The opening third of the season has gone well for the Detroit Tigers. They're 31-23 under new manager Brad Ausmus, four games clear in the AL Central. No other team is over .500 in the division. It's hard to imagine Detroit not making its fourth consecutive playoff appearance.
Nathan's logged three messy appearances in a row, the latest coming in Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Toronto. Nathan was working in a tie game for the top of the ninth – standard work for a closer – and allowed four runs against just one out. To be fair, the Jays didn't tear the cover off the ball – two singles (one an infield misplay), two walks. But the overall Nathan profile is flashing all sorts of warning signs.
A 6.86 ERA and 1.48 WHIP are an ominous start. Nathan's striking out fewer batters this year (8.6/9, down from 10.2/9) and he's carrying the worst walk rate of his relief career (4.7/9). Maybe you'll want to excuse him for some of the gopheritis (four homers allowed, 15.4 HR/FB), but these are the things that come with reduced velocity. Nathan's heater averaged 94 mph a couple of years ago; it's at 91.4 (lowest of his career) this year.
And let's not forget we're talking about a 39-year-old reliever here. The circus leaves town for every eventually. Nathan already has four blown saves this year (last night was merely a loss) after blowing just three last season.
Ausmus tried to put a positive spin on his struggling closer after the game, standard operating procedure. It's a boilerplate quote. “Joe’s been very good for a very long time, and I expect him to be very good for the Tigers," Ausmus told the Detroit News. "And he expects himself to be very good. But even the best have rough times.”
Maybe Nathan will get it figured out, but in the saves chase, we have to consider the next man up, just in case. Joba Chamberlain, come on down. The rejuvenated Tiger has been rock-solid as the team's main set-up guy: 2.59 ERA, 1.19 WHIP. He's piling up the strikeouts (29 in 24.1 innings) and his control has been sharp (six unintentional walks). He's also kept the ball in the park, sometime he never did all that well in New York.
Chamberlain currently trades at nine percent in Yahoo, up a couple of percentages from the overnight (we were adding him along with you). Get the point and click ready.
• The Week of Singleton continues on Roto Arcade (omg, rookies). On Monday, esteemed colleague Andy Behrens presented a positive spin on Astros newcomer Jon Singleton. For Tuesday, I took a less-optimistic approach. And then came the kid's Tuesday night debut, sponsored by the Three True Outcomes.
Singleton had two strikeouts and a walk through his first three at-bats, along with a couple of errors in the field. But in the eighth inning, he gave the Astros something to cheer about. Usually they show a movie on a flight that lengthy. (And Behrens takes the early lead.) Singleton is still waiting for your call in about half of Yahoo leagues, if you're so inclined.
A less-owned Astro (and it continues to baffle me) is starting pitcher Collin McHugh. The journeyman righty wasn't as economical as he would like in Tuesday's victory over the Angels, but we'll take five bagels and a victory, thanks very much. McHugh now carries a 2.52 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, with 54 strikeouts in 50 innings. Why is he unclaimed in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues? His next two starts are at Minnesota and home against Tampa, a couple of reasonable draws.
• Ah, yes, those hitless wonders, the Tampa Bay Rays. It's starting to look like 2000 again, isn't it? Randy Wolf and Friends shut down Tampa on Monday, and Henderson Alvarez went the route on Tuesday (8 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K). We're not exactly talking about Glavine and Maddux here. Arcade-endorsed Roenis Elias draws Tampa on Saturday, a strong streaming play. Wil Myers (wrist), for what it's worth, isn't going to play for at least two months.
• We've been pushing Corey Dickerson propaganda much of the year (omg, Rockies), with the caveat that Colorado doesn't have an obvious place to play him. Perhaps that won't be an issue for a while. Carlos Gonzalez is dealing with a nagging finger injury, and he had to leave Tuesday's game early. If Cargo needs an extended break, Dickerson would probably become a pseudo-regular in one of the corner outfield spots.
Dickerson's minor-league pedigree jumps off the page, and he's been crushing for the Rockies this year (.345/.398/.678, seven homers over 87 at-bats), both home and away. If a spot opens up, we're looking at a monumental upside. Dickerson is unowned in 90 percent of Yahoo leagues. Roll the Mile High dice.
I'm not just a Dickerson roto writer, I'm also a client. He's on four of my seven Yahoo teams, including a couple of pools where transactions are limited. Playing time isn't guaranteed, but I can't let go of the upside. I believe in the story. I think you should, too.
• Sticking with the Rockies, another name prospect is on his way to The Show. Highly-regarded right-handed starter Eddie Butler is getting a double promotion and is headed for the Colorado rotation. He's been pitching to contact in Double-A (2.49 ERA despite a piddly 5.2 K/9), but he had strong strikeout numbers before this season. Butler also induces a ton of ground balls, obviously a major key to anyone trying to survive in Coors Field.
Given the elements at play, I'm not going to make a Butler add. But if you want to kick the tires, the 23-year-old is available in 92 percent of Yahoo leagues. He draws the Dodgers, in Coors Field, on Friday.