So it was Opening Day on Thursday….again. And while some people will mock the fact that MLB pretty much has four different Opening Days, I’m going to relish in it. For me, the offseason drags on for far too long. Sure, football is a nice distraction, but I’ll take a heated pitcher’s duel for nine innings any day. And that’s exactly what we saw on Thursday – outstanding pitcher’s duels. Roy Halladay squaring off against Erik Bedard, John Lester versus Justin Verlander, Johan Santana against Tommy Hanson, and Stephen Strasburg taking on Ryan Dempster. Some of the other matchups were good, but the show that these eight pitchers put on the other day was top notch. Maybe some of the offenses each guy faced were a tad anemic (yes, Pittsburgh, I’m looking in your direction), but overall, you have to love watching a guy standing on the hill pulling strings on pitches left and right, making hitters look just plain silly in the batter’s box.
In fact, the day’s top honor from Fantasy Alarm’s Rounding the Bases, once again, goes to a pitcher…
I know there were some great performances on Thursday, both on the mound and at the plate, but how do you not throw the top honors to 34-year old, Roy Halladay who is entering his 15th year as a major leaguer? I don’t care if he was facing the Pirates. This guy goes out there, game in and game out, and gives everything he’s got. The results, especially to those that don’t own him, are just maddening. I’ve always stood by the belief that you don’t need an ace to build a solid fantasy rotation, but let’s face it…having Halladay on your roster is like money in the bank. There’s no question that his name will appear in this spot several times this season.
But obviously there was plenty more for fantasy owners to get excited about yesterday as there were some top flight performances from plenty of player, some you’d expect and a few that you might not. Here’s a look…
|Jose Bautista 3B/OF TOR||3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI|
|Matt Kemp, OF LAD||2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI|
|Ian Desmond, SS WAS||3-5, R, RBI, SB|
|Jack Hanahan, 3B CLE||2-6, R, HR, 3 RBI|
|Cameron Maybin, OF SD||2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI|
|Johnny Cueto, SP CIN||W, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP|
|Justin Masterson, SP CLE||10 K, 1.13 ERA, 0.38 WHIP|
|Justin Verlander, SP DET||7 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.38 WHIP|
|Jonathan Papelbon, RP PHI||S, K, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP|
|Brad Lidge, RP WAS||S, 2 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP|
Let’s face it, you better see names like Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp here early on. After all, you’re talking about two of the top five selections in most fantasy drafts this year. Bautista was the only one who got to fellow Fantasy Dream Justin Masterson, who pitched an outstanding game against the Jays, when he connected for a solo shot in the fourth inning. He added to his RBI total with a sacrifice fly in the ninth when the Jays were rallying against the Tribe’s bullpen.
Kemp picked right up where he left off last season. He had a pair of hits, including a home run in the eighth that not only helped break the game open for the Dodgers, but inspired new owner Magic Johnson to pop his head into the dugout to dish out some congratulatory words. Kemp also tried to make good on his promise of a 50-50 season, but found himself getting thrown out in his only stolen base attempt. Still, great to see him off to such an aggressive start.
Very nice to see guys like Ian Desmond and Jack Hanahan off to such a nice start. Neither is considered a marquee name, but each can be a solid fantasy asset in their own right. We’d like to see Desmond continue to develop even just a touch more power, but mostly we’d like to see him pull his batting average up to atleast just north of .270 while maintaining his 20-plus stolen base work. Hanahan, on the other hand, edged out fellow role player, Jason Donald for the starting nod and was probably left of most draft boards this year. He tends ot be a little streaky, but a fast start could see him land on a number of fantasy rosters, atleast as a plug-and-play type guy.
I did a lot of cheering from Cameron Maybin’s corner this offseason and even went so far as to predict 15 HR and 50 SB from him this season. I love the step forward he took last year and truly believe that his power will continue to develop. That two-run shot off of fantasy expert favorite, Kenley Jansen was pretty impressive. Not to mention that it was the seventh longest home run ever hit at Petco Park. The ballpark might stifle some of his power overall, but he’ll certainly get his knocks while continuing to swipe bases left and right.
Johnny Cueto looks to be continuing his growth as a top starting pitcher, although these Marlins are certainly helping pitchers along here. I won’t take anything away from his talents as a starting pitcher, but impatience at the plate always favors the hurler.
A quick nod to Jonathan Papelbon for his first save as a member of the Phillies and look at good ol’ Brad Lidge coming through for the nationals. With Drew Storen on the shelf right now, expect to see Lidge boost his fantasy value here early on in the season. It won’t last once Storen makes it back, but he’ll definitely be worth stashing if he proves successful in the early goings of the season.
And how about an honorable mention to Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia. He may have had only one hit in seven trips to the plate on Thursday, but he certainly made it count with his first jack of the year – a killer three-run shot off Jairo Asencio to give Toronto the lead and eventual win in 16 innings of play.
But then there’s also the yang to everybody’s yin and not everyone had themselves a good day. Here’s a look at some of those that left their fantasy owners a little down in the mouth on such a cherished day…
|Andrew McCutchen, OF PIT||0-3, K|
|Hunter Pence, OF PHI||0-4, K|
|Jason Heyward, OF ATL||0-4, 2 K|
|Ike Davis, 1B NYM||0-4, 2 K|
|Kevin Youkilis, 3B BOS||0-4, 2 K|
|Hanley Ramirez, SS MIA||0-4, 2 K|
|Giancarlo Stanton, OF MIA||0-4, 2 K|
|Mark Melancon, RP BOS||1 L, 27.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP|
|Carlos Marmol, RP CHC||1 L, 9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP|
|Chris Perez, RP CLE||BS, 40.50 ERA, 7.50 WHIP|
The only thing worse than opening up your live scoring and seeing a run of oh-fers on your team, is scrolling down even further to see that your closer took it on the chin as well. Yes, we’ve got our slow starters on offense, but am I really worried about some of the offensive players you see listed above? Not really. Things will click soon enough and we’ll all be watching each of the hitters above celebrating some tremendous moments on the diamond. Patience is the name of the game in fantasy, so don’t bang your head against the wall after just a game or two. Save that for the month of May.
However, on the closer front, there’s always something to worry about. Chris Perez should be constantly looking over his shoulder and if you own him, you better have handcuffed him to Vinnie Pestano. If these two pitch at levels equal to their 2011 totals, then it shouldn’t be long before the Indians make a move and use Pestano in the closer’s role. Carlos Marmol probably has a much longer leash, especially because the only guy in the Cubs’ pen that might get a shot, Kerry Wood, actually looked worse, walking three batters in just a third of an inning.
As for Mark Melancon, well, technically he’s not the closer, but enough people rostered him early thinking that would be the case. He sure didn’t prove himself too worthy with yesterday’s performance, but Bobby Valentine’s new dreamboat, Alfredo Aceves, didn’t fare much better. It was Melancon who put a pair of runners on for the Tigers after recording the first out of the inning, but then Bobby V brought in his man Aceves to clean up the mess and watched as his prized choice hit the first batter to load the bases and then served up the game winning hit four pitches later. We’ll see how this situation shakes out, but something tells me it’s gonna get uglier before it improves.
And let's not let Jose Valverde off the hook here. He may have back-doored into the win, but he blew the save and coughed up a pair of runs off three hits to start the season. He's not in any remote danger of losing his job in Detroit, but that's not starting your year with your best foot forward.
One injury of note here as Mets center fielder Andres Torres, acquired via trade in the offseason from the Giants, pulled up lame chasing down a fly ball and landed on the 15-day DL with a strained calf. Looks like Scott Hairston is going to get some extra work here.
Oh yeah....Clayton Kersahw? Stomach flu? What's up with that? I know it's a long season and all, but come on, man! Not the best way to start off as a Cy Young award winning pitcher, is it?
And how about a dishonorable mention for two of my favorite youngsters this year – Brett Lawrie and Jason Kipnis with a combined 0-for-11 with four strikeouts. Atleast they each had a run scored, so the day wasn’t a total waste. Don’t worry, boys….plenty more Opening Days in your future to make up for it!
Speaking of more Opening Days, enjoy your fourth of the season here on Friday!!
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 email@example.com.
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