Closing Time: A.J. Pollock, sneaky snake

Scott Pianowski
May 27, 2014
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Arizona outfielder A.J. Pollock is doing his best to get our attention. I wish Kirk Gibson were on board as much as fantasy owners are.

Pollock was the walk-off hero in Monday's 7-5 victory over San Diego, clinching the game with an absolute rocket to right-center field. Enjoy the video here. Hopefully no one was hurt in the ensuing celebration. Home wins have been rare in the desert this year.

The endgame clout capped a nifty 3-for-5 outing for Pollock. He's up to .296 for the season, with six homers and six steals over 159 at-bats. Mmm, category juice. Over the last month, he's the No. 16 outfielder in the Yahoo game. In a season where not much has gone right, Pollock has been one of Arizona's best players. His offensive WAR is second on the ballclub (trailing Paul Goldschmidt, of course). Rattle and hum.

Pollock was Arizona's leadoff man Monday, and perhaps the splashy game will allow him to mark his territory there. He's received about a third of his at-bats in the No. 1 spot, but he's also spent a sizable amount of time batting seventh (36 at-bats) and eighth (41 at-bats). We're not talking about the 1927 Yankees here; Arizona is one of the weaker clubs in the league. Give your best players a chance to help you, skip. (Keep in mind, batting order position is critical for NL hitters; the seventh and eighth spots, in particular, are practically a death sentence.)

There's still time to get invested: Pollock is surprisingly available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. Maybe it's all clicking for the former first-round pick. I look forward to a future A.J. Shuffle Up. Green? Soprano? McCarron? Have some fun with it.

The Diamondbacks will have a cluttered outfield when Mark Trumbo returns at some point in June, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Maybe someone else gets hurt between now and then. Maybe Trumbo's return hits a setback. Maybe the team finally realizes Cody Ross shouldn't be on the field much. In any event, let's play for today. Pollock is Arcade-approved; start pointing and clicking.

Clay Buchholz is still owned in 45 percent of Yahoo leagues, for some reason. Let's get that number down to zero. The struggling righty took his lumps against the Braves, allowing six runs over three innings. Skip over the video, no one needs to see those eight walks again.

It's the fourth time Buchholz has put up a crooked number in the runs column, and he's carrying a 7.02 ERA and 1.98 WHIP for the year. All the usual flags are in play: strikeout drop, walk spike, more homers allowed, dip in fastball velocity.

The Red Sox will probably demote Buchholz from the rotation this week, with a DL stint likely. Maybe Buchholz is really hurt, maybe the team just wants to buy some time. But this isn't someone I'd bother waiting around for. How much evidence do you need?

Why isn't George Springer the top item today? Because leading with an outfielder owned in 71 percent of Yahoo leagues (yes, it should be higher) isn't my business in this space. I'm trying to give you something highly actionable.

Mind you, I will tip my cap to anyone who was patient with Springer. He's on a ridiculous tear at the moment, ripping five homers over a four-game stretch. Monday's line was overflowing with fantasy goodness: 4-5-4-3, homer, two doubles, walk. He's on a .325/.404/.687 binge this month, with eight taters, 20 runs and 21 RBIs. Minute Maid Ballpark is quickly becoming The Springer Show.

If you want some cold water for the story, he's still got 30 strikeouts in May, and he's not running at all (1-for-3 since the recall). Maybe it's time for a possible sell high; people like their buzzy rookies and all that. But to anyone who is content to sit tight with their surging rookie, I'm not going to tell you you're wrong.

Enjoy your victory lap in the comments, Springer Youth.

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Don't look for Tommy Milone at the All-Star game, and heck, he might not even stick in Oakland's rotation when October rolls around (yes, I'm putting the Swinging A's in the playoffs right now). But when Milone gets the call for a home game, there are few better.

The creamy-smooth lefty had the soft rock working against Detroit on Monday, posting Bay Area bagels over 6.2 strong innings (4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K). Make it three wins in four starts for Mayday Milone.

The home cooking has been delicious for Milone over the last few years. Check his Coliseum stats over 31 appearances: 14-8 record, 2.79 ERA, 1.11 WHIP. Location, location, location. The story flips on the road, where he's been a 4.68/1.39 man.

Milone looks like a credible play this weekend, at home against the Angels. You're on your own when he heads to Baltimore and Anaheim for the following two starts, then he'll return home for the Rangers and Red Sox. He's still free to grab in 93 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Hyun-Jin Ryu and Nathan Eovaldi were two of Monday's best pitchers. Ryu worked seven perfect before tiring in the eighth; he settled for a win, three runs allowed, seven strikeouts. Eovaldi's start wasn't as attention-grabbing, though he finished with a similar line (6.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K) and also scored a win.

What did the starts have in common? Picking on a weak opponent. Ryu had his way with the scuffling Reds, while Eovaldi toyed with the hapless Nationals.

Both the Reds and Nats are missing key bats, of course, everyone knows that. But let's stop for a moment and acknowledge just how stream-friendly these teams are right now. The Reds are the lowest-scoring team over the last month, while the Nats are 27th. If you prefer advanced math, Washington ranks last in weighted on-base average over this period, the Reds 27th. They're tied for the basement in weighted runs-created plus. I think you get the point.

If you're in a streaming mood for the rest of the week, the schedule plays along nicely. Washington's next four pitching opponents are widely available: Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, Colby Lewis (if you dare), and Nick Tepesch. The Reds face LA royalty the next two days (Greinke, Kershaw), but then it's Josh Collmenter, guitar hero Bronson Arroyo, Brandon McCarthy, and Wade Miley (for the truly adventurous). Get ready with those short-term contracts.