Yes, the last week of April is here, week four of the MLB season is upon us. Time to hike up a mountain, rake the yard, drop the grass seed and fertilizer, and plant our gardens for the long hot summer ahead. We are not sure what our yards will look like in August, but we will plant and water our best seeds in hopes that it all comes together in time for a good showing come September. Conventional baseball theory says that the stars and other hyped players have another month to prove themselves before anyone should give up on them, just like the seedlings that are drooping now from lack of rain have another month as well. Us fantasy owners have a shorter leash and normally use May 1st as the day that we give up on underperforming players in favor of new and hot flavors. The AL East has plenty of players on the bubble, from Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia of the Yanks, to Chris Tillman and Steve Pearce of the O’s. We also have disappointments, such as Evan Longoria, Manny Machado, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, though none of us are asking for their heads just yet. So, who will I be watching over the next couple of weeks? Let’s take a look.
Boston Red Sox:
If this seemingly slapped together, but talented, offensive unit ever gels and figures out their roles, watch out! But that is only if Papi and some others start to hit or it will not matter. Of course if none of the starting pitchers steps forward or the Sox fail to land Cole Hamels from the Phils, then it won’t matter what the offense does anyway. There is still a lot to talk about in beantown either way from a fantasy perspective.
Hitter to Watch: Hanley Ramirez, LF – It is not a surprise to this writer, but Hanley has been the best hitter on the Red Sox so far this season. The biggest surprise to me is that he is still the full time left fielder, but that is another story. Sure it is a small sample size, but 6 HR, 13 RBI and a near .300 average give hope of a return to his Florida days, albeit without the SB. He is only 31-years-old.
Pitcher to watch: Boston Bullpen – Koji Uehara got off to a good start once he was activated, and it was a welcome change from Edward Mujica who could have run away with the closer role, but didn’t. Uehara blew a nasty save on April 25th and has shown himself in the recent past to be fragile. Junichi Tazawa is a good set up man, but I expect nothing more than that at this point in his career. The reliever I want to watch now is Alexi Ogando. He’s battled injuries, but we know he has the tools. He’s pitched in eight games so far and if you take away his one three-run hiccup, in 7 IP he has given 0 R, with 7 K and only 2 BB (in the one bad inning). I’m not about to say he leads the Sox in saves as I already anointed that pressure onto Mujica, but if I had the space on my roster, he’d be on it.
Toronto Blue Jays:
The pitching is trying to prove that a team can win the East with a mediocre starting five, even if the Sox can’t. I don’t know what that means, but it is hard to think of any of them as more than a spot starter, Mark Buehrle’s 3 wins not withstanding.
Hitter to Watch: Josh Donaldson – Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are hitting under the Mendoza Line, but I’m sure they will come around at some point, soon. Donaldson, who I have admittedly never really believed in, has been hitting just fine. He is already 100% owned of course, but I thought he should be acknowledged. Edwin and Joey Batts might make for good trade targets if you have the right impatient owner across the table from you. No, Donaldson won’t keep hitting .350, probably more like .275-.280, but his average the last two seasons of 27 HR and 96 RBI may be low for 2015. That is still the best power trio in Major League Baseball.
Pitcher to Watch: Miguel Castro, RP – The closer’s role is Miguel’s to win or lose right now. There is really no other competition on the Jay’s roster (Did anyone really ever buy into Brett Cecil Closer?). I’m not saying that he can’t blow it, but right now he is the only Toronto reliever worth owning unless your league rewards MR’s which keeps Jason Frasor relevant.
While the O’s seem to have more holes than they did in 2014, never count out Buck Showalter. Sometimes a player just needs to be used correctly, like the Yanks Chris Young, and Buck is proving that once again with the trio of Travis Snider, Alejandro De-Aza and Delmon Young. He is getting more out of them than any of us will ever be able to get out of them in a fantasy sense, as we don’t know what Buck knows. If you own any of them you must watch the O’s pregame show every day. I wish the same could be said for Manny Machado. The O’s need him to start hitting badly.
Pitching is a mess and if Chris Tillman and Bud Norris don’t turn it around soon, it will be a long summer in Camden Yards.
Hitter to Watch: Adam Jones, CF – I don’t know if it lasts or if it is enough to get the O’s into the post season, but I predict that Jones will have an MVP season in 2015, if not the best season of his career. Every hitter has their best career season at some point, and why not now in his age 31 season?
Pitcher to Watch: Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Wei Yin Chen, SP, Miguel Gonzalez, SP – With Chris Tillman pitching horribly and Bud Norris pitching like he doesn’t even belong in MLB, it makes the lines of these three journeymen that much more fun and interesting. Gonzalez’s last two starts remind us that he is still a back end of the rotation spot starter at best, which is all Chen is at this point as well. But, Ubaldo is getting more interesting every day. He will not be on the wire much longer unless he starts giving up the gopher balls.
Tamp Bay Rays:
It is sad when the most talked about hitter on the team is Kevin Kiermaier, who is already starting to come back to earth. I’m as disappointed as Tampa fans and any fantasy Longo owners with his slow start, though I’m optimistic it is still just a slow start. On the pitching front, the reinforcements can’t come soon enough, as the replacements are showing the cracks we all expected. This is certainly not a playoff contender and they may have to fight to stay out of the basement in 2015.
Hitter to Watch: Tim Beckham, 2b – I’m not sure where they will play the former 1st round pick, Tim Beckham, eventually, but the Rays need to get him at bats. Asdrubal Cabrera will get his at bats, but does anyone think of Logan Forsythe as a force to keep Beckham down? No, me neither. So the question is whether to give Beckham SS, his natural position, and move Cabrera to 2b, or let Beckham break in at 2b? As long as he keeps hitting, I don’t care where they play him as he already has 2B/SS eligibility.
Pitcher to Watch: Chris Archer, SP – If the season ended right now, which I realize it doesn’t, Chris Archer would get Cy Young votes. Right now he is pitching as well as anyone in the AL with a 1.07 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 30 K in 25 IP. He is not Bob Gibson, so the ERA/WHIP are not sustainable, but the K rate is. The Rays need to score him some runs to move the W-L needle, but I think Archer’s time has arrived.
New York Yankees:
I’m still in a quandary over the closer situation. Miller continues to close, mostly well, and Betances continues to pitch lights out in the 8th inning. But on Tuesday, April 21, the opposite happened. Betances came in to relieve Nate Eovaldi, after Nate put a batter on, and promptly put the Tigers away with 2 K on only 10 pitches. At that point it was still a save situation (4-1), so why not just let Betances finish the job? Nope, instead of bringing Miller in to finish off the Tigers like a closer should, Girardi brought in Chris Martin of all people to protect what was now a 5-1 lead. Martin gave up 2 hits and was relieved by Miller after 2/3 IP with two left on, in what was once again a save situation. Miller promptly walked two batters, including walking in the Tigers 2nd run, before finally getting the final out and notching the erstwhile save. Can we name Betances the closer already?
Offensively the Yanks are surprising, despite the weak batting averages, mainly due to some long ball heroics by Tex, A-Rod and of all people, Stephen Drew. Didi Gregorious is starting to show his defensive prowess, which does not help in most fantasy formats, but will keep him in the lineup. Finally Jacoby Ellsbury tweaked his hip Saturday and missed Sunday’s game. Let’s hope it is a tweak and nothing more.
Hitter to Watch: Mark Teixeira/Carlos Beltran – This is a tandem of players moving in opposite directions. I picked up Beltran after another team dropped him last week. I dropped him today, but it saddened me. He seems to be a shell of himself, and whether it be age or injury, until it turns around I can’t recommend rostering him, let alone starting him. Tex on the other hand is hitting HR at a pace better than he ever has. No, he can’t sustain it, but, if he gives us 25-30 HR and 80-100 RBI, who will not be happy with that even if he only bats .240?
Pitcher to Watch: Nate Eovaldi, SP – No, this kid does not show signs of being an Ace anytime soon, but that is OK. The Yanks already have two aces and a former one. Eovaldi is only 25 and is doing two things that I love to see. His 7.3 K/9 and his SO% are both career bests at this point in 2015, and his 2.6 BB/9, while not stellar, is well below his career average. His HR% and XBH% (extra base hit percentage) are also trending toward his best ever, and he has a great Double Play percentage which may point to the Yanks superior defense helping him. All this while surviving a .411 BABIP. So, he has a great 3.12 ERA, but a pedestrian, if not horrible, 1.673 WHIP. I’m not ready to own him yet, but I won’t be hesitant to throw him in anytime the matchup looks good.
Pitching grabs for next week: Bolded pitchers are two start pitchers for the week.
Mon: Ubaldo Jimenez, Bal vs. Chisox; Joe Kelly, Bos vs. Tor
Tue: Chris Tillman, Bal vs. Chisox; Chase Whitley, NYY vs TB
Wed: Mike Gonzalez, Bal vs Chisox; Rick Porcello, Bos vs Tor
Thu: Daniel Norris, Tor @ Cle
Fri: Chris Archer, TB @ Bal; Wei Yin Chen, Bal vs TB; Mark Buehrle, Tor @ Cle
Sat: Aaron Sanchez, Tor @ Cle
Sun: Ubaldo Jimenez, Bal vs TB; Drew Hutchinson, Tor @ Cle
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