Tigers' powerful lineup offers suitable home for slugging Eldred
Another Quad A player breaks through, two young southpaws do nothing but win and the NL's most valuable backup catcher are covered this week's edition of the space we like to call "Who's He"?
Standing 6-foot-6 and tipping the scales at 255 pounds, Eldred looks like a prototypical power hitter who, in the tradition of Frank Thomas, Frank Howard and Adam Dunn, had been thrilling the crowds of Indianapolis, Fresno and Syracuse with his massive power. But after starting the year off scorching hot for the Toledo Mud Hens (.388/.444/1.038, 13 HR in just 90 PA), Eldred, 31, got the call to become the full-time designated hitter for the Tigers, his sixth big league organization. Once a top prospect of the Pirates, Eldred lost his luster after a 2007 in which he hit .199/.251/.419 in 255 plate appearances and managed 14 home runs, a rate of one every 18.2 trips to the plate. Given 600 PAs, that translates to 33 home runs. Batting fifth behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in one of baseball's most power-laden lineups, and with a playing time commitment from manager Jim Leyland, there should be plenty of opportunities for Eldred to drive in runs. Even with the late start, he may challenge the league strikeout lead and he may have trouble getting his average above .250. Still, his power and situation make him a must-add despite his DH-only eligibility in many leagues.
Entering Tuesday the major league wins lead stood at four with some of the game's greatest arms like Yu Darvish, Madison Bumgarner, David Price and James Shields in the lead pack. One name that stands out like a sore thumb in the group is Ross. Usually, situational left-handed relievers aren't prime fantasy baseball fodder, but the 22-year-old rookie has become the premiere vulture in the game, capitalizing for a big league-first four wins in his first six relief appearances. A long shot to make the big league club at the start of spring training, Ross' presence on the bump and a 1.50 Cactus League ERA impressed Mike Maddux, Nolan Ryan and Co. enough to earn a spot as the only southpaw reliever on what might be baseball's best team. A starter throughout his minor league career, last year he went 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 7.2 K/9 with High-A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League. That could lead to a spot in the Rangers rotation, but for now, he looks primed to continue to be a good source of wins pitching for a team with an offense that is never out of any game.
Backing up the league's best catcher usually isn't the best way to make a career for yourself, but when that catcher is as valuable as Buster Posey, who also has the ability to also play first base, then you get your chance. Such is the case for the switch-hitting Sanchez, 22, who took over sole possession of the Giants backup job, enabling Bruce Bochy to trade the disappointing Chris Stewart and demote Eli Whiteside. Through the season's first month, Barry Zito's personal backstop leads all NL backup catchers in at-bats (36) while tying for 10th in RBIs among all senior-circuit backstops with seven. He ranks 13th in batting average (. 278) and has a higher slugging percentage (. 361) than Miguel Montero (. 357), John Buck (. 309) and Geovany Soto (. 236). A .295 career hitter in the minors, Sanchez has limited power but hit 12 long balls on two minor league levels last season. He doesn't project to be a star, but he certainly won't hurt your team, which in many deep leagues is all you're looking for from your second catcher.
Bryce Harper may end up running away with the NL Rookie of the Year award but Miley is making a case for himself. Following three relief appearances to begin the season, the 25-year-old lefty has made two starts in place of an injured Daniel Hudson, and in the process pitched 12 1/3 innings without allowing a run. In wins against the Phillies and Marlins he surrendered a combined three hits. His record for the season stands at 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA, 0.81 WHIP but only 15 strikeouts in 21 innings. A key to Arizona's pennant drive last season when he went 4-2 in seven starts, Miley isn't going to go back to the bullpen quietly. His 1.29 ERA currently ranks sixth among all major leaguers with at least 20 innings pitched, behind only the Dodgers Ted Lilly, Diamondbacks teammate Joe Saunders, Brandon Beachy of the Braves, Washington's Stephen Strasberg and Detroit rookie Drew Smyly. There should be no hesitation adding him to any roster in every NL-only league and most mixed leagues as well.