- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is a steal of a 15th-round choice in ESPN average live drafts, but he started the season hitless in 13 at-bats, then missed a few games because of back stiffness, and that apparently was enough for a handful of impatient fantasy owners to send him to the waiver wire. When LaRoche smacked his second home run of Tuesday night's 8-7 win over the Chicago White Sox, he was down from 100 percent ownership in ESPN standard mixed leagues to 94.2 percent. I had to laugh. It's one week!
LaRoche rarely seems to get the credit he deserves, but there was nothing fluky about his 33-homer, 100-RBI season from 2012. It wasn't the first time the underrated LaRoche delivered a similar season; he has five 25-homer campaigns (for four different franchises), and he's not a batting average liability. I thought numerous older yet power-laden first basemen fell too far in drafts this season (Paul Konerko, Ryan Howard, Lance Berkman). LaRoche is relatively safe, so check your league(s) and see whether he recently became available.
On Tuesday, LaRoche registered his first hits of the young season, taking right-hander Jake Peavy deep in the sixth inning and then doing the same to tough lefty Matt Thornton two frames later. The homer versus Thornton is especially telling, though it's worth noting that the lefty-swinging LaRoche didn't have trouble against lefties in 2012. He hit 11 home runs off them, a mark eclipsed by only three other left-handed hitters: Adam Dunn, Curtis Granderson and Josh Reddick. That trio combined to hit .216 against lefties (and not much better overall, for that matter), while LaRoche hit .268 against them and .271 overall. That matters. Owning Dunn can be painful. Owning LaRoche last season certainly was not.
My preseason take on LaRoche was that there was little reason to fear poor numbers from him based on his track record and the depth of offensive talent surrounding him in D.C. Plus, he might seem brittle because he missed most of 2011, but in the other seven seasons since 2005, he has averaged 147 games. I don't really know what he has to do to earn more respect in the fantasy world, but one would think his Tuesday performance will inch him back to that 100 percent ownership mark.
Box score bits (NL): Tim Lincecum and Josh Beckett faced off last week, and neither pitched well. On Tuesday, they continued that trend. Beckett's velocity remains down, and I don't trust him even as a matchups starter. How many better matchups will there be than the Padres in San Diego? Lincecum allowed five runs in the second inning at home to Colorado and really can't stop walking people (11 walks, 11 K's in 11 innings). These aren't bounce-back sleepers, folks. ... The Atlanta Braves keep hitting rookie catcher Evan Gattis fourth, and he homered again Tuesday. Brian McCann (shoulder) might find himself in a platoon when he returns. I still wouldn't add Gattis in 10-team, one-catcher formats, though. He's not better than Jonathan Lucroy or Jesus Montero, the two most dropped catchers. ... New York Mets right-hander Dillon Gee is a reliable strikethrower, but he was around the plate a bit too much Tuesday, as the Philadelphia Phillies tagged him for 10 hits, three of them home runs, in three messy innings. Gee became a strikeout pitcher last season, but I'm not buying it. ... Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura doubled and tripled Tuesday, as he continues to impress. I view him as a 30-steal guy, though he hasn't run much yet. Let's just say he's no light-hitting Alex Gonzalez.
Box score bits (AL): You might be wondering who Texas Rangers right-hander Nick Tepesch is after he tossed seven strong innings Tuesday to beat the Tampa Bay Rays. Tepesch is hittable and doesn't pile on the strikeouts, and while he won a rotation spot this spring, he's hardly overpowering or reliable. Leave him on free agency unless he's facing Houston. ... Then again, if you thought Seattle Mariners rookie Brandon Maurer would be a great spot-start option against those pitiful Astros on Tuesday, your ERA is hurting now. Maurer didn't escape the first inning. The Astros had scored 17 runs in seven games, and added 16 more Tuesday. I liked Maurer in the spring, but one must think he's likely headed to Triple-A after this disaster. ... Powerful Astros outfielder Chris Carter slugged a pair of home runs in the 16-9 win, and there should be 20 more pending. I thought it was interesting that catcher Jason Castro was elevated to the No. 3 lineup spot. Why not, right? Castro had a few hits. Hope you're not a Brett Wallace owner presuming he played a major role in the 22-hit attack; he whiffed four times in four at-bats and is batting .048. ... White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham left Tuesday's game with a wrist injury. He was off to a superficial start to the season, with a bunch of singles but little else. If he needs to miss time, the White Sox could promote Tyler Greene, who was dumped by the Astros a few weeks ago. If Greene can't make the Astros, how can he help a fantasy team? Well, he did produce 11 home runs and 12 steals in 305 big league at-bats last season. ... Andy Pettitte (2-0, 1.20 ERA) is No. 5 on the most added list among starting pitchers. I drafted him on multiple teams late. He might get hurt at some point, but he won't hurt you when healthy.
Eric Karabell has the fantasy-relevant notes from Tuesday's games, including a reminder of how good Adam LaRoche can be.