Fantasy Forward: Sale’s electric and time for Neris?

All the signs this spring pointed to a happy and healthy Yoenis Cespedes in Mets camp. With the team’s offense struggling, Cespedes limp off the field during the sixth inning Thursday night. He will undergo an MRI, but described the injury as a shock to his hamstring which he has experienced before. Fantasy owners should hope he only misses this weekend’s games against the Nationals and not need a disabled list appearance.

Daniel Murphy was scratched prior to the start of his game with the Braves last night. Be sure to check lineups as they post throughout the day before putting him back in your lineups. Cleveland faces a roster decision with the pending return of Jason Kipnis. Yandy Diaz remains the most likely to return to Triple-A in order to provide him with steady at-bats instead of filling a bench role in the majors.

Starting pitcher observations

Watching Chris Sale slice and dice the Blue Jays offense proved entertaining yesterday afternoon. It became the 28th time in MLB history a pitcher finished with at least 13 strikeouts in 102 pitches or less. Although Sale did not get the ninth inning, which he deserved, his dominance cannot be underscored.

Lance McCullers turned in a strong outing, and most importantly, worked 6.2 innings. He threw 50 curves of his 100 pitches to finish with eight strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 3.38. McCullers induced nine swinging strikes with the curve and his K:BB of 31:6 merits attention.

On the road, Trevor Bauer won in Minnesota with seven strikeouts against two earned runs over 6.1 innings of work. He’s always a wild card, but the Indians need effective innings from him moving forward.

During the evening slate of games, Stephen Strasburg led the way with 10 strikeouts in Atlanta. He allowed two earned runs, and his ERA stands at 2.89 on the season. It is all about health with Strasburg, not stuff.

Still working with reduced velocities, Danny Duffy fired 7.1 shutout innings in Texas with five strikeouts. His ERA of 1.32 remains impressive as does his change-up.

What do fantasy owners do with the volatile Carlos Martinez? He flashed his upside on opening night, but over his last two starts: 10.1 IP, 11 hits, eight earned runs, 10 walks and 18 strikeouts. Once can be a mistake, but twice could be a trend. He’s better than this, be patient.

It appears James Paxton is human after all. He started the year with 21 shutout innings but allowed five earned runs in Oakland during 4.1 innings before being lifted. Paxton still struck out eight against only one walk which can be a key indicator. His ERA following the start is still an impressive 1.78.

Way under the radar, Clayton Richard allowed one earned run over 6.2 innings at home against Arizona with eight strikeouts? Streaming Richard for a ground ball lean and a quality start makes sense, but the strikeouts come as a surprise.

Bullpen musings

Just when one thinks it’s safe to add Joaquin Benoit as the closer, the Phillies use him in the eighth and Hector Neris locked down the save on Thursday night. After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said it’s nice to have two guys who can close. Looks like another committee based on match-ups. Neris remains the highest upside arm in this bullpen.

Chris Devenski recorded his first save of the year, and like Paxton above, showed a human side by giving up his first earned run on a Mike Trout home run. In five games, Devenski’s pitched 13.1 innings with 25 strikeouts, a 1.35 ERA and 0.60 WHIP. Mercy.

Brad Brach and Shawn Kelley each saved their second game last night. Brandon Maurer bounced back well with a two strikeout save against the Diamondbacks.

The much maligned Rangers bullpen worked seven innings of shutout relief during the team’s extra inning win over the Royals.

With the Brewers bullpen giving days off to Neftali Feliz and Corey Knebel, Jacob Barnes recorded the save on Thursday night. He and Knebel should be on radars to take over the position if and when Feliz gets traded later this year.

Hitter’s delights

Most seem to focus on the non-strikeout streak by Mookie Betts, but he’s starting to heat up with the bat. He did strikeout twice on Thursday, but stole two bases and won the game with a bases clearing double. His slash line’s up to .340/.407/.472 after a slow start due to a battle with the flu.

Teammate Mitch Moreland hit his major league leading 11th double. One could do worse than Moreland at corner infield for fantasy. Sandy Leon is one for his last 17 at the plate over five games. Track his progress, last year could have been a mirage.

Carlos Santana finished Thursday’s game with three straight hits and heads to Chicago. If he and Encarnacion heat up with the addition of Kipnis to the lineup, who do you pitch to?

Post-hype hero for 2017 could be Steven Souza. He missed a cycle by not hitting a single yesterday, finishing 3-for-5. After 17 games he is batting .349 with a 1.042 OPS, three home runs, and 15 RBI.

Kevin Kiermaier launched his first home run to go with his four stolen bases this season. Add Carlos Beltran to the first dinger of the year list as the Astros designated hitter took Matt Shoemaker deep.

Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco started slow despite his underlying statistics suggesting he should be hitting better. Franco hit a double and a home run last night with two RBI. If his production starts to match up with his exit velocities, a hot streak may be on tap for the third baseman.

With Daniel Murphy being scratched, Ryan Zimmerman hit cleanup and finished with a double, home run and two RBI. He has now hit five home runs this year and knocked in 13.

It seems as though Matt Carpenter may be heating up. He hit his second home run this week, and if his finger is healed, could fare well in Milwaukee. Teammate Jedd Gyorko recorded three hits in as many at-bats while hitting his third home run of the year yesterday as well.

No one can keep Eric Thames down. He hit his eighth home run, maintains a .415 average with a 1.481 OPS, and has eight walks against 12 strikeouts. Now for the ultimate, time to sell high or buy question for fantasy pundits.

Catcher Jett Bandy does not garner the same level of fantasy love, but he hit his fourth home run last night and his average sits at .314.

Seattle folk hero Taylor Motter hit a double and home run in Oakland to push his average to .282 with a 1.067 OPS. When Jean Segura returns, Motter could shift to first base where Danny Valencia’s .164 average and .496 OPS does not provide much optimism. Add in Daniel Vogelbach lurking in the minors, but his glove projects him as a very good designated hitter.

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Greg Jewett

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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