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We've finally got ourselves a legitimate Rookie of the Year contender.
Tommy Hanson turned in his third consecutive scoreless outing, winning his fourth consecutive start, going six innings and allowing two hits. But that's not your story. The real story is that he has tossed 11 1/3 shutout innings and allowed only six hits in his past two victories against the Yankees and now Red Sox.
That's quite a feat for a 22-year-old right-hander who, heading into his two-start Week 12, had just three starts in the big leagues, and in those starts he had a worrisome 10 walks in 17 2/3 innings. At the time, his numbers actually cast more doubt on his short-term potential than had him a popular pickup; on Monday morning, he resided on only 39.7 percent of ESPN rosters.
Expect that number to rise in the coming days, given how impressive Hanson has been thus far. Through his first five career starts, he has a 2.48 ERA and .222 batting average allowed, and while he has surrendered three home runs, all of those came in his first appearance against the Brewers. Since the last homer, Hanson has faced 106 consecutive hitters without serving up a long ball.
Hanson demonstrated more improvement in another key area Sunday: his control. He walked two batters in his six innings of work, against a Boston team that ranks among the top five in the game in walks and on-base percentage, and threw 63 of his 97 pitches for strikes (64.9 percent).
Chances are, Hanson's adjustment period to big-league competition is manifesting itself in terms of his ,walk rate. Remember, this is the toughest level jump for a professional baseball player, but his ERA and BAA demonstrate that even as Hanson adapts to the game's best competitors, his stuff is more than up to the task. Once the former catches up to the latter, he's got a chance at some Cy Young awards.
Will it happen this season? No, probably not. But Hanson is a favorite for Rookie of the Year honors, and a pitcher likely to only get better from here.
• Hanson wasn't the only youngster with a standout pitching performance. David Price held the Marlins to one run on two hits in 6 1/3 innings for his second win of the year. Unlike Hanson, Price remained wild in Sunday's start, walking five and throwing only 56 of 96 pitches for strikes, but at least this represents improvement from his previous two disastrous appearances. Price still needs to work on pitch efficiency if he's going to be a consistent fantasy option, though.
• John Danks turned in his fourth consecutive quality start, and going by game score, his second-best start of 2009. He tossed seven shutout innings of four-hit baseball, and, interestingly, has registered his best two starts of the season (again, by game score) against the Cubs. In his career, Danks is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in three starts against his cross-town rivals. Beating up on the Cubs, who haven't been much offensively the past month, might not seem like any memorable feat, but Danks' recent performance does have him looking a lot closer to his 2008 breakout model. Keep riding this hot streak.
• Aaron Cook tossed eight strong innings to propel the Rockies to within a half-game of the National League wild-card lead, limiting the Athletics to one run on nine hits. Registering five consecutive quality starts and a 1.75 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, Cook now has his season ratios down to 3.77 and 1.33. By the way, for those of you who always believed his 2008 was a fluke, be aware that the right-hander's numbers in the categories are now better than last year's (3.96 and 1.34).
• Could Francisco Liriano have finally figured things out? He tossed seven innings of two-run, four-hit, six-strikeout baseball to defeat the Cardinals, registering his second-best start of the season going by game score. Liriano is 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in his past five starts, and while many of those were facing soft matchups, it's progress. He'll face the Tigers and White Sox, both at home, in his final two starts before the All-Star break. Keep Liriano in there.
• Here's a name you might not know: Ryan Sadowski, the Giants' spot starter who tossed six shutout innings and allowed four hits Sunday. The two strikeouts he had don't scream out "pick this guy up," but he did record 12 of his 18 outs on the ground, keeping up the ground ball trends he displayed for much of his minor league career. Of course, Sadowski's other minor league numbers don't offer much hope for a repeat; he had a 4.11 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 13 starts for Triple-A Fresno this year and 4.67/1.43 numbers for his career. Keep tabs on him if you play in a deeper NL-only league, but demand a second strong start before considering activating him.
• Open up your wallets NL-only owners on the hunt for the newest Cardinal, Mark DeRosa. Though he went 0-for-3 in his Cardinals debut, DeRosa occupied an intriguing lineup spot, cleanup behind Albert Pujols. DeRosa also manned left field, as opposed to third base. As St. Louis' No. 4 hitter, DeRosa's RBI total could get a significant boost, and based on the construction of the team's current batting order, it appears he might reside there or fifth most nights.
Nate Schierholtz, Giants
No one knows about this guy -- he's owned in only 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues -- but NL-only owners should. Schierholtz went 4-for-5 with one home run Sunday, the fourth time in his past five games he has managed a multi-hit effort. He has started six consecutive games in right field, mostly a product of Fred Lewis' offensive funk, and has batted .465 (20-for-43) with three homers in his past 15 games.
Chad Gaudin, Padres
The Padres can't complain about the level of performance of their replacements for Jake Peavy and Chris Young, who reside on the DL. Gaudin tossed a brilliant eight shutout innings of one-hit baseball at Rangers Ballpark, rising above the treacherous matchup on paper. Incredibly, he has 28 strikeouts in 21 innings in his past three starts, labeling himself as a useful matchups/hot streaks option at the least.
Congratulations to Mariano Rivera, who notched his 500th career save in a 4-2 win over the Mets. He also picked up his first career RBI as a hitter, walking with the bases loaded in the ninth. Rivera got his ERA back under three for the first time since June 4, and he's now on pace for 41 saves and 84 strikeouts, the latter representing potentially the second-best total in his career (1996, 130).
• The Athletics activated Mark Ellis from the 60-day DL, but he didn't find nearly as favorable a home as Cabrera in his first game back. Ellis batted ninth, a spot that will limit his runs-scored and RBI appeal, and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Daric Barton was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to clear a roster spot. Josh Outman was also transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day DL, assuring he'll be out until at least late August, and the San Francisco Chronicle has already speculated that the left-hander might require Tommy John surgery.
• Shairon Martis is the Nationals youngster who loses out in the rotation numbers game, as the team optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse following Sunday's game. Scott Olsen, who was activated from the DL, will replace him in the rotation and pitch Monday. Martis is 0-3 with a 6.34 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in his past eight starts. Craig Stammen, 1-3 with a 5.49 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in seven starts overall, will stick around and pitch on Tuesday.
• With Roy Halladay due back in the rotation on Monday, the Blue Jays optioned Brad Mills back to Triple-A Las Vegas. Mills was hammered in his two spot starts for the team, posting a 14.09 ERA and allowing a .400 batting average and four home runs in 35 at-bats.
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Jerry Crasnick: I doubt he's going to finish with 30 triples and a .900 OPS, but the Pirates people are raving about him. And it's obvious he has an impact on that team with his energy, his confidence and his talent. If Pedro Alvarez can finish up strong in Altoona, Pirates fans will actually have a couple of reasons to get excited.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Christopher Harris, 11 a.m. ET
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
• Coming off back-to-back quality starts, Manny Parra struggled in turn No. 3 for Triple-A Nashville, allowing seven runs (six earned) on five hits in 4 2/3 innings. Most distressingly, he walked five batters and threw 57 of 99 pitches for strikes, extending the command issues he had been dealing with at the big-league level. Parra will almost assuredly get at least one more start -- and maybe several more -- in the minors before being considered a candidate to bump either Mike Burns or Seth McClung from the Milwaukee rotation.
• For the third time since his month-long stay in the Twins' rotation, Anthony Swarzak tossed a quality start for Triple-A Rochester. This time, he went seven innings, and allowed only one run on two hits. He has a 2.53 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and has limited opposing batters to a .208 average in those three starts, and it's not like he pitched poorly when standing in for Glen Perkins, with three quality starts in five tries. Chances are, he remains next in line for a rotation spot in Minnesota.
• All eyes will be on Roy Halladay in his first start since a trip to the DL with a groin injury. He'll battle the Rays at home. The key to his matchup: He's 16-5 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 23 starts at home between this and last season. Halladay also has a favorable track record in his first starts fresh off the DL; he's 2-1 with a 2.71 ERA and 14 strikeouts compared to two walks in three such instances, reports ESPN Stats & Analysis.
• Gavin Floyd is 3-1 with a 1.60 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in his past seven starts, and he'll be taking on not only the Indians, but also the struggling Carl Pavano. Pavano has been routed to the tune of a 12.15 ERA, 2.55 WHIP and .456 batting average allowed in his past three starts.
For more on Monday's games, check Daily Notes.