Jarrod Parker hasn't ducked anyone over his six-week stint in the American League. He's faced the White Sox and Red Sox, the Blue Jays and Tigers (among other teams) and he's showed talent and poise at just about every stop. He's only allowed more than two runs in one of his eight starts. If he had enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, he'd currently be the No. 2 starter in the AL.
So why haven't fantasy owners flipped for this kid? Why is his ownership level stuck at a modest 20 percent? Today, we'll try to figure it out.
Parker's latest gem came Monday against big-bad Texas, a no-hit bid that lived into the eighth inning. (Ah, remember when no-hit bids were a novelty?) Michael Young broke up the fun with an eighth-inning single, but Parker was staked to a big early lead and was in complete control on this night. He walked three, struck out six, and got out of dodge with a reasonable 111 pitches. Push his ERA down to 2.40 and his WHIP down to 1.20. The modest crowd in Oakland got its money's worth.
The air hisses out of the balloon when you pop the hood and look at some of the kid's component numbers. Parker's K/9 is an ordinary 6.47, and he's walking over four batters per nine; anytime you see a K/BB ratio under two, it's time to worry. His strand rate has been fortunate at 80.2 percent, and his fly balls haven't been landing in the seats (just 2.0 percent HR/FB). And it's not like every AL batter is befuddled by Parker's stuff: he's allowed a 25-percent line-drive rate. FIP suggests his real ERA should be 3.39, while xFIP spits out a 4.61 number.
Parker's also had trouble securing wins, mostly because his Oakland mates have blown a couple of ninth-inning leads for him. That's life when Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes share your clubhouse. And as you'd expect, Parker's results have been more smooth in roomy Oakland (1.59/1.09) as opposed to the road (4.30/1.50).
Add it all up and we're looking at a preferred streamer, one of the names you can start confidently when the matchup is right, but not someone who's good enough to be carried continually in a small or medium-sized mixer. Not everyone is meant to be a six-month play; some guys have to live assignment to assignment. With a road start coming this weekend in Arizona, and then (perhaps) a turn in Colorado, now is not the time to fall in love with Parker's ERA. The number might be correcting itself fairly soon.
If I ran the Athletics, I'd make sure Parker missed the Coors Field turn (it comes down to how the team handles the No. 5 slot), instead letting him settle in at home against San Diego on June 15. There's no need messing with the head of one of your top prospects. If Parker does get the call against the Padres, be ready with the point and click, a day or two in advance. The following start looks like a home date against the Dodgers, a matchup you can exploit while Matt Kemp is out of action.
• In a sense, Tom Wilhelmsen is the man stuck in the middle of the Seattle save chase. He's not the big-name pitcher trying to get back to the ninth; that's Brandon League. He's not the just-recalled prospect with the glittering minor-league numbers; that's Stephen Pryor. But Wilhelmsen happens to be the reliever cradling the save baton right now, and that always holds significant weight in our make-believe game.
Wilhelmsen has a win and a save over the last three days, and he's worked hard for the money. The Saturday victory at Chicago was a three-inning special in extra innings; the 6-foot-6 righty allowed just one hit over three scoreless innings (while striking out four). His first handshake of the year came Monday in Anaheim, a five-out special. He did plunk one batter in the ninth, but otherwise it was a smooth ride (no hits, two strikeouts).
Wilhelmsen didn't make the majors until last season, at age 27. A late bloomer all the way. His 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP thus far in 2012 are solid, and if anything he looks better with the under the hood stats: 10.8 K/9, four strikeouts for every walk, ground-ball rate moving in the right direction. Wilhelmsen's FIP checks in at 2.92, so you can argue he's pitched better than the surface numbers show, and a 95.6 mph heater always looks good at the end of a ballgame.
Given this solid package of skills combined with his current role, it's a little surprising Wilhelmsen is owned in just nine percent of Yahoo! leagues. The Mariners will get save chances like everyone else.
I understands the caveats that come with this bullpen, mind you. Seattle has incentive to get League back to the closer gig if at all possible, even if it's just for showcasing purposes. League has turned in three scoreless appearances out of four since being yanked from the ninth, though he's yet to throw a clean inning over that stretch (5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K). And if Pryor's minor-league profile doesn't put a bounce in your step, maybe you're not much of a baseball fan. But the momentum of a bullpen is something you always have to be mindful of, and right now Wilhelmsen is pitching too well to be displaced. See if you can make room for him.
• It's easy to fall in love with Wilin Rosario's power; I admit I've done that over the last week. This guy can drive the ball out of any ballpark — and to any field — and he's been rocking over the last week (three homers, two steals), taking advantage of Ramon Hernandez on the DL.
But when is Rosario going to solve right-handed pitching? That critical skill is standing in the way of this story really taking off, blocking an intriguing prospect from turning into a bonafide major leaguer.
As the wise men of Cambridge already know, Rosario has been teeing off on lefties this year. He's clocked six homers on just 30 at-bats against southpaws; the latest almost landed in Arizona's pool. A .333/.375/.967 slash, that's nasty. But we live in a right-handed world, and that's where the story becomes less fun. Although Rosario does have three homers in 75 at-bats against righties (acceptable), there's nothing else here: .213/.247/.413. He's walked three times and he's stuck out 27 times against northpaws. This platoon split was a problem in the minors, too.
At least the schedule sets up nicely for the next few days: the Rockies face a lefty on Wednesday (Wade Miley) and back home on Friday (C.J. Wilson). If Tommy Milone pitches at Coors next week, that would be a good spot to use Rosario, too. If you have the flexibility and patience to work the matchups with Rosario, the payoff can be sweet. But there's an obvious case against giving him Circle of Trust membership right now.
As for Rosario's teammates, let's quickly check the schedule. The Rockies finished May on a glorious and lucrative homestead, and the June slate is also favorable. While Colorado is merely home for 12-of-23 games to ride out the month, it also has road dates in Arizona (two more games this week), Philadelphia and Texas — good places to take your hacks. Some tricky matchups await for July, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
• All of that scheduling fun the Rockies are looking at doesn't sound so great to rookie lefty Christian Friedrich. The Eastern Kentucky product was in control at Arizona (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K), securing his third straight victory. But to no one's real surprise, there's a significant home/road split here. Friedrich's been mowing people down away from Coors (1.80/1.08, 27 K against 5 BB) but he's been kicked around in two home starts (10.64 ERA, 9 K, 5 BB).
Friedrich pitches Saturday at home against the Angels, and that's a stay-away for me — simply because of the location. Then he's looking at Oakland in Coors or a road stop at Detroit. It's a shame this talented lefty didn't break in with another club, say any of those who toil around sea level. Tread carefully.
• No one expects a cascade of fantasy goodies when they roster Ben Revere: you're hoping for steals, an okay average, maybe some runs. Lately, business is good — Revere is on a 14-for-36 binge with six runs and (most importantly) four stolen bases. He's also settled into the No. 2 slot, exclusively. He's not going to change your life, but doesn't he deserve to be owned in more than four percent of Yahoo! leagues? Anyone have a need for speed out there?
Speed Round: Dustin Pedroia (thumb) will likely return to action Tuesday against Baltimore. A thumb problem is one of the more nagging injuries on the landscape, the type of ailment that can sap power and make a player reluctant to steal. It's not my thumb, obviously, but I'd be careful with your Pedroia expectations. I'd be very surprised if he immediately started ripping line drives all over the place. … The Phillies are waiting for a second opinion on Doc Halladay's shoulder. I'm not expecting any grand comeback from Halladay in 2012; downshift into "take what you can get" mode. Then again, everyone always seems to view injured players (and their comebacks) more optimistically than I do. … As for Chase Utley, the Phils say he'll go through a three-week rehab assignment before he gets back to the majors. He's currently getting his work in at extended spring training. … Ervin Santana had another messy outing (4.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 6 BB) and Coors waits on the weekend. You have my permission to dump him, ceremoniously or unceremoniously. … Kendrys Morales homered twice in the LA loss, and he'll be at first base in Denver this weekend (while Albert Pujols slides over to third). Fun for everyone.