It is so funny, that like riding a bike, or anything else familiar, once the season starts we get right into the groove of watching games and tracking stats and speculating endlessly. And, this week, we not only got to get back into games--and Opening Week is wondrous with so many day games scattered among within the schedule--but we got some veteran faces who are not exactly strangers this time, so let's take a look.
And what better place is there to start than with the king of erratic, Jonathan Sanchez, now toiling with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I used to be such a Sanchez fan, for he clearly had the most wicked stuff of any of the San Francisco pitchers at the time. And, that included both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Well, so much for that, though Sanchez did pitch a no-hitter while wearing the orange and black.
Sanchez, now 30, is coming off a 4-7, 4.26 ERA, 1.44 WHIP season in 2011, and then a complete meltdown in 2012 split between the Royals and the Rockies (1-9, 8.07 ERA, 2.09 WHIP over 64 innings). Over that span, Sanchez allowed 11 dingers, and though he looked effective enough against the Dodgers on Friday (five innings, six hits, three runs, one walk), I would not touch him any more than I would draft Steve Trachsel or Steve Trout (who was never drafted in my AL-only Coco's Fala League despite being in the starting rotation during several years of our play).
As I was drafting this piece Saturday night--while tracking the Athletics and Orioles, along with Lawrence of Arabia on TCM--I also flipped on the Trevor Bauer/Alex Cobb matchup between the Rays and the Indians. Through three innings, Bauer had walked seven (as many as Lincecum over five innings last Wednesday). Like so many, I am high on Cobb, in fact I have him on three teams this year, and like so many, curious as can be about Bauer. I am not sure how this Indians lineup will shake out, but I do think the pitching will be the determiner. If Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez can rebound, that is the start, but Bauer makes the equation curious. I do see control issues, but I also see he is able to bail himself out, at least so far. Unlike Jonathan Sanchez, for example. Of course, just one start, so track Bauer carefully, but he is a guy I would add in a deep format.
Sometimes, the best-laid plans. I was watching John Lackey strike out eight over four innings, looking like his former self, and jotted down his name to cover this week right here at the Hotpage. And then Lackey strains his biceps. So, I added former Athletic, now Astro, Travis Blackley to the list. Blackley, you may remember, was pretty effective as part of the Athletics August run last year, and I thought Houston did well taking a chance with him. The results? Poof. While warming up, Blackley reports a sore shoulder, so now he is on the DL. I do like both of them, but healthy they must be.
The Metropolitans recalled left-hander Aaron Laffey to start on Sunday, and ideally grab the spot vacated by the injured Johan Santana. Laffey is another wunderkind who has yet to live up to our often misplaced expectations. In 2007, as a 22-year-old, Laffey made nine starts (4-2, 4.56) and for the most part that has been his line ever since, with 25-29, 4.38 numbers over 65 major league starts and 148 games. Just shy of his 28th birthday, I want to think Laffey has transcended his early struggles and really learned to pitch, but unfortunately, that is not the case (maybe it is because I have had him on my Strat-O-Matic team for years, always with better results than reality?). I like some of the things the Mets have done, but I cannot endorse picking up Laffey in any format other than Strat at this point.
Speaking of which, who among you gambled on Brian Roberts? I wanted to, even though he had played in just 115 games between 2010 and Opening Day 2013. And, he managed three games this year before getting hurt pulling a hamstring. Now out for 2-4 weeks, the Orioles will look to Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla to fill the second base void. Though I prefer Casilla at this juncture, it seems Baltimore prefers Flaherty, a 2008 first-round pick of the Cubs who in 2011 went .280-19-88 split between Double-A and Triple-A. But, his 177 minor league walks to 343 whiffs still makes me nervous. Still, he probably has more pop and production potential than Casilla, and Flaherty plays all over the diamond. So, in a deep format, he is the guy.
I have been a Chris Heisey fan since seeing him at the Arizona Fall League around four years ago. Heisey is one of those Collin Cowgill/Mark Kotsay guys who does nothing in a spectacular fashion but does everything pretty well. As in he can run, he can hit for average with occasional pop, and rarely hurts himself. I had thought after Heisey's .254-18-50 2010 as a part-timer, he would earn full-time status, but the outfielder struggled the bulk of the 2011 season, rotating good months with sub-par ones, and that led to a diminished role in 2012. But, the shoulder injury to Ryan Ludwick has opened some playing time for Heisey, and that makes him a great pickup. I think he will excel having the spot come this way though his average is still a little quirky at .143, Heisey has one dinger to his 2013 credit. Of course, Heisey might think about Billy Hamilton in his rear view as motivation.
It took utility player Mark De Rosa nine years to earn a starting chance and from then, in 2006, until 2009, he produced pretty well. That all ended in 2010 when he signed a pretty nice free agent contract with the Giants, and he has since managed only 121 games over three seasons, two with the Giants and one with the Nationals. But, he is with the Jays now and kind of like Heisey, though De Rosa is only hitting .125, he does have one big fly. Toronto has a pretty competitive team, so I see De Rosa getting lots of chances to spell his mates, including playing a lot of third while Brett Lawrie recuperates. A nice guy to have due to flexibility, in a deep AL league, he is more than worth a roster spot at this point.
It is hard to tell if the Brewers are more banged up than the Yankees, but with Aramis Ramirez gone for awhile, it looks like Yuniesky Betancourt gets the first shot at production. Always a lousy on-base guy (.290 career mark), Betancourt does have some power, as his .266-11-65 162-game mean indicates. Again, in a deeper league, at-bats are everything (well, they are in all formats), so if you are sitting on the hurt Ramirez, Betancourt is a pretty good gamble.