- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Struggling St. Louis Cardinals Jason Heyward and Matt Adams each launched their fourth home runs of the season in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s demolition of the New York Mets, and suddenly disappointing right-hander Bartolo Colon, and each finished the contest hitting exactly .250 with a slugging percentage on the wrong side of .400. While neither player is off to quite the start fantasy owners expected, as Heyward was an eighth-round pick and figured to enjoy hitting in an improved lineup after the offseason trade from the Atlanta Braves and Adams was a 14th-rounder who figured to flirt with 20 home runs, I’m being patient. Here’s why:
In Heyward’s case, it’s not about the fact he’s a pending free agent who should really cash in, but unless there’s another shoulder injury we don’t know about, he’s just far too talented to be so average. Perhaps we won’t ever see another 27-homer, 21-steal campaign like 2012, but he’s only 25. Even in the past two disappointing seasons, he showed power and the ability to still steal bases. I identify three issues so far: He’s not drawing enough walks; he’s not hitting right-handed pitching; and it’s hard to hit for power when you’re among the top 10 in hitting ground balls. Each can and should normalize. Heyward’s walk rate has cratered but for no good reason. His OPS against right-handed pitching is generally 200 points better and again, unless he’s hurt, he will improve and hit more fly balls, especially against right-handers like Colon. Wednesday night was a positive sign. I’m investing.
Adams is far more available in ESPN standard leagues and also comes with more risk and downside. He’s never been a patient hitter, nor should he be permitted to face left-handed pitching. But he managed to hit .284 and .288 his first two seasons, with enough power to matter, and he convinced many a 25-homer campaign wasn’t ridiculous. It still isn’t. Adams is now batting .267 against right-handers and rising. Don’t question the power, and you don’t want him playing over Mark Reynolds when an opposing lefty is starting. Adams’ underlying stats don’t show a player in decline. He’s still making contact, but as he's a free swinger, we’ll see periods of frustrating behavior when he helps nobody, be it the Cardinals or us. He’s 26 and still capable of topping 20 home runs, and not all that different from Adam Lind, who also sits against lefties. This is a good thing.
The Cardinals are baseball’s best team, despite losing Adam Wainwright. Heyward and Adams are the lone lineup regulars not hitting .300 or close to it, but each should be performing better. I remain amazed that Matt Holliday continues to show no decline, even though people like to point out his age. Matt Carpenter is hitting for power, and it’s legit. He should also score more than 100 runs. Kolten Wong is showing he can hit for average while maintaining power. Jhonny Peralta isn’t flashy, but he’s the No. 4 shortstop on the Player Rater. And Yadier Molina has lost his power, but how many catchers are truly safe in batting average? Heyward and Adams won’t improve because of the lineup around them, but it won’t hurt, either.
NL report: Meanwhile, Colon has mostly ruined his great start to the season for roto owners lately, as he was pummeled for 11 hits and nine runs (eight earned) in 4 ⅓ innings. Colon’s ERA rose to 4.85. He even walked two hitters, tripling his season total. And still, I’m not running away. I couldn’t help but notice the one bad inning Wednesday came after a large, out-of-shape man was forced to run around the bases and was probably tired. He next faces the Phillies. I’m sticking with him. … So much for Colorado Rockies outfielder Drew Stubbs picking up at-bats with Corey Dickerson heading to the DL. Stubbs, in his seventh big league season, was unceremoniously demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday, as much for his .118 batting average as his ridiculous 55.4 percent strikeout rate. Brandon Barnes was called up and should share left field with Rafael Ynoa and Ben Paulsen, a first baseman with pop. Paulsen is the interesting name. … Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu is expected to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, so the 40 percent of owners stashing him in ESPN standard leagues can move on to another injured player like perhaps San Francisco Giants right-hander Jake Peavy, who is at 4.6 percent and could return to the majors within two weeks. … Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Chase Anderson and outfielder A.J. Pollock thrived in Miami on Wednesday. Anderson tossed eight innings of one-run ball, finally earning his first win after seven mostly effective outings. Anderson isn’t regarded as a top-60 starting pitcher, but he’s sure been pitching like one. Add him until the run stops, but don’t be surprised when it doesn’t. Pollock stole second base, third and home and scored four runs. He’s owned in most leagues but appears to be breaking out into a potential top-30 outfielder.
AL report: Los Angeles Angels right-hander Jered Weaver apparently fixed whatever was ruining his numbers in April. He tossed seven innings of three-run ball in Toronto on Wednesday and has won three consecutive starts, lowering his 6.29 ERA to 4.37 in that span. Weaver isn’t throwing hard, but he’s been effective. … Angels first baseman Albert Pujols left Wednesday's game with a left hand contusion after being hit by a pitch but hopefully doesn’t need to miss more than a game or two. Pujols isn’t among the top-25 first basemen so far on the Player Rater but remains a worthwhile buy-low option. … Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis missed his fourth consecutive game Wednesday as he recovers from a shoulder problem. It’s worth noting that Travis is hitting only .226 during the past month and is down to 88 percent owned. That was quick. A DL stint could be pending, but the window to sell high on the rookie is over. … Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino doubled in a run Wednesday, but he’s hitting only .175 and recent acquisition Welington Castillo is expected to start Thursday and perhaps split time moving forward. … Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer finally hit his first home run of the season, a 13th-inning blast off Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Antonio Bastardo. If Mauer was still eligible at catcher, he’d be worth owning for the batting average, but he’s not. Mauer isn’t even a top-25 first baseman. … Chicago White Sox rookie lefty Carlos Rodon permitted only one run in six innings Wednesday, but the five walks were again a problem. It’s a theme for the kid and why he’s dangerous to rely on in fantasy.
Eric Karabell recommends struggling Cardinals Jason Heyward and Matt Adams