Nick Nelson

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McDonald's Serving Up Success

Friday, May 25, 2012

We've reached a point where James McDonald can no longer be ignored.

There's been a prolonged temptation to overlook the right-hander. After all, he pitches for a bad team and hadn't been able to pull everything together in three big-league seasons. Yet, here at age 27, McDonald appears to be turning the corner. Through nine starts, Pittsburgh's ace is 3-2 with 2.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 58/18 K/BB ratio in 57 1/3 innings.

He's been nothing short of dominant. That he's averaging over a strikeout per inning isn't entirely surprising – J-Mac has always had good stuff and averaged 9.7 K/9 in the minors – but his success this year stems largely from greatly improved control. After averaging 4.1 BB/9 in his previous MLB career, he's now averaging just 2.8.

Rather than cooling off after a hot start, McDonald only seems to keep heating up. In each of his past five turns, he has issued two or fewer walks and notched at least seven strikeouts, reaching double digits twice. He's holding opponents to a minuscule .198 batting average on the season and has allowed only two homers.

It stands to reason that McDonald will eventually come back to Earth, and any pitcher being supported by the Pirates offense will have a tough time finding wins, but he's looking like the real deal. Fantasy players are finally starting to take notice, as his ownership in ESPN leagues shot from 59 percent to 91 percent in the last week.

If you're in one of the few leagues where he's available, snatch him up. If you already own him, play him confidently this week for two starts against the Reds and Brewers.

Elsewhere: Carlos Zambrano finally had a bad outing. Is it the start of a regression or a small speed bump? He's got favorable match-ups against the Nats and Phillies this week, so we should quickly find out.

The AL two-start crop is pretty light in the upcoming week, highlighted by Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver. Take a hard look at Scott Diamond, the surprising Twins lefty who looks ahead to the A's and Indians, and Matt Moore who gets two starts at home.

Going Twice…

American League

Strong Plays

Justin Verlander: @BOS (Bard), NYY (Hughes)
Jered Weaver: NYY (Hughes), TEX (Harrison)
Matt Harrison: SEA (Millwood), @LAA (Weaver)
Chris Sale: @TB (Moore), SEA (Millwood)
Doug Fister: @BOS (Doubront), NYY (Kuroda)

Decent Plays

Matt Moore: CWS (Sale), BAL (Arrieta)
Kevin Millwood: @TEX (Harrison), @CWS (Sale)
Scott Diamond: OAK (Godfrey), @CLE (Tomlin)
Josh Tomlin: KC (Adcock), MIN (Diamond)
Felix Doubront: DET (Fister), @TOR (Drabek)
Jake Arrieta: @TOR (Hutchison), @TB (Moore)
Phil Hughes: @LAA (Weaver), @DET (Verlander)

At Your Own Risk

Drew Hutchison: BAL (Arrieta), BOS (Bard)
Nate Adcock: @CLE (Tomlin), OAK (Godfrey)
Daniel Bard: DET (Verlander), @TOR (Hutchison)
Graham Godfrey: @MIN (Diamond), @KC (Adcock)

National League

Strong Plays

Jordan ZImmermann: @MIA (Zambrano), ATL (Hanson)
Lance Lynn: @ATL (Hanson), @NYM (Niese)
James McDonald: CIN (Arroyo), @MIL (Parra)
Cole Hamels: @NYM (Niese), MIA (Zambrano)
Shaun Marcum: @LAD (Harang), PIT (Bedard)
Carlos Zambrano: WAS (Zimmermann), @PHI (Hamels)
Bronson Arroyo: @PIT (McDonald), @HOU (Rodriguez)
Tommy Hanson: STL (Lynn), @WAS (Zimmermann)
Trevor Cahill: @SF (Zito), @SD (Suppan)

Decent Plays

Jon Niese: PHI (Hamels), STL (Lynn)
Ted Lilly: MIL (Parra), @COL (Nicasio)
Aaron Harang: MIL (Marcum), @COL (Moyer)
J.A. Happ: @COL (Nicasio), CIN (Arroyo)
Juan Nicasio: HOU (Happ), LAD (Lilly)
Travis Wood: SD (Suppan), @SF (Zito)
Manny Parra: @LAD (Lilly), PIT (McDonald)

At Your Own Risk

Barry Zito: ARI (Cahill), CHC (Wood)
Jeff Suppan: @CHC (Wood), ARI (Cahill)

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Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to Rotoworld's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter at nnelson9.
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