If in Texas everything is big, Rangers veteran hurler Scott Feldman fits right in at 6’7”. Despite the imposing figure, Feldman is actually something of a soft-tosser who gets by with finesse. In 2009, Feldman did more than just get by. He was sensational in the franchise’s transition into one of the league’s better pitching rotations. He finished with a 17-8 record and a 4.08 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.
Since then, the journey has been a bit rockier for Feldman despite the team’s good fortune, reaching back-to-back World Series. He struggled in 2010 and then last season was only healthy enough to contribute 32 innings, though he was solid with a 3.94 ERA and stellar 1.09 WHIP.
Now 29 years old, Feldman has regained his health and has assumed a role as a spot-starter for the Rangers. He performed admirably on Monday, pitching 4.2 innings while surrendering no earned runs. His ERA is down to 3.00 through 15 innings of work.
Never much of a strikeout artist, Feldman does offer some solid control and keeps the ball in the park, which isn’t easy pitching in Arlington. If he can somehow stick in the rotation, Feldman has a shot at enjoying fantasy value with plenty of wins and a respectable ERA and WHIP. However, for now he is a fantasy afterthought with greater value in reality.
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In 2003, the Padres owned the fourth pick of the MLB Draft. The franchise had its choice of a few top prospects including John Danks, Nick Markakis, and Chad Billingsley. Instead, San Diego opted for Tim Stauffer, a right-hander out of Richmond.
Stauffer struggled early in his professional career, however, in 2009 he broke out with a 1.85 ERA in 82.2 innings of work as a spot-starter and long-reliever. As a result of the fine performance, Stauffer enjoyed a promotion the following year to a full-time starter. Stauffer picked up 9 wins with a 3.73 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Of course PETCO Field played its role, as he was 6-5 at home with a 2.57 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
The 29-year-old right-hander showed some wear and tear in August, as his strikeouts declined and his home runs soared. After missing the first month and a half of the 2012 season due to a strained elbow, Stauffer made his season debut on Monday. Against the Nationals, the Padres hurler fanned five batters in five innings of work. He was a tad wild and bit too hittable as he came away with a no-decision.
Stauffer returns to PETCO this weekend for an Interleague match-up with the Angels. Fantasy managers should consider the veteran as a solid platoon option worth starting every time he takes the hill in San Diego even though a lack of run support will limit his ability to pick up wins.
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Carlos Zambrano is making himself at home in Miami. He finally picked up his first win of the season last week with a three-hitter, which pushed his ERA down to 1.98. The ERA only declined further, to 1.88, after seven solid innings against the Mets on Sunday. Zambrano fanned seven batters while walking three in yet another no-decision.
With his control in check, Zambrano is one of the better hurlers in baseball right now. Aside from one outing in which he issued six walks, Zambrano has walked three batters or fewer in every start this season.
When playing for the Cubs, part of the job description was to handle Wrigley Field in every home start. Sometimes the wind would push the ball out of the stadium, adding yet another component to his performance. This season, Zambrano will call home to a pitcher-friendly Marlins Park. Yet, so far most of Zambrano’s starts have come on the road, where he has offered a 1.55 ERA.
Though his volatile personality will always carry some risk, this is also the same pitcher that has won 16 or more games on three different occasions. Having shed a great deal of weight during the off-season and with his control and temper in check, Zambrano is a pitcher you can invest in.
After six fruitless at bats, Jordany Valdespin launched his first hit of his Big League career and it was one to remember, a three-run homer against Jonathan Papelbon to win the game for the Mets against the rival Phillies.
A 24-year-old five-tool talent, Valdespin could end up as a super sub, similar to Orioles third baseman Wilson Betemit, but with a bit more upside. Last season, Valdespin played at the high levels of the Minor Leagues and responded with 17 home runs and 37 stolen bases. Though he hit .294, Valdespin only drew 25 walks compared to 93 strikeouts, which raises fears about his plate discipline in the Major Leagues.
So far this season for the Mets, Valdespin has played second base, shortstop, and the outfield. He definitely gives the Mets a solid glove at second base, which he displayed on Sunday against the Marlins, but he is not about to displace the steady hitting Daniel Murphy.
It looked as though Valdespin would get a crack at shortstop with Ruben Tejada on the DL, but the Mets recently took veteran utility man Ronnie Cedeno off the disabled list. While Valdespin offers a great deal of promise, it is premature to call on him for any fantasy value.
A former first round pick in 2005, Brandon Snyder is a 25-year-old that only had 14 at bats in the Big Leagues entering last Monday. During his time in the farm system, Snyder proved to have little plate discipline, but he does have some power.
Snyder became a fantasy trend last week as he blasted a home run with six RBI in a big win against the Baltimore Orioles. Truth is, even last week it was clear that the big performance was no more than a career day than anything else. Snyder was playing third base, a position that is handled by Gold Glove winner Adrian Beltre. It’s not as if the designated hitter spot is open for Snyder either as Mike Napoli, Michael Young, and Mitch Moreland take turns in the Rangers lineup.
Since the big performance, Snyder has only had two appearances. He went 0-3 with a strikeout against the Orioles a few days later. He then managed a single in four at bats on Saturday against the Angels. With just 26 at bats this season, Snyder is little more than an insurance policy for the Rangers.
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A 24-year-old southpaw, Felix Doubront is finally getting his shot as a starter in the Big Leagues. Though he has been a strikeout artist so far this season, he has also been a bit too hittable. Fellow southpaws were hitting an all too comfortable .295 against him coming into the week. He had also has struggled at Fenway to the tune of a 6.00 ERA.
Based on his minor league statistics, one can expect Doubront’s control to improve. He was a popular fantasy option this week as he visited the Royals on Monday, then hosted the Indians on Saturday.
In the Kansas City start, Doubront was far from his best. He surrendered seven hits and five runs, but since only three were earned, it qualifies as a quality start. Doubront was much better five days later when he held the Royals to just three hits in six innings, surrendering one earned run. He picked up a second straight win, improving his record to 3-1, while the ERA fell to 4.46.
Doubront’s home ERA is now comparable to his road splits, and left-handed batters are now hitting just .278 against him. The Red Sox hurler will find an increase in strength of schedule, as he next takes on the Rays before a start against Baltimore. It will be more important for Doubront to keep the walks down against two of the best teams in the American League this season.
If you’re lucky your rival fantasy managers may have forgotten about Doug Fister and what he offered last season. The Tigers right-hander returned this week from the disabled list and was offered a dream fantasy week.
Fister took on the hapless Mariners offense and the A’s offense both in big-time pitcher’s parks. Though the Tigers did not offer the run support that we expected, Fister was sensational even if his record is just 0-1.
In his return to the mound, Fister stymied the Mariners for seven innings, allowing just four hits and no walks through seven innings. The Tigers eventually lost that contest 3-2. Next, Fister went six innings against the A’s, allowing nothing more than a first inning run. The right-hander fanned eight batters, but again lacked the run support for a win.
Through 16.2 innings, Fister now boasts a 0.54 ERA and 14:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has dominated in his 14 appearances since joining the Tigers. Fister’s value should only improve throughout the season as the offense should eventually awake and offer the run support that allowed the 6’8” right-hander to go 8-1 down the stretch a season ago.
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Here’s a look at the best fantasy players of April and whether they are sustaining their production or regressing to a less impressive level of play.
Best April Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
April Stats: 14 runs, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB, .316 AVG
Update: Since the change of month, Yadier Molina has only one RBI. Molina hurt his left hand in a game on May 8 and hopes to return to the diamond.
Conclusion: One of the most well-rounded catchers in baseball, Molina will remain one of the game’s best at his position, though Orioles masked marvel Matt Wieters may overtake him.
Best April First Baseman: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
April Stats: 15 runs, 7 HR, 20 RBI, .298 AVG
Update: Four hits and 3 RBI against the A’s on Thursday got Cabrera back in rhythm. His statistics have gone down a bit, but he remains amongst the best in baseball.
Conclusion: Cabrera is 100% legitimate and the best corner infielder in baseball right now.
Best April Second Baseman: Ian Kinsler, Rangers
April Stats: 24 runs, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, .298 AVG
Update: Though riding a six-game hit streak, Kinsler’s batting average has declined and he does not have an extra base hit during that stretch.
Conclusion: What makes Kinsler so valuable is the combination of power and speed. If he can keep the batting average closer to .300, he’ll be in the MVP conversation.
Best April 3rd Baseman: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
April Stats: 15 runs, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 4 SB, .322 AVG
Update: One of the biggest surprises in April, Encarnacion remains a valuable power bat in May, though the batting average has returned to normalcy.
Conclusion: Encarnacion should finally swat 30-home runs, but it may come with a disappointing average.
Best April Shortstop: Mike Aviles, Red Sox- 18 Runs, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB, .291 AVG
April Stats: 18 Runs, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB, .291 AVG
Update: Aviles has not been immune to the Red Sox struggles. His power numbers have come back to earth and his average has been in free fall this May.
Conclusion: Aviles is a fine middle infielder, but he is not the best. He over-performed in April.
Best April Outfielder: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
April Stats: 24 runs, 12 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, .417 AVG
Update: Kemp has slowed down a bit and has yet to go deep this month. He remains one of the best hitters in baseball and likely MVP contender, but he is no longer running away with the honor.
Conclusion: He was bound to slow down as pitchers were bound to adapt. Josh Hamilton is now challenging him for supremacy in the Big Leagues.
Best April Starting pitcher: Jake Peavy, White Sox
April Stats: 3 Wins, 33 K, 1.67 ERA, 0.69 WHIP
Update: With two quality starts already this month, Peavy continues to dominate the fantasy scene. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last five starts and has only quality starts this season. He is 1-0 in May so far.
Conclusion: It’s been several years since we’ve seen this type of dominance from Peavy. Let’s hope he can avoid the injury-bug for the first time since he’s left San Diego.
Best April Reliever: Fernando Rodney, Rays
April Stats: 1 Win, 7 SV, 9 K, 0.87 ERA, 0.77 WHIP
Update: Rodney has added a win and two saves to his record this month without surrendering a single run.
Conclusion: This is looking pretty real and it all has to do with control. Rodney boasts a 14:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s the latest reliever to enjoy a renaissance after joining the Rays bullpen.
If the Pirates are finally going to creep above mediocrity this season it will require James McDonald to evolve into a staff ace. The Pirates hurler who touches the low 90s went 9-9 last season with a 4.21 ERA. He would have been much better if he was able to do better than a walk every other inning.
This season McDonald has been better. The opposition has had a hard time hitting him, to the tune of a .213 average. Plus, his walks are way down this season resulting in a 1.09 WHIP and a 2.70 ERA. He is riding a hot streak, allowing just one hit in seven innings in a tough no decision against the Rockies, then picking up a win with 10 K’s in Atlanta, followed by another win with one crossing the dish against him by a solid Reds offense.
McDonald’s success is entirely dependent on his control. He has the stuff to keep batters off edge at the plate, but he has to keep them off the bases via free passes. With the Pirates looking to develop young talent with the hope of contending in the short-term, McDonald will have to lead a staff that is comprised of retreads such as Erik Bedard and AJ Burnett.
A little over a week ago, the Tigers announced that Duane Below would earn his first crack at starting this season. The southpaw had certainly earned the opportunity in his second season with the Tigers. Below had yet to issue a walk and the opposition was hitting just .167 against him in 12 scoreless innings. Alas, the opportunity never came as rain pushed the game back and Tigers manager Jim Leyland was not about to alter his rotation just to get Below a spot start.
Since then Below has continued throwing darts. He has added an additional two innings of work to his season total and the opposition has offered just a hit and walk against him without cracking the scoreboard in his last three appearances. Through 14 innings, Below now boasts a 0.00 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, and .174 average against. Simply put, he has been one of the best hurlers in baseball this season.
The big question is whether the Tigers have lucked out with this year’s version of Doug Fister? To answer that we look at Below’s stats in the minor leagues. Though he was a tad too hittable early in his professional career, the numbers have drastically improved in recent years. In fact, in 2011, Below was 9-4 in 18 starts with a 3.13 ERA in Triple-A. He does not get many strikeouts, but he has great command of the strike zone.
Despite some big prospects in the Tigers system, Below has earned the next spot start needed in Detroit. It’s about time for his fantasy managers to hope for an opportunity in Detroit.