At 3:05 a.m. on June 6, the San Diego Padres tweeted that Cameron Maybin would be activated from the DL, with Kyle Blanks being optioned to Tucson. It was a crushing blow to Blanks' value -- the 26-year-old was hitting .273 with four home runs on the season, but had been on a bit of a roll over his last 15 games, with a .304 average across 46 at-bats.
Fate, of course, intervened -- in the form of a Yonder Alonso broken hand -- and not only was Blanks saved from demotion, he saw a huge uptick in value, as he'd inherit most of the at-bats at first base in Alonso's absence. Since June 6, Banks has hit .381, with two home runs, three doubles, and a 1.268 OPS.
Blanks had some major power potential in the minors before being pushed off track by Tommy John surgery in 2010. In his only two seasons with over 350 at-bats, Blanks hit 20-plus home runs. He's produced an OPS above .900 five times, and has a career .304 average in the minors. With an everyday job, Blanks should settle into a nice groove and give his Fantasy owners help in average and power.
And while the regular at-bats will help, don't discount the regular at-bats at first base. In the minors, Blanks appeared in 434 games; 397 came at first base. But in the majors, Blanks has appeared in 175 games; only 38 of those came at first, with 137 in the outfield. His career major league numbers back up the idea of him finding a comfort level at first -- Blanks has a .308 average and .921 OPS in 91 at-bats at first, with a .231 average and far lower power output in the outfield.
Blanks has jumped to 40 percent ownership -- from his previous number of four -- but with the potential to contribute in power and average, he should be added in most standard H2H leagues, and could be looking at 70-80 pecent ownership by next week.
The Big Leap
Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates (82 percent ownership, up from 34 percent)
The top pick in the 2011 draft, Cole made a flashy debut Tuesday, giving up two runs on seven hits and no walks in 6 1/3 innings against the Giants. While the overall line was solid, there was a bit of a concern that Cole only struck out two batters.
In 2012, across three levels, Cole struck out 136 batters in 132 innings, good for a K/9 of 9.3. In Triple-A this season, however, Cole saw his K/9 drop to 6.2. But this line was almost perfectly telegraphed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's "Bucco Blog" a few days before Cole's debut, revelaing that the downturn in strikeout rates is something Cole is not only aware of, but actually striving for:
"I don't go for strikeouts," [Cole] said."I know I can get them when I want to. But I know it's really important to challenge guys in the zone and beat them in the zone. When you have a game where you throw 100 pitches in five innings and strike out 10, a lot of people that weren't there write that up as a dominant outing. What is really dominating is Matt Cain throwing a complete game with 100 pitches and giving up just two hits with two strikeouts.
So many other things are more important than strikeouts, like the pace of the game and keeping your fielders ready. ... You can't think about what other people are writing about you -- why haven't I struck out a 100 million people yet? -- you have to get that (stuff) out of your head."
So I wouldn't expect Cole to strike out a ton of batters this season, but I wouldn't be surprised if he mixes in a few games with 7-10 strikeouts when the mood strikes him. Still, the ratios should be low enough to make him a valuable pitcher going forward in most formats.
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.35
Over/under on WHIP (season): 1.16
Over/under on K/9 (season): 6.9
Unadvised Drop of the Week
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers (60 percent, down from 68 percent)
Over the course of an eight-year major league career, Ethier has a .287 batting average, .830 OPS, has hit 30 or more doubles six times, and hit 20 or more home runs four times. Take out his rookie year and this season, and Ethier is a .288 hitter with 20 home runs and 35 doubles. So it's a bit of a head-scratcher to see ownesr drop him with such aplomb.
|1.||Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates||49|
|2.||Kyle Blanks, OF, Padres||37|
|3.||Carlos Quentin, OF, Padres||26|
|4.||Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds||24|
|5.||Adam Lind, 1B, Blue Jays||23|
|6.||Anthony Rendon, 2B, Nationals||16|
|7.||Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers||15|
|8.||Jason Marquis, SP, Padres||15|
|9.||Jose Iglesias, 3B, Red Sox||14|
|10.||Mike Carp, OF, Red Sox||14|
Yes, the 16 runs scored so far are way off the expected pace, as are the 17 RBI. But that's as much a result of the team's overall lackluster play as it is Ethier's. He's walking at a rate (10.2 percent) above his career norm. He's striking out at a rate (17.4 percent) on pace with what he's always done. And while he's hitting a handful more grounders, it's nothing markedly out of line with his career rates.
The problem lies in Ethier's power, which has been depressed this season. While Ethier is hitting fly balls more often, they're turning into home runs at the lowest rate of his career (7.2 percent). And this is a trend opposite of what we've come to expect -- Ethier usually kills the ball early on in the season, drags a bit in the middle, then comes back around for a solid July and August.
There's no clear answer to the Yasiel Puig issue for the Dodgers, although the most likely solution improbably features Los Angeles eating $40 million of Ethier's salary in order to move him. A change of scenery may help Ethier, but I'd say it could just be a matter of patience -- in leagues where Ethier has been discarded by fellow owners, I've immediately put in claims. The key is to not expect 30-homer power from him. Keep your expectations in check (say, a .280 average, 25 doubles, and 22 home runs) and Ethier shouldn't have too much of a problem in meeting them.
Over/under on average (season): .272
Over/under on home runs (season): 20
The Flavor of Next Week
Hector Santiago, SP/RP, White Sox (Owned in 24 percent of leagues)
Santiago quietly found his way back in the White Sox rotation over the weekend, holding the A's to one earned run over 6 1/3 innings, while striking out six. This came after throwing four total innings in his previous four appearances.
While Santiago has a 3.12 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 52 total innings this season, he's produced a 2.67 ERA and 1.22 WHIP as a starter, with a 9.9 K/9 (as opposed to a 7.4 K/9 in relief). This is on top of a 1.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with a 12.1 K/9 in four starts last year. Santiago seems to be in a comfort zone as a starter -- much like Hisashi Iwakuma, Kris Medlen, and David Phelps -- but he's getting more strikeouts and far less recognition than that trio.
There's not a lot more Santiago can do to prove his worth to owners -- maybe he needs to do it over a longer run of games? -- but if you want to take a gamble on a high-strikeout starter (for at least the next month) who has RP eligibility, it would be wise to consider Santiago before everyone else catches on.
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.25
Over/under on WHIP (season): 1.21
Over/under on K/9 (season): 8.9
American League-only fun
Jayson Nix, SS, Yankees (Seven percent ownership)
In his last 15 games, Nix is hitting .314 with six steals, six runs scored, and seven RBI. These numbers don't exactly scream "must own," but for AL-only leagues, where any kind of playing time from a shortstop makes him valuable, Nix could be a shrewd pickup.
Not only has he scored double-digit Fantasy points four times in the last five scoring periods, but Nix doesn't seem to be facing a playing time crunch with Kevin Youkilis back at third base, a position Nix has manned 23 times this year. His 26 June at-bats are more than Chris Johnson, Justin Morneau, and Emilio Bonifacio, and Nix has raised his average from .221 at the start of May to .250 on June 11.
While Nix has just one home run this season, he has shown some pop in the past, hitting 12 homers in 2009 (255 at-bats) and 14 in 2010 (331 at-bats). Any kind of power this year would just be icing on the cake. For an AL-only owner, Nix provides a nice amount of speed at a position that isn't exactly deep with talent, and he's getting warm now as he gets regular at-bats.
Over/under on steals (season): 18
Over/under on average (season): .255
National League-only fun
Tyler Colvin, 1B, Rockies (Nine percent ownership)
In 2012, Colvin hit .290 with 18 home runs and 72 RBI. His .858 OPS and seven steals were career highs, and this campaign came two years after he hit 20 home runs in 358 at-bats (in 2010, with the Cubs). Additionally, Colvin's main roadblock at first base, Todd Helton, was coming off hip surgery and hadn't hit 20 home runs since 2005.
So, naturally, Colvin was optioned to Triple-A after a sub-par spring.
In 226 minor league at-bats, Colvin hit .293 with nine home runs, five steals, and a .914 OPS. He scored 42 runs. But it still took minor injuries to Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez to get Colvin back to the majors. And it took two games with Colorado for him to get his first start of the season. But once he got the start, Colvin delivered, with two home runs and four RBI in a win over the Nationals. Through his first three games, Colvin has a .375 average and six RBI in eight at-bats. The dominoes have already started to fall for Colvin, however, as the Rocks designated Eric Young for assignment Wednesday, clearing a spot in the outfield for more at bats.
He's worth considering in NL-only formats and may play his way into mixed-league consideration going forward.
Over/under on home runs (season): 14
Over/under on at-bats(season): 300
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