Eno Sarris

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Jed Lowrie: Worth owning?

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Shortstop is a terrible, terrible position. Troy Tulowitzki (who had three hits and a stolen base Wednesday) and Starlin Castro (who went one for nine in two games Wednesday) are playing well, and even when they come back to earth a little, they'll give you what you wanted from them when you drafted them. The same could be said for Jose Reyes (four singles and two stolen bases against the Astros) and Alexei Ramirez, who are doing about might be expected of them.

Then, there's a long, sad drop to the rest of the shortstop group. Asdrubal Cabrera (two singles Wednesday) is making his case to join the top, but his long minor league career suggests that he doesn't own power like this. Willie Bloomquist? He's Willie Bloomquist, move along.

There is one new member of the top that should be intriguing in leagues of any size. Jed Lowrie, who hit a home run and was in the starting lineup for the second straight day, should be owned universally. If you look past his batting average, most of what he's doing now he did last year, and with Marco Scutaro scuffling, he has a clear path to playing time. He could easily put up a decent average with close to 20 home runs and plenty of runs hitting atop a nice lineup. That upside, given the position he plays, is worth getting on your bench - at the very least.

* Predicting pitching is tough, but there's a holy trinity of peripheral statistics your pitcher can control, for the most part. Strikeouts, walks, and groundballs are the ways that a pitcher can exert control over a lineup - and if the pitcher is doing at least two of the three things well, he is more likely to keep it up. Matt Garza, in the National League at least, has been striking out the lineup and showing good control, so his fly-ball tendencies are okay. Wednesday, he struck out nine in six innings to continue that trend. Even though he struck out six Mariners in his 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, Rick Porcello's game is limiting the walks and getting everything on the ground. He got 12 groundouts against four flyouts, so kudos. Even after two straight good starts, he's still risky, if only because those two starts were against the Athletics and Mariners. The surprising Aaron Harang (two runs, five strikeouts and no walks in six innings for a win against the Cubs) has really found usefulness again by limiting his walks, and pitching in a great stadium for a fly-ball pitcher. He strikes out just enough guys to make it work. Even Nick Blackburn, who's not great, limits the walks and gets half his balls on the ground when he's being himself. He walked one against the Orioles - but was done in by the home runs (Vladimir Guerrero and Matt Wieters).

But if a pitcher is only doing one thing well, it's time to be a little worried. Clay Buchholz, for instance, limited the Athletics to one run but walked four against one strikeout. He's getting groundballs, but he needs to to work on the other two facets to get better. Jorge De La Rosa struck out six in seven two-run innings against the Giants, but he's risky because he has iffy control and is a fly-ball pitcher. Don't worry about Dustin Moseley - even with his six shutout innings Wednesday, he's struck out eight batters in 25+ innings. That won't fly even with great control. John Lannan gave up only two runs to the Cardinals, but his control is average and he doesn't strike anyone out. He's droppable in any format. Despite striking out six in five innings Wednesday night against the Marlins, Charlie Morton is droppable because the one thing he's done reliably this year is get groundballs (11 of 'em to one fly ball Wednesday, though).

Even with this rubric in your pocket, there are troublesome pitchers. Against the Phillies Wednesday, Chris Narveson struck out four in six innings, got more groundballs than flyballs, but also showed iffy control with three walks. He's been getting strikeouts despite walking close to four batters per nine this year. And he's also about an average guy with respect to his groundball rate. He's borderline. You could maybe say the same about Ricky Nolasco - who has long struck out plenty of batters, and walked them at a stingy rate, and yet struggled. Perhaps Wendnesday's start - four hits, seven scoreless with eight strikeouts and one walk - will be the start of something good. Zach Britton is a groundballer at heart (12 groundballs against six flyballs in a win against the Twins), but he might need to limit the walks more to continue his fine run, as his strikeout rate is TBD and won't be his strength most likely. I'm happy to discuss these cases on twitter with you further!

* Some bullpen news came out of the action. Drew Storen pitched four scoreless outs against the Cardinals. Sean Burnett gave up a run earlier in that game, and has more of a career platoon split than Storen, who is looking more and more like the sole closer with every passing day. Burnett is nigh-droppable in shallower leagues. Ryan Franklin may find his way back to the closer's role eventually, but he gave up a home run Wednesday in middle relief, so not yet. And Mitchell Boggs looked very closer-ly in locking down the save, with velocity and a good enough slider to make it work. He shouldn't be a free agent in any league, really. For the Brewers, LaTroy Hawkins (shoulder) should return from the DL on Friday, and may work his way into the closer role if John Axford continues to struggle with his control. Kyle Farnsworth got his fourth save Wednesday night and looks solid enough to keep the job all year.

* Flawed hitters can be useful hitters, too. Seth Smith collected two hits and scored three times in his return to the Rockies' lineup. He's worth rostering, but he's also worth sitting against lefties. Logan Morrison has been good, but his minor league track record suggests that the power is fleeting and might not fly in shallow leagues. Now he's hurt, and underwent an MRI on the strained arch in his left foot on Wednesday. Emilio Bonifacio, an extremely flawed (but fast) hitter, subbed in for him. Placido Polanco doesn't have power or speed, but after hitting a three-run home run against the Brewers, he's looking like a decent middle infield stop gap if only for his steady batting average. Similarly, Ty Wigginton won't hit for a great batting average, but he has power and might play more often with Ian Stewart optioned to the minor leagues. Accordingly, he had one hit in four at-bats on Wednesday: a three-run home run.

National League Quick Hits: Andrew McCutchen has been excused from the Pirates for a personal matter and they aren't saying when he'll be back … Corey Hart (oblique) went hitless in his second rehab start but should be back soon … Jason Heyward was moved to second in the lineup in order to work on his patience, which is funny because he's walked more than he's struck out this year … Despite being optioned to Triple-A, Brandon Belt has a bright future and showed discipline at the plate while he was up … Pablo Sandoval was a late scratch with a triceps strain, but doesn't think he'll be out long … Jason Bay (rib cage) will be activated Thursday after hitting two home runs over his rehab … Ryan Theriot had four hits in the day game and is hitting over .300; too bad it's mostly an empty batting average once again … Uh-oh, Homer Bailey's next rehab start has been pushed back due to arm fatigue … Chris Young (biceps) is going to throw a simulated game on Thursday … Ryan Ludwick collected three hits in the nightcap and could be useful in a lot of leagues … Nyjer Morgan is dealing with a thigh bruise at the wrong time; he missed Wednesday's game right when he could be proving that he deserves the centerfield job … Cody Ross returned and went hitless; post-season heroics aside, he can hit lefties but that's about it … Melvin Mora's left foot is still swollen but he thinks he'll avoid the DL; Ryan Roberts is temporarily on fire while the aged one is out, and could steal the job if it continues … Jeremy Hermida started Wednesday and might steal time from lefty-killer Jonny GomesBobby Parnell (finger) has gas, no control, and is now on the DL … Brad Hawpe went hitless in five at-bats with three strikeouts and an error and he's currently unrosterable; deep-leaguers might want to stash the rehabbing Kyle Blanks just in case … Daniel Murphy looks to have the larger side of the platoon with Justin Turner and is a decent bench guy in the deepest of leagues …Laynce Nix hit a home run in the day game against the Cardinals while Mike Morse (flu) was out, but he's striking out in about a third of his at-bats, which means a lower batting average is on the way … Bill Hall sprained his ankle and left Wednesday's game, but it's unclear how long he'll be out.

American League Quick Hits: Dallas Braden (shoulder) only has inflammation says Dr. Yocum, and could only miss the minimum … Phil Hughes (dead arm) threw a successful 30-pitch bullpen Wednesday, but it's unclear what his velocity numbers looked like … He hasn't thrown yet, but Brian Matusz (intercostal) plans to on Friday … The flu is killing the Twins, as Delmon Young and Justin Morneau were out of the starting lineup again Wednesday … Aaron Hill went in for an MRI on his right hamstring Wednesday, and Jayson Nix subbed for him; Nix will remain the lineup going forward because Edwin Encarnacion has been moved to DH - that means the struggling Juan Rivera is a part-time player for now … David Aardsma (hip) gave up two runs (including a home run and two walks) on his first rehab work Tuesday night, so he'll need a few more appearances … The Jay here with the most upside, perhaps, is Travis Snider and he got two hits and struck out twice Wednesday, encapsulating himself perfectly … J.J. Hardy (oblique) hopes to resume baseball activities over the weekend … Taylor Teagarden is up and, by functioning as the third catcher for the Rangers, will allow the team to play Mike Napoli more often … Johnny Damon (finger) remains out … Bartolo Colon, who hadn't started since 2009, went 6 2/3 innings, gave up two earned runs and struck out seven; based on age alone be suspicious … Danny Valencia's luck might be turning - he collected two hits on Wednesday and despite a lack of power is a decent deep leaguer … Manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday that Magglio Ordonez is not yet ready to play every day … Carlos Silva threw 40 pitches in his second bullpen in Tampa and could be joining the Yankee's rotation shortly … The ear-plugged and surprisingly useful Milton Bradley got a routine day off Wednesday … Brandon Webb (shoulder) threw 60 pitches to live hitters and felt healthy afterwards; recent comments that he'd be open to relieving should temper any enthusiasm about him, though … Dan Johnson (wrist) was back in the lineup, but he's un-rosterable … Mark Prior (groin) is on the Triple-A disabled list, which is not a surprise to anyone … Brandon Wood was designated for assignment and should not be owned on any fantasy roster, anywhere.


Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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