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Fantasy Forward: Big Maple and two breakouts in the A.L. East?

In case one wonders about who “Big Maple” is, it’s James Paxton’s nickname with the Mariners. His maple leaf tattoo on his arm provided the name along with his Canadian heritage. All kidding aside, Paxton bounced back after a rough outing in Oakland to fire seven shutout innings on four hits with nine strikeouts against one walk, lowering his ERA to 1.39 on the season. If he stays healthy, it seems the breakout is in full effect.

Things were relatively quiet on the injury front with only Jose Abreu leaving his game early with a right hip flexor strain. No word on how long he could miss, so his owners will need to stay on top of the news as it emerges. Oakland’s Sean Manaea worked with lower velocities early in his start then left early as well with “shoulder tightness”. Manaea tried to down play the injury post game, but with teams using the 10-day disabled list much more liberally, he could land there soon. Be prepared. Now to the recaps.

Starting pitcher observations

With the Orioles and the Yankees playing well, part can be attributed to the early performances by Dylan Bundy and Luis Severino. Bundy did not factor into the decision last night. However, he’s 3 – 1 this month with a 1.65 ERA, 2.58 FIP with a 23:6 K:BB through 32.2 innings of work. Severino won, so those who bought into the Pedro Martinez tutelage along with the arsenal may be rewarded. His ERA of 3.00 accompanies a 2.87 FIP with an impressive 33 strikeouts versus four walks in 27 innings this season.

Jose Quintana provided fantasy owners with a much-needed bounce back, striking out 10 over six innings allowing five hits, two runs (one earned) and two walks to lower his ERA to 5.22. Many will note Rick Porcello’s one loss away from matching his total of four last year, but he has raised his swinging strike percentage this year. Better days may lie ahead.

Struggling southpaws also highlighted Wednesday’s action. Daniel Norris recorded his second straight start with at least 100 pitches, but did not finish the fifth inning in either appearance. Cubs Jon Lester’s allowed at least five earned runs in back-to-back starts while working with reduced velocities. Monitor him and his teammates closely. Especially since the Pirates have struggled against left-handed pitching this year.

On the surface, Cole Hamels won his game with three earned runs allowed in 6.2 innings, but he only struck out one Twin with three walks. Alex Wood of the Dodgers deserved a better fate after he limited the Giants to one hit and one walk in six shutout innings and six strikeouts. Los Angeles continues to put band aids on a struggling bullpen. Perhaps Rich Hill can be a difference maker as a reliever? Always overlooked, Julio Teheran beat the Mets and his ERA sits at 3.38 entering May.



Bullpen musings

For those who signed up for the Fernando Rodney experience, you have to take the nuclear meltdowns like last night with the 98 MPH fastball. Only recording two outs, Rodney allowed six hits, five earned runs with a strikeout to raise his ERA to 11.00 on the season with a 5.39 FIP. It remains to be seen how much the Diamondbacks will tolerate with him in the ninth, but speculating on other volatile veterans like J.J. Hoover, Jose De La Rosa or Tom Wilhemson could occur. With the Shelby Miller injury, very hard to determine how they will handle Archie Bradley who could be lights out as a closer. Stay tuned.

Like the Dodgers, the Rays do not have a strong bridge to closer Alex Colome. He is being asked to do the heavy lifting as a result. Colome’s worked 1.2 innings or more in two of his last three outings. As a result, he struggled last night giving up two earned runs and taking the loss. It’s just a blip; he will be fine. Aroldis Chapman had command issues in Boston walking two and allowing a hit before closing out the Yankees win.

Desperate for saves? Bud Norris remains widely available and saved his third game with Cam Bedrosian sidelined.

Hitter highlights

Many were burned last year by Michael Brantley, but he seems well on his way to recapturing his fantasy status with a .318 average, four home runs, three stolen bases, 15 RBI and .944 OPS to start the year. He’s either a sell high, or with health, a stud once again.

Moving to leadoff with Jon Lester on the mound, Josh Harrison hit a home run, stole a base and with the increased playing time will be worth adding if available.

Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco is putting up strong peripheral numbers with sparse results. He finished with three hits last night including a grand slam. Franco may be on the precipice of a hot streak.

Aaron Judge launched his seventh home run on his 25th birthday last night. Power breakout’s for real – now to see how the average settles in with a larger sample size this year.

Jolting Jean Segura is picking up where he left off with another three-hit performance on Wednesday night. This makes two straight off of the disabled list. Nelson Cruz extended his hit streak to seven and homered for the third straight game.

After a slow start, Tim Beckham may be turning a corner. He hit two home runs off of Dylan Bundy and his average climbed to .280 for Tampa Bay. Interesting. Speaking of slow starts, Byron Buxton went 1-for-2 with two more walks last night. He has recorded a hit in four of his last five games and walked five times in his last three. Don’t give up yet.

With Texas shaking up the lineup and positions, Delino DeShields reached base five times in six plate appearances, scored three runs and stole two bases. Ryan Rua will be taking over right field and hit a grand slam. Both should be looked at in deeper formats.

In almost a daily Nationals segment, Bryce Harper went four-for-four with a walk to raise his slash lines to .432/.548/.824 this year with seven home runs and 22 RBI. He’s pretty good. Ryan Zimmerman (8), Daniel Murphy (4) and Trea Turner (2) all homered in Colorado as well.

Last but not least, Yonder Alonso keeps producing in relative anonymity with two hits, including his fourth home run for Oakland. Rookie Christian Arroyo hit his first major league home run for the Giants, could it be Cody Bellinger’s turn today?

Statistical Credits: Fangraphs.com, MLB.com

 

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Greg Jewett
I am a father, PE teacher & fantasy baseball writer. Using saber metrics & information to evaluate players & trends is exciting to me."Passion is the oxygen of the soul." Bill Butler

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