Thursday, August 22, 2013
Bits: Heyward out; Cubs' Castro slumping
By Eric Karabell
It's really a shame that Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward had his jaw broken by a Jonathon Niese pitch Wednesday afternoon, because Heyward was playing well, and now his regular season is likely over. Oh, you won't find his name among the top 50 outfielders on the Player Rater for the season, but look for the past 30 days and there he is among the top 10. A top-30 pick in ESPN average live drafts, Heyward was awful in April, needed an emergency appendectomy, didn't hit when he initially returned, then missed more time because of a hamstring injury. And now he's done and should be dropped in all leagues.
Just don't let your final memory of Heyward be of his struggles this season, because there remains a bright future here. He's not likely to crack my top 10 outfielders or overall top 30 for next season, because it's pretty hard to tell if he's a base stealer or not, and that matters. But look what Heyward had done since June 1: .300 average, 11 home runs. And since the All-Star break he was hitting .323 with a .973 OPS and six home runs in 24 starts. As a leadoff hitter, he was exactly what the Braves needed, with a .349 batting average -- tops in baseball with a minimum 50 plate appearances -- and a .417 OBP in the role. Heyward is still a mere 24 years old. It's hard to tell if he will steal 20 bases or two in future seasons, and that alone is enough to move the likes of Carlos Gomez and Starling Marte ahead of him, but don't give up on the potential for 30-homer seasons and .300 batting averages in the future. He'll likely make my overall top 50 next season.
The Braves can afford Heyward's regular-season loss since the NL East division is all but locked up. The internal beneficiary is speedy Jordan Schafer, a lefty hitter with a .315 batting average against right-handed pitching this season and enough speed to matter in deeper fantasy leagues. Frankly, Schafer is outplaying wealthy free-agent flop B.J. Upton, but each is likely to see regular playing time moving forward. Schafer is 11th in batting average among leadoff hitters (minimum 50 plate appearances) this season, and he does take walks. Evan Gattis could play more as well, but that's not really a good thing; as expected, he regressed quickly and in an ugly way after being a fan fave in April, and is hitting .238 with one home run since the All-Star break. Joey Terdoslavich has some pop and plate discipline, and deserves more playing time. The Braves will be fine, and Heyward should return for the playoffs.
[+]Enlarge US PresswireLikely Heyward replacement, Jordan Schafer, has 13 steals despite having just 145 at-bats.
Box-score bits (NL): Overshadowed by the Heyward injury was Niese tossing seven strong innings of one-run ball, fanning nine. Niese was the No. 40 starting pitcher in ESPN ADP, but hasn't pitched like it. However, in three starts since coming off the DL he has fanned 23 hitters in 19 innings. It's not too late for him to help mixed-league owners. Same with Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who slugged his second home run in three games, a three-run blast off Jake Westbrook on Wednesday. Ramirez is also not having a good season, but he was a seventh-round pick in ESPN ADP for a reason. He should be owned in more than 62 percent of leagues. Yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates leadoff hitter Wednesday was Felix Pie, former tantalizing fantasy prospect. Now 28, Pie replaces Starling Marte, out with a finger injury for hopefully just a few days. Pie stole 38 bases at Triple-A Indianapolis, so that's what he potentially offers NL-only owners if he plays. He scored the lone Bucs run and was caught stealing Wednesday. Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro led off Wednesday, just one day after batting eighth. No matter, he's having a miserable season, and he entered play with one hit in 27 at-bats. He singled in five at-bats Wednesday, and remains droppable in mixed leagues.
[+]Enlarge Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesIchiro Suzuki ranks a respectable 47th among outfielders on the ESPN Player Rater.
Box-score bits (AL): Congrats to New York Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki for achieving 4,000 hits between MLB and Japan's Pacific League. Suzuki singled in four at-bats Wednesday and is hitting .274 for the season. He's obviously not what he used to be, but he still runs a bit and doesn't hurt a fantasy team. Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew, a lefty hitter, earned the start Wednesday against San Francisco Giants lefty Barry Zito. After Zito was pounded, Drew smacked a three-run homer off lefty Michael Kickham. The story here is that prospect Xander Bogaerts didn't start. He's becoming popular in standard leagues, but don't expect much. Red Sox lefty Felix Doubront won his ninth game, tossing eight innings of one-run ball. Doubront had pitched poorly of late, and his WHIP remains way too high for standard formats, but he's a decent strikeout source. Seattle Mariners outfielder Michael Morse homered in his first at-bat Wednesday, breaking an 0-for-16 string over the past week. Morse is on ESPN's most-dropped list, and for good reason, but remember that he's a streaky power hitter, and be ready to add him if he gets hot.