Jordan Zimmermann (SP - Nationals) - Typically, no quality starts in 5 straight outings wouldn't warrant much of a write-up on a Saturday morning. But one of the Nationals' top pitching prospects, Jordan Zimmermann, deserves a blurb after pitching well for the first time since his 2009 debut. He went 7.0 innings and gave up 6 hits and 2 ER while striking out 7. He didn't earn a decision as the Orioles and Nationals went into extra innings last night. Zimmermann's name has floated around fantasy circles like others in the past... Homer Bailey, David Price, Tim Lincecum, etc. . You know how it goes - sometimes we see instant success at the big-league level and other times we see a 21-year-old struggle to gain confidence. For Zimmermann, it has been more of the latter, but Friday's game could be a good turning point. Keep an eye on his start against the Mets on Wednesday to see if he can parlay Friday night into a few QS's in a row.
Carlos Zambrano (SP - Cubs) - Zambrano returned to the mound on Friday night to face the Padres (and Jake Peavy). Coming off the DL with a hamstring strain, Big-Z pitched just 4.2 IP and gave up 3 ER and 4 BB while striking out 7. He got up to 97 pitches before being pulled. Control problems get in the way of Zambrano making that leap to the next tier. In the last 3 years, his K/BB has been consistently around 1.8. In 2006 and 2007, he reached 100 BB totals and last year his BB/9 was 3.43. This year, its the same story with the BB, averaging 3.32 (on 38.0 IP).
Zach Duke (SP - Pirates) - Zach Duke had another solid performance on Friday night. He threw a complete game (but was handed the loss), going 8.0 IP on 2 ER, 7 K's, 2 BB, and 6 hits. That might bring his record to 5-4, but more importantly it lowers his ERA to 2.77 and WHIP to 1.08. With last night's performance, Duke now averages over 7.0 IP per start and is 6-for-9 in QS this season. It wasn't THAT long ago that Duke burst onto the fantasy baseball scene with a tremendous rookie performance. In 2005, Duke got called-up and went 8-2 in 14 starts with a 1.81 ERA, 58 K's, and a WHIP of 1.20. Perhaps a little bit of that magic has returned to his arm in 2009. I don't expect Duke to be in the top-10 pitchers of the year when September rolls around, but he's still largely unowned in fantasy leagues (perhaps reputation remnants of the past 4 years). He'll face Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs in the upcoming fantasy week.
Rafael Furcal (SS - Dodgers) - Furcal has been a fantasy bust in the first 2 months of 2009. But he is showing some signs of life at the plate that may make it worth for fantasy owners to reconsider him once again. He has a modest 4 game hitting streak after stroking two doubles in last nights game. He has hit safely in 7 of the last 8 games, hitting .270 during that span (10-for-37) with 3 extra base hits. With his OBP finally above .300 (and hopefully continuing in that direction) we should see the speedster Furcal run more. He has only 3 SB (in 6 attempts), but a large part of that must be his inability to get on base year-to-date. I'm not putting all of my eggs in the Rafael Furcal basket, but if there were ever signals that he might be turning the corner, the past few games might be it.
Ricky Nolasco (SP - Marlins) - Ricky Nolasco has gone from being one of the hot fantasy picks in 2009 to being optioned to Triple-A. After another abysmal performance on Friday night, the Marlins have decided to send him down to the minors to work on his control problems and mechanics. Last night, he gave up 8 ER for the 2nd consecutive start, raising his ERA to 9.07 and his WHIP to 1.81. There's a really good pitcher somewhere in there. The question is, when or will it ever come out again? If you recall, this is a guy who won 15 games last year and was one of the best pitchers in baseball in August and September. This will take some to to fix, so don't be afraid to cut him loose to regain the roster spot.
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