TRUM: Want opinions?! I got plenty
Reaction was positive the last time I wrote a TRUM, I enjoy doing it and, frankly, only one of those reasons is needed for me to do it again. So here we are with "Thoughts, Ramblings, Useless information and Musings" for May 9, 2013, as I take a look through the box scores from Wednesday night …
• So I was watching the Braves-Reds game when my editor, Pierre Becquey, walked in to discuss the day's column. Juan Francisco was up with the bases loaded. "Come on, Juan, I need this," he said. Pierre, a die-hard Toronto Blue Jays fan, has clearly been reduced to rooting for his fantasy team. Anyway, we agreed I'd do a TRUM for Thursday and try to make it a monthly occurrence thereafter … just as Francisco parked a J.J. Hoover offering over the fence for his first career grand slam.
I've always liked Francisco -- with a career AB/HR rate of 22.9, his power is legit -- and now he's getting more or less regular playing time. On pace for a 25-homer/79-RBI season, he's available in more than 95 percent of ESPN leagues and is hitting .280 so far. Chris Johnson eats into his playing time, but I believe Francisco will get a majority of the work there. They need to find a way to keep his bat in the lineup, just like they do with "catcher-eligible Evan Gattis," as I like to call him, who got another start in left field. The problem with the Braves is there's not a lot of room to find playing time once outfielder Jason Heyward (appendectomy) returns, but maybe Gattis gets a fill-in start for Freddie Freeman once a week, two starts at catcher and one or two starts a week in the outfield. So who was not in the Braves' lineup Wednesday? B.J. Upton, who already has been caught stealing three times this season in addition to all the obvious issues. He was caught stealing only six times all last year. If you can't even count on the steals from him …
• Jay Bruce hit his second homer of the season Wednesday. Last train to "Buy-lowville" is leaving the station.
• After A.J. Burnett's last start, I announced on Twitter that he was officially above the Wandy Line, as well, and the start against Seattle on Wednesday was further evidence as to why. Dude hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season, and check out this handy little tidbit put together by The SWAN of ESPN's Stats & Info, Zach Jones:
Most starts allowing 2 ER or fewer since start of the 2012 season
That's a helluva list to be on, you know?
• On the other side of the ball, Michael Saunders now has four home runs and six steals in 58 at-bats. He's gonna go 20/20 this year if he can stay healthy, and he's still out there in 22 percent of leagues.
• And look who hit behind him Wednesday night, protecting him in the lineup: Jason Bay. What could possibly go wrong? Bay is a fantasy zombie. You just can't kill him …
Hey, Matthew Berry wrote a book!
Between celebrating every aspect of fantasy -- the trash talk, the trophies, the insane draft day locations, the punishments, the clever attempts at cheating and surprisingly uplifting stories -- Matthew Berry chronicles his journey from a 14-year-old player to ESPN's senior fantasy analyst.
• I just completed my first post-NFL draft fantasy football rankings for ESPN. It's a weirdly busy time for me. We're well into the baseball season, I'm starting to gear up for football and then, of course, all the book promotion stuff. This is my first book, so I don't know what is right and what isn't, to be honest. I want to promote the book, of course. I'm proud of it, and I hope it does well. But I also don't want to inundate everyone with constant book promotion. I've decided that once a week on each platform (column, podcast, Twitter, Facebook) is fair, at least until we get close to the release date. If that's too much, let me know. At any rate, if you're interested, they're giving away lots of extras if you pre-order it, including an autographed version. Just click the link to the right for details. If you're not, at least I'm talking about Luis Valbuena in the next paragraph. Wait, what?
• Yes, that's right, Cubs fans. Your No. 3 hitter Wednesday night was Luis Valbuena! And guess what? He went 1-for-2 and scored twice. He's hitting .270 on the season and is available in more than 97 percent of ESPN leagues. Not sure he's worth picking up in 10-team mixed leagues yet, but he is on pace for 24 home runs this year, he qualifies at third base (and is six games away from qualifying at second) and, well, I'm kinda sorta buying it. His walk rate is way up, as is his fly ball percentage. He hit 12 home runs between Triple-A and the majors last year in almost 550 plate appearances. He's getting lucky with his HR/FB rate, but do I think he could settle in at the 15-17 homer mark? Yeah, I do. He's gonna play every day, and in deeper leagues, you could do worse.
• And before you waste any good jokes making fun of the Cubs for batting Valbuena third, set your sights on Miami. The Marlins had Placido Polanco batting third Wednesday night. Third. Placido Polanco. I wish that was a misprint.
• Twenty total hits. Fifteen runs scored. And Josh Willingham goes 0-for-4. Sigh.
• Man, I loved Felix Doubront during the preseason as a deep AL-only sleeper for this season. Man, I was wrong. It's only because of how bad starter Allen Webster looked that maybe you didn't notice Doubront's 5 1/3 innings, 12 hits and six earned runs. Ugh.
• Deep AL-only league owners needing a starter might wanna take a speculative flyer on Bruce Chen. Luis Mendoza keeps getting lit up for the Royals, and Chen has an 8.49 K/9 rate so far this year and a microscopic 0.77 BB/9 over his first 11 2/3 innings this season. Crazy-small sample size, of course, but that's why I'm using the words "deep AL-only" and "flyer." I could see Chen replacing Mendoza (Mendooooooza!!!!!) in the rotation and having value.
• Jake Westbrook might as well change the name on the back of his jersey to "Sell High." Dude's BB/9 rate is over four. He went 5 1/3 Wednesday night, allowing three earned runs, nine hits and one walk, with just one strikeout. His ERA is 1.62. His FIP is 3.47. He's getting very lucky with his strand rate and has yet to allow a home run this season, which will change. Last chance to sell high because it's only gonna get worse from here.
• Just think, some poor guy, in some league, had Adam Rosales in his lineup Wednesday night and is going to lose his league by one home run. You just know it. Rosales, by the way, has a strikeout rate of 19 percent and a walk rate of just more than 4 percent. That batting average is coming down, down, down.
• Also announced on Twitter following his 17-strikeout game: Anibal Sanchez is officially above the Wandy Line.
• Another day, another oh-fer for Ryan Flaherty. This time it was 0-for-3, and Flaherty's batting average is down to .114. This has nothing to do with mixed leagues, but I own Alexi Casilla in a deep AL-only league in which I need speed, and I don't understand why he hasn't gotten more of a chance. He's hitting .200 on the year, so yeah, he's off to a slow start, too, but it's just 35 at-bats. Defensively, I don't think either guy has a huge advantage over the other, and Casilla is a career .249 hitter who stole 21 bases last year. I mean, come on. Flaherty is hitting .114!
• Whoever keeps throwing Ricky Romero out there is just cruel. I'm talking Blue Jays, not fantasy.
• Speaking of the Jays, their leadoff hitter Wednesday night was Brett Lawrie. He has hit there plenty again this season, which I still find interesting.
• Hey, Emilio Bonifacio got a hit! Sorry, just get excited for anything positive from him. Man, has he been terrible this year.
• James Loney is now hitting .385 on the season. I'm not buying him this high, but he has increased his walk rate a little and decreased his strikeout rate.
• He won't stay healthy, but as long as he is, crazy Luke Scott, as I call him, will always interest me. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for him. He went 1-for-3 Wednesday night with two RBIs and is now hitting .350.
• Speaking of batting averages I don't totally buy, Kelly Johnson's is now up to .283. That said, the rest of Johnson's numbers are legit. After home run No. 5 Wednesday night, he's now on pace for a 25-homer/88-RBI season, with 69 runs and 20 steals. And he's available in 77 percent of ESPN leagues. A 20/20 season from a middle-infield spot with a batting average that won't kill you … sign me up!
• I realize I'm not the target audience and there's lots wrong with it, but Lord help me, I really like the show "Smash" on NBC. I can't imagine it'll get renewed after this season, but the wife and I enjoy watching it together and arguing if Katharine McPhee is hot or just cute. I've actually seen every episode of this show. Total guilty pleasure.
• Yup, that's formerly-hated-by-the-Dodgers-front-office and erstwhile trendy fantasy sleeper Dee Gordon atop the Dodgers' lineup. Yes, Dee Gordon. It seems he has learned a bit of plate discipline in the minors. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored Wednesday and is hitting .316 in a small sample. You know the speed is real, and as long as he's getting playing time … And he's available in more than 70 percent of ESPN leagues.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks (Going in the eighth round, I'd pull the trigger in the fifth): I believe it all. The decreased strikeout rate, the increased contact rate, the improvement against lefties, the walk rate, the double-digit steals. I believe, during the offseason, he saved 40 children from a runaway school bus using only three toothpicks and fishing wire. I believe they found Osama bin Laden based on intel he provided. I believe his DNA will someday be used to cure cancer. I believe it all."
His preseason average draft position (ADP) was 73.2, but I ranked him 45th overall in my preseason ranks. And you know what? Even I was too low on him. In an ESPN standard 10-team keeper league, I just offered Albert Pujols for him. And I bet I get turned down.
• Speaking of Pujols, man, my Angels are terrible. Been a tough year for me sports-wise. It started off great with RG3 and my beloved Washington Redskins (I lived in Virginia until I was 12). Then his knee injury, then the Lakers' horrific season (I lived in L.A. for 15 years before coming to ESPN and did local radio about the Angels and Lakers, and became a fan of those teams as a result) … Frankly, given the way the Lakers treated Phil Jackson and their horrible decision to hire Mike D'Antoni, it serves us right for the season to go how it did. And now the Angels are a hot mess. And I don't have any hope. The best players on the Angels' payroll right now? Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and, oh yeah, Vernon Wells!
I cannot express how much this angers me. Wells never should have been traded for. He came to the Angels and was terrible and overpaid for two seasons, so horrific that he couldn't even crack the starting lineup toward the end, hitting .218 and .230, respectively, in his two seasons in Anaheim. His trade value was so low that the Angels had to literally pay a team to take him off their hands; they agreed to pay $28.1 million of the remaining $42 million left on his ridiculous contract. And what did Wells do Wednesday night? A home run and a steal -- hey, it's a combo meal! -- and he's now on pace for a 34-homer, 20-steal season, with 83 runs and 74 RBIs. He is still available in about 10 percent of ESPN leagues, but I don't own him on any of my teams. I can't stand Vernon Wells. Or the Angels' front office. Or the Lakers' front office. Or …
Makes my blood boil just thinking about it. I gotta go. I am one bitter Berry …
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is also bitter the Angels traded away Jean Segura last year. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.