The Zach Attack (USAT)
Cleveland's surge to the top of the AL Central standings has been primarily fueled by offense. The Indians piled up 12 runs and 16 hits in Thursday's romp at Boston, and for the year they're second in runs scored, trailing only Detroit. The Tribe continues to get on base (fourth in OBP) and knock down the walls (first in homers and slugging). Keep your pitchers away from these guys.
The pitching hasn't been nearly as sharp, posting a 4.07 ERA (19th in the majors). But let's take a second to appreciate Thursday's winning pitcher, emerging 25-year old Zach McAllister.
McAllister scored his fourth win of the year at Fenway and it was, curiously enough, his worst outing of the season (5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K). A captain of consistency, McAllister has allowed three runs or less in all nine of his turns, fashioning a 2.89 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. His strikeout rate is nothing special this year (6.27/9), a dip from his 2012 clip, but he's collecting 2.73 whiffs for every walk. McAllister isn't going to beat himself, you have to beat him.
The ERA estimators don't completely buy into McAllister: tERA, SIERA and xFIP all suggest an ERA in the mid-4s. A .260 BABIP is driving part of this story, to be sure. He's been a little lucky with his strand rate (78.1 percent) and HR/FB rate (9.9 percent), not that either of those numbers qualify as outliers.
The schedule has been a mixed bag of strong and weak opponents: he's seen Boston twice and Detroit once, but he's also enjoyed turns against the White Sox (twice), Phillies and Mariners. The story has been more fun at home (2.16/0.99), not as tidy on the road (3.97/1.54).
I can't fully endorse McAllister for Tuesday's start at Cincinnati, up against Mat Latos, but he makes sense the following turn, a home date against Tampa Bay. His 32-percent ownership tag in Yahoo! might be a touch on the light side, especially if last year's swings and misses start to return. If nothing else, put McAllister in the preferred streamer discussion.
Backup catcher Yan Gomes has been the surprise of Cleveland's offense this month, on a 14-for-36 tear with three homers and a .722 slugging percentage. Gomes hit two homers in Monday's crazy comeback win over Seattle, and he knocked in a pair of runs Thursday. The Indians love Gomes's defense behind the dish, and when he's playing it allows Carlos Santana to settle in at less-taxing positions (11 starts at first, three starts at DH). Santana's production hasn't been great this year when he's not catching, but there's no bias with that over his career.
Gomes was never considered a hot prospect but he did show a healthy bat in Triple-A over the last couple of years (.322/.378/.543, 13 homers over 89 games), mostly taking advantage of the PCL. He's worth auditing in deep mixers where two catchers are required. Gomes is ready to go in 88 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
The Gasman in college (USAT)
The Gasman in college (USAT)
If you'd rather wait for the next big-name pitching prospect to get the call, maybe Zack Wheeler is of interest. According to the New York Post, Wheeler will likely join the Mets after 2-3 more Triple-A starts. Wheeler opened the year as MLB.com's No. 8 prospect; he was the jewel of the Carlos Beltran trade back in July of 2011. His 3.91 ERA isn't anything special (even in the PCL), but note the 49 strikeouts in 48.1 innings. He's going to miss bats at any level, and the NL East is the most pitcher-friendly division in baseball this year. You have plenty of time for a stash play; Wheeler is owned in just 12 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Ike Davis is still with the Mets, at least as we go to press Friday morning. But a demotion to Triple-A could come at any time; the Mets have to do something to snap Davis out of his batting (.147/.236/.245) and fielding funk. Here are two interesting Davis pieces to go with your brunch: Andy Martino talks about Davis's current situation, while Michael Salfino examines big-name demotions of the past. My gut feeling: Davis won't be with the Mets when June begins.
• The Giants haven't decided what to do yet about the hole in their rotation. Ryan Vogelsong (broken finger) is going to miss at least six weeks. Veteran reliever Chad Gaudin might get a shot, and the club is also considering a pair of options from Triple-A Fresno: journeyman Shane Loux and intriguing lefty prospect Michael Kickham. (It's a shame Boof Bonser isn't pitching better; we need an excuse for Teen Wolf references.) San Francisco has three off days in in the first third of June, so there's no urgency to figure this out immediately.
Speed Round: The Phillies placed Chase Utley (oblique) on the 15-day DL, thinking he'll be out 2-4 weeks. Freddy Galvis steps into the lineup while Utley is out. Philadelphia's offense has been a mess even with Utley, standing 26th in runs . . . So far, so good for Jose Valverde back in Detroit: he's worked 11 terrific innings (2 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 10 K) and recorded five saves. He mowed down the Twins on Thursday for the latest handshake: ground out, strikeout, strikeout . . . Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout continued their "anything you can do, I can to better" bit on Thusday: Trout had two hits (including this ridiculous homer) and a stolen base, while Cabrera went 2-for-3 with his sixth homer in four games. The debate lives on . . . Rick Porcello had another poor turn (10 H, 5 R), pushing his ERA over six. Anytime you're ready to make a move, Detroit. Left-hander Drew Smyly hasn't been sharp lately, but we're still looking at strong 2013 numbers (2.48/1.07, a strikeout per inning) . . . Although Adam Eaton doesn't have structural damage in his elbow, he's set to visit with Dr. James Andrews . . . Barring a setback, Jered Weaver (elbow) should be back with the Angels next week . . . The other cleat finally dropped on Jesus Montero, as the Mariners demoted him to Triple-A. Montero will focus on first base and DH play at Tacoma . . . When I think about Royal Oak (MI), my mind drifts to Jack White meeting Meg White, legendary Redcoat Tavern, the Main Art Theatre. Maybe Royal Oak native Jason Grilli wants into the mix. He's been terrific since joining the Pirates in 2011, reinventing his career in his mid-30s, and he's been untouchable as the handshake man in Pittsburgh this year (19-for-19, 1.25 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, five walks, 34 strikeouts). Share your Grilli-for-nothing draft story in the comments, give yourself a #backpat, take a victory lap.
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