There's no dominant lede item for Monday, so let's load up the bullets and see where they take us.
• Has Jeremy Hellickson turned the corner? Can we put him back in the circle of trust? It's hard to look away from that ugly eight-run outing he had against the Royals two weeks ago, but he's sandwiched that outing with three strong turns against impressive opponents (Toronto, Boston, Baltimore). Pop open the hood and let's have a look.
Hellickson only allowed one Toronto hit on Monday, albeit he walked a surprising four. Still, seven bagels and a victory is welcome for us anytime. Hellickson's 5.11 ERA is the number that jumps out at you, but he's defended by some of the other stats.
A tidy 3.22 K/BB rate points to likely success, and while Hellickson's ERA estimators aren't in great spots (3.96 tERA, 4.01 SIERA, 3.99 FIP), they're much lower than his front-door number. Perhaps bad luck with sequencing is the bottom line here - Hellickson's 63.2 percent strand rate is a glaring outlier. His hit rate is also 36 points higher than his career number, though he's generally lived a charmed life in that area (helped by a sharp defense and a pitcher-friendly park). To be fair, one sees a .289 BABIP and plays the bad-luck card.
Hellickson has to face Justin Verlander and the Tigers on the weekend; at least it's under the catwalk. After that, a couple of favorable matchups come along: a trip to Houston, a hope date with Minnesota. Sounds like a mixed-league story we can get behind.
• You're welcome to spin the latest Jonathan Papelbon blown save any way you like. The Padres got him for an unearned run in the ninth - en route to an eventual extra-inning victory - so this wasn't exactly a laser show. That said, Papelbon didn't do himself any favors by hitting a batter and throwing just 6-of-13 pitches in the zone.
The Phillies have no logical hedge behind the slumping Papelbon (four blown saves in eight days), but look at those seasonal ratios (2.12 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 5 BB, 26 K). This is probably just a speed bump, something similar to what Jim Johnson dealt back in May. Heck, it could be a good time to look into a buy-low trade.
The Phillies would probably like to trade Papelbon (they'll certainly listen), though the reliever can block a trade to several teams. But any club that comes around for a Papelbon deal is surely doing it with the ninth inning in mind. This guy will be closing for someone. Let's focus on the big picture here, see if we can use timing to our advantage.
• It wasn't a brilliant Ubaldo Jimenez start at Baltimore: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K. He didn't get through six innings and he served up a couple of homers. Nonetheless, we have to acknowledge that he's been useful in five of his last six turns, and he hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any turn since May 22.
I'll admit he looks more consistent on the mound, mechanically speaking. Nice work here, Indians. You can give Jimenez a call for deeper leagues this weekend against the White Sox, sure. And then we can all bench him the following week against Detroit.
• Fantasy owners have been slow to accept 41-year-old Raul Ibanez (he's only owned in 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues), but in today's post-juice world, we have to take his power profile seriously. The remarkable Ibanez has 15 homers since the beginning of May, and although his average and OBP tax your bottom line, a .524 slugging percentage plays in any format. Ibanez is home all week (where he's carrying an .876 OPS), then gets three juicy games at Arlington to begin next week. Make some room for the tilde (and maybe a midseason Wiggy).
• Jose Reyes (ankle) can still hit in the minors, let's take heart in that. He's on a 12-for-29 binge during his rehab assignment, with a couple of steals, and the Jays plan to activate him on Wednesday. Get your popcorn ready. The Toronto lineup has been robust for a while now, and could be the AL's best if Reyes can stay in one piece.
Speaking of the minors, the Mets are going to keep Ike Davis there for the moment, although the lefty slugger has rediscovered his swing in Triple-A thus far (.333/.483/.778, five homers in 13 games). I know, I know, it's the hitter-friendly PCL - but I think we all remember the tear Davis went on in the second half of 2012. Look for Davis to be back in New York sometime in July, and consider him if you need a Hail Mary play in the power categories. Plausible upside remains in play.
• Angel Pagan's 2013 season might go down as a major wash. He's having tendon surgery Tuesday and could miss three months, if not the rest of the season. Gregor Blanco gets a step up with the Pagan news, and he's been a handy option when asked to play (.302/.354/.401, nine steals). Blanco really shouldn't be on the field against left-handed pitching but Bruce Bochy will probably work around that; otherwise, consider Blanco a reasonable OF5 or speciality play for speed. He's available in 89 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Speed Round: There's been another setback for Corey Hart (knee) and the Brewers don't have a return timetable in mind . . . The Pirates seem to have an innings limit in mind for Gerrit Cole, but they're being coy about it . . . Category juice is saving Justin Ruggiano's season, but it's been a suitcase story: all of his homers have come on the road . . . There's a chance the Dodgers could get Matt Kemp (hamstring) back for the Giants series . . . Bryce Harper (knee) heads to the minors to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday . . . Jedd Gyorko (groin) is on schedule to return on the weekend . . . Underowned Kyle Blanks had four hits and three RBIs in the San Diego win . . . A sore knee kept Ryan Howard out of Monday's lineup.
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