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I had the great fortune to spend a fair amount of time watching some baseball this weekend, which is another way of saying it wasn’t a very productive weekend for me. However, several of the games I observed got me to thinking about some of the players I saw. At the same time, I was reminded of an old column that used to be written by Doug Anderson, who manages the FNTSY Sport Network’s web pages these days.
Doug used to write something he called “Man in a Box,” in which he perused the box scores of various games and extracted interesting pertinent bits of information. It was a great way of “taking the temperature” of a particular hitter or pitcher; a snapshot of what was going on with a player at a particular moment. So, with a tip of the cap in Doug’s direction, I’m going to hit the box scores of some of the games I watched this weekend and offer you some snapshots of players along with my thinking for their Fantasy future this season.
The Dodgers paid a visit to St. Louis over the weekend, where they dropped two out of three games to the surging Cardinals. The two losses were separated by their lone win, a game in which they stunned a cruising Michael Wacha in the six inning with a three-run bomb by Yasmani Grandal, who was fresh off the 7-day DL. However, it’s the performance of the Cardinals’ pitchers on either end of the series that I want to point out.
John Lackey (3-3, 2.83 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) – Lackey has been amazingly consistent since returning from Tommy John surgery at the start of the 2013 season, and in Friday’s opener he looked like vintage Lackey. He continued a run of four consecutive starts of allowing no more than one earned run with seven innings of shutout ball in which he struck out nine Cardinals hitters. Lackey’s peripherals are all right in line with the past two seasons. His strikeout rate was disappointing in April (4.91 K/9) but in May it rose to 7.82 K/9, and I expect that trend to continue. He should be owned in all league formats and is a fine pitcher to target in trade if you need to bolster your Fantasy pitching rotation.
Carlos Martinez (5-2, 3.13 ERA, 1.28 WHIP pitched the rubber game of the series and put up the best start of his career against what is arguably the best offense in the game today. Martinez pitched seven innings of one-hit shutout ball, striking out eight and walking three. The problem with Martinez is his walk rate, which has ballooned to 4.06 BB/9, a rate that seems to make him untrustworthy. However, he’s now gone three straight outings (20.1 IP) without allowing a run. Over that span he has 21 strikeouts, seven walks and allowed just 10 hits. His overall record is marred by two bad starts in which he gave up seven earned runs apiece. In nine of his 11 outings, he’s allowed two runs or less and he has five shutouts. Clearly, he is a dominant pitcher but is still prone to walking his way into trouble. His two blowouts both included four walks. At this point, the positives outweigh any negatives and Martinez is worth starting in all Fantasy formats.
Sticking with that same game, the only hits by Dodgers batters were by Andre Ethier (off Martinez) and Joc Pederson, who homered off Kevin Siegrist in the eighth inning. At the beginning of the season, I made a “bold prediction” that Pederson would hit more homers and steal more bases than Yasiel Puig in 2015. Of course, I had no idea that Puig would miss so much time when I wrote that. Still, Pederson is clearly the real deal, but whom does he most resemble from the not so distant past? Let’s take a look at two players.
These two sets of numbers are eerily similar. Player B represents what Joc Pederson is on pace for if he gets 664 plate appearances this season, which is within the realm of possibility if he continues to bat in the leadoff spot. Player A is the average production of Adam Dunn from 2004-2008, five consecutive seasons in which he hit at least 40 HRs. Of course, Dunn did most of his hitting from the heart of the lineup, usually the cleanup slot. Pederson is miscast here as a leadoff man despite his high OBP (.387), which is primarily due to a ridiculous 16.7 percent walk rate. Since he’s been caught stealing twice as often as he’s been successful, it appears he will not get much of a green light to run going forward. I wonder if Don Mattingly would ever consider moving Pederson down to somewhere between third and fifth in the order. If he does, it could be a real boost to Pederson’s Fantasy value. Even so, he’s on pace for a terrific rookie season.
Speaking of terrific rookies, Justin Bour is making a strong case for the Marlins to forget all about Michael Morse at first base. He sat out Saturday’s game against Mets lefty starter Jon Niese. However, Bour has homered in each of the last three games he’s started. So far, he’s slashing .369/.414/.646 with five home runs in just 70 plate appearances. The left-handed batter struggles against lefty pitchers, though, and has throughout his minor league career. So look for him to be on the good half of a platoon with Jeff Baker. He has a solid approach at the plate and mashes right-handed pitching. He should be rostered in all NL-only leagues and deeper mixed league teams in need of a power infusion.
Two terrific pitchers made their MLB debut’s in Texas over the weekend. Well, sort of over the weekend. The opener between the Red Sox and Rangers took place last Thursday and Eduardo Rodriguez was on the mound for the Sox. He put together 7.2 innings of shutout pitching, allowing just three hits and two walks with seven strikeouts against a tough Rangers lineup. Rodriguez has terrific control and command of all his pitches. His curveball leaves something to be desired but if he can develop it a bit further, he has ace potential. Since the Red Sox are desperate for some stability in the starting rotation, Rodriguez could stick for the rest of the season. He is a legitimate pitcher but could be subject to the occasional ups and downs that is typical of rookie pitchers. Still, his peripherals indicate he has the stuff to succeed in the majors right now, so grab him a stash him in all Fantasy formats.
On Saturday, the Rangers countered with a rookie of their own. Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez pitched 5.2 innings and gave up just two hits while striking out two and walking five. Unlike Rodriguez, Gonzalez lacks polish and has a bit of a problem with walks. Even in the minors he is walking 3.95 batters per nine with a strikeout rate of just 5.40 K/9. He throws three different fastballs that he can move around the plate at will but his secondary pitches are little more than “show me” efforts thus far. Various projection systems have him with an ERA north of 5.00, so despite his terrific debut against Boston, Rodriguez is not recommended for Fantasy use until he shows improved control and command of those secondary pitches.