April 23, 2010

Fantasy baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, as one game does not make a season. Yeah, whatever; try telling that to people who owned Jason Bay or Jeff Francoeur during Saturday's 20-inning marathon between the Mets and Cards. A combined zero for 14 tends to set you back a little. In all, the two teams combined to go 24-for-130 (a nice .184 BA). Of course, owners of Johan Santana or Jaime Garcia aren't complaining too much that their pitchers couldn't stick around to get the win. Each tossed seven shutout innings in dominant fashion. Owners were happy to see signs of dominance from a recently lackluster Santana, while Garcia's outing serves notice that he should be owned in all formats.

Senior circuit sluggers

• Those of you worried about Carlos Gonzalez and his tight hamstrings can breathe a little easier. His four hits Wednesday night have lifted his average near .400, but it's the stolen base he added that is the best sign. He avoided the DL and is the one Rockies outfielder who will play every day. Justin Upton and Matt Kemp get the hype, but this kid is not too far behind.

• Don't look now, but the lights have come on for Padres 3B Chase Headley. He has his average up to .368 and is a force on what is looking like an improved San Diego offense. He's also added five SBs in the early going, with three of them coming Tuesday against the Giants. Headley stole 10 bags last year, but never had more than four in a minor league season. If he can keep the SBs coming, fantasy owners can overlook the lack of power that comes from hitting in PETCO Park.

• After a three-for-four night on Wednesday, Alfonso Soriano suddenly has a .327 BA. Were we too quick to write him off? He still has only two HRs and six measly RBIs. I say sell high and let him prove it for someone else.

NL quick hitters

• In addition to his .313 BA, three long balls and 11 RBIs, Josh Willingham added his third stolen base Wednesday night. The average may come down, but he's quietly looking like a four-category player.

• Have you noticed that Rickie Weeks is hitting .327 with three homers? Shhh. The slightest bit of fanfare and his hamstrings may snap.

• It's not much, but Jay Bruce's modest three-game hitting streak may be signaling the start of something bigger. His two HRs on Sunday seem to have let him relax. Look for a big power burst in the next few weeks.

American League lumber

• How long do the Blue Jays stick with Lyle Overbay? After another zero-for-four night on Wednesday, his average sits at .119. Whether they have real thoughts of contention or not, the Jays have to be entertaining thoughts of promoting Brett Wallace.

Julio Borbon's three-for-five night against the Red Sox may have saved his job for a while. The Rangers don't have a serious candidate to play center, so as long as he shows signs of coming to life, the job is his. Stick with the speedster. He has too much speed and hitting ability to give up on after 15 games.

• The Orioles will miss Brian Roberts, but Ty Wigginton has made the absence less glaring for the time being. With five HRs in seven games since he's taken over, Wiggy has pretty much eradicated any chance to sneak away with him on the waiver wire. He's obviously going to slow down, but considering the tenuous state of Roberts' health, Wigginton could be a year-long source of power with middle infield eligibility.

AL quick hitters

Alex Gordon's return was set to create playing time issues at second base, but Chris Getz's oblique injury and the hot hitting of Alberto Callaspo have put those worries in the rearview mirror. Expect Callaspo to get the majority of time even when Getz returns.

• With four HRs and 13 RBIs, B.J. Upton may finally be having the long awaited power breakthrough. A 20/40 season is looking like a very real possibility.

• I don't get the hype surrounding Jeremy Hermida. He's supposedly been hot, but his .250 BA is less than inspiring and he'll go through the same extended power outages he suffered in Florida. Deal him to a Boston homer and watch as Hermida starts hearing the boo birds.

Nation League moundsmen

• Ready to ditch Carlos Zambrano with the news that he's going to the pen? Step away from the delete button and rethink it. The Cubs have 18 million reasons to make Zambrano happy. This plays out in one of two ways. The obvious outcome is that Carlos Silva and his 0.95 ERA remember who they are and return to fantasy oblivion. The other is that Zambrano takes his feisty demeanor to the closer role. Carlos Marmol has shown the ability to go multiple innings (as if Zambrano hasn't). The Cubs will use this as ammunition in moving him into a seventh/eighth inning role and installing Zambrano as the closer. Either way, "Big Z" retains solid fantasy value. Hold onto him if you have him and scoop him up if you don't.

• After blanking the Pirates for seven innings Tuesday night, Dave Bush sits with a nice 2.41 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He's long been viewed as a sleeper for Ks and WHIP, but last season's 6.39 ERA pretty much erased those thoughts. He's still not to be trusted in mixed leagues, but Bush can be spotted effectively in NL-only formats.

Mike Pelfrey certainly has the pedigree to suggest that his 0.86 ERA is not a total fluke, but can he maintain the success? He's been spotless so far, even tossing in a save during the 20-inning marathon win over St. Louis. The 16 Ks in 21 innings, though not elite, indicate that Pelfrey has turned the corner. Mixed leaguers can safely plug him into the back end of their fantasy rotations.

NL quick pitches

• Did I mention that Carlos Silva has a 0.95 ERA? Twenty-twelve is getting closer!

• Take a look at the numbers that Matt Capps, Matt Lindstrom, and Leo Nunez have put up. These three embattled closers have been among the best in the NL.

• Welcome to PETCO, Matt Latos. Tuesday's seven innings of shutout ball against the Giants sure was nice. Can we expect more than two strikeouts next time?

Chad Qualls continues to implode. Juan Gutierrez hasn't looked too good himself, but it looks like he could be taking over at any time.

American League hurlers

• After two absolutely terrible starts, Brandon Morrow suddenly remembered that he was once one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He tossed seven quality innings against the Royals, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out eight. His outing Saturday in Tampa will tell us a lot about his value going forward. The stuff is still there. If Toronto lets him settle in, it may not be too late for the 25-year-old right-hander.

• Alright, I'll come clean. I scoffed at the idea that Joel Pineiro could possibly have fantasy value for a second consecutive year. So far, he's made a lot of experts look as helpless as the hitters pounding the ball into the ground. After three starts, Pineiro's record sits at 2-1 with a nifty 1.77 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Of course, the Ks aren't there, but fantasy owners can't ask for much more. He may be the most boring own in fantasy baseball, but Pineiro is certainly looking good as a sixth or seventh starter in mixed leagues. Lesson learned; crow eaten.

Wade Davis didn't exactly earn his rotation spot this spring, but the Rays are being rewarded for their confidence. After six shutout innings against a tough Chicago offense, Davis now boasts a 2.65 ERA. He's walked 11 hitters in 17 innings, so there is cause for concern, but he's looking more comfortable every start. Mixed leaguers feel free to swoop in and snatch him up.

AL quick pitches

Phil Hughes showed his outstanding potential taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning Wednesday. He needs to start stringing quality starts together, but the increased K rate is a sign that he's taking his game to the next level.

Neftali Feliz owners had to be worried when it became apparent that he was not going to be in the Texas rotation. Those owners are feeling much better as Feliz is flourishing in the closer's role. His 1.35 ERA and 0.75 WHIP sure look an awful lot like last year's numbers. Even as a closer, he's on pace to get 110-plus strikeouts.

Josh Beckett's early season performance has me extremely suspicious about the health of his arm. It's early, but his current 5.96 K/9 is more than just the result of a small sample size. It may be selling low, but you might also consider it salvaging value from a pitcher whose shoulder may be toast.

• All statistics as of April 21, 2010.

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