Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: Rise in Value
Liriano's National League debut went a little better than anticipated. The 29-year old lefty tossed 5 1/3 innings yesterday afternoon, allowing one run on six hits while recording nine strikeouts in the Pirates 11-2 rout of the Mets yesterday. Once dubbed, "Johan Santana Lite" by Twins fans after a stellar 2006 campaign, Liriano has struggled most of his career to pitch consistently and to stay healthy over the duration of a season. He has historically had control issues, and his two walks in 5+ innings is an indication of that. Although it is only one start, and it was against the lowly Met offense, Liriano being back on the mound is nice to see. Don't jump on him just yet, it's only been one start, but he should be on everyone's watch list.
Jonathon Niese, SP, New York Mets: Cold Streak
On the opposite side of Liriano's performance, Jonathan Niese put up his second dreadful start in a row, giving up eight earned runs on eight hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings of work. Niese struggled throughout with his control, which forced him to make some meaty pitches. To add fuel to the fire, after giving up a homerun to Jordy Mercer, it marked the only time in Jon's last 23 starts that he has given up more than one home run. Regardless, coming into this year, everyone, including fantasy owners, had high expectations of Niese, who came into 2013 as the Mets number one in the rotation. The 26-year old Ohio native has now given up 15 earned runs in his last two outings (8.1 IP total), walking nine and striking out just four, which is not a recipe for success. Owners may want to sit him next start, as the Mets go into Busch Stadium to battle the red hot St. Louis Cardinals.
Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: Hot Pitcher
Wainwright, who will be opposing Jon Niese in their next start on Thursday, pitched a complete game, two-hit shutout in front of a home crowd, leading the Cardinals to their second straight 3-0 victory over the Rockies. Wainwright's ERA sits at a 2.30 and he has five wins on the season so far (5-2 record). After going through Tommy John surgery in 2011, the electric right-hander struggled for chunks of last season, but he finished strong in 2012 and seems to be on track right now. He should be a top 20 pitcher for the duration of the season, barring any injuries of course.
Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Colorado Rockies: What to expect?
To continue with the pitching trend, Chacin opposed Wainwright (unfortunately for him), giving up two earned over 5 1/3 innings yesterday afternoon. It was his second start since returning from the 15-day disabled list for a strained oblique. There wasn't much hope for Chacin to get a win as Wainwright was superb, but still, Chacin did a good job of keeping it close, even though he didn't seem to have his best stuff. The 25-year old Venezuelan is now 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA through his first six starts. He has struggled a little bit with his control since coming off the disabled list (6 walks in 12 innings), but over the past four season, when Chacin has pitched, he has been a reliable fantasy starter with the ability to have hot stretches like we saw in his first four starts of 2013.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals: Cold Player
Continuing with the starting pitching trend, the luck just got worse for Strasburg in 2013 as the 24-year old took his fifth loss of the season, albeit without giving up an earned run in the process. In Saturday's 8-2 loss at the hands of the soft-hitting Chicago Cubs, a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error in the top of the fifth sparked a four-run inning for the Cubbies and was good enough to end Strasburg's outing prematurely. Strasburg's record is now 1-5 and he hasn't recorded a victory since opening day against Miami. When looking at his hard statistics (3.10 ERA, more Ks than IP, 1.18 WHIP), he is pitching very effectively, but when the game is on the line, he seems to either give up the big hit or something else happens, like that error for instance. The young prodigy will continue to pitch like he has been and the wins will come, but for now owners are just going to have to live with the frustration and let it fester for another four days.