Fantasy Notes: Facing Aces
Carlos Villanueva, a pitcher many considered to be a sleeper heading into this season, has been a big time flop, notwithstanding a victory in his most recent start. In fairness, he’s been matched up against some tough competition, facing seven straight Opening Day starters. But that doesn’t explain away his dramatically reduced K rate, much more hittable stuff and propensity for coughing up the long ball. Despite much improved control, Villanueva’s ERA of 6.00 makes him a complete non-asset at this time. I’d watch him in NL-only leagues, because he’s certainly someone we’ve identified in the past as having great potential should he be given an extended look in the Milwaukee rotation. Well, he’s getting that look now, and so far, we don’t like the view.
Jonathan Sanchez has shown nice improvement this season, but he’s been hitting the skids his last couple of times out, giving up ten hits, ten runs, two homers and eight walks in just 8 2/3 innings. I like his upside, and the fact that he’s doing a better job of limited the homers this year, but you’ll need to sit him on your bench for now. For the less patient among you, it may be time to start exploring other options.
With Clay Buchholz landing on the DL, Boston opted not to bring up another starter – yet. J.D. Drew and Coco Crisp are both hurt, so a more immediate need was an outfielder, hence the summoning of Jonathan Van Emery to fill Buchholz’s roster spot. Boston had an off day Thursday, so Josh Beckett will be able to fill Buchholz’s scheduled start Sunday pitching on normal rest. But come next week, we may be ready to see Bartolo Colon. Judging by the one hit he allowed over six shutout innings for Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday, I’d say Colon is ready to stake his claim on Buchholz’s rotation spot in Beantown.
Beckett, meanwhile, will be looking to rebound from the beating he took in B-More on Tuesday. He gave up 11 hits – the most surrendered by any Red Sox starter this year – and five runs in just 5 2/3 IP as he absorbed the loss. Beckett got slapped around in his first start off the DL, but then seemed to get into a groove. This month, however, he’s been inconsistent, throwing one middling game, one gem, and one stinker. Let’s see how he fares Sunday against Milwaukee, a team that has pounded him twice in the past three years.
Speaking of aces coming off rough outings, let’s see how Adam Wainwright bounces back Saturday after taking a serious beat down on Monday. He had been remarkable steady up to the point, so I doubt there’s much reason to think of that start as anything but an anomaly. With a 2.95 ERA and the fourth-best WHIP in the NL, Wainwright is in the early stages of a season that could culminate in Cy Young consideration.
Yet another starter who’s really been grooving this year, yet is coming off his worst start of the season is Florida’s Mark Hendrickson. He’s been receiving surprisingly little love this year, yet he’s been splendid, and has really revitalized his sagging career with the Marlins. If you’re seeking strikeouts, look elsewhere, but if you need wins, he can help. He’s already surpassed his total from last year, and this pace — especially with the Marlins rolling as they are — should easily topple his career high of 11 wins, set with the Rays back in 2005.
One starter who’s been rather consistent this season, but is likely frustrating his owners by his lack of wins is Aaron Harang. He’s quietly just gotten better and better as his career has progressed, but despite a solid effort this year (.240 BA with good control), he had just one win to show for his first eight starts. Perhaps the tides are turning for Harang. On Monday, despite not having his best stuff (he gave up a season-high three dingers), he earned the win as Cincy finally gave him some serious run support with eight tallies. That snaps a four-game losing skid.
After a rough start to the year, Roy Oswalt has settled down in a big way. In his last six starts, he’s gone 4-0, giving up just 33 hits and 16 earned runs in 41 IP while fanning 36 and walking 13. The homers allowed concern me, but on the promising side of things, Oswalt’s control has improved after slipping last year, and after three straight seasons of decline, his K/9 rate has risen back up. His ERA is still high (5.05) because of that early-season hole, but expect that to get back to the low 3s in short order.
It looks like Brad Penny is not going to be able to build on last season’s career year. After a decent April, the wheels have come off in May (10.34 ERA). His last two starts in particular have been ugly, with 19 hits and 15 runs allowed in 10 2/3 IP. Penny is still getting the wins, with five already, but his K/9 has dropped to the point where it’s unacceptable for a fantasy starter. That’s why we’ve seen him showing up on the wire in more shallow leagues. The fact that in recent years he’s been a much better first half pitcher makes me even more scared.
Jason Kendall is doing better this season, but I’d hardly call it a renaissance, so I’ll want to see more before recommending him as an option in anything but an NL-only league or as a backup in a deeper mixed league. A return to the NL has given him a lift, but he’s simply not the same player he was in Pittsburgh. And with his 34th birthday coming up next month and catchers generally fading offensively fairly early in their careers, I’m tempering my expectations that Kendall will ever again approach the lofty numbers he put up earlier in his career.