Bryce Harper may have been the lead story heading into last Saturday's game at Chavez Ravine, but there were plenty of other moments that made the night memorable.
Even though we’ve already had a pair of no-hitters, it could be argued that the most exciting—and certainly the most anticipated—game of the year was Saturday, when the Washington Nationals visited Chavez Ravine and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The most-hyped prospect of all-time, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, was making his debut. Harper’s teammate Stephen Strasburg, who wasn’t far removed from his own otherworldly hype, would be making his fifth start of the year. The advent of MLB.tv enabled fans from all over the country to tune in and hear Vin Scully describe the intricacies of Harper’s debut. Both teams were in first place. And, as the game grew late, Matt Kemp and the Nationals' depleted bullpen were rushing toward each other for an inevitable conclusion.
A fallen Angel and new savior out west, a Blue Jay gets his wings, and a few part-time players take on full-time roles.
On Monday of this week, we introduced the column Don't Believe the Hype, a weekly look at add/drop trends in fantasy baseball. The idea is to provide a way for you to find out if you should be following the wisdom of the crowd, or if that so-called wisdom doesn't have much substance to it. The thing is, it seems like you folks want this thing to run on Fridays, so that you have the weekend to ponder moves. So, here we are: Don't Believe the Hype will now run on Fridays instead, starting right now, and Mondays will see fantasy-oriented prospect coverage instead.
The first week of the season has brought some clarity to closer situations in Minnesota, Washington, Oakland, and Tampa Bay.
Late Monday night, when I started thinking about who I might want to write about this week, the first name that came to mind was young Angels' reliever Jordan Walden, who I’ve been touting in these pages since late last season. He was hovering around the five percent ownership mark, while Fernando Rodney was getting off to the most predictably poor start ever, making Walden a great value buy. That was all well and good until Mike Scioscia had to jump the gun on me and officially make the switch on Tuesday, and now Walden’s got dedicated blog posts and ownership levels in the 40s and climbing. So, no such luck for me there, though I will take some small solace from bringing him to attention far in advance.
Taking a look at disaster starts from many different angles.
Going into Monday evening's game against the Blue Jays, the Yankees had every reason to feel good about themselves, having come from behind the night before to secure a stirring 10-inning victory over the Red Sox. With one more win (or a Red Sox loss) they would clinch a spot in the playoffs. Alas, by the third inning Monday night, it was clear the Yankees would be uncorking no champagne, as starter A.J. Burnett dug them a 7-0 hole by allowing two homers, seven hits, and seven runs while retiring just seven hitters. Had the Yankees been at home, Burnett would have been booed off the mound by the Bronx faithful, but as this was a road game, Yankees fans were left to hurl rotten tomatoes and blue epithets at their TVs.
Lee Panas covers the bullpen situations in Baltimore, Houston, and Washington.
The Orioles signed Mike Gonzalez during the off-season to be their stopper and his job is safe. However, with his history of elbow problems and his recent back stiffness, it is prudent to keep an eye on potential replacements. Possible alternatives include Jim Johnson, Kam Mickolio, and Koji Uehara.
Johnson has accumulated 33 saves as a closer over the past two seasons but does not have the stuff to dominate in that role. He’s been a worm killer with a 60% ground-ball rate in the last two seasons but has had a K/9 rate of only 5.6. The physically imposing and hard throwing Mickolio could have a future as a closer but his control is still a concern and PECOTA projects a 4.6 BB/9 rate.
Will the Phillies establish a mini-dynasty, or will the Yankees add to their crowded trophy case with another title?
A year ago, the Phillies broke a 28-year-old title drought by winning the World Series, defeating the upstart Rays in five games. After winning 93 games in the regular season and tidily dispatching both the Rockies and the Dodgers in the first two rounds, they're back to defend their crown with a cast that's largely the same, save for summer acquisition Cliff Lee. They're the first NL team to repeat as pennant winners since the 1995-1996 Braves, and if they win the World Series, they'll be they first senior circuit club to do so since the 1975-1976 Reds.
Each team's got a list and is checking it twice, but not everybody gets everything they want this time of year.
As has been well-documented, the free-agent market has been extremely slow to develop; to date only 11 of the 171 players who filed for free agency have signed contracts. There is no word yet if Donald Fehr has asked Congress for a bailout.
The top 15 from the summer amateur league includes some with something left to prove next spring, and some whose stock in the 2008 draft is moving up.
The nation's best summer league earned its reputation in 2007, boasting depth that (outside of Team USA) the other summer leagues combined couldn't touch. However, it was a strange year for the league, as no one stepped up to be the easy pick for its top prospect, while most of the talent was confined to one team, Falmouth. Commodores coach Jeff Trundy emphasized it was merely the summer that the "stars aligned," and he doubted it would happen again.