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  • Prince Fielder is one of many early drafted hitters off to slow starts (USAT)

    As someone who recommended taking starting pitching early this year, Clayton Kershaw getting hurt and Stephen Strasburg currently sporting a 5.33 ERA sure hasn’t helped my case. But after those two, most have been as advertised (give or take). I’m in no way claiming victory with this strategy (and admittedly, I was high on Danny Salazar, Homer Bailey and Zack Wheeler. Chris Sale and Alex Cobb are also currently on the DL), but the biggest disappointments so far have been hitters for the most part. Before I go any further, I want to be clear I expect almost all of these hitters will be fine moving forward. We are still dealing with small samples. But there are some serious star hitters off to pretty horrendous starts.

    Read More »from Mostly MLB Notes: Talking slumping sluggers and a look around the league
  • Hot to trot (USAT)

    The easy part of the Charlie Blackmon game came in early April. The harder part comes now.

    We first started discussing Blackmon about three weeks ago, after his 6-for-6 explosion in the Coors Field opener. It wasn't a difficult call – we saw plausible upside, we outlined it, we talked about it.

    If you wanted Blackmon back then, all you probably had to do is find one disposable player on your roster and you were in business. Simple trade-off. Maybe you were discarding someone in the minors, or moving a disabled player. Perhaps you were giving up on a March lottery ticket that didn't pay off. It probably was a painless, all-upside move. (Mind you, some reckless gamblers paid $14 for Blackmon in industry mixed leagues – okay, that was me. But in public leagues, a resource-drop probably wasn't required.)

    Things are trickier now, 23 games into the season. Blackmon is off to a ridiculous .410/.453/.692 start, with five homers and six steals. He's scored 19 runs, driven in 16, reached the seats four times in his last three starts. Wednesday's delicious line: 5-4-2-3, homer, steal. Blackmon's the No. 1 or No. 2 hitter in fantasy to this point, depending on how your valuation calculator feels about Giancarlo Stanton.

    Obviously Blackmon isn't this good – no one's this good. But just how good is he? Where should we rank him going forward? How much would you need before you'd move Blackmon in a trade?

    Read More »from Mission Impossible: Ranking Charlie Blackmon
  • Vitamin E (USAT)

    Evaluating coaching is one of the most difficult things to do for any sports observer, especially when we're looking at the development and improvement side. We're not in the locker room, we're not on the practice field, we're not in the workout room. Players improve all the time and it's not always clear who deserves the credit – and how much of that credit might go to someone (or something) outside of the player himself.

    All preamble aside, it sure looks like Pittsburgh has a good thing with pitching coach Ray Searage. And by proxy, this might be enough to make a case for reclamation project Edinson Volquez.

    Searage became Pittsburgh's full-time pitching coach in 2011 and he's had plenty of feel-good stories on his watch. A.J. Burnett repaired his career with the Pirates in 2012 and Francisco Liriano did the same thing last year. No one thought much of Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon when they joined the Bucs; now, they're both considered lockdown relievers.

    Is Volquez the feel-good story for 2014? Let's have a look around.

    Read More »from Closing Time: Have the Pirates fixed Edinson Volquez?
  • Talk of the Town (USAT)

    Normally when a former top prospect gets off to a tidy 1.80/1.00 start on the mound, everyone sits back, relaxes, enjoys the ride. But we're seeing an interesting divergence of opinion on Julio Teheran.

    Teheran's latest start was a seven-inning dandy against the Marlins on Monday (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8). He had to settle a no-decision when Craig Kimbrel struggled in the ninth, but nonetheless this was a fun, useful line for all formats. We could be upon the stardom campaign the scouting hounds have been waiting for – Teheran was a Top 5 prospect on pretty much everyone's clipboard back in 2011-2012.

    Alas, there are chinks in the armor when you look under the hood. Teheran's fastball velocity is down thus far in 2014 (it's anywhere from a 1.5 mph drop to a 0.8 mph drop, depending on where you get your radar love), and his secondary numbers (.240 BABIP, just 5.4 K/9, 7.1 HR/FB) don't fully support the 1.80 ERA. Most of the ERA estimators say Teheran should have a number in the high 3s or low 4s right now; the projection system Pecota calls for a 4.17 ERA (whoa, Nelly) the rest of the way.

    Read More »from Closing Time: Julio Teheran’s house of mirrors (but where’s the smoke?)
  • One of the really nice things about the Miami Marlins, at least from a fantasy perspective, is that the organization aggressively promotes MLB-ready prospects.

    Jose Fernandez made his Miami debut at age 20, having never appeared in a regular season game above Single-A. No member of this team's home-grown starting outfield — not Yelich, not Ozuna, not Stanton — was required to make a stop at Triple-A prior to joining the Fish. Often, when this franchise decides that a highly regarded prospect is ready to tread water, they simply toss the kid in the deep waters of the N.L. East.

    So when we tell you that left-handed starter Andrew Heaney has been embarrassing the hitters of the Double-A Southern League, you should consider it actionable fantasy info.

    Heaney, 22, entered the season ranked as the consensus No. 1 talent in the Marlins' minor league system, and he's been brilliant through four early starts at Jacksonville. He's struck out 25 batters over 24.1 innings thus far, issuing only

    Read More »from Next big Fish? Andrew Heaney is dominating at Double-A
  • Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura has opened the 2014 season in much the same way that he finished in 2013. That is to say, he's hitting poorly. Segura is just 17-for-73 at the moment (.233) with four extra-base hits (no homers). He's drawn only one walk in 17 games, and he's been caught stealing in four of his seven attempts.

    Not good, friends. Not good at all.

    You might recall that Segura was a second-half bust last year, giving us a post-break slash-line of .241/.268/.315 and homering just once. He was a beast in the first two months last season — he hit .367 in April, then .345 in May — but he's been Alcides Escobar-ish ever since.

    On Monday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke dropped Segura from second to seventh in the batting order, and it's tough to argue with the move. Segura has pretty much been an out-machine to this point. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that he's also been a grounder machine, leading the majors in groundball percentage (76.7) by a fair margin. He ranks near

    Read More »from What's your level of concern, Jean Segura owner?
  • The secret handshake of the ninth inning (USAT)

    While everyone remembers Gordon Gekko's speeches and Bud Fox's rise and fall from the seminal film Wall Street, Lou Mannheim is the hidden soul of the picture (in Rounders terms, he's the Knish). Here's one of Lou's watershed tidbits:

    The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do.

    Mannheim was talking about, well, money. But for our purposes, let's assume he was referring to saves. Framed another way: how badly do you want (or need) Kyle Farnsworth today?

    Jose Valverde has been a hot mess over his last three appearances (eight runs, four homers), forcing the Mets to make a change. You're grounded, Papa Grande. Terry Collins made it official on Easter morning: Farnsworth is the closer for now.

    Farnsworth is the ultimate journeyman, a 38-year-old veteran who's been with eight teams over the years. He's occasionally had success as a closer, most notably a 25-save season with the Rays back in 2011. But the same Tampa Bay organization kicked Farnsworth to the curb last summer, frustrated by a 5.76 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Farnsworth redeemed himself with a brief run of success in Pittsburgh, then became a free agent. Bidding was tempered, but the Mets offered a contract in late March.

    Read More »from Do you have the stomach for Kyle Farnsworth?
  • Wake up to Wood: still free in half of Yahoo leagues (USAT)

    You need a plan for the upcoming week, so let's take a look at the double-dipping pitchers for the period Monday-Sunday. As always, consider everything on this list tentative: sometimes pitchers get scratched, sometimes plans change, sometimes it rains.

    Additional notes will follow after the pitching form.

    1. Adam Wainwright (at NYM, PIT): Overdue for a Cy Young.
    2. Yu Darvish (at OAK, at SEA): Won't miss the Arlington undertow.
    3. Chris Sale (at DET, TB): Hope he goes deep because the bullpen is a joke.
    4. Felix Hernandez (HOU, TEX): For what it's worth, April is best career month (2.51/1.10).
    5. Cliff Lee (at LAD, at ARI): Clear favorite against Maholm and Arroyo.
    6. Jose Fernandez (at ATL, at NYM): Gets two calls if Marlins skip fifth starter.
    7. Masahiro Tanaka (at BOS, LAA): Trip to Fenway Park his first major test.
    8. Justin Verlander (CWS, at MIN): Sale up front, but then gets Pelfrey cookie.
    9. James Shields (at CLE, at BAL): Stuck with Royals offense, but still a no-brainer.
    10. Francisco Liriano (CIN, at STL ): Career at PNC (15 starts): 9-2, 1.72, 1.00).
    11. Johnny Cueto (at PIT, at ATL): Velocity up, looks 100 percent healthy.
    12. Julio Teheran (MIA, CIN): Pitching to contact, but career K/9 much higher in 2H.
    13. Anibal Sanchez (CWS, at MIN): Down 1.7 mph on heater but the whiffs are there.
    14. Andrew Cashner (at MIL, at WAS): Raw stuff finally turning into strikeouts.
    15. Hyun-Jin Ryu (PHI, COL): One terrible start, four outstanding ones.
    16. Wily Peralta (SD, CHC): Andy Behrens is a believer.

    Read More »from Closing Time: Double dips for Travis Wood, Wily Peralta
  • George Springer has a reason to smile after his promotion to Houston. (Getty)

    It's arguable that among the players that opened the '14 regular season in the minors, no player's eventual promotion to the majors was more eagerly anticipated in fantasy baseball circles than that of Astros top prospect George Springer. In the numbers-dependent virtual game, Springer's combined 37 home runs and 45 steals in 135 games last season across two minor league levels (Double- and Triple-A) was impossible to ignore.

    When Springer was promoted this week, the buzz was clear and present. On Wednesday, Springer's MLB debut for the Astros, the Houston man-child was picked up in nearly 50,000 Yahoo leagues. That was 40K more leagues than any other player on that day. Springer picked up a hit in his debut, but went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts. And the swing-and-miss issues are the rub when it comes to Springer's profile. He's been a high-K type throughout his minor league career, though he's managed to walk a healthy amount as well.

    Now that he's facing the best arms that the world

    Read More »from Call to action: Springer promotion causes stir
  • Don't get mad, Trouty, everyone has a price (USAT)

    In many ways, it's the age of enlightenment for fantasy sports. Information is everywhere, advice is everywhere, stats are everywhere. In most of the leagues I play in and observe, there's less of a gap between the proven contenders and the second-division teams.

    But that doesn't mean fantasy owners don't make mistakes. Even the consistent players aren't immune to a misstep here or there. Let's shine a light on some of those errors, five mistakes even good fantasy owners make.

    -- Declaring some players untouchable

    Every so often you hear the call in your fantasy league: a competitor is putting this player or that player on the block. One way to start a conversation, I guess. Often it's a slumping, disappointing player getting pushed into the showroom.

    It's time to take a different angle to this. Why not put your good players on the trading block? Heck, why not have everyone on your team available at any time?

    Read More »from Tip Drill: Five mistakes even good fantasy owners make


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