By Dalton Del Don
Entering May 30, Howie Kendrick had a .253/.285/.342 line with just two home runs on the year. He’s batted .337 with five long balls and 24 RBI over 92 at-bats since then, and he’s now consistently hitting first or second in the Angels’ lineup. He hit .358/.391/.558 after the All-Star break last season, so while it’s taken him longer than hoped, maybe Kendrick is finally going to live up to his potential in 2010. He does so unconventionally (few walks, not a terrific contact rate), but he’s one of the few targets for fantasy teams in need of batting average help, and actually, because of the small amount of base on balls, his contribution to that category is even greater. Kendrick isn’t a huge HR/SB guy, but 15 of each are well within reach, and he’s currently on pace to finish the season with 104 RBI. Kendrick is just outside the top-five fantasy second basemen.
USA! USA! USA! What an awesome match that was Wednesday. All sports have their problems with refereeing, but that would have been incredibly frustrating (and a pretty big knock on the sport that’s been slow to be accepted here) had USA not advanced thanks to not one but two highly questionable disallowed goals. But seriously, coming back from down 0-2 at half last time to scoring in the 91st minute with elimination just seconds away Wednesday – how sick was that?! I’m pretty pumped my old friend from high school scheduled his wedding right during the team’s next match – nice timing buddy.
Josh Johnson has been ridiculously good so far this season, as he hasn’t allowed more than one run in any of his past eight starts. He has a 56:10 K:BB ratio over the last 63.0 innings. Like anyone with a 1.80 ERA, Johnson has received some good luck (.270 BABIP, 4.7 HR/FB%), but since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2008 with increased fastball velocity, his K rate has improved each season while his BB rate has decreased each year. Johnson’s average fastball velocity (94.7 mph) is fourth highest among major league baseball, which is especially impressive when you factor in his strong groundball rate (48.5 GB%). When someone pitches like this over such a long span, there’s no way to view him other than a “sell-high,” but Johnson should also be treated like a top-five fantasy starter over the rest of the season.
Stephen Strasburg leads the Nationals’ starting pitching staff with 41 strikeouts this season. And no, that’s not a Chuck Norris type fact.
The Braves shouldn’t have let Kelly Johnson leave, especially since he’s certainly capable of helping as an outfielder, but there’s little doubt the team made the right decision turning over second base to Martin Prado, who currently has the second most hits in baseball. Prado doesn’t have a ton of power and doesn’t run nearly enough to be a fantasy stud, but he has seven multi-hit games over the past nine contests and is on pace to finish the season with 121 runs scored. Prado’s current .371 BABIP is sure to regress, but his LD% (23.3) is strong, and ZiPS projects him to bat .327 over the rest of the year, so some huge crash doesn’t seem imminent. Prado looks like the N.L. version of Howie Kendrick.
Non-sports link: It’s a little long, but I enjoyed it a pretty good amount.
Don’t look now, but Delmon Young is turning into a serviceable player. Of course, he’s been one of the worst regulars over the past couple of years, so even modest improvement would seem dramatic, but Young’s played better this year. He’s cut last year’s K rate (23.3%) nearly in half this season (12.2%), which is significant. Young still doesn’t project to be a big power guy, as he continues to hit too many groundballs (1.21 GB/FB), and so far, Target Field has played as the third toughest park to homer in during 2010, but he already has more doubles this season compared to last in close to 200 fewer at-bats. Young is still just 24 years old, so it’s safe to assume he’ll only continue to get better.
I try not to overrate the now (and sometimes fail), but I’m sorry, is this epic Wimbledon match the craziest thing in sports ever? I mean seriously? Obviously, there isn’t much significance regarding what round it is and the players involved, but I mean, the fifth set alone qualifies as the longest tennis match in the history of the sport. Of course, it’d be nice to see some return skills, but how many records will be set here that will be nearly impossible to break because of the circumstances? Both are now No. 1 and No. 2 for most aces in a match and by a wide margin (John Isner currently has 98, previous high was 78). It’s 59-59! I struggle to come up with any other possibility in another sport that I’d have a harder time believing when I first heard this score.
Cole Hamels has been considered a disappointment by some, and I guess if you look at his so-so 3.75 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, that’s understandable. However, he’s pitched far better than that suggests. His 8.86 K/9 is Hamels’ best since his rookie season, and while he’s always been susceptible to the long ball, his current GB% is a career high (43.8), and his 16.1 HR/FB% should drop over the rest of the year. The zip on his fastball is back (career-high 91.5 mph), but his new pitch (a cutter) has graded below average. Of some concern is Hamels’ changeup, which has been one of the better pitches in all of baseball in each of his previous four seasons in the league but has been merely average so far in 2010. Still, with the strikeouts way up and continued strong control and homers surrendered likely to go down, Hamels remains a top-15 type fantasy starter.
Jose Reyes has been on fire lately, and Jimmy Rollins is back in action, but especially after the loss of Troy Tulowitzki, shortstop is one of the thinnest positions right now I can remember in fantasy baseball. There’s a pretty obvious top-five, and then a pupu platter. Seriously, what a dearth of talent. I mean, Juan Uribe has been the National League’s second best shortstop so far this season. Pretty crazy.
Speaking of crazy, Ryan Braun has a 1.011 OPS with 33 RBI on the road this season. He has a .677 OPS with 13 RBI at home.
Although Chris Davis is currently destroying Triple-A pitching, Justin Smoak has had a fine June, and while he strikes out too much, he also knows how to take a walk. Smoak has a .266/.385/.460 line with a 29:24 K:BB ratio against right-handers this season, so he’s holding his own as a 23-year-old getting his first big league experience. Smoak hasn’t taken advantage of a terrific hitter’s home park either, which should only become more pronounced throughout the summer months. Since he’s also a better fielder than Davis, Smoak’s leash shouldn’t be too tight.
I actually kind of liked Maurice Jones-Drew’s Monday Morning Quarterback article while filling in for Peter King.
When asked about calling up Jeremy Hellickson, manager Joe Maddon recently responded, “That’s not been a discussion.” Really? Not even a little bit? I get that Wade Davis was once also a pretty good prospect himself, and he impressed with 36 strikeouts over 36.1 innings last year at the major league level, but that K rate is way down in 2010, and he’s walked 35 batters and given up a whopping 12 homers over 75.1 innings. Both his FIP (5.30) and xFIP (5.09) are worse than his ugly 4.90 ERA. Meanwhile, Hellickson currently has a 2.33 ERA with a 9.1/K and 2.1/BB – his K:BB ratio throughout his minor league career is a stellar 4.93:1. He relies more on command than overpowering stuff, but as a team in a dogfight with two others in its division that are among the top-three in baseball, what are they thinking not even considering making this switch? Even if Maddon is lying and they have discussed the matter, their conclusion seems wrong. And does Davis, he of the 20 career starts, really deserve some sort of seniority favoritism? Yankee and Red Sox fans are praying this arrangement continues.
This is pretty ridiculous and probably NSFW, but I pass it on nonetheless.
One of the biggest draft day bargains this year has easily been Magglio Ordonez, who is currently hitting .328 with a ridiculous 22:31 K:BB ratio. He’s also on pace to finish the season with 21 homers, 99 runs scored and 110 RBI despite missing nine games. It’s pretty unfathomable that a player who is 36 years old and entered August last season with a .685 OPS currently sports the best K%, BB% and LD% of his career. There’s little chance Mags hits much more than 20 homers while still producing more grounders than fly balls, but hitting third in a productive lineup directly in front of Miguel Cabrera, he’s back to being quite the valuable fantasy property. Few will end up being bigger helps in batting average.
I haven’t heard it yet, but this is pretty disconcerting (and hardly surprising). Any opinions if you’ve gave it a listen?
Roger Bernadina hit .335 with 41 stolen bases (while also slugging .490) two years ago as a 24-year-old in Double and Triple-A, and only a broken leg prevented him from getting a chance to be a regular with the Nationals last season. He’s getting that opportunity this year after batting .377/.426/.541 during a brief stint in Triple-A and has recently been hitting toward the top of Washington’s lineup. He’s produced four homers and six steals over just 148 at-bats, making him a sneaky fantasy play. I doubt there is a player with his potential as readily available as he currently is in most leagues, even in deep and competitive ones.
Stephen Strasburg is actually much better at football, basketball, hockey and even soccer, but he decided to pursue a career with the sport he’s most challenged at, with the feeling it’d be most rewarding
This season is turning out to be the year of the rookie, and while Mat Latos lost that eligibility by recording just two more outs than the minimum last season, he’s one of baseball’s best young players without a doubt. Pitching in the N.L. West and Petco Park has its advantages, but Latos is the real deal and only keeps getting better. He recently recorded a 15:2 K:BB ratio over 13.2 innings (while allowing only two runs and nine baserunners) against the Blue Jays and Rays over his last two starts. In April (when he was coming off an arm injury), he posted a 5.8 K/9 ratio. In May, that jumped to 8.1. In June, that’s skyrocketed to 10.6 despite a much tougher schedule. I’m sure the 22-year-old and inked up Latos still has some growing up to do (don’t we all), but by all accounts, he’s really matured and changed from his once abrasive self. Since April ended, Latos has recorded a 1.92 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. In fact, his season WHIP (0.95) is bested only by Cliff Lee (0.90) in all of baseball. Latos will probably tire during the second half of his first major league season, and it’s unclear just how many innings he’ll be allowed to throw in 2010. It’s also safe to expect his .238 BABIP to rise significantly, but for a guy who has a terrific fastball, an even better slider and a plus changeup who also produces a bunch of grounders, Latos is simply one of the most valuable commodities in keeper formats. With the Petco factor, we could be looking at some ridiculously good seasons in the future.