The Cardinals needed someone to step up following Adam Wainwright’s Achilles injury. Michael Wacha has rung the bell, becoming the National League’s first seven-win starter of the year on Sunday after allowing one unearned run on five hits in seven innings against the AL-leading Royals. Wacha has clearly become the Cardinals’ de facto ace, with a 1.87 ERA and the team winning all nine of his starts this season.
It’s been a nice ride for Wacha owners to this point, with the youngster bouncing back to complete health after a rollercoaster 2014 season. Still, there’s reason to be nervous about his ability to maintain his ace-like performance.
While Wacha’s velocity looks strong, averaging better than 93 mph on his fastball, he’s having trouble missing bats at his previous rate. Wacha has a mediocre 5.5 K/9 and K/BB ratio of only 2.50 as a result. Prior to 2015, Wacha had a career 8.3 K/9 in 171.2 innings. The discrepancy in strikeouts isn’t something that a couple great starts can’t fix, but it’s notable that his great results have held some luck with a sub-.240 BABIP.
It would be a stretch to say that Wacha owners should sell high and run for cover. However, if someone is willing to pay for a top 10 starting pitcher price for Wacha, that would sound like a profitable scenario, especially considering the recency of his shoulder ailment late last season.
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Napoli on Fire
The frustrated fantasy owners who gave up on Mike Napoli in April are probably crawling back after his terrific weekend. Napoli went 2-for-3 with one homer and four RBI on Sunday, giving him four homers in three games and five long balls in the last week.
Napoli’s stock was low coming into this season after a down 2014 season caused by finger issues. He hit only .162-1-4 during April, so there’s no blaming frustrated fantasy owners for pulling the plug early on. However, Napoli has managed to hit at least 16 home runs eight times in his nine-year career coming into 2015, so we knew he had plenty of power to provide.
While Napoli is hitting an ugly .203 after Sunday’s performance, his batting average has climbed nearly 40 points since May 14. Now on pace for 29 homers and 77 RBI, Napoli is back to being a strong play in most leagues and providing the struggling Red Sox some much-needed power in the middle of the order.
Upton Keeps Raking
Justin Upton has been a savior for the Padres this season, ranking tied for second in homers (12) and fourth in RBI (35) among NL hitters for a lineup that has a mediocre .673 OPS this season. He had another monster day on Sunday, going 2-for-4 with one home run and six RBI.
On pace for career numbers in his walk year, Upton is in line to hit .284-43-126 and is also 9-for-9 stealing bases. While Upton has been relatively consistent during his career, he’s reached 30 home runs only once prior to 2015.
Fantasy owners are all too familiar with Upton’s hot streaks, particularly after he had 13 home runs and 33 RBI through the first two months of 2014 and failed to keep up his pace. Of course, he has the added motivation of his pending free agency, for what it’s worth. It’s also impressive how well he’s hit at pitcher haven PETCO Park, with a .349-9-22 line through 83 at-bats. That level of production in a pitcher’s park alone should earn him some extra dollars and cents this offseason, even if his overall pace falls off.
American League Quick Hits: Josh Hamilton’s (shoulder) long awaited return will happen Monday. He’s expected to start in left field for the Rangers … Jose Reyes will come off the DL for the Jays on Monday … Steven Souza will be reevaluated on Monday after leaving Sunday with a left wrist injury … Jose Bautista was out of Sunday’s lineup after taking a cortisone shot for his sore right shoulder. The issue has nagged him for much of the season thus far … The injury woes for Shane Victorino continue, with the outfielder being placed on the DL with a strained calf … Sonny Gray isn’t expected to miss his next turn in the rotation after leaving Sunday’s start with an ankle injury … Asdrubal Cabrera is day-to-day after suffering a mild groin strain … James Loney will be re-evaluated on Monday after suffering a sprained finger … Alex Rios (hand) began a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Omaha on Sunday. He should be ready to return in early June … Buck Farmer will take Kyle Lobstein’s spot in the rotation after the lefty was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation … Brock Holt is day-to-day after getting struck in the arm by a line drive on Sunday … Matt Harrison (back) is still eyeing a mid-June return, and is scheduled to make his second start at extended spring training on Thursday … Jose Iglesias had X-rays, which revealed a right knee contusion … Brian McCann left Sunday’s game with a cramp in his foot and calf … Collin Cowgill was scratched from Sunday’s lineup with back tightness … The Rangers signed Jared Burton is a minor league contract on Sunday … Maicer Izturis injured his right shoulder during his rehab assignment on Saturday. The severity of the injury isn’t known yet … Angels reliever Mike Morin was placed on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain … The LA Times reports the Dodgers and A’s discussed a trade involving Jesse Chavez in the offseason. It’s a connection to keep in mind considering Oakland’s struggles early this season.
National League Quick Hits: The Reds will decide whether Devin Mesoraco will undergo season-ending surgery on his left hip on Monday after experiencing renewed soreness on Friday … Nolan Arenado came just a double short of the cycle on Sunday, going 4-for-5 … The Giants designated Casey McGehee for assignment on Sunday, making Matt Duffy the unquestioned starting third baseman …. Juan Lagares was scratched from Sunday’s lineup with elbow and pectoral soreness … Mets manager Terry Collins said the team’s starters, including Matt Harvey, could be going through a dead arm phase. Harvey had his worst start of the season on Saturday. The team is expected to have a six-man rotation when Dillon Gee returns, but the right-hander will have one more rehab start … Rafael Montero (shoulder) hasn’t made progress from his rotator cuff inflammation and remains out indefinitely … Ruben Tejada is expected to see multiple starts at third base. It’s a consideration for NL-only owners … Jean Segura (finger) could be activated from the DL as early as Friday, while teammate Jonathan Lucroy (toe) could be activated next weekend … Matt Holliday was scratched from Sunday’s game with a left arm contusion, and Jason Heyward also remained out of the lineup with a hip injury … Yasmani Grandal (concussion) will serve as a DH for Triple-A Oklahoma City this week. It sounds like he will return when eligible on Saturday… Jayson Werth’s wrist is too swollen to resume baseball activities, so his absence could be more lengthy than anticipated … Billy Hamilton was out of Sunday’s lineup with shoulder and wrist injuries … Bobby Parnell (elbow) threw a scoreless inning in his first rehab appearance. It’s unclear when he will be ready to return, but he’s not far away … Jake Peavy (back) will make a minor league rehab start at Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday … Matt Stites (elbow) will begin a rehab assignment at High-A this week, with the hope of returning in June … Jeff Mathis (finger) will began a rehab assignment on Sunday … Yonder Alonso (shoulder) will begin a minor league rehab assignment at High-A Lake Elsinore on Wednesday … Marco Gonzales felt renewed tightness in his pectoral muscle, and will travel to St. Louis to be examined. Jaime Garcia continues to hold down the team’s fifth starter job … Pedro Baez (pectoral) will start a throwing program soon.