Archive for May, 2010

The Scoop

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Fantasy owners who went with a “last year’s bums” strategy and held their nose when drafting Alex Rios are certainly not complaining. After disappointing in Toronto last season, resulting in the Blue Jays giving away his contract to the White Sox, Rios was even worse in Chicago, posting a .199/.229/.301 line over 146 at-bats. But even when dreadful, he still managed 17 homers and 24 steals, remaining plenty useful in fantasy terms. There’s little doubt he’s playing over his head, but Rios is striking out far less frequently than usual, and his current .305 BABIP is actually well below his career mark (.323), so some huge regression isn’t necessarily in store. Ozzie Guillen loves to run, and since Rios has been caught during just three of his 17 SB attempts, a career-high in steals isn’t out of the question. He’s now hitting in a terrific hitter’s park and has recently been moved to the No. 3 spot in the lineup. He’s still just 29 years old, so a 30/30 season can’t be ruled out, and since he’s also fantastic defensively, that contract suddenly doesn’t look so bad.

If it weren’t for bad luck, Mark Prior wouldn’t have any luck at all.

Steve Phillips really outdid himself this week, first writing this piece about plebeians knowing nothing about what it takes to be a baseball GM, and in turn, further proved the point he set out specifically to reject. But that was nothing compared to when Phillips subsequently appeared on the Mike Francesa show and said he’d trade Stephen Strasburg for Roy Oswalt straight up if he were running the Nationals. Oswalt is quietly having a great season, but he’s owed $32 million over the next two years and might retire afterward. Strasburg, meanwhile, has a 0.99 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP with 54 strikeouts over 45.1 innings in Double and Triple-A as a 21-year-old. He’s not only more affordable (four-year deal worth $15.1 million), but he’s going to draw more fans to Washington than Oswalt ever could. Plus, I haven’t hyped him nearly enough recently (did you know Strasburg once visited the Virgin Islands, and since he left they have been called just The Islands? He makes the Dos Equis guy seem dull.) Only $16,000? Seems like a steal to me. For what it’s worth, Baseball America recently ranked Strasburg as the best at-the-time-of-the-draft prospect since 1989 (the year the writer joined BA), and Bryce Harper, who just went 6-for-6 with four homers and 10 RBI in a win Saturday that advanced his team to the NJCAA World Series final, came in at No. 15 on that list. Think the Nationals chose the right time to have the No. 1 pick in back-to-back drafts?

What Elvis Andrus did as a 20-year-old rookie last season suggested he’d eventually become a star, and his play so far as a sophomore has only confirmed that. Andrus is taking a bunch of walks (.402 OBP), giving him plenty of opportunities to use his speed (17 steals already), and while more power would be nice, he’s now hitting atop a strong Rangers’ lineup and in a highly favorable hitter’s park. Add in his terrific defense at shortstop, and Andrus is already one of the more valuable commodities in baseball – both in real life and in fantasy leagues.

Lastings Milledge is still just 25 years old, so he obviously can’t be written off, but at some point, he should be considered a bust until proven otherwise. Given regular at-bats with no pressure to perform in 2010, his current line sits at .264/.331/.338. He’s still searching for his first home run this season, and his career SB rate is an abysmal 66.6%. He’s also awful defensively. Milledge’s biggest criticism throughout his career has been his “character,” but right now, his on-field actions are far more concerning.

It’s tough to separate Buzz Bissinger from his insane appearance on “Costas Now,” but I liked his insight regarding the LeBron James situation. Speaking of which, how crazy is this Delonte West rumor? Is it wrong that I choose to believe it?

David Ortiz is becoming one tough player to gauge. He entered June 6 last season with just one home run on the year. He then proceeded to hit more homers than any other player in baseball from then on. This year he ended April with just one homer and a disgusting .143/.238/.286 slash line. I kept his carcass in my Yahoo! Friends & Family league as my corner infielder for some reason nevertheless, but even the most optimistic Ortiz fan couldn’t have predicted his OPS rising nearly 375 points over the next 19 games. During May, Big Papi has hit nine homers with 23 RBI. He’s still striking out in nearly one third of his at-bats, and he’s worthless against left-handers, but this is another reminder not to write obituaries about players 34 years old. And with his current line at Fenway being so poor (.213/.258/.410), there’s room for even more optimism considering he’s yet to take advantage of a favorable home park for hitter’s. It’s easy to say this now, but random scouting reports like “can’t turn on a fastball…he’s lost his bat speed” are just so anecdotal it’s not worth paying attention to the next time an older player is slumping and that’s the reasoning why.

I recorded a podcast Wednesday, and this was the result.

Over his last four starts, Mat Latos has posted a 0.93 ERA and a decent 0.55 WHIP, with a 25:3 K:BB ratio for good measure. Some poor guy in my home league, let’s call him “Corey,” dropped Latos right before this stretch (I happened to snatch him up), so not only did he miss out on this historical stretch, he also had to deal with Latos’ 5.47 ERA over his first 26.1 innings of the season. This guy might as well quit fantasy baseball, as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, back on topic, in truth, Latos’ dominant four-start span has come against a schedule that’s about as easy as it gets (@Hou, @SF, SF, @Sea), and he’s been pretty lucky so far this year (.240 BABIP, 79.7 LOB%). Still, his control has been great (1.95 BB/9), and he’s really improved his groundball rate, and his current xFIP (3.80) is hardly bad. Latos’ fastball and slider are both plus pitches, and his changeup is quickly developing into one as well. Latos is 22 years old and will experience ups and downs like most young pitchers, but with Petco Park, the NL West and a defense that has performed as well as any team in baseball so far all working to his advantage, he’s more of a “hold” than a “sell-high.” Oh, and definitely don’t drop him. That would be bad.

Max Scherzer has a 17:2 K:BB ratio over 15.0 innings since getting sent down to Triple-A. He needs to be stashed in all but the shallowest leagues.

Brandon Morrow’s 11.7 K/9 rate leads major league baseball by a wide margin. He somehow has a 6.66 ERA and 1.70 WHIP despite this. It’s partially his own fault (his 5.76 BB/9 is third worst in MLB) but also due to some awful luck (his .399 BABIP is second highest in baseball). He entered Wednesday’s start with a fine 3.86 xFIP, so Morrow definitely belongs on the fantasy radar – remember, he was a top-five pick back in 2006 (when Seattle chose him over local product Tim Lincecum). The stuff is clearly there – his average fastball velocity is 93.7 mph and his slider is 87.5 mph – so if he can make even a modest improvement in control and have the luck factor regress, there’s major potential here, although pitching in the AL East sure is difficult.

During a 1-0 game in the ninth inning Saturday, Edgar Renteria “stole” second base with two outs, only the ruling was “fielder’s indifference.” Really, the A’s didn’t care that the tying run moved from first base to second? One of the more curious rulings I’ve ever seen.

Thoughts on the “Lost” finale? I actually loved the final season and most of the last episode, but to me, the conclusion was beyond disappointing. It actually made me kind of mad.

I have no clue what to make of Jose Bautista. As someone approaching 30 years old with a career line of .239/.332/.416, he clearly looks like an obvious “sell-high” call, especially when you consider his unsustainable 22.1% HR/FB rate (career mark is 11.6%). But what makes his case more interesting is the fact Bautista hit 10 homers over the final 30 games last season. In fact, since early September, he leads major league baseball in homers by a wide margin. One could point to his low BABIP (.226) as a sign his BA will shoot up, but really, that’s more of a reflection of how many of his balls in play are leaving the fence. Shopping him still feels like the right move, but in reality, with his track record, my guess is Bautista remains a tough sell, so might as well ride him out and see how this crazy story concludes.

Fantasy Football Mock

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I’m currently in the midst of a mock fantasy football draft over at Yahoo’s Roto Arcade. Here are the results of round one and round two.

Update: Round three.

Update: Round four.

Update: Rounds 5-7.

The Scoop

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

I apologize for the lack of articles recently, but the RW RB magazine column has dominated my time of late. I posted my preliminary top-12 rankings here, so let me know your thoughts. Anyway, that task is finished, so expect more frequent baseball posts in the future.

It’s hard to complain about Hanley Ramirez. Even if his OPS, while still strong, is about 65 points lower compared to his past three seasons, his contact rate is a career-high, and his BABIP (.303) is well below his career level (.354). But one worry, especially among fantasy owners, has nothing to do with luck, as we are now six weeks into the season, and Ramirez has stolen just three bases on five attempts (after attempting just two steals during September last year). This could prove to be a small sample issue, and while it’s easy to say players typically run less with age, he’s still just 26 years old. His career success rate (76.6 percent) is just OK, and it makes more sense from a baseball standpoint if he continues to attempt fewer stolen bases, and he’s also now hitting in the middle of the lineup instead of atop it, but fantasy owners take note. His value has likely already peaked.

Bobby Valentine sure knows Josh Johnson’s personal life more than most.

So that’s why the Diamondbacks traded Max Scherzer. All along, the deal looked so suspect, the only possible explanation was that the organization had to be convinced he was either hurt or would never last as a starter. While Edwin Jackson has been a huge bust, Ian Kennedy looks like a No. 3 starter (at least in the NL) for years to come. Scherzer, meanwhile, has been a disaster. He’s had an unlucky FB/HR rate and LOB%, but that’s always the case for someone with a 7.29 ERA. The switch to the American League can certainly be partially blamed, but pitchers with a career 9.54 K/9 don’t suddenly start striking out 5.57 batters per nine innings unless something is wrong physically. When Scherzer debuted in 2008, his average fastball velocity was 94.2 mph, and it remained a strong 93.6 mph last season. It’s down to 91.8 mph this year, a significant loss. And we shouldn’t always concentrate on fastballs when looking at velocity, as Scherzer’s best pitch has always been his slider, which has dropped from 85.0 mph in 2009 to 83.4 mph this season. Who knows, maybe it’s all a mechanics issue, but I’m highly concerned it’s more than that.

Dallas Braden is the man. First he screams at Alex Rodriguez for what may or may not have been a violation of an unwritten rule (even retired pitchers are split on this issue), revealing the arrogant ARod side: “Especially from a guy that has a handful of wins in his career…I thought it was pretty funny actually.” “Now, look, I really don’t want to extend his extra 15 minutes of fame.” But those quotes pale in comparison to Braden’s: “I think he’s probably garnered a new respect for the unwritten rules and the people who hold them close to their game. But I think you’re right, we don’t do much talking in the 209.” I only bring up this old news because I actually live in the 209 (which has since been ridiculed b/c it’s best known for Laci Peterson and Chandra Levy). And then Braden proceeded to toss a perfect game! Take that, ARod, New York City and murderers.

Since joining the Rays, Carlos Pena’s batting averages have looked like this: .282, .247, .227 and .180. That’s a trend going in the wrong direction. His K% so far this year is actually slightly better than the past two seasons, and his current .218 BABIP is sure to rise, but since he should be expected to hit about .245 from here on out, another .230ish type season looks to be in store. Because of all that power, guys like Pena (and Adam Dunn) can be plenty valuable with a .260 BA, but in those years when it’s 30 points lower, that power really is mostly negated. And what about his teammate, Ben Zobrist, yet to hit a home run this season? Talk about a player hard to predict…The Rays’ offense has been incredibly lucky this year, getting a majority of their hits in the right situations, but while that’s sure to regress over the rest of the season, they have more than a couple players who are also due to regress in a good way. But you don’t need me to tell you Tampa Bay is one of the two or three best teams in baseball.

I’m not an MMA diehard, but I do follow the sport quite a bit and was relatively shocked at Brett Rogers’ performance Saturday (the loss of the Mohawk had me concerned from the get go). This is a guy whose only loss (and he nearly won) was to Fedor! But frankly, he looked timid, and I really don’t know why. It’s clear Alistair Overeem is no joke, though. My favorite up-and-comer in the sport? Jon “Bones” Jones.

I was at the Giants game Saturday, and the ending was one of the crazier sporting events I’ve been to, and I was at this game and this one and this one. While it didn’t surpass those examples with the stakes far less high, it was a one-run game with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and the final at-bat lasted a ridiculous 15 pitches, with the last six all coming with a full count. It was a miracle the Giants’ bullpen didn’t blow a Tim Lincecum win for his fourth consecutive start. And since the final out came on a liner caught by Andres Torres, now might be a good time to point out that Torres has somehow amassed a 5.3 UZR over 177.0 innings of defense in the outfield, good for a respectable 62.2 UZR/150. Good riddance, Mark DeRosa (another Brian Sabean special! If you’re counting at home, he handed out not one but two multi-year contracts worth $12 million to pedestrian players not only on the wrong side of 30 during the offseason, but both were currently injured! So far in 2010, those signings have provided a .194/.279/.258 line. You’ve really outdone yourself this time, sir. Bravo).

Do you realize Carlos Marmol has 35 strikeouts over 18.0 innings this season? I mean, wow. His control, while better than last season, is still terrible, but it matters little when missing that many bats (evidenced by his current 1.59 ERA despite a .424 BABIP). That’s a 17.5 K/9 we’re talking about. Crazy stuff. Speaking of crazy, Joel Zumaya has led major league baseball in fastball velocity during all five years of his career, including this season at 99.1 mph. He remains a significant health risk, but what’s truly remarkable is that a pitcher who entered 2010 with a career walk rate of 5.41 BB/9 somehow became a control freak this year (1.52 BB/9). All four of his walks this season have come over his past three appearances, so maybe the start of a correction is in store, but I’d sure love to see what a healthy Zumaya could do over a full season. And for a pitcher with major past injury problems, it’s weird to see manager Jim Leyland use him for more than one inning in 11 appearances already this season – but maybe that’s the Tigers’ new strategy, more rest in between outings, yet higher usage during them. It seems to be working so far.

I wanted to offer a few betting observations (and if you haven’t been reading Joe Sheehan’s daily baseball picks, then you’ve been missing out). My friend Joey, who lives in Las Vegas, deserves credit for the main point I’m going to make, but I’m totally onboard. Anytime you see a line (spread, MLB, O/U) that seems ridiculous – like George Costanza, do the opposite (meaning back the “ridiculous” side). For example, a couple of weeks ago, during a Cubs/Diamondbacks series, the over/under was 14.5 on two of the games. For reference, 99% of baseball over/unders fall somewhere between 7-11.5 runs. Even back in the Coors Field heyday, 14.5 runs would be obscenely high. So Joey hammered the over. And won both of his bets (and both games featured two decent pitchers in Ian Kennedy and Randy Wells. The wind had a lot to do with this, obviously). And yesterday I went to the Giants/Astros game, with the over/under being a ridiculously low 6, so naturally, I was all over the under. Don’t get me wrong, I typically lose money when betting, but it’s worth pointing out if you ever see a line that looks especially crazy, it’s for a reason (remember, even if Vegas thought the true O/U for Saturday’s game featuring Lincecum (with no Pablo Sandoval) vs. Roy Oswalt and the worst offense in baseball was 4.5 (or the like), they would never go there), so back the side that seems “wrong.”

Jered Weaver entered this season with a career ERA of 3.73. However, over his four years in MLB here are his accompanying xFIPs: 4.30, 4.76, 4.28 and 4.48. Clearly, he was due to regress soon, right? The big discrepancy was mostly due to an abnormally low career FB/HR rate (below 8% entering 2010), and I personally believe in these kind of stats wholeheartedly, frequently mentioning them. But guess what Tim Lincecum’s career HR/FB rate is. It’s 6.3%. Of course, his career xFIP is 3.17 (compared to 2.71 ERA), which reveals an elite pitcher even if that were to normalize to league average, but like others (think Carlos Zambrano with BABIP), there are going to be outliers, and maybe Weaver hasn’t thrown enough innings to truly define that, but he surely looks like someone who is tough to homer against (his low rate is especially impressive considering he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher). If you want more proof whether Weaver has more control over this than the average pitcher, consider this: Weaver, who has posted drastic lefty/righty splits throughout his career, entered 2010 with a FB/HR rate of 10.6% vs. southpaws and 5.6% against right-handers (admittedly, this trend has reversed so far in 2010 – 2.9% v. L, 18.2% v. R – but it’s a six-week sample, and his overall rate remains low at 8.8%, which actually qualifies as a career-high). Anyway you want to look at it, Weaver has turned into a star in 2010, as even his xFIP (3.02) ranks fifth-best in baseball. There hasn’t been a drastic change in velocity, but he’s throwing his curveball more than ever, and it’s become a highly effective pitch. His GB% is a career-high (39.1%), and a combination of a 10.41 K/9 with a 2.12 BB/9 is stuff Cy Youngs are made of. The huge increase in K rate over such a small sample suggests he’s probably a sell-high candidate, but there’s little reason to make a deal unless you get a great return. Weaver has proven he can beat expectations – both in the past and even more so this year.

Podcast and a Programming Note

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Recorded a podcast Wednesday, so check it out.

Also, I’ve been buried in writing the RB section for the RW Fantasy Football mag, but I promise I’ll pick up the content soon, starting with an article Thursday. Also, if you haven’t already, start following me on Twitter. I’ve found it to be quite cathartic when it comes to Brian Sabean.

The Scoop

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

What’s the deal with Grady Sizemore? He looked like baseball’s biggest threat to be the next 40/40 guy as recently as 2008, and while he was a huge bust last year, injuries could mostly explain it, and 18 homers with 13 steals over 436 at-bats wasn’t the end of the world either. Back seemingly healthy, Sizemore is still searching for his first home run of 2010, a span stretching over 95 at-bats. He entered Tuesday on pace to strikeout 156 times this season, which would be a career-high. After being successful on 38 of 43 SB attempts two years ago, he’s been caught on nine of his last 24 attempts since. Sizemore has never hit southpaws well, but if anything, he’s actually regressed in that area. Players simply aren’t supposed to develop this way – remember he’s still just 27 years old. It’s possible Sizemore is shaking off the rust after missing the final month of last season, and again, we are dealing with just one month so far, but he’s been quite a frustrating player to own. Still, I’m buying if possible. Remain patient, don’t go selling him for a Vernon Wells type player.

I like using advanced stats quite a bit, but they don’t always work. For instance, Matt Capps’ xFIP (4.22) right now reveals a huge discrepancy compared to his ERA (0.63). Now, you obviously don’t need me to tell you his ERA is sure to go up, that much is obvious, but I’m trying to make a more general point here. Capps walked five batters (while also allowing three hits) over his first three innings this year, and he didn’t allow a single run over that span. So while he without a doubt got lucky during that time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that will catch up to him since he’s pitched so much better since then (13:1 K:BB ratio). With that said, while I believe Capps can remain a plenty effective closer all season long (although Drew Storen looms), with a fastball that’s currently averaging 93.4 mph and a strong 9.88 K/9 rate, his LOB% (96.4) is the definition of unsustainable, and since he somehow has an MLB-leading 11 saves on a team with 14 wins, Capps is definitely someone worth shopping around in trades. Just don’t hold his early season control problems against him when looking at the big picture.

Austin Jackson entered Tuesday with a whopping eight multi-hit games over his past 10 contests, raising his average 70 points in the process. Suggesting his current BA is going to drop is obvious, but the .376 mark is especially crazy when you note his strikeout rate. Jackson has fanned 34 times over 117 at-bats, putting him on pace to finish with 204 Ks – only one person has ever struck out more than 200 times in a season in MLB history (Mark Reynolds), and of the 10 highest single-season records for strikeouts, only Bobby Bonds was able to break a .300 average, when he hit .302 in 1970 (and almost all others on that list hit .260 or worse). Of course, Jackson is a talented prospect who should adjust, but considering his pedigree and the fact he’s off to such a hot start (leading all of baseball in BA), there aren’t many better “sell-high” candidates right now.

Zack Greinke is one of the three best pitchers in baseball but has yet to record a win this season, which highlights just how ridiculous the stat is. I kind of want him to post a 3.00 xFIP type season and win fewer than five games, just to see how the Cy Young voters would respond. Hopefully, it would finally render such an archaic method of evaluation moot forever (but probably not, unfortunately). The poor guy has to deal with weak run support, a bad bullpen AND a below average defense – it’s the triple whammy. Greinke’s K rate is down some this year compared to last, so he hasn’t been as good, but at least in the early going, he’s countered a small decrease in fastball velocity with a much improved changeup, which makes him quite scary moving forward.

David Wright is such an interesting player. The guy hits just 10 homers last year, yet steals 27 bases (as a third baseman) and posts a .307 batting average – this despite striking out more than ever thanks to an MLB-high .400 BABIP. This year, the power has returned, and he’s also running more than ever. Wright has also posted by far his worst contact rate (.66) of his career, making last year’s spike in Ks look downright timid. Then again, his BB% (.19) is also a career-best and by a wide margin. His current .370 BABIP remains high, but take note his career mark is .350, so a major collapse isn’t necessarily in the cards. Put it all together, his current .422 wOBA is the best of his career, so despite all the strikeouts, he’s basically playing at a higher level than ever before. Wright has hit far better on the road (1.036 OPS, four homers) compared to home (.882 OPS, one HR), so maybe Citi Field is still in his head, but fantasy owners have to be highly encouraged so far.

I’ve never been a big Jorge Cantu fan in fantasy leagues, but frankly, it’s been to my detriment. He has a career .784 OPS and is well below average defensively, but so what? He consistently hits cleanup, so RBI opportunities are abound. Moreover, he has a better chance of driving in those runs because of his inability to walk much – that’s actually a plus in fantasy terms. While he still managed 100 RBI last season, it’s pretty clear he was playing through a debilitating ankle injury, so a return to his 2008 type power (when he hit 29 homers) can’t be ruled out in 2010. Cantu has obviously played a bit over his head so far, but there’s no glaring reason to sell him at this point. Enjoy elite RBI production from someone who likely didn’t cost all that much at draft tables.

Speed round: Jonathan Sanchez could very well end up with the worst BB/9 rate and the best K/9 rate in MLB…I’m even more jealous of Ubaldo Jimenez owners than anyone who’s dated Kaley Cuoco…Will Venable needs to be owned in all deep leagues. His BA is ugly, and he has the disadvantage of playing in Petco Park, but a 20/25 type campaign can’t be ruled out either…Interesting middle relievers worth monitoring (or owning, depending on format): Carlos Villanueva (18:6 K:BB ratio over 14.0 innings, although when it comes to the Brewers’ pen, if Trevor Hoffman continues to struggle, look for LaTroy Hawkins to close), Joel Hanrahan (ugly ERA but 12 Ks over 8.1 innings. He and Evan Meek need to be watched should Octavio Dotel continue to falter or get hurt), Clay Hensley (21 Ks over 13.2 innings) and Joel Zumaya (averaging a major league high 98.8 mph with his fastball with an 18:0 K:BB ratio! Although if you’re looking for a possible closer should Jose Valverde go down, it’s worth noting Ryan Perry has been used in much higher leverage situations so far this season, so he’d likely be the first ninth inning replacement, but it’s still cool to see the pitcher with the highest ever recorded fastball (at 104 mph, and my boy Stephen Strasburg is No. 2 on that list, and he’s a starter!) finally live up to that potential).

I’ve always been a Kelly Johnson fan, but who could have seen this coming? He already has more homers this year (nine) in 89 at-bats than he did all of last season (eight) in 303 ABs. He’s hitting in a highly favorable environment, is locked in at the top of the Diamondbacks’ lineup now and is also capable of stealing bases, so while Johnson is clearly due to regress, he’s not some must-sell candidate either. Even if the Braves were convinced Martin Prado was the answer at second base, why give up on Johnson with such a void in left field? And do you realize Brian Sabean signed a hurt Freddy Sanchez for two years, $11 million when Johnson (one-year, $2.35 million) was readily available? Fantasy owners should just sit back and enjoy one of the bigger steals of their drafts.

For NL-only leaguers: Scott Olsen is firmly back on the radar. I had given up on him myself, but his poor start to the season (10 runs allowed over his first two starts) can be excused since he was recovering from offseason surgery on his labrum. It’s pretty clear he’s been pitching with a damaged shoulder for the past few years, and if the surgery truly corrected the problem, remember, this is a former highly regarded prospect who posted an 8.3 K/9 rate as a rookie. Sure, that was way back in 2006, and Olsen is more likely to disappoint yet again this season than finally reach his potential, but he has struck out 18 batters over 20.2 innings so far, and his fastball velocity is up but more importantly, his slider’s velocity is way up (81.3 mph), which is great news considering how often he throws it. It’s just a two-start sample, and he’s only truly been impressive in one outing this season, but Olsen could prove valuable in NL-only (or extremely deep mixed) leagues.

While Olsen is league-specific, Brett Cecil is a pitcher worth adding in pretty much all formats right now (and is likely long gone in your league). As a 23-year-old pitching in the AL East (and not on one of the big-three teams), odds are plenty of growing pains are in store, but still, a 21:4 K:BB ratio over 20.2 innings is quite impressive. Yes, more balls in play will fall in for hits in the future, but a 9.15 K/9 combined with a 1.74 BB/9 are rates typically only produced by true aces. Not that he’ll get there anytime soon, but Cecil has certainly proven himself worthy of an add to at least see what’s next to come.

I highly touted Brett Gardner before the season started, and I say this not to brag, but rather to further illustrate my frustration with him ending up on zero of my own fantasy teams. What was I thinking? His batting average (.346) is sure to drop, but with a 9:10 K:BB ratio, his plate discipline suggests a steep decline isn’t necessarily a sure thing, and with Curtis Granderson out at least a month with a groin injury, any worry about playing time (which didn’t even truly exist in the first place) is delayed. Gardner already has 12 steals (while getting caught just once), and in that Yankee lineup, 60 RBI and 100-plus runs can’t be ruled out. Nor can 60-plus steals. It’s crazy thinking about how much earlier guys like Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury went before him. If a draft were held today, Gardner would have to be considered a top-15 fantasy outfielder, right?