Results tagged ‘ Michele Steele ’

Mets Hurler Jason Isringhausen’s Story of Redemption

 

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The Mets free fall has begun, a few months later than most baseball analysts expected, but the team is starting to fall on hard times now that they have traded All-Star Carlos Beltran and closer Francisco Rodriguez.  The team has also lost their two best hitters this season to injuries in Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy.  While Reyes is expected to return at the end of the month there is no guarantee it will stop the bleeding.  The team has lost six of its last seven and the Mets now sit four games under .500.

 

One piece of good news that has recently unfolded was a personal milestone from a very unlikely Met.  Jason Isringhausen’s career started with the Mets in a cloud of hope as a part of Generation K with Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson. 

 

Izzy went 9-2 in his first season with the Mets with a stellar 2.81 ERA.  He was immediately compared to Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver, the two best home grown Mets aces in franchise history.  Of course, the bottom then fell out as injuries took their toll on all three members of Generation K.  Izzy went 9-19 in his next three seasons with the Mets before getting dealt to the Oakland A’s for Billy Taylor.

 

Izzy was moved to the bullpen where he went on to dominate for the next eight seasons.  He won a World Series, picked up a career-high 47 saves in 2004, and dismissed his legacy of being a bust.  However, that wasn’t enough for the Mets 44th round pick in the 1991 draft.  He had more to prove.

 

Izzy returned to the Mets this off-season with absolutely no idea whether he would ever even make the roster.  “I had no idea… nobody knew what was going to happen,” said Isringhausen after the recent home stand.  “I just try to go about my business the right way and help the team anyway I can and try to get outs when they call on me.”  Izzy has certainly handled his job the right way.  He has offered some wisdom for the younger pitchers and offered some brilliant work out of the bullpen while doing so.  However, the big opportunity did not come until days after the All-Star break when the Mets announced they had dealt their star closer K-Rod to the Brewers.

 

Since that transaction, Izzy has returned to his old role of closer.  In 12 appearances, Izzy has picked up two wins and seven saves.  The seventh save, which took place on August 15th was the 300th of his career.  It’s been an incredible ride for the soon-to-be 38-year-old hurler.  He returned to where he failed and has been a pleasant surprise. 

 

Unfortunately for Isringhausen, reality will now set in.  With the Mets out of contention for a spot in the post-season, the team is looking towards the future and they will turn to flamethrower Bobby Parnell for ninth inning duties.  Izzy, a true professional, has been one of Parnell’s biggest supporters even during his recent struggles.  “It won’t be his last rough spot either… he’s got the stuff to do it… You can take care of the little things and the rest kind of falls in place.”

 

The young bust is now a wily veteran who has redeemed himself in the eyes of Mets fans.  Whether he gets another save or not for the rest of his career, Isringhausen has accomplished what he set out to do.  He went about his business the right way and got outs when needed.  However, his lasting contribution may be the professionalism that he brought to the clubhouse and the lessons that he provided to a new a new generation of Mets hurlers.  Izzy did alright as a Mets hurler.

 

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Nova, Constanza, Carp, Betancourt, and Encarnacion

 

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Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees

If you’re wondering how a 24-year-old hurler on the Yankees can have an 11-4 record and 3.85 ERA and still find himself on the waiver wire, I have your answer.  Just check out the 1.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  Nova has had some things go his way this season such as solid run support and an uncanny ability to escape jams.  Regardless, Nova has won seven straight decisions and has allowed as many as four runs just twice in his last eight starts.  As long as you can deal without the K’s and a pretty high WHIP, Nova is not a bad pickup. 

Jose Constanza, OF, Braves

If you’re curious why the Braves are suddenly sitting mega prospect and their everyday right-fielder Jason Heyward, there are two reasons.  The first is that Heyward is struggling with just a .219 average and 30 RBI.  The other reason is that the little-known and late-blooming Jose Constanza is hitting .382 with 13 runs scored.  The 27-year-old is a speedster with little to no power.  He swiped 23 bags with a .312 average before the call to the Majors this season.  Constanza is nothing more than a hot bat who is stealing at bats away from the future of the franchise.  Then again, we may have said the same thing about Jeff Francouer back in the day.

Mike Carp, 1B, Mariners

While top prospect Justin Smoak has dealt with his ups and downs and most recently a broken nose, Mike Carp has shined bright with a .320 average, four home runs, and 24 RBI in 38 games.  Carp was acquired by the Mariners for closer JJ Putz a few years back from the Mets.  He blasted 29 home runs at Triple-A last season, but hit just .257.  This year, he blasted 21 home runs in 66 games while hitting .343.  In other words, Carp has earned a serious look in the Big Leagues, and at 25-years old, he will get his chance for the remainder of the season.  Feel free to take a look in fantasy leagues, though as is the case for any hitter that plays half of his games in Safeco, the odds are against him. 

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays

Try explaining this, in his first 70 games, Edwin Encarnacion reached base at a rate of 28%.  Since the All-Star break, Encarnacion has reached base 47% of the time.  What gives? Well, we always knew that the Blue Jays slugger was one of the streakiest hitters in baseball.  He also has a knack for big second halves.  The 28-year-old corner infielder is also playing for his career now that mega prospect Brett Lawrie has been called up.  The good news is that he remains young enough for the Blue Jays to provide him with regular at bats.  So Encarnacion will have his opportunity to win over a spot for next season’s club.  As far as potential, Encarnacion has plenty of it.  He blasted 26 home runs back in 2008 and 21 last season in just 332 at bats. 

Rafael Betancourt, RP, Rockies

Finally some noise from the closer report, the 36-year-old Rafael Betancourt will take over for the recently injury Huston Street.  The last time that Betancourt allowed an earned run was July 6th, just before the All-Star break.  Betancourt has nailed down one save over the last week and his 58:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season ranks amongst the best in baseball.  Street will likely return at the end of the month, but if he’s out longer than that and the Rockies continue to struggle, you have to think to Rex Brothers, who at 24-years old is supposed to be the closer of the future, will get some save opportunities.

Mets Hang In There Thanks to Duda and Hope

 

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It seems like the baseball world is just waiting for the Mets to finally fly its white flag.  It is clear that at 19 games behind the Phillies in the NL East and more than 10 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card, there is no real shot at making the postseason.  Nonetheless, the Mets have played extremely well on the road, keeping them within .500 through 117 games into the season. 

 

The tide may have finally turned in recent days.  The Mets fell twice to the last-place Padres at home and will now have to take on the first place Diamondbacks on the road this weekend. 

 

It’s also the way that the Mets have fallen that hurts the most.  On Wednesday, a well-pitched game by Jon Niese was wasted thanks in large part to shoddy defensive by 21-year-old shortstop Ruben Tejada.  The only reason Tejada was even in the field was the most recent hamstring injury to star shortstop Jose Reyes. 

 

One positive that Mets fans can focus on is the continued success of rookie Lucas Duda.  The 6’4, 254 lbs. slugger drove in four RBI in the four-game series with seven hits.  Though his season statistics are solid with three home runs, three triples, 12 doubles, and a .279 average through 62 games, his teammate Justin Turner tells us that we have not seen anything yet.  “When he gets into a hot streak, the ball just sails over the fence in bunches,” said Turner, who played with Duda in the Minor Leagues. 

 

Despite the fun name and slugger’s role, Duda is soft-spoken and modest, though his confidence shines through, “It will come.” he says.  “The more comfortable I get the better I’ll perform.”  Duda has good reason to be confident.  He is hitting .348 since the All-Star break with three home runs and a .427 OBP. 

 

While Duda is playing first base in place of the injured Ike Davis, his future home for the Mets will likely be in the outfield.  After all, the Mets have no shortage of first basemen with both Davis and Daniel Murphy both posting big numbers before each landed on the DL with season-ending injuries.

 

As usual, it is anything but easy to be a Mets fan.  However, there is some good news as the season crawls to an end.  Both Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda look like keepers, though finding a position for each will be a challenge.  Jose Reyes seems happy to be with the Mets and could end up extending this off-season in a long-term deal.  Jason Bay has progressed a bit from his early struggles, and even Justin Turner may be a short-term fix at second base. 

 

The Mets still have plenty of issues to sort out.  They could use another big arm in the rotation even while assuming Johan Santana returns as a front of the rotation hurler.  Bobby Parnell does not look like a closer.  Then there is the gaping hole in centerfield that Angel Pagan has not been able to fill this season. 

 

For those who prefer the glass half full, consider that the Mets have lost their first baseman and their backup first baseman to injuries.  David Wright and Jose Reyes have both spent weeks on the disabled list.  Johan Santana has not thrown a single pitch for the Mets this season.  Jason Bay and Angel Pagan are having down seasons.  The team traded away its best all-around hitter and its ace closer, and yet they sit just one game under .500.  In other words, for Mets fans there is just enough positive to still believe.

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Alert: Lawrie, Lowrie, Young, and Giaviotella

 

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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.

Fantasy Baseball Trade Deadline Report: Beltran, Duda, Jackson, Rasmus, and Rzepczynski

 

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Carlos Beltran, OF, Giants

The numbers don’t do Carlos Beltran justice this season.  Sure, he only has 15 home runs, but he also has 30 doubles.  That tells me in a more favorable ballpark he’d have closer to 20 home runs.  He may only have 3 steals, but he has scored 61 runs, that tells me he is not lagging on the basepaths.  His on base percentage is .391, which is 30 points better than his career mark.  His average, slugging, and OPS are all better than his season average as well.  Now he is moving to San Francisco, which should have a minor impact on his production.  The ballpark remains tough, but worse than that, he does not have Jose Reyes hitting in front of him.  This might not be a bad time for fantasy managers to sell high on the veteran All-Star.

 

Lucas Duda, OF, Mets

In his first game as the Mets regular right-fielder, Lucas Duda sent one over the fence.  There should be many more coming.  The 6’4, 254 lbs. California native is a slugger.  He may only boast two home runs this season, but he has 10 doubles and three triples despite just 123 at bats so far this season.  His average is at a healthy .276 and the OBP of .350 is stellar.  Duda will have every chance of earning the Mets starting right-field job next season, though honestly, what they should consider is moving him to left and Jason Bay off the roster.

 

Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays

A former first round pick who simply did not get along with Tony LaRussa, Rasmus is a five-tool talent who still has plenty of room for improvement.  After blasting 23 home runs last season with 12 stolen bases, Rasmus has just 11 dingers this season.  On that note, his numbers should progress quite well once he leaves St. Louis.  He’ll have Jose Bautista instead of Albert Pujols providing protection, and also the Rogers Centre is a very favorable hitting environment.  Rasmus is a popular buy-low option. 

 

Edwin Jackson, SP, Cardinals

A winner of three of the last four starts, Edwin Jackson is having a fine season despite the 7-7 record, his ERA is 3.92 and he has surrendered just eight home runs in 121.2 innings of work.  The big concern with him is the high WHIP.  This season it’s because he’s getting hit a bit too often to the tune of a .283 average.  The good news for him is that he will now be under the tutelage of Dave Duncan.  One of the best pitching coaches in the game, this can have a great impact on Jackson’s career.

 

Marc Rzepczynski, RP, Cardinals

Another winner in the big deal between the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Cardinals is RzepczynskiJust 26 years old, this southpaw boasts a 2.97 ERA and 1.05 WHIP this season.  I would also love to see how he handles starting.  He was very promising a few years back and he can really miss some bats.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Rzepczynski in the Cardinals starting rotation next season.  He has star potential.    

 

Fantasy Baseball 2nd Chance Stars: Alvarez, Karstens, Fowler, McDonald, and Salty

 

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Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates

The fantasty season is not over for one of the biggest busts in the league Pedro Alvarez.  The second overall pick of the 2008 draft, we expected big things out of the Vanderbilt alumnus, but instead, his average sits at just .211 with two home runs and 10 RBI.  After an extended stay on the disabled list and then a month’s worth of at bats in the Minor Leagues, Alvarez is back.  He will bat in the middle of the Pirates lineup and will have ever chance to succeed once again.  The third base position is pretty shallow this season with talent, making fantasy managers quick to forgive players like Alvarez.

 

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox

The man traded for Mark Teixeira a few years back is finally an everyday player in the Big Leagues.  Just 26 years old, Salty is having his best season to date.  His eight home runs are just one shy of his career-high and the same can be said of his 12 doubles.  He is not the best defensive catcher in baseball, but he has been adequate and his respectable on base percentage with some pop makes him a dangerous bat in the Red Sox lineup.

 

Jeff Karstens, SP, Pirates

This former Yankees prospect is not just having a good season, he is having a Cy Young caliber season!  At 28 years old, the right-handed finesse hurler boasts a 2.28 ERA with a stellar 1.04 WHIP.  His lack of strikeouts may frustrate some fantasy managers, but Karstens has surrendered just 11 earned runs over his last 10 starts.

 

Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies

You have to wonder how many chances this guy will get but because of injuries and the struggles of his peers, Dexter Fowler is getting another shot to leadoff for the Rockies.  Fowler is batting .342 since the All-Star break with 10 runs in 11 games with three steals.  Just 25 years old, Fowler is too young to turn the page on for now.

 

James McDonald, SP, Pirates

There is no question about it, of all of the Pirates hurlers, James McDonald has the best stuff.  Sure, he has some control issues, but his 92 strikeouts, seven wins, and 3.95 ERA will get your attention.  A former top prospect with the Dodgers, McDonald has gone 11-9 with a 3.79 ERA in 31 starts.  At 26 years old, McDonald should still have his best years ahead of him.

 

The Top-5 2012 Fantasy Baseball Surprises

Fantasy Baseball’s Surprise Party: 

 

1)    Ichiro hits under .300

The future Hall of Famer may be labeled somewhat of a one-trick pony, but at least he always had that trick, which was the ability to rack up hits at an unprecedented level.  Suzuki boasts a .327 career average and never before has hit for lower than a .303 average through 10 years in the Major Leagues.  However, at the moment, Suzuki’s average is under .270.  When you consider that Ichiro actually started the season quite well with a .328 average through the first month of the season, you have to wonder if the 37-year-old veteran is finally slowing down.  Suzuki will also have his third straight season with fewer than 100 runs scored. 

 

2)    Lance Berkman’s Power Stroke

Since blasting a career-high 45 home runs in 2006, Lance Berkman’s annual home run total has declined in four straight seasons.  That streak has come to an end this season, as the 35-year-old veteran has nearly doubled last year’s total already with 27 home runs.  After hitting just one dinger in 106 at bats last season with the Yankees, it looked like Berkman was playing on borrowed time.  However, the Cardinals outfielder is instead enjoying an MVP caliber season. 

 

3)    Manny’s Retirement

With just one hit through 17 at bats, it looked like the worst was out of the way for Rays recently acquired outfielder Manny Ramirez.  However, the legend in Boston who enjoyed a heck of a half-season with the Dodgers would never again stare down another pitch.  No, Ramirez, approaching his 38th birthday, was caught using performance-enhancing drugs for the second time in his career and a hasty and quiet retirement soon followed.  555 home runs and a .312 average likely won’t be enough to bring Manny to Cooperstown. 

 

4)    Bartolo Colon Back in the Majors

He’s a former Cy Young award winner with 150-plus wins under his belt, but Colon was never expected to play a key role in this season considering we last saw him pitch in 2009 when he finished a season with the White Sox with a 3-6 record.  However, after plenty of rest and a controversial arm surgery, Colon is back in a big way for the Yankees.  Armed with great command and some serious heat, Colon improved his record to 7-6 this weekend with a fine 3.29 ERA 

 

5)    2011 Free Agent Busts: Werth, Crawford, and Dunn

The big bats on the market this past winter were Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, and Adam Dunn.  They all came into the season with stellar career marked with consistency and fairly predictable production. 

 

Jayson Werth, for instance, has belted 20-plus home runs with 10 plus steals, and an average north of .265 in each of the last three seasons.  Werth is currently batting just .219 with 11 home runs in what was supposed to be his prime at 32-years old. 

 

Carl Crawford has hit less than .300 just once in the last six seasons entering this season.  Well, now he’s batting .254, and his steals are on pace to be his lowest season total since his rookie season. 

 

Finally, Adam Dunn has hit either 38 or 40 home runs in each of the last six seasons.  He currently boasts just nine home runs, and his .160 average is 100 points off last season’s batting clip. 

 

 

The Next Batch of Rookies: Kipnis, Turner, Goldschmidt, Jennings, and Gibson

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Rookies On the Way:

Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians

A second round pick out of Arizona State, this 24-year old is bound for a late call-up by the contending Indians.  A .300 hitter in the Minor Leagues, Kipnis has deployed a nice combination of power and speed at Triple-A this season.  Considering second base is currently being help by Orlando Cabrera, who is batting just .244, it seems like promoting Kipnis would actually be an upgrade at the Major League level.

Jacob Turner, SP, Tigers

Just 20-years old, Turner was the ninth overall pick of the 2009 draft and his ability to throw strikes may be enough to earn a call-up to the Big League level.  The Tigers are not afraid to bring a young hurler to the Majors, after all, they did with the 20-year old Rick Porcello just three years ago.  Turner is able to miss bats more effectively than Porcello, so in other words he has greater potential.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks seem afraid to let their young players contribute.  Heck it took long enough for Brandon Allen to earn the call up to the Majors this season despite blasting 25 home runs last season at Triple-A.  The problem here is that Allen, who hit 18 home runs with a .306 average at Triple-A before recently earning a promotion.  Then there’s Paul Goldschmidt, a former 8th round pick with 80 home runs through three Minor League seasons.  It might make sense to trade one of these two boppers, but with a .424 OBP and a .616 slugging, it looks like Goldschmidt is the one they want to keep.

Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays

The Rays have come to realize that they called upon Desmond Jennings to contribute a bit too early last season.  They also are doing a great job of alleviating the pressure of replacing Carl Crawford from Jennings this season by keeping him in the Minors for an extended period.  However, do not be confused, Jennings is very much a long-term solution for the Rays.  After a mediocre start to the season, Jennings has come on as of late with 12 home runs, 17 steals, and now a .280 average.  He still fans a bit too often, but Jennings has all five tools and will make his return to the Big Leagues in the coming weeks.

Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins

The 22nd pick of the 2009 draft, Gibson is a 6’6 right-hander with front of the rotation potential.  He hasn’t had the best season so far at Triple-A, as his record is just 3-8 with a 4.68 ERA.  However, the number to pay attention to is the 22 walks in 90.1 innings.  While his stuff is solid, as suggested by his average of a strikeout per inning, what’s more impressive is his ability to control his entire arsenal of pitches.  Improved game-calling by Major League catchers should help Gibson out, but based on his stuff and control, he could be a surprise contributor in the pennant race.

Three Fantasy Sleepers, and An Injury Report on Jeter, Santana, and Zimmerman

 

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox

After a slow start to the season Jarrod Saltalamacchia is red-hot for the Red Sox.  He is batting .400 this month with a home run, two doubles, and a triple.  His season average is now a respectable .252 with five home runs.  Remember, as bad as he was early in the season, Salty was once a mega prospect who was traded for Mark Teixiera.  He may never reach that potential, but if he can hit .280 with 15 home runs in Boston, the run production will pile up.  My only warning is that his defense is still not very good, so it will remain a platoon with Jason Varitek. 

 

Charlie Blackmon, OF, Rockies

Lost in the rookie rush a few days ago was the call-up of Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon.  A former second round pick out of Georgia Tech, the 24-year old has the highly sought combination of power and speed.  He was hitting .337 in Colorado Springs with 10 home runs and 12 steals.  With Dexter Fowler injured, Blackmon will enjoy a shot at playing everyday.  If he contributes, look for him to become an everyday player, which means tons of fantasy value. 

 

Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians

Before the season began we asked Jay Levine from LetsgoTribe.com who was the top hurler on the staff and he surprised us with Carlos Carrasco.  At first we questioned his call since Carrasco was just 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA through six starts into the season, but since then, Carrasco has gone 5-1 while lowering his ERA to 4.09.  He has not allowed a run in either of his two starts while fanning season highs six and then seven batters.  What was most impressive about his last win was that it came in Yankee Stadium against the hot-hotting Bombers.  At just 24 years old, Carrasco is a great long-term investment. 

 

Injuries-

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals

After more than a month on the DL, Ryan Zimmerman will be activated to play tonight.  Zimmerman was batting .357 through eight games when he got hurt.  His presence should help the entire lineup that has struggled to replace their third baseman as well as their injured first baseman Adam LaRoche. 

 

Johan Santana, SP, Mets

The idea was for the Mets to simply be competitive for the next few weeks until David Wright, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana returned.  Well it looks like Johan is not on the path to recovery as fast as we all thought.  He has been dealing with soreness and now at the earliest, the Mets ace will not make it back until August.  By then, a lot of his teammates could be traded. 

 

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

What does it mean that Derek Jeter is nearing 3,000 hits.  Sure, he’s an all-time great, but he is also really old at 36-years old.  Well age may have gotten the better of him this week as he strained his calf.  This makes the guessing game even harder to play about when he will hit number 3,000.  My guess is that because of his age the Yankees will be conservative and place him on the DL, though this could end up being just a day-to-day issue.  My guess is that the New York media will keep you updated on his status. 

 

Bloomberg Sports Waiver Report: Niese, Uehara, Norris, Villanueva, Venters

Koji Uehara, RP, OriolesHe may not have any saves so far this season, but Koji Uehara remains the most underrated reliever in baseball. Why? How about a 2.20 ERA and startling 0.80 WHIP? Throughout his career, Uehara boasts 138 K’s to just 23 walks, and the ratio is 35:6 this season. He doesn’t let anyone on base, which minimizes the damage. He won’t help in wiuns or saves, but in ERA, WHIP, and K’s, Uehara is a must add.

Jon Niese, SP, MetsEveryone is talking about Mets rookie Dillon Gee and his splendid 7-0 record, but the better pitcher in my mind is southpaw Jon Niese. Ignore the 5-5 record, Niese has won four of his last five decisions. Over his last five starts Niese has surrendered just five earned runs, cutting his ERA from 5.03 to just 3.51 this season. Niese also gets plenty of K’s, making a solid fantasy pickup.

Bud Norris, SP, AstrosIf in need of a short-term pickup, get to know Astros right-hander Bud Norris. Despite a 4-4 record, Norris is a strikeout artist who averages a K per inning. He also has won his last two starts and on Tuesday has a favorable match-up against the Pirates. Norris is a fine start at home, where his record is 12-8 with a 3.76 ERA.

Carlos Villanueva, SP/RP, Blue JaysA long-time middle reliever for the Brewers, Carlos Villanueva is enjoying a second crack at starting with the Blue Jays. The 27-year old veteran enters the week with a 4-0 record and 3.09 ERA. Most impressively, Villanueva boasts a 0.99 WHIP due to a .196 opposing average. I don’t view this success as long-term, but more a result of the opposition not being familiar with the long-time National Leaguer.

Jonny Venters, RP, BravesWhile I pointed to Koji Uehara as the most underrated reliever in baseball, the best one these days is Braves eighth inning option Jonny Venters. The southpaw dominated last season to the tune of a 1.95 ERA and 93 K’s in 83 innings. He has actually improved this season, allowing just two runs to score in 40.2 innings. He has recently enjoyed some save opportunities with Craig Kimbrell struggling. He is a must-add in deep leagues, though odds are he has already been taken.

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