Friday, July 5, 2013
Morneau shows pop; Straily fires gem
By Eric Karabell
Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau smacked 19 home runs last season, which isn't really all that much for a former MVP or even a regular at his position, but it helped make him worth owning in deeper fantasy leagues. It also gave hope that he had overcome his concussion woes and could return to greater relevancy. Morneau used to be a fantastic player, complete with a sweet swing that generated power and occasionally high batting averages. But he entered Thursday with a mere four home runs this season, which is awfully low, and not so attractive for fantasy owners unless it comes with a .330 batting average or many stolen bases.
Morneau blasted two home runs in Thursday's 9-5 loss to the New York Yankees, which once again offers hope to his owners and those seeing his noteworthy name on free agency. Oooh, what if this is the start of something big? Well, it certainly could be, but let's be honest, I'm just happy Morneau is hitting fly balls again, because with his low rate, it's going to be tough to generate power. Morneau homered Sunday as well, but I admit it didn't trigger hopes of Chris Davis-like production for me. I saw the Independence Day home runs, one pulled to right field off right-hander David Phelps, the other a more majestic blast off strike-throwing lefty Boone Logan, and it did at least cross my mind that perhaps he has made signature adjustments, and there's something to watch here.
But do you remember the name Orlando Merced? I do, and I thought it was interesting that he was the last guy since September 1996 to have as many as 23 RBIs in a given month without hitting a home run before Morneau did it this May. It has been clear for a while that Morneau isn't hitting the ball far, but his May did remind us that he's hitting for average and knocking in runs. That still has value. Morneau is owned in more ESPN standard leagues than not, which says something, and he's hitting .284 and on pace for 99 RBIs. Is the power resurgence of late real? It's hard to know, but look at Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer and his outstanding play of late and realize that anything is possible. Keep an eye on Morneau, who is obvious trade bait for later this month; he's not as valuable as most of us would like, but he also shouldn't be written off.
[+]Enlarge Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images Dan Straily has a 1.15 WHIP after 13 starts this season.
Box score bits (AL): Twins rookie Kyle Gibson was hammered for 11 hits and eight runs in 5 1/3 innings, this coming after his successful first outing, when he beat the Royals. Gibson looks awfully hittable to me, including his straight fastball. I wouldn't go near him in a shallow league. I'd much rather invest in Oakland Athletics youngster Dan Straily, who permitted one single and no runs in seven winning innings Thursday. Straily has a high ERA, but a low WHIP. Always trust the WHIP, especially for a strikeout pitcher. Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind missed a few days this week with back pain, and on Wednesday and Thursday he went hitless in a combined eight at-bats, with six strikeouts. There goes that pristine batting average. It's a shame, but run away. Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana has been pretty average this season, but he dominated the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, striking out 11 in seven shutout innings. Despite the showing, I view him as a spot starter. Good for Houston Astros infielder Brett Wallace. He homered twice Thursday and knocked in four runs, and while he still isn't walking since his recent promotion, at least he's not whiffing in half of his at-bats (see his April numbers). It wouldn't be shocking if he eventually figures things out. Thursday was yet another game in which Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Bourn reached base but did not steal one. Man, this is really getting old.
Box score bits (NL): Your big league leader in quality starts entering Friday is none other than Chicago Cubs lefty Travis Wood. Yep, wouldn't have called that one. Wood threw another gem Thursday, six shutout innings of three-hit ball at Oakland, but his teammates couldn't score. Wood isn't a fluke, but he hasn't won since May thanks to various reasons, including a lack of run support. He should be owned in all leagues, though. The Arizona Diamondbacks called up speedy outfielder Tony Campana on Wednesday, and in two games he has two stolen bases and was caught stealing once. He might not be in the big leagues for long, but after stealing 30 bases for the 2012 Chicago Cubs despite getting only 174 at-bats, it's clear what he offers. Heath Bell blew yet another save Thursday, and with J.J. Putz apparently in the doghouse, I'd speculatively add Josh Collmenter. No, he's not a star, but that probably doesn't matter to manager Kirk Gibson at this point. Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos came off the DL Thursday (hamstring) and had a homer among his three hits, knocking in five runs. Ramos is way off the radar now, but he was a promising offensive player -- for a catcher, anyway -- in 2011. He's not a bad second backstop in deeper formats now that he's apparently healthy.