I recently lavished upon my apartment the old Trader Thor Brandon Morrow treatment. Summer was coming. In Iowa City, that means students leave and humidity arrives. It’s a debilitating tradeoff—the Ped Mall, the downtown street lined with bars, swaps coeds for sweating men in suits taking business lunches in the sun. Northern Minnesota is where you want to be during the summer. In Brad Pitt’s World War Z, Northern Minnesota is mentioned as the only safe location in the United States after the Zombie epidemic spreads. If you’ve ever been to the Boundary Waters, you know the Zombies wouldn’t stand a chance; though they needn’t breathe to live, obviously, the uncoordinated and unwise nature of the undead leaves them susceptible to being manipulated into bodies of water, where they’d presumably wander around on sediment confused for the rest of time.
For non-apocalyptic reasons, I wanted to get back to the water for a few months. So I gussied up my one-bedroom (rhymes with “grit”) (rhymes with “bowl”) on a website called AirBNB deploying a few fantasy baseball trading tricks: This was, without a doubt, the most promising space in Iowa City—it was close to downtown! It was fully furnished! High-speed internet! Three different Starz channels that I’ve never watched! A mythical refrigerator that never ran out of beer! Everything you could want for your summer of bachelorhood—well, except for the nice apartment and the girls. Like Brandon Morrow, this was a decent enough looking option on paper.
People started emailing about this mythical Valhalla on South Van Buren Street, and I modulated prices for specific dates based on the market (graduation weekend?: Doubled rates!). A French gentleman, in a bold move to eliminate his competition, offered to rent for the next month and a half. I’d done it again: I foolishly signed Brandon Morrow to a three-year contract in a dynasty league over the winter in a misguided attempt to drive up his price for our league’s owner from Toronto. So I waived him a few weeks ago, and then wrote out an email ostensibly shopping Jorge de la Rosa and Sam Deduno, but was actually a gambit to slip in the following sentence: “I need to trade a pitcher soon so I don’t have to waive somebody else of value for free.” It worked! Morrow’s contract was claimed! Less than one week later, he was placed on the 60-day disabled list.
Let’s hope South Van Buren treats the French gentleman better. C’est la vie! That was my week, now let’s check in on the news around baseball in the Week That Was...
- Jose Fernandez underwent Tommy John surgery on Friday. It’s likely that you, dear reader, have read more than one account waxing nostalgic about the loss of another golden arm, so I’ll spare you the Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers routine (Damn you, Roger! Roger, oh, oh, oh. Damn you Roger!). Fernandez altered his delivery after taking a sharp Dee Gordon grounder off the thigh on May 4, which may have led to the injury. The reigning National League Rookie of the Year will be out until at least May 2015, though the typical 12-to-18 month timeline puts his availability next season in doubt.
Anthony DeSclafani, Fernandez’s replacement, acquitted himself well in his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Dodgers, allowing two runs over six innings in a win. The start prompted skipper Mike Redmond to announce he’ll remain in the Marlins' rotation; NL-only owners should pick DeSclafani up. It’s also worth mentioning that Fernandez’s injury and DeSclafani’s ascension mean elite SP prospect Andrew Heaney is one step closer to the majors. The 22-year-old is destroying Double-A batters currently, and it would be no surprise if the Marlins allowed him to skip Triple-A. Is he next in line for a starting gig? Not at the moment. That designation would go to veteran Randy Wolf. And if it requires another Miami pitcher injury to push Wolf back into the spotlight so more Warren Zevon can be played ironically in opposing ballparks? So be it.
- Speaking of Tommy John, Martin Perez is also done for the year with the vaunted injury, opening up a slot for Nick Tepesch, who spent the early part of his 2014 campaign dominating Triple-A batters to the tune of a 6-1 record, 1.58 ERA, and 41/9 K/BB in 45 2/3 innings. Tepesch held the Astros to one run over 5 1/3 innings last week in his debut. He’s a worthy add in AL-only formats.
- Matt Wieters’ season is in jeopardy after he was placed on the disabled list last weekend with a problematic elbow. Baltimore has set a deadline of July 1 for a surgery decision. They hope a few weeks’ rest will alleviate pain and allow Wieters to return to action. If the pain hasn’t dissipated by then? Wieters may become an unlikely addendum to the whole Tommy John epidemic.
- Ben Zobrist dislocated his left thumb Wednesday. The super utility man is targeting a return immediately upon the exhaustion of his 15-day stint on the disabled list. We’ll see. Tampa Bay is going with a combination of Sean Rodriguez, Logan Forsythe and Cole Figueroa at the keystone in his absence. Not only is Zobrist one of baseball’s most versatile players, but he’s also one of the game’s most durable, averaging 155 games played per season over the past five years, collecting a rough standard of a .269 average, 18 homers, 80 RBI and 17 steals in each of those campaigns. The regression phase of the 32-year-old’s career has begun, but he’s still a mighty valuable fantasy contributor—especially in OBP leagues—in part due to his flexibility in a game in which injuries are common.
- I’ve been banging the drum in Rotoworld news blurbs for the past few days encouraging NL-only owners to give Tyler Colvin a try. Recalled to cover a hole in the outfield when Mike Morse was shifted to first base to fill in for the injured Brandon Belt, the 28-year-old Colvin had been raking at Triple-A this month after a sluggish April. Notoriously streaky, Colvin didn’t lose the spicy stick in commute. Entering play on Saturday, he’d gone 7-for-17 (.412) with four doubles, a triple and a homer (1.386 OPS) in limited playing time, collecting an extra-base hit in all four starts. Belt is going to miss another month, and Colvin only must outperform Gregor Blanco to remain in the lineup. Colvin has slugged .500 or more in over 350 at-bats in two different seasons. If he can defy the odds and do it again, Colvin would extend his fun streak of vacillating great and awful seasons to five, spanning three organizations. If he does so, expect the Giants to overact, expect Colvin to be awful in 2015, and then expect him to shove the stone from the lip of the tomb in someplace random like Kansas City in 2016. Can I get odds on this?
- Phil Hughes struck out eight and allowed only one run over six innings against the Red Sox on Thursday. He would have won his fifth consecutive start, but Glen Perkins punted a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning. Instead, his last five games, against Boston, Detroit (twice), Kansas City and Baltimore, aggregate thusly: 4-0, 1.95 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 23/1 K/BB rate. I gave him a tentative mixed league endorsement last week, and I’m giving Hughes the full stamp of approval to be added in standard formats this time around with a date at Petco Park scheduled for next scoring period. Hughes is owned in only 20% of Yahoo! leagues.
- Angels manager Mike Scioscia is alternating Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri between setup and closer duties, infuriating fantasy owners. Both Smith and Frieri must be owned in mixed leagues until Scioscia makes up his mind.
- Meanwhile, is it worth owning an Astro or Met reliever in mixed leagues? Chad Qualls, now that he’s temporarily usurped the flotsam floating around him in the sewage that is Minute Maid’s bullpen area, is probably worth a slot, though a player of value shouldn’t be cut to make room. As for New York, the comedy has turned dark, as in Dante’s tour of Tophet. Kyle Farnsworth earned the save on Monday, a bullpen committee was announced shortly thereafter, and Farnsworth was released on Wednesday (he signed with Houston three days later!). Yes—that happened. Do you want Jeurys Familia? Jenrry Mejia? Jose Valverde? Even in a 12-team league, I’m letting someone else torch roster spots on speculations on this situation. Buck Showalter also filled out his bullpen committee union card last week, demoting Tommy Hunter from the role. Zach Britton earned a one-out save on Thursday against the Royals. Heath Bell signed a minor league deal with Baltimore and is a long-term darkhorse for saves. Don’t cut Hunter, but Britton is ownable in all AL-only leagues.
- Carlos Beltran is out for six to 12 weeks with bone spurs in his right elbow. Ichiro Suzuki is in line for regular at-bats, meaning he should be owned in all AL-only leagues.
- Prince Fielder will miss a few games with a herniated neck.
- Andrew Cashner, placed on the disabled list Saturday with soreness in his right elbow, will have an MRI on his elbow Sunday. Padres GM Josh Byrnes is cautiously optimistic that the injury isn’t serious.