In my final Yahoo! fantasy auction back in March, I made an executive decision: land as many Asian ballplayers as possible. Primarily, I wanted to share the experience with a friend of mine, a sharp roto player and baseball fan of Japanese descent. Naturally, it's turned into my best 2013 club (looking at you, Choo; winking at you, Darvish; thanks for everything, Aoki). You love it when a plan comes together. There's a ton of baseball talent in the overseas market, obviously.
And it's scary to think how good that team would be had I been a little more aggressive with the strategy, truly pushed all in: Hiroki Kuroda and Hishashi Iwakuma didn't wind up on my roster, and Hyun-Jin Ryu was a miss as well. Let's focus on the latter name; settle in for an LA Story.
Ryu has turned into the unsung hero of the 2013 Dodgers, a dynamite arm to run with Clayton Kershaw. The rookie has worked six innings or more in 10 of his 11 starts, and he was brilliant in Tuesday's shutout of the Angels (2 H, 0 BB, 7 K, a modest 113 pitches). Here's some video, watch and appreciate.
Ryu's now sitting on a 2.89 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, with most key indicators in the right area. He's missing bats (8.4 K/9), throwing strikes (2.8/9) and keeping the ball on the ground (46.7 GB rate). The ERA estimators call for a moderate regression but it's not a fall off a cliff: 3.20 FIP, 3.22 tERA, 3.56 SIERA. This is a lefty to believe in.
Ryu's road numbers aren't as tasty as the Chavez Ravine stats; perhaps he's more comfortable throwing strikes in his roomy home ballpark. There have also been some tricky assignments away from LA: he won't have to worry about Camden Yards again. Nonetheless, this push to his MLB career seems legitimate to me; at the end of the day, Ryu goes into the hold column, not the "sell now" column.
• Yahoo! fantasy owners are for the most part hip to the Ryu story, pushing his ownership to the three-quarter range. But appreciation for Jedd Gyorko has been slower in developing. The San Diego socker pushed his way onto your sleeper list with a strong training camp, but a nothing April (.247/.317/.323) ejected him onto a bunch of waiver wires. Nothing to see here, move along.
Gyorko's bat has woken up nicely in May: .294/.355/.565, six homers, 18 runs, 10 RBIs. He's rocking a 1.000 OPS at Petco Park; he's been terrific against lefties and passable against righties. Gyorko's road stats haven't bounced back yet (.547 OPS), but that has fluke written all over it. If you can hit in San Diego's expansive ballpark, you can hit anywhere (maybe he gets a push from the weekend Winfield throwbacks, which are glorious). His latest homer came Tuesday at Safeco Field, of all places.
When you hash out the May leaders, Gyokro ranks as a Top 15 bat in fantasy baseball. Throw in delicious dual-eligibility (2B/3B) and we're onto something here. Gyorko's still unowned in more than half of Yahoo! leagues, a clear oversight. Make the add. Heck, I don't see any reason not to trade for this kid right now, even at an established value. Middle-infield pop isn't that easy to find in 2013.
• Is the glass half full or half empty for Dustin Pedroia? Are we frustrated to see his home run column a little depressed, or merely glad that he's producing through a thumb injury?
According to the Boston Herald, Pedroia has been playing despite a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament of his left thumb. Pedroia suffered the injury in the opening-day victory at New York. It hasn't kept Pedroia from an outstanding year - look at that juicy .332-37-3-28-8 line. He's getting on base at a .422 clip, and his .444 slugging percentage is just an eyelash under his career average.
Pedroia was slotted No. 20 on the preseason Yahoo! ranks and he's currently the No. 20 player in the Y! game. No one should be unhappy with his production to this point. He's shown he will play hurt in the past and he's shown he can be post healthy numbers in spite of significant injuries. It's encouraging that the thumb problem hasn't stopped him from running.
"People shouldn’t know if you’re 100 percent or not. It is what it is, and it’s my responsibility to perform well," Pedroia told the Herald. "My mindset is if I’m nicked up, I have to find other ways to perform. That’s the way I think about it. Maybe I’m crazy."
So long as he doesn't mind the injury, maybe we shouldn't either.
Sticking with the dirty water, the Red Sox might have a temporary outfielder for you to consider in deeper leagues. Jackie Bradley Jr. is coming back up to Boston, on the heels of a .354/.457/.544 run at Triple-A Pawtucket. Bradley didn't offer a lot of category juice with the PawSox - two homers, two steals - but a solid bat in a solid lineup could lead to mixed-league value.
Mind you, Bradley looked overmatched in his first go-round in the majors: 3-for-31, 12 strikeouts. It's a small sample but that's an ugly set of numbers. In the shallow mixers you ignore this story, let it come to you. But I can't imagine the Red Sox called up Bradley without the intention of playing him; Shane Victorino is hurt and Jonny Gomes hasn't done much. Any potential Fenway Park bat has to be taken seriously. Bradley is good to go in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Brett Lawrie is done making outs for your fake team, at least for a little while. He landed on the 15-day DL on Wednesday, dealing with a left-ankle sprain. In shallow and even medium mixers with limited DL space, you could conceivably drop Lawrie. Other than five homers, nothing is happening here (.203/.268/.374, two bags, 36 strikeouts). Buzz player gone bad.
Gyorko leads the under-50 acquire list for new corners, but here are some other names to consider:
If it's a shallow swim, you can look at Pedro Alvarez (10 homers if you can stomach the average; 48 percent), James Loney (back to doing what he used to do in LA; 40 percent), Corey Hart (not far away from a rehab assignment; 37 percent), and Nolan Arenado (a glorious Coors Field jamboree starts Thursday; 31 percent). Deeper options include Eric Chavez (so much fun while he's healthy; 28 percent), Yonder Alonso (another Loney type; 22 percent) and Adam Lind (stream him against righties; 8 percent).
You're even more desperate than that? Well, Matt Dominguez (six percent) is showing power at home and Carlos Pena (three percent) can at least point to those useful 24 runs. I know, gamers. In the deeper leagues, sometimes there are no adequate replacements. Not everyone has the stomach to be an Astros Sympathizer.