April 18, 2012
Peruse the 25 Hottest Urban Legends on Snopes.com and one ventures into an absurd world where suckers are indeed born every minute. Some rumors have a somewhat legitimate tone. Others are so preposterous they sound like a punchline Seth Meyers spewed from the SNL Weekend Update desk. One example in particular stands out: "Criminals in the U.S. are using burundanga-soaked business cards to incapacitate their victims."
Guess good old-fashioned villainous fun with chloroform is no longer en vogue.
Denizens in Fantasyland, too, are constantly influenced by various myths, many of which trusting owners pay dearly to want to believe. A few examples:
• It's acceptable to punt a category if you're overloaded in others
• Cornering the market at a scarce position is the first step to success
• Due to the scope and depth of starting pitching, it's imperative to exercise patience on draft day
• Twenty-seven is a magical age where many players come alive, posting breakthrough numbers
• Chipper Jones is in his best shape in years and is expected to play 150 games
No doubt, those that buy into the above conjectures are destined for a season filled with unpleasantries. Each example is littered with holes.
When Aroldis Chapman arrived at the Reds training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. this past February his role was again undetermined. Would he finally be given an opportunity to move into the starting rotation? Would he again toil in middle relief? Is he being groomed as a future closer?
At first, the Cincy front office was willing to give the Cuban flamethrower a shot at a rotation spot. Though hampered by his often unwieldy command for much of 2011, Dusty Baker and GM Walt Jockety felt confident this would be a transformative year for Chapman. However, when Ryan Madson suffered a setback in his recovery from an elbow injury March 22, a derailment that required Tommy John surgery, the game changed.
Though the electric lefty pitched well enough this spring to toe the rubber every fifth day, injuries to Madson and, to a lesser extent Bill Bray, forced management to move him back to the 'pen, a maddening turn of events for the fantasy community. Baker's endorsement of Sean Marshall as closer in early April further lowered Chapman's once seemingly limitless ceiling.
Or did it?
Roughly two weeks into the season, the southpaw has sizzled. In eight innings he's surrendered just three hits, zero runs, struck out 15, and, get this, walked none. Crazily, his blend of high-90s heat and slider deception has induced a swinging strike rate of 23.4 percent, a stratospheric number compared to the 9.0 league-wide average. Also with two wins, he currently ranks fifth overall among pitchers in Y! leagues behind other surprises Chad Billingsley and Kyle Lohse and alongside elite mainstays Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander.
With Homer Bailey living down to his first name and Marshall cemented in the ninth, many owners are understandably clamoring for Chapman to become a fixture in the Reds rotation. Most believe that's where his overall worth is best maximized. However, in reality, and fantasy, he's more valuable in his current setup position.
His comfort level and dominance in that role and ability to luck into the occasional win or save are ideal, particularly for managers in leagues with an innings cap. Stretching him out for a starting gig at this point would be mighty risky, placing undue stress on the 24-year-old which could lead to catastrophic failure or worse a date with Dr. Death, James Andrews.
Chapman is the David Copperfield of middle relief magicians. Why he's not mass-owned (65-percent in Y! leagues) defies reason. His high-K yield, ERA/WHIP tourniquet and regular multi-inning appearances are invaluable for gamers, even those in piddly 8-team leagues. But he's certainly not the only one. Other underappreciated arms are also thriving in short stints, delivering more reliable production than your average stream pick-up or back-end starter.
Alexi Ogando, Tex (47-percent) — The reliever-turned-starter-converted-back-to-reliever-again is doing masterful work in the early going as Ron Washington's top Nathan insurance policy. Bank on his end-season line resembling Sean Marshall's from a season ago (75.2 IP, 2.26 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 6 W, 5 S).
Tyler Clippard, Was (41-percent) — Blame a tender shoulder for his bloodied appearance against the Reds on April 15 (1 IP, 3 ER, L). Still only 27 and coming off consecutive 100-K campaigns, he remains one of the virtual game's middle relief elites.
David Robertson, NYY (36-percent) — Mariano Rivera's heir apparent picked up where he left off in 2011, a season in which he punched out 100 in just 66.2 IP. If he continues on his current 85 innings pace, the holds gem could land in the 115-120 K range.
Mike Adams, Tex (31-percent) — The consistency king is another gun-toting Ranger loaded with value. His impeccable command (1.71 BB/9 in '11) and strong K-rate (9.04 K/9) should again vault him near the top of this list come year's end.
Bryan Shaw, Ari (7-percent) — Righty is quickly overtaking David Hernandez for primary setup duties. Already mopped up for a resting J.J. Putz twice while notching a juicy K/9 in the process. Label him a dark-horse for 5-6 additional saves, 3-4 wins.
Andrew Cashner, SD (5-percent) — Pads' blowtorch possesses one of the biggest fastballs in the Milky Way. In four appearances thus far, he's averaged 98.3 mph with the heater. Closer-in-waiting has 100 K upside if he eclipses 70 IP.
Craig Stammen, Was (3-percent) — Lanky righty showed measurable promise in cup of coffee last year totaling a 10.45 K/9 in 10.1 IP. So far he's carried over big mo' sneaking two wins while punching out 10 in 7.2 innings. Needs more hugs.
David Phelps, NYY (1-percent) — Future fourth or fifth starter getting his feet wet in long-relief role. So far, he's done a marvelous job, evident in his recent 5.1 IP bailout against LAA (1 ER, 4 K). Stuff isn't spectacular, but his fastball and curve are better than advertised. His Triple-A numbers from '11 alone warrant your attention (107.1 IP, 6 W, 3.19 ERA, 90 K, 3.46 K/BB).
FLAMES OF THE WEEK (Under 50-percent owned)
Steve Lombardozzi, Was, Util (1-percent) — After the Bulldozzi's four-hit, two-RBI spanking of the 'Stros Monday, Davey Johnson will continue to be hard-pressed to keep the rookie on the pine. The switch-hitter has a smooth line-drive stroke, average power and plus-speed. Between Double and Triple-A a season ago, he cracked eight homers with 30 steals while also chipping in a .311 BA. Because he can play a variety of positions — 2B, 3B, SS, OF — Lombardozzi has the potential to become this year's Emilio Bonifacio, once he meets the necessary eligibility requirements. At this point, he will likely see extensive PT in left with Michael Morse sidelined and Mark DeRosa virtually useless, but occasional cameos around the horn are also possible. Deep leaguers who relish flexibility should snatch him up immediately.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 443 at-bats, .283 BA, 5 HR, 52 RBI, 62 R, 23 SB
Nolan Reimond, Bal, OF (30-percent) — For years Reimold was a toolsy former top-prospect who never seemed to put it together, the AL's version of Jeremy Hermida. But after a standout September last year (.286-5-17-16-6) and torrid start to 2012, he's finally starting to emerge from his shell. Currently riding an eight-game hit-streak, including a homer in four straight, the lead-off man is showing signs of transforming into a 25-15 waivers sensation. Assuming he staves off prolonged DL time, it wouldn't be a surprise if he finished ahead of heavily-owned outfielders Jayson Werth, Shin-Soo Choo and Alex Gordon.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 502 at-bats, .271 BA, 21 HR, 65 RBI, 74 R, 11 SB
LAMES 'O THE WEAK (Over 50-percent owned)
Giancarlo Stanton, Mia, OF (94-percent) — Here's a fun fact: Career home runs clubbed by Mike Stanton 56; career Home runs clubbed by Giancarlo Stanton, nunca. Suffice it to say, in a blind taste test, fantasy owners preferred Mike 2:1 over Giancarlo. Please, bring Mike back. Expected to be bothered by persistent knee pain over the remainder of the season, the Miami masher could smash the dreams of owners who paid a hefty price-tag on draft day. His setback combined with the Marlins' black-hole of a ballpark almost guarantees he won't eclipse 30 bombs, making him a pricer version of Bryan LaHair. In one-for-one industry deals this week, he attracted Billy Butler, David Freese and John Axford. Given his unnerving situation, it might be time to salvage what you can.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 467 at-bats, .260 BA, 24 HR, 72 RBI, 66 R, 1 SB
Tim Lincecum, SF, SP (98-percent) — This video pretty much summarizes how one of fantasy's costliest arms has performed in the early season. Yep, like burning brief cases stuffed with cash. The root cause of "Titantic" Tim's unsightly 10-plus ERA stems from poor fastball command and an unsettling velocity downturn ('11: 92.3 mph, '12: 90.3), a decline that began late last season. With his heater consistently sitting in the low-90s, it's exposed his change allowing hitters to tee-off. Despite the concerns, he's definitely worth buying on the bear. Physically, Timmy claims he feels fine. His sharp drop-off could simply be a case of a pitcher still stretching out. Within his next couple starts, owners should see him slowly regain his All-Star-level form. Low-ball now before the window closes.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 196.1 IP, 14 W, 3.34 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 208 K
QUICK HITTERS (Random musings from my demented head)
• J.D. Martinez's initialized first name stands for "Justifiably Dreamy." The righty swinger has one of the flattest strokes through the zone in the league, one that rivals Lance Berkman's during his Houston heyday. His numbers are no mirage. He hit for a hefty .300-plus average on the farm and scouts unanimously believed he would one day develop into a perennial 20 HR producer. However, few expected him to advance this quickly. If there's room left on the bandwagon, the Noise is jumping on. Fearless Forecast (rest of season): .288 BA, 17 HR, 92 RBI, 74 R, 3 SBs
• It figures in the same year I broke up with Billy Butler, he shows early signs of becoming the 25 HR hunk he was always capable of developing into. In 346 prior April at-bats, Blizzy B cracked a mere eight homers. Through 45 box steps this year, he has two. Additionally, with six multi-hit performances and six doubles already under his belt he's on pace to greatly exceed draft day expectations. First base, as usual, is an overloaded position but it would be no shock if he cracked the top-10. A .310-25-100 line isn't outlandish. Come back to me sweet Chubs. Miss your bacon smell.
• The baseball-only crowd will crucify me for discussing this in such a "sacred" space, but the NFL released its regular season schedule Wednesday, officially kicking off the research season for pigskin fanatics. Yes, projecting the richest matchups this far in advance is an inexact science, but Kansas City's fantasy playoff slate, for now, is positively juicy for RBs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis (at Cle, at Oak, vs. Ind). The JC of KC is expected to enter camp at 100 percent and could potentially match his top-five production (15.1 fppg) from two years ago when he worked in a tandem with Thomas Jones. Based on the delectable late-season set and rigid state of the Chiefs' offensive line, both could be top-20 RBs in 2012. Tuck that nugget away.
• One can only hope Hologram Tupac will inspire the Chicago Cubs to unveil a digitized version of Rod Beck in the near future. The marketing possibilities are endless. During night games, random fans could enjoy a cold one with Shooter in his virtual RV just outside Wrigley. Better yet, he could have a drink-off with Kenny Powers to prove once and for all what closer has the greasiest mullet-'stache combination in baseball history. Yep, beyond awesome.
• While bed-ridden Saturday night suffering through a 102-degree fever and strep throat (Yes, I mouthed Carlos Gonzalez), I turned on The Weather Channel to check out my local forecast. Maybe it was the Vicodin my doctor prescribed, but a rave broke out in my head. Glowsticks was the only thing missing. TWC bumped bass-rattling techno while enriching my mind with timely meteorological info. Gone are the days of elevator music and Celine Dion. TWC is (expletive) hip.
• Finally, I'm headed to Chase Field Wednesday afternoon to 1) Take in what will surely be a high-scoring affair for the D-Backs versus Pittsburgh 2) Drink several adult beverages, 3) Ingest an entire week's worth of calories in one-sitting (Fatburger!) 4) And most importantly, heckle Kirk Gibson incessantly about overplaying Lyle Overbay. The Schmidt needs my support. It's asinine he's sat four times in favor of a stiff with a career .794 OPS. Considering it's a day game in Arizona, there's a good chance the Gibster will actually hear my vitriol from across the park. Wish me luck loyal Goldschmidt supporters.
Want to bean Brad in the head? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston and Scott Pianowski on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 PM PT/8 PM ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio