In this week’s edition, we look at a speedy infielder, another infielder who is slowing down, and more, including Alex Rodriguez’s milestone home run and an historic weekend for the Cardinals. Off we go:
Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
Remember that horrendous start the Marlins had? Their manager was going to be fired at any minute and their terrible owner was going to blow up the team, and on and on? Yeah, that’s ancient history. The Fish have won eight of their past 10 games and reached the .500 mark before Sunday’s loss. One would think that Giancarlo Stanton would be leading the swim upstream, right? Well, he is doing his fair share, but the main spark in Miami’s resurgence is actually their new second baseman. Gordon, the former Dodger, entered Sunday having gone for 16-for-29 (.696/.704/.739) over the previous week. Of course, that pace is unsustainable, but Gordon is making the best possible use of his skill set: bunting well and using his speed to beat out grounders. He already has 11 steals, putting him on pace for 60 this season. The stolen bases alone are enough to make Gordon an elite fantasy performer, but if he can keep his on-base percentage at .375 or above, he could approach 70-80 steals and make scoring 100 runs a near-certainty. Making that kind of an improvement may be expecting too much, given that Gordon’s previous best OBP was .326 (set last season). On the other hand, he is in his age-27 season, when so many stars make the leap to career-peak levels. Perhaps Gordon will be the next player to follow that trend.
Between Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton, the Miami Marlins are one of the more entertaining teams in the league night in and night out. Catch a game at Miami Park by rounding up options for Miami flights through Hipmunk, which offers services from many major airline carriers. It is Miami, so staying only one night will be difficult. Hipmunk has Miami hotels starting from $95 so baseball fans can catch some sun before or after the baseball game.
Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox
It has to be great for Red Sox fans to see another Ramirez patrolling left field at Fenway Park, smashing home runs and playing spotty defense. After being resistant to changing positions while with his previous teams, Ramirez willingly moved to left upon signing with Boston. All he has done since is mash the ball, amassing 10 home runs, 22 RBI, and 17 runs scored. While his days of being a stolen-base threat appear to be gone (only one steal thus far), the power boost makes up for that. Ramirez is on pace to surpass his career-high of 33 homers (set in 2008), which, given the scarcity of power these days, could make him a top-20 outfielder.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Utley had a respectable year in 2014 (other than in the home run department), but 2015 is shaping up to be an ugly year in Philadelphia. It’s been painful to watch Utley through these first 26 games. Although he has three home runs and 14 RBI, his .108/.181/.217 slash line is so far below his career norms of .283/.367/.484 that it’s fair to wonder if, at age 36, Utley has lost his stroke. The worst part for the Phillies and fantasy owners is that it shows no signs of just being a slump. If that’s the case, then he offers no little to no trade value. Because the Phillies’ system is so barren, they have no ready replacements, either. It leaves them with little choice but to keep running him out there every day in hopes he rediscovers the form that made him one of the best second basemen in the past 15 years. Fantasy owners don’t necessarily have to do that, though – unless you happen to be in a deep NL-only league (like me) and the replacement options are worse.
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels
Weaver has been on a slow decline for a few years now, but that decline appears to have accelerated into a fall off a cliff. Weaver, never one to overpower with high-90s heat, is now serving up 83-mph batting practice to opposing hitters. The results show: 45 hits (8 HR) allowed in 34 1/3 innings, an unslightly 6.29 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Owners in deep AL-only leagues desperate for pitching are dropping Weaver, a telling sign. Is the velocity loss a sign of injury, or has the 32-year-old Weaver just lost his stuff at an early age? It will be interesting to see how the Angels handle this going forward. They don’t exactly have a deep farm system with ready replacements. Will their attention-seeking owner try to jump into the Cole Hamels arena?
Playing the Name Game
Player A: 0 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, .280/.429/.360
Player B: 6 HR, 15 RBI, 15 R, 1 SB, .292/.447/.646
Player A is one of several rookies who arrived with a lot of fanfare. Although he is still looking for his first major-league home run, he has been anything but a disappointment. Player B was a highly-rated prospect, but not to the extent Player A was. However, he has exceeded expectations in every facet of the game. Until Sunday, he had homered in four straight games, including his first career grand slam Friday night. Although there are five months to go, I think it’s fair to say that Player B has reminded us that Player A is not a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year.
Player A is Kris Bryant of the Cubs. Player B the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson.
Clearing the Bases
- At 18-7, the Astros are off to the best record in their history through 25 games, riding a 10-game winning streak (their longest since 2004). The Nationals have 12 wins. The Giants have 12. Houston also has a seven-game lead in the division.
- However, I’m not quite prepared to hop on the “Houston is for real!” bandwagon. If we are still saying that 25-30 games is a small-sample size for players, then shouldn’t it apply to teams as well? Around this time last year, everyone was saying the Milwaukee Brewers were “for real” and they kept it up past the All-Star Break before disintegrating. Just saying.
- News: Alex Rodriguez hits home run #660 against the Red Sox, tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. It was also A-Rod’s first career pinch-hit home run. Views: the Yankees are refusing to pay the $6 million bonus, claiming that the milestone isn’t marketable. The marketable angle would be an easier sell if Yankees didn’t have a long history of marketing EVERYTHING, such as used urinals and chunks of concrete from the old Yankee Stadium.
- Why one of the New York tabloids hasn’t come up with a good “Six Million Dollar Man” joke is beyond me.
- I may have just dated myself a tad.
- We suggested last week that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke would be the first skipper to be canned this year. Milwaukee proved me right yesterday, after the Brewers bumbled their way to an 11-25 start to the season. They are already 11 ½ games out of first place. Yikes.
- Bryan Price still deserved to be the first manager fired.
- Rough weekend for the Pirates, losing three consecutive extra-inning games to the Cardinals. Probably more meaningful for St. Louis, at least symbolically, after losing Adam Wainwright for the season.
- That three-game sweep marked the first time in the Cardinals’ history that they swept a three-games with extra-inning wins.
- Your early leader for worst performance of the season: Rockies reliever Jorge Rondon, who allowed eight runs without registering an out against the Padres last week. In San Diego. Where even Jason Marquis was able to pitch effectively. The Rockies designated him for assignment the next day, which is baseball-speak for “Pack your stuff. The guard will escort you out.”
- Very saddened by Kirk Gibson’s announcement last week that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The man is responsible for the single-greatest baseball moment I have ever seen: Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Watching that game as a teenager taught me that, while baseball can be dull at times, there is no other sport that rises to such unbelievable levels of tension and drama. I’ve seen that home run a couple hundred times and still get goose bumps. Here’s hoping that Gibson is able to fight off as Parkinson’s as well as he fought off Dennis Eckersley’s pitches in that 9th inning.
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