Around the Diamond – 5.19.09

Around the Diamond – May 19th
FIRST BASE
Mike Jacobs hit his 9th home run tonight putting him on pace for 40, which would set another career high after his 32 last year. Even more impressive is his increased patience as he is on pace to garner 53 walks, up from his 36 last year. The downside is that he already has 38 strikeouts this year putting him on pace for 168, which would destroy his career-high of 119. He is essentially Adam Dunn-lite which was a nice addition to a team ranked 25th in OPS last year. The Royals are now 18th in OPS despite Alex Gordon having played just 7 games and David DeJesus toting a sub-.700 OPS.

SECOND BASE
What’s wrong with Dan Uggla? He his below the Mendoza Line at .192 with just 4 home runs, but he has 20 walks putting him on pace for a career high of 88. He has also cut down his strikeouts giving him a pace that is 30 fewer than 2008. Perhaps this improved plate discipline could be offering a chance to buy low on Uggla and get the upshot of his progression to the mean. He has averaged 30 HR/yr in his 3 seasons leaving a potential for 26 more on the table in 2009.

SHORTSTOP
Jose Reyes left New York’s May 15th game with a stiff calf after just one AB. He sat out over the weekend and then again Monday, but returned tonight going 0-for-3 with one strikeout. Reyes owners breathed a collective sigh of relief as their first round cornerstone returned to action.

THIRD BASE
In my 10-team AL-Only league that allows 2-keepers per year, I was left to make a decision between these three players: Mark Teixeira, BJ Upton and Alex Rodriguez. I decided that I didn’t want an empty spot for what would was guaranteed to be at least a month and half and maybe even more, so I chose Teix and Upton. Part of my error was buying into the sensationalized stories that ARod could very well miss the entire season. The same panic button mentality hit with the Chase Utley injury, but his came far enough before Spring Training that it didn’t negatively impact his value in the bulk of leagues as most occur in March. I was automatically keeping Teix, so essentially I chose Upton over ARod. Frankly, I’d almost rather have ARod at this point. Neither has a batting average to write home about, but Upton has 100 more at-bats of his trash to weigh my team down. Losing Upton’s 12 stolen bases would definitely hurt, but ARod already has more HR and RBI. By season’s end, I think ARod will be the better rated fantasy player. Or there is always the possibility that I’m just bitter.

CATCHER
Joe Mauer has been amazing with 7th home run of the season better than his halfway to his career high of 13. His power surge hasn’t impacted his ability to deliver a massive batting average, either. And the best part? It all comes from catcher!!

OUTFIELD
Colby Rasmus: this rookie class so far is absolutely nothing to write home about as only three players even qualify for the batting title thus far. St. Louis’ Colby Rasmus knocked his 4th of the season tonight pushing his OPS to .741, but if he continued his ho-hum pace en route to a RoY award, it’d almost be embarrassing in light of the performances that have netted the award in recent history. Geovany Soto, Ryan Braun, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Howard and Jason Bay are the past five winners with Ramirez’s .833 OPS bringing up the rear for the quintet. The door is wide open for a mid-season callup to set the league on fire and grab the award.

One of last year’s rookies, Jay Bruce, has shown some incredible power early on with 12 home runs. He is hitting just .232 making him rather boom or bust. And he doesn’t quite have the discipline to draw enough walks to fill the role of the departed Adam Dunn. Nevertheless, he is definitely delivering on the promise he showed in the minor leagues that led to a #1 overall ranking on many top prospect lists last year. To be doing this well at just 22 years of age portends a very, VERY bright future.

Why not finish up the outfield section with some MORE Adam Dunn talk? Like Bruce, he hit his 12th tonight, but also drew two more walks tying him for the major league lead with Prince Fielder and Marco Scutaro. Yes, Marco Scutaro.

PITCHER
Dontrelle Willis dominated the Texas Rangers for 6+ innings tonight striking out five and walking just two. The Rangers are the 2nd-highest scoring team in the American League with 5.65 runs per game while Willis has been a human hitting machine and notched his first win since September 25th, 2007. I watched his first start last week against Minnesota and it was a little better than the numbers would’ve led anyone to believe, but there is NO WAY I could’ve predicted this kind of performance against an amazing lineup like Texas’. If first year pitching coach Rick Knapp can fix the D-Train and Bonderman comes back strong, the AL Central had better look out.

Lost in the shuffle of the immense suckiness of the Chicago White Sox as a team is Mark Buehrle’s brilliant start. He is a highly underrated, remarkably consistent veteran starting pitcher. Given how riddled with uncertainty the field of speculating starting pitchers is, it’s nice to have someone like Buehrle to rely on year after year. His one blip since 2001 was his follow up to the World Series season in which he pitched 260 innings. If it weren’t for Zack Greinke and Roy Halladay, Buehrle would be atop the ranks for AL pitchers. If he continues to shine like this, he will be headed back to his home state for the All-Star game in July.

And finally, rumors of Trevor Hoffman’s demise were greatly overstated. After “just” 30 saves and a 3.77 ERA last year, Hoffman was written off in terms of elite closers. It was his worst season since 1995. The 41 year old left San Diego for Milwaukee and then started the season on the disabled list adding to the doubt. After Carlos Villanueva bombed in Hoffman’s stead, Hoffman returned with a fury. In his 11 scoreless innings, he has allowed three hits, walked nobody and struckout 9 batters leading to 10 saves.

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