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Need pitching help? Scooping up one of the following
starters for this week’s action could leave you pleasantly surprised:
Braden, LHP, A’s
Matchups: June 16 at Dodgers; June 21 at San Diego
Summary: Lost in the emergence of newcomer Vin
Mazzaro has been the success of teammate Braden, who’s emerged as Oakland’s de
facto ace, reeling off five straight quality starts and a 2.91 ERA over that
span, including a 2.25 ERA in his past three starts. The Dodgers rank in the
bottom-half of the Majors in OPS over the past 30 days, and the Padres are
hitting just .218 against left-handers this season.
Blanton, RHP, Phillies
Matchup: June 18 vs. Toronto
Summary: Blanton doesn’t have most favorable
matchup, but there’s no reason he can’t keep his string of quality outings
going Thursday against the Blue Jays. Note that in his past five starts, the
rejuvenated righty has gone 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA and a 32/7 K/BB ratio,
including seven innings of two-run ball against the Red Sox last time out.
Hochevar, RHP, Royals
Matchup: June 18 vs. Arizona
Summary: Hochevar seems to be settling down in the
Royals’ rotation, tossing two impressive quality starts since being recalled
from Triple-A Omaha, including a complete-game shutout against the Reds last
time out. He’ll host another below-average lineup Thursday in the Diamondbacks,
making him a guy to grab despite being opposed by ace Dan Haren.
Outman, LHP, A’s
Matchup: June 19 at San Diego
Summary: See Dallas Braden. Southpaws give the
punchless Padres lineup fits, and Outman is trending in the opposite direction
as Friday’s opposing starter, Chris Young, who owns a ghastly 8.78 ERA in his
last three starts. Quietly emerging as one of the AL’s top surprise arms,
Outman has lasted six-plus innings in each of his past seven starts and boasts
a 4-1 record, 2.80 ERA and .182 average during that span.
Penny, RHP, Red Sox
Matchup: June 17 vs. Florida
Summary: Penny’s pitch command has improved markedly
since putting April in the books (38/9 K/BB ratio), which explains why he
sports a 3.57 ERA in his past three starts, including six scoreless innings vs.
the Yankees last time out. You can’t ask for more momentum than that heading
into Wednesday’s outing at home against the Marlins, who are hitting just .247
on the road this season.
Romero, LHP, Blue Jays
Matchups: June 16 at Philadelphia; June 21 vs.
Summary: Knocked around in his first start back from
the 15-day DL, Romero has rebounded by holding the Royals and Rangers to a
combined four earned runs in two starts and 13 1/3 innings since, good for a
2.70 ERA. Nobody has questioned his stuff, and his command is improving (32/14
K/BB ratio). If you have the choice of starting him once, pick Sunday against
the Nationals. Otherwise, he’s capable of pulling his weight against a Phillies
lineup featuring a number of left-handed hitters.
Wakefield. RHP, Red Sox
Matchups: June 16 vs. Florida; June 21 vs. Atlanta
Summary: Both of Wakefield’s matchups come at Fenway
Park, where the knuckleballer has done his finest work this season with a 5-0
record and a 3.27 ERA. He also faces two of the National League’s least
productive lineups in the Marlins (.725 OPS) and Braves (.716 OPS).
— Alex Cushing, MLB.com
All this created havoc for owners with limited roster space on such short notice.
Who should you grab first? Who should you drop? Where’s the computer?
Do you target McCutchen, the speedy 23-year-old center fielder who essentially made Nate McLouth expendable for Pittsburgh?
Or do you go for Beckham, the 22-year-old shortstop-turned-third baseman who shot through the White Sox system less than one year after being drafted?
Strike that, actually. Given all the hype surrounding Hanson since earning Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player honors, the chances of him just hanging around the free-agent pool are slim. And let’s be honest — Beckham and McCutchen, for all their talent, don’t hold a torch to Hanson in terms of immediate upside. If Matt Wieters is the one American League rookie to own this year, then Hanson is that guy in the National League, even after getting beat up by the Brewers in his big league debut.
The choice ultimately comes down to McCutchen and Beckham, both of whom weren’t expected to be promoted this early in the season.
The smart money says McCutchen. He’s got tons of speed, blossoming power, five years of Minor League seasoning and the guarantee of playing time now with McLouth patrolling center in Atlanta. Baseball America has been drooling over his physical attributes for years, and with 34 stolen bases last year and improved power with a career-high .496 slugging percentage this year, he’s backed up the hype for the most part.
Beckham carries more risk, largely because he just hasn’t been around for long. This time last year, the guy was leading the Georgia Bulldogs to an NCAA championship. Now, he has a real chance of supplanting Josh Fields at the hot corner, despite doubts held by his own manager, Ozzie Guillen, who told several outlets during Spring Training that the club would be “in trouble” if Beckham were in the Majors this season. With that in mind, it’s fair to wonder whether the White Sox rushed him at all.
But Minor League service time is just one thing to consider.
The fact that Beckham qualifies at shortstop, third and possibly even second soon can’t be dismissed. It’s enough of a reason to go back and comb through his Minor League record carefully, all 59 games worth of it.
Are Beckham’s impressive numbers — a .322 average and a .519 slugging percentage — enough to go on? According to someone who covers Minor League players, yes, double-digit homers aren’t out of the question for the Atlanta native, who already possesses considerably more pop than McCutchen, whose pedestrian .423 slugging percentage on the farm leaves much to be desired. The real concern, according to this source, wasn’t at the plate, but on the defensive end, where Beckham could struggle given his lack of experience at third.
That leads me to think the McCutchen vs. Beckham debate depends largely each owner’s immediate needs. If speed and outfield depth are weaknesses, then the exciting new Bucs center fielder is your man, no question. But, if you need help up the middle, going for the high-risk/high-reward guy in Beckham makes sense. Even more so in points leagues, where steals aren’t nearly as valuable as they are in standard 5×5 formats.
For those reasons, I actually wound up cutting McCutchen in a points league shortly after grabbing him to get a hold of Beckham.
Regardless of whom you choose, one thing is clear: both McCutchen and Beckham have impact potential and deserve all the attention they’re receiving.
In other news …
Two days after Garrett Atkins seemingly snapped a season-long slump with two homers in one game, the red-hot Ian Stewart did the same thing, complicating the veteran’s chances of reclaiming full-time status at third base.
Another third-base situation worth watching is the one in Milwaukee, where Mat Gamel is getting more playing time at the expense of Bill Hall, whose struggles against right-handers are well documented.
Fausto Carmona’s sinker may not be sinking, but his stock sure hit rock bottom this week.
One Tribe member whose value isn’t sinking, ironically, is that of Carl Pavano, who looks more like the pitcher who helped lead the Marlins to the 2003 World Series championship than the primary subject of the boo-birds in the Bronx, having gone 7-1 with a 3.00 ERA and a 40/10 K/BB ratio since the start of May, including his first complete-game shutout in four years last time out.
Another pitcher who deserves a second chance is Jeff Niemann, who sports a scintillating 1.73 ERA and a 21/3 K/BB ratio in his past four starts after reportedly tweaking his mechanics a few weeks ago.
Oakland’s rookie starters, namely, Vin Mazzaro, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Josh Outman, seem to be figuring out how to handle Major League hitters after some tough lessons. In fact, the entire pitching staff owns a surprising 1.89 ERA this month.
— Alex Cushing, MLB.com