MLB Skinny: Blanks check

I apologize for last week's Skinny absence – I was leading the Funston family pack around Disneyland. Frankly, with media pets Manny Ramirez(notes) (suspension), Alex Rodriguez(notes) (return) and Brett Favre (unretire?) dominating sports news coverage last week, it wasn't a bad time to insulate myself behind the walls of the Mouse House. Refreshed after numerous Splash Mountain and Soarin' California rides, I'm ready to dive back in to the ups and downs of fantasy baseball. And I'll keep with the format change that I went with the last time out, as it was met with a positive overall response. Alright, let's get to it …


Three Up/Three Down
Casey Kotchman(notes), Atl, 1B – 11-for-26 (.423) with 2 HR and 10 RBI in past week.
Carlos Delgado(notes), NYM, 1B – On slump-busting 10-for-22 (.455, HR, 7 RBI, 6 R) ride in past week
Billy Butler(notes), KC, 1B – Dandy dozen: 18-for-45 (.400), 2 HR, 10 RBI, 11 R, 3 BB, 3 K in past 12

Garrett Atkins(notes), Col, 1/3 – 4-for-33 (.121), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R in past 9
James Loney(notes), LAD, 1B – 8-for-47 (.170) in past 12; 0 HR in '09 (33 games)
Adam LaRoche(notes), Pit, 1B – Ghost of first-half pasts returns: 1-for-28 (.036, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R) in past 7

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Kendry Morales(notes), LAA, 1B (43%) – In his past 16 games, Morales has produced a multiple-hit outing half the time (8). In that span, he's also produced 14 of his season-total 18 RBIs and all of his home runs (5). As it stands, he's a legit 25-30 home run candidate, and if you add him now, you'll get a weekend series at Texas as an added bonus.

Kyle Blanks(notes), SDG, 1/O – Blanks may not qualify for being listed under the corner infielders for much longer. The Padres recently decided to test their top prospect (according to Baseball America, among others) in the outfield, recognizing the writing on the wall that there is not going to be much opportunity for Blanks at first base as long as Adrian Gonzalez(notes) is in town. The feeling is that Blanks' right-handed bat is ready for prime time – he's hit no worse than .292, nor has his OBP dipped below .380, at any level of his minor league progression and he's currently tied for sixth in the Pacific Coast League with eight home runs (in 32 games). At 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, Blanks is a mountain of man (think Derrek Lee(notes), not Ryan Howard(notes)), but he possesses uncommon athleticism for someone of his stature, and San Diego feels he'll be able to make the move to the outfield. He'll likely get a month-long tryout before he'll be considered for promotion. The team has nine games at American League parks in June on the schedule. It seems very likely that Blanks will arrive sometime in early June, perhaps landing a mix of DH and OF spot starts in order to gauge his '09 viability.


Three Up/Three Down
Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes), Cin, 2/S/O – 12-for-29 (.414), 2 HR, 6 RBI, 10 R, SB in past week
Yunel Escobar(notes), Atl, SS – Sweet (past) 16: 22-for-64 (.344), 2 HR, 12 RBI, 11 R
Emmanuel Burriss(notes), SF, 2/S – 8 multi-hit games, 4 SB in his past 12

Jimmy Rollins(notes), Phi, SS – .195 BA, 1 SB in 28 '09 games; demoted to No. 5 in batting order
Dan Uggla(notes), Fla, 2B – 3-for-28 (.107), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R in 8 May games (playing time being threatened by rookie Chris Coghlan(notes)).
Ian Stewart(notes), Col, 2/3 – 1-for-19 (.053, HR, 2 RBI, 1 R) in past 9

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Luis Castillo(notes), NYM, 2B (12%) – I understand that Castillo is about as exciting as unbuttered toast, but I feel obligated to point out that the 33-year-old has been posting some worthy numbers since being promoted to the No. 2 spot in the Mets' batting order. In the nine games in which he's followed the leadoff this season, he's hitting .353 with seven runs and four stolen bases. When all things are clicking, Castillo is a fair three-category producer. In his 162 games with the Mets, he's hit .274 with 98 R and 31 SB. But he's a career .292 hitter, and he hit an unusually low .245 last season as he battled injury. Healthy now, and hitting in a cherry spot between Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran(notes), Castillo should be a player of interest for anyone looking for any combination of help in runs, stolen bases and batting average.

Jason Donald(notes), Phi, SS – I'll be honest, now that Chris Coghlan has been called up, there's not a lot of exciting, MLB-ready middle infield prospects out there at the moment. So I'll take this opportunity to call out a personal favorite of mine. Donald, the Phillies No. 4 prospect for '09 according to Baseball America, is not lighting it up at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he is hitting a respectable .283 with five doubles, nine RBI and three steals in 11 May games. He's also spending some time at both third base and second base, setting himself up for a potential utility role with upside for Philadelphia sometime in the not-so-distant future. By upside, I'm referring to his 14 HR, 11 SB and .889 OPS in 92 games at Double-A Reading last season. Keep his name filed away for later.


Three Up/Three Down
Jesus Flores(notes), Was, C – 12-for-30 (.400), 2 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R in past 8
Ivan Rodriguez(notes), Hou, C – 14-for-42 (.333), 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R in past 12
Kurt Suzuki(notes), Oak, C – 24-for-67 (.358), 9 2B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 7 R in past 17

Brandon Inge(notes), Det, C/3/O – 6-for-31 (.194), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, 12 K in 9 May games
Pablo Sandoval(notes), SF, C/1/3 – 4-for-24 (.167), 0 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R in past 6
Geovany Soto(notes), ChC, C – Season-long slump entering the fascinating stage (if you're not his owner): .169, 0 HR in 25 games

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Ramon Hernandez(notes), Cin, (27%) – Hernandez has just one home run this season, but it's only a matter of time before the ball starts leaving the park for him with more frequency – he's averaged more than 18 home runs per 162 games in his 10-plus seasons. In his past 16 games, he's 21-for-57 (.368) and, with Joey Votto(notes) nursing a flu, he's managed to pick up four starts at first base, putting him one start shy of gaining eligibility there in Yahoo! leagues. He won't play at first base much with Votto back, but any opportunity to get on the field when not penciled in behind the plate is a bonus. Oddly, Hernandez has just one hit in 16 at bats against lefties this season, but his career OPS is better against southpaws than it is against righties, and you'd expect that that split would start normalizing soon.

Matt Wieters(notes), Bal, C – As mentioned previously in this column, I'll be reporting on Wieters in this spot until he finally gets his ticket punched for Baltimore. And again, I can't imagine that this is going to be an overly long wait. As it stands, Baltimore has produced a .664 OPS from its catchers – only six teams can claim a worse mark. And Wieters, after a sluggish start, is starting to come alive. He's followed up on a .260 batting average mark in April by starting the month of May with 12 hits in his first 36 at bats (.333), and he's walked seven times to just four strikeouts in that span. He's still stuck on just one home run, but after netting just four extra-base hits through the first 16 games of the season, he's pounded out five doubles in his past nine games, a good sign that the power is rounding into shape. If he continues to trend northward, expect his call to come sometime shortly after Memorial Day.


Three Up/Three Down
Justin Upton(notes), Ari, OF – 18-game hitting streak (.385, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 17 R, 3 SB in that span)
Jayson Werth(notes), Phi, OF – 9-for-21 (.429), 4 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R, SB in past 7
Josh Willingham(notes), Was, OF – Five alive: 6-for-19 (.316), 4 HR, 4 RBI, 5 R in past 5

Grady Sizemore(notes), Cle, OF – 10-for-59 (.169), 0 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB, 17 K in past 13
Bobby Abreu(notes), LAA, OF – 6-for-34 (.176), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 4 SB in past 10
Andre Ethier(notes), LAD, OF – Where are you, Manny? 4-for-25 (.160), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R in past week

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Eric Byrnes(notes), Ari, OF (15%) – With Conor Jackson(notes) on the DL with the flu, Byrnes is expected to see steady outfield work in the interim. A member of the 25/25 club ('06) and 20/50 club ('07), the streaky Byrnes has caught fire with nine hits in his past 16 at bats (.563). May and June have, far and away, been the best months of Byrnes' career, so it's worth making a speculative play that that trend continues in '09.

Nolan Reimold(notes), Bal, OF – With Luke Scott(notes) dealing with a sore shoulder, Ryan Freel(notes) gone to Chicago and Felix Pie(notes) and Ty Wigginton(notes) sitting on sub-Mendoza Line batting averages, it's a pretty good time to be an age-ready (25) heralded outfield prospect for the O's, especially one that's leading the International League in SLG% (.713) and OBP (.479). Considering that Baltimore ranks 21st in the league with a .246 batting average against southpaws, you would think it would welcome a player hitting over .500 against lefties (.517) with open arms. I suspect the team will embrace their young, power righty pretty soon.


Three Up/Three Down
Brett Cecil(notes), Tor, SP – 1st 2 career starts (combined): 1 W, 0.64 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 12 K, 2 BB, 14 IP
Rick Porcello(notes), Det, SP – May: 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8 K, 12 IP
Eric Stults(notes), LAD, SP – May: 2-0, 1.23 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 9 K, 14.2 IP, CG

Felix Hernandez(notes), Sea, SP – May: 0-2, 9.90 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, 16 H, 11 K, 10 IP
Armando Galarraga(notes), Det, SP – May: 0-2, 9.00 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 5 BB, 5 K, 3 HR, 11 IP
Scott Kazmir(notes), TB, SP – Past 3: 1-2, 8.82 ERA, 2.15 WHIP, 9 BB, 13 K, 15.1 IP

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Kenshin Kawakami(notes), Atl, SP (22%) – Kawakami has been plagued by bad luck (.344 BABIP) and bases on balls (4.96 BB/9), thus far. The bad luck should even itself out over time, but Kawakami's lack of command comes as a surprise considering his Madduxian-like career in Japan – 1.92 BB/9. Despite the bumps in the road, Kawakami has pitched at least decently in all but an April 26 outing at Cincinnati in which he yielded eight runs in 4.2 innings. He's offering nice strikeout numbers (31 in 32.2 IP) and, to reiterate, the luck and control should only improve.

Tommy Hanson(notes); Kris Medlen, Atl, SP – Triple-A Gwinnett County boasts the top 1-2 pitching punch in the International League in Hanson (1.99 ERA, league-leading 57 K in 40.2 IP) and Medlen (league-leading 0.96 ERA, 44 K in 37.1 IP). Hanson is the one that will exercise fantasy owners' salivary glands the most, and rightfully so considering the nastiness of his stuff, but Medlen is no slouch, ranking as the Braves' No. 9 prospect by Baseball America entering the season. Medlen was converted from a reliever to a starter last season, so it's conceivable that Hanson could find a rotation spot and Medlen could serve in a relief capacity for the Braves in the coming weeks. Regardless, I'm guessing Jo-Jo Reyes(notes) (5.48 ERA) is none too comfortable at the moment.


I'll defer to my colleague, Andy Behrens, on this one. He puts out an excellent bullpen roundup – "Closing Thoughts" – each Monday in the Roto Arcade blog.

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