D.J. Short

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Parker Can't Lose

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I could barely believe my eyes late Wednesday night when Dodgers' closer Javy Guerra managed to stay in the game after being struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Braves' catcher Brian McCann. That's one tough dude. I was legitimately surprised that he wasn't pulled simply for precautionary reasons, even after making it through a couple warm-up pitches, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly stuck with his man and paid for it.

Guerra proceeded to allow three straight RBI singles to blow the save and take the loss. The most important thing is that he passed a concussion test after the game and isn't expected to miss any time, but he now has a 5.59 ERA over 11 appearances and has struggled a bit recently following a quick start.

There's no indication that Guerra is close to losing his grip on the closer role and perhaps he should get a bit of a pass for what happened after being struck by the liner, but I would scoop up Kenley Jansen (Yahoo: 65 percent owned, ESPN: 55.9 percent) wherever available. He's still the best pitcher in this bullpen.


Alcides Escobar SS, Royals (Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 18.3 percent)

Escobar entered this season with a lowly .252/.294/.339 batting line over his first 350 games in the big leagues, but he's hitting .303 (20-for-66) over his first 18 games. Just another case of small sample size gone wild? Perhaps. But he's hitting line drives at a career-high rate and .339 his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) isn't outrageous for a player with his speed. The 25-year-old doesn't hit for much power and his plate discipline is still a mess, but he could be pretty valuable out of a MI (middle infielder) spot if he can maintain a decent batting average and swipe 30 bags.

Jarrod Parker SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 4.1 percent)

Acquired from the D-Backs in December as part of the Trevor Cahill deal, Parker made his A's debut Wednesday and limited the White Sox to one run on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings. The 2007 first-round pick made a successful return from Tommy John surgery last year by posting a 3.79 ERA and 112/55 K/BB ratio over 130 2/3 innings with Double-A Mobile and made his major league debut as a September call-up. Parker has struggled with his command at times, so there may be some bumps in the road (see: upcoming road start against the Red Sox), but he possesses solid strikeout potential and will make half of his starts in one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in the game. He's worth a look in most formats.

Alex Presley OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 6.7 percent)

The Pirates' offense is pretty depressing to watch right now, but Presley is a minor bright spot. The 26-year-old outfielder has followed up on his surprising 2011 campaign by hitting .284 (19-for-67) with a homer, three stolen bases and seven runs scored over his first 17 games. This includes his current 10-game hitting streak. His plate discipline isn't ideal for a leadoff man (16 walks in 237 plate appearances in the big leagues), but Jose Tabata isn't exactly threatening for the gig with his slow start. I could see Presley reaching double-digits in homers and 20-plus stolen bases over a full season, which makes him worth considering in deeper mixed leagues.

Dexter Fowler OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 48 percent owned, ESPN: 19.9 percent)

Fowler went 0-for-4 in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday against the Pirates, dropping his batting average down to .222 (12-for-54) in the process, but don't throw in the towel yet in mixed leagues. Remember, the 26-year-old center fielder hinted at a breakthrough last year by batting .288/.381/.498 with an .880 OPS after the All-Star break. That's no guarantee of future success, but even if Fowler falls a little short of the lofty expectations that came with being a popular draft day sleeper, he still walks often enough where he should help with runs scored. The Rockies do have a history of jerking him around, though.

Stephen Drew SS, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 23 percent)

There's no formal timeline for Drew's return from ankle surgery, but he continues to make encouraging progress. The 29-year-old shortstop took ground balls during a workout Monday at Chase Field and also ran the bases at full speed for the first time. If all goes well in extended spring training games this week, it's fair to say an official minor league rehab assignment shouldn't be far off. Drew has frustrated the heck out of fantasy owners since he appeared on the brink of superstardom in 2008, but he makes for a wise stash if you have a DL spot open.

R.A. Dickey SP, Mets (Yahoo: 24 percent owned, ESPN: 8.4 percent)

Dickey had his worst start in four years last week against the Braves, but he bounced back quite nicely on Wednesday night by tossing seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the Marlins. The veteran knuckleballer isn't a great source for strikeouts, despite fanning 22 batters over 24 1/3 innings this season, but he keeps the ball on the ground for the most part and owns a solid 3.16 ERA since joining the Mets in 2010. He's a fine anchor for any mixed league staff.

Jason Hammel SP/RP, Orioles (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 15 percent)

Through his first four starts, Hammel is 3-0 with an outstanding 1.73 ERA and 25/8 K/BB ratio over 26 innings. Where the heck did this come from? It's still a pretty small sample, but the 29-year-old right-hander seems to have reinvented himself a bit. Not only is he throwing harder than he has in the past (93.5 mph average on his fastball compared to 92.6 mph career average), he is also mixing in his slider 10 percent more often than his career average. His ground ball rate has also shot up to 61.8 percent, up from his career average of 45.5 percent. Who knows if any of this is sustainable (keep in mind, he also has a .254 BABIP and 85.4 percent strand rate), but there's room to speculate in deeper mixed leagues. It will be pretty painless to drop him if this all turns out to be an early season mirage. His next start is against the Yankees, so be careful.

Allen Craig 2B/OF, Cardinals (Yahoo: 24 percent owned, ESPN: 15.9 percent)

Craig was feeling so good following offseason knee surgery that the Cardinals were considering putting him on the Opening Day roster as a bench player. However, the Cards ultimately decided to scale things back after he experienced some swelling in the knee toward the end of spring training. The good news is that he hasn't had any issues during his recent rehab assignment and is expected to move to Triple-A Memphis on Thursday. He won't have a clear role upon his return, but with some injury-prone veterans on the club (Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran), he should get chances to contribute. His second base-eligibility makes him an extra sneaky stash in deeper formats.

Addison Reed RP, White Sox (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 5.5 percent)
Matt Thornton RP, White Sox (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 17.1 percent)

Hector Santiago blew his second save in six chances Wednesday and saw his ERA jump up to 8.53 on the young season. White Sox manager Robin Ventura continues to stand behind the young screwballer, who still owns an impressive 10/1 K/BB ratio over 6 1/3 innings, but it's high time for fantasy owners to speculate. Reed (10 strikeouts over 7 1/3 scoreless innings) and Thornton (0.93 ERA and eight strikeouts over 9 2/3 innings) have both been excellent so far this season and should be added wherever available. I'd give a slight edge to Thornton in the short-term since he's the veteran and a few saves could enhance his trade value, but my guess is that Reed will have the role all to himself by the end of the year.

Shopping at the five-and-time:

(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)

Gerardo Parra OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 8 percent owned, ESPN: 5.3 percent)

Parra won a Gold Glove award last year for his defense in left field, but he also flew under the radar as a pretty decent contributor on offense. The 24-year-old batted .292/.357/.427 with eight homers, 46 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a .784 OPS. Not bad. Chris Young is expected to miss more than 15 days with a slight ligament tear in his right shoulder, so Parra should get most of the starts in center field for now. He isn't going to blow you away in any one category, but he does enough to be useful in five-outfield mixed formats.

Trevor Bauer SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 7 percent owned, ESPN: 0.8 percent)

That's right, I'm going there. Josh Collmenter has a miserable 9.82 ERA over his first four starts this season, so it shouldn't be much longer before we see some changes in the D-Backs' rotation. I wouldn't be surprised if someone like Patrick Corbin gets the call first, as Arizona has service time considerations to think about, but he would merely be keeping the seat warm for Bauer. The 2011 first-round pick has allowed just one run over 22 2/3 innings with Double-A Mobile this season while fanning 28 and walking 14. The walk rate is a bit of a concern, but there's little doubt that he has the potential to dominate right away. If you have an empty bench spot available in a mixed league that's 12 teams or deeper, by all means stash away.

Suitable streamer:

Chris Capuano SP, Dodgers  (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent)

Capuano has a 3.52 ERA and 20/11 K/BB ratio in 23 innings over his first four starts this season and has allowed two runs or less in each of his last three. The veteran southpaw is not someone I would rely on every time out, but similar to last year with the Mets, he makes for a fine streaming option when he pitches at home. Capuano will face the Nationals on Sunday and while they currently sit in first place in the National League East, they are in the bottom-third in the majors in runs scored.

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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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