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The Week That Was: “Raising Cain?”

The question of which Matt Cain will emerge from his short DL stint highlights this week’s Week That Was: 

Matt Cain:   After much debate, the Giants decided to play it safe and put Matt Cain on the DL with a strained hamstring.  Thus far this year, the bounce back many predicted has not fully materialized.  Indeed, through the first two months of the season, Cain has one win.  As Harry Doyle would have said: “one lousy [win]?”  Yep.  The real question for the Giants and fantasy owners alike is whether Cain can raise his game and be, well, Matt Cain once he returns.  My answer is yes.  First, this is not an arm injury.  Second, while he has only one win, Cain has a decent 3.66 ERA and 1.22 WHIP (hardly Cain numbers but hardly disastrous either). Third, the velocity and K rates have stayed constant.  Bottom line here is that Cain has given up a few more dingers than usual and that has skewed the stats southward.  There is no reason to think that the ball will continue to leave the huge ATT yard at anywhere near that elevated rate upon Cain’s return.  Buy now before it is too late.

Brad PeacockBrad Peacock pitched great Thursday, giving up just one run on six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts over six innings against the Orioles.  Go back in time just a bit and you see that Peacock quietly has been very solid over his last four starts: 3.55 ERA with an average of 7K per start.  Is this real or will Peacock go back to the guy who has a 4.76 ERA and 1.59 WHIP overall?  Answer: this is for real.  And you know what that means right?  Yep, a buy low opportunity is right in front of your face!  I believe the Peacock will strut proudly for the season’s final four months.  Why you ask?  Good question.  First, Peacock posted a gaudy 15+% swinging strike rate on both of his top two pitches last year.  Second, Peacock’s 2014 BABIP is 50+ points higher than his career average, so he has been unlucky.  Third, his K rate is actually higher this year than it was last.  So, overall, is there risk in buying Peacock stock?  Sure.  Is there a nice payday awaiting you if you do?  I think so. 

Stephen Drew According to reports, Stephen Drew will be with the Red Sox on Monday.  What does this mean for your fantasy baseball team?  Well, first, those waiting for Will Middlebrooks to come off the DL and hit will likely be waiting a long time.  Those who own Xander Bogaerts need not worry about his PT but should seriously consider dealing him in a redraft league.  1 HR, 3SB and an unsustainable BABIP tells me his market value is greater than his real 2014 roto value.  Ok, so what about Drew?  Well, you have to think he will be rusty for a while, so I would not rush him into your lineup.  After two weeks, the rust should be shed, but I urge you to keep expectations in check.  Remember, this is a guy with a history of health issues who hit 20 HR only once, has never reached 70 RBI, had 10 SB only once and hit above .280 for a full season only once.  Bottom line: sell him fast if he hits a hot streak.

Henderson Alvarez:  It looks like the Marlins and Henderson Alvarez have survived the elbow scare as reports are that the team expects Alvarez to start Tuesday against the f/k/a Devil Rays.  If you own Alvarez, you too are breathing a big sigh of relief.  Thus far, Alvarez has been pretty good, posting an ERA below 3.00.  But even better than that, the velocity is up, the K rate is up, the BB rate is down, and the BABIP is a bit inflated.  Bottom line – Alvarez is not striking out as many as you would like a fireballer to K but at only 24 and pitching in that big park in the NL East, there is a big profit opportunity if you buy now.  What about the elbow issue you ask.  Good question.  I just cannot see the Marlins running Alvarez out there Tuesday if there is any risk – especially not after losing Jose Fernandez to TJS a few weeks ago.

Ben ZobristIn welcome news for the Rays, Ben Zobrist and his fantasy owners, Zobrist came off the DL on the first day he was eligible.  The question of course is whether the thumb issues will linger.  Hard to say but in any case, keep your expectations in check.  Thus far, Zobrist has had a mixed bad season:  .260 average (eh); .352 OBP (solid); 3 HR (not great); 10 RBI (really not great); 24 runs (not too shabby for a guy who missed time).  Ok, so I threw out a lot of numbers but what you really want to know is what to expect.  Answer:  expect what Zobrist pretty much does every year – plays a ton of positions, hits around .270, and provides 10+ HR and SB.  Not a superstar but given his position eligibility, a guy very much worth owning from here on if he can be had for a fair price but not a guy for which one should break the bank.

Randal GrichukYou all know about Oscar Taveras making his long-awaited debut, but many are looking past the fact that the Birds called up Randal Grichuk as well.  The good news is that Grichuk was hitting .315 with a .952 OPS at AAA.  The bad news is that he is not in the lineup Saturday and his playing time is in question.  With Allen Craig likely to play a lot of 1B while Matt Adams is on the shelf, the Cardinals should play both Taveras and Grichuk alongside Matt Holliday in the OF.  If they do, Grichuk will be a smart buy for you.  In deep leagues, go ahead and gamble.  In shallow leagues, throw in a small FAAB bid and see what happens.

Pablo Sandoval:  Last week in this space, we wrote:  “There is really no question that the Kung Fu Panda was a major disappointment early on.  However, since May 4th, the Panda is raking: .300+ (21-for-70), 4 HR and 12 RBI.  So, will the real Kung Fu Panda please stand up?  Stated another way, which Panda will play for the Giants and your fantasy team this year?  My answer: the May version.  The Panda is a classic victim of his own success – a guy who made the majors really early and had some success at an age where many are still in the minors, but then failed to live up to the generated hype.  The Panda is only 27 yet he is in his 8th major league season.  During his career, he has already logged 2 seasons with 20+ HR and three with a batting average above .300.  At just 27 and playing for a contract, there is every reason to believe that the Panda will thrive the rest of the way.  Buy before the window of opportunity closes!”  Well, I hope you followed the advice and bought because the window is now glued shut.  In the week since the above was published, the Panda has hit .423 with 8 runs, 3 HR and 9 RBI. Just sayin.

And last and but not least, this from the Baron of the Bottom of the Page.  Schultz says:  “In theory, fantasy baseball is supposed to be a contest where a varied number of teams compile a roster of players that, in their estimation, will produce statistics that are superior to those amassed by the other members of their league. Yes. When looked at in its most clinical fashion, fantasy baseball may be right up there with Dungeons & Dragons and Civil War reenactments in the pantheon of "cool" things to do with your friends. Sure there is some strategy, gamesmanship and wheeling/dealing involved but, at its core, roto-baseball is supposed to be about seeing who best foresaw the upcoming season. Except for 2014.
With all of the injuries that have beset MLB in the first two months of this season, competing for a roto-title seems less a battle of the titans and more like a war of attrition. To date, Carlos Beltran, Clayton Kershaw, Ryan Braun, Jason Kipnis, Mark Teixeira, Brandon Belt, Jose Fernandez, Chris Sale, Anibal Sanchez, C.C. Sabathia, Prince Fielder, Jason Grilli, Carl Crawford, Joey Votto, Andrew Cashner, Cliff Lee, Bryce Harper, Matt Weiters, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli, Jose Abreu, Ryan Zimmerman, Clay Buchholz, Nolan Arenado, Aramis Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Gio Gonzalez have all spent time on the disabled list. Compared to past years, this is an astonishing number of valued roto-assets being removed from the talent pool for at least two weeks. This somewhat raises the value of mid-level players, who may become valued contributors simply due to their physical capability to contribute.
Due to injuries, some players have fallen off the radar and may be lurking out there on the waiver wire. Josh Willingham recently returned to the Twins lineup after landing on the disabled list during the first week of the season with a fractured wrist.  In his first five games back he's hit 2 homers, driven in 4 and when you remove the welcome back 0-7 is hitting .444 (admittedly, that's only three games).  While Willingham will never carry a fantasy team, he is definitely a fine complementary piece of the puzzle.  It might also serve to remember that Mat Latos will be returning to the Reds rotation quite soon and that the Sox will surely find room for Stephen Drew. If they have been forsaken in your league, they are infinitely better than your average waiver wire find.”

Response:  While I do not believe in Willingham, I do think that the Baron makes a good point.  Even those in shallow leagues must pay attention to the middle ground or complimentary players as they have taken on even great importance this year.  Bottom line – work your waiver wire hard and make sure you squeeze all added value out of it that you can.

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