Troy Tulowitzki was named the National League Player of the Month for April on Monday and he's already making a strong case to take home the honors for the month of May. The Rockies' star shortstop went 2-for-3 with a pair of two-run homers and two walks in Monday's win over the Rangers and is now hitting a ridiculous .408/.512/.786 with nine home runs, 29 RBI and a 14/23 K/BB ratio through 31 games. His OPS currently sits at 1.298. That's video game stuff right there.
One key factor in Tulowitzki's white-hot start has been his production at home. In 14 games at hitter-friendly Coors Field this year, he's batting .596 (28-for-47) with six home runs and 21 RBI. He also has 11 walks to go against just four strikeouts. Good grief.
With Tulowitzki, it's never been a matter of talent, but rather his ability to stay on the field. The 29-year-old has played in more than 143 games just twice in his career. The last time he did it was back in 2009. The injury history will always be a factor, so I don't blame those who might look to sell on his hot start, but here's hoping we finally get something close to a full year out of him. Throwing in his excellent defense at shortstop, a National League MVP Award could be in his future.
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Ramos Nears Return
Hyped as a sleeper in fantasy drafts this spring, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos made an early exit on Opening Day due to a fractured hamate bone in his left hand and required surgery two days later. While the injury was a tough blow to those who invested big on draft day, he's now on the verge of returning from the disabled list.
After going 2-for-3 with a three-run homer as the DH during his first rehab game with Double-A Hagerstown on Sunday, Ramos caught all nine innings on Monday. The 26-year-old could be activated as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday, but the Nationals might wait until Friday and ease him back into things as a DH during an interleague series against the Athletics.
It often takes time for players to regain strength after hamate bone surgery, so it's worth wondering if Ramos' power production will be impacted in the short-term. Still, there's enough upside here for him to be a top-12 catcher in mixed fantasy leagues the rest of the way. Be sure to pick him up in leagues where he was dropped.
Good news, fantasy owners. White Sox ace Chris Sale took an important step Monday in his recovery from a left flexor muscle strain, as he threw off the mound for the first time since he hit the disabled list in mid-April. The southpaw threw a total of 40 pitches and told reporters that he felt "much better than when we started this process."
The White Sox have been very quiet about a possible timetable for his return, but general manager Rick Hahn estimated Monday that Sale could be ready for a minor league rehab assignment in 10-14 days if all goes well. Chances are he'll need a couple of starts in the minors to get stretched out and shake the rust, so a return around the end of the month or early June isn't out of the question. Again, this is assuming no setbacks.
Sale was living up to his billing as a top fantasy starter prior to the injury, posting a 2.30 ERA and 28/7 K/BB ratio in 27 1/3 innings through four starts.
Niese and Easy
Jon Niese had scares with both his shoulder and elbow during spring training, but you wouldn't know it by his performance so far this season.
While Niese was handed a no-decision Monday against the Marlins, he struck out six batters over seven scoreless innings and now owns a 1.82 ERA and 1.01 WHIP through six starts this season. This includes a solid 30/9 K/BB ratio in 39 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old only has two wins to show for it, but that can partially be blamed on a bad bullpen (like we saw on Monday night) and a lack of offense.
Niese has been fortunate with his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and strand rates this season, so the microscopic ERA isn't meant to last, but he has good control, induces plenty of grounders, and gets his fair share of strikeouts. His recent health history is a bit of a concern, but there's no reason why he shouldn't be owned in more fantasy leagues. As of now, he's still available in 73 percent of Yahoo leagues. Be sure to change that.
AL Quick Hits: Max Scherzer struck out nine batters over eight scoreless innings in Monday's win over the Astros … Joe Mauer (back) was held out of the Twins' lineup Monday, but is feeling improvement … Victor Martinez launched a solo homer Monday against the Astros … Brett Lawrie left Monday's game with right hamstring tightness and is considered day-to-day … Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring) and Josh Reddick (ankle) were held out of the A's lineup Monday … Josh Hamilton (thumb) is expected to begin taking live batting practice Friday … Eric Hosmer hit his first home run of the season Monday against the Padres … Yan Gomes was activated from the paternity leave list Monday and went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout against the Twins … Casey Janssen (oblique) allowed two hits in a scoreless inning Monday in his first rehab game with Double-A New Hampshire … Yordano Ventura allowed three runs in six innings and struck out 10 batters Monday in a no-decision against the Padres … Ernesto Frieri notched a save in Monday's win over the Yankees … Dioner Navarro (quad) is aiming to return to the Blue Jays' lineup on Wednesday … Scott Feldman (biceps) is on track to be activated to start Friday against the Orioles … Brett Cecil notched a save in Monday's win over the Phillies … Marcus Semien went 2-for-5 with a go-ahead RBI double in Monday's extra-inning win over the Cubs … Eduardo Escobar hit a go-ahead solo homer in Monday's 10-inning win over the Indians … Johan Santana (shoulder) threw 28 pitches over two innings Monday in an extended spring training game and reportedly threw in the 87-89 mph range with his fastball …
NL Quick Hits: Carlos Gomez went 2-for-2 with a home run, three RBI, two runs scored and three walks in Monday's win over the Diamondbacks … Yasiel Puig was held out of Monday's lineup after crashing into the outfield wall Sunday, but he still hasn't shown any signs of a concussion … Jay Bruce underwent surgery Monday to repair a partially-torn meniscus in his left knee and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks … Matt Cain (finger) expects to return from the disabled list to start Saturday against the Dodgers … Hunter Pence had three hits and four runs scored Monday against the Pirates … Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) will resume throwing Tuesday … Jeff Samardzija allowed one unearned run and struck out seven batters over nine innings Monday in a no-decision against the White Sox … Ryan Zimmerman (thumb) has yet to be cleared to begin strengthening exercises … Anthony Rendon launched his fifth home run of the season Monday against the Dodgers … Nolan Arenado homered Monday to extend his MLB-best hitting streak to 25 games … Pedro Alvarez homered and knocked in four runs Monday against the Giants … Mark Melancon blew his first save of the season Monday against the Giants … Eric Young, Jr. (cheek) went 1-for-4 in his return to action Monday … Nate Eovaldi allowed three runs and struck out a career-high 10 batters in a no-decision against the Mets on Monday … A.J. Ellis (knee) ran the bases for the third straight day Monday and is closing in on a minor league rehab assignment … Looking for a boost for their sagging offense, the Padres recalled Kyle Blanks from Triple-A El Paso on Monday … Jordan Lyles yielded two runs in eight innings Monday in a win over the Rangers …