Back in 1993, Jeff Goldblum starred as Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park. His quirky mathematician character is probably best known for espousing chaos theory and predicting the eventual downfall of the park, but I think another scene in the film can actually help explain a strategy that I've loosely practiced (up until now, without a proper name) in Fantasy.
When Dr. Malcolm was shown a velociraptor hatching, he railed on the scientists for their hubris in thinking that they could control the livelihood of the dinosaurs. Dr. Malcolm assured the others that, while he didn't have an explanation for how it would happen, he was pretty certain that Jurassic Park would soon be home to reproducing dinosaurs. As he so eloquently put it: life finds a way.
This philosophy actually serves a purpose here. Go back and watch that scene, but replace "life" for "Tony Cingrani."
We're assuming that, when Johnny Cueto comes back -- and if Mike Leake continues to pitch well -- Cingrani will be sent back to the minors. And this makes a good deal of logical sense. However, we're being somewhat closed-minded about this -- Cueto could face a complication in his return, Leake could implode, any of the other pitchers in the rotation could get hurt. Remember three weeks ago, when the Dodgers had three extra pitchers hanging off the end of their rotation? After a trade and two injuries, they now have Stephen Fife starting for them [The same logic can be applied to Evan Gattis' playing time in Atlanta, with Jason Heyward's DL stint coming just two weeks too early. But it's a flickering reminder of how things just happen in baseball, and why these breakout players may be worth holding onto in the face of a logical argument to do otherwise].
Cingrani has been nothing short of spectacular in his two starts, with a 2.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. These things sort themselves out more often than not. So when I'm asked if trading Cingrani for Michael Cuddyer is a smart move, I'm a little torn. The logical side is thinking that Cuddyer has a job for the rest of the season and is a solid trade for a pitcher who may have two starts left before being sent back down. But then I think of those little raptors and their frog DNA, and it seems like a risk I'm willing to take -- hold onto my Cingrani for dear life, and just wait for something to happen that will keep him in the rotation.
The Big Leaps
Jose Quintana, SP, White Sox (72 percent ownership, up from 35 percent)
|Player Name||% change|
|1.||Garrett Richards, SP, Angels||33|
|2.||Yuniesky Betancourt, 1B, Brewers||33|
|3.||Carlos Villanueva, SP, Cubs||31|
|4.||Chris Johnson, 3B, Braves||30|
|5.||Daniel Nava, OF, Red Sox||30|
|6.||Patrick Corbin, SP, D-Backs||29|
|7.||Edward Mujica, RP, Cardinals||29|
|8.||Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants||28|
|9.||Jose Quintana, SP, White Sox||28|
|10.||Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Rockies||25|
This was more of a timing thing than anything else. Quintana has two starts this week, and he was coming off two previous starts where he struck out 14 and didn't allow a run. It's a tasty combination, especially this early in the season.
Quintana was pretty solid in 22 starts last year, with a 3.76 ERA in 136 1/3 innings. But these numbers included an ugly run at the end of the year, when Quintana posted a 7.52 ERA in his final seven games. This was probably from him pitching a career-high 185 innings, between Double-A and the majors (his previous high was 102, set in 2011). This also may help to explain why Quintana's career minor league K/9 of 10.0 dropped markedly, to 5.3, with the White Sox last year -- it was an effort to keep the wear on his arm low so he could last longer in the season.
This season, as far as we can tell, there are no such restrictions on Quintana. Going 200 innings won't be a huge step up from 185, and he's already struck out 20 in 22 2/3 innings. While Quintana may have been a strategic add for his two-start week, his new owners may be pleasantly surprised at how good he is, and opt to just ... keep him. If they do, they could end up having a solid, underappreciated pitcher who is efficient and can see a nice leap in strikeouts, if his minor league numbers are any real indication.
Over/under on K/9 (season): 8.5
Over/under on ERA (season): 2.85
Over/under on ownership by May 1 (season): 90 percent
Chris Johnson, 3B, Braves (66 percent, up from 30)
The widespread adding of Johnson seems a little odd. With Freddie Freeman back from the DL, Johnson will fall back into a platoon with Juan Francisco at third base. Granted, Johnson has put up some really nice numbers this season -- .397 average with two home runs and four doubles over 63 at-bats -- but Francisco hasn't exactly struggled at the plate, hitting .302 with four home runs and 10 RBI. They both have third base eligibility (Johnson also has first base eligibility, which is kind of moot considering how much deeper that position is), and can offer equal output, with Johnson striking out a little less and maybe having more value in OBP leagues.
We've also seen Johnson get hot in bunches before -- last year, after being traded from the Astros to the Diamondbacks, Johnson hit .333 with five home runs and 17 RBI in an 11-game stretch. Over his next 15 games, Johnson hit .103 with just three RBI. He's a nice player but is stuck in a time share, which eats into his value and makes him a viable start in NL-only formats. And playing at a position with plenty of options, Johnson's spot can probably be better used for a speculative adding of someone like Bruce Rondon.
Over/under on average (season): .265
Over/under on date when everyone realizes Johnson is in a timeshare and starts dropping him: April 28
Over/under on his ownership by May 2: 35 percent
Unadvised Drop of the Week
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres (64 percent, down from 70 percent)
Gyorko has been pretty disappointing so far in his rookie season -- a .229 average with no home runs and just six RBI. A top prospect in 2011 and 2012, Gyorko won the second base job in spring training and sports a stellar minor league track record; in the last two seasons, over three levels, Gyorko has hit 55 home runs and driven in 214 runs. He has a career .319 average in the minors, as well, so he wasn't all power. Furthermore, Gyorko was drafted out of college, so he's already a more mature 23 years old.
But Gyorko has failed to deliver on the power potential thus far -- his ISO is .057, while his BABIP is sitting at around league average (.291). He's not striking out at an alarming rate (20.3 percent) and he's taking a decent amount of walks. This may just be a case of Gyorko not yet warming up. Maybe it's the fact he had to bounce between second and third base to help serve as a band-aid for Chase Headley's injury. Gyorko's also had to play 14 games without Headley in the lineup and 13 without the Padres' other power bat, Carlos Quentin. With both playing together for the first time on Tuesday, Gyorko was bumped to seventh in the order, but he at least gets some other bats in the lineup.
In short, Gyorko is a power bat eligible at second and third base, who has been playing without two 30 home run threats for most of the season. My guess is that Gyorko can now relax a little bit, focus on playing just second base, and start hitting up to his ability.
Over/under on home runs (season): 25
Over/under on batting average (season): .275
An Astrologer's take on why you should grab Tim Lincecum
I'll be man enough to admit that I have no clue what happened to Lincecum last year. I don't think he was hurt, I doubt he just lost focus, and I know he didn't lose skill -- not at the age of 28. For most of the season, we were just shrugging our shoulders, telling people to start him based on his past success.
So, without a real explanation for things, I called sports astrologer Andrea Mallis (you can follow her @virgoinservice and check out some of her past work here). Last year, Andrea was a guest on our show and told us Lincecum would enjoy more success in the second half of the year, because a trying astrological transit, which would eventually pass, was the reason for his early 2012 struggles. It wasn't vintage Lincecum, but he did have a 3.83 ERA and about a strikeout per inning after the All-Star break, something we forget when throwing a "he stunk" blanket over his entire year.
I'm not asking you to believe everything Mallis is saying. You can be wholly opposed to astrology. But here's something even the biggest astrology hater cannot dispute: if Lincecum believes in it (and I don't know either way if he does), then there's value here, because it may be -- even subconsciously -- inside his head. And if you're just curious and grasping for answers for his performance last year like a lot of us were, this is, at the very least, a cool, unique opinion on what happened and what to expect.
According to Mallis, Lincecum currently has Jupiter in Gemini, which is very good for him, and was the same transit he experienced during the playoffs, when Lincecum had a 2.55 ERA and struck out 20 batters in 17 2/3 innings, mostly out of the bullpen. This period of "expansion, optimism, and confidence" will continue, Mallis says, through about June 25th (it actually began on April 20th, the same day Lincecum pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out eight batters). Mallis adds that Lincecum should be solid through September, with "no red flags" in July, August looking "very good," and September "very strong," as well.
"October," Mallis says, "is problematic." But here's the cool thing about dealing with a sports astrologer -- Mallis knows that the post-September world has no bearing on a Fantasy season. She just wanted to throw that in there for the Giants fans.
As for last year, Mallis says Lincecum has three planets in Capricorn. Saturn in Libra, and the moon in Capricorn, which made a square. The "Saturn square moon" causes vitality to diminish, reduces confidence, and the person going through it can be plagued by insecurity. "Pitching's a very mental game," Mallis says. "And you get a Saturn transit -- that's very depressing."
So, for this year, with Jupiter in Gemini, Mallis is looking for good things all around. "It's a whole different energy," Mallis says. "It's like 'all systems go.'" She explains that Lincecum has a, "when it rains it pours," chart, meaning that when it's bad, it's all kinds of bad, but when it's good -- like it is now -- Lincecum can be unstoppable. In her own words: "We're golden," when it comes to Tim Lincecum's Fantasy outlook this year.
So trade Lincecum at your own peril. And those who own him should consider starting him, at the very least, through June 25 (if you believe any of this has any relevance).
The Flavor of Next Week
Drew Stubbs, OF, Indians (21 percent ownership)
Stubbs is a perennial threat to be a 20/20 player -- although, to be fair, he's only done it once (22 home runs and 30 steals in 2010). In 2011, Stubbs hit 15 home runs and stole 40 bases (while leading the league in strikeouts). In 2012, Stubbs hit 14 home runs and stole 30 bases (in just 136 games). So far this year, Stubbs has one home run and three steals over 58 at-bats. His OPS (.701) is the highest it's been since 2010. And since Stubbs took over in center field for the injured Michael Bourn, he is hitting .320 with five runs scored, stealing two bases and hitting his home run in those seven games.
Stubbs probably won't have one of those 5-for-5 games with two home runs and two steals to catch everyone's attention; instead, he'll slowly creep up the free agent list, eventually working his way to the top and making himself unavoidable. For as bad as his batting average has been in his career (.241), Stubbs is now playing in a much larger ballpark, perhaps allowing for him to drive the ball over the larger field and increase his average. At the very least, Stubbs can offer some nice speed and power potential, and is getting hot without much fanfare right now.
Over/under on steals (season): 30
Over/under on home runs (season): 15
Over/under on average (season): .255
American League-only fun
Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins (22 percent)
Hicks was owned in 53 percent of leagues to start the season. After an exceptionally bad start to things, Hicks saw his ownership drop ... and drop ... and drop some more, until he found himself owned in just 22 percent of leagues -- and started in just five percent. He was briefly supplanted as the starter in center by Darin Mastroianni, but got the job back after Mastroianni went on the DL.
Hicks is currently batting .073. He has no extra base hits but he has walked 11 times, so there's at least a tiny, very thin, silver lining to this cloud. And while this isn't a ringing endorsement, Hicks has scored four runs in his last five games, all from the No. 8 spot in the batting order. And he is hitting .286 in his last three!
Hicks, a top prospect each of the last four years, may be overmatched in the majors. He really only broke out last year in the minors -- his first season with double-digits in home runs (13) and his best batting average in a season with over 300 at-bats (.286). But he has one big thing going for him: Hicks is pretty much the only option for the Twins in center field right now. He's going to play every day. And while he does this, his chances of catching up to major league pitching and improving as a hitter will go up.
Over/under on home runs + stolen bases (season): 22
Over/under on average (season): .245
Over/under on games played (season): 75
National League-only fun
Joe Mahoney, 1B, Marlins (Two percent)
The rotating door of Marlins first basemen may have stopped on Mahoney, a 26-year-old would-be slugger who is hitting .294 through six games.
Mahoney has hit double-digit home runs in each of the past three seasons in the minors, despite only getting 475 at-bats in one of those campaigns. He has a career .275 average over 2,311 minor league at-bats, and has stolen as many as 29 bases in a season (although his second-highest was 13, and then it's all single digits beyond that).
Like Hicks, Mahoney looks like he'll play a good amount, with Greg Dobbs able to play third base and the outfield. He adds another power(ish) bat to the lineup to help protect Giancarlo Stanton. And Mahoney has that job for a while, as both Logan Morrison and Casey Kotchman are still pretty far off from returns.
I'm not adding Mahoney in mixed leagues just yet, as he is playing at a very deep position and didn't have eye-popping numbers in the minors. But he could show enough power and average to be a solid corner infielder in NL-only formats for the next month, at the very least.
Over/under on home runs (season): 14
Over/under on average (season): .250
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