Fantasy Fare: Morse cracks power code

JOEL COLOMBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:04 PM ET

Is Mike Morse on his way to becoming the National League’s Jose Bautista? Neither the Washington Nationals, nor his fantasy owners, would complain if he were. Morse, like Bautista, lurked in the fantasy backwaters for several years before a change of leagues changed his fortunes. A part-timer with Seattle, the 29-year-old finally got his big break in D.C., last August when Josh Willingham was injured, responding to his first everyday assignment with nine homers over the final two months. Nine more in March secured his starting role for 2011 and four in four consecutive games, heading into Saturday’s action, has everyone talking. Can it continue? Can’t see why not. Despite his size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), he was an extreme ground-ball hitter from 2007-09, but improved his flyball rate the past two seasons to the point where the two figures are practically even this year. During his recent hot streak, however, nearly two out of every three balls he has put into play have been hit into the air. That’s Bautista territory. And with Adam LaRoche perhaps done for the season with a bad shoulder, Morse will be the club’s primary 1B, so the ABs will be there.

- The all-around game that Carl Crawford owners paid for on auction day is finally coming around. While his average, just .204 heading into May, has been climbing all month, the power stroke returned this week when he hit three HRs, giving him four on the season. Slightly disconcerting is the fact that he is only 3-for-5 in SB attempts this month despite a .359 OBP.

- Yes, Chase Utley is finally back playing second base for the Phillies. And, yes, if somehow the veteran has been dumped or passed over in your league, he is worth grabbing at a position that does not offer a lot of quality options. But there are a couple of red flags here. First is the sore knee that kept him sidelined until this week. The rehab strategy has worked, for now, but there is no guarantee it will hold up to the demands of playing 2B. Next, he is coming off a 2010 season in which his average, OBP, OPS and HR totals were his lowest since he became a starter seven years ago. At 32, these things happen.

- The White Sox keep trotting Adam Dunn out against lefties, even though he is 0-for-31 against them so far with 13 strikeouts. Sadly, he is not punishing righties either (.236, five HRs). Maybe J.P. Ricciardi was right about him.

- One player’s injury usually means another can step up and fill the fantasy gap. Buster Posey’s broken leg, suffered on Wednesday, is not one of those. Eli Whiteside and callup Chris Stewart will now handle the Giants’ C duties and both are best left on the waiver wire. The odd RBI and run scored won’t compensate for the drag on the batting average either is expected to produce.

- While adding muscle has helped hitters in the past, it’s not for everyone. A’s 1B Daric Barton bulked up over the winter but is still looking for his first HR while hitting a meagre .207. Hitting for power also involves balance, flexibility and an ability to adjust to a pitch and Barton’s bigger frame just isn’t complying.

- Closer notes: With Joe Nathan and Matt Capps opening the season, the Twins seemed set for closers. Nearly two months later, Nathan has pitched himself out of the job and Capps has blown three of his past five and now says he has a sore forearm … Grant Balfour has replaced Brian Fuentes as the A’s interim closer, but with Andrew Bailey likely just days away from being re-activated, he’s not a must-grab … Frank Francisco is now sharing ninth-inning duties with the Jays. Is it just me or does his fastball have no movement on it? That might explain the four HRs given up in 13 IPs.

- The trading of Scott Sizemore to Oakland should give Ryan Raburn another chance to secure the starting 2B job in Detroit. And with the weather finally expected to heat up in the northeast, the timing is right for Raburn, who admittedly struggles in cooler temperatures early in the season. Sizemore, meanwhile, has been sent back to triple-A by the A’s but, we suspect, will be putting some heat of his own on struggling Mark Ellis before long.

- Nolan Reimold was on everyone’s next-big-thing list a year ago after belting 15 HRs over half a season in 2009 for the Orioles. Then came his stunning collapse in ’10 and return to the minors in March. So imagine everyone’s surprise when he is recalled eight days ago and goes 6-for-11 with three HRs and six RBIs. It won’t last. All of his damage this week came off lefty SPs and, unless he learns how to hit righties, won’t get the ABs.

Odd timing

Seems strange that the Rockies would stick with 3B Jose Lopez through his early struggles, then pink slip him while he is on a 9-for-28 turnaround. If you have him, don’t drop him yet. His best years are behind him, but he should land on his feet somewhere else. St. Louis maybe?

Weird split

Carlos Quentin, CHW

Home Away

.

194 .294

2 HRs 10 HRs

U.S Cellular Field is known as a hitter’s park.

Hot and not

(Hitters the past two weeks)

Jay Bruce, CIN

.

400, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs

Jason Giambi, COL

6-for-15, 5 HRs, 9 RBIs

Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS

.

308, 2 HRs, 10 RBIs, 6 SBs

- - - - - - -

Jayson Nix, TOR

0-for-20

Andre Ethier, LAD

4-for-34, 1 HR

Ben Zobrist, TB

.

119, 1 run, 1 RBI

Trainer's room ticker

Wandy Rodriguez (elbow) and Francisco Liriano (shoulder) missed Saturday’s starts. Rodriguez is the bigger concern … The Angels hope Howie Kendrick (hamstring) can return by June 5 … Orlando Hudson is back out with another groin injury … Josh Johnson will likely return on June 6 ... Rafael Soriano is out up to two months with a bad elbow … Joe Mauer (legs) is getting ABs in extended spring training but there’s no guess as to when he will be back … Tim Hudson (back) looks ready to pitch Monday after missing one start … Luke Scott is trying to play through a partially torn labrum and not starting against LHPs … Nyjer Morgan will play through a fracture on the tip of his finger … Brian Matusz may make his first start of 2011 on Wednesday … Matt Holliday (quad) has been limited to PH duties … Nate McLouth (ribs) is out until mid-June.

Waiver watch

(With fantasy rating out of 5)

Eric Young Jr.

2B/OF, Rockies

* * * *

The key will be how much of that gaudy .462 OBP he’s brought back with him from triple-A. The anemic Rox seem serious about giving him a shot and had him leading off in his first game back on Friday. If he can get on base, with his speed (17 SBs in the minors), he’ll be worth a pickup.

Josh Reddick

OF, Red Sox

* *

Consider this an early, and time-limited, audition for RF in 2012. J.D. Drew likely returns Sunday from his sore hamstring but becomes a free agent next year. Reddick will get a chance, along with Ryan Kalish, to take over, so now is the time grab him in keeper leagues. He belted 12 HRs in triple-A and is 4-for-8 his first two games up.

Josh Outman

SP, Athletics

* * *

Was on his way to a solid rookie year in 2009 when Tommy John surgery shelved him in June. Making his first start since then this week, he held the Angels to one run in seven IPs, but will have to continue to pitch well to avoid getting bumped when Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross return from the DL.

Brandon Crawford

SS, Giants

* *

Making an almost unheard-of jump to the majors from class-A ball, where he was hitting .352 with three HRs in 59 ABs, he hit a grand slam in his first game in the bigs (off Shaun Marcum, no less), which no doubt will trigger some inflated bidding. He might be good for a few games but this just doesn’t happen.

Andy Oliver

SP, Tigers

* *

Replaces Phil Coke (ankle) and, after a brief but promising rookie debut in ’10, lefty has the stuff (mid-90s fastball) to stick around longer this time around.


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