Timing is everything. Heads up in Cincinnati, we might have a buying opportunity.
Johnny Cueto landed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, a recurrence of his strained lat muscle. He felt the discomfort return during his last outing, which curiously enough was an electric one-hitter over eight innings against Pittsburgh. The move sent the Reds scrambling for an alternative, with the spinner ultimately landing on non-prospect Pedro Villarreal (the numbers speak for themselves).
Tony Cingrani, you ask? He last worked in the minors on June 2. He wasn't an option on such short notice. But we'll get back to him.
Villarreal didn't exactly take the opportunity and run with it - his first start in the show turned into Colorado batting practice (10 H, 6 R, 3 HR). It's doubtful he'll get another chance as the Cueto stand-in.
Cueto doesn't think he'll be out long - that's par for the course with athlete injuries. Most of these guys lived a life of Superman along their rise to prominence, and it often leads to them overestimating their recuperation potential.
"This (new injury) isn't close to what it was," Cueto told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Actually, I don't think too much about this one. All I want is to be ready. If we, thank God, go to the playoffs, I want to be ready."
Hope for the best with Cueto but in the meantime, let's see if Cingrani is out there in our key leagues. Late trading spiked him up to a 20-percent tag in Yahoo! by the close of Wednesday. He posted a 3.27 ERA in six Cincinnati starts earlier this year (nine walks, 41 strikeouts), and he's been untouchable in Triple-A (1.15 ERA, 11 BB, 49 K). Nothing is guaranteed, but the upside can't be ignored. This is the type of arm that's gold in any league that limits starts or innings pitched.
• Jake Peavy's 2012 season obviously belongs in the outlier file. It wasn't just his level of production, but the matter of making 32 starts and getting to 219 innings. He missed significant time due to injury in each of the previous four years.
Peavy was ineffective in his start at Seattle and it turns out he has a non-displaced rib fracture. Wipe Peavy from your plans for 4-6 weeks. The mediocre White Sox are on a 2-8 bender, though they're just six game out in the AL Central. Hector Santiago gets pressed back into the rotation with Peavy out; this is a no-brainer AL-only play and maybe even a mixed-league target in some deeper pools. Santiago was effective in five starts earlier this year (2.96 ERA, 31 strikeouts against 13 walks).
If the White Sox slot Santiago where Peavy was, his next three starts will be against Oakland, Houston and Minnesota (the last two assignments on the road). That's a reasonable slate. Santiago is owned in just five percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• What will the Braves do with their rotation when Brandon Beachy is ready to return? There's no obvious answer to the question. Tim Hudson is the only starter scuffling at the moment, and he's unlikely to be displaced. Meanwhile, No. 5 starter Julio Teheran is doing all he can to mark his territory.
Teheran was brilliant in Wednesday's matinee whitewash of the Pirates, allowing just a Brandon Inge single and a couple of walks over eight innings. Teheran struck out 11 (showcasing liberal use of his slider) and only needed 107 pitches. He did plunk a couple of batters, but that's fine with us; it doesn't touch the WHIP. Have a look at the delicious scouting video.
Teheran has allowed three runs or fewer in eight consecutive turns, and he's whiffed 20 batters (against three walks) over his last two starts. He's just 22 and there's an extensive prospect trail here. There's no reason to make a big deal about his 2012 struggles, everyone develops at their own rate. He was a Top 5 prospect on most lists prior to last year. Even with the uncertainty at play, this emerging star should be owned in more than half of Yahoo! leagues. A date at San Diego (yes, please) is on tap for next week.
• Chris Perez is currently on the DL with a strained right shoulder, and that might be the least of his problems. Ohio police received a search warrant for Perez's rental house this week after an unspecified illegal substance (suspected to be marijuana) was delivered there by the United States Postal Service.
"I can't say anything," Cleveland skipper Terry Francona told the team's official site. "I've talked to C.P. We are still looking into getting more information. Other than that, being respectful to the situation, there's nothing to say. That's kind of what it is."
Vinnie Pestano holds the Cleveland baton while Perez is out. Pestano hans't received a save chance yet, though he has been effective over his last three innings (2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K). His earlier struggles in 2013 were blamed on a sore elbow; his velocity has rebounded of late.
• A funny thing happened to the Houston offense everyone wanted to pick on this year - it's not that bad. The Astros stand 16th in runs and 10th in homers through the opening two months; not special numbers, but it's a long way from the dregs of the league. Six different Astros found the seats in Wednesday's 11-7 victory over Baltimore. Dig into the box score, see if any of it hit you.
Catcher Jason Castro is becoming a player of interest: he's up to .271 with eight homers, and he's usually the team's No. 3 hitter. A messy strikeout rate makes you a touch concerned and we'd like to see some pop on the road (his slugging drops 131 points out of a suitcase), but when we're talking about C2 prospects, you have to accept some fleas. Castro is unclaimed freight in 71 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Yan Gomes is another see-ball, hit-ball catcher who's making good. Forget his .302 OBP for a second - a .293 average and a .610 slugging percentage will play in any format. Gomes clocked his sixth homer of the year in Wednesday's loss to the Yankees, and the Indians love what Gomes offers them behind the plate. This is basically Evan Gattis with defense, and Cleveland has natural options for Carlos Santana (first base, DH) that the Braves don't have. If you're willing to play the stream game with Gomes, note he's unowned in 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Speed Round: The Phillies finally scored some runs for Cole Hamels, pushing six runs across in a win over Miami. The lefty did his part, allowing just a solo homer over seven terrific innings (4 H, 1 BB, 11 K) . . . Carlos Gonzalez (hat trick) and Troy Tulowitzki (two homers) did the main damage in Colorado's rout of Cincinnati. It's encouraging to see these guys doing it on the road, and even more fun to see a 10-game Colorado homestand opening Thursday (the Padres, Nationals and Phillies are coming in) . . . Maybe Dillon Gee has figured something out; he's struck out 19 men in his last two starts, beating the Yanks and Nationals. Unfortunately, he gets the Cardinals next week . . . R.A. Dickey continues to be maddeningly inconsistent. The knuckler was dancing like a butterfly in San Francisco (he came within two batters of a shutout), but Dickey was kicked around in his two previous turns. Next week at the White Sox? Who the heck knows? . . . Yovani Gallardo's ERA swelled to 5.25 after Wednesday's loss to Oakland, and the ERA estimators aren't really excusing him (5.70 tERA, 4.01 SIERA, 3.70 xFIP). A drop in fastball velocity is just one of Gallardo's 2013 problems.