June 20, 2013
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Tuesday, May 01, 2012
I know the last thing you guys probably want to read about when you are looking for valuable fantasy advice is another expert league that we should have introduced a month ago. However, please indulge me a bit as this league is somewhat special: It is for a good cause and is sponsored by an interesting new fantasy sports start-up.
The THT vs. Fangraphs league features six writers from each organization. The format is standard deep-roster, mixed-league player universe, auction, FAAB set-up. But, after that things get a bit interesting.
First off, the league is sponsored by Fantasy Squared, which is basically what you’d guess it to be. Fantasy Squared is ostensibly a fantasy game for fantasy leagues. As a secondary market fantasy game, it offers some interesting opportunities.
Users of Fantasy Squared can purchase stock in teams in expert leagues, allowing them to bet on who is going to win the league. The market-based price changes in real-time based upon factors like current standings, new player developments, etc. So, you know how you like to take an article one of us writes about our league drafts/auctions and claim to know which owner has the best team? Well, this is an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is. You can also bet against particular owners.
Other propositions are open for wagering as well. For example, you can bet on who will get the better of a trade.
It’s a really cool idea—so cool, I wish I'd thought of it! I suggest you take a peek at the demo video, which explains the concept in a bit more depth than I have done here.
Currently, Fantasy Squared is in its beta test stage, so not all the options that will ultimately be available are open to everybody. But, the plan is for this service to be able to be added on to any existing private league, so you and your buddies can bet on the activity in your own league, as well as be attached to numerous existing public expert leagues, so our readers can prove to us what we all really know already—they’re smarter than we are!
Being a sponsor doesn’t simply mean that I will write an article prominently featuring Fantasy Squared as a form of free advertising. THT vs. Fangraphs has a philanthropic component to it as well, and Fantasy Squared is already exercising its corporate social responsibility arm, so to speak. Each expert is putting up a couple of bucks of their own money and we are each playing for a charity. Fantasy Squared is putting up some scratch as well. The winning team will get to choose the charity to which the prize is ultimately donated.
We’ll be checking in with periodic updates regarding the progress of the league, and in a follow-up article I’ll plug the charities chosen by each participant. A month in, the standings are disproportionately in favor of the THT crew, with Ben Pritchett establishing a dominant early season lead.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:53am (3) Comments
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
Jonathan Niese's ownership is up to 55 percent, but he's the only streaming option approaching attractive today. Edinson Volquez is playable, but he's owned at a 50 percent clip. Felix Doubront against the A's might be the sneaky pick for the day.
Lefty masher Shelley Duncan faces Chris Sale.
Tony Campana has been finding his way onto my rosters. I saw someone on Twitter comp his tale to Sam Fuld's and that seems reasonable. Ride the wave and collect the steals until they dry up.
Luke Scott's employment rate is up another point to 37 percent. He's facing Hector Noesi today so snag him in any format. I'm starting him in a 10-team, shallow-roster league.
Ryan Sweeney's feasted on righties this year and faces Jarrod Parker today.
A Brian Matusz' start should also mean an Andruw Jones start.
It's yet another shallow match-up day. A.J. Burnett faces the Cardinals tomorrow and he's only 27 percent owned. Don't expect a win as the Pirates offense has been surprisingly futile.
Philip Humber's back on the drawing board. His post-perfect game implosion has his ownership rate down to 32 percent. He faces the Indians tomorrow and should be owned in most formats.
I was surprised to find that Daniel Bard is only 38 percent owned. That's getting into the territory where the recommendation probably isn't helping my readers, but the guy is a good pitcher and should be owned. He'll run into his share of bumps along the way, but he faces the lowly A's tomorrow.
A trio of base thieves have good match-ups tomorrow. Rajai Davis might start if his wrist is feeling better. Campana faces righty Homer Bailey. Carlos Gomez draws Cory Luebke, which is a tough match-up but at least we know he'll start.
Sweeney and Josh Reddick both have somewhat favorable match-ups. They're morphing into daily recommendations.
Eventually I'll get to graduate Scott. He faces righty Blake Blake Beavan tomorrow.
Brandon League blew his second save, but he's still one of the most secure closers in the game.
Brad Lidge had surgery to repair a hernia. The Nationals' closer situation is unsettled with Henry Rodriguez the top man. He's never shown high leverage ability in the majors while teammate Tyler Clippard has, so the situation could be fluid. Clippard's had past difficulties in a ninth inning role, but as we saw with Ryan Madson last year, those can disappear suddenly.
R.A. Dickey had a solid outing: 6 IP, 6 K, 4.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
If you gritted your teeth for Randy Wolf, at least you got a win out of it. You also got some ugly peripherals: 5 IP, 3 K, 5.40 ERA, 2.40 WHIP
They're still sticking with the straight platoon in Milwaukee. Gomez did not start and was later caught stealing as a pinch runner.
Chris Denorfia had a good game but his teammates didn't support him. He went 2-for-3 with two walks yet still did not score or drive in a run.
Good day for Marlon Byrd. He went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI. His average is creeping toward the Mendoza line.
Reddick rounded out a good day for my hitters. He went 2-for-4 with a home run, one run, three RBI, and a walk.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:49am (7) Comments
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Jason Hammel has had a pretty mediocre career. He's had good peripherals in 2009-2010, but aside from those two years, he's been the very definition of unimpressive. This is made even worse by the fact that Hammel's had an above-average BABIP for his career (in particular, during 2009-2010, making his "improvements" seem less impressive). Of course, he has pitched the last three years in Colorado (though he had better numbers in 2010 at Coors than away).
But this year, Hammel has seemingly broken out. He's currently running an ERA/FIP/xFIP line of 1.97/2.82/2.95—a line that you'd expect to see from an ace, not Jason Hammel. His strikeout rate is up to a level that would be a career high and his walk rate has dropped back in line with his 2009-2010 levels. And then there's the groundball rate, which has risen from 43 percent—below average—to an amazing rate of over 60 percent. Where did this come from? Is it a real improvement?
Before this year, Hammel used a standard arsenal of four pitches: a four-seam fastball, a change-up, a slider, and a curveball. He relied heavily on his fastball (57 percent of pitches against right-handed hitters, 63 percent against lefties), with the slider being used as a clear secondary pitch against right-handers and the change-up/curveball being used as the secondary pitches against lefties.
None of these pitches were partticularly impressive. Hammel's fastball had good velocity (averaging 92.9 mph last year), but unspectacular movement. Hammel's slider also had decent velocity (you may be noticing a theme here) at around 84.3 mph, but is nothing special in terms of movement.
This year, Hammels has added a new pitch: a two-seam fastball. The pitch is sometimes labeled as a "sinker"—in fact Harry Pavlidis briefly mentioned it on Tuesday for THT HERE. Yet this label is sort of misleading: The pitch doesn't have very much sinking action at all. The pitch IS clearly different than the four-seamer that had previously been Hammel''s mainstay—it tails in on right-handed batters around eight inches on average as compared to the five inches of tail on the four-seamer. But while the pitch is nice, there's no reason—movement-wise, at least—that the pitch should make Hammels dominant or that it should be a heavy groundball pitch.
Now Hammel's pitches have increased in velocity overall by about half a mile per hour, which should not be understated. But there nothing about the pitches them selves that should explain his results.
Hammel's two-seam fastball has a groundball rate of 77 percent against right-handed hitters. Once again, this is a pitch without much natural sinking action, relying mainly on velocity and location to get ground balls. Except he's not using the two-seamer to frequently hit good groundball locations—he's not getting low and away locations to these batters.
Hammel has gotten ground balls against lefties with his four-seam fastball (seven of 10 balls in play on the ground) and both of his breaking pitches (five of five balls in play on the ground). But there's no reason for this to have occurred. Hammels hasn't changed how he pitches much in terms of location or usage in such a way that would cause this. He hasn't gotten ground balls with his two-seam fastball or change-up, a fact which isn't surprising as two-seamers have a clear platoon effect on ground balls and his doesn't have huge sinking action.
All in all, Hammel's ground ball rate reads quite strongly as a fluke, with regression seemingly on the way. Hammel's increased velocity (if he can keep it up) and the addition of the two-seamer should result in him getting more ground balls this year than last, but not a huge amount more. Optimistically, he should get around 50 percent ground balls if his improvements are real—still a solid rate, but not elite.
Of course, there's another reason why Hammels has such good peripherals this year: His strikeout rate is at a career high. Is this also a fluke? Well, perhaps not completely. Hammel has changed his approach to pitching slightly. In addition to the two-seamer, Hammel has increased his slider usage on two-strike counts, which makes sense as it's his best strikeout pitch.
Similarly, the two-seam fastball—while not a good strikeout pitch against righties—has so far been a good pitch at getting whiffs against left-handed batters. And if you look at how Hammel has used the pitch to left-handers, you can sort of believe this to be real: Hammel uses the pitch against lefties to near exclusively pound the outside part of the plate. (More than 80 percent of his two-seamers have been on the outside part of the plate to lefties, with most of the other 20 percent being in the middle of the plate). This is an area of the plate that should in theory get whiffs from lefties.
But there are some warning signs about his whiff rate, too. Much of his increased ability to get strikeouts has come from his four-seam fastball, which has above a 10 percent swinging strike rates against both lefties and righties. A typical fastball has a swinging strike rate of around five percent, so this is pretty insane. And yet, Hammel isn't using his four-seamer much differently from last year and certainly not in a way that would explain such a super swinging strike rate.
So where do I see Hammel's swinging strike rate going by the end of the year? Probably around his career rate of 6.34 percent, or maybe around seven. This would be an improvement over Hammel's 2011 performance, but that performance seems more of a fluke than anything else in his career.
One last note: It's very possible that some of Hammel's non-two-seam improvements are caused simply by the availability of the two-seamer. In other words, the fact that a batter now has to worry about the two-seamer could—probably does—make his other pitches better to an extent, at least in the short run before batters adapt. But the improvements to Hammel's other pitches' results are just too large for me to accept that it can be from this effect.
Hammel's addition of a two-seam fastball has improved his pitch repertoire, and will help him be a better pitcher this year. But his performance so far seems unsustainable.
His two-seamer doesn't seem to be good enough in movement/speed/location to improve his results—particularly his groundball results—as much as they've looked so far. I wouldn't call his improvement a "mirage"—he has changed something—but it is likely flukey and regresssion is very likely. If you have Hammels and someone is looking for pitching, he seems like a very good candidate to sell high.
Posted by Josh Smolow at 1:46am (3) Comments
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every-morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
Allen Craig is back from the disabled list and only 31 percent owned. Given his position flex, that number should soar to the 80s quickly.
A couple of mid-tier pitchers are decent options today. A.J. Burnett has his third start since returning from the disabled list and he's dealt so far. He'll be facing the Cardinals. I'll never trust the guy enough to be the first one to pick him up.
Philip Humber's found his way back to the waiver wire in many leagues. He faces the Indians today.
Daniel Bard draws the A's. If he's on your waiver wire, he's probably the guy with the best stuff. He needs to learn some pitch ability still, but he oozes talent and upside.
Three speedsters sit on most waiver wires. Rajai Davis could start tonight against Matt Harrison if his wrist is feeling up to snuff. Tony Campana should start against Bronson Arroyo. The Padres' Cory Luebke is having his start skipped due to elbow soreness so Carlos Gomez will face righty Jeff Suppan. Gomez might not start.
Ryan Sweeney and Josh Reddick have reasonable match-ups today.
Luke Scott didn't gain any ownership overnight. He's still at 37 percent and matches up against Blake Beavan today.
Just 18 teams play tomorrow, limiting the pool of applicants. There are some pitching options, but none of them are must-plays.
Ross Detwiler is 39 percent owned and faces the Diamondbacks. He's had a strong season but obviously isn't a sub-2.00 ERA pitcher.
My favorite guy to hype, Danny Duffy, returns to the mound after missing his last start with elbow soreness. He faces the Yankees, so maybe you shouldn't start him. He's only 10 percent owned, which is criminal. Go pick him up if you can make room.
On the other side of that match-up is David Phelps, who's more of a solid back-of-the-rotation type. The Royals' offense hasn't been firing on all cylinders and Phelps could benefit from this being his first spin through the league, so he's a risky but solid play for tomorrow.
If you want to dare the gods to punish you, try Randall Delgado against the Phillies. He's been downright bad his last few starts. I'm a little baffled as to how (or why) he hasn't been replaced by Kris Medlen yet.
Juan Pierre versus Delgado sounds like one of those vintage Pierre days where he goes 3-for-4 with two stolen bases.
Speaking of steals, I'm staying on the Campana train.
Mr. Scott is facing Kevin Millwood tomorrow. His match-ups this week couldn't possibly be juicier.
John Danks has had a rough start to the season, so it's another day for lefty-masher Shelley Duncan.
Francisco Cordero blew the save and then vultured the win last night. The situation is getting ridiculous. Speculators may want to start acquiring Jason Frasor, even though he's struggled too.
Carrie Underwood showed up repeated in my "blown save" google feed. A bad release led to a blown save for the RSoA Vampire Leeches. You might not have heard of them; they're in a different league.
There seems to be a pattern emerging. When I recommend players with high ownership rates, they usually have terrible outings. Thankfully, you probably couldn't pick them up. Jonathon Niese is today's winner: 3 IP, 1 K, 15.00 ERA, 2.67 WHIP
Edinson Volquez had a great outing but received a no-decision: 7 IP, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP
I thought Felix Doubront might be a sneaky pick yesterday, but he was just bad. He did bulk up in strikeouts though: 4 IP, 8 K, 11.25 ERA, 2.00 WHIP
The Cubs game was postponed so Tony Campana did not play. This is not my fault.
Big May Day for Shelley Duncan. He went 2-for-3 with a home run, two runs, one RBI, and a walk.
Luke Scott went 0-for-1 with a walk and one RBI on a sacrifice.
Ryan Sweeney didn't exactly feast. 0-for-2.
Andruw Jones was 0-for-3 with a walk.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:51am (0) Comments
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Now that the door is closed on an eventful April, it’s time to recap the hot starts and decide who’s the real deal and who’s faking.
Edwin Jackson, Washington Nationals:
I really like what I’m seeing out of Jackson. Groundballs are up, O-Swing is up, contact percentages are way, way down, and he’s getting ahead in the count. Right now, he’s throwing like the perfect pitcher. To date, I’ve got his regressed line at a 2.105 ERA, 1.011 WHIP, and 10.978 K/9. Extrapolate that out through 200+ IP and you’re looking at a mind-boggling 10.93-point player in 12-team leagues—tops in fantasy.
Unfortunately, that won’t continue and if you can find someone to buy in, I’d take it. I see Jackson continuing on the way he has in the past, albeit with a BABIP that is a bit more under control than in years past.
Phony? Not quite. He won’t continue the incredible start, but he won’t disappoint you either. I think he could be a nice number three option, but I won’t trust him as a number two.
Projection: 3.417 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, 178.7 K, 12.52 W, 194.53 IP—1.866 points above average
Verdict: Not Real, but not Phony either. You should be fine if he’s your number three.
Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals:
Here’s a guy I love. Lynn is having an absolutely stellar start to the year and it shows, as his regressed rates leave him as the second most valuable pitcher in fantasy (7.20 points above average), behind only Jackson, above. And, like Jackson, he’s doing everything right right now—from ground balls to whiffs, to control—if only these guys could induce some pop-ups!
Also like Jackson, he’s not “Real” but he’s not “Phony” either. Let’s face it, no one outside of Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw are real to this extent.
Either way, I think Lynn is 2012’s Cory Luebke: a guy who posted good rates in the minors who just happened to hit another gear in the Show.
To date, he carries an expected 2.898 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, and 9.569 K/9. Going forward, he’s not this good, but he’ll make plenty of owners very, very happy.
At this point in the season, with Lynn being a rookie, I would want to play it safe. Slot him in as your fourth starter and be pleasantly surprised when he finishes the season as the most valuable pitcher on your staff.
Projection: 3.479 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, 14.74 W, 184.563 K, 182.56 IP -- 3.596 points above average
Verdict: He’s not an ace, but the breakout is real. Make him your number four SP and watch him produce like a number two.
Ranked sixth by my April regressed values, Hammel sticks out like a sore thumb. In five starts, he’s got a 1.97 ERA, 8.44 K/9, and a 3-1 record. On his career, he’s got a 4.87 ERA, 6.34 K/9, and a 37-46 record.
His BABIP is down 60 points, his groundball percentage is up 15 points, and his Z-Contact is down seven points.
I won’t pretend to know exactly what is causing this, but he’s been in the majors so long, it's tough for me to believe he’s all of a sudden hit another gear and morphed into a pure-K guy. If he’s still throwing like this in two more months, then I’ll tally myself among the believers. Until then, I’m going to cry hot streak.
Projection: 4.027 ERA, 1.432 WHIP, 12.61 W, 156.9 K, 185.47 IP—1.086 points below average
Verdict: Phony. Deal him if you can. Sixth starter or waiver fodder.
Derek Holland, Texas Rangers
Real. He’s figured it out.
Derek Holland burst on the scene a couple years back when his fastball velocity peaked into the mid-90s after a productive offseason.
Now, in 2012, it seems as though he may be taking that next step in his development. Sure, the ERA isn’t there yet (5.13 ERA), but that’s mostly due to a 60.9 strand rate. In fact, there’s really a lot to like here. Both his O-Contact and Z-Contact are way down, which portends to a big spike in strikeouts. Right now, his expected K/9 is a pretty sweet 8.974. I think he’ll settle in closer to 8.10-8.20.
Projection: 3.677 ERA, 1.354 WHIP, 187.68 K, 16.05 W, 206.6 IP, 8.175 K/9—1.890 points above average
Verdict: For the first time in his career, Holland is the real deal. Trade for him now and he’ll cost you almost nothing.
Anthony Bass, San Diego Padres:
Real—and probably the only guy on his list who is available to 80+ percent of THT readers. I’m placing a waiver claim tonight on Bass in a league where I just lost teammate Cory Luebke. He’ll join a rotation that’s as young as they come (Stephen Strasburg, Brandon Beachy, Chris Sale, Jonathon Niese, Lance Lynn; Michael Pineda and Luebke lost to injury). And no, I’m not sweating in the least bit, even though I only have three drafted pitchers left.
Back to Bass.
I don’t know where he Ks came from. I don’t know where the ground balls came from. And honestly, I don’t really care. I don’t have an explanation for why he struck out only 4.5 per nine innings last year with regressed rates in the 8.0 K/9 range, but I won’t ask too many questions. I really need a starter. His plate discipline characteristics are right in line with the ~50 innings he threw last year and, even pulling back his O-Contact rate, he still should be able to strike out eight per nine.
There’s a lot to like here and he’ll come at next to nothing (as long as you don’t have to trade for him).
I’m expecting big things out of Bass—relatively. He’s probably going to cost me about $2 and should have no problem being an above average player. Like Lynn, I’ll place him in a low-pressure role and be pleasantly surprised when the year’s over.
Projection: 3.539 ERA, 1.319 WHIP, 12.62 W, 182.54 K, 205.592 IP, 7.990 K/9—1.059 points above average
Verdict: Real. Place him in a role where you don’t have to lean on him and watch the stats pile up.
Ross Detwiler, Washington Nationals
Another Nats hurler showing some stuff, Detwiler is a former sixth overall pick whom Nationals fans have been waiting on for quite some time. Though he posted a 3.00 ERA last year, he really wasn’t all that good.
This year has been different, however. He won’t be an ace, as his 1.64 ERA suggests, but he should be a solidly average pitcher through the rest of the season. He seems like a poor man’s Jonathon Niese in that he doesn’t have any single overwhelming attribute, but he is solid across the board.
Projection: 3.751 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 11.47 W, 144.186 K, 182.1 IP—0.073 points above average
Verdict: Real and will finish the season as your third-best starter.
Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs
Maybe it was because he gave up a future as a superstar ide receiver to zig-zag to and from minor league cities across the Midwest. Maybe it was the way he inked a signing bonus far above that of a fifth-round pick. Maybe it was because he was so underwhelming for so long at the major league level.
Whatever the reason, I’ve always had trouble taking Jeff Samardzija seriously when it comes to evaluating him as a baseball prospect. I think there are many others out there who can agree with me.
That all changes this year. As John Kruk likes to say, he’s not an athlete, “he’s a ballplayer,” and I’m now willing to view him as such.
The ingredients are all there for a big-time breakout. The groundballs are up, he’s generating whiffs, and hitters are chasing out of the zone. I just wish it didn’t take me this long to notice, because he’s off the waiver wire in my most important league—gone to my biggest fantasy rival.
The O-Swing is going to come down a lot, but that won’t be much of a road block. Samardzija finishes the season as your third best pitcher and all that for the price of a waiver wire pick. Now, if only he played on a team that could score some runs.
Projection: 3.573 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, 11.58 W, 190.26 K, 201.87 IP, 8.48 K/9—1.482 points above average
Verdict: Real. Time is running out to add him.
Posted by Mike Silver at 5:13am (15) Comments
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
Ross Detwiler against the Diamondbacks might be worth a shot. The D-backs have been scorching the ball with more than 10 hits over the last four games, but they do lean a little bit left-handed and Detwiler kills lefties.
I recommend rostering Danny Duffy if he's available but not starting him against the Yankees. I recommend buying low tomorrow after he has a "meh" outing.
You could try out David Phelps against the Royals' sputtering roster. I'd expect some ratio trouble but a good shot for a win.
Randall Delgado faces a Phillies offense that is only bad when I don't recommend someone starting against them.
Speaking of Delgado, Juan Pierre should start and have a good night against the youngster.
Tony Campana faces another righty. You never know when Reed Johnson is going to get a spot start, though.
Luke Scott's ownership remains static at 37 percent. He faces Kevin Millwood today.
Lefty masher Shelley Duncan will try to mash lefty John Danks. We'll see who wins that match-up.
Wade Miley draws the Mets tomorrow. I've watched a couple of his starts and he's tough on lefties. The Mets rely on a few of those. I think he'll have a decent outing and he's off to a strong start. Unfortunately, that's the only pitching match-up worth a sniff on the wire. Go ahead, look for yourself.
Eric Thames meets Ervin Santana tomorrow.
It might be worth crossing your fingers and hoping Juan Francisco starts for the Braves against Guillermo Moscoso.
Lefty Bruce Chen starts against the Yankees, which equals an Andruw Jones night. Probably, anyway.
Snatch up Will Middlebrooks, since he'll face a lefty.
It was the night of the vulture.
Rafael Betancourt was managed into a blown save, but he vultured the win in the bottom of the ninth.
Heath Bell gave up some base runners in the ninth and was pulled for Steve Cishek. Cishek then blew the save by allow the tying run to score. Santiago Casilla came on for the Giants in the 10th and gave up a home run to Giancarlo Stanton, giving Cishek the vulture win. Bell's job security is gone at this point. He might have one more chance, but probably not. Cishek will assume the role. Casilla is safe because he's pitched well.
Craig Kimbrel blew the save last night, but he's safe. The Braves later won but he didn't get to vulture the win.
Brian Fuentes earned the save for the A's last night. Grant Balfour had a rough week that included a loss and two blown saves, but he had also worked in five of the last eight games, so a night off was warranted. Keep an eye on the situation.
What's this about not trusting A.J. Burnett? I'm sorry I even mentioned him: 2.2 IP, 2 K, 40.51 ERA, 4.89 WHIP
Almost a ho-hum outing for Philip Humber but he walked six: 6 IP, 6 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.67 WHIP
Daniel Bard got touched up a bit: 5.1 IP, 1 K, 6.75 ERA, 1.88 WHIP
Rajai Davis was 1-for-2 with a pair of runs.
Campana was 1-for-4.
Carlos Gomez was 0-for-4.
Ryan Sweeney was 1-for-3 with a walk.
Josh Reddick was 1-for-4 with a run.
Luke Scott was 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs, and one RBI.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:50am (0) Comments
Friday, May 04, 2012
Garrett Jones | Pirates | 1B | 4 percent Yahoo ownership | 1.1 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .268 / .276 /.482
Oliver Rest of season projection: .263 / .325 / .460
Chances are that if you play in an NL-only league, Garrett Jones will not be available. If he is by some small miracle, though, there should be no hesitation to scoop him up. He’s an above-average hitter with impressive enough (read: 20 home run) power who won’t hurt in the batting average department by nature of his platoon situation.
Dual eligibility is an added plus; he should reach outfield eligibility in leagues with five-game thresholds within the next few weeks. Don’t forget that Jones, despite being relegated to part-time duties this year, has been a top-150 player in Roto standard leagues for the past three years.
Recommendation: Worthy of adding in all leagues.
Joe Wieland | Padres | SP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.2 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 4.91 ERA / 1.32 WHIP / 8.2 K/9
Oliver ROS: 4.09 ERA / 1.27 WHIP / 6.3 K/9
Never possessing overwhelming stuff in the minors, Wieland nevertheless put together gleaming ERAs from High-A ball onward, and one might be smart to bet on that trend continuing in the majors. Yes, his home run rate looks ugly through four major league starts, but xFIP has him adjusted to a 3.91 ERA when his home run rate falls.
When it falls?! you cry. How do you know it’ll fall?! Three of Wieland’s five homers allowed have had “just enough” to clear the fences, and one was labeled as “lucky.” They would’ve been homers in three parks at most, certainly not PETCO. While a PETCO pitcher isn’t an automatic endorsement (see: Dustin Moseley and Clayton Richard, among others), it should suppress the homers. The rest of the positive ERA regression ought to, and will be, left in his control: his strikeout to walk ratio never sneaked below 3.00 in his minor league career. So far it’s been 2.50. Buy him now—at the very least he’ll be a home-start streamer.
Recommendation: Worthy of adding in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues.
Starling Marte | Pirates | OF | 0 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.1 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .000 / .000 / .000
Oliver ROS: .284 / .324 / .417
If you’re feeling a little speculative, why not take a shot on the young Starling? He’s bringing his trademark power-speed (emphasis on the speed) to Triple-A, where he’s playing nearly 50 percent above league average with a .276/.351/.483 triple-slash line. Not otherworldly by any stretch, but impressive. Also impressive: Marte is exhibiting a newfound sense of patience at the dish, where his 7.1 percent walk rate trumps his previous high of 4.9 percent. He’s making the necessary adjustments and excelling on the base paths (his nine stolen bases in 84 plate appearance are hardly impressive when seen in the context of his insane 9.8 speed rating).
As for that playing time… Jose Tabata functions as the possible castoff after a miserable start. Tabata’s flashed some potential, especially in his 2.1 WAR, 102 game-introduction in 2010, but he’s suffering at the dish because of his dwindling plate discipline. Some proper batted-ball luck might get Tabata back to the replacement level, but when Marte starts pushing for .300 at Triple-A, he might want to look out.
Recommendation: Worthy of stashing in most NL-only leagues.
A.J. Ellis | Dodgers | C | 3 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.7 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .365 / .449 / .468
Oliver ROS: .256 / .368 /.340
Ellis, too, will likely be owned, as he should, in all two-catcher formats, and he’s probably starting in most NL-only leagues as well. He’s playing practically every day behind the dish on the surprising Dodgers, and is sporting an impressive 11 non-intentional walks in 19 games. The keen eye at the plate helps support Ellis’ plus batting average, which should hover around .275 when all is said and done.
The Dodgers will keep running the relatively unknown Ellis out there—he sports an impressive 1.1 WAR so far this year, third among catchers (behind the elite Yadier Molina and Matt Wietes tandem). And as such, you’ll get a non-black hole catcher; someone who trots out there four to five times a week and puts up few 0-fers.
Recommendation: Worthy of adding in all two-catcher and NL-only leagues.
Kris Medlen | Braves |/RP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.2 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 3.00 ERA / 1.00 WHIP / 3.0 K/9
Oliver ROS: 3.36 ERA / 1.20 WHIP / 7.9 K/9
While top prospect Randall Delgado has impressive pedigree, it’s a wonder the Braves have stuck with him over Kris Medlen in what’ll be a tight, to-the-wire divisional race. Delgado has control issues and is giving up a hefty number of line drives, while Medlen is handling swingman duties despite past success as a starter.
He may be recently removed from Tommy John surgery, but Medlen’s fastball is moving faster than it did pre-surgery, and his curveball and change-up are both getting positive reviews from pitch values. His career ERA (3.66), FIP (3.53), and xFIP (3.56) all trump marks from Delgado (albeit with a small sample size from the youngster), and if he doesn’t steal the rotation spot from Randall, he’ll certainly fill-in when the first injury hits the Braves’ starting rotation.
No, Julio Teheran isn’t a concern, despite what you’re thinking. His 1.30 strikeout to walk ratio in Triple-A just ain’t gonna cut it.
Recommendation: Worthy of a stash in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues, and worthy of adding in all leagues that value middle relievers.
Speculative saves of the week
Bryan Shaw | Diamondbacks | RP | 11 percent Yahoo ownership | 4.5 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 1.64 ERA / 0.91 WHIP / 9.0 K/9
Oliver ROS: 4.65 ERA / 1.42 WHIP / 5.8 K/9
Chances are that Shaw’s owned in most every competitive, saves-starving league, but in case he’s not, he’ll get the title of “Guy most likely to end up with 10 or more saves,” for this week. He’s throwing a more effective slider this year more often, and is generating whiffs on the pitch 18 percent of the time (according to Brooks Baseball). His cutters—the staple of his repertoire—are getting an average rate of whiffs and are often turning into ground balls when put in play (61 percent).
Shaw may have leapfrogged normal J.J. Putz injury fill-in David Hernandez, and though his similar pitcher readings consist of a list that includes Mike Leake, Jeff Karstens, and Casey Janssen (not exactly closer material among that crew), he’s proving that his controlled ways can work wonders in the late innings, too.
Recommendation: Worthy of an add in all leagues, particularly those that value middle relievers.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 1:43am (4) Comments
William Middlebrooks| Boston Red Sox| 3B| ESPN: 3.3 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 13 percent ownership
Oliver Rest of season: .255/.298/.448
Baseball America rated Middlebrooks the top prospect in the Red Sox organization coming into the year. It should be noted that his high prospect standing is based in large part on stellar scouting reports of his defense. That said, his ranking was also aided by projection of future offensive growth. While his defense means nothing in standard fantasy baseball leagues, we are seeing that offensive growth in full force this season. Middlebrooks was tearing the cover off the ball for Pawtucket, hitting .333/.380/.677 with nine home runs in 100 plate appearances. That line translated to a .316/.359/.612 MLE. His walk rate remains on the low side, but his strikeout rate was also quite low for a player producing the type of power numbers he was.
His hot play, and a stiff lower back that sent Red Sox starting third baseman Kevin Youkilis to the disabled list, prompted a promotion. He has played in one game for his parent club, recording two hits and a walk in four plate appearances.
For all of the Red Sox' faults, their ability to put crooked numbers on the scoreboard isn't one of them. The team ranks fourth in the majors in runs scored, and Middlebrooks should benefit from the club's ability to score runs even if he remains in the bottom third of the order (he was eighth in the lineup in his major league debut). Youkilis has struggled to stay on the field in recent years, and hasn't played in more than a 140 games since 2008. It looks like Middlebrooks' stay in the majors will be brief, but if he makes a good first impression, or Youkilis suffers a setback with his stiff back, he could find himself in line for more playing time than initially expected.
His impatience could lead to some early struggles if pitchers are able to exploit it, but his power potential is worth gambling on. The hot corner has been ravaged by injury of late, leaving many scrambling to the waiver wire for help. Middlebrooks is a good speculative plug and play. If he comes out of the gates on fire, his prospect buzz makes him a strong sell candidate. For now, give Middlebrooks a look if you have a roster spot to play around with, or are one of the unlucky owners of an injured third baseman.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed leagues, and most AL-only formats.
Eric Thames| Toronto Blue Jays| OF| ESPN: 1.1 percent ownership, Yahoo!: 5 percent ownership
Oliver ROS: .267/.326/.464
Travis Snider breathing down his neck a few weeks back">Since I speculted that Thames may be on thin ice and feeling Travis Snider breathing down his neck a few weeks back, he has made me look a bit foolish by finding his groove at the dish. He is playing every day of late, and that can probably be attributed in large part to his new-found success against southpaws. While the obligatory small sample size warning is in order, he is hitting .313/.389/.438 against left-handed pitchers in 16 at-bats with two walks and just three strikeouts. He is showing improved control of the strike zone this season by both walking more frequently and striking out less often.
His power is down a bit this year, but he has shown enough pop in the past to suggest he'll finish the year with around 20 taters with full time work. The Blue Jays lineup is scoring runs in bunches, ranking sixth in the majors in runs scored, in spite of Jose Bautista's early season struggles. There are counting stats to be had investing in the Blue Jays offense. Owners in need of someone to round out their fake team's outfield would doing themselves a favor turning to the widely available Thames.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues that start five outfielders, and most that start three outfielders.
Travis d'Arnaud| Toronto Blue Jays| C| ESPN: 0 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 0 percent ownership
YTD: .274/.346/.421 (Triple-A)
Oliver ROS: .247/.295/.424
My high opinion of d'Arnaud's future fantasy value is previously chronicled by his ranking ninth on the Top-100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect list. His season line is weighted down by a slow start, but he has heated up in his last 10 games, hitting .349/.396/.535 with five doubles and a home run in 43 at-bats. Blue Jays starting catcher J.P. Arencibia has been cold to start the year (of course, as I type this, he sends a Dan Haren offering into the seats for a three run shot), which could open the door to a d'Arnaud promotion.
When that promotion comes likely hinges on both d'Arnaud continuing to hit and Arencibia continuing to struggle. If Arencibia rights the ship, the organization will have little incentive to bring up d'Arnaud and prevent both catchers from playing on an everyday basis. Owners in one-catcher mixed leagues formats shouldn't be too concerned with d'Arnaud this season. He remains a good keeper league and dynasty league prospect in those formats, but his value will be limited to two-catcher leagues and AL-only formats this season. That said, owners in those deeper formats where putrid offensive options are owned should be quick on the trigger if there are so much as whispers of d'Arnaud reaching The Show.
Recommendation: Should be stashed in some large mixed leagues that start two catchers as well as some AL-only formats.
Rafael Soriano| New York Yankees| RP| ESPN: 0.7 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 11 percent ownership
YTD: 2.25 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 6.75 BB/9, 9.00 K/9, 29.2 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
On Thursday night, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was injured shagging flyballs. An MRI revealed the team's worst fears, he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the year. Awful news for a pitcher who is considered by most, and rightfully so, to be the greatest closer of all time. I hope this injury won't be the end of Rivera's career; it would be a shame for him to have to hang up his cleats on such a down note.
It feels cold to address the aftermath of the injury, but alas, the Yankees will be tasked with doing so, and fantasy owners will be reacting to the injury as well. With that in mind, only two players are realistically in the hunt for save opportunities in the Bronx.
David Robertson is clearly the Yankees' best reliever (and owned as such, with a 46 percent Yahoo! ownership rate), but the best reliever doesn't always get the closing job.
Soriano owns a distinct advantage in career saves over Robertson with 90 to Robertson's three. If manager Joe Girardi believes in "closer mentality," Soriano has shown the ability to nail down games, and Robertson hasn't (through no fault of his own).
Soriano is no longer the elite reliever that his numbers with the Rays would lead one believe he was. His fastball is down a few ticks from his peak velocity days, and his swinging strike rate has dropped a bit in recent years. That said, he continues to get more empty swings than the league average pitcher. His flyball-heavy approach will be put to the test in homer-friendly Yankee Stadium, but saves are saves, and he shouldn't be a complete disaster. If given the choice between Robertson or Soriano, I'd choose Robertson, but many won't have that luxury, and grabbing Soriano is a solid alternative.
Recommendation: Should be owned by all save-starved owners regardless of league size and format.
Kyle Drabek| Toronto Blue Jays| SP| ESPN: 21.4 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 29 percent ownership
YTD: 2.40 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 4.50 BB/9, 7.80 K/9, 51.9 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 5.27 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 4.8 BB/9, 6.0 K/9
Drabek was wretched in 2011. There is no way to positively spin that season, and for all intents and purposes, it was a lost year of development. Back from the dead, Drabek is pitching much better this year. He remains a work in progress, with a poor walk rate and a first pitch strike rate of just 54.1 percent (league average is 59.2 percent this year), but there are reasons to be optimistic. He is inducing ground balls at a high rate, and displaying bat-missing stuff.
Drabek, according to his Brooks Baseball player card, is mixing three varieties of fastball (four-seam, sinker and cutter) with a curveball and change-up. All but the four-seam fastball are generating a whiff/swing rate well above his pitching peers marks.
He was especially tough to barrel up in his last start against the Rangers. In that game he threw 104 pitches and earned whiffs on a staggering 18 of them. Looking at his inning-by-inning breakdown, you'll see his ability to throw strikes waned late, but he still finished with an impressive final line against a potent Rangers lineup.
His next start comes Saturday against a struggling Angels offense that ranks 21st in runs scored. There is blow-up potential if he struggles to throw strikes, but he has allowed no more than two runs in any of his five starts, making him a strong match-up play, and possibly much more. Drabek's upside is worth gambling on, and he has earned a bit of leash should he struggle in a start or two.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all large mixed leagues and AL-only formats, and some shallower leagues.
Joel Peralta| Tampa Bay Rays| RP| ESPN: 0.9 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 5 percent ownership
YTD: 5.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 3.97 BB/9, 11.12 K/9, 33.3 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.10 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 8.8 K/9
The Rays continue to impress with their ability to grab relievers off the scrap heap and thrust them into late-inning roles. Last year Kyle Farnsworth turned in a banner season as the club's closer, and this year, while he is on the disabled list, the team is getting more than it paid for from Fernando Rodney.
Rodney is perfect in nine save chances, and his formula for success is clear. He is throwing strikes (something he has struggled to do throughout his career), striking batters out at a high rate, and getting the opposition to pound the ball into the ground. Unless the wheels completely fall off the Rodney bus, he'll be closing games until Farnsworth is activated from the DL, and perhaps beyond that.
What is lost in the outstanding pitching of Farnsworth last year, and Rodney this year, is just how good Peralta has been. After a sensational 2010 season with the Nationals in which he posted an ERA just above two, the club surprisingly non-tendered him. The Nationals' loss was the Rays' gain, as he went on to post a 2.93 ERA as one of manager Joe Maddon's favorite eighth inning options in 2011. He got off to a rough start this year, allowing earned runs in three of his first four appearances, including a disastrous four earned run performance in which he didn't record an out against the Red Sox on April 13.
Since that game, he has appeared in 10 more, and the results are eye-popping. In that span, he has pitched 9.2 scoreless innings, allowing one walk, three hits, and striking out 11. The result is a 0.00 ERA, 0.41 WHIP, 0.93 BB/9 and 10.24 K/9 in his last 10 appearances. He has vultured one save, and is the most likely candidate to record a save when Rodney is unavailable. He's a great LIMA (low investment mound aces) option, and is quite valuable in leagues with low innings pitched limits. The volatility of relievers is evident, but with consecutive seasons of outstanding work, and a string of dominant relief appearances, Peralta is one of the safer options going.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues where non-closing relievers have value as well as all leagues where vulture saves are at a premium.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 3:25am (2) Comments
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every-morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
I recommended Wade Miley yesterday and then saw him get added in three of my leagues. I'm not sure I like helping my opponents beat me. In any case, Miley is up to 25 percent owned and is the only remotely streamable pitcher for the day.
Ervin Santana has struggled this year and Eric Thames will look to capitalize upon that.
I said yesterday that you could cross your fingers that Juan Francisco would start tonight, but he started last night so I'd expect him to sit.
Andruw Jones should start against Bruce Chen tonight.
is getting snatched up quickly. He's already up to 13 percent owned after two days. He faces Wei-Yin Chen so he's worth a stream start.
It's been an ugly week for pitcher streaming. Kyle Drabek is only 29 percent owned and starts against the Angels. It's a difficult assignment, but it's the best waiver match-up of the day.
You could try James McDonald against the Reds if you're feeling ballsy. He's only five percent owned.
Kyle Seager and Mike Carp hold the platoon advantage against the inflammable Jason Marquis.
Luke Scott is up to 39 percent owned and has a solid match-up against Bartolo Colon. I'll stop the fanfare once his ownership rate passes 40 percent.
Shelley Duncan faces another lefty.
Carlos Gomez will start against Madison Bumgarner. This might be one of those times I pass over Gomez.
Perhaps you heard: Mariano Rivera is out for the year with a torn ACL. It's already too late to pick up David Robertson or Rafael Soriano, but take a look on your waiver wire just in case.
Carlos Marmol had a meltdown, ruining a 3-0 lead in the ninth. Rafael Dolis was ultimately charged with the blown save but we all know who's to blame. If the Cubs had anything remotely closer-ish, Marmol would be out of a job right now. As it stands, he'll probably get more opportunities. James Russell and Dolis are the fallback options.
The Angels traded for Ernesto Frieri, who could challenge Scott Downs and Jordan Walden for the closer's role.
Edward Mujica closed the door for the Marlins last night. Heath Bell was unavailable and Steve Cishek had worked two innings the night before. I'd still expect Mujica to be third in line at best.
Another strong outing from Detwiler. He got the win along with: 6.1 IP, 2 K, 1.42 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
I recommended rostering Danny Duffy but not starting him. I ignored my advice in two of three leagues that I owned. Maybe you did, too. He got the win: 5.1 IP, 6 K, 3.38 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
David Phelps was Okay but wasn't stretched out enough. That's my fault for not seeing the obvious: 4 IP, 5 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
Strong outing from Randall Delgado, but he took the loss: 8 IP, 5 K, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP
Juan Pierre was 2-for-4 with a run.
Tony Campana did not start and went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter.
Scott went an empty 1-for-4.
Duncan failed to deliver against John Danks; he was 0-for-4.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:57am (0) Comments
Monday, May 07, 2012
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions. To assist you, here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We'll do this on a weekly basis. If you feel I've missed anything important, please don't hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.
• Mariano Rivera was emphatic when speaking to reporters on Friday, vowing to come back from this week’s devastating ACL tear in his right knee. Too bad there’s about a zero percent chance that will happen in 2012. While baseball fans wish for a speedy recovery for one of the sport’s most dominating players, fantasy owners are forced to turn the page in the search for Rivera’s replacement.
The obvious choice, of course, is David Robertson, coming off a season that firmly established him as one of the best setup men in the game. This year, Robertson has continued his stingy ways, compiling a 0.833 WHIP in 12 appearances with a 15.8 K/9 rate. The guy is nasty, and best of all, he seems to have the mentality needed to not only navigate the ninth inning but the New York pressure, making him an extremely enticing player to add with the upside of being a No. 1 closer.
Problem is, Joe Girardi has vowed to give Rafael Soriano—a guy who posted 45 saves just two years ago— some face time late in games as well, which could cut into Robertson’s value. We’ll see how this plays out; Soriano pitched fewer than 40 innings due to an elbow injury last year, and while he’s been decent to start the season, I suspect Robertson is a bit more acclimated to the role and will eventually distinguish himself as the main man, with Soriano playing the role of chief caddy.
• Not much was clear Sunday night about the extent of Jayson Werth's left wrist injury except this: the Nationals would do best to start thinking about a new right fielder for the foreseeable future. Coming down hard for a line drive, Werth instantly clutched his arm and immediately left the field, grimacing in pain with a broken left wrist which will sideline him for at least the next six weeks. Anyone looking for a replacement in D.C. should become familiar with Xavier Nady, who offers little value outside of NL-only leagues for the time being.
• Say goodbye to Evan Longoria for perhaps the next two months, as the Rays’ best slugger partially tore his left hamstring Tuesday. It’s an ugly wound for fantasy owners, to be sure, especially since the Rays likely will fill the spot with the likes of Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriguez, none of whom offer much in the way of fantasy value. It’s worth watching to see if the Rays—my personal pick to win the AL East heading into the season—will make any moves to bolster their hot corner as they wait out Longoria’s recovery.
• If Pablo Sandoval’s hand injury sounds familiar—he had surgery this week to repair a broken hamate bone in his left hand—it’s because he suffered the same injury last year in his right hand. The good news: Sandoval was able to post a .910 OPS after returning in mid-June last year, which suggests that he still has much to offer fantasy owners in 2012. The bad news, of course, is that he’ll be recuperating for at least the next month, denying the game one of its best third basemen.
• I'm not sure if you can call a DL stint from Huston Street news anymore, but nevertheless, the Padres closer has been shelved with a shoulder strain, though the right-hander insists it's not a serious ailment. This does leave an opening for Andrew Cashner (2-1, 1.385 WHIP, 7.6 K/9) to make his mark in the ninth inning, however, making him an intriguing fantasy option until Street returns.
• Poor Mat Gamel, who had such high hopes coming into this season now that Prince Fielder had vacated Milwaukee’s first base position. The 26-year-old tore up his knee this week, zapping his season and leaving the Brewers scrambling to find a replacement. Backup first baseman Travis Ishikawa likely will see more at-bats, as could journeyman infielder Brooks Conrad, 32, who was called up from Triple-A to take Gamel’s spot on the roster.
• Is there an older 33-year-old in the majors than Kevin Youkilis? The guy is always battling nagging injuries—he hasn’t posted 500 at-bats since 2008—and landed on the disabled list this week with a lower back strain. That’s bad news for Red Sox fans, but good news for Will Middlebrooks, one of the organization’s top prospects, who will take Youk’s spot at third base.
Middlebrooks, 23, flashed a 26.3 percent strikeout rate in the minors, though he was showing some significant improvement in that department through 100 plate appearances this year. We’ll see how quickly the power comes along, but he’s certainly an intriguing option to roster right now, especially for those needing a handcuff for Youkilis.
• Here’s something fantasy owners don’t want to hear: Cory Luebke, already on the disabled list with a strained elbow, is considering Tommy John surgery this year. This doesn’t leave optimists with a lot of wiggle room: either Luebke actually needs the surgery, nuking his 2012 season, or he doesn’t, in which case he’s just injured enough to the point where he’s considering the procedure. Either way, he’s not in good shape, and it’s probably best to plan around him being much of a factor in 2012.
In his place, the Padres have dug up the bones of Jeff Suppan, but we’ll see how long the 37-year-old will last in the team’s rotation, or how much of an impact he’ll make in fantasy.
• Here’s the best you can say about Justin Morneau’s left wrist injury and latest DL stint: at least it’s not concussion-related. Thing is, it is related to the surgery he had last fall, which makes one wonder if it will fully heal this season.
• The Orioles placed Nolan Reimold on the DL after the outfielder suffered from neck spasms.
• To help save his elbow, Chris Sale is being moved from the rotation to the closer’s role in Chicago, bumping Hector Santiago to middle-relief duty. Sale, 23, was off to a fantastic start this season, compiling a 3-1 record, 1.000 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 over 32 innings. He should hold on to the ninth-inning role for the foreseeable future, but keep in mind the move was prompted after the southpaw complained of elbow tenderness.
• Heath Bell, who has been just awful to start the season, has been shifted out of Miami’s closer job, though manager Ozzie Guillen was careful to say the move is temporary until the burly right-hander gets back on track. I believe Guillen, since $6 million gives the team ample motivation to move Bell back if he can rediscover the form that made him one of the league’s top closers over the past several years.
In the meantime, take a look at Steve Cishek, 25, who’s posted a strong start to the season so far (4-0, 0.907 WHIP, 9.4 K/9) and should snare most of the save opportunities in the near term.
• At long last, Cubs fans have been liberated from the torment of watching Carlos Marmol close out—or, to be more accurate, often flounder when trying to close out—games, as he's been lifted from the role. Manager Dale Sveum says Rafael Dolis and James Russell will share responsibilities going forward, so we'll have to wait and see whether one of the two will distinguish himself as the Cubs' ninth-inning man, since neither of them has been particularly lights-out to start the season.
• Javy Guerra blew another save Sunday, which no doubt helps Kenley Jansen's stock creep up a bit higher. Owners drooling over Jansen's strikeout ability might consider picking up the setup man now to avoid the crush if and when Guerra, who's been awful over the past several weeks, forfeits the role.
Other news and notes
• Welcome back, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui: baseball just wasn’t the same without you guys. Sure, both ex-Yankees teammates are in the twilights of their respective careers, but they could produce some marginal fantasy value depending on how many at-bats they pick up.