Now that we're three weeks and change into the new season, it's only natural to look back at March rankings with some pangs of regret. That's what I'm doing with Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura.
I wasn't too keen on Segura's fantasy prospects for one simple reason: I expected the Brewers to bury the kid in the order, and that figured to wipe out the running opportunities. There's a logical disincentive to the running game in the bottom National League positions, given how the pitchers will bunt in most situations under two outs.
Segura did start the year batting eighth in the lineup but it didn't last long: he was promoted to the No. 2 slot in the second series of the year. And he's proven to be a tidy option batting first or second for the Brew Crew, on a 16-for-47 bender with a homer, four walks and five steals. Welcome to fantasy relevance, Jean Genie.
Milwaukee skipper Ron Roenicke is giving Segura plenty of chances to run; Segura has a swipe in four consecutive games (Friday night's running mishap didn't stem the tide at all). Batting eye hasn't been an issue (five walks, two in the past two games), the contact rate is solid (84 percent), and obviously you're going to score plenty of runs if you get on base in front of Ryan Braun and company. What's not to like here?
Time for a new Segura projection, amigos. It's mulligan time. Let's put him down for a finishing line of .283-89-7-48-33. He'll end the year close to universally owned, though he's oddly unclaimed in 41 percent of Yahoo! leagues as we go to press. Let's fix that number, gamers.
• Although runs were hard to come by in St. Louis's 3-2 victory at Washington, it truly was a story of two pitchers moving in opposite directions.
Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller passed the test again (6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K), showing easy gas in the mid-90s and a gorgeous curveball. He's sitting on a 2.16 ERA and 0.88 WHIP after four turns, and his K/BB ratio is almost four. It's not hard to see why he was near the top of everyone's prospect list over the last couple of seasons. You are special, Shelby.
Conversely, Dan Haren was in trouble throughout and was fortunate to allow just three runs over five-plus innings. Haren loaded the bases with no one in the sixth, but Craig Stammen performed a Houdini escape and kept the score where it was. I want no part of Haren's weekend turn against the Reds.
The Cardinals bullpen was the worst in baseball entering Monday's play, but a night without Mitchell Boggs did wonders for that group. Flame throwing Trevor Rosenthal dodged trouble in the eight (single, walk), navigating the meat of the Washington lineup, and Edward Mujica was letter-perfect in the ninth (strikeout, ground out, fly out, 10 pitches in all). Mujica's skill set was on display in this smooth handshake: low 90s velocity with movement, excellent command, weak contact induced. He's the St. Louis closer until further notice.
• The Cubs suffered a stomach-punch loss at Cincinnati, blowing a two-run lead in the bottom of the 13th inning. Jay Bruce wore the hero's cape for the Reds, clocking a homer in the seventh (welcome to the season) and a game-tying knock in the final frame. Bruce raced home with the deciding run two batters later. Michael Bowden took the loss for Chicago.
The bitter aftertaste to the side, Dale Sveum received plenty of positive work from his primary bullpen members. James Russell, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg combined for 4.1 scoreless innings, scattering one hit and four walks along the way. Marmol continues to be the ultimate tease: he's posted seven bagels (2 H, 4 BB, 7 K) since being removed from the closing gig two weeks back. Do you dare utter his name again?
• Felix Doubront was an interesting double-dip option into this week, facing a heaven and hell schedule. Oakland's offense has been the AL's best through three weeks, while the Astros are a matchup to exploit.
If you took the plunge, you're playing with house money now. Doubront worked 6.2 solid innings in Monday's victory over the Athletics (3 H, 3 R, 5 K, 8 K), showing a decent cut fastball and a put-away curve. Command is a regular concern with the lefty, but nine walks for three starts is acceptable when we tie them to the 21 strikeouts. You'll find him free to add in 84 percent of Yahoo! leagues; work on that before Houston comes to town.
• I was hoping a trip to Coors Field would fix what ails Jason Heyward, but a detour to the doctor's office was ultimately needed. Heyward had a successful appendectomy on Monday and could miss anywhere from 10 days to a month. Return times vary significantly with this type of injury and rehab; the Braves obviously have the luxury of not needing to rush Heyward back.
Atlanta's extra outfielders will get some extra run in the Colorado series; that's Jordan Schafer and Reed Johnson (weather permitting, of course – the teams didn't play Monday). And down the road there's the possibility Evan Gattis could see some outfield time, or a wheel play could result in him playing more often. Here's hoping – Gattis might be the best feel good story so far in 2013, and the pop looks legitimate to me.
Speed Round: It was one of those "good outing for a bad outing" nights for CC Sabathia; the Rays got him for five runs and three early homers, but he hung around and posted an otherwise-acceptable line (7 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 8 K). This is basically what we saw from Matt Cain in Milwaukee last week. We'll plow on through and try not to overreact here. Sabathia works at home against the Blue Jays on the weekend. … It's going to be difficult to take Andrew Bailey out of Boston's closing chair. He struck out two and worked around a walk in Monday's cleanup, his fourth save in six days. Bailey's numbers jump off the page (1.74/0.87, with four walks against 17 strikeouts over 10.1 innings) and speak for themselves. Sorry it went down like this, Joel Hanrahan. … Mike Napoli took a fastball off his right elbow but it didn't seem to bother him; he cranked a grand slam a few innings later. What's more glorious than a roto catcher not forced to catch? This could go down as the bargain of the year behind the plate. … Kevin Youkilis has a sore back, which is what you sign up for when you draft the grizzled vet. He's day-to-day. … I have no faith in Shaun Marcum staying healthy for the long term, but it looks like we'll see him pitch at Philadelphia this weekend. An ERA in the mid-3s and a WHIP in the low 1.20s seems reasonable, for as long as the body cooperates. … Carlos Ruiz will log a few games in the minors in advance of his suspension return Sunday. He's a Top 12-15 backstop on my sheet for now, and available in 86 percent of Yahoo! leagues. … The shift from fourth to fifth really isn't a big deal, but maybe it will get Josh Hamilton going. He stroked four singles and scored two runs against his old Texas mates. Brad and Stacy nod their approval. … Brandon Belt delivered the game-winning hit for the Giants, although he didn't start the game. The overreactive Giants seem prepared to platoon Belt for the time being, steering him away from lefties. … Asdrubal Cabrera (wrist) might be feeling better; he stole a base at Chicago and had a key two-run single to flip the result in Cleveland's favor. Another win for enigmatic Justin Masterson (maybe he has Chicago's number) and an uneventful ninth for Chris Perez (one walk, one strikeout, many handshakes). … Hitting Jim Johnson's sinker is like hitting a brick, ask AL hitters. Johnson picked up the victory in Baltimore's walk-off win over Toronto, cruising through an easy ninth. He's yet to allow a run through 10 innings, with three walks against nine strikeouts. Last year's strikeout rate wasn't anything to fear; Johnson throws strikes and induces plenty of weak, ground-centered contact.