It is a fairly safe bet that all the teams in the AL East, except the Tampa Bay Rays, have enough offense to go deep into the postseason. The other four teams have a good amount of dysfunction built into their lineups as well, whether it be age, off field issues, injuries, inconsistency, or power hitters who are having trouble staying over the Mendoza Line. By September I think all four of those teams will have well (enough) running machines to keep them in the race. Where the men will separate themselves from the boys is in the pitching staffs. Not one of those teams started the season with a bona fide rotation, or a clear cut, iron clad ace leading the staff without some serious questions marks. I’ve already discussed the first month mess these teams have endured in their bullpens, and none are closer to a permanent solution. The pitching injuries continue to dominate the news in the East as well, both on the new injury, recurring injury, returning from injury, and in the case of Tanaka, the “I told you so!” injury fronts. I believe the team that most thoroughly and effectively solves these dilemmas, and can form some semblance of order and consistency in both performance and roles will win the East no matter what the offense does.
Speaking of dysfunctional. The early season non circus that the Yanks and A-Rod fell into may be good for Joe Girardi, who just wants to win, and for us fans and fantasy baseball enthusiasts who just want our teams to win. But the entire handling of the “Ssssshhhhhhhhhhhh, Sssssshhhhhhhhhhhh A-Rod tied Willie Mays but don’t tell anyone” debacle is, well, just that. This is not the forum for me to discuss my own personal opinions on the steroid problem and the debate over what to do with the “tainted” milestones, records, and otherwise HOF eligible, era dominating, convicted abusers. I will comment on what the handling of these issues does to us as baseball fans. There have been *asterisks* in baseball since the year I was born. Yes, that was the year that Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season record of 60 HR by hitting 61 in, hold onto your seats now, about ten more games. A good old fashioned era debate between two players (Ruth & Maris) who were clearly different players playing in different times is fun bar room banter. But how are we supposed to process the asterisks that have been created in this “steroid” era of records and stats, and what are we supposed to do with a Hall of Fame that does not include the all time hits leader, all time HR leader, single season HR leader, etc, etc? I don’t pretend to know the effects of PEDS on performance, or the extent to which these players used them, so my only choice is to dismiss the Hall of Fame and the Record Books as irrelevant until someone smarter than me can sort it out for us. I don’t know who’s fault it is, but it saddens me nonetheless. I’ll probably read about and care as little about future HOF elections as I do now about Home Run Derby’s and All Star Games. I feel bad for you if you have a child that you bring to Cooperstown when it comes time to explain to him how “these guys over here did better than those guys over there, but see these little star-shaped things, let me explain those to you sonny boy. Or we could just go to the zoo instead if you’d rather.” I don’t know the answer, I’m just saddened by it.
By the way, if you didn’t hear about it, Alex Rodriguez tied Willie Mays for 4th place on the All Time HR list, with his 660th blast this past Friday in Boston. It was a game winning pinch HR. Next on the list is Babe Ruth himself at 714, then Hank Aaron, then, um, damn I can’t remember who the other one is, but there is a little star shaped thing next to his picture. The Yanks chose NOT to announce the milestone, stop the game and grab the ball, or let the crowd give him an ovation. The Yanks say it was not because they are trying to get out of paying millions of dollars in marketing based incentive bonuses, because, well, GM Brian Cashman says they are not in his contract anyway. They did, however, publicly announce that he is getting closer to the next guy on the All Time Runs list. I had tuned out by then so I don’t know who it is or how far away A-Rod is from him. Sadly, I don’t care anymore. I guess Peds help you hit HR but don’t help you score runs. The Yanks certainly made a statement, but I can’t understand what it was or why they made it?
Most of the news this week revolves around pitching.
Toronto Blue Jays:
The Jays are still patching it together while waiting for the likes of SS Jose Reyes to heal and the big guys to start hitting like they can. Ryan Goins is doing enough for the Jays to hold down SS, but he won’t help your team. The Jays got a big scare when their best 2015 hitter and ROY candidate, Devon Travis, went down with chest pain. No, he didn’t suffer a heart attack, but they feared he had a broken collar bone. X-Rays were negative, so the Jays (& 65 Mustangs) breathed a sigh of relief. He was back on the field the next day.
The Bullpen continues to play musical chairs, moving Marco Estrada into the rotation to replace Norris and swapping underperforming closers Brett Cecil and Sanchez once again. Estrada is a useful match ups play if used correctly, but remember, he gave up 29 HR in approx 145 MLB innings in 2014. Don’t rush to be the first to grab him. Few owners dropped Cecil when he was demoted, to their credit, and few should give up on Sanchez either. This is still a fluid situation, but I apologize to all for my bold endorsement of Sanchez in my last article. Later that night he blew a save, and I found out his leash was shorter than I thought. His picture will not be here for a third week in a row.
Hitter to Watch: Jose Bautista, OF, DH – Bautista is nursing a sore shoulder that landed him the DH role for at least a week. At least his bat is still in the lineup, as he has finally pulled his average up over the Mendoza line. This is good news for Kevin Pillar, who is hitting just enough to stay fantasy relevant in deep leagues, and bad news to Justin Smoak, who now has nowhere to play. It is not like many of you had him in your lineup anyway. Hopefully Bautista can return to the field soon without setback.
Pitcher to Watch: Drew Hutchison, SP – I joined the “Drew Hutchinson is going to break out this season” bandwagon with a lot of other people. He may still, but right now he is in trouble. He has not gone more than 4 innings in 4 of his 6 starts, and gave up 6 or more runs in 3 of them. He is also walking too many and has just been generally inconsistent. Deep League Hold, Shallow League Drop.
On the Farm: Dalton Pompey, OF, Daniel Norris, SP – Dalton Pompey received a lot of preseason attention, especially from those league mates of yours who fall in love with the rookies who win a job out of Spring Training. He only hit .193, was clearly over matched, and demoted to AAA. He’ll be back. Norris did not pitch horribly for the most part, and I’m sure he’ll be back soon enough. He did get rocked twice in his last three outings and could not get out of the third inning in either.
Hello? He’ll be back on the wire in a league near you soon.
Ubaldo Jimenez had another sterling performance last week, giving up 3 hits, a walk, and 6 k’s over 7 shutout innings. Two weeks ago he gave up 4 runs in 5 innings at Tor, but in his other three starts he’s pitched 17.2 shutout innings with 4 hits, 5 walks and 20 strikeouts. This is a no brainer, guys. Pick him up and put him on the mound for his next start and take it one day, er five days at a time after that. It won’t be hard to drop him, as you’ll already have your hand on the dungeon trap door before he even walks in the clubhouse. Some of you may be too young to remember this, but in 2010 Ubaldo won 19 games with a 2.88 ERA and well over 200 k’s. This season his ERA is lower, his walk rate is far lower, and that K rate is the same.
Hitter to Watch: Crush Davis – He had a good week hitting 3 Homers, though he is still K’ing at a 36% clip, which is worse than last season. Last week I said he is ready to break out (Yes, that was a shameless pat on the back to make myself feel better about the Jays closer situation that I botched last week).
Pitcher to Watch: Chris Tillman, SP – Tillman was the 9th most dropped SP last week in the ESPN game, with his ownership now under 50%
Hello? A few weeks ago he was generally regarded as the O’s best SP
Tamp Bay Rays:
The good news in Tampa is that Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jake McGee are throwing and eyeing mid May to mid June returns to the team. I’m not looking for Moore to be the ace right away, but he doesn’t have to be with Archer pitching so well. I will definitely not try to predict what will happen in the bullpen when McGee comes back, but the way they have been running the pen so far this year, there is no doubt in my mind he will be eased back in. Nate Karns pitched far better than his previous start, allowing two hits, a walk and no runs, but only made it through 5 innings. With Alex Colome off to a good start and 2 injured starters back soon, Karns will need to move the needle if he intends to stay in the big league rotation. The pen has actually been great so far with their committee approach, with three different relievers logging saves and a new name rising up the chain in Steve Geltz. Geltz has a Win, Save and Hold in the last two weeks, with a great strikeout to walk rate. He still has a gaggle of relievers ahead of him, but he is rounding out that pen nicely.
Evan Longoria, Kevin Kiermaier, and Logan Forsythe all hit over .300 last week, but provided little in the counting stats. The rest of the offense hit below the Mendoza line, also with little in the counting stats. If your offense has lots of Rays on it, you are in trouble.
Hitter to Watch: Desmond Jennings, OF – Jennings hit the DL with Bursitis in his knee, but the Jays do not consider it serious. He was starting to hit well and steal bases too, so hang tight.
Pitcher to Watch: Alex Colome, SP – Colome signed with the Rays when he was 18 and has been in their system 9 years now. He has double digit K-Rates and improved both his home run and walk rates the last few years. He still needs to cut the walks way down, but I think he could be here to stay. His debut was five innings of three hit, zero walk, six K shutout ball. I picked him up today in two leagues.
On the Farm: Grant Balfour, RP – No sooner did the Rays DFA Balfour then they re-signed him to a minor league contract to try and either work out his kinks, or hook on with another team. That move made me feel better about the way his Spring went.
New York Yankees:
Go ahead and say it. You told me so. Masahiro Tanaka hit the DL last week with a sore forearm and wrist tendinitis. The Yanks and Tanaka swear it is precautionary,.
and that his elbow is fine. I believe them. Go ahead, start chanting again.
Go ahead and say it. I told you so. Dellin Betances was left in for the 4-out save this time. Girardi takes my advice all the time. He did say it would still be a mix-and-match and sure enough, Andrew Miller got the save tonight in game three of a YANKEES SWEEP in Boston. Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that so loud. We’ll take this as a step in the right direction. The pen’s middle relievers, Esmil Rogers and Chris Martin, have been superb as well, with lots of K’s in multi innings efforts. Rogers pirated a win and Martin a save, but other than the K’s, they don’t offer much in the counting stats. Chase Whitley will likely be in the “Pitcher to Watch” section next week. His first start went well, but I need to see more.
Hitter to Watch: I scoured the news and the reports coming out of Yankeeland, and it appears nothing of any significance happened this week in NY from a hitting standpoint.
Pitcher to Watch: CC Sabathia, SP – In my last article, “Mayday, Mayday,” I described how CC Sabathia always starts slow, and why I won’t start him in April. Just like clockwork, CC Sabathia pitched one of his best games this season on May 1st – 6 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 3 SO and 2 R, in Boston no less. His velocity is still down and he is giving up some HR, but he needs to step up now with Tanaka on the DL.
On the Farm: Rob Refsnyder, 2b, Chris Capuano, SP/RP – If you are wondering why Stephen Drew keeps looking over his shoulder, it is not just from the many double plays he has been turning of late. Rob Refsnyder is raking in AAA after a slow start. Last week he hit .416 with 4 doubles and 6 RBI on his current 6 game hitting streak. How far does Drew think his 4 homers will carry him? Chris Capuano is starting a rehab assignment in A ball this week. He is good depth and insurance but does not contribute much in Fantasy.
Boston Red Sox:
The Sox lineup is showing us once again why they are going to score a lot of runs this season. Hanley hit 4 bombs this week with 9 RBI; Papi Ortiz hit over .400, but with little power; Sandoval hit 2 HR; and finally Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval are hitting like Ted Williams. That makes it easier to absorb Xander Bogaerts’s 4 for 23 week.
There was more inconsistency from the pitching all around. Someone has to step up.
Hitter to Watch: Mookie Betts, OF – The Sox love him and he patrols the Fenway Park OF like it is his back yard. However, his Batting Average has dropped to .221 and he has not stolen a base in weeks. That breath he may start to feel on his neck is that of Rusney Castillo, if Rusney gets to smacking the ball like he can.
Pitcher to watch: Clay Buchholz, SP – Buchholz gave up 4 runs in only 2.2 innings on Monday vs Toronto. He’s been brilliant twice, average once, and got rocked twice now this season. If the Sox can’t trade for Hamels or another ace, Buchholz will have to step up as an ace to lead this team, as I doubt any of the other in house options can be that guy.
On the farm: Blake Swihart, C – He is likely up to stay after Ryan Hanigan’s injury, since there is really no other catcher you could say is ahead of him right now, even when Hanigan comes back. I would not expect him to be a major fantasy force just yet, though. He’s got average power and a decent BA, so it depends on what you are looking for, but there are other catchers on the wire with more experience already doing that. That is the safe approach. If you want to take a chance that there is more there, go for it.
Pitching grabs for next week: Bolded pitchers are two start pitchers for the week.
Mon: Clay Buchholz – BOS vs TB, Chase Whitley – NYY @ Tor
Tue: Michael Pineda – NYY @ Tor, Rick Porcello – Bos vs TB
Wed: Ubaldo Jimenez – Bal @ NYM, Justin Masterson – Bos vs TB, CC Sabathia – NYY @ Tor (Hey it is May!)
Thu: Chris Archer – TB vs Tex, Nathan Eovaldi – NYY vs Bal
Fri: Wade Miley – BOS @ Tor
Sat: Jake Odorizzi – TB vs Tex, Chase Whitley – NY vs Balt, Joe Kelly – Bos @ Tor
Sun: Michael Pineda – NYY vs Bal, Clay Buchholz – BOS @ Tor, Drew Smyly – TB vs Tex
(Click the BLUE link to listen to the show)
Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday May 10th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. Our topics this week will be the N.L. East and N.L. Central.