Friday, June 21, 2013
Bits: Thoughts on Pence, Gallardo ...
By Eric Karabell
Two San Francisco Giants outfielders were 13th-round picks, on average, in ESPN standard drafts for this season, which surprised me a bit. One was Hunter Pence, who I thought was seriously underrated on draft day. He made my top 100, and while I didn't expect the onslaught of stolen bases -- he's 13-for-13! -- Pence had enough of a track record that I was willing to trust him for modest power and safe batting average. It has worked out. For Angel Pagan, I wasn't as much of a fan, but given his potential to record 30 steals and score 90 runs, the 13th round seemed about right.
On Thursday night, while Pence was going hitless in a dreary 2-1 loss to the Miami Marlins, dropping his still-excellent batting average to .287, Pagan was rehabbing his injured hamstring for high Class A San Jose, with the goal of returning to the Giants perhaps as soon as this weekend. Well, I'm no doctor, but after Pagan reinjured the hamstring while running out a grounder in the ninth inning, and needed to be carted off the field, I'm assuming this weekend -- or perhaps any 2013 weekend -- is out of the question. There has been discussion that Pagan will need surgery to fix the problem. Regardless, as tough as it might be based on draft-day value and expectations, pending news this weekend could result in most Pagan owners moving on, so be prepared.
[+]Enlarge AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezSpeedy Peter Bourjos, a potential long-term replacement for Angel Pagan, is owned in just 9.6 percent of ESPN standard leagues.
Stay tuned, but Pagan is owned in roughly half of standard ESPN leagues, and now doesn't appear to be a wise time to invest in a player ESPN Fantasy projected to hit .275 with 30 steals and 80 runs scored. It might be a good time to see if the mostly available Peter Bourjos, Leonys Martin, Tyler Colvin, Ichiro Suzuki and Pagan's center-field replacement, Gregor Blanco, are available, for each is among the top 30 outfielders on the Player Rater over the past 15 days. I like Bourjos the most here, even while admitting he could hit .250 the rest of the way, but colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft noted on Friday's Fantasy Focus podcast that he's investing in Texas' Martin. It makes sense, though Martin can't hit .365 with a .453 BABIP in home games forever.
There was instant speculation that a lengthy Pagan absence could result in a big league promotion for prospect Gary Brown, and while I suppose anything's possible, I'd caution fantasy owners about expecting too much there. People just love their prospects! But Brown, 24, is hitting a mere .241 for Triple-A Fresno, with 18 walks and 71 strikeouts. There's a power/speed combo there, but when you're 8-for-15 on steal attempts, the next step is often the red light. I think the Giants stick with Blanco in center field, though there have been reports about the team looking for an outfield upgrade if Pagan misses serious time. Cole Gillespie and Francisco Peguero are corner outfielders for the Fresno Grizzlies, but they likely wouldn't make a fantasy impact if called upon.
As for Pence, I wouldn't view him as the typical sell-high option, because what he's doing now certainly seems legit. He's the No. 8 outfielder on ESPN's Player Rater, and it's not outrageous to see that continuing. While it was reasonable to have concerns about his skills eroding a bit over time, playing full-time at AT&T Park wasn't a concern of mine. Pence's struggles in a small sample size for the eventual champs in 2012 seemed as aberrant as Marco Scutaro doing the opposite in his brief time for them. This year Pence is hitting .281 in home games, with modest power. He's also back to clubbing left-handed pitching, which means to provide good numbers he needs to be merely average against right-handers, which he has been. Pence has cut into his strikeout rate and improved his contact rates to pre-2012 levels, making it look like it was just one bad year. Pence's fielding metrics are excellent as well. Point is, he's on pace for 25 home runs, 86 RBIs and 29 steals, and while I'll take the under on the steals, this is all legit.
Box score bits (NL):Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez homered and knocked in five runs Thursday. Sure, this is far from a perfect player -- for instance, check his OBP and watch him attempt to play defense -- but he's on pace for 36 home runs and 107 RBIs. That kind of production still must be owned in all leagues. Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo had another strong outing Thursday, allowing three runs (none earned) in seven innings. Gallardo has lowered his ERA to 4.09 with 21 consecutive innings sans an earned run, and he seems back on track, making his ascension to the top of the most-added list a wise one. I'd personally try to sell high right now, though, due to his decreased K rate, bad team, and usually high WHIP. The first Colorado Rockies start for Roy Oswalt was a mixed bag, I suppose. He fanned 11 Washington Nationals in five innings -- all but four outs recorded came on whiffs! -- but he was also pestered for nine hits and four runs. As noted in Thursday's blog entry, you don't activate Oswalt for future outings at Boston or Coors Field, certainly not if he's being hit like that in Washington. New York Mets lefty Jonathon Niese left Thursday's outing early with a sore shoulder. It would frankly be a surprise if a DL stint isn't pending, which is a shame because there was nice upside here. Move on.
Box score bits (AL): So much for Chicago White Sox lefty John Danks appearing reliable again. Danks entered Thursday with a 0.97 WHIP in five starts, then watched the Minnesota Twins slug four home runs among 12 hits against him in his five innings. Stay far away. One of the home runs was hit by outfielder Oswaldo Arcia, his fifth. Arcia has 20-homer upside for those in deep leagues. Detroit Tigers lefty Jose Alvarez struggled with his command Thursday, needing 85 pitches to get through five reasonable innings. He should get another start to prove himself, and his minor league stats this season (2.78 ERA, 84 K's in 81 innings) were excellent. No, I am not the least bit concerned about King Felix Hernandez blowing a seven-run lead Thursday and having the Los Angeles Angels swing and miss at only one of his 25 fastballs. His velocity is still up; it was just one of those nights. Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager homered and doubled twice in the 10-9 loss. Seager might be disappointing some, but he's having a better year than he did in 2012. Buy low still.