Pensive Strasburg (USAT)
• The Washington Nationals were the consensus NL favorite when the season opened, so a 28-27 record to this point (and a minus-22 run differential) has to be seen as a disappointment. And it could be a while before this team is firing on full cylinders.
Washington was able to score a 3-2 victory over the Braves on Friday, but the win came at a cost. Ace right-hander Stephen Strasburg was forced out of the game after just two innings and 37 pitches. It turns out he's battling a strained right oblique muscle.
You can spin this particular injury in a couple of directions. On one hand it seems likely he'll need a disabled list stint, and the timetable for an oblique healing can be an elusive thing. But on the positive side, at least this setback isn't related to Strasburg's arm, elbow or shoulder. It's pesky news for a roto owner, but it could have been a lot worse.
(Saturday PM Update: Upon evaluation Saturday, it was revealed Strasburg actually has a lat strain and it's merely a Grade 1 lat strain, the least severe. He might be able to pitch next week. Stay tuned.)
Strasburg will have someone to keep him company in the rehab room: Washington's other signature star, Bryce Harper, isn't healthy either. A sore knee has kept Harper out of play since Sunday, and the Nationals will probably put him on the DL this weekend. At least the move can be backdated, which means we could see Harper return by the second week of June. Harper's bat and power have been terrific in the opening third of the year (.287/.386/.587), though he hasn't been anything special on the bases (2-for-4). When he's at full health, this is probably one of the Top 12 offensive commodities in fake baseball.
• If you're looking for a plug-and-play outfielder, perhaps Josh Reddick can help you. Oakland welcomed back its right fielder and facial-hair leader for Friday's game against the White Sox, and Reddick wound up driving in the deciding run with a scorched double in the eighth inning. Let's not fret over Reddick's awful .158 start; he was dealing with a wrist injury from the first week of the year. He's capable of hitting 20-plus homers the rest of the way, and he's proven to be handy on the bases as well (16-for-17 since the opening of 2012; five swipes this year). You'll find him free to grab in two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues.
Reddick's hit made a winner out of Bartolo Colon, the ageless wonder of the bay area. Colon needed just 106 pitches (77 strikes) to shut out the White Sox, scattering five hits. That pretty 3.33 ERA and 1.05 WHIP play in any format, and while Colon has a modest 44 strikeouts on the year, it's opposed by a scant four walks. The schedule isn't easy going forward (at Milwaukee; home against the Yankees; at Texas), so I understand if you want to leave Colon in the preferred-streamer pile and call it a day. But there are plenty of favorable AL West spots for him to attack later in the summer.
Sweet-swinging Brown (USAT)
It feels like we waited on Brown's breakout for decades, but he's still just 25. If I were shuffling all the outfielders today, I'd have to include Brown in the Top 25 (at least). Brown owners, enjoy a Cadillac trot around the bases in the comments.
• Huston Street is one of those high-maintenance closers, so get your speculation shoes on and have a look around. He's dealing with a sore left calf and wasn't available to work in Friday's 17-inning marathon with Toronto. The same injury cost Street some DL time in 2012, and he hasn't made it to 62 innings since his Oakland days. Just like that, Fascination Street can turn into Shakedown Street.
Luke Gregerson is the logical first hedge here, and he's having a terrific season (0.59 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, two scoreless innings Friday). Dale Thayer is the long-shot hedge to consider - he struck out the side in one Friday inning, pushing his ratios down to 3.22 and 0.90. Bottom line, Gregerson is the better pitcher, Thayer the better facial-hair candidate. Place your bets, save chasers.
• Francisco Rodriguez holds the closing baton in Milwaukee, fresh off a clean conversion at Philly. It was a cushy save chance all the way - a three-run lead and up against the pedestrian trio of Galvis, Quinetero and Nix - but we're just in it for the stats. K-Rod had his good stuff, striking out two and throwing 9-of-10 pitches in the zone. Michael Gonzalez (five outs) and John Axford (final out in the eighth) did the set-up work.
• Brandon Morrow has been a fantasy mess for most of the year (5.63 ERA, 1.49 WHIP), but we have to wonder how much of that is tied to physical problems. He landed on the disabled list Saturday, dealing with a right forearm strain. His fastball velocity hasn't been a problem for the balance of the year, but it's stunning to see him collecting swinging strikes just 8.4 percent of the time. I'm not going to make any heroic assumptions about Morrow for the rest of 2013: if you want to gamble on his comeback and turnaround, be my guest.
• I can understand why the fantasy community has been slow to welcome back James Loney; he never showed a lot of pop in his LA days (even when the rest of his stats were solid) and his 2012 season was a mess in two stops. But let's give some props to how Loney is striping it right now: .331/.392/.531 slash, 18 walks against 21 strikeouts, even a couple of bags. Loney's also reaching the seats for a change, going deep seven times (twice Friday).
At some point a surprising start morphs into a season we can feel good about, and with the calendar flipped to June, let's welcome Loney into the circle of trust. No need to worry about that lofty .345 hit rate: Loney's making most of his good luck through a 29-percent line-drive clip. Loney's Yahoo! tag deserves to be higher than 41 percent. Enjoy the ride.
- Sports & Recreation
- Stephen Strasburg
- Washington Nationals
- Josh Reddick