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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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.
BY ROB SHAW
The Red Sox willingness to trade away both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie was certainly bold, but really the bigger story was the franchise’s confidence in former Royals middle infielder Mike Aviles.
A career .288 hitter, Aviles has been a fine contributor in the Majors when healthy. The New York native making himself at home in Boston doesn’t have much power, but in a solid lineup he can pile up many runs. He is also a sneaky stolen base threat. Think of Aviles in the same mold as Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, except for a much lower cost and with shortstop eligibility.
Aviles and the Red Sox played at the hitter-friendly US Cellular in Chicago this weekend. Though he finished hitless in his final seven at bats, the 31-year-old veteran makes for a great start in the next series against Oakland. The series will be played in Fenway Park where he already boasts two home runs and a .333 average this season.
The Cubs slugger Bryan LaHair reminds me a bit of Michael Morse, a late bloomer with plenty of power who finally broke out last season with the Nationals. LaHair, is a 29-year-old slugger who entered the season with just five home runs to his credit. He spent the last six seasons at Triple-A and last season blasted 38 round-trippers with a .331 average.
So far LaHair is batting .382 with the majority of those hits good for extra bases. While those numbers will regress quite a bit, that does not mean that he can’t still end up as one of the greatest surprises of the season. LaHair can blast 25 home runs with 90 RBI.
In many ways, he is an upgrade over Carlos Pena for the Cubbies at first base. He may not be the defensive gem that Pena is, but with an average .150 better than what Pena has offered the last few seasons, the Chicago fan base is not complaining. Neither should fantasy managers.
BY ROB SHAW
The biggest surprise in baseball could very well be the Baltimore Orioles and what is most shocking is that the success is not a result of the offense as much as it is the pitching. Let’s take a look at the three over-performing hurlers to determine whether or not the team’s success is sustainable.
Jake Arrieta is seemingly an innings eater who is in the prime of his career. He does not have much control, he is not a strikeout artist, and he surrenders too many home runs. His season got off to a great start with a 7-inning two-hit gem against a weak Minnesota offense. Since then, he has been quite ordinary. That’s what fantasy managers should expect going forward, as Arrieta epitomizes the average pitcher.
Tommy Hunter is a far more interesting pitcher. The Orioles hurler had some success in 2010 with the Rangers, picking up a 13-4 record with a 3.73 ERA. Hunter is not a strikeout artist, nor does he try to be one. The big right-hander makes a living keeping his defense busy. So far, Hunter has been a bit uneven with two gems that resulted in a combined one earned run. In the other two starts he surrendered a combined six home runs. Fantasy managers will and should pass on his services since he does not rack up the K’s, but he’s been a winner so far in his career and should be a solid middle of the rotation hurler for the O’s.
Jason Hammel is looking like a star in Baltimore. Now that he escaped Colorado, the air is a little bit thicker and the ball is finding gloves in the field. Additionally, the K’s are coming twice as frequently as last season. Part of the reason for the sudden success is the addition of a new pitch to the arsenal. Hammel now throws a sinker and he is getting a lot of ground balls with the new pitch. The question is whether this type of success is sustainable or if a new scouting report will allow the hitters to make adjustments. Considering he is already 29 years old and has been in the leagues for several years, it is unlikely a radical change will unfold this late in his career.
The Orioles do have some stars in the lineup as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters should all be in their prime. The starting rotation is another matter and the problem here is that the team is loaded with overachieving middle of the rotation hurlers. It is very unlikely that they will be able to sustain this success.
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