Mariano Rivera becomes the latest closer to turn in the game of baseball for the game of Operation. Fantasy third basemen have been conspiring around the league to make Chipper Jones look healthy by comparison. Giancarlo Stanton is leaving Albert Pujols in his dust. Carlos Marmol — out as closer? All that and more in this week’s Weekend Warrior.
Dodgers at Cubs
C.Billingsley vs. P.Maholm (Fri.), C.Capuano vs. M.Garza (Sat.), A.Harang vs. C.Volstad (Sun.)
The longest homerless stretch of the season for Matt Kemp has been three games, which shows you how consistently good he’s been in 25 games this year. His OPS against lefties this year is 1.678, so Paul Maholm better watch out Friday. The Dodgers just signed Bobby Abreu, a veteran with 2,255 games under his belt. Nearly 2,000 of those games have come in right field, but if he’s going to play regularly for the Dodgers, it’ll have to be in left. He’s expected to be a part-time player starting out.
Bryan LaHair is leading the Cubs offense with seven HRs, and no other Cub has topped two HRs this year. Aside from LaHair and Starlin Castro, this lineup shouldn’t scare anyone. And what happens when LaHair’s .543 BABIP descends to mortal levels? Carlos Marmol is out as closer, according to manager Dale Sveum, at least for the time being. He has a 6.23 ERA and 2.31 WHIP as a result of walking 12 guys in 8.2 innings. Usage patterns suggest Sveum would go with righty Rafael Dolis over lefty James Russell most nights, despite the latter pitching better of the two. Fantasy leaguers should be watching this series closely to see who emerges from the weekend as the closer, though it could be matchup based.
White Sox at Tigers
J.Peavy vs. D.Smyly (Fri.), G.Floyd vs. M.Scherzer (Sat.), C.Sale vs. R.Porcello (Sun.)
Adam Dunn has homered in three of his last four games, so this may be a good time to sell high. His .333 BABIP points to an expected loss of average, which is already low at .247 (though not necessarily low for him). He could hit around 25 homers the rest of the way but with a .220 average or so. How much more would it cost to trade him for Mark Teixeira? You may not realize it, but that’s one hell of a starting trio for Chicago. Floyd has the worst ERA at 3.13, Sale has the worst WHIP at 1.00.
Delmon Young will return from suspension this weekend, but he’s not scheduled to start on Friday. If you have him on your bench, hold out for at least one more day. Scherzer seems like a great buy-low guy after leaving April with a 7.77 ERA and 27 Ks in 24.1 innings. The pitching coach thinks he can get Scherzer’s delivery straightened out; we’ll see how well he does when Scherzer’s on the bump on Saturday. Smyly hasn’t allowed more than one run in any of his four starts this year; can he make it five-for-five against on Friday?
Brewers at Giants
Z.Greinke vs. T.Lincecum (Fri.), R.Wolf vs. M.Bumgarner (Sat.), S.Marcum vs. M.Cain (Sun.)
If you love pitching battles, this is the series for you. The only SP that isn’t an automatic start this weekend from these two teams is Wolf, who has given up 38 hits in 26.1 innings this year while posting an ugly 16/12 K/BB ratio. Ryan Braun has a sore Achillies, but he’s tentatively expected to play this weekend (though maybe not on Friday). With the loss of Matt Gamel for the year, Corey Hart could spend a little time at 1B. Outfielder Norichika Aoki has certainly outplayed first baseman Travis Ishikawa thus far.
Like the Brewers, the Giants are dealing with an issue to one of their elite batters, though Pedro Sandoval’s broken hamate bone is decidedly more serious and should keep him out through at least the end of May. Conor Gillaspie was summoned from Triple-A to take Panda’s roster spot and starting job while he’s out. He isn’t a realistic option in most non-NL only formats. Lincecum has surrendered just one run over 13 innings in his last two starts combined (both wins), but don’t think things are back to normal. The fantasy ace also doled out nine free passes in those two games. He’s still a great buy low, but warning signs are still there for a bit of a rocky road.
Phillies at Nationals
K.Kendrick vs. S.Strasburg (Fri.), V.Worley vs. G.Gonzalez (Sat.), C.Hamels vs. J.Zimmermann (Sun.)
In a season where the Phillies desperately needed someone to step up on offense, the unlikely hero has been catcher Carlos Ruiz. An afterthought on fantasy draft day, Ruiz is hitting .329 with four HRs. The team’s three best hitters so far have been Ruiz, Juan Pierre and Ty Wigginton; when you think Philadelphia Phillies offense, you clearly think of a Ruiz-Pierre-Wiggy combo. Both Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins have OBPs under .300.
While the White Sox trio of pitchers above has been outstanding, and San Francisco’s three starters this weekend belong in the discussion, no rotation pitching this weekend is more daunting than that of the Nationals. All three guys have ERAs under 2.00 and WHIPs under 1.00. They’ve surrendered just one homer between the three of them all year (Zimmermann). An excellent rookie campaign from Bryce Harper and a return to health from a banged-up offense will send this team to the playoffs. You can count on it. Harper found himself batting third in his last game, picking up a double in three ABs.
Rangers at Indians
C.Lewis vs. J.Gomez (Fri.), D.Holland vs. D.Lowe (Sat.), Y.Darvish vs. U.Jimenez (Sun.)
Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre are expected back on Friday. Hamilton’s been on fire this year with a .395/.438/.744 line, and Beltre’s been quite good himself, hitting .317 with four HRs. Along with Michael Young (.327), Elvis Andrus (.292) and Ian Kinsler (.291), that makes five Ranger regulars with averages over .290 and OBPs over .350. We knew the Rangers could hit, but excellent pitching from Colby Lewis (3-0, 1.93 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 29/4 K/BB ratio) and Yu Darvish (4-0, 2.18 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 33/17 K/BB ratio) has been just as big for the team. Darvish has harnessed his wildness in his last two starts, racking up 19 Ks while walking four batters in 15.1 innings against the Yankees and Blue Jays.
This matchup features two division leaders as of Friday, and those a hot start from the Rangers is hardly unexpected, the Indians may be unexpectedly turning a few heads. Like Scherzer above, Ubaldo Jimenez has to work on a flaw in his delivery, and even if he irons things out, it may be hard to see improvement in the results when facing such a tough offense. Still, Jimenez owners should be monitoring him closely on Sunday for signs of improvement. He has 20 walks in his five starts this year. Jason Kipnis has been a multi-faceted weapon this year, hitting four homers, three triples and two doubles while stealing five bases. He looks like he’s going to be a fantasy weapon for a long time.
Reds at Pirates
J.Cueto vs. K.Correia (Fri.), M.Leake vs. J.McDonald (Sat.), M.Latos vs. C.Morton (Sun.)
No one is shocked Jay Bruce already has seven home runs this year, but his .299 average could have you thinking sell high. His BABIP is just .311, so don’t expect a huge dropoff. I’d hold and enjoy the ride. With all the injuries at 3B, Pedro Alvarez and his seven HRs have been a revelation. A 24/4 K/BB ratio suggests he hasn’t mastered the art of hitting yet, and all the injuries at his position put you in a great spot to sell high.
Diamondbacks at Mets
W.Miley vs. D.Gee (Fri.), P.Corbin vs. J.Santana (Sat.), T.Cahill vs. R.Dickey (Sun.)
Paul Goldschmidt has been pretty disappointing so far this year, but a hot four-game stretch has raised his average from .185 to .246. Don’t expect it to climb much higher, but hopefully we’ll see some power this weekend. Albert Pujols is likely the most disappointing 1B of the year so far, but Ike Davis and his .524 OPS has to be close. Another rough weekend from Frank Francisco could cost him his job.
Orioles at Red Sox
B.Chen vs. J.Lester (Fri.), J.Hammel vs. A.Cook (Sat.), T.Hunter vs. C.Buchholz (Sun.)
Next spring, Matt Wieters could be the first catcher off the board in all fantasy leagues. He’s started out the season by hitting .303 with seven HRs in 76 at-bats. The Orioles have five regulars hitting over .300, while starter Jason Hammel has been elite (3-1, 1.97 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 30/10 K/BB ratio). Aaron Cook is filling in for Josh Beckett on Saturday. Will Middlebrooks had a nice 2-for-3 effort with a stolen base in his first game. He’s worth a look as a 3B replacement.
Athletics at Rays
T.Ross vs. D.Price (Fri.), B.Colon vs. J.Hellickson (Sat.), T.Milone vs. M.Moore (Sun.)
Michael Taylor has been disappointing in his major-league career thus far, but a hot start at Triple-A could translate to the major-league level as he takes the spot of the injured Coco Crisp. No A’s hitter has an OPS over .800. B.J. Upton is day-to-day for the Rays but is expected to play Friday. In a year where no closer is safe, Fernando Rodney has been one of the league’s best, with nine saves and a 0.73 ERA.
Cardinals at Astros
K.Lohse vs. L.Harrell (Fri.), J.Garcia vs. B.Norris (Sat.), A.Wainwright vs. J.Happ (Sun.)
Adam Wainwright has been done in by home runs this season, and once his inflated HR/FB regresses, people will see just how good he’s been despite a 6.75 ERA. You may have your last chance to buy low this weekend, because a Sunday gem should jack his price up significantly. Astros hitters aren’t collecting a lot of longballs, but Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie have OBPs over .400, J.D. Martinez is at .394 and two other regulars are over .350. These aren’t the A’s by a long shot.
Yankees at Royals
C.Sabathia vs. B.Chen (Fri.), H.Kuroda vs. F.Paulino (Sat.), P.Hughes vs. L.Hochevar (Sun.)
The saddest fantasy news this week had to be the torn ACL suffered by Mariano Rivera on Thursday, throwing a storied career in doubt. The world will be watching this weekend to see how the bullpen shakes out post-Mo; right now, I have David Robertson as a 60-40 closing favorite over Rafael Soriano. The Royals have received great hitting from several unexpected sources, and a BABIP correction for Eric Hosmer could give them a very dangerous offense.
Marlins at Padres
J.Johnson vs. A.Bass (Fri.), M.Buehrle vs. C.Richard (Sat.), R.Nolasco vs. J.Wieland (Sun.)
Speaking of bullpens in flux, Heath Bell has been horrendous this year, and that could lead to a temporary removal from the closer role if it continues. If he can’t dominate his old team, something’s wrong. Giancarlo Stanton had no homers until April 29, and now he has three in his last five games. Chase Headley’s the only Padre regular with an OPS over .700. Anthony Bass is worth owing in all leagues, but if you need proof, watch him Friday.
Braves at Rockies
T.Hudson vs. G.Moscoso (Fri.), M.Minor vs. J.Moyer (Sat.), B.Beachy vs. J.Nicasio (Sun.)
Brian McCann suffered a scratched cornea in a celebratory high-five gone wrong, but he shouldn’t miss time. Jason Heyward is back after missing a little time with an oblique injury. Considering how terrible his numbers were when he played through pain in the past, you have to pray his injury isn’t serious and he’s doing likewise here. Carlos Gonzalez is still predictably awesome at home, where he hit five homers over his last six games.
Blue Jays at Angels
H.Alvarez vs. E.Santana (Fri.), K.Drabek vs. C.Wilson (Sat.), D.Hutchison vs. J.Williams (Sun.)
Jose Bautista has transferred his powers to Edwin Encarnacion, who is hitting .307 with nine HRs this year. You should be buying low on Bautista and his .158 BABIP. His batting eye is still sound, and the homers should come. Albert Pujols’ .202/.245/.279 (with no HRs) is the weirdest line of the year so far. If you can’t buy low on Bautista, do so on Albert. As a matter of fact, buy both! Howie Kendrick had a couple great games this week but still has a 24/3 K/BB ratio.
Twins at Mariners
C.Pavano vs. J.Vargas (Fri.), J.Marquis vs. F.Hernandez (Sat.), N.Blackburn vs. H.Noesi (Sun.)
The Twins boast no starting pitching worth using in fantasy leagues. Supposed ace Francisco Liriano has a 9.97 ERA. Marquis and Blackburn are over 6.00. Closer Matt Capps is at 5.00. Can a mediocre Mariner offense take advantage? Jesus Montero and Kyle Seager are hitting .292 and .289, respectively, with seven HRs between them, but they’ve struck out a combined 34 times while walking just four times. Dustin Ackley has his owners kicking themselves for passing on Kipnis.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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