The Twins weren't expected to be a decent ballclub in 2013. Vegas projected them for 68.5 wins, the basement of the AL Central. Target Field remains a draw and Joe Mauer still has that winning smile, but there wasn't much else going on here, at least on paper.
Oswaldo Arcia wasn't supposed to be in the 2013 mix, either. Although the young outfielder was highly regarded on prospect boards, most considered his ETA to be 2014. Arcia had just 69 games of Double-A experience on his resume prior to the new season.
As we meander towards the Ides of May, Arcia and the Twins have a good thing going. Minnesota just put the wraps on an impressive 3-of-4 showing at Boston, capped by Thursday's 5-3 victory. They're now a game over .500. Arcia played in three of those Fenway games and took his cuts, posting a 7-for-13 line with two doubles, a triple and this Thursday blast into the Red Sox bullpen (does anyone else see a little Brian Giles in that swing?). He's off to a .313/.353/.547 run in The Show over 18 games, heady stuff for someone who just turned 22.
The initial plan had Arcia settling at Triple-A this year, but a ballistic .394/.474/.727 run and some Minnesota injuries forced a promotion ahead of time. The lefty swinger hasn't looked out of place in the majors (or against southpaws), albeit there have been contact issues as well (18 strikeouts). Down the road he profiles to be a high-average bat with a solid eye and some pop, but maybe the delivery is ahead of schedule. If you're in the mood to kick some tires into the weekend, Arcia is waiting for you in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Although Boston didn't play inspired baseball in this series, Thursday starter John Lackey is pushing his way back into relevance. His costly throwing error led to four unearned runs Thursday, ruining what was otherwise a very strong line (7 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K). Lackey's collected 24 punch outs over 22.1 innings, against a modest seven walks, and the upcoming schedule looks reasonable (at Tampa, at Chicago White Sox). The redemption story is waiting for you in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Heath Bell is probably headed for a day off Friday; his arm needs a rest and so does the handshake. Bell was the last man standing in the last three Arizona victories, though he worked around a double on both Wednesday (at LA) and Thursday (versus Philly). There's no question about the Arizona baton, it's in Bell's hands. And it's likely we won't see J.J. Putz again this year.
While Bell is still carrying a mediocre 4.11 ERA and 1.37 WHIP around for the season, you'll note three of the seven runs came on opening day. The zippy K/BB ratio (20:3) points to continued success. Look for David Hernandez to keep the eighth-inning bridge work, while lefty Matt Reynolds jumps around to where he's most needed.
All three Arizona relievers came through in Thursday's 2-1 victory over Philadelphia, supporting Patrick Corbin's fifth victory. There's nothing in Corbin's repertoire that jumps off the screen, but he's succeeding by pounding the zone and getting bushels of ground balls. A strikeout rate of 7/9 might be good enough when you keep the ball on the ground and rarely walk anyone (2.3/9). Two stronger challenges are on the way: a home date with Atlanta, and a trip to Coors Field.
• I understand the roto case against Jeremy Guthrie. He's not a big strikeout source and he was downright awful for the first half of 2012 (6.35 ERA in Colorado; thanks gravity). But let's tip the cap for how the veteran has responded since the Coors Field pardon. Guthrie has made 21 starts since joining the Royals in the middle of last year and most of them have been useful for fantasy. Here's the bottom line: 10-3 record (including Thursday's tidy win at Baltimore), 2.86 ERA, 1.15 WHIP. Those ratios play in any format.
You might want to steer from Guthrie in leagues that cap innings or starts (you're a K/9er in those formats), but he's handy for head-to-head gamers. The upcoming schedule opens up nicely: Guthrie works in Anaheim and Houston the next two weeks. Keep an open mind with this one.
• For two years, Ryan Vogelsong was sweet music playing on a slow Bay Area night. In 2013, the needle keeps scratching the record. The veteran righty needs precise placement of his fastball to be effective, and that's been elusive through seven messy turns (7.78 ERA, nine homers). The Braves knocked Vogelsong around Thursday (7 H, 6 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 7 K), and there weren't many cheap hits in that mix. There's talk of the Giants possibly skipping Vogelsong's next turn.
I'm surprised more gamers haven't moved on from Vogelsong in the Yahoo! fantasy world (54 percent owned). He's two months shy of his 36th birthday and the circus leaves town for everyone eventually. The schedule hasn't been unfavorable to this point, as he's made four home starts and a couple of road-friendly stops (Chicago, San Diego). It's time to move on and drop Vogelsong; if he shows promise on the waiver-wire, you can re-evaluate.
• Scott Kazmir, back from the dead? There's no ignoring what he did against the scoring-happy Athletics on Thursday: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K. Here's some video evidence. And this gem came on the heels of a win over Minnesota (6 IP, 2 R, 7 K) and a reasonable outing at Kansas City. Oddly, it was the Astros who bowled over the lefty back on April 20.
Kazmir is probably going to draw the Phillies (road) and Mariners (home) over the next two weeks, reasonable assignments. He's still just 29. Anyone feeling sentimental or frisky on this one? He's yours for the taking in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• If you have DL spots to play with, Brandon Beachy (elbow) would like your attention. He's expected to kick off his rehab assignment next week, and while he might be in the minors for the full month, this is a potential No. 1 starter in a year or two. The first year back from Tommy John surgery comes with obvious caveats, of course, but I'm still intrigued at what Beachy might do in the second half of 2013.
Speaking of rehabbing pitchers, Zack Greinke's return is just around the corner. The Dodgers will give him a turn at High-A on Friday and if all goes well, Greinke (collarbone) will pitch next week against Washington. A modest pitch count is to be expected as Greinke rounds back into form, but no one's going to complain much - he's returning three weeks ahead of schedule.