Divisional Round Up
Dodgers take two out of three games in San Diego – The Dodgers and Padres are looking to start a SoCal rivalry after the aggressive moves made by new Padres GM, AJ Preller. I’m not going to spend time discussing the early week blockbuster trade with the Braves that sent one of the games best Closers in Craig Kimbrel to San Diego. My colleague, Bryan Robinson, had an excellent breakdown of this trade in his NL East article published this week. I would rather take the time to look at fantasy takeaways from the series. If you just looked at the final scores, it wouldn’t appear that the games were that exciting. The Dodgers won both of their games by three runs and San Diego won their game by four runs. In actuality, Games One and Two were decided in late inning heroics after quality (but not particularly dominating) starts by the both club’s #1 and #2 starters. Game Three featured decisions by underwhelming #3 starters. This game was never really in doubt after the three HR game by AGone. I’m sure everyone knows that he hit five home runs in his first three games, but is the power really back? He hasn’t hit 30+ HRs since his last year in San Diego, in 2010. His OBP was 30 points higher during his five years in San Diego and Boston than his two plus years in Los Angeles. I was impressed that the power surge came in spacious Petco Park against quality pitchers. I think the jury is still out on whether he can return to MVP contention, but I have more confidence he can get to 30 HRs if he stays healthy. I know its only the first week of the season, but its worth noting that the Dodgers rank 2nd in the National League in OPS (.870) and the Padres finish in the top half at 7th (.650). Conversely, both teams currently rank in the back half of the league in Team ERA. The Padres come in at 9th (3.41) and the Dodgers are in 12th with a 5.00 ERA.
Giants take two of three games in the Desert – So I am not high on the defending Champion San Francisco Giants. Their lineup is by far the weakest in the division and there are many question marks in their rotation beyond Madison Bumgarner. Speaking of “MadBum,” he picked up right where he left off with a dominating performance in the season opener. He gave up one run, scattering six hits in seven innings. Arizona made it interesting in the 8th with a three run double by rookie Jake Lamb. He continued the hot hitting with a three run blast in game two. Both starters (Vogelsong and Rubby DeLaRosa) struggled as the Dbacks hung on to even the series up at one. The Giants took the rubber game due to a dominating performance from an unlikely source, rookie pitcher Chris Heston. He gave up zero earned runs in six innings with a FIP of 2.56 and WHIP of 0.833. In addition to this pleasant surprise, the Giants offense is scored over five runs per game in the opening series with a current OPS of .764 behind the efforts of Aoki, Posey, Pagan and Crawford. I still don’t see any of these guys not named Buster Posey producing at this level over the course of the season.
Rockies sweep three in Milwaukee – I knew the Rockies were going to hit this season. Top to bottom they have the best lineup in the division and it isn’t close. When you announce that your Opening Day starting pitcher is Kyle Kendrick, you don’t have a ton of confidence that your rotation is going to have a great season. The aforementioned Kendrick dazzled with seven shutout innings giving up seven hits, zero walks and six strikeouts. Overall, the Rockies outscored the Brew Crew 20-6 in the three game sweep. In Game Two
they got another quality start from Jordan Lyles. Lyles gave up just two earned runs, five hits and one walk on only 79 pitches in six innings of work. There wasn’t much in regards to strike outs, but if you had to start Lyles on your fantasy team at this point in the season you were thrilled that he gave you a quality start and earned positive points. In Game Three, rookie, Eddie Butler pitched well enough to win before the bullpen blew the save in the bottom of the ninth. Butler gave up only two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, but did show some control issues with a 5:4 strikeout to walk ratio. Overall, that was a positive sign after the disaster that his Major League debut was last year. The offense didn’t get the memo that the Rockies were trying to pitch this year. The heart of the lineup (except for Morneau) was crushing the ball in this opening series. The Rockies hit a staggering 16 doubles in the series in route to a MLB leading .559 Slugging%. Oft injured stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez had great starts, and rising starts Nolan Arenado and Corey Dickerson are both hitting well over .400 after the opening series. I love Arenado to really breakout and be a top 3B fantasy performer this season. He will have great protection in the lineup and plenty of guys on base in front of him if he continues to hit in the fifth slot. My primary concern with this lineup is the plate discipline. They will strikeout too often and not work the walk. Currently, the team sits at 16.2% K rate and 3.8% walk rate. The later is good for last place in all of baseball. They are an aggressive bunch, but this could cause them to slump for stretches throughout the season. I still am not deterred from stacking my fantasy team with Rockies’ hitters.
Upcoming Pitching Notables…
World Series Re-Match – Shields vs. Bumgarner
San Diego spent a ton of money this off-season so they could go toe-to-toe with the big arms of the NL West. “Big Game James” pitched well enough to win against reigning NL Cy Young and MVP Clayton Kershaw, and he gets another heavy hitter today against the reigning World Series MVP. This should be a low scoring affair as the first two games of this series have ended in a score of 1-0. This one may be the same. Both these pitchers should have big games today in a great pitcher’s park, with both lineups still trying to form some chemistry.
Cy Young vs. Top Prospect – Kershaw vs. Bradley
We know what Kershaw can do. We expect him to pitch a complete game shutout every start with 10+ Ks. He has set the bar so high that his Opening Day performance of a mere quality start (3 ER in 6 INN) with only 9 Ks and 2 BBs almost seems like a let down. I would expect him to bounce back with a big game today and rack up the Ks against this Diamondbacks lineup. The more intriguing story is the debut of top pitching prospect, Archie Bradley. This has been a long time coming for Diamondback fans. The athleticism is there, but he has had some command issues since recovering from an elbow strain. He features a plus fastball that can touch the high 90s and should sit consistently in the mid 90s. He compliments that pitch with a curve ball that flashes plus, but still developing, command. Last year was by far his worst in the minor leagues, but the Arizona brass liked what they saw in Spring Training enough to give him the final spot in the rotation when Patrick Corbin went down with TJ Surgery. I would probably take a wait and see approach with him in standard leagues. Deep Leagues need to start him despite the risk, as it could be worth the reward. He is definitely worth a flier in all leagues to at least hold a roster spot until we see how he responds.
ODRISAMER DESPAIGNE takes over for the injured Ian Kennedy for at least two starts
Despaigne was forced into emergency duty when Kennedy went down with a strained hamstring on Thursday. He was exceptional over 4 2/3 innings. He was perfect in retiring all 14 batters he faced. He is not likely to get you a ton of Ks (only 6.1 K/9 over 16 starts in 2014), but he is a nice fill-in for Ian Kennedy owners, steamers, or deep leagues.
Upcoming Hitting Notables…
Big Week Potential — Yasiel Puig, LAD
Puig has not had a great start to the season going 2 for 17 with six strikeouts. He has too much talent and passion to allow that to continue. He looks to feast on the rookie today, then he gets a favorable upcoming match up with Collmenter tomorrow, while missing King Felix when Seattle comes to the Southland for a three game series starting Monday. Look for him to get it going with bat and on the base paths. When he is going well, it is contagious and other Dodger hitters will follow suit. I don’t think any owner is sitting Puig regardless of his struggles, but this upcoming stretch could give you confidence that he will have a big year.
Big Bust Potential — Mark Trumbo, ARI
Trumbo has also had a rough start to the season. He has gone 3 for 16 with 5 Ks, although two of the hits were triples. He has a rough stretch ahead with Kershaw and Grienke up this weekend, followed by three young right-handed Padre pitchers. I’m not sure I would sit him unless you are in a super shallow league with plenty of other quality options, but be prepared for another disappointing week for Trumbo. The power will come eventually and he might run into one this week, but the deck is stacked against him.
Sleeper Potential — David Peralta, ARI
This is just a gut feeling. He is a lefty that may not play against a tough lefty (Kershaw), but the string of righties after that is intriguing. He is one of the few Dbacks that will take a walk. He’s off to a nice start reaching base four times in nine plate appearances. He could get you a home run and a steal, or two, this week. He might not have eye-popping numbers, but he can offer stats in all categories. He is a solid play in nearly all formats and could be a big play in deep leagues. This is a good week to get him in your lineup.
(Click the BLUE link below to listen)
Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday April 12th from 7-8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio network. We will take live callers at 646.915.8596