A Cy Young in the making highlights this week’s edition.
Before I get started, just a quick note to remind you to tune in to hear Rick Wolf and me on Colton and the Wolfman on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio (Sirius 210 XM 87) Tuesday nights from 8pm-11pm ET – all the fantasy baseball news as it is happening and the strategy tidbits you cannot get anywhere else.
Adam Wainwright: Adam Wainwright was great yesterday, tossing a complete game while striking out 10. Exhibit A in the Cardinal righty’s Cy Young application: an absurd 84/6 K/BB ratio for the season. I doubt there is anyone dumb enough in your league who would trade the Cardinal righty for anything other than a steep premium, but it is worth a try. Roto lesson – talented pitchers in their second year post TJ surgery are strong bets for big performances. See Zimmermann, Jordan 2012. [P.S. – shout out here to Stephania Bell at ESPN. The injury expert who we were lucky enough to have on Colton and the Wolfman last week predicted Wainwright’s great 2013 way back in early March. Nicely done].
B.J. Upton B.J. Upton got two hits yesterday. Ordinarily, that would not be news, however, when one is hitting an abysmal .150 (yes, not a typo – that was his average before the two hits yesterday), any hit is newsworthy. A couple of thoughts are worth mentioning. First, the Colton and the Wolfman rules of engagement say do not pay full price for high priced free agents playing their first year for a new team. Those players invariably struggle early and thus have no chance of returning enough yearlong value to justify your huge investment. Second, with 4 months left in the season, BJ is a player who will decide many fantasy leagues. Smart owners will hold knowing that his bad stats are in the book and better stats are on the way. Really smart owners with a batting average problem anyway will pay 75 cents on the dollar and get player who will provide speed and power at a below market price. This will be interesting to watch.
Jerome Williams: Jerome Williams pitched well again yesterday, holding the Astros to two runs and three hits over seven innings. Thus far in 2013, Jerome is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA. Should the Halos keep Jerome in the rotation? Yes sir. Will they? Probably not. My guess is that Blanton and Hanson keep their spots and Williams does not return to the rotation until the next injury hits. So, what do you do if you own Williams? You hold and hope. If a team is willing to pay full value now assuming he will continue to start, trade at the top of the market and consider yourself fortunate to have both booked good stats and gotten value going forward.
Mike Leake: Mike Leake outdueled Francisco Liriano yesterday, shutting out the Pirates for 6 innings. Leake, who beat out Tony Cingrani for the last spot in the Cincy rotation after Cueto’s return, has been on fire – only one ER in his last 27 innings. So, the question is whether Leake has hopped to the next level or is at the edge of a correction cliff? My answer: he has hit the next level. Leake is 25 and has been around for a while. Thus, his supposed previous plateau is a bit false. Moreover, no advance stat says Leake is due for a correction. Indeed, his BABIP this year is 17 HIGHER than his career average. Bottom line – buy while you still can.
Rafael Betancourt: In bad news for the Rockies and some fantasy owners, Rafael Betancourt’s groin injury has landed him on the DL. There is no reason to think that Betancourt will miss a ton of time here but at 38, the risks of a slow recovery are clearly greater. While Rafael sits, Rex Brothers will take the ball in the 9th inning. Rex has been great this year but of course his 0.36 ERA cannot last. With a K per inning and high powered offense, Brothers should rack up a few saves over the next two weeks. Buy!
Eric Hosmer: Eric Hosmer repaid some of his debt to fantasy owners yesterday, going 3-5 with a stolen base. No doubt EH has been a big disappointment to fantasy owners who expected 5 category production from the 3rd year 1B. While many are down on Hosmer, I say it is time to buy while the market is depressed. Even in a down year last year, Hosmer delivered 16 SB and 14 HR. Given that he is making more contact, hitting for a higher average (.270 this year, .232 last year), his contact rate is up a tad, strikeout rate is unchanged and he is raking against lefties, there are many reasons for optimism. Is he going to deliver a 25-25 season in 2013? No. Is he going to outproduce what it costs to roster him on June 2? Yes. Act accordingly.
Jonathan Lucroy: Jonathan Lucroy is on fire. The Brewer catcher launched his sixth homer Saturday -- his third in the last two days. While it has been a while in coming, Lucroy is finally starting to show why he was one of the higher ranked catchers in March. Last year, Lucroy hit .320 with 12HR in just 312 AB. The power pace is the same as he has 6 HR in 160 AB. However, his current .259 average is depressed and thus, he could be a bargain opportunity for smart fantasy players and readers of this column alike. Lucroy’s BABIP currently sits at 50 points below his career average, so a correction is coming. Add in the fact that his contact rate is up and strikeout rate is down and you have every reason to believe he will have 4 months of 2013 better than the first two. Buy.
And last and but not least, this from the Baron of the Bottom of the Page -- Schultz says: “Only two months ago, everyone seemed very interested in where Kyle Lohse would end up for the 2013 season. This seems strange as Lohse has a career 4.46 ERA and 1.37 WHIP and has never been thought of as a strikeout maven. If you needed to look for a reason why the roto-world would collectively lose its mind over a subpar pitcher - and don't give me some "deep league" rationalization - it's because he spent 2012 in the bounteous garden of starting pitching: St. Louis. Pitchers like Lohse and Jake Westbrook have come from the American League and turned into useful roto-pitching options. Don't get Schultz wrong (yes, third person this week), St. Louis doesn't turn pitchers into Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander but if you are stuck for starting pitching, simply grabbing whatever Cardinal starter is available will usually work out well.
This advice may go double for their homegrown talent. Adam Wainwright has battled back from injury to regain his position as a top-notch roto-option and Lance Lynn should avoid last year's summer swoon and be a significant cog in any roto-rotation. (yes, overusing the roto-prefix this week too). The true gems for 2013 look to be the youngsters. After a slight hiccup - cause he was only 21 - Shelby Miller is living up to his hype with a 2.02 ERA, .98 WHIP and a strikeout per inning and Trevor Rosenthal, the guy Miller beat out for the #5 spot in the Cardinals' rotation, has settled in nicely in the Cards' pen striking out 39 over 26 innings while putting up a 2.08 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. In a perfect world, Rosenthal would be closing and it wouldn't be surprising to see him replace Edward Mujica by year's end, even though the Cards' latest reclamation project has 17 saves and a .58 WHIP.
After reading this little mash note to the Cardinals pitching staff, you've figured out that Schultz is telling you to grab Michael Wacha if he's on your waiver wire, haven't you?”
Response: I actually chuckle at the third person method. Nice. Interesting that Schultz and I both lead with Cardinal pitching despite having our sections in the bag before seeing the other’s prose. Not sure what to make of that!