Is the Twins' most underrated player also their best deadline chit?
Trevor Plouffe cracked a three-run home run for the Twins on Thursday afternoon, and those three runs proved to be the only ones that crossed the plate all day. A strong outing from Ervin Santana (eight innings, four hits, no runs or walks, seven strikeouts) carried Minnesota from there, snapping as bad a four-game losing streak (one wasted comeback, then three straight blowouts) as a team can have. The Twins now stand at 51-44, three games ahead of the Blue Jays for the second wild card berth in the American League. They’re clear deadline buyers, and more than that, they’re solidifying a status that was unthinkable before the season began: favorites to reach the playoffs.
At the same time, there’s plenty of room for doubt about this team. The offense has scored enough runs to win very often this season, but that’s happened partially on the strength of good sequencing luck, and partially on the strength of unsustainable overachievement. They’re a better offense than many people realized, and they’ve made a commendable adjustment to the new way of the world: They no longer take the first pitch of plate appearances at an unusual rate, let alone the extreme rate at which they took them last season.
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The next wave of talented Twins players is on its way, and in many circles, these names are more well known than several players on Minnesota’s current roster. There’s good reason for that, as many players on the projected Twins 2013 roster— especially on the pitching side—are pretty uninspiring from a fantasy point of view.
Adam Lind is fantasy’s version of Michael Corleone in Godfather Part III: just when you think he’s out, he pulls himself back in. Lind has bounced in and out of fantasy relevance—and the minor leagues—tantalizing with just enough (occasional) productivity to keep him in a big league uniform (well, that, and the misbegotten four-year, $18 million deal he signed after his breakout 2009 season). It would be easy to call BABIPhis Joey Zasa, the nemesis who keeps him down, since Lind’s seasons since 2009 are paralleled by diminishing BABIP returns, but there’s more to the story than that:
An unlikely team leads the American League in scoring in June: the Oakland Athletics.
The Tuesday Takeaway
The Athletics began the month of June by getting blanked twice in a three-game series against the Royals. Bob Melvin’s offense was described as “historically bad.” Oakland had lost 10 of 11, falling behind the Mariners and into the AL West cellar.
After last night’s 3-0 shutout over the Dodgers, though, the A’s have now won six of seven, improving to 32-36 on the year and jumping back into third place. Brandon McCarthy, on the mound for the first time since June 9, led the way for Oakland in the series opener, tossing seven scoreless innings before Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook finished off Los Angeles. But the offense, not the pitching staff, has actually done much of the heavy lifting of late.
The majority of Michael's VP list turns over this week, but he's got plenty of replacements lined up, including three who picked up their first home run of the year last week.
Statistically speaking, a single home run (like a single hit) is fairly meaningless. It’s the ultimate small sample, showing how one batter did against one pitcher (and one pitch) under one specific set of conditions. But psychologically speaking, when it’s the first home run of the season, it can mean so much more. The hitter feels confident in his swing or relieved at having gotten his first longball of the season out of the way, and it could mean a turnaround is coming. Look at Albert Pujols: in 27 plate appearances since his first jack of the season, he’s picked up 5 RBI—as many as he picked up in the 114 plate appearances before he finally went yard.
Ibanez, Reddick, and Dyson get the VP label this week
There was a common perception that Jayson Werth is injury prone, but he went almost four years between stints on the disabled list (his previous being May 23, 2008). His loss hurts fantasy owners, though not nearly as much as it is likely to hurt the on-base-challenged Nationals. Meanwhile, mixed-league afterthought Rick Ankiel becomes a much better risk; the team really needs his power, even if he brings little else to the table offensively. In the fantasy realm, however, owners can do a lot better when searching for a replacement in most league formats, which is where Value Picks comes in...
Indicators conflict about new VP-arrival J.D. Martinez, and Rob discusses the shake-ups in many major league outfields.
Rebounding from a rough week, the six Value Pick Outfielders hit a combined .299/.358/.557 this past week, led by Eric Thames at .389/.450/.944, and just-removed Nolan Reimold reminded fantasy owners why he was a Value Pick in the first place, hitting .286/.348/.571 for the week. Meanwhile, outfields all around the majors have been shaken up this week. Delmon Young switched allegiances in the AL Central, changing lineups in Detroit and Minnesota. Logan Morrison will be Tweeting from the minors, and two-thirds of the Giants starting outfield (Andres Torres and Carlos Beltran) head to the disabled list, as does Rajai Davis of the Blue Jays. Shin-Soo Choo and Jose Tabata returned to action, and former Value PicksWily Mo Pena, Brandon Allen, and Brandon Belt all seem to be in line for more playing time. All these changes have created opportunities for shrewd fantasy owners.