In our daily fantasy baseball news and notes column, we'll be discussing hot topics in the fantasy baseball world, as well as offering up tidbits of information to help you set your lineup. Comments are welcome below.
Special attention needs to be given Dee Gordon, who's come a long, long way to become a relevant fantasy player. On Opening Day, Don Mattingly chose to start Justin Turner over Dee Gordon at second, which gave us reason to think that Alex Guerrero, the Dodgers' second-base prospect, would eventually get called up and reduce Gordon to a mere designated runner.
Now, a month into the season, Gordon is batting .342 with 17 runs, 10 RBI and a major league-leading 19 steals. He's played so well that he's become a permanent fixture atop the Dodgers lineup, and has made Guerrero and his once-inevitable call-up an afterthought. His 19 steals are seven more than anyone else in baseball; he has eight more steals than Billy Hamilton, and nine more steals than Jacoby Ellsbury and Emilio Bonifacio. He has as many steals as the Braves and Phillies, and has as many stolen bases as the Red Sox and Cardinals combined.
And not only has Gordon dominated the basepaths to the point where he can easily win his owners the steals category, he's done it with dual eligibility at second base and shortstop, at positions where worthwhile stats are hard to come by. For all the slobbering that writers like myself have done over Billy Hamilton, Gordon has been infinitely more valuable this season, and he should spend the rest of the year hitting atop one of the gaudiest lineups in baseball, which means that he's not likely to lose that value any time soon.
He doesn't have to hit more than .280 the rest of the way to be the prohibitive favorite as the best waiver wire pickup of the year.
For your consideration
• Following through on his previous statements, Mike Scioscia did indeed turn to Ernesto Frieri in the ninth inning of a one-run game, and in the moment of truth, Frieri threw a perfect inning to convert his third save of the year. And just like that, Frieri is the closer again. Poor Joe Smith's reward for filling in for him is no reward at all, and Smith can be dropped from fantasy teams in favor of Frieri without a second thought. Still, Frieri's ERA remains in the 6's, and if he again fails to be reliable in the ninth inning, the job would swing back to Smith. It's worth seeing how Frieri does over the next few weeks.
• More closer news! John Axford allowed a run in the ninth inning to record his second loss in as many days. He's allowed four runs over his last 1.1 innings, which means we could be looking at a closer change pretty soon. Of course, Axford, like Frieri, is the guy his team wants to be in there in the ninth inning, hence why they went out and got him in the first place, and his nine saves are the most in the American League. Still, he's teetering on the edge of a Frieri-like temporary job removal, and such an occurrence would benefit Indians setup man Cody Allen, whose 2.03 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 13.1 innings would do well in closing situations. The job is Axford's long term, but Allen isn't a bad speculative pickup for anyone needing saves in the short term.
• Even more closer news! Brett Cecil filled in for Sergio Santos and Aaron Loup on Monday, and he recorded his second save of the year for the Blue Jays. Casey Janssen just began a minor league rehab assignment and should be pitching in the majors again in about a week, so while Cecil's numbers are intriguing -- his 24 strikeouts in 14.2 innings is quite impressive -- he's merely a lame duck fill-in at the moment and isn't worth adding.
• For the third straight game, Josh Harrison hit leadoff for the Buccos while Starling Marte batted in the lower half of the lineup. Sure, Marte hadn't been hitting that well until recently, but it seems a tad too convenient for the Pirates to suddenly be rolling out Harrison at the leadoff spot when there's a guy in AAA named Gregory Polanco who's hitting .397, and who has enough speed that he could potentially be used as their everyday leadoff hitter. The moment Polanco gets called up is the moment Harrison gets benched, and it's hard not to see Harrison hitting leadoff as anything but place-holding. It's speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Polanco get called up sometime this month, which makes him a worthwhile stash in most leagues.
• Marlon Byrd went 2-for-3 on Monday and hit in the cleanup spot, ahead of Ryan Howard, for the second straight game. Unlike the Phillies' other power-hitting outfielder, Domonic Brown, Byrd has gotten off to a solid start, with four homers and 22 RBI -- it looks like his 24-homer season from a year ago wasn't a fluke after all. Byrd still has his downsides, like that the bottom part of the Phillies lineup is so weak that he almost never scores, or that he is 36 years old and has very little upside. But hey, hitting fourth can only help his value, and Brown owners might be better served adding the older, stabler Byrd in favor of the struggling, inconsistent Brown.
• Jonathon Niese threw seven shutout innings against the Marlins and now has five straight quality starts to go with a 1.82 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Two of those starts even came against the Cardinals and Braves, so it's not like he's been exploiting cellar-dwellars. I'm rather suspicious over the authenticity of his start, although he has improved over the last couple years. He's probably worth owning at this point, although I'd still like to see how he does against the Yankees in his next outing before we deem his turnaround legit or not.