TORONTO - I read somewhere this week the best reason for not panicking in April, for not unloading players off to a slow start. It goes something like this: Releasing a player now is the equivalent, in your NFL pool, to dumping your quarterback because he threw for only one TD in Week 1.
The accepted rule of thumb is to give a slumping hitter 100 at-bats or a pitcher 40 innings before entertaining thoughts of unloading them before their value bottoms out. You’ve heard it before, but every player in baseball will have his ups and downs over the course of a 162-game schedule. Some just happen to get either one out of the way in the first couple of weeks.
-- Blue Jays OF Eric Thames was seen as an emerging power source after hitting a dozen homers in 362 ABs last season. This month, his owners are still waiting for that first long ball. They could be waiting a while. The reason, according to Fan Graphs stats, is that more than two of every three balls Thames puts into play — 69% to be precise — have been grounders, compared to just 17.2% fly balls and 13.8% line drives. You’re not going to hit many home runs that way. Last year, his FB/GB percentages were almost even.
-- Aroldis Chapman was pumping in nearly 100-mph fastballs upon his arrival from Cuba four years ago, but has reduced his velocity every year since and is down (!) to only 97.1 this season. However, with that slight decrease has come better control, to the point where, in his first nine IPs this season, the Reds right-hander has struck out a whopping 17 while allowing zero walks, a ratio almost unheard-of for that small sample size. This is important to know because Chapman is currently pitching in middle relief — which is the fantasy equivalent of falling off the earth. He won’t close as long as Sean Marshall is doing the job, but after being stretched out in the spring for a possible rotation slot, Cinci should find a starting slot for him at some point. So now is the time to jump on him if he is available.
-- For leagues with a five-game position eligibility rule, Mariners DH Jesus Montero needs only one more appearance behind the plate to qualify as a catcher.
-- Chris Nelson, who had been out-hitting Jordan Pacheco while sharing 3B for the Rockies, now has the job to himself with the latter’s demotion to triple-A. Nelson isn’t a difference-maker as a fantasy corner infielder, but should hit double-digit HRs and SBs while maintaining a .250ish AVG with regular at-bats.
-- Is there a more enigmatic hitter around than Pedro Alvarez? The Pirates 3B is just 2-for-30 this season with 15 Ks and likely would have been demoted had both hits not been home runs. Manager Clint Hurdle says Alvarez’s pre-game and practice routines are “perfect” but it doesn’t translate to games. “It’s like going from the driving range to the tee, with people watching,” he says.
With Brian Wilson done for the season, Santiago Casilla is the Giants RP to grab for saves … Juan Cruz earned a pair of saves for the Pirates this week because Joel Hanrahan was nursing a tight hamstring … Tom Wilhelmsen of the M’s has future closer written all over him, even moreso with Brandon League set to become a free agent in 2013.
Used my 18th-round pick in our mixed-league draft to take future stud Bryce Harper. Figured, with a hot April, he’d be up quickly and contributing. But heading into Saturday’s action, the Nationals OF is hitting just .220 at Syracuse with zero HRs and just one RBI. I could be waiting a while.
Juan Pierre, PHI
AVG OBP SLG
.300 .300 .300
With zero walks and zero extra-base hits, that was his line heading into Thursday. Of course, that night he ruined it with a triple and a walk.
HOT AND NOT
Hitters, the past two weeks
Matt Kemp, LAD
.489, 7 HRs, 16 RBIs
Nolan Reimold, BAL
17-for-42, 5 HRs, 1 SB
Emilio Bonifacio, MIA
.340, 10 Rs, 9 SBs
- - - - - - -
Jose Bautista, TOR
7-for-41 (.171), 1 HR
Alex Gordon, KC
8-for-46 (.174), 1 HR
ESPN points to a study showing that only about a third of pitchers who undergo a second Tommy John surgery (Brian Wilson, Joakim Soria) make it back, though relievers stand a better chance … Brett Gardner (elbow) hopes to begin swinging a bat again by next weekend and return from the DL the first week of May … Tim Hudson (back) is expected to make his first start of the season in about a week … Lorenzo Cain (groin) begins a rehab stint Sunday … Lance Berkman (calf) couldn’t dodge the DL, but it looks as if Jon Jay (shoulder) will … Chris Young has a slight tear in his shoulder but may not be out longer than his 15 days on the DL … Justin Upton hasn’t played since Monday because of a bruised thumb … Justin Morneau is day-to-day after fouling a ball off his foot.
With fantasy rating out of 5
Jordan Schafer, OF, Astros
* * * *
No player has jumped off the waiver wire faster than him the past two weeks and with six SBs and an OBP 100 points higher than his .280 AVG., he has cemented his role as the Astros’ leadoff hitter.
Drew Hutchison, SP, Blue Jays
* * *
After reading colleague Ken Fidlin’s reports on him from Dunedin, the young righty was one of my asterisked minor-league sleepers on draft day, though I never got the chance to select him. Lack of experience may hurt, but he has the control and smarts to last well beyond Saturday’s debut in K.C.
Maicer Izturis, SS, Angels
* * *
After getting only one AB in his first five games, the Angels started him in six of the next nine. And for a guy stuck in a bench role to open the season, he’s been productive, going 7-for-21 with 3 RBIs and 3 steals.
George Kottaras, C, Brewers
Speaking of doing a lot with a little playing time, the Markham, Ont., product has a .400 AVG, 3 HRs and 8 RBIs from just 15 ABs.
Matt Carpenter, 1B/3B, Cardinals
Many owners sat tight after he went 7-for-12 with a HR and 7 RBIs last weekend as an injury fill-in. But with Lance Berkman now going on the DL, the 26-year-old will get a longer look.
(*Stats do not include Saturday’s games)