It's easy to get lost in the shuffle in the Yankees rotation, given the big names on the marquee. CC Sabathia is the struggling ace, Hiroki Kuroda the quiet star, Andy Pettitte the borderline Hall of Famer and elder statesman, Phil Hughes the post-hype tease. You know their stories well.
Meanwhile, we don't spend a lot of time (or bandwidth) on Ivan Nova. Maybe it's time to correct that.
Nova reentered the New York rotation in late June and he's been terrific over his six games (2.49 ERA, 12 walks against 40 strikeouts, 1.07 WHIP). If you run all fantasy pitchers through the 5x5 car wash, Nova checks in as a Top 25 pitcher over that span. He'd be a little higher if not for a paltry two victories; the Yanks didn't give him any run support in his last two appearances, and he also had a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay. Murmurer's Row strikes again.
The secondary numbers lend credence to Nova's fine pitching. He's current striking out a batter per inning and walking just three men per nine, a clear path to success. A creamy-smooth 51.1 percent ground-ball rate warms our heart, and he's also keeping the the fly balls in the park (8.3 percent). The estimated alphabet soup stands in his corner: 3.15 FIP, 3.37 xFIP, 3.33 SIERA. He's also throwing the quickest fastball of his career, clocking in at 93.5 mph.
Nova is unowned in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues, a number that should be corrected this week. His next start comes Saturday at Petco Park against the unthreatening Padres - you know a good assignment when you see it. Hop on board.
• While I'm still bullish on Brandon Beachy's long-term prospects, perhaps we need to keep expectations grounded for 2013. His seven starts at Triple-A were ordinary (3.00 ERA, but with 18 walks against 26 strikeouts) and he was knocked around in Monday's debut against Colorado (3.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR). Tommy John surgery has a reliable success rate, as you know, but most pitchers don't come around completely until the second or third year back.
It's frustrating to see the Rockies knock Beachy around in this spot, especially as it came on the heels of an extended Coors Field run (that's usually the best time to draw Colorado). That said, the upcoming Beachy schedule is reasonable, if you're in a forgiving mood: at Philadelphia, then home for Miami.
• Whatever you paid for Jose Veras back in the spring, you surely got your money's worth. The right-handed journeyman converted 19-of-22 saves for the Astros, with a strikeout per inning and acceptable ratios (2.93, 1.00 WHIP). We appreciate your contributions, big guy.
Alas, Veras's time of fantasy relevance could be done for 2013. The Tigers picked up Veras in a Monday trade (Houston picked up a low-level prospect and a player to be named later), and they're expected to use him in a set-up role. Joaquin Benoit, your gig is safe. Veras becomes waiver-wire material for shallow and medium mixed leagues.
The Astros don't have a lock-down reliever to step in for Veras, but right-hander Jose Cisnero has an interesting profile (3.48 ERA, 40 Ks in 41.1 innings). If he can harness his spotty control (19 walks), Houston might have a decent closer here. Cisnero is behind four other Houston relievers when it comes to holds, but he's also holding the tidiest ERA of the bunch. If you want to talk yourself into lefties Wesley Wright and Travis Blackley or righties Hector Ambriz or Paul Clemens, that's your business.
• A hack-first, ask-questions later approach hasn't held Chris Johnson back. He's on a .375 binge for July, despite just three walks (against 20 strikeouts), and he's become an Atlanta regular against all pitching, posting a .339/.377/.470 slash. Lefties, righties, home and away, there's nothing messy in the basic splits.
If you pop the hood you immediately notice the silly .424 BABIP, fair point, but CJ's also making a lot of his own luck with a robust 28.9 percent line-drive rate. This late in the 2013 dance, why hassle it? Even in the absence of category juice, the Peachtree corner should be owned in more than 46 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Speed Round: While Austin Jackson has been a productive player since he returned from his hamstring injury, the running game has evaporated. Here's his line over the past 39 games: .270-29-4-14, with one measly bag . . . Rafael Betancourt (appendicitis) isn't expected to begin a rehab assignment until the second week of August. Keep doing what you do, Rex Brothers . . . Curtis Granderson (finger) might be with the Yankees as soon as Friday . . . It's looking more and more likely Lance Berkman (hip) is through for the season . . . The Dodgers, Pirates and Giants appear to have interest in free-agent reliever Brian Wilson. I'd be very surprised if he closed for any of those teams in 2013 . . . The Phillies are telling teams Chase Utley is unavailable, according to a Jon Heyman report. You're beautiful, Ruben Amaro Jr. . . . Jason Giambi's walk-off homer carried Cleveland past Chicago. He's the oldest MLB played to end a game in that fashion . . . Caleb Gindl is making the most of Milwaukee's open outfield, on a 10-for-26 stretch with a homer over the last nine games (seven starts) . . . Cameron Maybin (wrist/knee/vapors) is ready to start a rehab assignment . . . The White Sox say Jake Peavy isn't going anywhere, but nonetheless he's expected to be scratched from his Tuesday turn, just in case . . . Lefty-crusher Chris Denorfia came through in a pinch Monday, socking a game-ending tater off Aroldis Chapman. Have a look at the tasty video and Chapman's stunned reaction. Maybe Denorfia will do something against Sabathia on Friday . . . Michael Morse is back with the Mariners, with Jason Bay designated for assignment . . . Rest in peace, George Scott. New Englanders will always remember Boomer and The Crunch Bunch.