In this week’s edition, we look at the top starter on an unexpected contender, a faltering shortstop on a team everyone expects to contend, and we take issue with one of the Royals’ many leading vote-getters for the All-Star Game. Off we go:
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
How good has Archer been in his past four starts? He’s pitched at least seven innings each time, allowed four earned runs (three of them in his most recent), fanned 43 hitters and walked ONE. In fact, his three-start stretch before last Saturday, Archer became the first pitcher to strike out at least 10 batters with no walks in three consecutive starts since 1900! That’s not just dominant, that’s historically good, if a bit arbitrary. For the season, Archer is 7-4 (thanks to poor run support) with a 2.00 ERA, miniscule 0.94 WHIP and 113/21 K/BB ratio. The 113 strikeouts lead the American League. He is posting career bests in hits allowed (6.4), walks allowed (2.1) and strikeouts 11.3) per nine innings. Those are Cy Young-caliber numbers, especially in the less pitching-rich American League. He isn’t doing it with luck or mirrors, either, as his FIP rating of 2.08 illustrates. For the season, he already has compiled 3.2 Wins Above Replacement, which is over half a win above what he posted for the entire 2014 season. From a fantasy perspective, the only starter who has performed better over the whole season thus far is Oakland’s Sonny Gray, but even he hasn’t had a run of dominance like Archer enjoyed in late May-early June. Archer has been a true ace for the Rays and fantasy owners alike (although a little more run support would be nice).
Jimmy Rollins, Los Angeles Dodgers
It seemed like a good change-of-scenery move, Rollins moving from his longtime Philly home to Los Angeles, where he would be energized by the realistic chance at playing October baseball again. But it hasn’t worked out as planned so far. Always a bit of an overrated player (96 average career OPS+), Rollins has fallen to new depths at age 36. His slash line is a ghastly .201/.261/.336, and he has become a negative WAR player (-0.2 in 2015) just a season removed from posting his highest WAR in six years (4.0). While he is still compiling some useful fantasy stats (seven HRs, six SB, 29 R), he is striking out at the highest rate of his career and has often looked overmatched at the plate. He has even been replaced a few times this month by Enrique Hernandez (if you don’t recognize that name, you aren’t alone). While he is on pace to swat 15 home runs, which still gives him some value, the steals and runs scored are way down and the batting average is just a killer. Fantasy owners can get much more bang for their buck with D.J. LaMahieu or Wilmer Flores. As we reach mid-June and the Dodgers see the improving Giants stalking them, it’s time to wonder how much longer they will stick with Rollins when they have top prospect Corey Seager (a shortstop) impressing in the minors (9 HR, 34 RBI, 41 runs, .325/.373/.532, .905 OPS). If Rollins doesn’t turn his season around soon, he may well spend his Hollywood nights watching Seager take over his job.
Playing the Name Game
Following up on our last edition of the Name Game, we now look at the sons of former major leaguers who were drafted in the 2015 MLB draft held last week (note: there were players listed last week who were not selected by a team):
- Daz Cameron (Houston, 1st round, Mike Cameron)
- Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pittsburgh, 1st, Charlie Hayes)
- Tyler Nevin (Colorado, 2nd, Phil Nevin)
- Tate Matheny (Boston, 4th, Mike Matheny)
- Mariano Rivera III (Washington, 4th, Mariano Rivera)
- Cam Gibson (Detroit, 5th, Kirk Gibson)
- Nick Shumpert (Detroit,7th, Terry Shumpert)
- J. Graffanino (Cleveland, 26th, Tony Graffanino)
- Elih Marrero (Cincinnati, 29th, Eli Marrero)
- Griffin Conine (Miami, 31st, Jeff Conine)
- Conor Biggio (Houston, 34th, Craig Biggio)
- Kody Clemens (Houston, 35th, Roger Clemens)
- Andy Pagnozzi (Colorado, 36th, Tom Pagnozzi)
Clearing the Bases
- If baseball wants its draft to be more interesting, then they need to make draft picks tradable, just as they are in the NFL and NBA. Look at how interesting those drafts are. Teams can drastically remake their rosters with a great draft. Now, obviously, baseball is a different animal for many different reasons, but with the premium on young, controllable talent, draft picks are still valuable commodities in the game. A team isn’t going to go from worst-to-first in one season based off one draft, but using an acquired draft pick to potentially choose the next Bryce Harper or Mike Trout could instantly make trade deadline moves much more interesting, no? Contending teams with shallow farm systems could use draft picks to acquire that “one last piece” to make an October run, while others that need to restock a barren system (hello, Philadelphia) can certainly use the additional picks. Clubs with deep farm systems can dangle future draft picks for immediate big-league talent, and teams somewhere in the middle can figure a way to balance current and future needs. The point is, being able to trade draft picks will give teams more options to improve their rosters AND make the draft more intriguing. I realize that there are issues, such as the size of the draft (40 rounds), bonus pool and slot money limits, but all that should be able to be worked out. It’s a win-win, and it’s an idea whose time is past due.
- Pat Venditte Watch – The A’s switch-pitcher was placed on the DL last week, which, frankly, was a bit of a letdown. After a week, he appeared in four games and didn’t allow a run in 5 2/3 innings, with four strikeouts, two walks and one hit. If/when he is activated and rejoins the A’s, we will resume the Venditte Watch.
- Things Buck Farmer is More Likely to be Than a Pitcher, Part II: the name of a cheap buffet restaurant chain in Iowa, a John Deere salesman, or the owner of a dude ranch in Wyoming.
- News: Cameron Maybin has had a good start with Atlanta (5 home runs, 32 RBI, 11 SB, 24 runs, .301/.371/.415). Views: He’s had good months before. For example, in July 2011, Maybin hit .315/.339/.426, with nine RBI, 14 steals and 18 runs scored. He finished that season with a slash line of .264/.323/.393, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 40 SB and 82 runs. Nice numbers in the steals and runs categories, but hardly the “breakout” people spoke of back then. Don’t get suckered into believing in Cameron Maybin. He is fool’s gold.
- Bryce Harper is 22 and not eligible to be a free agent until after the 2019 season. So, naturally, some New York-based media folks (hint: his name rhymes with Bon Layman) is already fantasizing about Harper playing for the Yankees. Unbelievable.
- Amid all the speculation about starting pitchers like Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, Aaron Harang and Jeff Samardzjia getting traded, my guess was going to be Dillon Gee or Jon Niese, but the Mets sort of ended that bit of suspense when they designated Gee for assignment Monday.
- In semi-related news, with Lance Lynn now on the disabled list, I wonder if the Gee news caught St. Louis GM John Mozeliak’s attention.
- What will probably happen is that the Giants will acquire Gee and he will pitch like Madison Bumgarner Jr. for the rest of the season. Ugh.
- If you’re a huge Royals fan or Omar Infante, you probably won’t like this last item. Someone please explain to me why it’s okay to have EIGHT Royals possibly voted in as starters for the AL? I mean, I can understand a couple of starters (Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez), but Omar Infante??? He of the ZERO WAR so far this season? He who has been one of the worst everyday players in baseball this year? Infante, in fact, may be on the verge of being benched, yet Royals fans are determined to vote him into the All-Star Game. Do Royals fans not realize that home-field in the World Series is attached to the game’s outcome? I get that they are supporting their team, which is admirable, especially given the decades of terrible baseball they’ve had to endure. But this has gone beyond ridiculous. No intelligent fan can realistically say that Infante deserves to start the All-Star Game ahead of Jason Kipnis, Jose Altuve or Brian Dozier. Given Infante’s putrid play this season (.210/.219/.292, 0 HR), you could make a case that Frank White is more deserving of an All-Star appearance. Having said that, it seems to me that baseball can’t have it both ways. It can’t be a showcase where fans vote in their favorite players (thereby staging a farce with eight Royals and Mike Trout) AND also attach home-field advantage in the World Series to the game. This needs to get figured out. Either it’s an exhibition game like it used to be, or the managers get more input into their teams because, really, do you want Infante at the plate in the 9th inning with home field advantage in the World Series on the line? Or would you rather have someone like Kipnis, Altuve (or pretty much anyone, really)? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Memo to Rob Manfred: get this fixed ASAP. Baseball fans everywhere (outside of Kansas City, that is) thank you.
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