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  • Andrew Cashner is dealing (USAT)

    Despite averaging 94.5 mph with his fastball while posting a 3.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, Andrew Cashner recorded just 128 strikeouts over 175.0 innings last season after finally becoming a full-time starter. The K rate improved after the All-Star break, when he produced a 2.14 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with a 61:19 K:BB ratio over 75.2 innings. The hope was that his impressive stuff would lead to more missed bats, and if Cashner’s first three starts are any indication, it’s going to come to fruition in 2014. He’s allowed just three runs over 21.0 innings, fanning 22 batters over that span. Cashner’s last outing was especially dominant, as he tossed a shutout against the Tigers, striking out 11 and yielding one lone hit (a single). Ironically, his SwStr% (7.1) is easily a career low, while his K% (27.5) is a career high. As any pitcher with a 1.29 ERA, Cashner has experienced some good fortune in the early going, as his .196 BABIP is especially crazy considering he also has a 2.50 GB/FB ratio. But all those groundballs should lead to few home runs allowed, and he also hasn’t given up many line drives (16.0%). PETCO Park has increased strikeouts by nine percent over the past three years, which is the most in baseball, so Cashner has that going for him as well. Part of the reason the Cubs traded him was because they didn’t think Cashner could ever be a 200-inning workhorse, but assuming he can stay healthy, he has all the makings of being a top-15 fantasy starter

    Here’s a pretty funny prank played on Jeff Francoeur.

    Jose Abreu literally destroyed a baseball.

    Here’s David Ortiz setting the record for the slowest home run trot of all time.

    Read More »from Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Andrew Cashner, Homer Bailey and a look around the league
  • Chavez of Oakland (USAT)

    My fantasy baseball experience dates back to the late 1980s, a much different time. The Internet wasn't around. No Extra Innings package, no smart phones. Heck, we hadn't bailed on MTV yet. Newspapers still mattered, and a lot of your fantasy commodities were anonymous collections of names and numbers. Sometimes you had no idea what these guys looked like, how they played, what they threw.

    Sometimes you didn't even know the first names. Often you'd phone a commissioner (rotary dial) and sheepishly say "pick up Thompson of St. Louis."

    I'm feeling nostalgic because of a story that's brewing in the Bay Area. Let's talk a little bit about Chavez of Oakland.

    Read More »from Closing Time: Who is Jesse Chavez?
  • Jake, in twos (USAT)

    Don Draper and the 60s return tonight? Swanky. The Red Sox and Yankees? Okay, that's a repeat. But let's renew our fake friendship, nonetheless.

    First chat is set for 9 pm ET. Join us, pour a cocktail, grab a donut in the meeting room.

    Read More »from Sunday Night Fantasy Chat, 9 pm ET
  • Handshakes on hold (USAT)

    As terrific as Koji Uehara has been during his time in America, he's generally been a high-maintenance player. He's only passed the 70-inning mark once (last year), and sometimes he's not best suited for work on consecutive days. I'm not picking on the guy – he's one of my favorite watches in the game, and Uehara was baseball's most dominant reliever last year (all through the championship run). But when a pitcher turns 39, there's only so much we can realistically expect.

    So when the Red Sox say Uehara has a "minor" shoulder stiffness, I'm not going to take it in stride. It's time for a Boston bullpen audit.

    Boston had a push-button save chance ready to go in Friday's 4-2 victory at New York, but Uehara wasn't the man selected. He felt stiffness during his long-toss session before the game and the club decided to keep him out for precautionary reasons. According to respected beat writer Sean McAdam, Uehara won't be available Saturday.

    Read More »from Closing Time: With Koji Uehara dinged up, start the Boston scramble
  • Moose on the loose (USAT)

    Michael Morse has crammed a lot of movement into his decade of major league baseball. He's been an infielder (even a middle infielder), an outfielder, a DH. He's been a National and an Oriole and a Mariner, twice. He's been a PED-suspended player. He's been in and out of fantasy relevance, too.

    Looks like 2014 could be an on year for this vagabond slugger.

    Morse opened the season as San Francisco's starting left fielder, and he's marked his territory nicely during the opening games. A pair of doubles Thursday raised Morse's slash line to .400/.455/.733 (here's some brickball video for you), and he's already collected a couple of homers and 10 RBIs. Given how difficult it is to find power in today's game, this is a welcome reemergence.

    Read More »from Closing Time: Mike Morse, back in our lives; Michael Pineda, filthy again
  • It's been a tough-to-swallow start for Harper. (USAT)

    Poster boy of hype Bryce Harper, who is 7-for-32 to start the season, combined rest of season homers/steals 34.5

    Dalton – OVER. Sure, he’s looked bad so far, but unless there’s some injury I’m unaware of, there’s no reason to change how I felt about him entering the year, and I had Harper pegged to go well above a 34.5 homers/steals combo.

    Scott – OVER. I'm shocked there's been so much talk and angst here. I do worry about Harper crashing into a wall or what not with his crazy style of play, but I have no worries about his ability.

    Andy – WAY OVER. C'mon. We're a week into the season. We're not sure if he can go 18-18? Pffft.

    K machine Prince Fielder, who has stumbled out of the gates in his new Texas digs, rest of season RBIs 99.5

    Scott – OVER. Fielder is fine, and Shin-Soo Choo is going to be on base all summer. Durability won't be a problem. Arlington's weather is your friend. Maybe you can buy low.

    Andy – At least this one is a respectable number. I'm still going OVER. We know

    Read More »from MLB Over/Under: Will slumping Bryce Harper meet high expectations?
  • A recurring scene with Oakland this year (USAT)

    For a couple of years in Baltimore, Jim Johnson was one of those Houdini closers, doing it with smoke and mirrors. He'd routinely pitch to contact and outperform his component stats, collecting a silly 101 saves along the way. Sure, we'd see an occasional rough patch now and then, but the Orioles stuck with him and the handshakes flowed.

    Ah, the salad days. Johnson's moved on to Oakland, but there isn't much handshaking going on. Get out the clipboard and the red pen, we have another closer on the brink.

    Although Johnson technically didn't earn a blown save in Wednesday's ninth-inning giveaway at Minnesota, his messy work was all over the page. He allowed two walks and two hits over five batters (only a botched bunt provided an out), and the Twins tied the score one batter after Johnson exited. The 2014 Johnson ledger shows nine hits and seven runs over 3.1 awful innings, along with five unintentional walks. He's been unable to command his fastball and it's getting him into all sorts of trouble. And when he is in the strike zone, opponents are lacing the ball all over the park.

    Read More »from Closing Time: Jim Johnson loses his way, yet again
  • Giancarlo Stanton could lead the league in homers (USAT)

    Giancarlo Stanton is coming off a down year in which he batted just .249 and has never reached 90 RBI or scored 80 runs in a season. A career .267 hitter who doesn’t steal bases and has missed 85 games over the past two years, it was easy to be skeptical about making Stanton an early fantasy pick in 2014, especially with him once again slated to hit in what projected to be one of the worst offenses in baseball (not to mention in a park that has suppressed homers by 31 percent since its inception two seasons ago, making it by far the stingiest in all of baseball). Of course, there’s also a lot to like about Stanton, who’s one season removed from hitting 37 homers over just 123 games as a 22 year old. He’s one of the 10 youngest players ever to reach 100 career home runs, and even during 2013’s disappointing season, the average true distance of his 24 homers (413.8 feet) was the third longest in baseball (Mike Trout finished first at 419.6 feet). Stanton also crushed this baseball 484 feet earlier this week, so he has the type of power that no stadium can hold back. Moreover, while the Marlins early hitting is likely to regress some, they are clearly going to be a much improved lineup compared to last year, when they finished scoring by far the fewest runs in MLB (they currently rank fourth). In fact, Stanton had more RBI through six games this season than he did all of April last year. It’s crazy to come to any conclusions this early, but Stanton’s K% is way down (16.7 compared to his career 28.4), and K rate stabilizes quickly (usually around just 60 plate appearances), so maybe there’s something to this. Stanton is 24 years old and a truly monstrous season could be in store.

    Here’s a college player hitting a walk-off home run while getting intentionally walked.

    Here’s an interesting column talking about Yasiel Puig.

    This fan’s catch using a popcorn bucket was pretty sick.

    Read More »from Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Hamilton and a look around the league
  • Ball to the wall. A second-year explosion is on the horizon for the ex-Badger. (USAT)

    All it takes is a change of scenery.

    For some, a fresh start can awake the fantasy beast within, elevating a player into a different statistical realm while handsomely rewarding those who invest in his services.

    Take Reggie Bush for instance.

    Arguably the most sought after rusher in last year’s free agent class, Kim K’s former canoodler traded in the limitations of Miami for the fast-track of Ford Field, a move that paid a lucrative fantasy dividend. Underused in the pass game under Joe Philbin the year before – he absurdly caught just 35 balls in 16 games with the ‘Fins in 2012 – Bush thrived in Scott Linehan’s vertical offense, resembling the explosive, well-rounded back he once was in New Orleans and earlier in his career with the Dolphins. Working in tandem with bruiser Joique Bell in Detroit, Bush finished with 1,512 combined yards, 54 receptions and seven touchdowns in 14 games. Impressively, he landed inside the RB top-20 in all but three weeks. His resulting 17.7 fantasy points per game was the seventh-best mark among RBs in PPR-friendly formats.

    Money well spent.

    Read More »from Free Agent Frenzy: Ball, RGIII top list of most fantasy impacted
  • Tuesday afternoon batting practice (USAT)

    It's been a depressing 24 hours for Bernie Brewer, don't you know. He watches Ryan Braun go deep three times in Tuesday's road game and thinks, "You couldn't do this at Miller Park?"

    Braun's collection of homers didn't come off the meat of the Philly staff – Kyle Kendrick served up the first two taters, Brad Lincoln the last one. But let's also give credit where due – Braun's first homer came off a decent 1-2 pitch from Kendrick, and the second one was an opposite-field shot. Only the third home run could be termed a true mistake, a fat Lincoln pitch that was screaming out "crush me" before Braun did just that.

    Generally we don't spend much time in this space examining the major achievements of universally-owned players – there's nothing actionable there. But given Braun's much-discussed thumb problem, we have to view the Tuesday breakthrough in a different light. If you wanted a good time to consider an outgoing Braun deal, you now have a selling point, a window, an opportunity.

    Read More »from Closing Time: If you wanted a Ryan Braun selling window, you got it

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