AL Quick Pitch: The Rays officially placed Evan Longoria on the DL and the time-table appears to be 3 weeks for his absence. Sean Rodriguez will get the first crack at replacing him at 3B, but the Rays offense will struggle mightily without Longoria. The Yankees and Tigers got into a slugfest on Sunday and I walked away concerned about Phil Hughes. Max Scherzer? Not so much. I’m not a big believer in Justin Masterson’s great start yesterday as he was aided by the White Sox inability to get left-handed. Zach Britton was phenomenal in his major league debut and looks to have a bright future ahead but I’m concerned there will be too many speed bumps in the AL East to give him mixed league value. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler continued their hot starts to the season and as long as their healthy they’ll be tremendous. Bobby Abreu got going after a slow start in the first three games. Alex Gordon put together a 4 hit day, staying hot after a big spring. Another shaky day for many closers. Fernando Rodney was awful for the Angels and shouldn’t be holding down the closer’s role very long. Jordan Walden is the guy to stash there. Joe Nathan was very shaky and while he’ll split save opportunities with Matt Capps, owners need to temper their expectations for Nathan this year.
Matt Harrison (SP - TEX): Harrison turned in perhaps the most surprising performance of the opening weekend by man-handling a tough Red Sox lineup. He allowed just 7 base-runners in 7 innings, while limiting the Red Sox to just 1 ER and striking out 8 (with just 2 walks). Harrison has a strong pedigree as a former top prospect with the Braves but shoulder problems stalled his development and in recent years he’s been relegated to a middling bullpen arm. He hasn’t shown much out of the pen or as a reliever, posting FIPs above 5 in each of his first three seasons, and even the underlying peripherals show little room for optimism. He’s struggled with command (3.71 BB/9), missing bats (4.87 K/9), and limiting hard hit balls (22% LD Rate). As a result, the strong outing yesterday doesn’t make me inclined to consider Harrison as an add. Even this spring, Harrison’s results were more in line with his career (14 K’s, 11 BB’s in 23 IP). Perhaps the strong outing is worth filing away and taking a closer look at Harrison for his next outing in Baltimore, but more likely Sunday’s strong start to the season will be a distant memory a few weeks from now. In AL Only leagues his secure role in the Rangers rotation merits some value, but outside of that he’s not worth investing in without a much larger sample size of improvements.
Alex Gordon (OF - KC): We spent a lot of time covering Gordon’s big spring and the consensus opinion amongst our analysts was none of us knew if the big spring would carry over, but we were all willing to take a shot. In Gordon’s first four years he’s shown little progress with the bat. He’s consistently put up big numbers at AAA before getting exposed at the big league level. It’s unusual to see a player stuck in-between the two levels to the extent Gordon has (1.000 OPS vs. .730 OPS), which is why most analysts are perplexed as to what happens to Gordon from here. On Sunday he flashed some of that potential going 4-6 with a 2B, 4 Runs, and an RBI. The strong performance improved his early season line to .316/.350/.421. He’s still struggling with contact (4 K’s in 19 AB’s), but the two doubles in his first 19 AB’s are a good sign. It’s too early to tell whether Gordon’s on the verge of putting everything together, but given the pedigree, AAA numbers, and the fact he’s hitting everyday in the middle of the order; he deserves a spot on most rosters. The upside remains tremendous and in many leagues I’ll be giving Gordon a month on my bench to see if things finally click for the 27 year old. I suggest you do the same.
Zach Britton (SP - BAL): I noted on twitter a few times over the course of the spring that Zach Britton was the young SP opening my eyes most. Britton posted a 1.35 ERA in 20 spring innings with a solid 13:5 K:BB Rate. The young LH has a nice minor league track record (3.09 ERA in 538 IP) but burned through the minors with just “above average” peripherals (7.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9). He possesses a heavy sinking fastball which has helped him induce plenty of weak contact at the minor league level as some scouts have described him as a LH Brandon Webb. On Sunday his skills were on display as he limited the Rays to just 1 ER on 3 hits and 3 BB’s over 6 innings. He was able to miss bats, striking out 6, while inducing 4 ground outs. It was a great first outing by Britton and one that inspires confidence, but I’m going to caution owners here. While I LOVE Britton in keeper and dynasty type formats, in re-draft or shallow keeper leagues I won’t be adding Britton. I’ve mentioned before how tough it is to “grow up” in the AL East and I expect plenty of speed bumps along the way for Britton. Ultimately he has the upside to be a high-end #2 SP in fantasy, but for 2011 I’d expect a learning curve. In AL Only formats, he should be owned. In 16 team leagues and deeper he’s worth a shot, but for most of us playing in traditional 10 and 12 team leagues, I think you’re better served passing on Britton.
Travis Snider (OF - TOR): After a day out of the starting lineup on Saturday, Snider was back in there on Sunday. He went 2-4 picking up a double, while striking out in his other two at-bats. I think Snider’s a tremendous breakout candidate this season. He has a great minor league track record (.906 OPS) and was coming on last season (.378/.404/.711 in May) before suffering a hand injury that wiped out nearly 3 months. He finished the year strong (.289/.303/.515 in September) and carried that over into spring training (.346/.382/.462). His high strikeout rates are going to make batting average a bit of an uphill battle, but he’s shown capable BA production in the minors (.302) and posted a 22% LD Rate as a major league hitter. The power has already been there (.208 ISO last season) and I expect improvements in his all around plate skills will continue having just turned 23. I’m looking for a big year from Snider, somewhere in the neighborhood of .270-75-30-90 and am not concerned about his sitting on Saturday against Francisco Liriano. The Jays got Snider in the game as soon as Liriano was lifted and protecting him from elite LH’s will ultimately do some good for his confidence and his BA. I’m a big fan of Snider, don’t get deterred early if he struggles.
Justin Masterson (SP - CLE): I noted early on in the Indians-White Sox game on twitter that Justin Masterson had a great chance to post a good line today and it wouldn’t do a thing to change my mind about him. The reason? The White Sox lineup yesterday included just 4 LH hitters and the meat of the White Sox lineup is largely RH heavy. Masterson’s NEVER had a problem getting RH’s out (.626 OPS against) and Sunday was no different as RH’s went 2-15 against Masterson. The LH’s, well they went 5-11 against Masterson. The RH heavy lineup, especially through the middle, allowed Masterson to navigate through 7 innings while allowing just 1 ER on 7 hits and 2 BB’s. He didn’t strike out a batter, but did induce a whopping 16 ground outs. Masterson’s a bit of a numbers darling because the elite GB Rate paired with a good K Rate makes him an intriguing option on paper. But if you dig deeper and understand that Masterson’s never been able to get LH’s out (.814 OPS against) and opposing managers usually load the lineup with LH’s whenever Masterson’s on the mound, you’ll understand why I suggest just ignoring yesterday’s outing altogether. Against RH heavy lineups Masterson will be great, but when opposing managers wise up and stick a bunch of LH’s in there he’ll get grinded and struggle through 5 innings. His 4.70 ERA last year, despite a 3.90 FIP, is almost all due to his extreme splits. Tread carefully here.
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