coming back before he is 100 percent. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: JIM JOHNSON BACK IN MIX AS OAKLAND CLOSER

Oakland A's manager Bob Melvin admitted early Sunday that Jim Johnson would have gotten the call in the ninth inning if there was a save chance Saturday night.  With both Sean Doolittle and Luke Gregerson pitching setup innings, Melvin made it known that Johnson was the guy who was going to close it out.  He stopped short however in saying that Johnson was the official everyday closer going forward.

Analysis:  I already picked Johnson up off waivers a few days ago as this was the plan all along.  With $10 million invested in Johnson for this season, there was no way the A's wouldn't try and get him back into the ninth inning if he responded with positive results in setup which he has.  Feel free to drop Gregerson and Doolittle and the only possible obstacle here could be Ryan Cook who has been money all season and who the front office touted as a possible long-term guy last week.

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: SATURDAY LATE EDITION

Buster Posey:  1/3 with his 5th HR while hitting .224.  Posey remains mired in a pretty pronounced slump but a .211 BABIP pretty much is the reason for what is going on.  Major, major BUY LOW opportunity here so pounce before he inevitably gets hot.

Giancarlo Stanton:  1/5 with his 7th HR while hitting .278.  Stanton has been right there with Jose Abreu as the very best sluggers in fantasy baseball early on this season.  The average slid back as expected but the impressive to this point Marlins lineup is helping Stanton rediscover his past number 1 outfielder value.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia:  1/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .250.  Salty seemingly left most of his value in Boston due to the drastic differences in ballparks.  He has homered in each of the last two games so a mini-run could ensue here but overall Saltalamacchia is really now just a second catcher in formats that player two there.

Jenrry Mejia:  5.2 IP 8 H 6 ER 1 BB 6 K with an ERA of 3.49.  There is a trend developing now with Mejia.  He is completely dominant out of the gates in his starts but by the fifth inning he begins to tire as he is a maximum thrower on all of his pitches.  It was like a light switch flipped from Mejia being unhittable to being lit up.  The endurance doesn't look to be there for deep starts which is a problem in getting wins and maintaining his ratios.  Love the K's no doubt but there are questions here now about how much of a long-term investment Mejia can be.

Kyle Seager:  2/4 with his third HR while hitting .213.  Seager is finding himself at the plate now which is why I suggested picking him up off waivers after the impatient guy in your league cut him loose.  If Seager played for the Yankees that would never have happened.

Adrian Gonzalez:  2/3 with his 8th HR while hitting .309.  Always been a big fan of Gonzalez and it is nice to see the home run comeback he is engineering.  To think that everyone went nuts for Chris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion in Round 1 this past drafting season and instead could have waited until Round 3 to grab Gonzalez or Albert Pujols.

Matt Kemp:  2/4 with his 4th HR and 3rd SB while hitting .219.  The hits have been tough to come by but Kemp was expected to be a bit hot and cold early on due to all his missed time going back to last season.  The three steals perhaps are the most encouraging part of the equation here though as Kemp needs contributions there to maintain his maximum value as a five stat guy.

Cliff Lee:  6 IP 6 H 3 ER 2 BB 2 K with an ERA of 3.29.  Lee continues to be a bit of a wild ride early on this season but shoddy defense helped undermine him in this start.  We are long past the buy low window that Lee presented after week 1 but there is some legitimate concern about a very lucky .390 BABIP.  In other words Lee has been lucky to have the ERA where it currently sits so trying to field some offers is not the worst idea.

Khris Davis:  2/4 with his third HR while hitting .265.  Well you can say at least one Khris (Chris) Davis is swatting home runs early on this season.

Marco Estrada:  7.2 IP 4 H 3 ER 0 BB 9 K with an ERA of 2.87.  Estrada was unhittable in this one until of course he gave up two home runs to somewhat mar the outing.  This is the big issue with Estrada as he and Matt Cain have redefined being homer-prone.  The talent is obvious but worrying in any given start how many bombs the guy will give up is not an ideal mindset for owning a player.

Brandon Moss:  2/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .278.  Moss is stupidly being batted low in the A's order for whatever reason.  Either way don't even think of letting the guy go.  He falls into that impatient/boring veteran grouping due to the lack of steals and a glowing average which means he is the first guy to get cut if he is not hitting in abundance and a roster move has to be completed with someone else.  Moss has rarer power in today's game and his versatility is a nice plus.  Let me have him if you don't think you need that kind of positive impact.

Freddie Freeman:  1/4 with his sixth HR while hitting .352.  Freeman is doing a better Joey Votto impression than Joey Votto does.

Justin Upton:  3/3 with his 7th HR and third SB while hitting .323.  Is this the year?  How many times have we uttered that question?  We were at this same exact juncture a year ago but the plan to rest Upton when slides start to crop up worked last week to reignite the bat.  Fingers crossed but so far Upton is doing nothing to elicit criticism. 

Evan Gattis:  1/4 with his sixth HR while hitting .308.  Gattis is one of those guys where I convinced myself not to even look in his direction at the draft due to my belief that massive K's would stunt his possible breakout.  His 22 percent K rate right now is very high but the .318 BABIP is just slightly lucky.  I violated my own rule of being willing to overlook a possibly shoddy average from a catcher if they supply top notch power.  If I didn't own Matt Wieters I would be more ticked but I also believe by the end of the season Gattis will be around 30 home runs which I can't say the same about my guy.

David Hale:  8 IP 2 H 1 ER 2 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.31.  Of course Hale dominated.  He pitches for the Atlanta Braves who could churn out more impactful starters than any other organization in baseball.  The lack of a useful K rate and a lucky .257 BABIP will combine for some ugly numbers in the future but as I always say enjoy the ride until the wheels break away.

Craig Kimbrel:  scoreless ninth for his eighth save with an ERA of 2.31.  The kid is back to his old self so drop any handcuff you picked up there.  Trust me there will be many more closer speculative adds to be made going forward as always.



Saturday, April 26, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JEAN SEGURA NAILED IN FACE WITH BAT IN DUGOUT, REMOVED FROM SAT. GAME

                                                    

Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura was removed from the game Saturday after getting nailed in the face by a bat in the dugout during the first inning while Ryan Braun was taking warmup swings.  Braun swung the bat which nailed Segura in the dugout square in the face when he was standing on the top steps.  A visible gash was seen around Segura's eye.  He immediately went for testing in the dugout.

Analysis:  Well that was ugly.  I would be shocked if Segura gets away with just a bruise here.  He got hit right in the eye and the swelling was instant.  Braun now has something else he can get booed about.  Any loss of Segura, who was recently demoted to the seventh spot in the lineup, would be monstrous.

FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF: GEORGE SPRINGERS K PROBLEM DERAILING EARLY RESULTS

It was only ten days ago when the Houston Astros created quite the stir in the fantasy baseball community by calling up top outfield prospect George Springer from the minors and immediately inserting him into the lineup for that night's game versus the Kansas City Royals.  After putting up video game numbers in them minor leagues last season to the tune of 37 home runs and 45 steals, the sky was literally the limit for Springer.  However despite all those power/speed dynamics, the one issue that threatened to derail all of Springer's promise was his very high proclivity for striking out.  Despite all those home runs and steals Springer accumulated last season, he still struck out a ton and would likely have to deal with that problem right out of the gate starting against the Royals the night of his promotion.  Unfortunately the strikeout concern has been realized in the early going as Springer goes into Saturday night's game with a composite .179 average to go with zero home runs and 1 stolen base.  Overall Springer has struck out 14 times in 39 at-bats which is a truly horrific ratio and has undermined his early possible production.  As a result Springer is already being dropped en masse in fantasy baseball leagues which is completely jumping the gun.  Remember that Mike Trout struggled during his very first call-up in 2011 before taking the league by storm a year later.  Springer is finding his way right now and the early going no doubt has been tough. This type of ability though can't be easily tossed aside so stay patient if you are an owner and pick him right up if someone in your league already dropped him.  A major opportunity is at hand under the latter scenario and eventually the talent will start to shine through.  I suspect the next time we discuss Springer, it will be under more positive terms.  He still retains his standing in out book as one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TIGERS SP ANIBAL SANCHEZ LANDS ON DL WITH LACERATED FINGER

                                                      

Updating an earlier item, the Detroit Tigers placed SP Anibal Sanchez on the 15-day DL Saturday just hours after he lacerated his right middle finger during his Saturday afternoon start.  While originally called a blister, the wound was deeper than originally discussed and thus the Tigers felt Sanchez would not be able to go in five days for his next turn. 

Analysis:  Darn.  Sanchez has always dealt with one injury after another but overall he recently was able to pitch through them.  Don't count on Sanchez being out longer than 15 days as the laceration should be plenty healed by than. 

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: EARLY SATURDAY EDITION

Tanner Roark:  9 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.76.  Pure domination from Roark who has more than held his own in place of Doug Fister in the Washington rotation.  This on the heels of a 1.51 ERA debut in 53.3 innings in 2013.  There is not much in the way of pedigree here as Roark was a 25th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers way back in 2008.  Late bloomer for sure but Roark's numbers are impressive nonetheless.  The advanced metrics are not checking out though as Roark's FIP and XFIP are both above 4.00 and going into this one his K rate was below 7.00.  Likely a best case scenario going on which is being helped by good luck so Roark is a volatile play going forward.

Andrew Cashner:  6 IP 9 H 4 ER 1 BB 5 K with an ERA of 2.68.  Cashner has been a bit rough the last two starts and in his first full season as a starter we will likely see some more stretches like this, especially later on in the season if he stays healthy.  The latter is Cashner's biggest challenge.

Victor Martinez:  1/3 with his fourth HR while hitting .286.  Really all anyone cares about with Martinez is whether or not he is catching since it will than move him closer to gaining eligibility there.  The Tigers don't have many games coming up with National League rules so we could be waiting awhile.  Until that happens Martinez is Mike Napoli at first base with a better average, worse power, and a mediocre fantasy baseball standing.

Josmil Pinto:  1/3 with his 5th HR while hitting .230.  Pinto has the hitting down pat for the modern day catcher with regards to hitting some home runs with a horrible batting average.  Starting to gain notice however in two-catcher formats.

Anibal Sanchez:  2.2 IP 0 H 0 ER 2 BB 2 K with an ERA of 3.13.  Sanchez had it going early but was forced out with a blister.  Blisters can be a long-term issue that can derail any start so this has to be looked at closely.  Anyone who ever owned Josh Beckett earlier in his career can understand the chaos one little blister can cause.

Mike Trout:  2/3 with his 6th HR and 3rd SB while hitting .316.  Call it the Mike Trout Special (home run, steal). 

A.J. Pierzynski:  1/3 with his second HR while hitting .277.  Same old story for Pierzynski who can maintain a plus-.270 average with 10-plus home runs and everyone around baseball hating him in his sleep.

Will Middlebrooks:  1/4 with his second HR while hitting .286.  The power remains very enticing for one more season at least and his average is not killing you right now.  Check him out once again.

Jose Bautista:  3/5 with his 7th HR while hitting .296.  Look at Bautista.  Hitting almost .300.  What is nutty here is that Bautista has a slightly unlucky BABIP at .288 and is striking out at a career-high 26 percent clip.  Statistical anomaly for sure but you own Bautista for his power and not the average.  Stay the course with the veteran.