“That’s Amore!” National League Central: Fantasy Focus Week 5
Can anyone stop St. Louis? Even after losing Wainwright for the season, the Cardinals are winning games and sport the best record in Major League Baseball. Last week, they pulled off six victories in seven tries. It’s starting to make sense why I picked them to win the NL Central. Third baseman Matt Carpenter is making a huge case for the NL MVP, as well as Michael Wacha for the NL Cy Young. I know it’s early into the season, but these two players have been unstoppable. Carpenter currently owns a .365 average with 35 hits and 22 runs scored. He’s been a fantasy MVP and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. On the mound, Wacha has gone 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He’s easily settled in as the number one starter for the Cards. They start this week off with four games against the second place Chicago Cubs. It’s a great first glimpse of how far off the Cubs are from making waves in their division and Major League Baseball. Every game will matter against the NL Central favorites.
Miserable in Milwaukee
After a 7-18 start, Ron Roenicke has been removed as skipper of the Milwaukee Brewers. Former 16-year veteran Craig Counsell has been tabbed as Roenicke’s replacement. I wish Counsell nothing but luck, and let’s face it, he’s going to need it. Everyone knows general managers and head coaches take a lot of the heat from poor performances, but is it always their fault? Mike Ditka once said, “Players have to perform once they step onto a field.” I believe this to be true. Regardless of a coach, players have to perform to their abilities. At times, managers are dealt horrible cards and have to make due with sub par players. This is exactly what is happening in Milwaukee. Their lone bright spot has been off-season acquisition Adam Lind. He’s hit a respectable .318, with four home runs, and a team leading 13 RBI. If Counsell still has the bat speed, maybe they should have him as a player-manager. They need a shot in the arm from somewhere. Management has stated they want to contend now. They need to face the facts they need to rebuild. Ryan Braun is almost unmovable with five years, $96 million left on his contract. Not to mention, there is a $15 million mutual option with a $4 million buyout. Of the Brewers, Lind, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Gerardo Parra, Jean Segura, and Carlos Gomez are the only players that hold value on the trade market. Gomez would probably bring the biggest return.
Week 4 Fantasy Studs
Dexter Fowler [CF – CHC]: Fowler had a pretty solid week hitting .375 with two runs, two RBI, and three stolen bases. It brought his average up to his career mark of .270. Owned in close to 60% of fantasy leagues, Fowler has been a nice second-tier source of stolen bases. He currently has seven on the early season.
Brandon Phillips [2B – CIN]: His best days are long gone, but Phillips has managed to produce early on in the season. In week four, Phillips lead the Reds with a .348 average while driving in six runs. If you weren’t able to jump on Devon Travis early, Phillips could be a nice addition if you’re looking for production from the second base position. As with Zack Cozart, ride the production while it lasts.
Jung Ho Kang [SS – PIT]: I jumped on the Kang bandwagon early and drafted him in a few fantasy leagues. I can honestly say, he’s no longer on a single team of mine. I’m not a fan of Jody Mercer, and I thought Kang would be able to steal at-bats from Mercer often. Last week, Kang came alive hitting his first career MLB home run, to go along with five hits, three runs batted in, and a .417 average. Rarely do Asian power hitters show the same success when they come to the States, and Kang lead the Korean league with 40 home runs, 117 RBI, and a .356 average. Temper your expectations, but if he’s finally figured out American pitching, he could be a nice waiver wire addition. For a side note, Pittsburgh had four starting pitchers with a batting average over .300. I know this doesn’t help in fantasy formats, but it gives the Pirates an advantage if their pitcher isn’t an automatic out.
Matt Adams [1B – STL]: Adams came alive last week for 12 hits in 28 at-bats. His .429 average lead the Cardinals, as did his one home run and seven RBI. He’s been a steady fantasy source this year as his average is just about .300, with three home runs, and 15 RBI. He still can’t hit left-handed pitching, but he’s crushing righties. As with many St. Louis Cardinals players, Adams is a great play for a red hot Cardinals offense.
Jon Lester [SP – CHC]: It’s official, after five starts Lester has finally picked up his first win with Chicago. He did so in great fashion throwing seven scoreless innings of three-hit, four strikeout baseball. This is the kind of production the Cubs need consistently. Again, run support wasn’t there as the lone run came from Addison Russell’s first career home run.
Jason Marquis [SP – CIN]: Marquis seems to be the starter to replace Homer Bailey for the season. Bailey is to have season-ending Tommy John surgery, and Marquis made his case to stay in the rotation. In two starts, Marquis went 2-0. His ERA was a respectable 3.14. He was provided great run support, and if he can use his slick veteran ways, Marquis could become a great spot start in fantasy leagues. He faces the struggling Chicago White Sox on Friday. Playing in hitter friendly U.S. Cellular Field, if the Reds’ bats come alive Marquis could easily get his third straight win.
Mike Fiers [SP – MIL]: I said stay away from Fiers, but if you were an owner that went out on a limb and started Fiers against the Cubs, you were handsomely rewarded. Fiers went for 12 strikeouts while only surrendering one run. To make matters worse for the Cubs, they totaled 18 strikeouts. Fiers gets the Dodgers on Thursday, and I’d say we won’t see the same result.
Zac Rosscup [RP – CHC]: Rosscup has pitched phenomenal out of the bullpen this season. In nine appearances he’s sported a 0.93 ERA with 12 strikeouts to one walk. In two games last week, the hard-throwing lefty threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts and zero walks. Thus far, he’s been the 2015 version of Neil Ramirez. If you’re in a league that rewards relief pitchers, other than closers, Rosscup is a guy to keep an eye on. The Cubs have always managed to find at least one stud lefty reliever, and Rosscup may be the next one.
Favorite Matchups Week 5
Travis Wood: [@ STL & @ MIL] Wood has been consistent since beating Edwin Jackson for a spot in the Cubs’ rotation. He’s 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA. His 26:6 K:BB ratio has been a bright addition for the lefty. Yes, the Cardinals’ offense has been on fire, but I really like Wood and the young Cubs in this game. They’re ready to show the world they aren’t afraid of any team in the NL Central.
Carlos Martinez: [vs. CHC & @ PIT] Thus far, Martinez is 3-0 with four quality starts. He’s been sensational, posting a 1.73 ERA with 24 strikeouts to 10 walks. He’s been able to manage his walks, and gets two good matchups against division foes. Monday night’s game against the Cubs is my game of the week, featuring Martinez versus Travis Wood. I give the edge to Martinez, but I predict a low scoring affair. He switched his number to “18” this season to honor late friend and former teammate Oscar Taveras. He’s been nothing short of spectacular through four starts and five total appearances.
Andrew McCutchen: [vs. CIN] His .193 average won’t last much longer. He’s due to break out of his slump, and I believe it starts Tuesday against division rival Cincinnati. He’s too good of a hitter to keep this up all season. He faces rookie Michael Lorenzen, Mike Leake and Anthony DeSclafani. Leake and DeSclafani have been exceptional, but they aren’t near the caliber of top National League starting pitchers. If a fantasy owner is on tilt, now could be the perfect time to make a deal to land the heart and soul of the Buccos.
Joey Votto: [@ Pitt & @ CWS] I’m biting my tongue after ripping on Votto before the season started. He’s healthy and as good as he’s ever been. He looks like he lost around 10 lbs, but says he lost three, if any. The slimmer, healthy Votto has absolutely demolished pitching, sporting a .323 average with seven home runs and 17 RBI. His four stolen bases have been a great welcome and puts him on pace to break his career high of 16 from 2010. He faces a Pittsburgh team who have been mediocre, besides the up and coming Gerrit Cole, and a lousy White Sox starting staff.
Kris Bryant Watch:
Just a week ago, Bryant was hitting .333. Of course, averages are able to drop or raise significantly during the first month or so of the season. Bryant’s average now sits at .278 with 11 RBI and only five extra base hits, none being home runs. He’s struck out 19 times, but has also managed to draw 12 walks. Last week was forgettable as Bryant had 10 strikeouts in 21 at-bats. The beginning of week five starts with four games against St. Louis and the first being Monday Night Baseball on ESPN. I believe in Bryant, but I didn’t think Addison Russell would hit his first career home run before Bryant. It’s too early to panic as the ups and down will occur, but I believe Bryant can handle the pressure and can easily rebound against division rivals all week.
Stars of Week Four:
C – Miguel Montero (CHC)
1B – Matt Adams (STL)
2B – Brandon Phillips (CIN)
SS – Jung Ho Kang (PIT)
3B – Matt Carpenter (STL)
LF – Marlon Byrd (CIN)
CF – Dexter Fowler (CHC)
RF – Ryan Braun (MIL)
SP – Jason Marquis (CIN)
CL – Francisco Rodriguez (MIL)
(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.