Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Miguel Olivo catches on in Colorado

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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There's always a fantasy story in Colorado, so let's start in the thin air with our Monday recap, then slowly work our way back towards sea level.

Miguel Olivo(notes) only had one hit in Monday's loss to Arizona but on a slow roto day, I'm going to use this space to promote the underrated backstop. Olivo's ownership level is still under 50 percent and that's not right; he's off to a .311 start with five homers in his new city and he's basically thrown Chris Iannetta(notes) (.133 average) out of the way. The 2010 catcher pool looked spotty in March and it's been even worse in actuality (losing Miguel Montero(notes) really hurts); when production shows up with someone like Olivo, you need to take advantage.

Olivo's career batting average (.244) gets some fantasy owners off the scent, but this isn't the time to get sensitive to that number. He hit .251 as a semi-regular in Kansas City the last two years, and the Colorado backdrop could help Olivo push the average into the .260 range. And keep in mind the position we're talking about; for every Joe Mauer(notes) that hits .300-plus behind the plate, you can find 3-4 backstops who can't hit their way out of a paper bag. Even if we take a mild average hit here, it's probably worth it for the power exchange; Olivo's quietly collected 67 homers the last four years and he should be good for 20-plus in the Rocky Mountains.

Olivo's not a great defender but that hasn't been a big issue with Colorado to this point; he's started 60 percent of the games through three weeks and the ratio has been even more slanted to Olivo lately. Forget what you thought about Olivo in years past, he will be a fantasy asset in all formats in 2010.

It's been a nasty year for injuries so far and emerging Rockies star Jorge De La Rosa(notes) felt the sting Monday. He's got a torn tendon band in the middle finger on his throwing hand, and although he's not going to need surgery, he'll be on the disabled list for an extended period of time. "Do I have a definite time frame right now? No," said Colorado manager Jim Tracy. It's a shame to see this go down, as De La Rosa has developed into a potential ace over the last 10-12 months.

Clint Barmes(notes) went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts, pushing his average down to .192. Not the best time for a slump with Eric Young in town; Young had a double off the bench and later scored a run. Knowing how Tracy likes his lineup bingo, you get the idea Young might see a start at some point in this series.

Justin Upton's(notes) sore shin turned out to be no big deal, as he took his usual spot in the lineup Monday and gave us a 4-1-1-1 line with a stolen base. Upton's .208 batting average has some fantasy owners a little jumpy, but see the big picture here: he's on pace to hit 25 homers, steal 34 bases and score 119 runs. He's fine.

Dan Haren's(notes) got a history of pitching well in Coors Field and Monday was no exception (8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 10 K). Worry not if you're tied to the Colorado offense; Edwin Jackson(notes) is probably a good matchup for the Rockies on Tuesday and Kris Benson(notes) comes calling Wednesday.

Sometimes you lose with your best stuff and sometimes you get by with your mediocre stuff; that's been the case with Jonathan Sanchez(notes) lately. He was utterly untouchable against San Diego last week (one hitter over seven innings, 10 K) but had to settle for a loss when his mates couldn't solve Mat Latos(notes). Contrast that to Monday's ballgame: Sanchez only went five innings against Philly and was in constant trouble (three hits, five walks), but he limited the damage to just one run while his teammates were able to consistently score against Roy Halladay(notes) (7 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 5 K).

Sanchez remains the same conundrum we saw last year – the stuff is jaw-dropping (33 K in 24.1 IP) but he's not throwing enough strikes (13 BB). He's gotten a break so far with three home starts out of four; last year he had 19 road assignments compared to 13 at home. He'll get another Bay Area assignment Sunday when Colorado comes to town.

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Maybe it's just time to accept that Josh Beckett(notes) isn't the ace he's cracked up to be. The Blue Jays kicked him around for eight runs Monday, pushing his ERA up to 7.22, but crooked numbers are nothing new with Beckett. He's made 127 starts since joining the Red Sox, and on 30 occasions he's allowed five or more runs (h/t, Boston Herald). It might seem a little cruel to criticize Beckett given that Monday's game featured 25 runs and 34 hits, but it comes with the ADP territory. You didn't spend a sixth-round pick on Dana Eveland(notes).

You name it, it wasn't working for Beckett at Toronto. He couldn't locate his fastball, a pitch that's been surprisingly mediocre for him since the beginning of 2009 (the Pitch Type Values on Fangraphs illustrate this nicely). Beckett hung a couple of curves and the Jays didn't miss them. His change didn't fool anyone, either.

Working in the AL East is a nasty place for a pitcher to do his business. Beckett has a 7.34 ERA for his career against Toronto, he's at 5.51 for his career against the Yanks, and he's got a 4.53 ERA whenever he pitches at Fenway. His career numbers are sharp against Tampa Bay but you can make a case that the Rays have the AL's best offense in 2010. Beckett isn't going to be this bad all year, we all know that, but is he going to be All-Star good again? If you've got cause for optimism, pitch for Beckett in the comments.

The Indians have the worst offense in the American League through three weeks and they didn't put up much of a fight against the underrated Jered Weaver(notes) on Monday, but we should at least mention Austin Kearns(notes), who's been active of late. Kearns went 3-for-4 with a homer, steal and walk at Anaheim, and he also had a three-hit game (with a steal) on the weekend. The average mixed-league owner doesn't need to react to this news, but if you play in a jumbo-sized group, maybe you'll want to kick the tires on Kearns for a few days. Then you can come back on Friday or so and kick me for mentioning Kearns in the first place.

Josh Johnson(notes) hasn't had the most consistent year to this point – he's racked up 29 strikeouts over his three best starts but just five whiffs (against seven walks) in his other two turns – but when you add it all together he's one of the most bankable arms in the majors. The Padres couldn't figure him out Monday, as Johnson allowed just three hits in a complete game masterpiece (1 R, 1 BB, 12 K). If you're one of the Friar faithful, don't click through to the highlights. San Diego's Mat Latos turned in his worst start of the year (seven runs) and didn't make it out of the third inning.

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For some reason the Brewers have absolutely taken the Pirates out behind the woodshed in their four meetings this year, dominating each game and outscoring the Bucs 53-4. It's a good thing Milwaukee hit just two homers in Monday's 17-3 victory, we wouldn't want to see Bernie Brewer suffer a herniated disc in his back. The frustrated Pirates held a 30-minute, closed-door meeting after the game, but it's hard to like their chances Tuesday with unheralded Brian Burres(notes) taking the hill. If you're invested in the Milwaukee offense, here's the box score and bon appetit.

Pittsburgh's struggles to the side, there's an interesting buying opportunity on reliever Evan Meek(notes). He worked two scoreless innings in the middle of Monday's mess, and his seasonal stats are calling for your attention (13 IP, 11 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 13 K). He's got a fastball in the 94 mph range and so far he's been successful with his entire arsenal in 2010 (slider, cutter, change). Joel Hanrahan(notes) hasn't thrown the ball well out of the gate so far and he's still a work in progress anyway; if you're looking to hedge against Octavio Dotel(notes), Meek would be my pick.

Handshakes: Feel free to ignore the rogue save from Bruce Chen(notes) in Kansas City (yes, he's still in the league). Chen retired Ichiro Suzuki(notes) for the last out; Joakim Soria(notes) received the night off after throwing 47 pitches the two previous days. … Jonathan Papelbon(notes) picked a good time for his second 1-2-3 inning of the year, setting down the Jays quickly and putting an end to Monday's keg tapper. … Brian Fuentes(notes) struck out the side against Cleveland and Chad Qualls(notes) did the same at Colorado, albeit Qualls also allowed two hits and a run. … Ryan Franklin(notes) keeps skating by; he allowed two ninth-inning hits to the Braves but a double play helped him finish the job. … Jose Valverde(notes) had no problems with the Rangers, hitting the strike zone on 7-of-10 pitches. He's only got four strikeouts over nine innings, but his other numbers look fine.

Speed Round: Carlos Zambrano(notes) retired five of the six men he faced Monday, coming through in a clutch situation, a tie ballgame in the eighth and ninth. The Cubs eventually put away the Nats in the 10th on a bases-loaded walk, picking up a victory for Carlos Marmol(notes) (scoreless inning, one hit allowed). … Maybe the Tigers have figured something out on Neftali Feliz(notes) that no one else has. Miguel Cabrera(notes) and Brandon Inge(notes) hit back-to-back homers off Feliz in the ninth Monday, breaking up a 6-6 tie, and the Tigers also roughed up Feliz Friday night (1 IP, 3 H, 2 R). … Justin Smoak(notes) is just 1-for-11 through four games, though he has walked five times. … Jason Heyward(notes) is in a 1-for-17 slump since his homer against the Phillies last week (pushing his average down to .234), and he's also whiffed 24 times over 64 at-bats. Of course, plenty of good things are happening when he makes contact (four homers, 16 RBIs). … Mike Lowell(notes) and David Ortiz(notes) continue their time-share; Lowell got the call Monday but wasn't invited to the offensive party (1-for-6, no run production). … Juan Uribe(notes) has a sore elbow and will miss at least one more game. … The Nats didn't want to risk Ryan Zimmerman(notes) (hamstring) in cold weather Monday. … Florida prospect Michael Stanton(notes) has five homers over the last two days and Andy Behrens is here to tell you all about it. … Brandon Wood(notes) apparently got three hits in the Los Angeles win. I didn't witness any of them personally, so this might be some sort of Internet hoax.


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