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Brett Lawrie, 2B, Blue Jays
Exciting times in Toronto right now as the top prospect, Brett Lawrie, a Canadian himself, has finally made his Major League debut. In three games, Lawrie has racked up five hits including his first home run on Sunday in a 7-2 win over the Orioles. Just 21-years old, Lawrie is the real deal. He had 18 home runs with a .353 average at Triple-A after racking up 16 triples and 30 steals at Double-A last season. Acquired for Shaun Marcum in the off-season, Lawrie is a definite pick up, and likely a keeper in all fantasy leagues.
Jed Lowrie, SS, Red Sox
A personal favorite of mine early in the season, Jed Lowrie’s production slipped a great deal before missing a few months because of a shoulder injury. Now when he returns things won’t be any easier, as the Red Sox have acquired Mike Aviles and Marco Scutaro has played very well recently. Nonetheless, Lowrie does deliver a great deal of position eligibility and he does have some pop to his bat. I would only pick him up if you’re looking for depth as Lowrie will be relegated to part-time duties for the remainder of the season.
Eric Young, 2B, Rockies
We talk about him every few months because of the crazy potential he offers, and while he has yet to stick as an everyday player, the 26-year-old Eric Young is getting another shot and so far so good. Riding a seven game hit streak, Young has raised his batting average from .212 to .245. He has five steals over his last nine games and has been scoring runs as well. The Rockies are committed to Dexter Fowler and Eric Young at the top of the lineup, kind of like the Marlins old championship team that had Edgar Renteria and Luis Castillo. We’ll see if this works out for them, as there is little power in this combo with Young delivering just two extra base hits the entire season.
Johnny Giaviotella, 2B, Royals
This is the reason the Royal did away with Mike Aviles. Giaviotella is a former second round pick out of New Orleans who is off to a fine start in the Big Leagues with five hits including a home run through his first three games of his career. Giaviotella is the type of player who can offer a little bit of everything. He compares well to Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick. Giaviotella had nine home runs with nine steals at Triple-A this season, and most impressive was his .338 average and a .390 on base percentage. The future is now for the Royals, and Giaviotella is certainly a player worth picking up if in need of some middle infield help.
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The Injury Report:
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
Guess who’s back! The man who routinely hit 100 MPH on the radar gun as a starter last season is on his way back and is already up to 95 MPH following Tommy John surgery. Strasburg is apparently in mid-spring training mode, as far as his recovery. That puts him about a month and a half away from the Major Leagues assuming all goes well. That, of course, is a wide assumption considering how serious this injury was. Nonetheless, if you have the roster space and could use an arm for the playoff run, Strasburg could play a role this season.
Chien-Ming Wang, SP, Nationals
Once the ace of the New York Yankees, this Taiwan native enjoyed back-to-back 19-win seasons in 2006 and 2007. Injuries have since limited Wang to just 27 appearances. His last outing actually came more than two years ago on July 4, 2009. The 31-year old right-hander hopes that there is still something left in the tank. He is currently in the midst of a rehab start and Davey Johnson hinted that he is just a start away from joining the Major League club. Even in his prime, Wang’s value was limited because he pitches to contact, however, in the National League his ERA can dip to a respectable level so keep an eye on his progress.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays
The top prospect in the Blue Jays system was supposed to make his Major League debut more than a month ago, but then an injury forced him to the bench. The Blue Jays have made it clear that they will take the cautious route with Lawrie, who is dominating at Las Vegas despite learning a new position (third base). Look for Lawrie to spend at least the next two weeks in the Minor Leagues. Some good news is that current third baseman Edwin Encarnacion has heated up over the last month, even though he is clearly a short-term solution.
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves / Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves
The Braves are very much in contention in spite of the awful play of Jason Heyward this season. For a second straight season the much-heralded prospect has dealt with some injuries, and it’s an ankle injury that has forced Heyward to miss out on the friendly confines of Coors Field. It’s been a power outage for Heyward this season, as his slugging is currently under .400. Before the panic sets in remember, this talent is just 21-years old. He is listed as day-to-day because of an ankle injury, but he is expected to play tonight.
Chipper Jones has been plagued by injuries for what seems like a decade now. The 38-year old remains one of the better power options in the Braves lineup, even though the career .304 hitter has been a .260 hitter the last three seasons. Recovering from minor knee surgery, Jones is still a few weeks away from returning to the Braves lineup, but he has taken some live batting practice and believes he may be a bit ahead of schedule.
David Wright, 3B Mets / Ike Davis, 3B, Mets
The big question for Mets fans is whether we will ever see Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright in the lineup together again. While Wright is enjoying a rehab stint, Carlos Beltran can be traded any day now. Wright is recovering from a stress fracture in his lower back. The 28-year old has been raking at Class-A, and has set this weekend as a possible return date.
Such progress has not come to Ike Davis, the Mets young first baseman who appeared on his way to breakout season before injuring his ankle. While the New York tabloids have gone back and forth on rumors surrounding whether he will be shut down this season, Davis himself has said that if he does not make serious progress in the next three weeks, the season will be lost. The Mets have been thrilled with the play of replacements Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda. In fact, when Wright does return it may make the most sense to alternate Murphy and Duda at first, while also playing Murphy a bit at second base.
By Tommy Rancel //
Tucked behind the announcement of Jayson Werth‘s monster contract with the Washington Nationals, the Milwaukee Brewers acquired starting pitcher Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for top prospect infielder Brett Lawrie.
Marcum returned in 2010 after missing the entire 2009 major league season due to Tommy John surgery. Once a death sentence for pitchers, Marcum is the latest in a long line of post-Tommy John success stories. He made 31 starts for the Jays, tossing 195.1 innings – both career highs. He never had much of a fastball to begin with, but his velocity returned to the high 80s.
Had Marcum been able to make 30 starts and toss 200 innings with mediocre results, it would’ve still been considered a successful comeback. Meanwhile, he not only returned healthy, but very effective. After posting a 3.39 ERA in 25 starts back in 2008, he went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 2010. The 13 victories also qualify as a career high.
Without the natural ability to blow hitters away with a blazing fastball, Marcum has relied on one of the best change-ups in the game to get hitters out. While throwing the pitch more than 25% of the time in 2010, he was able to get a swing and a miss a jaw-dropping 28.1% of the time.
Because of the pitch’s effectiveness, Marcum has been able to have great success against left-handed batters, defying the usual platoon disadvantage. Last season, LHB hit just .190/.233/.299 against him. So pronounced was Marcum’s reverse split that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon employed a reverse-platoon lineup against him that featured mostly right-handed batters.
In addition to the unhittable change-up, Marcum exhibited above-average control. His strikeout rate near 7.5 strikeouts per nine (K/9) was slightly above the league average (7.13) while his walk rate of 1.98 was well below (3.28).In fact Marcum posted the 6th-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the league, topping even the likes of Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez – while pitching in a tougher ballpark, in a tougher division.
Marcum, 29 as of opening day, should be on your list of #2 starters headed in 2010 – he’s that good. The recovery from surgery looked complete last year. Also, consider that the shift to the National League – more specifically the NL Central – should benefit Marcum going forward.
On the Toronto side, it is unknown who replaces Marcum in the rotation; in Brett Lawrie, they did receive Milwaukee’s top prospect. Last season as a 20-year-old in Double-A, Lawrie hit .285/.346/.449. He hasn’t shown much home run power, yet still smacked 59 extra-base hits last year.
Thus far, Lawrie has played second base exclusively in the minor leagues. That said, there are some who say he is destined for the corner outfield in the future. There is also some speculation that Toronto may have acquired the native Canadian in order to flip him in a package for another piece. In any event, there is little chance that he has a significant fantasy impact in 2011 – outside of a potential September call-up.