Triple Play: Adrian Gonzalez, Brett Cecil, John Axford

Adrian Gonzales

If you’re like me, the wait for the first meaningful baseball games since Game 7 of the World Series was almost interminable. Happily, the 2015 season is finally here, and the Triple Play is back again for your reading entertainment. In this season’s first installment, we look at a power-hitting first baseman, a deposed closer who probably shouldn’t have been closing to begin with, and more.

We promise to avoid any “this player is on pace for [insert silly statistic here]”, or “this team is 4-0 for the first time since [insert year here]”, “when they did [insert irrelevant season result here]” and all similar mumbo jumbo. Pointing out other odd statistical bits from the season’s first week is fair game, however. Ready? Me too. Off we go:

Who’s Hot?

Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

This is how you start off a season: becoming the first player in major-league history to belt five home runs in his team’s first three games. Gonzalez has more than his power stroke working too, as evidenced by his 12 hits in his first 18 at-bats. Entering Sunday’s games, his on-base percentage sat at .727 and he slugged an eye-popping 1.611. Gonzalez led MLB with 116 RBI in 2014, but some fantasy analysts wondered how repeatable that was in 2015 with Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez no longer hitting around him. Well, so far, the Dodgers’ revamped lineup (featuring Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick and Yasmani Grandal) appears capable of scoring plenty of runs, which means that Gonzalez should continue to rack up the numbers. He won’t continue to reach base this often, but fantasy owners can rest assured that he will remain a top option at his position.

Who’s Not?

Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays

Conversely, this is how you don’t want to start your season. Closer is typically the most volatile position both for fantasy owners and in real-life baseball, but it’s pretty rare to see someone yanked after one appearance. His initial outing of the season was pretty rough (1/3 of an inning, run-scoring wild pitch, strikeout, hit by pitch, RBI single), but wasn’t horrific as closer implosions go. The more likely culprit is the shoulder soreness through which Cecil battled in the spring. Because of that, it was a little surprising to see manager John Gibbons tap him as closer. Last season, Cecil was throwing in the low 90s, but struggled with control (4.56 BBs/9). So far this season, he has topped out at 88 mph. A pitcher was such a thin margin for error just can’t afford such a significant drop in velocity and remain effective. Hopefully you avoided him in your fantasy league unless he came at a substantial discount. Cecil might still have value this season if he can harness the control issues and regain some zip on his fastball. Until then, he should be stashed away or dropped.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 7 K, 2 BB, 4.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP (no decision)

Player B: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 6 K, 4 BB, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP (win)

Player A made his first start with his new team and was surprisingly effective. When he left, his team held the lead, but a blown save left him with a no-decision. This player unexpectedly won a rotation spot when his team made the puzzling choice to send a younger pitcher with much more potential to the bullpen. Player A is making his way back from Tommy John surgery and was most likely an afterthought, even in NL-only fantasy leagues. He is with his ninth big-league team.

Player B made his major-league debut last week and shut down his opponent, allowing five baserunners in his six innings of work. None crossed home plate. He wasn’t expected to open the season in his team’s rotation, but he pitched so well in the spring that he forced his team’s hand. In fact, his team traded away a fellow starter to make room for this rookie. Unlike Player A, Player B has ace potential and could be a huge boost to his team and fantasy owners.

Player A is 36-year-old Jason Marquis, who previously hurled for the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Twins, and Padres before making the Reds’ rotation this season. He is likely only holding the spot until Homer Bailey returns, or the Reds come to their senses and put Tony Cingrani back in the rotation. On the bright side, Marquis might still be able to serve as an occasional pinch hitter and runner.

Player B is 22-year-old Archie Bradley, whose fabulous spring led to Arizona’s decision to trade Trevor Cahill to Atlanta.

Clearing the Bases

  • As if the looming promotion of Kris Bryant isn’t enough to keep current Cubs third baseman Mike Olt awake at night, he was hit in the wrist with a pitch Saturday and was unable to start Sunday.
  • And that may be the last newsworthy thing that happens to Olt this season.
  • While Brett Cecil was the first closer to lose his job this season, the next in line should be Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, who lobbed a “hit me” slider to Dexter Fowler with two outs in the 9th inning Sunday, thus turning a 5-4 lead into a 6-5 loss. Hawkins, who I believe broke into the majors when Gerald Ford was President, has already blown two saves in the season’s first week. After starting 4-0 for the first time in 20 years, it’s taken exactly two games for Rockies fans to start saying “here we go again.”
  • Major loss for the Indians, as catcher Yan Gomes sustained an injury to his right knee Saturday when Detroit’s Rajai Davis slid into him at home plate. Gomes is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. With three other division contenders (sorry, Minnesota), Cleveland can ill-afford to lose one of their best players. Perhaps this will prompt the Tribe to make a move for a catcher? Carlos Ruiz, anyone?
  • Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon drove in a run Sunday for the first time since June 2005. It was career RBI number six for the 41-year-old Colon.
  • Meanwhile, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera drove in six runs in the three-game sweep of the Indians over the weekend.
  • As bad of a weekend as the Indians had, at least they aren’t the Rangers, who are picking up right where they left off in 2014. Derek Holland had to leave his season debut due to injury and is already on the 60-day DL, while left fielder Ryan Rua is already injured. Shaping up to be another long season in Arlington.
  • It’s too bad the bad luck couldn’t strike the Angels, who deserve a truly awful season as their just reward for their disgraceful and shameful handling of the Josh Hamilton situation. Fortunately, it’s early in the season. Plenty of time to cheer for the wheels to fall off their wagon.
  • It’s not uncommon for ballplayers to have to take leave from their teams due to family medical situations, but Rockies reliever John Axford certainly has reason to worry. His young son, Jameson, was bit by a rattlesnake late in spring training and has been confined to a bed, unable to move, for two weeks. The Rockies placed him on leave so he could be with his family. While the Rockies could certainly use Axford’s help in their bullpen, this is a truly terrifying situation where baseball is a tertiary concern, at most. Axford said Sunday that it may be two months before his son is able to walk again. Best wishes to the Axford family.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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