Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Bits: Werth, Harper deliver for Nationals
By Eric Karabell
While Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper made news Monday by coming off the disabled list and -- naturally -- smacking an opposite-field home run in his very first at-bat, fellow outfielder Jayson Werth was the one who finished with an eye-opening five RBIs as the team dismantled overrated Yovani Gallardo and the Milwaukee Brewers. There seems to be little to say about Harper; despite him missing all of June with knee woes, I still think he's going to hit 30 home runs and garner MVP votes when the Nationals make a playoff run. He's universally owned and I'd buy low, especially in a dynasty league, because he's a first-round pick perhaps as soon as 2014.
With Werth, however, I'm more inclined to take his excellent work from the past two days and sell high, and quickly. For one, it's tough to generate optimism about his health. Werth missed half of last season after breaking his left wrist on a defensive play, and after serving a disabled list stint for a hamstring injury most of this May, he hurt his groin a few weeks later. The guy is 34 years old. On Monday, Werth singled and doubled in five at-bats, a day after he singled, homered, walked twice and scored four runs in a demolition of the New York Mets.
However, entering Sunday, Werth was hitting .265 and had fanned 10 times in his previous four games. Two effective games against poor pitching can't fix everything. I get to see Werth play quite a bit, and it's not just his durability issues that bother me. He doesn't steal bases anymore, he strikes out a lot and doesn't hit many fly balls, making me skeptical that he'll reach 20 home runs. What he earns from the Nationals is irrelevant to fantasy owners, but the fact he's owned in 85 percent of fantasy leagues seems a bit generous as well, compared to his production. Werth made colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft's top 50 outfielders last week, but he's not in mine. I'd rather have the following outfielders owned in fewer ESPN standard leagues: B.J. Upton, Leonys Martin, Melky Cabrera, Kyle Blanks, Nick Swisher, Rajai Davis and Chris Carter.
[+]Enlarge AP Photo/Alan Diaz After finishing 31st among starting pitchers on the ESPN Player Rater last season, Yovani Gallardo sits at 113th among SPs this season.
As for the erratic Gallardo, I noted a few weeks ago when he was on a streak of having not permitted an earned run over 21 innings that he was far from an ace, far from reliable and far from a buy-low choice. On Monday, the right-hander gave up nine hits, two walks and eight runs in three innings, looking rather disinterested along the way. The prior outing, the Chicago Cubs -- another team not exactly close to the league leaders in runs scored -- enjoyed eight hits, four walks and five runs (three earned) in four frames. The Brewers are a mess, but Gallardo isn't helping matters with a 1.46 WHIP. I'd move on. Don't be surprised if the Brewers do as well, and a change of scenery -- with the potential for improved strikeout rate -- could turn things around in this case.
Box score bits (NL): Brewers infielder Juan Francisco hit his 10th home run Monday after hitting three solo shots last week. Francisco will never draw many walks or hit for a high average, but he's playing regularly and Corey Hart is out for the season (drop him). There could be another 15 home runs in Francisco this season. Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez tossed eight shutout innings against the San Diego Padres on Monday, earning his fifth win. Fernandez struck out 10 for the second time in four outings. This guy is good, and concerns of run support and a truncated September are overrated. Enjoy the fine numbers and worry about September later. Fernandez last permitted a home run in May! Don't get enamored with Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis despite his seven RBIs in two days. He's still hitting .154. I would never have gone near Padres right-hander Jason Marquis to start with, but his seven walks Monday added to his league-leading total. His ERA is 3.74, but don't let that fool you. The 1.47 WHIP is terrible and a far better gauge. Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo continues to struggle in the No. 2 lineup spot; he was hitless Monday, and in seven starts covering 26 at-bats, he has just three hits. Why move him from leadoff? Well, I wouldn't have! Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander J.J. Putz resumed closing Monday, but he blew the save against the Mets. Manager Kirk Gibson probably will stick with Putz, as it's not as though Heath Bell or David Hernandez is thriving. I'm not really buying low on Putz.
Box score bits (AL):New York Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte became the all-time strikeout leader in franchise history Monday, but the overall outing was far from historic. He allowed six hits, four walks and four runs in five innings, struggling with command. Pettitte doesn't even look like a decent fantasy spot starter anymore. Detroit Tigers lefty Jose Alvarez was an intriguing two-start option this week, but the first outing Monday went poorly, and might preclude a second one from happening. Alvarez was tuned up for five runs (four earned) by the Toronto Blue Jays. Alvarez was terrific at Triple-A Toledo, but it's not translating to the majors. Meanwhile, the Tigers might not get right-hander Anibal Sanchez back as soon as they'd like. Sanchez, working his way back from shoulder woes for Class-A Lakeland on Monday, left early when a line drive struck his calf. Stay tuned. Sanchez is having a terrific season and should remain 100 percent owned. With Evan Longoria out of the lineup Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays inserted rookie Wil Myers into the No. 3 lineup spot, and he knocked in a run and walked twice. Myers had walked one time in his first 13 games. Longoria is day-to-day with a foot injury, and expects to avoid the DL. It's not as though we've heard that line with Longoria before, have we?