There is no shortage of things to talk about today, so excuse the nature of this article, which will jump around topics as often as a Mr. Bungle song changes genre. We've got an update on Rick Porcello, news from Andy Oliver's major league debut, the upcoming 2010 debut of another Giant prospect, and some positional changes for a Twin.
Porcello was demoted last weekend in order to give him time to work out his problems—his slider wasn't working for him, and hitters were sitting on his fastball. You can also argue that he needed to incorporate his four-seamer into the game plan more, but based on his first minor league start, that's either in the works later or not in the plans at all for the 21-year old. Porcello struck out just three batters while inducing 14 grounders in his first start in Triple-A of 2010, which leads you to believe he was all about the two-seam action.
If he's still focusing on being a groundball pitcher when he returns to the majors, he will have the same value he did before being demoted. If his slider is working, he will at least be able to get hitters out, but chances are good there will be more up and downs in his season relying on the Tigers defense than he would have if he was able to set up the opposition for punch outs. Owners of Porcello should be excited that he was able to get things working for him in his first start back, though here's hoping the Tigers make sure that his slider is as ready as it needs to be before throwing him back in the middle of a divisional race.
His current replacement, Andy Oliver, held his own in his first major league appearance against the Atlanta Braves. Six innings, a pair of runs, four whiffs, a lone walk and one homer allowed is a pretty good start for a 22-year old out of Double-A—really, anytime a pitcher doesn’t get Abe Alvarez'd in their debut is a positive.
Oliver averaged 94 mph on his four-seamer, topping out at 96.8 according to Brooks Baseball. He threw 68 of them, picking up five swinging strikes, and kept hitters off balance mostly with his slider (22 of them, average of 82.9 mph). He also mixed in seven changeups. He spent most of his time working inside the strike zone early in counts, and didn't induce many swings on pitches out of the strike zone at all:
He's obviously still a project, given his age and inexperience (and he won't get away with living inside the zone like that on a continuous basis for very long) but the initial signs are encouraging—he's definitely worth a look in deeper leagues, though with Porcello potentially coming back sooner than later, his time in the majors may be very short.
Madison Bumgarner was scratched from his start in Fresno in order to come up and face the Boston Red Sox tonight, which is both joyous (hey, he's in the majors!) and depressing (to face the team tied for the league lead in True Average). The left-hander recorded 59 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings at Fresno (6.4 per nine) while keeping the ball in the yard (0.5 homers per nine) and his walks under control (2.3 per nine).
Bumgarner is much more effective against left-handers right now, as he's struck out 19 of them in 19 1/3 innings pitched, with just four walks allowed and an opponent batting average of .194. Right-handers are a little more of a problem, with just 40 punch outs in 63 1/3 innings, four of his five homers allowed and a .298 opponent average. That could make for an ugly scene against the Red Sox tonight—Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia (or Bill Hall, if Pedroia's foot isn't ready for game time), Marco Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald are all right-handed, while both catchers and Daniel Nava are switch-hitters who will bat from the right side of the plate tonight.
Historically, Bumgarner hasn't had issues against right-handers, but we're also talking about his work in the lower minors—this is something that could have cropped up against more advanced competition. He hasn't been much of a strikeout pitcher since early 2009 when he was in High-A, so while it's good that he'll be in the majors, he may not be much of a fantasy contributor here, except for in the deepest leagues. A solid start against a tough lineup—one stacked with righties—would be a good place to give owners some confidence though.
Last, just a bit of news for those of you in need of some utility in your fantasy lineup. Michael Cuddyer has started at third base in six of the Twins last eight games, which means he's now eligible in the outfield, first base and third base in many leagues. Sadly, Cuddyer isn't hitting anywhere near 2009's explosive effort (he's at .265/.329/.418) but eligibility at third base means his line finally sits in with the average at a position. The TAv at first base is .289, and right field is .285—third base is down at .269, right alongside Cuddyer's .270 mark. If you can play him at third, he'll have his uses—this gives you an excuse to get him out of the more productive positions and find a suitable replacement.