July 02, 2010
One of the sweetest sensations in our fantasy world is the buzz you get when you click with a post-hype sleeper. You're not paying the freight on the once-promoted property, but you're getting the returns. It's thrifty, it's satisfying, and it's a slap in the face to all of your opponents who lost on the player in the past. Ah, the post-hype sleeper.
Fowler's rise-and-fall in Colorado happened fairly quickly – he had all of 603 at-bats in The Show before he was optioned to Triple-A in late May – but nonetheless his demotion left a mark for those that chased his pedigree. He's had trouble hitting right-handers in his brief career (.211/.324/.336) and he's been a mess on the road (.695 OPS). Honestly, about a month ago I was pretty sure I was done with Fowler for 2010; I didn't expect the Rockies to promote him quickly, and I wasn't expecting anything to develop to the point that I would trust him again in a non-keeper league this summer.
Ah, but in this game, we have to remain open-minded at all times. Fowler was spectacular in his 27 games at Triple-A, assembling a .340/.435/.566 line over 124 at-bats. He worked the count (17 walks), he hit to the gaps (10 doubles, four triples), he basically did everything but run (just one steal). The Rockies were impressed and gave him a recall earlier this week.
Fowler didn't have any hits in his first two games back with Colorado, but at least he walked twice and looked more confident at the plate. Things went better for him on Thursday, as he burned the Giants for three hits, two steals and two runs scored, sparking the Rockies to a 7-3 victory at Coors Field. We're still talking about someone who's all of 24 years old, a former Olympian and Futures Game star, someone who had never seen Triple-A until his demotion last month. There's plenty of time for his skills to develop, for Fowler to blossom into the leadoff man and speed merchant we were expecting 12 months ago.
The trickiest element to Fowler's fantasy portfolio right now is playing time; Colorado has a very deep outfield with five legitimate starting options (Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez(notes), Brad Hawpe(notes), Ryan Spilborghs(notes) and Seth Smith(notes)). It would be nice if the Rockies cleaned up the logjam a bit by trading someone here, but there's no guarantee that happens anytime soon. When Hawpe's rib injury clears up, Fowler could easily find his way into a platoon (given his problems against RHPs), or even on the bench.
That all said, I know a tangible upside when I see one. In medium and deeper mixed groups, I'm ready to take the plunge and see if this story goes anywhere. Colorado is still a heck of a place to hit, and Jim Tracy has no problem using Fowler at the top of the lineup. Who's with me?
• Matt LaPorta(notes) is another player that fits the post-hype sleeper mold, in part because the Indians have jerked him up and down the system and in and out of the lineup for so long. But LaPorta finally has a clear path to playing time – and the clear head that goes along with it – and to no one's real surprise, he's jolted three homers in the past three days (here's the rocket he launched Thursday). LaPorta is long gone in most competitive mixers, but in the shallow pools he might still be sitting out there, in part because Cleveland's offense is the type of unit that's easy to look past. Go dig up the old scouting reports on LaPorta, they're glowing. You want this guy on your side.
• It would be a stretch to call Trevor Cahill(notes) a post-hype sleeper, but he was screened to some extent last summer as Brett Anderson(notes) emerged in Oakland and got everyone justifiably excited. Cahill has the stage to himself for the moment while Anderson rehabs and the second-year righty is on a heck of a roll, going 7-0 over his last nine starts and fashioning a tidy 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. I watched just about every Cahill pitch at Baltimore Thursday and was thoroughly impressed (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K); there's excellent movement on all of his pitches, most of his batted-ball outs come on the ground, and he's got outstanding poise and command.
Cahill's critics point to his modest strikeout rate (6.24/9) and his unusually-low BABIP (.235), but he's making some of that luck with his sinking fastball and that heavy ground-ball rate (53 percent). Most of the worm-burning outs Cahill induced Thursday were routine and not sharply hit; this wasn't a case of having a lucky day with at-em balls, but rather, a pitcher doing a superb job of keeping batters off balance. And to be fair, two of the four Baltimore hits were somewhat cheap; Gabe Gross(notes) misplayed Corey Patterson's(notes) opening fly ball into a double, and later Patterson beat out a bunt hit (credit Patterson, sure, but don't hold it against Cahill). You might see Cahill on a lot of "sell high" lists at the moment, but this is a definite "hold" for me.
• We've had a lot of fun with Baltimore's Patterson, a long-forgotten prospect off the scrap heap who's been surprisingly useful for fantasy of late (.302 June, with seven steals and two homers). Patterson had another bag on Thursday along with his run scored and two hits, but the story could be screeching to a halt fairly soon; the Orioles get Felix Pie(notes) back on the big club next Monday and the team apparently wants to give Pie a long look as the team's left fielder and lead-off man.
You can't blame Baltimore for the Pie idea – he's another intriguing post-hype guy and he's still just 25 – but it might be a killjoy for the roto players who are enjoying the unlikely Patterson emergence. Don't drop Patterson until we see for sure how Juan Samuel plays it – and heck, you want Patterson in your lineup this weekend at Friendly Fenway Park – but be ready with a Plan B if Pie does in fact get the assignment the team seems to be grooming for him.
• Jered Weaver(notes) has been one of the emerging stars of the year and he gave us another sterling line Thursday (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K). Truth be told, he wasn't quite as dominating as the stats suggest - he fell behind the last eight Texas batters that he faced, and the Rangers had a bunch of well-struck balls that landed right at fielders or were corralled in the deeper regions of the ballpark. But Weaver's overall profile looks legit to me and he's certainly a viable ace on my cheat sheet going forward, probably one of the top dozen in the game today.
Weaver owners appreciated the fact that the Angels bullpen didn't blow his win here, albeit Fernando Rodney(notes) had a carnival-ride eighth inning that ended with the bases loaded. Kid Weaver has a pair of road assignments next week, working at Chicago and at Oakland.
• We don't have A.J. Hinch to kick around anymore; Arizona fired its overmatched manager late Thursday, along with GM Josh Byrnes. Kirk Gibson steps in as the interim skipper, which should at least make the Snakes more interesting. Let's pay extra-close attention to the opening series on Gibson's watch, a three-game set at home against the Dodgers; Gibson probably won't be shy when it comes to strategy and lineup changes.
• Make it 9-for-9 on saves for John Axford(notes), and Thursday's conversion at St. Louis was fairly routine: a walk, a strikeout, then two fly-ball outs. The game-ending play required a nifty catch from Corey Hart(notes) down the right-field line, but hey, the play was made. The waiting is the hardest part, Trevor Hoffman(notes).
Kings of Pain: You probably know all about the Chase Utley(notes) bombshell by now (Dr. Behrens has the story here) and while that's the worst of the Philadelphia injury file, it's not standing alone. Placido Polanco(notes) has a bad elbow and is down for 3-4 weeks; with these two infielders hurt, the Phillies probably should be working the phones and looking for a possible trade (Ty Wigginton(notes) or Jose Lopez(notes) make sense to me). The Phils also had Brian Schneider(notes) leave Thursday's game with a hand injury. … Jose Reyes(notes) (back) is looking at a Sunday return. … Luke Scott(notes) (hamstring) went on the 15-day DL, though he's likely to miss more time than that. … The Red Sox have a Spinal Tap thing going with their catchers; Jason Varitek(notes) has a broken foot and will miss at least a month. Kevin Cash(notes), come on down (unfortunately, your .188 average comes with you). … Daric Barton(notes) left Thursday's game with a left knee contusion. … B.J. Upton(notes) is still dealing with that nasty quad injury, apparently. … Ryan Ludwick's(notes) day-to-day situation has turned into a week; he's dealing with a sore calf. … Kevin Slowey(notes) (ankle) isn't expected to miss a start.
Speed Round: Carlos Silva(notes) and rookie Travis Wood(notes) had an interesting standoff in the Wrigley matinee; Silva dodged 11 hits while allowing two runs, while the rook posted an impressive 7-2-2-2-3-4 line (and honestly, he was squeezed on a few calls). The Reds won the battle of the bullpens, pushing a run across in the top of the tenth. … Another contrast of styles came in Washington, where Johan Santana(notes) and Livan Hernandez(notes) were tied 1-1 after seven innings. Both struck out seven. Hernandez had the easier assignment, as Jerry Manuel sent out his JV lineup for the final game of this series. Matt Capps(notes) wound up with the relief victory when the Nats manufactured a run in the bottom of the ninth. … The Indians dusted off the Jays again on Thursday, with Justin Masterson(notes) teasing us with another strong outing (8.1 IP, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K). Frank Herrmann(notes) got a rogue save out of nowhere, getting the final out while Kerry Wood(notes) and Chris Perez(notes) got some much-needed rest. … A pretty routine win for the Yanks: Robinson Cano(notes) and Alex Rodriguez(notes) homered, CC Sabathia(notes) was sharp through eight (but just four strikeouts) and Mariano Rivera(notes) dominated in the ninth. David Aardsma(notes) took the loss, allowing the two-run A-Rod homer in the bottom of the eighth. … Josh Bell(notes) made his big-league debut in Baltimore (1-for-4, strikeout), but he's expected to go back down to Triple-A when Pie is ready.
I have no problem watching the Pirates underrated bullpen hold down Philadelphia's offense, but how can the Phils (even in their hobbled state) not do more damage against Daniel McCutchen(notes)? The spotty right-hander allowed two runs, one earned, before leaving with one out in the sixth. The Bucs didn't allow another run for the rest of the game. … Jon Garland's(notes) six walks against Houston came as a surprise, though two of them were intentional. The game went extra frames and ended with an unexpected pair of relief results: Luke Gregerson(notes) was ineffective for once (Michael Bourn(notes) got him for a two-run triple) while Matt Lindstrom(notes) had one of his rare clean outings (perfect frame, two strikeouts). … Cliff Pennington(notes) is around if you need cheap speed from the middle infield. Oakland's shortstop hit .333 with five steals in June, and he backed that up with a four-hit night Thursday, along with another bag. … Coco Crisp(notes) got the night off to rest his legs, but he'll be back at it Friday. Rajai Davis(notes) didn't distinguish himself in Coco's absence, taking an 0-for-6 collar with a couple of strikeouts. … If you like getting a sneak preview of Closing Time on a semi-regular basis, you can follow me on Twitter. And click here to follow Roto Arcade on Facebook.
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