NL West(ern) Roundup
This week we will go around the division and breakdown top headlines after the first two weeks of the season…
“Is Archie Bradley the Ace Arizona is Searching For?”
Talk about being thrown into the fire! Archie Bradley made his long awaited MLB debut last Saturday (April 11th) at home and was opposed by the reigning NL Cy Young and MVP. He followed up his debut by pitching against the reigning World Series MVP in San Francisco. Let’s see how he did…
MLB Debut – 4/11/15 LAD @ ARI
Bradley W, 6 INN, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 0 HR
Kershaw L, 6.1 INN, 10 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR
Game 2 – 4/15/15 ARI @ SF
Bumgarner ND, 7 INN, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR
Bradley ND, 6.2, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR
Not only did Bradley hold his own, he flat out-pitched these Aces. After two starts, he has a 1.42 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 0.869 WHIP, 3.6 H/9, 0.0 HR/9, 4.3 BB/9 and 7.1 K/9. I realize this is a small sample size, but the fact that he was unfazed by the opponent or the divisional games. The only concerning stat is the 4.3 BB/9. This doesn’t come as a surprise with a career 4.9 BB/9 over four MiLB seasons. Eventually this will come back to bite him, but for now, all his numbers look spectacular. His next start pits him up against another #1, but not nearly in the same league as Kershaw and Madbum. He takes on Yovani Gallardo and the Texas Rangers on Wednesday 4/22/15. The Diamondbacks are out to a competitive start with a 6-5 record and Bradley’s ascension to the top of the rotation could determine how long they stay relevant within the division.
“The Cuban Import Crisis”
The handling of the $68M Cuban import, Yasmany Tomas, has just been baffling to me. There is no service time issue here, but Arizona sent him down to AAA Reno prior to the season. This was presumably in order to play everyday and get reps in the outfield, since he clearly wasn’t getting the hang of 3B. Fellow rookie, Jake Lamb, has been tearing it up over the first two weeks of the season with a slash line of .409/.500/.682 in 26 plate appearances. There is no room in the outfield with the effective Peralta/Inciarte platoon in LF, AJ Pollock in CF and Mark Trumbo in RF. Despite the logjam, he was recalled on on Thursday (4/16/15) and has only appeared as a pinch hitter. It’s not like he was crushing it in Reno. He was slashing .190/.261/.381 in 23 plate appearance. Obviously, dynasty and keeper leaguers have him stashed, but I see no reason to roster him in standard leagues at this point. Until the club clearly falls out of contention for the season, he likely won’t get much playing time in the Majors.
“Who Said You Can’t Pitch in Colorado?”
We all knew the Rockies could hit. Since the roster is relatively healthy at the moment, they are kicking ass and taking names at the plate. They are batting over .300 as a team and have nearly doubled the run production of their opponents. This is not just a testament to the dangerous lineup and thin air in the Mile “High” City. They are actually pitching respectably. Rookie, Eddie Butler, has been a pleasant surprise so far. In his first two starts, 1 W, 12 INN, 2 ER, 9 H, 10 BB, 6 K and 1 HR. His 1.64 ERA is tempting, but if you look at the deeper numbers, you question if this is sustainable. Yes, only two ER in 11 INN is excellent, but his FIP is a lofty 6.09 with 11:6 BB+HBP/K ratio. I picked him up in my Major League Fantasy Baseball league because I am short on starting pitching with Richards and Smyly yet to pitch this year. He is a good sell high candidate now as the advanced stats suggest he will not maintain this level of effectiveness. Until he improves his command, he will have his bad days which could cost you a loss in head-to-head leagues. More significantly for fantasy leagues, the Rockies have already made a move in their bullpen. They removed LaTroy Hawkins, who was on the Ark with Noah, and replaced him with 29 year old Adam Ottavino. The move paid immediate dividends as he closed out two saves in his first two chances. In 6 appearances this season he has 6.1 INN, 2 SV, 3 HLD, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 0 ER, 0 HR and 12 K. He is supporting an incredible 0.72 FIP and could be a considered a Top Tier Closer in the first group after Kimbrel and Chapman.
“Is there an Ace in the Hole?”
Clayton Kershaw, LAD – I waited for last to discuss this subject so I can take in Kershaw’s third start prior to publishing. He had two very human starts leading up to Friday night. Heading into the game he supported a 5.84 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 1.703 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9 and 10.2 K/9. His 16 Hits and 9 ER in 12.1 INN were completely unexpected and had people wondering if there was an injury or something going on. It’s fun to overreact in April as we brace for a long season. Kershaw owners can catch their collective breath as he picked up his 1st Win of the season late Friday night. He only got through 6 INN due to high pitch count, but he bounced back with only 1 ER despite giving up 2 HR. He was back to his dominant self with only 6 hits, 1 BB and 12 K. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with Kershaw last tonight and I fully expect him to be dominating most games going forward this season.
Madison Bumgarner, SF – Madbum has also gotten three starts under his belt in this young season. He threw a gem on Opening Day giving up just 1 ER over 7 INN. In his two subsequent starts, he was hit pretty hard. On the season, he has 17 INN, 5.29 ERA, 4.12 FIP, with only 5.8 K/9 and surprisingly 3 HBP. I’m not suggesting we panic after three starts for the season. However, I’m not as convinced he will dominate in the same way as he has over the last few seasons. He has pitched a ton of innings with deep playoff runs in three of the last five years. He has four consecutive 200+ INN seasons including 270 INN last year including the postseason. He doesn’t strike me as a Tommy John candidate, but it would not surprise me to see him wear down this season. It is an odd year so the Giants won’t make the playoffs and it seems like the Front Office was OK with this as they didn’t have a very active off-season. If he continues to labor through innings, the Giants may choose to limit his innings this season to get him ready for next year and a quest for a 4th straight World Series Championship, in even years. This sounds ridiculous, but proceed with caution this season with Madbum.
James Shields, SD – Shields has been the best pitcher in the division so far this year. He has three Quality Starts while posting 19 INN, 6 ER, 14 H, 2 HR, 5 BB and 24 K. Shields could be a Cy Young candidate this season, as he pitches half his starts in Petco Park, and with an improved lineup could get up to 20+ Wins. Those that drafted him this year will be rewarded. His next start will be a real test as he takes on The Rockies in Colorado on Wed, April 22. Start him with confidence in this game and against any lineup.
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