by Jimmy Hascup
A full slate of games, with a lot of power on display, as well as some outstanding pitching performances. Let’s take a look at who made the cut:
BJ Upton (2-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R): Most owners drafted Upton based on his undeniable power-speed upside and game’s like this have to get you a little excited. Upton is an extremely streaky power-hitter – meaning his power comes in bunches and this may be the start of one of those runs for Upton. The speed will be there, it’s the power that would put the icing on the cake for fantasy owners – and would put Upton among the top outfield options in the game.
Chase Utley (2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB): For those who questioned whether Utley or Kinsler should be the first taken off the board, let the eight-game old season be a reminder: Kinsler is on the DL, while Utley continues to rake with the Pujols-es of the world. Utley has four homeruns, 10 RBI and is batting .367. A third straight year of 30-plus homeruns, and his fifth year of 100-plus RBI should be easily attainable. This guy should be untouchable in fantasy leagues. For good measure, I’ll mention Shane Victorino (4-5, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R) and his impressive night. Victorino was batting below .200 entering this game, but after it he’s batting .250. The power really isn’t part of his repotoire, but he does have two homers and 10 RBI already, which is a bonus to owners.
Jose Guillen (3-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB): Raise your hand if you have Jose Guillen on your team (only five percent in ESPN leagues do)? Raise your hand if you expected him (even at this point in the year) to be second in the league in homeruns? After today’s game, Guillen has hit five homeruns in five-straight games. We know he has power, but he’s also one of the least patient hitters in the game, rarely getting on base unless he gets a hit. No matter what, though, owners have to scoop him up and hope you can get him while the streak lasts.
Ryan Theriot (4-5, 2 RBI, 1 R, 2 SB): Theriot is your average shortstop: he’ll hit at a decent clip, drive in a handful of runs, but use his speed more than anything else. He hit seven homeruns last year, but I wouldn’t expect that many this year. Theriot’s not really that exciting – and he was in a rut heading into this game – but the two steals are his firsts of the year, which is what owners will use him for.
Matt Kemp (2-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 SB): This game was a matchup of two (Justin Upton vs. Kemp) outfielders who are primed to be first round picks for the next decade in fantasy drafts. Upton (3-6 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R) had a great game, but Kemp filled the stat-sheet. The five-category stud showed fantasy leaguers why he’s one of the top-notch outfielders in the game. He has an average ability to convert his fly balls into homeruns (14 percent last season), but the main problem for him is that he’s more of a line-drive/speed-type hitter, and not one with an uppercut swing, which makes me wonder really how much power will develop as he progresses.
Jonathan Sanchez (W, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 11 K): How good is this Giants rotation? Sanchez has shown this capability numerous times before. So long as he limits his walks, which he did today, with only three, Sanchez has the stuff that can translate into results, similarly to his top-two (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain) counterparts. The only problem is that he often is so wild and throws so many pitches, that he can’t provide fantasy owners with enough innings to reveal his value. My friend (who has him in our fantasy league), put it perfectly: “Sanchez is filthy…even if he doesn’t know where it’s going.”
John Danks (W, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 6 K): Danks had the Blue Jays hitters guessing all night and he looked flat-out dominating. He should be in store for a bit of a regression this season, but Danks is just still 24-years-old, and has the makeup to be a great middle-of-the-rotation starter in fantasy leagues. He doesn’t light-up radar guns, but his cutter, slider and changeup are all plus pitches ready to give hitters fits.
Colby Lewis (W, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 10 K): Pitching on normal rest, but a day early because of CJ Wilson’s bout with food poisoning, Lewis showed that he’s not to be taken lightly this season, overpowering Cleveland hitters all night. His time in Japan really helped him learn how to pitch. Not only did he learn a cutter, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio was an absurd 9-to-1! Don’t forget, he still throws in the mid-90s and has a good breaking ball, as well. An ace in Japan isn’t the same as pitching in the major leagues, but I still think he’s going to be excellent this season.
Joel Pinieiro (W, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 7 K): Against the team like the Yankees, with all that power and in Yankee stadium, this start is tremendous. The reinvented Pineiro is a strike-throwing-groundball machine and even though his forte doesn’t involve the strikeout (4.42 K/9 last year), with the way he has thrown since last season into this year, Pineiro should be owned in more than 35 percent of fantasy leagues (ESPN). He plays for a good fielding club, they can score runs and despite being a pitch-to-contact type pitcher, Pineiro doesn’t hurt himself by issuing free-passes, making him a great play against weaker-hitting opponents.
Javier Vazquez (L, 5.1 IP 6 H, 4 ER, 4 K): Forgive me for discussing two pitchers from the same game, but I just have to talk about Vazquez and his AL-difficulties. While giving up four runs is half as bad as giving up eight runs (like he did against the Rays), Vazquez just hasn’t been a great pitcher in the AL, besides his 2007 campaign with the White Sox. Despite the fact that he plays for one of the best offenses in baseball, owners can’t feel entirely confident starting him right now. I will say this: sure the AL is a tougher league to pitch in, but it’s not like you forget how to pitch when you switch leagues (or teams), do you? I’d expect Vazquez to be a solid second-tier starter this year and I’d bet that he bounces back against the A’s in his next outing.
Tommy Hanson (W, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 7 K): This is the type of outing you like to see – especially after Jurrjens struggled against them – from your ace-type pitcher. Hanson is already among the most talented pitchers in the NL and is sure to take the next step in his development, using last year’s experience to his benefit. The Braves should be the second best (if not first, to some) team in the NL East and Hanson will be a large part to the Braves success this season.
What do you guys think about these players? Who would you have included?