So goes the life of a journeyman slugger in the twilight of his career. Just one week after “saving” Jonathan Papelbon and the Phillies with his record-setting 13th career walk-off home run, Jim Thome was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for a pair of minor league players. Thome, now on his sixth team in the last three years is coming back to the AL and working as a full-time DH which really, is the best thing for him, the Orioles, and for fantasy owners.
It’s not that Thome’s five home runs and 15 RBI as a pinch-hitter were all that bad, but given his overall ability to hit – and believe me, he can still hit despite an obvious decline we’ve witnessed over the last few years – he was being wasted in the National League. His opportunity to produce more increases greatly with the move and both the Orioles and Thome’s fantasy owners – watch those ownership percentages grow – should see immediate dividends paid.
So far in the 2012 season, the Orioles have received a batting line from their DH that reads as follows: .255-38-10-32. While the runs scored may be the third highest in the American League, the 10 home runs rank ninth, the RBI are 11th, and the batting average, just eighth. Might as well throw in that lousy, ninth ranked .781 OPS for good measure. Thome is an immediate upgrade. Hell, he could probably top those numbers just against left-handed pitching and he stinks against left-handed pitching….in comparison that is. His numbers against lefties may look terrible in comparison to his numbers versus right-handers, but they are still dreamed about by some major leaguers. Putting Thome’s bat regularly in the middle of the Orioles’ lineup should not only improve the numbers they get out of their DH slot, but his presence alone should help the surrounding hitters as well.
As for fantasy owners, it’s all about opportunity now. Obviously we’re going to see plenty more at-bats for Thome now that he will play a more prominent role on his new team. No more of this one at-bat per game garbage. He may not play every game, as the Orioles may do a little mixing and matching with a southpaw on the hill, but he’s going to see a lot more time in the batter’s box now. Increased opportunities, great hitter’s park, what more could you ask for? OK, well it would have been nice had he picked up just one more game at first base during interleague so to help with his position eligibility, but who knows…maybe he’ll get a chance for the O’s at some point. Even if he doesn’t though, that’s still going to be a great bat sitting in your utility spot. If you are in need of a quick power boost, Thome could be exactly what the fantasy doctor ordered.
Now let’s hit the highlights from Saturday…
|Mat Latos, CIN||9.0||2||1||1||0||7||0||1.00||0.22|
Reds right-hander Mat Latos gets the honors here for two reasons. Number one is obviously the masterful game he pitched against the Giants on Saturday, holding a surging, first place team to one measly late run in the ninth and allowing just two hits with no free passes issued and striking out seven. And number two is the fact that he was a two-start pitcher this week and just threw his second consecutive complete game victory here. If you are a Latos owner, you just got yourself 18 innings with a 1.00 ERA, a 0.44 WHIP and 20 strikeouts. Like any starter, he’s going to run into a few bumps in the road, but with four quality starts in his last five outings, it could be a similar situation to last year when we saw Latos turn in a rough first half, only to dominate like the Latos of old in the second. Hard to buy low on a guy who just threw back-to-back complete game victories, but if you are able to pry him away form another owner, he should be a strong asset moving forward.
|Shin-Soo Choo, OF CLE||4-5, 4 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB|
|Alexi Amarista, 2B SD||2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI|
|Brett Lawrie, 3B TOR||3-4, 3 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI|
|Hiroki Kuroda, SP NYY||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 11 K|
|Michael Fiers, SP MIL||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 10 K|
Nice to see Indians’ outfielder Shin-Soo Choo getting back on track here. He’ll need a little bit bigger of a surge to get back to those 20-20 days we enjoyed just two seasons ago, but he’s going to be close. He’s 11-for-20 (.550) with two home runs, six RBI and seven runs scored over his last six games with three of them being multi-hit performances. Hopefully he can keep this momentum rolling until the All Star break and then start again fresh in the second half.
Alexi Amarista is really making a strong play for regular playing time with the Padres as he is hitting .450 with three doubles, three home runs, five runs scored and 10 RBI over his last nine games. However, the Padres still don’t see him playing that role full-time apparently as he has started just three of the team’s last nine games. Maybe it’s because he never really displayed this type of power in the minors – 21 home runs over 492 minor league games – and they’re thinking that this just might be a little bit of a fluke right now. Fantasy owners should probably view it the same way.
Perhaps it’s because he’s no longer the brand-new shiny toy he was last year during his call-up, but Brett Lawrie seems to really be flying under the radar this season. But his eight home runs and 11 stolen bases with a .293 average is certainly keeping him in great company this year. Overall, he’s considered the sixth best third baseman this year behind the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista and a few other marquee names, and he’s only 22 years old. Can you say long-term keeper for years to come…?
Forget about the fact that Hiroki Kuroda’s eight wins, 3.17 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 2.58 K/BB have been rock solid in a year where he transitioned from the NL to the AL and from one of the best pitcher’s parks to one of the best for hitters, but the way he stepped up for the Yankees in a time when they just lost their two best starters was just huge. Things really took off for the right-hander in June as he went 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA and had 43 strikeouts to just 10 walks through 41 innings. Look for him to continue the trend next week when he gets his first taste of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry.
Michael Fiers? Really? Who’d a thunk it? Not me, sadly. But there’s nothing wrong with missing a name here and there, just as long as you pick it up at the right time. He still seems to be under the radar, but if he increases this 18.1 scoreless inning streak – and he faces a struggling Marlins team next – then soon everyone will know his name.
And while he failed to make the leaderboard here, watch for Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal. He’s now apparently up for good as the team demoted incumbent Nick Hundley, and he kicked things off with a 2-for-4 night with two home runs and three RBI. Granted, it was in Colorado, but still….
|Jason Kubel, OF ARI||0-4, 4 K|
|Daniel Descalso, 2B STL||0-4, 3 K|
|Mark Teixeira, 1B NYY||0-4, 3 K|
|Tommy Hunter, SP BAL||ND, 27.00 ERA, 5.40 WHIP, 2 K|
|Wade Miley, SP ARI||L, 19.64 ERA, 2.45 WHIP, 2 K|
While there’s little to say about guys who stink it up for a night, allow me to just point out that Tommy Hunter was demoted to Triple-A just after the game and it’s about time Wade Miley’s luck ran out. I’m not saying that he’s going in the tank just yet, but how he rebounds from this loss is going to be a pretty big deal. Fortunately for him, the match-up against the light-hitting Dodgers is a favorable one.
Joey Votto, 1B CIN – knee (questionable)
Carlos Santana, C CLE – back (doubtful)
Andre Ethier, OF LAD – oblique (questionable)
Andrew McCutchen, OF PIT – wrist (doubtful)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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