Adam Eaton was called up to the bigs, his elbow finally healed, and the stampede to add his services began. Should you be disappointed if you were unable to roster him? The Tigers made an odd choice in spring training with their starting rotation, and despite less than desirable results it appears that they won't be changing their minds anytime soon. The Red Sox top lefty continues to struggle and memories of the dominating arm he used to be are fading fast. The Dodgers brought in a hurler from Miami. Who takes over his open rotation spot? Why do the Yankees keep giving the ball every five days to Phil H? Better question. Why does everyone in the fantasy game care so much? Finally, how in the world has a Mets' outfielder outproduced the likes of Braun, Cespedes, Hamilton and Kemp this season?
Marlon Byrd isn't a very impressive big leaguer. In fact, he had only 143 big league at-bats last season as it seemed as if his career was winding down. The horrible club from NY, I need to define which one I'm talking about, the Mets added Byrd to the mix and have pretty much been forced to play him on a daily basis. Through 75 games it's looked like a brilliant move. Byrd is hitting only .269 with a poor .315 OBP, but he's been a major source of pop for the Metropolitans. In those 75 games Byrd has gone deep 14 times and drive in 47 runs. That means he has one more home run that Carlos Gomez and he has five more RBIs than Yoenis Cespedes. Moreover, Byrd's provided more fantasy value than the following outfielders this season: Cespedes, Bryce Harper, Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp. I'll forgive you if that made you do a double-take. What's done is done, so the question now is can Byrd keep this up in the second half? Only once in his career has Byrd hit more than the 14 homers he has now (he had 20 in 2009). Byrd is hitting more fly balls, his 39.5 percent fly ball rate is a step up over his 32.2 career mark, and he's coupled that with huge growth in the HR/F column where he's more than doubles his career 9.0 at 19.2 percent. Only once in his previous 11 seasons has he posted a mark of double-digits – 10.7 percent in 2009. He's hitting more fly balls, so he's clearly attacking pitchers differently, but you don't play for a decade and then show growth like this. Could he sustain it? Certainly possible. I'd put the odds of it happening at less than 15 percent, especially since the Mets are likely to trade him, and he could end up in a role in which he slots in as a 4th outfielder on a playoff bound team.
Adam Eaton was called up by the Diamondbacks as his elbow finally proved to be sound, and into the lineup he went. It was an inauspicious start to the year as he went 0-for-4 with an error. Some perspective with Eaton. The D'backs already have Jason Kubel, A.J. Pollack, Gerardo Parra and Cody Ross in the outfield. Kubel has been disappointing hitting .251 with four homers, but he's also a year removed from 30 homers and 90 RBIs, and teams don't forget efforts like that quickly. Pollack hasn't been great this year, he offers moderate power and speed (six homers, six steals), and he's only hitting .255 on the year. Still, the 2009 first round draft pick has done very well against lefties this season hitting .284 with four homers an a .874 OPS in 102 at-bats. Parra is a Gold Glove defender, and he's been hitting like a borderline all-star batting .293 with seven homers, six steals and 51 runs scored. Ross has had a down first year in Arizona batting .266 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 72 games, but he's murdered lefties hitting .395 with a 1.007 OPS in 81 at-bats. That's a solid group of outfielders.
No one will argue that Eaton has the talent to start over that group of outfielders, but all of them have been productive at times this season. Do the D'backs bench two of them to give Eaton regular playing time? It's certainly possible. Still, while Eaton was running in the minors with eight thefts in 26 games, he only hit .256. He continued to work the count though leading to a .367 OBP, and that's heartening. At the same time we're talking about a guy who through 89 big league at-bats is hitting .247 with two steals and three times caught stealing. I'm nit picking of course. You shouldn't draw conclusions off 89 at-bats, and even with his struggles in the bigs there are those walks again, 14 in 23 games leading to a .368 OBP. Bottom line with Eaton is that he should be added in mixed leagues. He could hit .280 and steal 20 bases the rest of the way, there may even be a bit more “up” than that in his game, but be careful. With his addition the D'backs literally have five outfielders that could be in the lineup on any day so unless a deal is made, or someone is hurt, it's not a lock that Eaton will play every single day.
Phil Hughes always gets love from folks in the fantasy game, and every time his name is brought up I say the same thing --- why? Hughes seems to draw interest ONLY because he is with the Yankees. Folks, the guy is 4-8 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.33 WHIP this season. All three of those numbers are WORSE than the league average. You're fooling yourselves if you think he will ever 'figure it out.' Since the start of the 2011, among arms who have thrown 350 innings, here is how he ranks.
4.64 ERA, 82nd in baseball
12.27 Base runners per nine, 59th in baseball
7.23 K/9, 47th in baseball
9.50 H/9, 74th in baseball
Can we finally move on, please?
Jon Lester had a 3.15 ERA on May 19th. Now that number rests at 4.60. After a solid start to the season, Lester now looks like the pitcher we were spitting on last year. Take a look at the similar ratios:
2012: 4.82 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
2013: 4.60 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
Ugly is right. What has dragged him down of late? Well, when you give up nine homers in eight starts, that's a good place to lay some blame. You can also point to 23 walks over his last eight starts as certainly not helping. All the pitches have been causing him to be pulled early as well – he's failed to last six innings in four of his last six outings. No matter the format, he's a rough start right now, and there has to be some real concern that this is who he is now since this is the arm we've seen for the last 52 starts (yikes). The AL's Tim Lincecum, Lester's track record suggests better times could be ahead. At the same time there's nothing in his pitching line that sticks out and suggests a turnaround is likely to happen. Still, he's throwing as hard as normal, has a normal GB/FB ratio (1.53 compared to 1.47 for his career), has a normal BABIP (.305 to .301 for career), and has a normal overall HR/9 mark (it's 1.06 this season after marks of 0.94 and 1.10 the past two years). Like I said nothing suggests that he's a great buy low that could turn things around other than his history of success, a history that we have to now look back two years to find as it continues to slip away in the rear view mirror.
Ricky Nolasco allowed one run over seven innings in his first start with the Dodgers. Over his last 19 innings he's struck out 18 and walked none. Oh tease us some more Mr. Nolasco, we know how you love to so. Kevin Slowey is the beneficiary of the deal that sent Nolasco to the Dodgers as he gets a shot to return to the rotation. Slowey isn't much more than a streaming option in mixed leagues, but there's value here to be mined in NL-only leagues. Slowey pitches in a nice yard in Florida, and he doesn't beat himself with the free pass (in fact, his 1.80 BB/9 mark would actually be a career worse). To offset that slight increase in his walk rate, Slowey is pumping up the Ks with a 7.20 mark which would be the second best of his career. I'm not sold that the rate remains that high, but if it does then we could be looking at a hurler who will put up very solid numbers in the second half. Currently sporting a 4.00 ERA and 1.34 WHIP he's pretty much league average blah if you look at the overall effort, but again, some interest in NL-only leagues is warranted.
Drew Smyly will not be starting this season, not unless something drastic happens. Here are the words of Tigers' manager Jim Leyland. "I'm not stretching him out. He can stretch out during the winter - on his bed." (as told to Tom Gage of the Detroit News). To me, that's a mistake, and it's been a mistake since before the season started when the club decided to go with Rick Porcello in the rotation over Smyly. Has the lefty proven that he should be starting. Uh, yeah. In 33 games Smyly has twirled 53 innings, and the results place him as arguably the best long man in baseball right now: 2.04 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 55 Ks an a .198 BAA in 53 innings. Meanwhile Rick Porcello is languishing with a 5-6 record, 4.82 ERA and 1.26 WHIP for the Tigers. By the way, in 152.1 big league innings Smyly has a 3.31 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 149 Ks in 152.1 innings. If he's given a shot to start next year, have him on your list of late round adds.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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