Thursday, June 20, 2013
Bits: Roy Oswalt set for 2013 debut
By Eric Karabell
The distinguished career of right-hander Roy Oswalt takes another turn Thursday, as he's scheduled to make his debut for the Colorado Rockies, facing right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and the uninspiring Washington Nationals lineup on the road. To fantasy owners who know of Oswalt's achievements, it might seem like a wonderful opportunity to sign someone for free and hope to cash in on upside, as if they were signing a rookie like Zack Wheeler or Gerrit Cole. The difference is Oswalt is 35, and, well, he'll have to pitch in Coors Field at some point.
Although it's easy to be dismissive about Oswalt's chances for success because of his home venue and the fact that his ERA was a bloated 5.80 over 59 hittable innings for the Texas Rangers last season, fantasy owners shouldn't rule him out altogether. I'm not saying I think his latest comeback will yield such attractive results that he'll be the signing of the year, but is he spot-starter material Thursday? Well, yes, he is.
Oswalt's stuff was lacking two seasons ago in Philadelphia, and it showed in his depressed strikeout rate, but he was pitching through a back injury that certainly played a role. Then again, it's unlikely Oswalt stays healthy enough to remain a member of the Rockies' rotation, as the Rangers found out in 2012. Oswalt joined the Rangers around this time last June and mixed in decent outings with truly terrible ones, including an 11-run (nine earned) outburst at the Chicago White Sox and an eight-run home debacle against the Los Angeles Angels. He was better out of the bullpen (3.65 ERA, 20 K's in 12 1/3 innings), but the Rockies intend to start him. Ultimately, the strikeouts per inning rate was encouraging, as was a 3.27 xFIP, and there was bad luck with a .378 BABIP against, but Coors Field eats up hittable pitchers.
Don't expect a ton of runs to be scored in Thursday's Nationals-Rockies game, making Oswalt a reasonable spot starter. Detroit Tigers rookie Jose Alvarez is as well, and I and Daily Notes writer AJ Mass would prefer him, but don't drop a top-60 starting pitcher for either. Oswalt has pitched well over five starts for Double-A Tulsa with a 2.16 ERA (though his FIP was nearly double), and there's little risk for the Rockies in seeing what he's got. It's not like Jeff Francis was Clayton Kershaw. The Nationals don't score much as it is. Would I consider Oswalt next Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox or against the awesome Yasiel Puig and his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates at Coors after that? As of today, there's no way. Let's be realistic, but see how Thursday goes.
[+]Enlarge AP Photo/Darron CummingsVeteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer has bounced back nicely after hitting just .260 last season.
Box score bits (NL): As for Wednesday's games, check out Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer and his impressive 17-game hitting streak. Cuddyer, who is hitting .337 and ranks 18th among outfielders on the ESPN Player Rater for the season, has reached base in 36 consecutive games, just five off the club record. And the club has had plenty of offense over the years. I'd still trade for Cuddyer. Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez finally looked terrific Wednesday, hitting nearly everything hard at Yankee Stadium. Ramirez homered among four hits in the first game of the doubleheader, then had two more hits and two RBIs in the nightcap. A healthy Ramirez would have been drafted as a top-five middle infielder, and while he might not run much given his hamstring problems this season, there remains major upside. Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Jeff Locke continues to laugh at those awaiting his downfall. He tossed seven shutout innings at Cincinnati on Wednesday and would have earned his seventh win had closer Jason Grilli not permitted a Jay Bruce home run. Locke barely cracks 90 mph with his fastball, but he keeps the ball in the park. I still think his ERA from here on out will look more like his xFIP (4.06), but even that is usable. The New York Mets debuted Tuesday acquisition Eric Young Jr. in center field and as their leadoff hitter, and he singled in four at-bats. He's hardly a great baseball player, but he can steal 20 bases. So can San Diego Padres infielder Pedro Ciriaco, the team's new shortstop with Everth Cabrera on the DL. Ciriaco is the better short-term bet, frankly. Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Trevor Cahill threw only one inning Wednesday -- he left after a line drive struck his hip -- but he's expected to make his next start. Don't get excited about right-hander Josh Collmenter, who followed with six shutout innings of relief. It's the Miami Marlins, people.
Box score bits (AL): Fantasy owners seem to want to trust Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello, and there was reason to do that since he entered Wednesday's outing against the Baltimore Orioles with a 1.33 ERA over four outings, plus 30 strikeouts in 27 innings. Then the Orioles shelled him for six runs. Porcello is a different pitcher this season, but he likes to remind his owners from time to time that he's just not safe. Just when you're prepared to give up on Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, he steals two more bases Wednesday. Hosmer has seven steals on the season, and he's not hurting your team's batting average, but it's tough to rely on a first baseman with two home runs. How about a first baseman with three home runs? Minnesota Twins veteran Justin Morneau cracked No. 3 Wednesday, and he might even hit .300 this season, but if he can't reach 10 home runs, do you want him in your mixed-league corner slot? Rangers left fielder David Murphy is in danger of losing playing time to rookie Jurickson Profar, so of course he got three hits Wednesday. He's still hitting only .218, but he has been reliable in the past. Murphy is someone to speculatively buy low on. Speaking of struggling Rangers, Lance Berkman hit his sixth home run of the season Wednesday, and half have come off lefty pitchers. Really, Lance? Berkman's current OPS is 162 points higher against lefties than right-handers, which is contrary to his career marks. If you're avoiding Berkman in daily leagues against left-handed pitching, don't.