You're not officially in the Circle of Trust until I add you to my phone's custom dictionary. Welcome to the club, Josh Reddick. You've forced your way into the mix.
Reddick was the big star (man, I miss Alex Chilton) in Friday's 11-4 romp over the Tigers, going 4-for-4 with a couple of homers and a stolen base. Reddick was already having a useful fantasy year, but this outburst pushes his stats into an area where even those in thin leagues have to take notice. Oakland's right fielder has a nifty .292-23-8-19-4 line through the opening 33 games of the year. If you prorate his stats to a full season, Reddick winds up with 112 runs, 39 homers, 93 RBIs and 19 steals. Sounds like someone who should be owned in more than 39 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
No one really expects Reddick to keep up this pace, of course. He was never a buzzy prospect back in his Boston days (only once did he show up in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects), and his 184-game sample at Triple-A was mediocre (.243/.300/.449, though he hit 32 homers). He's already 25. If something's going to happen, it needs to happen soon.
That established, Oakland is going to give Reddick time and space to develop; on opportunity and volume alone, he's an intriguing roto commodity. He's entrenched as the team's No. 3 hitter (even on a bad offense, that's a great slot for fantasy numbers) and his plus defense protects his job. Reddick has also shown the ability to hit left-handed pitching, through a limited big-league sample of 93 at-bats (.290/.347/.484). Ultimately his growth against right-handed pitching (for his career he's at .252/.294/.444) will determine how far he can go.
Reddick could use some work on his walk and strikeout rates (6.4 and 17.7, respectively), and that pretty .292 average isn't likely to stick (a .343 BABIP is a mild reach for him). But Reddick is also making a lot of his own luck through a 22.9 percent line drive rate, and any player who mixes power and speed as he does will always be relevant in our games. Move around some deck chairs, see if you can find a home for Reddick. Every offense in the majors has something to offer us.
There's one other thing I like about Reddick, even though it's not directly tied to a fantasy category. There's a swagger to his game, a visible confidence; he seems like the type of player who will quickly become a leader on the A's. He's fun to watch. He reminds me a little bit of the Nick Swisher we saw in Oakland, or Jayson Werth's best days in Philadelphia. Kick the tires on this one, I like where the story is headed.
Sticking in Oakland for one more minute, there's a fluky streak going on with new third baseman Brandon Inge. He's collected four homers and 16 RBIs in his last five games, with half of the damage coming against his former Detroit club. Inge's batting average is forever a problem (.234 for his career) and I wouldn't bother with him in a shallow or medium mixer, but he might be worth a short-term rental in deeper leagues while this streak runs itself out. He qualifies at two positions (second, third) and he can still run into a fastball now and then, as my friend Alex Patton likes to say. Inge is available for pickup in 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Elbow Room (USP)• Everyone sick of Robin Ventura and his pitching staff shenanigans, raise your hand and say "aye." Count me in. I've had it with this story, but so long as it generates news every day, we have to keep talking about it.
According to the White Sox (and that's the key disclaimer whenever you sleuth around Ace Ventura), Chris Sale's MRI came back clean and the lefty will probably re-enter the rotation Saturday against Kansas City. I'd love to see Sale hold up physically because I see star potential in him, no matter what role he's asked to fill. I didn't get any Sale shares in March but I regret that; if the elbow and shoulder don't bark, he's going to bite.
How are the White Sox going to handle the closer situation now that Sale, apparently, is out of the mix? Let's go to MLB.com and listen to what Ventura said before Friday's 5-0 victory:
So who's the closer?
"Whoever ends up in the ninth inning," Ventura said. "We're back to that."
Rookies Addison Reed and Hector Santiago, plus veteran lefty Matt Thornton have all saved games so far this season, and Ventura said he'll continue to play mix and match with that trio.
"Addy had looked great at it," Ventura said. "With Jesse [Crain] being on the DL, it kind of moves people around a little bit. The last week, we kind of moved some people around in that role. I don't see that changing.
"We've got the opportunity to use Matt, Addison and Hector in that role. You're seeing what [opponents] are lined up with and [we'll] go from there."
So if we're to take Ventura at his word (always a dicey proposition), it's a committee in Chicago. But most fantasy owners don't have the space (or the willingness) to load up om Chicago relievers. Most of us need to guess on a best option, then hope for the best — and if I have one shot to take here, today, I'm backing Reed.
Thornton and Santiago both worked at the end of Friday's victory, recording the final four outs in support of surprising Gavin Floyd (2.53/0.95). Thornton had to carry the set-up burden in the eighth inning: he was given access to a possible blown save, but he had no real chance of finishing the game out and picking up the handshake. He struck out Eric Hosmer on four pitches (leaving the bases loaded), then retired to the showers. Santiago was sharp (12 pitches, eight strikes) in a perfect, stress-free ninth inning.
Perhaps this means Reed was being saved for a standard save chance, or maybe this means Ventura liked how Santiago matched up against Jeff Francoeur and Mike Moustakas. When you're ahead by five runs in the ninth inning, strategy isn't that critical. No one can speculate on this bullpen with any confidence, but Reed's pedigree (he was a star closer in college and zoomed through the minors) and performance this year (10 scoreless innings, three walks, 14 strikeouts) make a strong statement.
Blind Faith (USP)• It was a recycling special at Fenway Park on Friday night, as scuffling right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez and Clay Buchholz matched up. Fantasy owners watched with nervous energy, in the park and on the Twitter.
Jimenez quickly undid all the progress from his previous turn, giving up nine hits and seven runs before taking the walk of shame in the bottom of the fifth. I can't think of any standard format where I'd want him on my roster. When you have more walks than strikeouts for the season (and in your last turn), you're dead to me. How can this guy be rostered in 69 percent of Yahoo! leagues? Give up the ghost. Don't run into a burning building.
Buchholz finally put a stop to his crooked-number tour (6.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 R, 3 BB, 0 K), but for a "good" outing, this really wasn't that promising. That zero in the strikeout column is an obvious problem, and like his Cleveland counterpart, Buchholz has more walks than whiffs for the season. Say what you want about Buchholz as a teammate or golfing buddy, but I don't have any faith in him right now — and certainly not next week at Tampa Bay. It's a shame the Red Sox never flipped Buchholz a few years ago, when he was highly regarded around baseball.
• Rafael Dolis had a chance to mark his territory as the Cubs closer, but he failed at Milwaukee. Dolis squandered a two-run lead in ugly fashion (four-pitch walk, two-run homer), and The Sveumheads went on to lose in 13 innings. Had Dolis come through here, it would have extended the leash nicely given that Carlos Marmol (two outs, two runs) and Michael Bowden (one out, two runs) both struggled. Marmol landed on the disabled list after the game; he's dealing with a sore hamstring.
Dolis surely needs a day off after throwing 41 pitches over two frames, so James Russell probably goes to temporary head of the committee line. Russell worked a scoreless eighth, dodging a walk and pushing his stunning ERA down to 0.68. I still don't trust a lefty who hasn't proven he can get righties out through his career, but this isn't my bullpen to manage. Kerry Wood also offered up two scoreless innings, though he walked three batters and missed the zone on 14 of 25 pitches. If I were redrafting today, I'd rank Dolis the highest Chicago reliever, followed by Russell. I'm also surprised journeyman Shawn Camp hasn't pushed his way to the late innings — he's been reliable in middle relief (3.18/1.24, four walks against 14 strikeouts).
• Mike Minor's been rocked for 21 runs in his last three starts, pushing the ERA to 6.59, but I'm not giving up on him. Two of the messy turns came with logical explanations attached (dates at St. Louis — the best offense in the NL — and Colorado), and he's still telling a bankable story in the K/BB columns (41 punchouts over 42.1 innings, against just 12 walks). His FIP trims down to 4.39, his xFIP is a solid 3.53, and even Minor's WHIP (1.39) is unparallel to his ERA. Look for a major improvement next week against Miami (assuming the Braves don't overreact to the variance and do something stupid). In mono leagues or deeper mixed pools, it's a terrific time to buy low.
• Dee Gordon's lukewarm price in the latest Shuffle Up came into question a handful of times, so let's go under the microscope. Gordon isn't doing much other than stealing bases in 2012 (12 swipes in 17 attempts); this is a one-trick pony all the way. A modest 14 runs won't move the needle, he's never going to be a power guy, and his spotty defense (nine errors) might eventually force the Dodgers to consider a change at the position. I do expect the club to try to be patient with Baby Flash, but when you carry a .218/.258/.282 batting line and you're not a plus defender, you're not working with an infinite leash. His high-strikeout, low-walk profile also presents a problem in the leadoff spot.
Archway Assault (USP)Speed Round: It was a good night for big names doing deep twice: take a bow, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Beltran and Jose Bautista. Not everyone has completely bought in on the Hamilton Story: the fine folks who discuss roto at Fangraphs ranked their rest-of-the-season outfielders Friday and Hamilton landed at No. 7. Beltran, for what it's worth, checked in at No. 26. Hey, it's a game of differing opinions. … Frank Francisco hasn't been sharp in 2012, though his Friday meltdown was just his second blown save of the year. Might be a good time to check the availability of Jon Rauch (man, that neck tattoo is scary) and Bobby Parnell. … Things are back to normal in the Miami bullpen, at least on paper. Heath Bell (I'd like 10,000 marbles, please) has been returned to the closing gig. The somewhat-overrated Edward Mujica had a messy eighth inning Friday (one out, three runs); I'm surprised some view him as the preferred hedge to Bell in this bullpen. Flounder then came on for a clean ninth, in what looked like a "get work" appearance; it turned into a victory when Francisco imploded in the bottom of the inning. If you're going to own any Miami relief pitcher not named Bell, it really should be Steve Cishek. … Can you still trade high on Bryce Harper's buzz? His stat line through 12 games isn't anything special: .233/.333/.372, five runs, three RBIs, one steal and one caught stealing. He hasn't homered yet. I'm completely sold on his eventual stardom, but it's awfully hard to be a star in The Show at age 19. Tomorrow and next year tends to be the overrated in most fantasy leagues; when in doubt, play for today, trust what you already know to be true. … Even when John Axford blows a save, he's still the coolest guy in the room. Check out what happened with The Axman after Friday's messy appearance. His command hasn't been sharp this year (seven walks), but I still fully trust in the Milwaukee closer (and those 20 strikeouts over 10.1 innings). Francisco Rodriguez isn't applying any pressure, either (have a look at his crooked numbers). Axman, Forever.