Welcome back to another fAD Tuesday and unlike the Mike Napoli-Jeff Mathis platoon situation down in Anaheim, it is AussieDodger and yours truly who are sharing the at-bats 50-50; it just so happens I get the start this week. We’re two weeks into the season and it’s been quite an eventful two weeks. Just last weekend, we witnessed the first no-hitter of the young season and it was Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez who did the honors. The Brewers fired away with ten runs in the first inning of a game against the lowly Nationals, only to muster one run for the rest of the contest. Matt Kemp has enjoyed a torrid first homestand of the year with four home runs in his first four home games, illustrating why he was drafted as a legitimate first-round draft pick in many a fantasy league. We also saw the unbelievable sight of 20 innings of what we can safely call, “a showcase of offensive profligacy” in which the Mets and Cardinals got themselves mired in an 18-inning 0-0 stalemate until the Mets finally broke through with a 2-1 win. Surely, this was a classic game that belonged into the annals of the Mets FAIL thread, but yours truly should have been wiser to pick a low-scoring result in the Pick3 Championship. By the way, a cheap plug: Cafe games are back up, if you didn’t know and all your favorites are back – Pick3, Matchup Meltdown, and Lucky Ladders. Join in on the fun and it’s one way to keep from overreacting to a slow start or two.
*All 2010 stats as of Sunday, April 18
Now, I could dedicate most of this column gloating about Matt Kemp being Yahoo’s #1 fantasy hitter this early in the season, with Chase Utley not being too far behind, but that would just simply be stating that the sky is blue a thousand times over (unless you’ve managed to fly over Iceland, mind you). Over the past week, however, no one has been swinging the bat better than the Indians’ Shin-Soo Choo, who hit a gaudy .579 BA over 19 at-bats while chalking up a healthy 11 walks in 52 plate appearances this season. Choo also enjoyed a nice power surge of late, with three of his four home runs and 11 of his 12 RBI coming over the past week. Last season was a glimpse as to what Choo can produce over a full season, having gone for a 20/20/.300 year on a full slate of at-bats in 2009. Historically, Choo has been a high BABIP hitter, which bodes well for this prospects of coming close to or repeating a .300 season. Although, the 27 year-old Korean’s power potential might be a tad limited, he’s a good bet to repeat a 20/20 season and a healthy Grady Sizemore getting on base can also do wonders for his chances of enjoying his first 100 RBI milestone.
Ty Wigginton – 2010: 9/31 H/AB, 6 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB, .290 BA
The Orioles aren’t quite out to the brightest start, having started the year losing 11 of their first 13 games. Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada have been hampered by injuries, Nolan Reimold has yet to round into form thanks to a bothersome Achilles tendon, and franchise player Nick Markakis is off to a dull start. In Roberts’ stead, is the versatile veteran Ty Wigginton, who has done nothing but step up to practically be the Orioles’ offense. Since being plugged in on a full-time basis due to Roberts’ DL stay, Wigginton has clubbed four home runs and a .348 batting average to boot. In deeper leagues, Wigginton makes for a good short-term addition, especially on rosters with the extra CI and MI spots, as Wigginton carries dual eligibility at 2B and 3B.
Nelson Cruz – 2010: 13 H/41 AB, 9 R, 7 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB, .317 BA
Currently sitting atop the majors’ leaderboard for most home runs is Nelson Cruz, which should not be a surprise, given his raw power potential and the fact he put it to good use last season with 33 home runs clubbed. Cruz is by no means a complete hitter and there are a few things to gloss over besides the pretty number of round trippers on paper. First off, Once Ian Kinsler is reactivated from the DL, it should make for curious viewing as to whether or not Cruz’s early-season heroics will warrant a heart-of-the-order spot. Cruz played 65 games of last year as either the Rangers’ #6 or #7 hitter, which hurt his R/RBI totals some. In 2010, Cruz has hit fifth in the order in each of the team’s games, which is a better spot for his RBI production and for what it’s worth, Cruz is sporting a .357 BA with runners in scoring position with three home runs and 11 RBI to boot. Another factor to look into is Cruz’s contact rate, which was just a lackluster 68% and will be some determinant in pulling his batting average in either direction. So far, Cruz looks like a good bet for a 100 RBI campaign and let’s also keep in mind that he missed 34 games in 2009 because of a nagging ankle problem, which also inhibited his R/RBI stats.
Ricky Romero – 2010: 23.0 IP, 1 W, 22 K, 1.57 ERA, 0.74 WHIP
A blinding performance against the White Sox last week was an eye opener for most fantasy owners to take a flier on Ricky Romero, who held the Pale Hose to just one hit and two free passes in eight innings while racking up a dozen strikeouts on the side. Romero followed that fantastic outing up with being on the wrong end of a tight pitcher’s duel against the Angels’ Ervin Santana (more on Ervin in a minute), but was nonetheless solid (8.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 K). The scouting report on the 25 year-old Romero is he has an effective mix of pitches and can induce groundballs with regularity, with his changeup being his best pitch on offer. Control or the lack thereof has been his biggest weakness, as in his first full big league season, Romero had a BB/9 which was a trace under four. Thus far, Romero has limited his free passes to six in 23 innings and if his command continues to show improvement, the young lefty can prove to be more than useful in any league format.
Matt Garza – 2010: 24.0 IP, 3 W, 21 K, 1.12 ERA, 0.96 WHIP
I suppose I’ll toot my own horn about Matt Garza taking the next step as he is off to a brilliant start through his first three outings. While I’d like to believe Garza takes one big Zack Greinke-like leap in 2010, this could be an opportune time to sell him for more than he should be going. Keep in mind that two of his first three games have come against the woeful Orioles. In his last performance, Garza mastered a Red Sox team he’s had a knack of enjoying success against, but nonetheless, he was facing a Red Sox squad with the likes of V-Mart, Youkilis, and J.D. Drew laboring and without a slumping David Ortiz as well as a sidelined Jacoby Ellsbury. To the best of my recollection, Garza also started 2009 on a flier as well, thanks to an incredibly low BABIP and for what it’s worth, he has yielded just a mere .211 BABIP. While Garza’s control looks spot-on, his ERA and WHIP potential will still be tempered some in facing tough AL competition.
Often times when I’m out in public, folks believe I look younger than I actually am. I’m 27, but most folks think I look more like 20-21 and ask me for the beauty secrets for looking like the babyfaced assassin, quintessential studmuffin that I am. I attribute my success to exercising daily, eating healthy (most of the time), laughing often, not being so quick to stress, enjoying booze responsibly, and most of all, avoiding Carlos Zambrano at all costs in my fantasy leagues. As hazardous as Carlos Zambrano is to your health, toss out the poor Opening Day outing against Atlanta and Zambrano has not fared poorly at all: 4.50 ERA, 16 K/5 BB in 12 innings of work. Even though command issues could persist with Big Z, he still remains more than serviceable, as long as you are not counting on him as your #2 ace.
Javier Vazquez – 2010: 11.0 IP, 0 W, 9 K, 9.82 ERA, 1.73 WHIP
In spite of a number of fantasy managers being down on Javy Vazquez’s second turn in Yankee pinstripes, I’m actually one of those who is not entirely down on Vazquez, as he can still prove to be a healthy three-category source for strikeouts, wins, and WHIP in spite of an ERA that threatens to go north of four. Vazquez’s first two outings, however, have done little to validate such optimism. In his season debut, Vazquez was undone by a couple of gopher balls en route to surrendering eight runs in less than six innings at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. Vazquez’s home debut did not inspire too much confidence either, as he gave up four runs in 5.1 innings to the Angels. This is a relatively small sample and the more telling outcomes reside in his next few starts, which includes tonight’s visit in Oakland. However, Vazquez’s fastball velocity is down about 2 MPH from where it was last season, but then again, it’s a small sample and if it all boils down to an issue of Vazquez getting his mechanics back up to snuff, one can expect better days.
Raul Ibanez – 2010: 7 H/41 AB, 5 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, .171 BA
Raul Ibanez’s mighty Spring struggles have also trickled over a couple of weeks into 2010, as the soon-to-be 38 year-old slugger has yet to go yard. Compounded with a suspect second half last year in which Ibanez hit for a mere .232 batting average, one has to wonder if age will finally factor into his production. For now, it seems like his struggles are mainly attributed to his timing at the plate being off. The interesting thing with Ibanez is he fared away much better away from Citizens Bank Park, with 22 home runs and a .283 average as opposed to a dozen home runs and a .260 average at home. In any case, a repeat of 2009 is most likely a pipe dream, but can still be counted on for 20-25 home runs once he can break out of this horrid slump.
Nate McLouth – 2010: 4 H/27 AB, 2 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, .148 BA
Nate McLouth seems to be on the same boat as Raul Ibanez as his Spring woes have also crossed over into the regular season, to the point that “McLovin” has been slotting in as the Braves’ #8 hitter and has sat out on occasion. Beleaguered by a hamstring strain, McLouth’s timing has been off for much of the Spring and is trying to get back into the swing of things, to no avail thus far. The good news for McLouth and his owners is that neither Matt Diaz nor Melky Cabrera have been impressive, which will open the opportunity of “Nasty Nate” to play his way to his more comfortable leadoff perch. Cutting back on the strikeouts is a must for him to turn the corner, as he has struck out a dozen times in his first 27 at-bats this year.
Jason Bay – 2010: 10 H/46 AB, 8 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB, .217 BA
When Jason Bay signed up to play for that ragtag FAILboat crew in Queens, a fair share of fantasy managers shied away from the former Pirates and Red Sox slugger in their drafts, due primarily to the Citi Field factor, which has been overblown to proportion. In fact, Citi Field tends to favor pull hitters such as Bay, but nonetheless, Bay has yet to please, having gone homer-less in his first 46 at-bats while racking up 18 strikeouts. Contact had been an issue for Bay last year, as his contact rate dipped considerably in 2009 (77.1% in 2008 to 71.7% in 2009) and so far, the new Met has followed suit to last season’s contact dive. Keeping things in perspective, teammate David Wright’s strikeout rate is back on the rise and his contact rate is on the way down, if two weeks can indicate anything. If anything can be asserted here, it’s that batting in the Mets lineup leads to a lot of pressing.
This is the segment in the program in which I make random player observations and point to events or statistics that are of interest to me and are worth sharing. I’ll try my darndest to make these observations as relevant advice for your fantasy teams. For example…
…I hope you Ervin Santana owners weren’t quick to dismiss Ervin for a flavor of the week player. In a pitcher’s duel against Ricky Romero, as discussed, Ervin went the distance against the Jays, with his only blemish being an Adam Lind solo shot. In so doing, Santana scattered just four hits and did not allow any free passes. Santana’s only true bugaboo of the season came against the Yankees in the Bronx, in which he surrendered five walks and a couple of home runs, which is surely a bit understandable. As I’ve been saying all preseason long, Ervin’s fastball velocity is as good as it was late last year and this Spring while his slider still carries the same kind of nasty movement as in his 2008 breakthrough year.
As far as Angels’ teammate Scott Kazmir goes, he was very hittable in his first start off the DL against the Yankees. In particular, he was tossing batting practice to Robinson Cano, who lined two home runs off the Rays’ former ace. Give him a few more starts and see if he builds up his arm strength before doing anything real rash.
Last Sunday’s start against the Cubs is somewhat of a marker for Wandy Rodriguez’s return to form, as he gave up a couple of runs in seven innings in a no-decision. Wandy has only struck out seven in 17.1 innings of work and having stated he’s experienced some nagging shoulder soreness, it’s understandable that his fastball velocity is a bit down.
Jay Bruce mashed his first two home runs of the young campaign last Sunday. His foul run of luck has seeped into the early part of the season, but it’s best to stay the course on a future superstar who can be an annual 30-35 home run threat as soon as this year.
Fun stat of the week: Mark Reynolds has just eight hits on the young season, four of which have left the yard as round trippers. The D’Backs slugger is still striking out at a prodigious clip, which should be of no surprise to you.
Speaking of all-or-nothing sluggers, Adam Dunn makes for a good buy. Up until a few days ago, Dunn could not buy a home run, but is pounding the dirt with a 43% groundball rate. Let history be your guide and believe that Dunn will get his 35-40 home runs when all is said and done.
Jonathan Broxton registered his first save of the season last Sunday after a few grumblings about the way Joe Torre has used him in non-save situations. Case in point, Torre gave Broxton the night off on the first Saturday of the season against the Marlins and George Sherrill could not lock down a game in which the Dodgers found some lightning in a bottle in the 8th and 9th innings to climb into the lead (thanks to Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp).
…and finally, a bit of advice: keep your clothes on. One of the funnier sights you’ll see on the Cafe or any fantasy forum for that matter, is folks making a big fuss over the slumps of their top ace or over a notoriously slow starter (*cough* Mark Teixeira *cough*). If you think about it, April is the best time of the season to be less stressed out about fantasy baseball. It’s cliche, but this game is a marathon and at times, it’s as frustrating of a crawl as watching the Mets and Cardinals play out a 100-move chess match, chock full of blunders. It’s very early in the day and that time should be spent thanking goodness that baseball is back. So, head to your local ballpark wherever you may be, have a few beers, chill out, and do not check your mobile phone frequently for baseball scores and player stats. Just enjoy the game for what it is before doing some heavy lifting for the long haul.
Well, that about does it for me this week. Our Kiwi friend is on the hill next week for another edition of fAD Tuesday. Until then, be champions.
True to his Cafe name as The Artful Dodger, Ray Flores is a Dodger fan who does not know the meaning of the term, "early season panic". While being artful doesn't best describe him, Ray is a web developer, consultant, and is the coolest customer at the local pub... that is, until Manchester United score yet another a late winner against Manchester City, which causes him to spontaneously smooch the barmaid, Gary Neville style.
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