July 03, 2012
Many of us will be making a market run on this July 3, stocking up on need-to-have holiday items. Grillable meats, check. Adult beverages, check. Sun screen, croquet mallets, beach towels, lots of condiments, batteries and binoculars, get what you need.
And maybe pick up Mike Leake while you're at it. The surging righty is unowned in 86 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and he's up against the perfect opponent in the perfect park.
Most streamers have to look one day ahead when they're making their picks, and Leake is a terrific add if you're playing that game Tuesday: he's in line to start Wednesday at Chavez Ravine. Leake has been useful in eight of his last nine starts, and the Dodgers offense has hit the skids of late. Heck, when I tune into an LA game these days, I can never seem to tell if they're at the top of the order or near the bottom of the cycle. When you take Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier away from this group, it's an ugly scene.
You're going to want numbers to support all of this, so let's go to the spreadsheet. Leake has a 2.55 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over his previous nine starts, collecting 46 strikeouts against just 11 walks. His ground-ball rate jumped over 52 percent for June, and he cut his walk rate in half. And while the ERA estimators aren't as impressed with this run, FIP still lands at 3.31 for June while xFIP scored 3.11. This is a pickup you can make with confidence.
What has the Dodgers offense been bad at over the last month? Only everything. They've hit six homers over that span, a jaw-dropping show of ineptness. Every other club has 17 or more. They've scored just 84 runs (last), they're hitting a puny .207 (last) and they don't get on base (.279 OBP, last again). And LA's .275 slugging percentage is 56 points shy of the 29th-place Mariners. This is your No. 1 stream-against target, amigos.
Obviously anything can happen in a one-game sample: maybe Kid Hairston and Kid Gwynn and Kid Gordon will kick up their heels, have the game of their lives. But all the logical stats and angles stand behind Leake here. And heck, he's going up against one of LA's weaker starters, Aaron Harang — someone the Reds should be able to produce against. And let's note that enigmatic Homer Bailey cruised against the Dodgers on Monday (8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K).
There are other streamables to come against LA, though they won't be at Chavez Ravine. The Diamondbacks host the Dodgers for four games starting Thursday, lining up Wade Miley, Josh Collmenter, Trevor Cahill and Trevor Bauer. Do what you need to do. In the meantime, we're seeing Red against the White and Blue.
• If you need to play the AL version of the streamer game, Franklin Morales is a good target. The Boston lefty has been sensational since joining the rotation (18 IP, 14 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 24 K) and his next assignment is a Wednesday start in roomy Oakland. It's difficult to tell what Morales's career line really means, since his first 15 big-league turns came for the Rockies. The AL East is obviously no picnic, but using Morales against the Athletics is an easy call. He's still free to grab in about three-quarters of Yahoo! leagues.
• The National League schedule has been very kind to Yasmani Grandal as he gets his first true look around the circuit. His first start came Saturday in the Mile High air (two homers, one from each side of the plate) and he backed that up with a 2-for-5 showing in Arizona on Monday (single, homer). And obviously a .335/.443/.521 slash from Triple-A Tuscon jumps off the page, though the PCL is a hitter's paradise. Grandal only had six homers at Triple-A, and I can't imagine he'll hit a bunch at Petco Park. No one does.
It's easy for fantasy pundits to say "go out and add Grandal" with no respect to your league context or specific catching needs. It hasn't been a bad catching year — heck, A.J. Pierzynski is having a monster season and he's not even going to the All-Star Game. If I were shuffling catchers right now, I'd probably have Grandal in the 12-14 rank range: certainly worth adding if you're in a pinch, but not someone you need to immediately add, no questions asked.
• The trickiest call on the catcher board might be Colorado's Wilin Rosario. He's already collected 14 homers in just 179 at-bats, and he can hit them to any part of the ballpark (his opposite-field power is crazy). He's gone deep in three straight games, pushing his Yahoo! ownership tag to 26 percent. And he's hiked up his slash against righties to a respectable .242/.273/.484; it was considerably lower a month ago.
Rosario's defense is a work in progress: he's thrown out 31 percent of runners this year (above average) but he's also made a position-leading eight errors in limited playing time (I know errors are a loaded stat but I can't completely look past that). And eventually Ramon Hernandez is going to return, complicating things.
I'm hoping the Rockies see the big picture and let Rosario handle most of the starts in the second half; when a team isn't contending, development should be Priority 1. But with GM Dan O'Dowd and manager Jim Tracy calling the shots, I am not confident a smart decision will be made. Of all the catchers mentioned in today's Opening Time, I like Rosario's 2012 stock the most.
Speed Round: Ned Yost is going to give Alcides Escobar an extended trial in the No. 2 slot, a definite plus to the kid's fantasy value. Escobar has batted seventh, eighth or ninth in 63 of 76 games this year. … Emilio Bonifacio (thumb) might start a rehab assignment Wednesday. … Max Scherzer will skip a start due to a sore hamstring, though he's expected to go Sunday against the Royals. … Let's have fun with dueling home runs: here is Cameron Maybin's entry, and you can judge it against Colby Rasmus's shot. … Tyler Colvin went deep again; he's up to nine homers and a .303/.329/.588 slash for the year. Between first base (where Todd Helton is ancient) and the outfield, the Rockies could make Colvin a semi-regular if they really wanted to. Keep an eye on him, and if anyone in this 1B/OF mix gets hurt, consider Colvin an automatic grab everywhere. … Matt Kemp (hamstring) will start his rehab assignment Tuesday. He's also expected to compete in the Home Run Derby next Monday. … After absolutely sucking for five turns, Jeff Samardzija was terrific against the Braves (7 IP, 1 R, 11 K). Roto's fun, isn't it? … Will Middlebrooks has a sore hamstring and might need a trip to the disabled list. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. … Zack Cozart took a pitch off the noggin and has a mild concussion. He's listed as day-to-day, but it's a fool's errand to put a timetable on anyone in the post-consussion cycle. … Yes, you have my permission to drop Ricky Romero or Jesus Montero anywhere and everywhere. Forge my name on the paperwork if you need to.