From malting to mouth, the process of making fine scotch is an exercise that demands attention to detail and discipline. Strict regulations require the spirit to be made in a specific way to meet product consistency and ensure the highest quality. Competition, like with any other beverage, is stiff. Numerous companies claim to boast the best. But ask any connoisseur and they will tell you, the longer the liquor rests in an oak cask, the easier it is to drink. Good things definitely do come to those who wait.
Top prospects, too, take time to reach optimal flavor. Some disappear into thin air, the angels' share of the baseball world. Others splash onto the scene almost immediately. Meanwhile the remaining lot toil on major or minor league rosters until given a chance to showcase their wears.
Stuck in the latter group for the better part of three seasons, Baltimore's Nolan Reimold has not only answered the door of opportunity, he's kicked it down, becoming arguably the biggest surprise sensation on the young fantasy season.
Reimold's path to statistical stardom has been an arduous journey, to say the least. In 2009, he was a top-five prospect in the O's' organization according to Baseball America. Blessed with herculean power — he scored a 70 in the category on the 20-80 scale — the outfielder was expected to be a fixture in the middle of the Birds lineup for years to come. But injuries and ineptitude stalled his career. Though he made a measurable splash in 2009 (.279-15-45-49-8 in 358 at-bats), a nagging oblique strain and Achilles tear derailed his follow-up.
Then last year he hit rock bottom.
Many labeled Reimold a break out candidate entering 2011. However, after a horrific spring he was again exiled to the minors where he floundered. At Triple-A Norfolk he hit a lowly .237 with six homers and 22 RBI over 139 at-bats. But recalled in late May, he was again gifted another chance to prove his mettle. Though it took him considerable time to wrest away at-bats from another failure, Felix Pie, the aging prospect seized control by August, becoming the every day left-fielder. His marvelous finish showed he was on the brink of something big.
After his standout September (.281-5-17-16-6), some expected Reimold to finally match the initial hype in 2012, but his storied history of nicks and scrapes greatly hindered that perception. No surprise he went largely undrafted in mixers. And in AL-only LABR, he was purchased for a very affordable $13.
Now the most sought after waiver commodity in the Y! game over the past 10 days, the 28-year-old is blossoming right before owner eyes. The unconventional lead-off man, similar in style and substance as Corey Hart, has clubbed five homers and driven in 10 over 46 at-bats, including going yard in four of five games from April 14-20. According to Reimold, his surge resides in one small step. From the Baltimore Sun:
Reimold, who entered Wednesday's game against the White Sox with home runs in each of his last four games, said he's made a small adjustment at the plate that is helping him see the ball better.
"I have been striding too far, and it was making my head move a little bit and I was pulling off," Reimold said. "So I've been working on having a smaller stride. That's been helping me stay over the ball and not pull off of it. It keeps your head more still too. You can see the ball longer. When I'm going better, I'm going short. I'm trying to stick with this right now..."
Reimold said having the opportunity to be the team's everyday left fielder has helped him relax at the plate.
"There's less pressure," Reimold said. "You don't live and die with every at-bat. Makes you more relaxed you could say. I look at it as I'm feeling good right now. We're winning games. I'm just looking to keep it going. I don't think I'm coming into my own or anything. I'm feeling good. I know what works for me and I'm glad I'm helping the team win. We're winning some close games, and over the long haul, that's a big deal."
Confident, composed and no longer looking over his shoulder, Reimold should continue to thrive, provided his current neck spasms don't become more serious. Yes, his 11:1 K:BB split is a bit unnerving, but the power is very real. It's quite conceivable he could match the long-ball muscle Jacoby Ellsbury exhibited out of the leadoff spot for division rival Boston last year, an output that will surely put an "O" face on the lucky few who plucked him from free agency. His RBI total will suffer, but throw in a likely 80-plus runs and 10-15 steals, and he should finish ahead of more revered contemporaries Jayson Werth, Jason Heyward and Giancarlo Stanton.
It's been a long time coming for Reimold. But expect his numbers to continue to go down very smooth.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 523 at-bats, .271 BA, 24 HR, 59 RBI, 72 R, 11 SB
FLAMES OF THE WEEK (Under 60-percent owned)
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, NYM, OF (6-percent) — For the deep-thinkers in attendance, the minimally owned outfielder is worth an immediate add. Sure his name may conjure up thoughts of a German brewmaster, but he's a legit 15-15 candiate who has drawn high praise from manager Terry Collins. At 24, the lefty-swinger is an older prospect, but an interesting one nonetheless. Before his 2011 campaign was cut short by a torn labrum, Nieuwenhuis compiled excellent numbers at Triple-A Buffalo, amassing a .298-6-14-33-5 line over just 188 at-bats. His queasy K-rate (27.6-percent) and misfortunes against southpaws are worrisome, but with Andres Torres still days away from returning and Jason Bay now on the DL, he should net consistent time in center and occasional looks at leadoff. If he continues to hit, he may not relinquish at-bats even when the Mets outfield is at full-strength. Slot him in as a fifth OF or UTIL player in challenging mixers.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 446 at-bats, .269 BA, 14 HR, 39 RBI, 61 R, 9 SB
Bartolo Colon, Oak, SP (55-percent) — Is baseball's favorite triple-bypass revolting? Of course. Due to his enormous mass, do celestial bodies orbit around him? Absolutely. Can you actually trust him? Unbelievably, yes. Every time the fantasy community writes off Colon, he delivers at least semi-useful numbers. Yes, he's benefited from several tangos with Seattle, but his 38 straight strike performance against former employer LAA is proof the 38-year-old isn't yet a rotting lump of lard. As his 3.82 xFIP indicates, the ERA will rise, but his pinpoint control (21:5 K:BB in 34.1 IP), ability to coax groundball outs and friendly home environment suggest a sub-4.00 mark is likely. If he emerges from his rough May slate relatively unscathed (at TB, Det, at Tex, LAA, NYY), he'll officially graduate from the stream-only ranks. That happens and this will be Colon buyers' theme song.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 133.1 IP, 9 W, 3.62 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 118 K
LAMES O' THE WEAK
Paul Goldschmidt, Ari, 1B — To millions, The Schmidt has officially hit the fan. Benched repeatedly to clear his head and give scoop of statistical vanilla, Lyle Overbay, additional PT, Goldschmidt has fallen on hard times in the early going. Kirk Gibson cites the slugger is paying too much attention to detail instead of simply going out and playing by feel. That over-thinking has led to a sharp downturn in production and sapped confidence. Collecting a hit in three of his past five games, he appears to be slowly reemerging, which could soon lead to a monster power binge. At this point, it's unlikely he'll reach my rather optimistic 35 HR preseason projection but 23-26 bombs aren't out of the question. Patience needs to be a virtue.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 501 at-bats, .254 BA, 25 HR, 79 RBI, 68 R, 9 SB
Adam Wainwright, StL, SP — The human equivilent of a North Korean test rocket, Wainwright crashed shortly after relaunch, leaving many uneasy about his immediate future. Plagued by a two-tick decline in velocity and a nasty case of gopheritis, he was smacked around quite hard in his first 19.2 IP, totaling a grotesque 7.32 ERA. The righty, over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, says health-wise his arm is "fine" and that he's simply "in a funk." Despite the hideous superficial numbers, Wainwright is worth pitching a low-ball offer for. His terrific 3.50 K/BB and 3.13 xFIP arrow to better days to come. Tuesday's encouraging start against the hapless Cubs was a step in the right direction (6 IP, 1 ER, 7:1 K:BB). Expect his arm to strengthen and his command to progress as the season drags on. Strike while the price is still cheap.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 176.1 IP, 11 W, 3.57 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 163 K
QUICK HITTERS (Random musings from my demented head)
• Owners with a sloth-footed squad could find a quick fix in the Cubs' Tony Campana. With Marlon Byrd now hoofing it in Beantown, the baby-faced youngster should see semi-regular at-bats in center until Brett Jackson makes his inevitable big league debut sometime around the All-Star break. Already with four stolen bases in four games, Caucasian Juan Pierre could swipe some 25-plus bags over the next couple months. Recall he totaled 24 steals in 95 games with the senior club last year. Only one-percent rostered, he is the ideal remedy for the speed needy even in 12-team mixers.
• When Chipper Jones' knee tendons inevitably evaporate come midseason, Juan Francisco (3-percent owned) is a commodity to watch in mixers. Last year between Louisville and Cincinnati he went yard 18 times in just 393 at-bats. And so far In limited action (29 at-bats), he's reached the bleachers thrice. With an everyday gig, he could flirt with 30 homers. The power is very real.
• Without question the most fascinating team in this year's NFL draft has to be the Cleveland Browns. With two first round picks and an offense in desperate need of a facelift, Mike Holmgren's club could graduate from the putrid ranks with a smart draft. Because it doesn't have a true franchise running back, Trent Richardson at No. 4 is an imperative grab. His versatility, stocky build and explosiveness are reminiscent of a bigger Maurice Jones-Drew. In terms of fantasy value, he would be a top-10 RB based on volume alone. Oklahoma State product Brandon Weeden, the Jamie Moyer of QB prospects, would be a wise decision in Round 2. Similar to what division rival Cincinnati found in Andy Dalton last year, Weeden could be one of the finest Day 2 values in the draft. His remarkable accuracy (The Sports Science clay pigeons video is sick!) and experience in a West Coast-styled offense should transition smoothly. Though it's not saying much, he's light years better than Colt McCoy is right now.
• If the eavesdropping allegations against Saints GM Mickey Loomis are in fact true, New Orleans is the Lindsay Lohan of the NFL, an organization that simply can't stay out of trouble. Once considered the newest "America's Team" post-Katrina, it is now the NFL's antichrist. The image damage is irreparable. What other secrets are the Saints hiding? Is Tom Benson really Jack the Ripper? Is Jimmy Hoffa buried underneath the Superdome? Did Marques Colston shoot Tupac?
• Inevitably, Lamborghini SUVs will become the "I'm a stuck up (expletive)" statement of the century for highfalutin soccer moms. No person male/female, needs a 600 horsepower vehicle to make a lightning quick run to Starbucks for a $10,000 gold-rimmed Venti. Sweet ride? Of course. Completely unnecessary in a world where gas costs four bucks a gallon? Unquestionably.
• Over the weekend a woman collapsed at the infamous Heart Attack Grill in Vegas, get this, while consuming a double-bypass burger, drinking a margarita and smoking a cigarette. That's exactly how the Noise wants to go out. Yep, as a woman.
• For the past several week's Gotye's addictive cut "Somebody That I Used to Know" has played on repeat in my head. It must be the xylophone. Once a staple in classic songs played by rock gods The Rollings Stones, U2 and Violent Femmes, the instrument was seemingly banished to kindergarten-only play. But Gotye's massive hit has the percussion on the comeback trail. Your day of blowing peoples' minds will come again, Triangle.
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