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MLB Skinny: Austin limits

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

I'm humming Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day" as I write this week's Skinny. For the first time in a long, long time, I'm not in last place in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League. I'll be honest, I have no problem telling you things like, "Be patient, it's a marathon, not a sprint …" But those comments don't provide me much solace in hard times, and I doubt it does a lot to lift your spirits, either. Nope, there's nothing like actual forward progress in the standings (or box score) to lift one's mood.

Alright, let's take our usual spin around the diamond, but I'm shuffling the position order this week just to keep things fresh. Here we go …

OUTFIELD

Austin Jackson(notes) has been a polarizing figure, no doubt. He has his staunch supporters, but he's also on the top of a lot of sell-high lists, including mine. I can admit that he's an extremely talented guy, but you have to consider that while everything has gone as well as it possibly can go for a player (league-high .511 BABIP, league-high 39.1 LD%), he offers no power (1 HR, 9 RBIs) and has just 6 SBs despite a combined 60 hits-plus-walks. How many steals can you hope for when his BABIP drops a 150-200 points? If you take out batting average, Jackson's other four categories don't net out as a top 60 value among hitters, and that's in the absolute best of times. What happens when luck and the league catch up with him? You get Cameron Maybin's(notes) season.

Travis Snider(notes) has the fifth-highest LD% in the league, but he has labored for most of the year with a batting average below the Mendoza Line. Things are starting to finally look up in May, however, as the Jays prized power prospect is hitting is hitting .390 with 2 HRs in his past 11 games. Snider also has an MLB-high seven doubles in that span. Given his deep-ball upside, we could soon see a lot of those two-baggers start clearing the fence. For those scrounging for HR help, this is a good place to make a speculative play.

Carlos Beltran(notes) (knee) is expected to be given clearance to start light running this week. Frankly, when I drafted him back in March, I was crossing my fingers that he'd be reaching rehab assignment territory by this time. That has proven to be pie-in-the-sky thinking and now my most optimistic thoughts are for an early June return. I have some outfield dregs on my Friends and Family squad (Jeremy Hermida(notes), Dexter Fowler(notes), Corey Hart(notes)) so I can definitely use him.

Here's my top 5 of the 5-percent (and under) crowd:
1. Conor Jackson(notes)
2. Nate Schierholtz(notes) (Still diggin' on his potential, and that .367 BA in his past 13 games)
3. Scott Hairston(notes) (past 144 games: 23 HRs, 77 RBIs, 61 Runs, 14 SBs)
4. Lastings Milledge(notes) (Notoriously slow starter, but showing signs of life in May with .292 BA)
5. Fred Lewis(notes) (One of the hottest bats in the league, but you want to jump ship at first sign of trouble)

CORNER INFIELD

Saturday was a very good day for Mark Teixeira(notes) – as you've surely heard by now, he broke out with 3 HRs and 5 RBIs at Boston. But, really, it's been a good month for the Yankees slugger, who owns a 1.144 OPS mark in eight May games, and his 12 hits is already better than his April total (11). Nothing to really say here other than to paraphrase Denny Green – "He is who we thought he was."

From the Interesting Stat department, Kendry Morales(notes) is striking out about seven percent less often than last season and walking two percent less, as well. But it looks like all the extra contact has led to a lot more dead worms as Morales' GB% has spiked to a level (54.2%) that is more than 12 percent higher than last year – when he belted 43 doubles and 34 HRs. His GB/FB ratio has nearly doubled to 1.93 this season, which puts him in the territory of players like Scott Podsednik(notes), Ichiro(notes) and teammate Howie Kendrick(notes) – not exactly the most ideal place for a power hitter to be hanging out.

Excuse me while I quickly rant on Mark Teahen(notes) … how is this guy still owned in more than 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues? I, like many at the time, was excited about his prospects following his .290/18/10 line in his 109-game sophomore campaign. But that abbreviated season remains easily his best fantasy effort to date, and it's time for those that are hanging on to let go. There's plenty of lesser owned 1B-eligible players I'd rather employ. And if it's third base that he's occupying for your squad, I'd rather roll the dice on Troy Glaus(notes) (5%) or at least play the lily pad game of hopping around to the hottest available hot corner – right now, Kevin Kouzmanoff(notes) (10%) fills that bill.

Last week, Brett Wallace's(notes) manager at Triple-A Las Vegas, Dan Rohn, said that Wallace was " … a month or two away from being an everyday first baseman in the major leagues … He's a 25-homer-plus and 100-RBIs guy. He'll be a guy who is a mainstay in the middle of the order. He's got power to all fields. It's big-time power, too … He's going to have to clean up his strike zone knowledge a little bit. He has to quit chasing balls in the dirt and make some little adjustments. But he's going to hit, no doubt about it."

That's a juicy quote from Mr. Rohn, and my thought is that he wouldn't likely throw around promotion timetables for Wallace that don't jibe with the parent club. Wallace currently leads the PCL in HRs (9) and Total Bases (71). And with Lyle Overbay(notes) still mired well below the Mendoza Line (.177), I'd lay money on Wallace arriving in Toronto on the early side of Rohn's 1-2 month timeframe. In fact, if I was going to float a date for the office pool, I'd say June 11th, when the Blue Jays head west to Colorado (and then San Diego) for an interleague road trip.

Here's my top 5 of the 5-percent (and under) crowd:
1. Troy Glaus (.400 with HR, 10 RBIs in nine games this month)
2. Conor Jackson (Made weekend return from DL and landed at No. 2 spot in the order, where he owns career-best OPS mark .848)
3. Gaby Sanchez(notes) (nothing to write home about, but sometimes everyday mediocrity is all you are looking for )
4. Andy LaRoche(notes) (4th-highest LD% in MLB, hitting .344 in past 15 games, but Pedro Alvarez(notes) starting to turn things on again in Triple-A). 5. Kila Ka'aihue(notes) (Given meager remaining options, I'd chase his power upside and hope the Royals figure out a way for him to see regular playing time).

STARTING PITCHER

Kris Medlen(notes) (3%) allowed just one run in 4.1 IP against Philly on Saturday filling in for injured starter Jair Jurrjens (hamstring). Medlen was limited to 88 pitches because he's been working as a reliever all season and the team didn't want to overwork him. However, it looks like Jurrjens is going to remain out a while longer – he is scheduled for an MRI this week after hearing his hammy pop – so Medlen could get another start or two. Medlen owns a 19:3 K-to-BB ratio and he's someone that owners in deeper leagues need to take a hard look at right now.

After two starts and 15.1 innings of work, Jhoulys Chacin(notes) (pronounced "Yo-LEASE" for those who were curious) has yet to allow a run. Colorado's No. 4 prospect coming into the season, according to Baseball America, owned a 3:1 K-to-BB ratio in more than 500 innings of minor league work, but he struggled with his command in his cup of coffee stint with the Rockies last season (11 BB in 11 IP). So far, he's walked just five hitters this season while fanning 16. He's been lauded for his poise and quality off-speed stuff that helps induce a high rate of ground balls, a pre-requisite for Colorado pitchers. But according to Rockies manager Jim Tracy, Chacin's success can be boiled down to one thing:

"Fastball command. Period, end of story.."

Chacin still needs to show us that he's capable of shutting teams down at Coors Field (his two wins have come on the road), and his schedule sets up for a showdown at home next against Washington, the seventh-worst offense in the league. I'd plan on penciling Chacin in for a spot-start with the idea of retaining him if the outing continues the positive trend. However, some have already pushed their chips all in.

I caught some heat for dropping Felix Hernandez(notes) off my Big Board on Friday while promoting Francisco Liriano(notes) to the tail section of the top 50 list. Of course, Liriano then went out and got lit up for five runs in six innings on Saturday night. But I demoted Felix for more than one bad start. He's supported by the worst offense in the American League. He exited a start early a couple outings ago because of a sore back. And now there's talk of his mechanics being out of whack. I asked colleague Brad Evans today who he'd draft first right now, and he went with Liriano. Honestly, I go back and forth, and my Big Board says that I'm in Liriano's camp right now. But I can't tell you for sure which way I'd go if both were on the board in a draft right now.

There's a lot of interesting pitchers in the sub-50 percent ownership crowd. Given the deep pool of starters in typical 12-team leagues, there are plenty of good arms owned in less than a majority of leagues that don't get much more than spot-start play from the fantasy community. I scrolled through the list of players in the sub-50 starter crowd and jotted down my favorite names. Here's the group (in no particular order) that I came up with:

Jhoulys Chacin, Ian Kennedy(notes), Mike Leake(notes), Carl Pavano(notes), Tom Gorzelanny(notes), Justin Masterson(notes), Chris Volstad(notes), Scott Olsen(notes), Brandon Morrow(notes), Gio Gonzalez(notes), Wade Davis(notes), Kevin Millwood(notes), Jason Vargas(notes), Mat Latos(notes), John Maine(notes), Brett Cecil(notes), Wade LeBlanc(notes)

That's a pretty nice unit to cherry pick from. In my 14-team Friends and Family League, only four of those names were available to me – Leake, Vargas, LeBlanc and Volstad. But, if I could pick my top 5 from that group, here's what it would look like:

1. Mike Leake (Mixmaster Mike has control dialed in and is 5-of-6 in Quality Starts)
2. Carl Pavano (4th-highest O-Swing%, K rate has risen to useable levels and strong offensive support)
3. Justin Masterson (Unlucky HR/FB and BABIP rates, tons of groundballs and Ks)
4. Jhoulys Chacin (see above)
5. Ian Kennedy (Edges out Gorzelanny; top 25 in K/BB ratio, high HR/FB rate starting to normalize)

MIDDLE INFIELD

Go get Mike Aviles(notes). He's less than 10 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, but there isn't one shortstop among the 13 that land in the 10 percent to 52 percent ownership range (Uribe to Cabrera) that I'd rather have than Aviles. His career numbers (146 games, .298, 13 HR, 61 RBIs, 83 Runs, 9 SB) give a good indication of what he's legitimately capable of for a full season. And, don't kid yourself into thinking that he won't play regularly ahead of Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) and Chris Getz(notes). In fact, Aviles is only a couple starts shy of gaining 2B-eligibility, which means he'll soon be a much better option than a bunch of more-heavily owned second baseman, as well.

Starlin Castro(notes) (4%) or Ian Desmond(notes) (14%)? Could be a scenario you're contemplating. Put me down in the Desmond camp. The Nats youngster has more immediate power and speed potential.

Here's my top 5 of the 5-percent (and under) crowd:
1. Reid Brignac(notes) (Well-regarded prospect taking advantage of fairly regular playing time – 14 RBIs tied for 20th at MI)
2. Starlin Castro (Bright future, but power not likely in play this year and he has caught stealing issues)
3. Luis Castillo(notes) (Same old story – you know you'll get respectable BA, some SBs and Runs)
4. Adam Rosales(notes) (Has slowed a bit of late, but PT should stay plentiful as Ellis still not that close to return)
5. Omar Infante(notes) (getting ABs out of the leadoff spot, utility skills keep his employment steady)

CATCHER

Despite a .994 OPS and a 19/17 K-to-BB ratio for Triple-A Fresno, Giants GM Brian Sabean would have you believe that Buster Posey(notes) is not ready for the majors yet. Sabean's issue is not with Posey's bat, but with his glove. "(He's) still learning how to catch. Some of that is game calling. Some of that is the consistency that he'll need as, we hope, an offensive catcher," said Sabean. He also said that the team was not watching the arbitration clock in regards to Posey. Whether that's true or not, it doesn't sound like Posey is someone we'll be seeing in San Francisco before Memorial Day.

John Buck(notes) and Rod Barajas(notes) are the hottest thing going at the catcher position, but we know how this story ends. If you don't have an elite catcher, you were right for hopping on the Buck or Barajas bandwagon in the past few weeks. Riding the hot bat at catcher is like swapping out defenses on a weekly basis in fantasy football, looking for the home team facing an error-prone quarterback. Just don't hesitate to cut bait when the .240 average persists but the home runs start drying up. Be proactive in looking for the next backstop destination to land.

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