There are two important story lines fantasy owners need to be paying very close attention to tonight:
1. Trevor Bauer makes his Major League debut
We have all heard the hype, but now we get to see it for ourselves. If his chance at sticking in the rotation had been in any doubt, the likely loss of Daniel Hudson for the season almost assures it.
Tonight’s start against the Atlanta Braves will be an interesting one to watch. Bauer has electric stuff and the Braves are in the middle of the pack in strikeouts (13th with 577). That is a pretty good fit. The thing we need to be wary of is Bauer’s control, with 48 walks in 93.0 innings between Double & Triple-A this season. While the Braves are not a team that draws a ton of walks (14th in the league with 232), don’t be surprised to see Bauer struggle early on. They could be patient to see what he has and, if Bauer is struggling to find the strike zone, it could get ugly.
He has the stuff to be a must use option extremely quickly and the strikeout ability to offset any control issues. Still, we need to see him do it on the big stage.
2. Andrew Cashner returns to the Padres as a starting pitcher
He made three starts at Double-A to prepare, posting a 1.88 ERA, 22 K and 3 BB over 14.1 IP. In his final two appearances (11.0 IP) he struck out 19.
Cashner gets a much more appealing matchup, as he draws the Houston Astros, who lead the league in strikeouts this season. Having already appeared in the Major Leagues, he may also be more well equipped to excel tonight.
Long-term, he offers the same potential as Bauer (though with a little less win potential). He has electric stuff and can pile up the strikeouts, but he needs to make sure he continues to find the strike zone. If his stint in the minor leagues is any indication, it appears he may have finally figured it out. However, only time will tell.
It is rare that potential strikeout threats like these two materialize in the middle of the season. Both are worth instant fliers in all formats, though both bring with them a lot of risk as well.
If I had to pick one for 2012, I may actually go with Cashner by just a hair. He definitely has the more favorable home ballpark, has Major League experience and has shown signs of correcting his control.
That said, it really is a judgement call and I would be thrilled to be able to get either one at this stage of the game.