While the month of April gets ready to wrap, fantasy owners should realize that there is still plenty of work to do to get their teams ready for a long and arduous season. The offseason prep work, the draft, and the early-season waiver hunting may be your foundation, but now you have a five-month long process of taking that foundation and building it into a championship. You now have to keep an astute eye on the waiver wire, explore some possible trades that will help your team in the long run, track injuries, and most of all, pay close attention to the daily happenings around MLB. You’ve got full slates of games five days a week with shorties on Mondays and Thursdays. So much can happen over the course of just one day that missing even just one could be the difference between finishing in the money and standing on the outside looking in. Maybe it sounds silly and a bit over-dramatic to some, but just look at yesterday’s action and the potential fantasy impact…
One of the things I discussed a few days ago was that, here at the end of the month, we were going to see a number of players come off the disabled list and impact the fantasy world. Owners were getting back some quality players to reinsert into their lineups, but more importantly, those owners were going to have to adjust their rosters accordingly and start cutting players they’ve been hoarding in the meantime. In addition to that, fill-in players who have had some nice early-season value are going to start losing at-bats and find that their fantasy stock just isn’t what it used to be.
Here are just a few key examples…
With Jason Kubel returning from the DL on Sunday, the Diamondbacks outfield just got real crowded in a hurry as Kubel, Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock are all vying for playing time now. The fact that Pollock and Ross do a better job against lefties and Parra and Kubel are stronger against righties gives you a decent framework, but for those in leagues with weekly roster moves instead of daily, the decisions become a little tougher. And the thing about it is that none of them are such no-brainer starts that all of them will be forced to the bench more often than fantasy owners would like. Even Parra, who extended his hit-streak to 13 games on Sunday and is hitting .320 on the year, will ride the pine should the team be facing a run of southpaws or should manager Kirk Gibson want more power in the lineup. No one is a lock to start and fantasy owners should be very aware of that.
The A’s got back Yoenis Cespedes from the DL, but unlike the D-Backs situation, this one firms up the outfield configuration. It also puts two guys who have been very helpful in the Showcase’s absence back into a limited at-bats situation. Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick should be handling primary duties in the outfield with the very occasional day off. That means that Seth Smith and Chris Young head back into a platoon situation at the DH spot. Young hasn’t been nearly as helpful lately, but given their career splits, you’re probably looking at a straight lefty/righty platoon.
By the way, here’s a little fun fact for all you Cespedes fans out there: He’s been an official member of the team for 188 games. In the 139 games in which he’s played, the A’s have a .655 winning percentage and score an average of 4.8 runs per game. In the 49 without him, you’re looking at a .347 winning percentage with just 3.8 runs per game. A difference-maker? Yeah, I’d say so.
In Philadelphia, last year’s darling backstop Carlos Ruiz returned from his 25-game suspension for a positive amphetamines test, pushing Erik Kratz back into a reserve role. Should Ruiz be available on your waiver wire, he becomes a must-add if you’re in need of catcher help. If someone else has him and needs to activate him, chances are you’ll be seeing another starting catcher hitting waivers which could prove helpful. One caveat for Chooch owners – he was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis late last season and that’s a nagging and lingering injury. He’ll be fine right now, but looking ahead into the dog days of summer, he could start experiencing some flare-ups which could land him on the DL at some point.
For those who think that manager John Farrell has saved the Boston pitching staff, John Lackey made his return to the mound Sunday and tossed six solid innings of one-run ball, scattering five hits and notching four strikeouts. Personally, I could see how Farrell would impact a youngster like Clay Buchholz, but I’m not so sure he is capable of rejuvenating Lackey’s career. Either way, that means that someone stashing him will have to make a roster cut to activate him or someone’s going to race to pick him up off waivers, thus being forced to cut someone else. You never know…someone could be giving up on a guy who struggled in April but is ready to take off in the month of May.
In other big Sunday news, the Rockies have officially begun the Nolan Arenado era as the highly-touted rookie finally gets the call. Chris Nelson bears the brunt of this decision as he was sent down to Triple-A in the corresponding move. Arenado may have struggled at the Double-A level last year, but he used it as a learning experience, tweaked his approach at the plate and is now ready to take off. He had a great spring, tore it up in Triple-A for the first month and will now be starting at the hot corner for what should be the duration of the season. He went 0-for-3 with a walk in his debut but is facing four lefties this week and has been crushing southpaws for some time now. A must-add if you need help at the corner.
Like I said, there’s a lot that can change on a daily basis, so you’re going to have to stay sharp all year long. Now here are some of the rest of the highs and lows from Sunday…
Fantasy Beast of the Day
|Clayton Kershaw, LAD||8.0||1||4||0||0||0||12||0.00||0.50|
After a pair of very un-Clayton Kershaw like outings that saw him allow five earned runs over a total of just 10.1 innings, the Dodgers stud lefty was back on top in this one. He threw 117 pitches in this one with 78 of them coming in for strikes and he kept the Brewers completely off-balance in this one. With how good he looked in this outing you had to wonder how the Brewers even managed the five hits off of him. It would appear that the hip concerns are a thing of the past and he is ready to continue his domination of National League hitting.
|Giancarlo Stanton, OF MIA||3-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB|
|Russell Martin, C PIT||3-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI|
|Carl Crawford, OF LAD||2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI|
|Tony Cingrani, SP CIN||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 12 K|
|Jeff Locke, SP PIT||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 4 K|
Is it safe to assume that Giancarlo Stanton is officially back as Sunday’s performance gives him three home runs in his last two games? I’d say so. I can’t wait to start hearing those stories of regret from owners who gave up too quickly on him, although the bragging stories from those who stole him from the frustrated buffoons are probably a lot more entertaining and a little less whiney.
Or how about those who cut Russell Martin after he was hitting .068 with just two runs scored, no home runs and one RBI through the first two weeks of the season? Including Sunday’s power display, Martin has hit .409 with 10 runs scored, five home runs and eight RBI since April 15th and has a 1.333 OPS over that span. Of course he’s not going to hit like that all year, but there’s obviously a lesson to be learned here about giving up too soon.
While there may still be some skeptics out there (this scribe included), it’s hard to deny that Carl Crawford isn’t on his way towards a Comeback Player of the Year award with a solid first month. Sunday’s two-homer performance now puts him at .306 for the season with 20 runs scored, four home runs, six RBI and four stolen bases. I need more than just a strong April to really believe, but I won’t say that he’s not on the right path to proving the skeptics wrong.
To believe or not to believe, that is the question. You’ve got two young starters here, both finding tremendous success here in the early goings of the season. Do you believe in them or are they classic sell-high candidates? Based on a cursory look at the data, I’d say yes to one (with a slight caveat) and no to the other. While Jeff Locke has been impressive and ran his scoreless inning streak to 13 innings yesterday, some of his numbers are looking a little ragged. Aside from his strikeout rate declining and his walk rate increasing, he’s got a 5.26 FIP and what appears to be an unsustainable 89.5-percent strand rate. Usually a rate that high comes with high strikeout pitchers, so that, coupled with a 1.26 WHIP and a 25.7-percent line drive rate, tells me that he’s been getting out of a number of jams with substantial help from his defense. Hard to see him keeping runs off the board regularly if this continues.
With Tony Cingrani, it’s a very different story. His strikeout rate is ridiculous right now, but his stuff is that good that he’s keeping hitters way off-balance. His peripherals look amazing and so far, everything is pointing towards tremendous success. Obviously he’s not going to maintain a 98.5-percent strand rate, but with a 2.00 FIP and a 1.77 SIERA, it looks like he’s going to be a force to reckon with all year. The one caveat though is that he’s doing it almost exclusively with fastballs. That may be fine initially, but unless he starts mixing more sliders and changeups, he’s going to have difficulty once hitters get more scouting reports on him. Should he incorporate his secondary pitches more, he’s likely to see an improvement in his ground ball rate which will certainly help him out in the long run. I’m buying Cingrani right now and watching him closely. Unless his method of deception is so good, if the pitch mix doesn’t improve over the next few starts, I might get ready to sell him before the league catches up.
|Tyler Greene, 2B CHW||0-3, 3 K|
|Nolan Reimold, OF BAL||0-4, 3 K|
|Ryan Raburn, OF CLE||2-9, 6 K|
|Justin Masterson, SP CLE||L, 9.95 ERA, 2.05 WHIP, 9 K|
|Ryan Vogelsong, SP SF||L, 9.00 ERA, 2.20 WHIP, 6 K|
And in every life, a little rain must fall….
No player is perfect all of the time, right? Days like this happen. Although Justin Masterson seems to be taking it on the chin a little more lately while Ryan Vogelsong continues to be plagued by the long ball. Seven home runs in 30.1 innings? A 19.4-percent HR/FB? The madness has to stop soon, doesn’t it?
Oh man, here we go again. We’re not even out of April and Troy Tulowitzki could be dealing with his first significant injury of the year. Obviously nothing is confirmed right now, but he left after the first inning on Sunday with a shoulder strain caused by an awkward collision at home plate. He’ll be re-evaluated by doctors on Monday and we should know more soon enough. Let’s just hope that if he does need to hit the DL or miss a few games, we get to know before lineups lock this week. I’ll be watching for this news all morning, so follow me on Twitter and hopefully we’ll get answers before it’s too late.
In other injury news…
Didi Gregorius, SS ARI – head (just landed on the 7-day concussion DL)
Taylor Teagarden, C BAL – thumb (15-day DL)
Jeff Keppinger, 3B CHW – back (day to day)
Chris Heisey, OF CIN – hamstring (15-day DL)
Lou Marson, C CLE – shoulder (15-day DL)
Andy Dirks, OF DET – knee (day to day)
Phil Coke, RP DET – groin (day to day)
Mark Ellis, 2B LAD – leg (day to day)
Alex Gonzalez, 3B MIL – hamstring (day to day)
Kevin Youkilis, 3B NYY – back (day to day)
Brett Anderson, SP OAK – ankle (missing his next start)
Jed Lowrie, SS OAK – neck (day to day)
Ben Revere, OF PHI – quadriceps (day to day)
Travis Snider, OF PIT – side (day to day)
Neil Walker, 2B PIT – finger (day to day)
Yunel Escobar, SS TB – hamstring (day to day)
Jose Molina, C TB – quadriceps (day to day)
R.A. Dickey, SP TOR – back (day to day)
Josh Johnson, SP TOR – biceps (day to day)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a vaiety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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