It’s late June, we’re wrapping up interleague play, we’re talking about rookies racking up enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title (hello, Mike Trout) and yet we still have some firsts for 2012 happening right before our eyes. Nothing better than something new and exciting, right? Well, two of fantasy baseball’s hottest pick-ups over the past few weeks made their 2012 debut Friday night and each of them performed up to task and worthy of a stash on your bench for however long you needed to stash them.
The buzz on Roy Oswalt had been plentiful as some people picked him up super early, anticipating that he would eventually sign with someone and be ready for at least the second half of the season. When it was Texas that finally inked the deal, there were definitely some concerns, given the home ballpark. Sure, Oswalt pitched in a hitter’s park in Houston for years, but this was Texas. And it was the American League. Just the mere mention of those two factors is enough to increase some pitchers’ ERA and WHIP totals. But Oswalt persevered…at least for the night. He threw 6.2 innings of one-run ball, scattering nine hits and a walk while striking out six. Rock solid performance. His fastball was clocked in the low 90’s and his slow curve looked fantastic. There were two quick moments where he pitched himself out of a jam, but overall, he kept the Rockies hitters off-balance and gave his fantasy owners a spectacular debut.
Also making his long-anticipated 2012 debut was Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Shortly after signing a three-year contract extension with options for another four years this spring, Perez tore cartilage in his left knee and underwent surgery that was to keep him on the shelf for anywhere from 12 to 14 weeks. Well, that time has now passed and after a lengthy but successful rehab, Perez was back in the lineup on Friday and ready to contribute. He singled in his first at-bat, giving his fantasy owners immediate gratification for stashing him away and when he came up again with Mike Moustakas already on first, le gave them something to really stand up and cheer as he launched his first home run of the season. He finished the day 2-for-4 with a run scored, a home run and two RBI. Worth the wait? He will be. You won’t see a whole lot of pop out of him, but he’s definitely capable of hitting close to .300 the rest of the way. Everything else should fall into place.
So congratulations to both of them and congratulations to you if you’re an owner. I love Perez and think he’ll be a huge asset at a very disappointing catcher position this year. As for Oswalt, time will tell. I’m still a bit skeptical, but I’m not going to rain on your parade with my cynicism just yet. And as great as each of their debuts was, there were still guys who did better…
|Zack Greinke, MIL||9.0||3||0||0||1||4||0||0.00||0.44|
The Brewers/White Sox game was an unbelievably well-pitched game last night with Zack Greinke outdueling Chris Sale in a 1-0, 10-inning nail-biter in which Greinke went the full nine innings and watched from the dugout as his team finally mustered up just enough offense to reward him with the win for what was beyond a yeoman’s effort. He threw 100 pitches (61 for strikes) to make it through all nine frames and induced 12 groundball outs, just making it so hard for the White Sox hitters to make any sort of clean contact. He’s now 3-0 over his last five starts with a 1.46 ERA and 37 strikeouts to just six walks, giving him 99 strikeouts on the year in 96 innings of work. If it wasn’t for the presence of R.A. Dickey and Matt Cain, it would be hard not to consider Greinke as an early favorite for the Cy Young.
|Ben Revere, OF MIN||4-4, R, RBI, 2 SB|
|Gregor Blanco, OF SF||2-4, 2 RBI, BB, 3 SB|
|Franklin Gutierrez, OF SEA||4-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI|
|Jason Hammel, SP BAL||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 10 K|
|Chris Sale, SP CHW||ND, 0.00 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 7 K|
It was definitely more of a pitching night than it was hitting as evidenced by the lack of power even just here on the leaderboard. Both Jason Hammel and Chris Sale put up fantastic performances on Saturday, but they were far from alone. I definitely don’t want to slight either of these guys – seriously, I’m still trying to figure out Hammel, but he’s been huge for his owners – but I also have to give a nod to Jair Jurrjens who made an outstanding return to the Braves rotation, Ubaldo Jimenez for shutting out the Astros during Cleveland’s 2-0 win, to Lucas Harrell for countering Jimenez throughout most of that game, and to A.J. Burnett who has looked incredibly sharp ever since that early-April shellacking he took. Fantastic efforts by them all and a definite nod to you if you had any of them active in your lineup.
While they might not be as exciting as guys who are constantly pushing the ball over the fences, it’s nice to see the speed guys taking center stage every now and again. I actually really like Ben Revere this season and love the fact that he’s getting so much playing time in recent weeks. In fact, Revere has started all but one game here in the month of June and has hit .333 with 12 runs scored, nine RBI and 10 stolen bases during the month. He has earned the right to start every day and may be guaranteed a permanent stay if the Twins end up trading Denard Span as they have been rumored to be.
Gregor Blanco is another feel-good story this year. While numerous uninformed Giants fans continue to praise their farm system for growing such a talent, the rest of the world is saying “it’s about time” to the 28-year old former Brave/former Royal. He definitely flashed some potential early on in his career, but just couldn’t seem to crack the starting lineups on a regular basis. With the Giants relatively weak in the corners and lacking in speed on the bases, Blanco has become a perfect fit. He’ll garner the majority of time in right field, get some starts over in center, but most importantly, should be sitting atop the lineup and racking up some decent runs scored and some stolen bases.
Welcome to the party, Franklin Gutierrez. Out for virtually the entire season (he made his 2012 debut on June 8) with a torn pectoral muscle, Gutierrez struggled during his initial comeback. But he’s got back-to-back home run games now and is looking like he’s got his timing back. He won’t dazzle you with eye-popping numbers, but he will probably be able to help you fairly steadily if you’re in need of a fifth or sixth outfielder.
|Ryan Theriot, 2B SF||0-5, 4 K|
|Yoenis Cespedes, OF OAK||0-4, BB, 3 K|
|Chris Young, OF ARI||0-4, 3 K|
|Vin Mazzaro, SP KC||L, 47.25 ERA, 6.00 WHIP, 2 K|
|Ryan Cook, RP OAK||L, BS, inf. ERA, inf. WHIP|
Strikeouts and zero-hit nights are never fun, but they aren’t nearly as detrimental as pitching performances like we had from Vin Mazzaro and Ryan Cook. From Mazzaro, I expect pitching lines like this and there should be no way – not even if you’re in a crazy deep AL-only league -- that you should be starting this guy. If you had him in for some inane reason then you only have yourself to blame. Don’t tell me that he looked decent in his last two starts, because even those were pretty mediocre. Start a guy like Mazzaro and you should automatically expect a rise in your ratios.
As for Cook, these things happen. Closers get beaten up all the time, so it’s not like this was the biggest nightmare of them all. OK, no outs and four earned runs is pretty bad, but in this case, it’s going to be how he responds in his next outing. He’ll still get the save chances, at least until he blows them as consistently as Brian Fuentes does.
No real new injuries to report, save for maybe the fact that Angel Pagan of the Giants is doubtful for today. He’s having himself a little abdomen issue right now but no one has said anything about a DL stint.
Enjoy your Saturday trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond and Home Depot. Try and catch a ballgame or two if you can.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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