Fantasy Forward: A Maddux, a cycle and a walkoff to remember in LA

On a day where two games were rained out, plenty of story lines and tremors could be felt for fantasy baseball. Adam Eaton owners received terrible news with him missing the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Initial reports of a strained knee seemed a bit misleading. This hurts the Nationals as well. Replacing a player who averaged 88 runs, 10 home runs, 50 RBI and 16 steals with a .290/.362/.422 the last three years will not be easy. There is two thoughts here, kick the tires of whoever owns Gregory Polanco or Lorenzo Cain, or add a player like Kevin Pillar or Ender Inciarte if they’re available.

Owners of Ian Desmond may receive a surprise as reports speculate the Rockies will activate him today (Sunday), but play him in left field due to the hot start by Mark Reynolds. This will make fantasy owners heads spin, but the Rockies lineup and depth charts both become deeper with Desmond in the mix. The sun will rise, taxes are inevitable, and Fernando Rodney as a closer will not end well. You’ve been warned if he’s still on your roster.

Arizona set a National League record by recording at least 11 strikeouts as a team for the sixth consecutive game Saturday night. Cleveland owns the major league record with eight such games in 2014. Impressive nonetheless. Ivan Nova fired a “Maddux” on the road in Miami. With the Pirates, Nova has completed more games (5) than walks allowed (4). Digest this for a moment. Nova allowed three hits with seven strikeouts to lower his ERA 1.50 on the season with a 22:1 K:BB through 36 innings of work. On to the recaps.

Bullpen musings

Roberto Osuna worked a much-needed clean inning (but with no strikeouts) to record his second save. Fantasy owners need more outings like this from the Blue Jays closer. Note: Joe Smith has leapfrogged Jason Grilli as the eighth inning setup pitcher.

Oakland’s Santiago Casilla notched his fourth save last night. There’s not too much clarity here, but it’s Casilla’s job to lose and no one seems to be stepping up to take it away. You may drop Ryan Madson if you have not already.

Tilted hat, flat brim and shooting arrows makes Fernando Rodney difficult to root for at times. Of course, allowing eight earned runs over his last two appearances makes him tough to roster as well. He’s still hitting 98 MPH on the radar gun, but his rough second half last year along with year-to-year volatility in the ninth inning made this too predictable. Arizona seems to like Archie Bradley and Jose de la Rosa in multiple inning setup roles, so when Rodney loses the job, it’s J.J. Hoover or Tom Wilhelmsen or a dreaded committee. Stay tuned. Odds favor Hoover getting first crack at the job.

Not to be outdone, Hector Neris allowed three consecutive home runs in the ninth inning prior to blowing the save on a walkoff run scored by the Dodgers last night. Los Angeles scored four runs to win the game. Philadelphia’s bullpen leaves much to be desired. If Neris steps down Benoit could move to the ninth, but this feels like a committee brewing. Stay away.

Starting pitcher observations

As part of the Diamondbacks impressive run, Zack Greinke struck out nine Rockies in six innings of work allowing seven hits, three earned runs and two walks. He’s not all the way back, but seems in line for a bounce back year with a 3.19 ERA at the end of April.

Another strong start by Andrew Triggs must have his owners pleased. He struck out a career nine on Saturday night in Houston and lowered his ERA to 1.84 this month. His FIP of 2.86 supports the strong start to his season. It will be interesting to see how he holds up in his first full season with Oakland.

Matt Cain deserved a better fate after his bullpen ceded the lead and gave Cain a no decision. Cain held the Padres to one earned run with seven strikeouts in five innings of work. He has pitched well to start the year, but striking out Padres should not be a guide to fantasy success in the future.

Pending free agent Yu Darvish threw 125 pitches in six innings last night for Texas. This missed his career high by five pitches, which seems out if line with past usage. However, if the Rangers choose to showcase him for future returns in trade, this makes sense. Darvish allowed three hits and one earned run, but walked four against 10 strikeouts to lower his ERA to 2.79 in April.

Hitting highlights

Once again Michael Conforto makes the list. His emergence seems to keep Mets fans sane with all the drama surrounding the rotation. He hit two home runs on Saturday along with stealing a base. Through his first 51 at-bats, Conforto’s six home runs and 12 RBI with a 1.116 OPS makes him an add if he’s still available in your league.

Hopefully Brett Gardner broke through his slump with two home runs on Saturday during the Yankees blowout win over Baltimore. Those who lost Eaton should also look to Gardner as a replacement. Over the last three years, Gardner has hit for a lower average than Eaton, but averages two fewer runs per year with nine more home runs, seven more RBI and stolen bases in aggregate totals from 2014 through 2016.

One cannot stop Ryan Zimmerman, you can only hope to contain him. He hit his 11th home run yesterday in his 23rd game this year. Zimmerman hit 15 last year in 115 games.

With all the news focused on Jose Bautista’s slow start and Josh Donaldson’s injury, could Justin Smoak be emerging? He finished 3-for-3 yesterday with his fourth home run and a .274 average after 78 plate appearances. Smoak’s maintained his hard contact from last year, but cut his swinging strike percentage and raised his contact rates. Speculate.

Nelson Cruz homered for the fourth time in his last five games and teammate Kyle Seager finally broke the ice before May arrived with his first homer of the year.

Carlos Gomez hit for the cycle in Texas in a much-needed breakout game for his owners who were probably thinking about cutting bait. Patience kids.

Out in Milwaukee, the Braves broke out. Matt Kemp homered three times, against three different pitchers, and ends the game hitting .327. His arrival keyed the second half breakout by Freddie Freeman who did not homer, but did steal his fourth base. Since the start of 2015, Freeman’s 13-for-16 in stolen base attempts.

Remember when speculation centered on Torey Lovullo not being a manager who let players run? A.J. Pollock stole his 10th base last night to move into a tie with Billy Hamilton for the major league lead. Paul Goldschmidt stole his seventh base as well.

Many love Ryan Schimpf for his power hitting ways with a low average. Patience seems to be paying off for the Padres. During his last four games, Schimpf is 5-for-13 with six runs, a double, three home runs, and seven RBI raising his average by 51 points.

Possibly reading about his pending demotion, Cody Bellinger launched two home runs during the Dodgers come from behind win to keep his name on the manager’s mind. Justin Turner not only extended his 15-game hit streak with his pinch hit home run, but it broke the ice for him as well in the power department.

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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