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We've got a leader in the race for National League Rookie of the Year: Jordan Zimmermann.
On Sunday, the right-hander won his second consecutive start to begin his big league career, limiting the potent Mets lineup to one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. In two starts, he has pitched 11 1/3 innings, allowed 12 hits, three runs, one home run and three walks while striking out eight hitters, and he has done it against two bitter division rivals: The Mets and Braves. Now that's an impressive start to a career!
Not that Zimmermann is incapable of repeating the performance on a somewhat regular basis. The 2007 second-rounder was considered the organization's top pitching prospect entering the season after managing a 15-5 record, 2.74 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and a 9.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in 38 career minor league games (35 starts), and he rattled off a 3.14 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings in the spring.
In other words, we're talking about a pitcher capable of helping fantasy teams in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, even if he pitches for a team that has twice as many wins (4) as he does (2) for the season. Zimmermann might not be a consistent winner, with run and bullpen support potential issues in the nation's capital, but at the very least a pitcher with his potential has matchups, NL-only and deep mixed-league potential.
For sure, he should be picked up in most of the 88-plus percent of ESPN.com leagues in which he remains available. (Expect that to number to dwindle significantly on Monday and this week!)
Just do me one tiny favor. Make sure you spell that last name correctly: It's Zimmermann, with two N's. Last thing we want to do is confuse him with Jordan Zimmerman (one N), a longtime minor leaguer who made 12 so-so appearances for the 1999 Mariners!
• For the third time in four starts this season Oliver Perez failed to complete the fifth inning, serving up seven runs on nine hits, two of them home runs, in 4 1/3 frames. Most distressing: It came against the Nationals, losers of 16 consecutive road games dating back to last season. "I'm really concerned about him right now," Mets manager Jerry Manuel told Newsday afterward. "I don't know what we do. I'm not going to come out and make a decision with the mood I'm in at this point." The newspaper also noted that in spite of Manuel's previous comments about giving his starters one more chance to impress, a team official said that Perez would make his next turn Saturday at Philadelphia, perhaps a result of the lefty's 0.35 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in four starts against the Phillies in 2008. Count on that being his final turn in the rotation if he doesn't turn his season around.
• Brandon Webb's owners received more bad news Sunday, as the Arizona Republic reported that the right-hander will miss six more weeks with a strain in his right shoulder. He suffered a setback Friday and will be shut down for a week before beginning strengthening his arm, and will not throw again for three weeks. "It's a muscular thing, and our trainer kind of described it as a hamstring pull or strain in your arm, which someone like Byrnsie [Eric Byrnes], it took him a while last year, so that's kind of what we're dealing with," said Webb. Yusmeiro Petit, who has a 4.50 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in two starts in Webb's absence, will get a longer stay in the Arizona rotation.
• George Sherrill bounced back nicely from his first blown save of the season on Friday by throwing a scoreless inning to notch his fourth save in Sunday's 8-5 win. He also received a vote of confidence from his manager, Dave Trembley, who told the Baltimore Sun a day earlier that in a typical game, Chris Ray will pitch the seventh, Jim Johnson the eighth and Sherrill will close. With Ray only in Trembley's closer plans when Sherrill has worked on back-to-back nights previously, Sherrill's job security seems pretty strong.
• Heads up, matchups seekers: Jamie Moyer won his seventh start in as many tries at Florida's Dolphin Stadium on Sunday. He extended his mastery of the Marlins with six innings of one-run baseball, and now has a lifetime 1.58 ERA and 0.94 WHIP at that ballpark, as well as a 12-1 record, 2.84 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 13 career starts overall versus Florida. The Phillies and Marlins next tangle May 25 to May 27 in Philadelphia; the Phillies' next trip to Florida will come July 16 to July 19, their first four games after the All-Star break.
• I must admit I'm growing increasingly concerned about Jake Peavy, after he managed back-to-back poor outings against lineups of the Giants and Pirates. On Sunday, he allowed five runs on six hits and four walks in five innings against a Pirates lineup that boasted Brandon Moss as the No. 3 hitter (Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth and Freddy Sanchez were all out of the lineup). Peavy's walks-per-nine innings ratio is 3.73 and his homers-per-nine is 1.15, and neither of those numbers is particularly Peavy-like. Keep an eye on him, as the Padres are not as good a team as their 10-8 record might suggest, and if you can still trade him as a top-10 starting-pitching talent, it might well be worth it.
• One pitcher who continues to impress: Armando Galarraga, who turned in his third quality start in four tries to win for the third time this season. He has a 1.85 ERA and 1.23 WHIP and hasn't accrued those numbers facing cakewalk matchups; only the Royals in this start rank among the 10 worst offenses in baseball to date. Galarraga's five walks on Sunday are a bit worrisome, but if he can continue to generate ground balls at a 9-to-1 ratio as he did in the game, he can afford to be that generous with free passes.
• The Red Sox sure should keep Justin Masterson in their rotation for so long as Daisuke Matsuzaka is on the disabled list, after the right-hander managed 5 1/3 innings of one-run, six-hit baseball to win his second consecutive spot start. Through 11 career big league starts, Masterson has never allowed more than four runs in an outing, he has held the opposition to one run or fewer on five occasions and he has completed six innings eight times despite being on limited pitch counts in a few of those appearances. The Red Sox might feel Masterson offers them more value out of the bullpen at this early stage of his career, but his fantasy owners should enjoy the ride for as long as he remains in the rotation.
• In his first game back in the No. 3 hole in the lineup, Pablo Sandoval went 4-for-4 with his first home run of the season. He raised his season batting average 46 points in the process, to .292, and should continue to get work in that prime spot in the batting order as a result. Fantasy owners have to be pleased with his development; now if he can only sneak in the requisite number of games to qualify behind the plate!
• Micah Owings managed his first standout performance of the season, going seven innings and allowing only one earned run against the Braves on Sunday. He'll draw the Pirates in his next outing, another quality matchup, and warrants a look in NL-only and deeper mixed-leagues coming off this effort.
Adam LaRoche, Pirates
Traditionally a cold starter, LaRoche is off to a scorching start, belting his fourth and fifth homers of the season and going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and two walks. It's the earliest date that he has hit his fifth homer in six big league seasons; he hit his fifth of 2006 on May 6. His .995 OPS also represents his best non-opening week number of his career.
Jered Weaver, Angels
In a season where the Angels so desperately have needed a pitching boost, they have to be pleased with the three quality starts Weaver has given them in four appearances. He tossed seven shutout innings in his best outing of the season on Sunday, lowering his ERA to 2.45 and WHIP to 1.17. Weaver sure appears to be that ace L.A. needs right now.
Here's a "blast from the past," fantasy folks: Tuffy Rhodes hit three home runs for the Orix Buffaloes of the Pacific League in Japan, including the 450th of his Japanese career. He's the first American-born player to achieve the feat in Japan. How fitting that he did it in a three-homer game; that's how many he hit in his most fantasy-relevant performance in the States, on Opening Day in 1994. He'd hit only 10 other homers in his career here.
• After watching relievers throw 201 pitches combined in the first two games of the Yankee series, the Red Sox promoted Michael Bowden from Triple-A Pawtucket for bullpen depth in the series finale on Sunday. Despite his pitching two perfect innings, he's expected to be demoted on Monday to clear roster room for Julio Lugo. "Michael knows he's here for [Sunday] -- he won't go on the road trip," manager Terry Francona told the team's official Web site. "We'll switch out and get our infielder [Monday]."
• The Marlins waited quite awhile to announce their fill-in starter for Andrew Miller on Sunday, and when the time arrived, it was rookie Graham Taylor who got the call, promoted from Double-A Jacksonville. He was uncharacteristically wild in his major league debut, walking six batters and throwing 49 of 98 pitches for strikes in absorbing the loss. It's unclear whether Taylor will get another chance in Miller's rotation spot when it next comes up Friday, but he's not fantasy-worthy even if he does.
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Jerry Crasnick: Jarrod Washburn isn't going to go 22-3 and win the Cy Young award, but he's authoring a nice little turnaround story so far. As I mentioned last week, a scout told me that he's throwing his two-seamer more and the cutter less. Whatever he's doing, it's working.
-- Full chat transcript
Jayson Stark: Uh, where is he going to be playing in the second half? That's my question. If the A's don't hang in the race, Billy Beane will be aggressive in unloading him. But I have no second thoughts about saying Matt Holliday will hit. He has to prove he can be a force outside of Coors Field. And he has some major adjusting to do at the moment -- to the AL West and to a tough hitter's park. But I find it unimaginable that, sooner or later, this guy won't hit.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Jason Grey, 11 a.m.
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m.
• Call it a day of setbacks for some of baseball's top pitching prospects, as David Price lasted only 3 1/3 innings for Triple-A Durham, allowing three runs on four hits and four walks and throwing only 39 of 75 pitches for strikes. His pitch counts remain low but it's his command in this game that's disconcerting. Price remains probably a good month or more away from being a serious threat to Jeff Niemann's job security.
• Meanwhile, in other International League action, Phillies prospect Carlos Carrasco suffered his first stinker in four starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, getting pummeled for six runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. The Pawtucket Red Sox sure had their way with him, including the rehabbing Julio Lugo, who was 2-for-5 with a double in his fourth and final game before being activated. Nevertheless, even with that brutal stat line, Carrasco's season ERA remains 4.57 and his WHIP 1.15 in four starts.
• Initially a candidate to take Andrew Miller's spot in the rotation, Sean West instead struggled for Double-A Jacksonville on Sunday, allowing four runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He's 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in four starts for the Suns, and remains a candidate to make his big league debut at some point later in the year. It can't be entirely ruled out that he, not Graham Taylor, will get the call for the Marlins on Friday.
• For more on the top prospects, check out the Minor League Update.
• An assignment in Coors Field doesn't scare Padres right-hander Chris Young; he's 3-1 with a 4.20 ERA and 1.30 ERA in six career starts there. He's also 5-1 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 11 career starts against the Rockies.
• Matt Kemp might have seven strikeouts lifetime versus the Giants' Barry Zito, but he also has twice as many hits, 17, in 27 at-bats (.519 BA).
• Some hitters struggle with the knuckler, and Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore seem to fall into that class. They're a combined 1-for-16 in their careers versus Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Sizemore has the only hit -- and it was a single.
• For more on Monday's matchups, check out Daily Notes.