Into the second month of the 2011 season we go, and it almost seems like spring, and some good weather might be ahead, at least in the Bay Area. With the spring does come renewal, and it seems that is good for stats, as both Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki went into paternity leave last week slumping, and came back knocking the ball all over the yard. In fact, slowly, with the warmer weather, numbers and player performance seems to be falling into place.
One such hitter seems to be the Tribe's first sacker Matt LaPorta, spoils received from the C.C. Sabathia deal a few years back. In fact, I remember seeing LaPorta rake it at the Fall League a few years back, but since advancing to the Show in 2008, he has struggled. Last year, as pretty much a starter, LaPorta went .221-12-41, but the 26-year old is beginning to show signs of establishing a higher level of consistency. As of now, LaPorta is .247-4-12 which does extrapolate to around 25 homers. In fact, LaPorta belted a pair of taters over the past week, and his OBP is up 31 points from last year. I see a nice upward swing in all LaPorta's numbers as he becomes Andy LaRoche-like.
Speaking of the Indians, anyone notice the numbers of their reliever Vinnie Pestano? How about 0-0, 0.82 over 11 innings, with 13 strikeouts to four walks, with five hits allowed. And, as a minor leaguer, Pestano whiffed 185 over 173 innings, with 60 walks and 142 hits allowed. That was good for a 7-10, 2.55 mark with 71 saves. In other words, he is good, and makes a nice pick where you need a middle guy to fill a slot.
Looking at one more arm, the Pirates promoted Danny Moskos, their first round pick in the 2007 draft, and No. 4 selection overall. Moskos has had a decent, if brief minor league career, going 21-23, 4.44, over 344.1 innings. Moskos struck out 239, while walking 144 and allowing 367 hits. He does keep the ball in the park, having allowed only 23 homers, but the southpaw is likely to have some adjustment issues as he adjusts to the majors.
Speaking of No. 1's, Toronto brought up their first rounder in 2008 in David Cooper. As a minor leaguer, Cooper has hit .282-37-214 over 349 games, and though the first-baseman/DH will likely have a short stay at the Rogers Centre, he is worth tracking, and even stashing in an ultra AL format. Cooper belted 103 doubles, and logged a solid .353 OBP, with 148 walks to 218 strikeouts. Cooper is still looking for his first hit as a major leaguer.
I saw a week's worth of Conor Jackson during the spring, in Phoenix, and truly had thought that was the end of him, getting one hit over 23 at-bats at one point. Well, it was not just the rough spring, but more like years worth of injuries and illness, couple with the bad start just said to me he was done. I was wrong. Jackson wields the hottest bat in Oaktown, hitting .304-1-5 over the past week, brining his overall totals to .278-1-8. With Daric Barton struggling, Jackson has been playing first and in the outfield and deserves a look in deeper formats.
Looking at some more American Leaguers, Minnesota has had injury issues, and Rene Tosoni is their most recent promotion to stave off the injury bug. At 24, Tosoni was drafted in the 34th round of the 2004 draft, and has assembled totals of .284-27-165 over 302 games. The owner of a good .377 minor league OBP (128 walks to 243 whiffs), Tosoni is the quiet kind of guy that fits in so well in Minnesota. Nothing flashy save nice steady production.
Aside from now ex-patriot Brandon Wood, the Angels have been great at producing infielders over the past few years, and the newest in their line is Alexi Anarista, a 22-year old Venezuelan who has a very hot stick indeed. When summoned, the middle infielder was hitting .455-2-16 at Triple-A Salt Lake, and as a minor leaguer was .325-18-193 over 391 games, with 92 doubles, 104 stolen bases, and a terrific .385 OBP (141 walks to 173 strikeouts). Another kid you want to take a hard look at.
A few years ago I was higher than high on the big Padres prospect, Kyle Blanks. With .301-73-335 primary numbers, the big (6'6", 270 lbs.) first-baseman, outfielder showed a great eye (.391 OBP), a little speed with 22 swipes and 12 triples, and a lot of promise with an .887 OPS. Then Blanks struggled (.157-1-15) last year before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. Blanks is rehabbing at Double-A San Antonio, and while we want to tread carefully, the big guy is still just 24 years old.
The Giants are having trouble keeping their third sackers intact, with both Mark DeRosa and Pablo Sandoval going on the DL last week. Of the promotions I like on the team, Emmanuel Burriss is the one to watch and take in an NL only format. As it stands, Miguel Tejada is likely to move to third, while Mike Fontentot takes on shortstop duties, but Burriss is speedy and streaky, as well as being versatile. Burriss was hitting .315-0-5 with 15 swipes at Triple-A Fresno, not to mention having played five games at short. With Andres Torres down, San Francisco needs a leadoff hitter, and if he can get on Burriss is that player.
Pssst. Don't look now, but Brent Lillibridge just knocked his third homer of the year, and has played a terrific defensive right field for the White Sox. In fact, he is hitting .329-3-4 over 25 at-bats this year, and now has as many dingers as the utility man had hit in his previous 273 major league at-bats. Who knows if it lasts, but he is playing very well right now.