Fantasy owners who landed uber-prospect Gerrit Cole after he was called up 11 days ago -- and were wondering where all of those strikeouts were hiding -- have to be breathing a little easier today.
The young Pirates righty, who routinely touches 100-mph with his fastball, fanned five Angels in 6.1 innings on Friday night. And while that, in itself, is nothing special, it was a far sight better than the three measly Ks he mustered over his first two starts -- which was actually holding back some poolies from going after him.
The difference on Friday was that the former No. 1 overall pick started mixing in his curve and changeup more liberally and was generating more swings and misses, though he did walk his first batter.
In his inaugural two outings, the rookie pounded the strike zone with his heater almost 84% of the time, dared batters to make contact (which they did at an 89% rate) but survived to beat a couple of former Cy Young winners in Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke.
Fortunately, Cole is aware that relying solely on his fastball is a risky game plan against major-league hitters, and he seems to know what he is doing as far as deployment of his off-speed pitches. In fact, he has yet to unveil his slider, which was his No. 1 out-pitch in the minors, even once so far. But Cole, at 3-0 with a 3.44 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, at least now looks like a safe investment with the potential for a huge upside.
-- We keep waiting for Adam Lind’s chariot to turn back into a pumpkin. While his AVG is a scintillating .338, most of his other deeper stats (including HR/F rate and K%) aren’t too far off what he’d done the previous few seasons when the Blue Jays 1B tumbled out of fantasy relevance. What is different is his .373 BABIP, almost 100 points higher than last year. That normally suggests there’s been a large element of luck involved. But Lind’s new all-fields mindset has produced a more discerning eye at the plate and a reduction in the percentage of swings at pitches outside the strike zone from 31.1% to a career-low 24.0%.
-- In Matt Harvey and the freshly minted Zack Wheeler, the Mets may have uncovered another Seaver-Koosman 1-2 punch atop their rotation. Harvey, of course, is well on his way to being one of the best pitchers in baseball while top prospect Wheeler turned in a sparkling debut this week and should be targeted in mixed leagues. The only grey area here is whether Wheeler is even eligible to be claimed. After making his first start, he was immediately optioned back to triple-A, even though he already is slated to start again Tuesday night against the Chisox. So technically, and depending on your league’s rules, he is not available, though in Yahoo! pools, the red ‘NA’ next to his name won’t prevent you from picking him up.
-- Without a starting position to call his own following the return from the DL of 2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers’ 20-year-old Jurickson Profar is being tried out as a LF.
-- Cole Hamels, he of the gruesome 2-11 record, might better help himself out by not serving up so many tasty first-pitch morsels. No doubt looking to get ahead early in the count, the Phillies lefty has been hit at a whopping .489 clip (23-for-47) with his first pitch, allowing three HRs and 12 RBIs.
-- In D.C., yes, you can lose your job to an injury. Nationals 2B Danny Espinosa, who struggled while trying to play through a fractured wrist earlier this month before landing on the DL, finished his minor-league rehab this week but will not be recalled right away while top prospect Anthony Rendon takes over his role. It looks like Espinosa now becomes trade bait.
-- How the heck does 41-year-old Raul Ibanez have 14 homers already? Well, a mid-May hot stretch, when he hit six in seven games, sure helped, but so has the fact that he has shed his platoon tag and become an everyday OF in Seattle this month, even though he is hitting just .184 against lefties this season.
-- Closing time: Mariners’ Tom Wilhelmsen (11 earned runs allowed in his past seven innings) will try to work out his problems in non-save situations. And with chief setup man Carter Capps also off-form, the M’s are going with a ninth-inning committee that saw both lefty Oliver Perez and the unproven Yoervis Medina each earning a save this week. Though his peripheral stats suggest he is a less-than-ideal closing choice, past success should afford Wilhelmsen the chance to reclaim the role at some point … Andrew Bailey is out as the Bosox’s closer after blowing three of five save opps. We figure Koji Uehara deserves to get first crack after Junichi Tazawa came up small in that role earlier in the year.
WAIVER WATCH (With fantasy rating out of 5)
Wil Myers, OF, Rays * * * *
Baseball’s top hitting prospect was off to a tepid start (4-for-21) before Saturday's grand slam and should become an everyday fixture, even in mixed leagues. He showed a good eye at the plate in the minors and has plenty of power.
Roy Oswalt, SP, Rockies * *
His Rox debut on Thursday was typical of the mixed bag he produced in his failed comeback with Texas exactly a year ago: Lots of Ks, lots of hits allowed. Pitching again in the NL should be offset by Coors Field’s run-inflating tendencies. Worth the risk if you’re desperate, but you’ll have to live with the highs and lows.
Eric Young, OF, Mets * * *
With one phone call, speedy switch-hitter goes from being a utility player with Colorado to the default leadoff hitter and starting CF for the Metropolitans. He’ll have to hit to keep the job but, for now, his fantasy stock shoots up along with his potential runs and steals totals.
Jordan Lyles, SP, Astros * * *
He is CBS.Sportsline’s most added player and with good reason -- allowing two or fewer ERs in each of his past seven starts. Take away his only rough outing -- on May 14 against Texas -- and his ERA is a sparkling 2.14.
Stephen Fife, SP, Dodgers * * *
The NL version of Jordan Lyles right now. Since being recalled early this month, has limited all four of his opponents to one or two ERs while racking up 22 Ks in 23 innings.
Expected returns, barring setback, from the DL this coming week include: Jose Reyes, Aaron Hill, J.J. Putz, Clay Buchholz, Chris Heisey, Jedd Gyorko, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Kemp, Asdrubal Cabrera and Bryce Harper -- the last two likely not until the weekend … Kevin Youkilis has undergone back surgery and is out until late-September … Rafael Betancourt could be back in 7-10 days … Seven games back from his left hamstring injury, Austin Jackson is day-to-day with a sore left leg … Corey Hart (knee) likely won’t be back until after the all-star break … Ryan Braun (thumb) will need at least a couple of more weeks … Jon Niese has a torn rotator cuff but will give it a couple of weeks to see if surgery can be avoided … Carlos Quentin has been out with a sore shoulder … David Price got through his first rehab assignment but will likely need a couple more … Brandon Morrow (forearm) suffered a setback early this week.
HOT AND NOT Hitters the past two weeks
Yadier Molina STL .422, 7 runs, 11 RBIs
Jay Bruce CIN .317, 7 HRs, 12 RBIs
Gregor Blanco SF .419, HR, 3 SBs
Rajai Davis TOR .409 (9-for-22), 6 SBs
Jose Iglesias BOS .425 (17-for-40), 1 SB
Adam Dunn CHW, .326, 6 HRs, 13 RBIs
Ben Revere WAS .392, 10 runs, 3 SBs
- - - - - - -
Martin Prado ARIZ .150, 3 runs, 0 SBs
Alex Gordon KC .159 (7-for-44), 0 HRs
Josh Willingham MIN .175, 0 HRs, 1 RBI
Will Middlebrooks BOS .138 (4-for-29), 1 run, 1 HR
Aaron Harang SEA
Vs. LAA, NYY, Tex (5 starts)
0-5, 14.46 ERA
Vs all other teams 6 starts
3-2, 1.76 ERA
(Not including Saturday's late start)