Fantasy Fare: Young studs have arrived

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper demonstrates his batting stance during spring training...

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper demonstrates his batting stance during spring training in Florida. Harper was called up by the Nats this week. (REUTERS)

Joel Colomby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:07 PM ET

Baseball's two best hitting prospects -- outfielders Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Angels' Mike Trout -- are here, called up to start Saturday. These guys have so much potential, they both went in the middle rounds of our mixed-league draft despite opening the season in triple-A.

Harper, 19, is already being compared to a couple of the greats of the fantasy baseball era — Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr., though neither of them became instant studs upon making their MLB debuts. That, plus the fact Harper was hitting only .250 with one HR at triple-A this month, are reasons to temper short-term expectations. Don’t be surprised if Harper does something memorable over his first few games, before the scouting reports circulate and any perceived weaknesses are attacked. Trout, 20, has an advantage in that he already saw major-league pitching for the Halos last year, slugging five HRs in 123 ABs, but batting only .220. Some owners will wait and see how Trout and Harper fare Saturday and Sunday before deciding what to do. Don’t. By Monday, they will both be gone.

One of the more improbable statistical lines through April has been the team-leading five home runs and 1.049 OPS for the Marlins’ veteran 2B, Omar Infante. This from a guy who has spent most of his career as a utility infielder and managed double-digit homers only once (in 2004 when he clubbed 16 with the Tigers). So, why the turnaround? A new hitting coach? Contact lenses? PEDs? Just lucky? Turns out it’s as simple as a batting glove. Infante ditched a small protective guard in the thumb of his glove, which has produced a better grip. The new feel has also produced a .315 AVG, which is 40 points better than his career mark and closer to the .321 he hit with the Braves two years ago.

Anyone who scooped up White Sox SP Philip Humber this past week didn’t expect another perfect game — or even anything close. But going from his career-best outing last Sunday to his worst on Thursday against the Bosox (9 ERs in 5 innings) was just another example of the occasionally sick sense of humour of fantasy sports. Still, you might wanna give him a mulligan on this one. In between his two starts, his wife gave birth to their first child, so it was a heck of a week. So what can we expect now from Humber? Well, if you picked him up after his el perfecto, we wouldn’t be too quick to dump him after el stinko. He remains a decent young starter with solid upside whose fantasy value obviously lies right in the middle between the two extremes.

Speaking of mulligans, Javy Guerra’s blown save on Wednesday has again renewed chatter of Kenley Jansen taking over as the Dodgers closer. But give the guy a break. With one out and one on in the ninth against Atlanta, Guerra took Brian McCann’s line drive flush off the face for an infield single, but remarkably remained in the game. The next three Braves all had RBI singles off Guerra, but he deserves a medal, not a demotion. At least until the next blown save.

I had the Angels-Rays game on TV in the newsroom Thursday afternoon and was surprised to see Brandon Allen (when did they sign him?) striding to the plate for Tampa as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. Quipped to the boss that this was going to be either a strikeout or a home run. As I own Jordan Walden in my mixed league, it was no surprise it wound up the latter. Allen, who was cut by the A’s after an 0-for-7 start, has awesome power, when he actually hits the darn ball. But I can’t see him squeezing out much playing time behind Carlos Pena and Luke Scott.

With Brad Lidge following Drew Storen to the DL, Henry Rodriguez becomes the Nationals’ latest closer.

JUST RANTING

Can’t believe I’m actually a little upset at Daniel Bard’s strong outing in Friday’s Battle of the Sox. You see, in my AL-only league, I’m deep in starters, but need another closer if/when Jim Johnson implodes and still figure (pray) that Bard is the ultimate solution to Boston’s nervous ninth innings.

HOT AND NOT

(Hitters the past 14 days)

Cody Ross BOS

.326, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs

Gerardo Parra LAD

10 runs, 2 HRs, 6 SBs

Jose Altuve HOU

.320, 9 runs, 9 RBIs

- - - - - -

Jose Reyes MIA

.175, 3 runs, 1 SB

Jimmy Rollins PHIL

.133, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs

Peter Bourjos LAA

.080, 1 run, 0 SBs

WEIRD SPLIT

James Paxton SEA

First 2 starts

10.1 IPs

1 ER

17-1 K-BB

Second two starts

7 IPs

7 ERs

5-13 K0-BB

Fifth start

6.0 IPs

0 ERs

9-2 K-BB

Reached down to double-A for this one. Talk about extremes!

INJURY UPDATES

Stephen Drew (ankle) looks like he is almost ready to head out on a rehab stint … Same with Doug Fister (ribs) ... Jon Jay, it turns out, does have a partially separated shoulder … Shin-Soo Choo has been nursing a tight hamstring … Saying he is a fast healer, Hunter Pence was back in the Phils lineup Tuesday hours after an MRI on an injured shoulder … Brett Gardner (elbow) is looking to return Thursday … Coco Crisp is on the DL with an inner ear problem … Carlos Lee has a sprained ankle … Mike Morse re-injured his back and is being shut down until June … Brian McCann has a strained ribcage … Ryan Dempster (quad) should be ready for this coming week’s start … Lance Berkman (calf) may be back by next weekend.

WAIVER WATCH

With fantasy rating out of 5

Brad Eldred

1B/DH Tigers

* * *

You’d think 1Bs would be the last thing the Tigers need, but the 31-year-old forced his callup with .383 AVG, 13 HRs and 35 RBIs in just 80 triple-A at-bats and will likely be the DH most days until he cools off. Word of caution: This is his sixth MLB organization in the past six years and, in that time, has 15 HRs in 282 ABs, but a .204 AVG. Went 2-for-5 with an RBI in his first game up Friday.

Nathan Eovaldi

RP, Dodgers

* * *

Recalled from double-A this week, the time to get him is now while he is pitching in middle relief. He has a lively fastball he keeps low in the strike zone and has the potential to become either a quality starter if he develops an off-speed pitch or a a closer if he doesn’t.

Pedro Strop

RP, Orioles

* *

It was Strop, and not Matt Lindstrom, who got back-to-back saves when closer Jim Johnson was ill earlier this week. The former Rangers RP has the livest arm in the O’s bullpen, though that comes with some control issues. Still, he looks to be the guy should Johnson struggle (which some feel is inevitable) or get hurt.

Jarrod Parker

SP, Athletics

* * *

Neither his early callup this past week nor his solid debut were unexpected and his upside makes him worth, at worst, stashing on reserve. As we’ve seen with most young A’s SPs the past few years, the favourable pitchers park will be balanced out by spotty run support and the vagaries of inexperience.

 

 


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