Madison Bumgarner | San Francisco | SP
YTD: Triple-A stats; 6.86 K/9, 2.46 K/BB, 3.64 ERA
True Talent: No projected major league stats at the moment
At the beginning of the 2009 season, the talk was of just how fast could Madison Bumgarner join Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in mowing down major league batters? By the end of the season, Bumgarner reached the majors, but all was not right as his velocity was down and his strikeout rate plummeted as he ascended from high Single-A to Double-A and ultimately to the majors. The 2010 season began with Bumgarner competing for the fifth starter spot in the Giants rotation, and ended with him in Triple-A after struggling to recapture his 2008 velocity and strikeout rate. His 2010 Triple-A season began about as poorly as it possibly could have, with him allowing 21 hits, two walks, three home runs and 11 earned runs in just seven innings pitched, and his velocity remained in the high 80s to low 90s.
Then something funny happened: He turned it all around, thanks to a mechanical adjustment and the addition of seemingly every improving pitcher’s new best friend, a cutter. The velocity that had scouts drooling is returning to Bumgarner, who has been throwing consistently in the low 90s and pumping it up occasionally to the mid-90s, according to numerous sources, including minor league baseball’s official website. Bumgarner has allowed no more than two earned runs in his last six starts. He has only allowed one earned run in five of those starts, and zero earned runs in his most recent gem.
With June rolling around, it’s time to start speculating on prospects, and Bumgarner seems like a good speculative add for those who need some pitching help and have some bench wiggle room. It’s possible that he’s off the radar of some owners given his poor spring and previously bad radar readings, but make no mistake: It’s only a matter of time before fantasy feature articles start discussing Bumgarner regaining his velocity and his previous stud prospect status. Be ahead of the curve, and hope Bumgarner is able to supplant the incredibly underwhelming Todd Wellemeyer in the Giants rotation. Because Bumgarner has so few innings of major league experience, bumps in the road should be expected. However, it’s likely those bumps will be less severe than some rookies’, as he will be pitching in the friendly senior circuit and will be playing half his games in a fairly neutral home ballpark.
Recommendation: Should be watched in all 12-team mixed leagues, added in some 14-team mixed leagues, and owned in all but shallow NL-only leagues (or those with little to no bench spots).
Anibal Sanchez | Florida | SP
YTD:6.57 K/9, 2.25 K/BB, 3.28 ERA
True Talent:6.6 K/9, 1.66 K/BB, 4.32 ERA
Looking at Anibal Sanchez‘s numbers for the season thus far, it’s easy to see at least one reason why he’s having success: He’s issuing far fewer free passes than last year. Three full seasons removed from his stellar (albeit very luck-aided) 2006 debut, it is easy to forget that Sanchez was a well-thought-of enough prospect to be a key piece (along with some guy named Hanley Ramirez) in the Red Sox trade for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Sanchez has suffered through some injuries over the last few seasons, but at least for the time being, he appears to have put them in his rear-view mirror.
While Sanchez’s strikeout rate isn’t jaw-dropping, it is useful if he’s able to maintain his current walk rate and continues to induce an acceptable number of ground balls (currently 42.5 percent) thus keeping his ratios in check. Right now Sanchez’s HR/FB rate is unsustainable at 1.8 percent, but his BABIP seems to be a bit high at .322, and with a little more luck in the strand rate department, his HR/FB correction damage could be mitigated a bit. I expect Sanchez to post an ERA that is a hair under 4.00. The two biggest things to keep an eye on with Sanchez going forward are his walk rate and his health. If he keeps his walks in check and stays healthy, he’s ownable in a great deal of leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team or larger mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Taylor Buchholz | Colorado | RP
True Talent: No current projections.
Following a solid 2008 season in which Taylor Buchholz hurled 66.1 innings of 2.17 ERA (3.82 LIPS ERA) baseball, Buchholz threw zero innings in 2009 and was shut down for the season in June after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Currently rehabbing in the minors, Buchholz isn’t far from a return to the Rockies bullpen that is still missing its closer from last year, Huston Street. Street has yet to throw a pitch in the majors this season due to shoulder inflammation and more recently a groin strain that has delayed his rehab further. While all signs point to Street returning to his closer role sometime in June, given his initial injury being to his shoulder, one has to wonder if it will be recurring.
In the event Street is unable to stay healthy, Buchholz won’t be the first option the Rockies turn to, as they are currently using Manny Corpas in the closer role in Street’s absence, and for the most part, Corpas has been successful this season. That said, given that Corpas’ sparkling numbers are being aided significantly by a .164 BABIP, it is possible he loses his grip on the top Street-handcuff status. Though a bit of a shot in the dark, at this point in the season, some owners are desperate for saves any way they can get them, and Buchholz is an intriguing option. Those in holds leagues should also be keeping tabs on Buchholz’s rehab, as many owners may have already forgotten about him given the high volatility and turnover of useful holds relievers season to season.
Recommendation: Should be watched in 14-team or larger mixed leagues, watched in all NL-only leagues, and owned in medium to large NL-only leagues.
Jeff Keppinger | Houston | 2B/3B/SS
Though Jeff Keppinger has already gotten the bulk of the playing time at second base this season, it is still comforting seeing Kaz Matsui out of the picture, as he’s been waived by the Astros. Jeff Keppinger is the type of middle infielder whom owners are most likely always looking to upgrade from, but who is useful because he holds eligibility at three positions and is receiving everyday at-bats. No one should be going crazy to acquire Keppinger if he’s already owned, but if he’s unowned, there is something to be said about regular playing time when filling out a roster in deeper leagues with shallow or nonexistent benches.
Keppinger is a player who should be counted on to post a batting average of at least .280 (though Oliver disagrees) given his stellar contact skills and his 20.7 percent line-drive rate (career mark of 20.1 percent). Not only does Keppinger keep his strikeouts in check, but he also manages to walk at a useful clip (7.6 percent), allowing him to reach base so that he might be driven in. Given the fact that he’s slotted in the two hole almost exclusively, his RBI totals are likely to be low. Another knock on Keppinger is that he’s not likely to post more than five to 10 home runs and one to two stolen bases. That said, if he’s able to turn his high line-drive rate and high contact rate into a .290 batting average with 80 or more runs scored, his total stat line could be useful slotted in at middle infielder, shortstop or second baseman, depending on the depth of your league.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team or larger mixed leagues that use a middle infielder, and owned in all medium to large NL-only leagues.
Freddy Sanchez | San Francisco | 2B
YTD:.000/.000/.000 (4 at bats)
True Talent: No projected stats from Oliver
Freddy Sanchez made his season debut for the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, May 19, batting third, and promptly went 0-4. Sanchez’s batting average can only go up from here; joking aside, it was interesting to see the Giants slot Sanchez third in the lineup, though he followed that up Thursday in his more customary spot second in the order. Regardless of whether he’s hitting second or third, Sanchez’s usefulness remains tied to his batting average—and subsequently the runs and RBIs that come as a result of it.
Sanchez is a career .299 hitter with a batting title to his credit. He doesn’t walk much, but also doesn’t strike out much. If Sanchez has actually recovered entirely from offseason shoulder surgery, and his knee is also able to hold up, it seems reasonable to expect him to continue to drill line drives and post a batting average in the .290-.300 range. Given his low walk rate, his OBP, and thus his runs-scored totals, will be almost entirely attached to his ability to smack hits, so his shoulder’s health is of great concern. Most likely Sanchez is available in your league; he’s owned in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues. For those in need of a batting average boost, potentially 70-80 runs scored and 5-10 home runs, Sanchez is a widely available option whom you can slot in at second base or middle infielder. Much like Keppinger, Sanchez is a guy most owners would like to upgrade if he’s occupying a roster spot, but there is always something to be said about playing time, and batting in the top four of a team’s lineup.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues that use a middle infielder, and owned in all medium to large NL-only leagues.
Miguel Montero | Arizona | C
YTD:.500/.538/.583 (12 at bats)
Miguel Montero was a popular pick to finish in the top five to eight among catchers in the 2010 season coming into the year. Unfortunately for Montero, he had some bad luck and suffered a knee injury, which has sidelined him for much of the year to date. Obviously knee injury and catcher don’t go together well given how much time they spend in the squat, but reports are promising about his rehab, and a return in June looks likely. Given that there was no structural damage, come July I’d expect Montero to have wrested away his regular duty from Chris Snyder after likely being eased back into things in June.
It appears many owners in Yahoo leagues didn’t care to wait out his rest and rehab, as he’s owned in less than half of the leagues. In two-catcher leagues he is most likely occupying an owner’s DL spot, but in single-catcher leagues now is the time to pick Montero up, as it’s better to be a bit early than miss the boat when another owner reads about his likely June return and decides he’s worth a DL stash. Given Montero’s strong season last year (.294/.355/.478 with 17 home runs), his pedigree and the lofty expectations of many smarter than I, I’d expect that once he shakes the rust off a bit from his layoff, he should pick up where he left off last year and provide solid numbers going forward. Double-digit home runs with a solid batting average and useful counting stats should be expected if Montero is able to remain healthy enough to log 250 or more at-bats, which I expect.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all two-catcher mixed leagues, all 10-team or larger single-catcher mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.