While the thermometer says February, the calendar definitely says April, which means the real thing has started! It is baseball season. And, more importantly for yours truly, it means another year of the Week That Was. If you have your draft this weekend, I hope you pick up a nugget or two from this week's column. If you have already drafted, maybe we can help you snatch a quick victory off the waiver wire. Either way, sit back and enjoy what promises to be a great year for baseball in 2011.Matt Holliday
: In yet another blow to the Cardinal's fortunes, Matt Holliday
underwent an emergency appendectomy on Friday and likely will be out at least two and probably three-four weeks. If you own Holliday, there is just nothing you can do but put him on the DL and hope he comes back strong sooner rather than later. The Cardinals have said that Jon Jay
and Allen Craig
will get the ABs. Who to choose if you can only take one? Answer – Craig who outhit Jay .359 to .221 this spring. More importantly, Craig has hit .290+ with power as he climbed each level of the minors. Even when Holliday returns, Craig will get his time. With Lance Berkman
unlikely to make is through the season in the OF and the Cardinals needing to rest David Freese
regularly, Craig will be a diamond in the rough. Buy now while you still can.Neil Walker
: Neil Walker
started 2011 right where 2010 left off. The Pirates 2b went 2-4 with an opening day grand salami. Not too shabby! While 2B is not as weak as SS, there is not a great depth of options there and that increases Walker's value even further. The 25 year old Walker had been kicking around the minors for over 5 years before exploding in 2010 to the tune of a .321 average at AAA. He then came up to hit .296 and announce he was in the show to stay. Walker was a very high pick for a reason. He is only 25 and has clearly hit his groove. Tell your leaguemates that last year was a fluke (it wasn't) and grab this bargain. Brandon Lyon
: Brandon Lyon
poured kerosene on the fire Friday, allowing six hits and three runs in just 1/3 of an inning to blow the save and the game for Houston. Yes, Lyon had a solid second half last year, but he does not possess closer stuff and there will be no reason for the soon to be down and out Astros to leave the veteran in the closer role. My personal choice for successor is Wilton Lopez
(50/5 k/bb ratio in 2010). However, you could also store Mark Melancon
on reserve. He is a big time talent and will put it all together at some point. As to Lyon, feel free to grab the 10ish saves he will get before losing his job. Just know that is his fate. Travis Buck
: In honor of Schultz, I have to address an Indian (and not Fausto "10 run' Carmona"). So, it is worth mentioning that Travis Buck
made the Indians. Why is it worth mentioning? Well, Travis hit close to .400 this spring and did so with power. He will not have a role right away, but this 27 year old (who hit .288 with Oakland at the ripe young age of 23) has more talent and upside than Shelley Duncan
or Austin Kearns
. Add that to the fact that Grady Sizemore
and Trevor Crowe
are on the shelf and the fact that Michael Brantley
is unproven and you have major league opportunity. If you are in a deep AL league, Buck should be worth much more than a buck. Clayton Kershaw
: Clayton Kershaw
made the buzz even louder with a gem on Opening Day Thursday. The gifted lefty went seven scoreless innings, striking out 9. Kershaw is in his fourth season at the ripe old age of 24. He is the real deal and his time has come. You really cannot understand how good he is until you seem him pitch in person (which I have both in LA and in NY). He will rare back and throw 93-95 and then follow it up with a 71 mph yakker. Simply put, that is just not fair. If you want to draft an ace who will not cost ace money, Kershaw is your man. Matt Kemp
: Staying with the Dodgers, Matt Kemp
was on base four times on Opening Day, 1-1 with three BB. Will he hit .342 like he did in 2007? No. Will he hit .249 like he did in 2010? No. Kemp had a bad year that you can right off as an outlier. He is a great talent who will hit close to 30 dingers, steal 30+ bases and hit for a decent average. Last year everyone thought he was a superstar and he disappointed. This year, those burned will stay away and wish they had kept the faith. Pay full value with assurance.Nick Hundley
: Nick Hundley
started the season right, going 2-4 with two RBI in the extra inning Opening Day win. Hundley is one of those guys I like to take a big step forward but who never seemed cheap in enough in drafts for me to grab. My bad. Catchers tend to blossom offensively later than other players because they have to spend so much time working on not only defense, but learning the pitching staff and opposing hitters. Hundley fits that bill. Over the last two years in the show, he has hit 16 HR in 529 AB. With full time duty practically assured and a step up in the batting learning curve, the power will continue to be there and the average should improve. If he can hit .250-60 with that power, you will get a very good catcher who will cost you very little.Jeff Mathis
: Staying with catchers, Angel Jeff Mathis
went yard and added a double in the Opening Day win. Mathis is another example of a catcher who at 28 may yet blossom into a decent offensive player. He had a .276 career minor league average – not great, but hardly the Mendoza line hitter he has been labeled. In addition, people forget that Mathis was hitting .324 last April when an injury set him to the pine. Oh, and he has been dynamite in the post season, hitting .450. Mathis will never make anyone think if Johnny Bench, but he will be a very good buy as a $1 second catcher. My money is where my mouth is – Rick and I own him in both LABR and Tout Wars. [Note, I admit I really want this one to work out because after I rostered Mathis in Tout Wars, I took a good natured verbal thrashing from that noted Angel fan, Matthew Berry. Ok, maybe I shouldn't have raised both arms in mock celebration, but I digress].Fernando Rodney
: Fernando Rodney
did what Fernando Rodney
does – he saved a game ugly on Opening Day. Will Rodney keep the job all year? No. Will Rodney cause his owners to munch on Tums like they are candy? Ya. However, until he loses his job, he will rack up a pretty decent save total (at least for the first two months). Grab those saves cheap while they are there and then cut bait as soon as Walden, Downs or Jepsen takes the job. Luke Hochevar
: Luke Hochevar
was just ok on Opening day, giving up 3 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. However, the good news is that he struck out five in those 5 2/3 without walking a batter. What to do with Luke? Well, if you are in a shallow league, forget about him. However, if you are in a deep league (like an AL only 12 owner league), Luke is a good low dollar bet. After all, the number one overall pick in the draft had to be number one for a reason. This kid has been rushed – at just 27, he is already in his 4th major league season. Bottom line is that I cannot really justify my faith with numbers or metrics, but my gut says he will return value on the two bucks Rick and I plunked down in tout.
And last, but not least, Schultz says: "Ah -- by looking at the calendar, it appears that spring is here -- even if looking out the window here in New York City doesn't quite give that impression. However, I turn on the TV and there's baseball, so I'm going to trust the calendar. With the 2011 season upon us, it's time to pitch my grammar through the "dead arm" period, brush the dust off a whole host of bad puns and ill-thought out metaphors and get back to work.
If you were paying attention to Spring Training games this year and thought you learned anything, shame on you. Pre-season statistics mean absolutely nothing -- Mike Morse
and Jake Fox
's astounding months of March notwithstanding. If you have them on your team, stand in front of a mirror and watch it leak sap like a Maple tree. For those of you that gambled on Alex Gordon
, I'll give you a pass. It seems to be rite of passage for someone to wager that this will be the year he lives up to the hype. At some point it might happen. The roulette wheel does land on one number each spin. The only thing worth paying attention to is whether a player is healthy. In that regard, it's worth noting that Eric Bedard is giving every indication that he is healthy. Since his move to Seattle after his 2007 leap to superstud status, Bedard has required a M.A.S.H. unit to keep his arm attached to his shoulder. He definitely has flown under everyone's radar. He should be on yours.
So, since we have actual games to speak of, what have we learned from the first two days of season? Well, other than the fact that we all now know that Matt Holliday
has a weak appendix, not a whole lot. There's simply nothing you can learn from one game. You may think that it's a good idea to immediately cut Fausto Carmona
after one start but that would be rash and foolhardy. Even though it might feel good at the time, spite isn't the best emotion to harness when managing your team.
This wasn't the best couple days to be a closer in the NL Central. Within 48 hours, Ryan Franklin
, John Axford
and Brandon Lyon
all blew their first save chances of the season. Each of these closers has their own set of issues to contend with. In St. Louis, Ryan Franklin
has been talking about his retirement long enough that if he had been good for more than 1 1/2 seasons, we would all be comparing him to Brett Favre. He probably has a long leash as Jason Motte
is unproven and Tony LaRussa will ride Franklin until its very clear he can no longer get the job done. Ever since Arizona dabbled with the idea of letting Brandon Lyon
close, he's essentially been a roto roller coaster of saves, racking them up in bunches with the DBacks, Tigers and Astros in between valleys where he can't get anyone out. Lyon blew the closer's job in Houston last year before reclaiming it in the second half and becoming the most valuable reliever in rotoball over the last two months of the season. Remember your history here. Finally, doesn't John Axford
remind everyone of Derrick Turnbow
? Anyone win with Turnbow by bringing him back after his 2005 surprise season? Again, remember your history.
It's nice to be back. Game on!"
Response: I think Schultz and I have been writing in the same space for too long. After all, the beginning theme – snow in April – seemed pretty familiar to me when I read the first installment from the baron of the bottom of the page. Ok, seriously, I love the stuff on closers, spring stats and even Carmona. However, if you are in a shallow league, no matter how hard Schultz roots for the Indians, you shouldn't own any Indian hurler not named Chris Perez
as the Tribe could easily lose over 100 games.
It is one of the great sports weekends of the year. Go enjoy baseball, final four and hopefully some weather above the freezing mark!