Nine down, 153 to go
One of the most frustrating things about fantasy baseball is that some players are streakier than others, or they quietly accumulate their stats. In all the years I've been playing fantasy ball, I've only owned Bobby Abreu once. I can't remember what year it was, but I couldn't stand following him in box scores. Every day it seemed he was 0-3 with a walk. But at the end of the year, I was looking over my team stats and, sure enough, Abreu was as awesome as I thought he would be. (This lack of flash, incidentally, may keep Abreu out of the Hall-of-Fame.) If you own Erubiel Durazo, you know where I'm going with this. In this update, I'll discuss Ruby, Joe Blanton, Eric Byrnes, and more. E-mail: mailto:email@example.com
Durazo is no Abreu, and if you've been reading me the last few years, you know that I am not a Durazo fan. Now before you accuse me of being an idiot -- "Gizzi, you knave, what don't you like about a .919 OPS???" -- let me say that I owned Durazo in two leagues last year. One was your standard rotisserie league, and by the end of the year he had clearly earned his $13. The other was an H2H league, and he absolutely killed me. Yes, the 20 RBI he would get in a two-week span was nice, but I didn't get any extra points for winning Super RBI. It was the month-long disappearing act that would drive me nuts. Such as now. Because Durazo, in case you hadn't noticed, is in one of his funks.
So far this season? Five singles. Come on, now: I could do that, and for a lot less than $4.7 million! So naturally people panic over his slow start. And naturally his ownership has dropped. So naturally you would think I agree with this. But naturally you've heard of the "buy low" concept. Thus naturally the conclusion you should reach is "pick Durazo up." Listen, Durazo is a line-drive hitter who will occasionally clear the fences. When he's hot, he's as good as any hitter in baseball. Get him now, or soon, and you'll be rewarded with some home runs and some RBI in a very brief period. If you're in an H2H league, in particular, he may be worth a stab. (Not literally, of course!)
Joe Blanton: So far, so bland
Bland? What could be bland about a 2.45 ERA and a .91 WHIP? How about just four strikeouts against three walks? Yes, yes, I'm aware of the dangers of small-sample sizes. Anecdotally, Blanton just *looks* easy to hit. His fastball didn't top 90 against the Blue Jays, it's straight, and he doesn't change speeds well or have a dominant off-speed or breaking pitch. He's going to get raked sooner rather than later. My suggestion? Sell "high" in your non-keeper AL-only leagues. And stay away in mixed leagues until the unlikely event he proves he can overcome the combination of a league-average fastball and a tendency to be around the plate. Long-term Blanton may be OK, but like nearly all rookie pitchers, he's to be assiduously avoided.
Erm, about that 20/20 season for Eric Byrnes . . .
It looks like Byrnes is slipping into that most dreaded of roles for most fantasy players: platoon. Ken Macha continues to promise that Byrnsie will get 500 at-bats this year, but I know how if he's sitting two or three days a week. And he's not being benched for Vlad Guerrero; Charles Thomas and Bobby Kielty are stealing his PT. Byrnes is a legitimately dreadful fielder, despite what you see in highlights. But he's the best hitter the A's have in LF. He's not an all-star against right-handers (.746 OPS the last three years), but Thomas is unproven, and Kielty is just useless. Stay the course, but by late May if Byrnes isn't playing every day you may need to look elsewhere in mixed leagues.
Is Octavio Dotel ever going to get a save?
Of course, but I'd be very nervous if I owned Dotel in an AL-only league. Huston Street has looked very good so far, but so has Kiko Calero, and that's what's important. If the A's move Dotel and still try to compete in 2005 -- Billy Beane is a master at this -- someone has to take over not only for Dotel but also for his set-up men. Enter Calero as closer, enter Street as the set-up guy. I'm not as high on Juan Cruz as I was earlier, and I am gradually coming around to the idea of Street as a potential closer. Gradually. He still needs to see more high-leverage situations. But right now if the A's were to make a trade, it would be Calero, not Street, who would be the ace reliever.
Kirk Saarloos will make his scheduled start on Sunday, so keep him active if you normally would . . . Isn't Jason Kendall supposed to be an OBP guy? In nine games he's drawn just one walk, though he is seeing 4.19 pitches per plate appearance, a good number. But Kendall remains an overrated fantasy player . . . Speaking of high-OBP players, Nick Swisher also only has one walk in eight games, but he's only seeing 3.71 pitchers per plate appearance. The three home runs are nice, but unless he gets better at controlling the strike zone -- something he's always done in the minors -- he's not going to hit .240. Strictly AL-only league material at this point.
Posted: April 15