My apologies, Mr. Freese

My apologies, Mr. Freese

Published Apr. 12, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Dear David Freese,

Word on the street says you’re not thrilled with me. Allegedly, last week I proclaimed your playoff heroics correlated to an elevated and unwarranted standing this season, writing a check that your injury-prone body could not cash. I advised owners not to buy the hype, that you best served their team riding the pine the first few weeks until you proved your merit.

To say you’ve taken this challenge to heart would be like saying Sofia Vergara is kind of cute. You answered, and answered with vigor, hitting .444 with three long balls and 10 RBI in the Cards’ first six games of the season. More importantly, you have given the St. Louis fan base reason to believe the club can compete sans Albert Pujols. I guess what I’m trying to say is:

I’m stupid. You’re smart. I was wrong. You were right. You’re the best. I’m the worst. You’re very good-looking, and I’m not attractive…


While my ego wants to warn your proprietors to pump the breaks on the small sample size, I’ve learned my lesson. Never again will I defy you, and consider me one of your biggest proponents.



Start ‘Em

C: Josh Thole, Mets
Thole has proven in the past his prowess at the plate, hitting .271 in 187 games the past two seasons in Queens. Even after his o-fer against Washington on Wednesday, Thole is hitting .429 with a .500 OBP through the first week of the season. The New York backstop is owned in less than five percent of fantasy leagues, so for those in NL-only formats or owners in need of a dependable backup backstop, Thole is your man. Batting near the bottom of the Mets lineup, he won’t provide much run or RBI support, but he will assist in average.

1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt’s eight home runs in just 156 at bats last season in the desert is well noted, but did you know the Arizona first baseman hit 30 jacks with a .305 average and .435 OBP in 103 games in the minors in 2011? The reason I reference this element is Goldschmidt’s free-swinging philosophy (five strikeouts on the season, with 53 whiffs last year at the big-league level) has owners worried that it could correlate to low average and on-base output. He’ll have his fair share of strikeouts, yet hitting fifth in a loaded Diamondbacks lineup should negate any limitations brought on by his Ks.

2B: Omar Infante, Marlins
And not just because of the bomb barrage. Infante’s .298 BABIP in 2011 was considerably lower than his past marks of .355 in 2010, .339 in 2009 and .327 in 2008, meaning the multi-purpose Marlin is likely to see a bump from last year’s .276 batting average. His OBP is not much to speak of, and he likely won’t see a plethora of runs batting seventh; still, Infante did hit over .300 the past two seasons, good enough to give him solid rank among fantasy second baseman. If you’re in a 12-team or deeper league, give Infante a look, assuming he hasn’t been picked up yet. Speaking of which, is there anything worse than the guy in fantasy leagues who picks up a pedestrian player who has a strong start to the season and proceeds to try and trade said player for one of your studs? Literally had someone offer me Tommy Hunter for Desmond Jennings last night, a proposition so ridiculous that it led me to compose a 500-word email that included mentions of the Manhattan Deal and eight or nine demeaning comments toward his family. Man, do I hate “that guy.”

3B: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
He has just as many hits as strikeouts (seven), and his OBP is non-existent. Despite these detriments, Encarnacion has been effective in the fantasy realm thanks to six RBI, two stolen bases and a home run. His career high in swipes is just eight, but the AL East is hardly a hotbed for defensively dexterous catchers, meaning that mark could easily be topped in 2012. Throw in the fact that Encarnacion bats in the heart of a secretly formidable Blue Jays lineup and there’s no reason why Easy Edwin should be sitting on the fantasy bench.

SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees
Granted, the Captain’s .370 average through six games is aided by a 4-for-4 performance. However, considering Jeter was hitting .250 at the end of April last season, I don’t think too many owners will belabor the issue. The 12-time All-Star continues to command the leadoff spot in an order that was second on the Junior Circuit in runs in 2011, and even at 37 is likely to contribute a dozen or more steals. For those thinking that Jeter’s age prohibits the shortstop from playing an integral role in rotisserie this campaign, think again. Speaking of geriatrics…

OF: Ichiro, Mariners
Little bit of a mixed bag for Ichiro, as the perennial hits leader has four games without a base knock this season. But in the games where he has registered a hit? Rake city, baby. Roller coaster ride aside, the Seattle outfielder is hitting .310 with three RBI, four runs and a stolen base. In his new role batting third for the Mariners, Ichiro probably won’t submit the swipe totals of years’ past, yet you better believe he will be sending ribbies your way like never before. Seattle has upcoming battles against Oakland, Cleveland and Chicago, three squads that boast less than daunting rotations. Anticipate Ichiro to capitalize on this venture.

SP: Danny Duffy, Royals
You’re damn right I said Danny Duffy, who’s owned in a whopping 1.6 percent of leagues. It’s easy to dismiss Duffy’s first start (six innings, one hit, four walks, eight Ks) as it came against the lowly A’s, who flaunt the talented but unproven Yoenis Cespedes and handful of spare parts. What you can’t ignore: Duffy’s 407 strikeouts and 1.10 WHIP in 350 minor-league innings. Just 23, Duffy was the No. 68 prospect heading into 2011 by Baseball America, and could be a sneaky source of wins once the Kansas City lineup begins to hit. His next start looks ominous against Detroit, but in AL-only leagues, the strikeouts could be worth the gamble.

RP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
No, he’s not the closer, and the way Sean Marshall has begun the year, that tide ain’t turning anytime soon. Yet even in leagues that don’t account for holds, Chapman’s absurd strikeout rate (18 K/9 through five innings) makes him a must-own. Factor in the transient nature of the Cincinnati offense, which has already correlated to two last-inning victories and thus two W’s for Chapman, and it is possible the Cuban Missile could finish as a top-15 relief fantasy arm.

Sit ‘Em

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox
Maybe it’s a little too easy to pile on Red Sox Nation, considering their 1-5 start and baseball-worst run differential of -16. Still, hard to advise owners to start Salty, with just one hit and six strikeouts on the season. The Boston backstop did have a career-high 16 homers last season, but also submitted a .235 batting average. Unless you’re in a super-deep league or AL-only format, there’s no justification for owning Saltalamacchia at this moment.

1B: Mark Trumbo, Angels
He may be dangerous to the opposition at the plate, but he’s even more dangerous to his own team when in the field, with three errors in just two games. The Angels DH spot is already clogged with Kendrys Morales and Bobby Abreu, and Alberto Callaspo, while not possessing the same plate proficiency as Trumbo, can man a mistake-free third base. Until he vastly improves his glove, Trumbo won’t sniff consistent playing time. And if that’s the case, he’s not worth the roster spot. On the bright side, his defensive deficiency and hulking appearance reminds one of Rube Baker from Major League II, so he’s got that going for him.

2B: Jason Kipnis, Indians
Ugh, I passed on a number of viable second baseman in an auction league in the belief that I could snag Kipnis with a low bid near the end of the draft. Sure enough, I secured the Indian’s services for $3. Through 21 at bats and a .095 batting average, it’s looking like my worst investment of three bucks since I bought a pair of “Faux-kleys” at a Little League baseball game (they broke within the hour). On the bright side, Kipnis has Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland and Kansas City again on the slate the next two weeks. On the down side, he’s still batting .095. Also in my fantasy dog house…

3B: Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
Not exactly helping my ball club out with that stellar .091 average, Aramis. He does have five RBI in the first six games, but, call me crazy, I don’t like owning players rocking marks under the Mendoza Line. He’s scheduled for an off-day on Thursday, so hopefully the time on the sidelines lets the Silver Slugger get his game back on track.

SS: J.J. Hardy, Orioles
Hardy has two blasts on the season, yet not sure that nullifies his .200 average and .286 OBP. Not the easiest stretch ahead for Hardy either, with talented rotations in Toronto and Anaheim in nine of the next 13 contests. Shortstop is a position short on offensive instruments, and Hardy is a top-15 performer; alas, unless he replicates 2011’s 30 home runs, he won’t live up to his billing this season.

OF: Drew Stubbs, Reds
One ubiquitous fallacy the sports world (front offices, players, media, fans) is routinely guilty of is the belief that a younger player will improve strictly because the calendar has turned. This misconception is fairly explainable: another year to mature, advance one’s skills, etc. Unfortunately, this sentiment is theory, not law, for some players simply never progress. Case in point: Mr. Stubbs. After a highly-touted tour in the minors, Stubbs impressed in an abbreviated appearance in the Queen City in 2009, hitting eight round-trippers with 10 steals and 27 runs in 42 games. In his first full season in the Bigs the following summer, Stubbs posted a prosaic line of .255/.329/.444 and owned a massive strikeout total of 168, but did manage 22 homers and 30 steals. In 2011, the Cincinnati center fielder regressed, with a batting string of .243/.321/.364, 15 homers, 40 swipes and a league-leading 205 whiffs. Through 22 at bats in 2012? Just four hits versus five strikeouts. Baseball pundits keep waiting for Stubbs to transform into a fantasy stud, but for someone who’s turning 28 in the fall, I don’t think this development will come to pass.

SP: Ervin Santana, Angels
Santana was viewed as a possibly beneficiary from an enhanced lineup, and this certainly can come to fruition. Just don’t picture this advancement going down in April, as Santana historically struggles during this month (4.89 ERA during April in 2011 compared to a 3.08 mark the rest of the season).

RP: Joel Peralta, Rays
Sorry, Peralta fans. For now, it appears Fernando Rodney is the Tampa fireman. In deeper leagues, it may be worth holding on to Peralta, as Rodney is far from what we in the business call “reliable.” Unfortunately, until that meltdown occurs, Peralta’s value is extremely diminished.

Waivers Watch: Zach Cozart, Reds
As bad as my counsel was in regards to Freese’s deployment, the guidance to start Cozart (10-for-22, six runs, .520 OBP) almost annuls that blunder. Almost.

Owners must not be buying into the Cozart Era yet, evidenced by the fact the Cincy shortstop is owned in less than 45 percent of leagues. For what it’s worth, Cozart appears to have the two-slot in the batting order tied down, and the Reds were second in the National League in runs in 2011. Great American Ball Park will facilitate its’ share of homers, meaning Cozart could contribute in more ways than just average. No matter what format, Cozart is a must-have.

The Real Debate
Ozzie Guillen’s comments have him in hot water again, not just with baseball, but with the Miami fan base and Cuban Americans. But our little fantasy segment is not meant to handle matters of such serious nature. Rather, the Real Debate is this: where have all the players with impeccable wit gone? Has society curbed our sense of humor, or is Twitter now the preferred outlet to profess such thoughts? Seems like the best quotes come from announcers or retired players rather than current stars. A damn shame, too.

Rookie Review: Tommy Milone, A’s
Not bad for his Oakland debut: just three hits and three walks in eight shutout innings to earn a 1-0 win over the Royals. Milone came over from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade, and had a quietly effective spring training (4.91 ERA but 0.95 WHIP) to earn a spot in the rotation. For fantasy, Milone will need to accumulate a few more Ks to become relevant, and the Oakland offense won’t do him any favors in the win column. Yet in AL-only formats, put Milone on the watch list, as another solid start could earn him a roster spot.

Trade Talk
It’s easy to be frustrated with failing fantasy players (read: Kipnis, Jason); however, the last thing you want to do is pull the trigger on a trade that nets seventy cents on the dollar for one of your assets. Remember that fantasy is a marathon, not a sprint. Wait until the middle of May before jettisoning one of your disappointing possessions. Even you, Kipnis.

This Week in Sam LeCure
Mixed bag for LeCure in the first week. He surrendered a homer and two runs in two innings of work against Miami, but bounced back against the Cardinals, striking out three in one inning.

More importantly, reader Deagran (yep, that’s how the email was titled) posed the following question: “Who wins in a mustache-off: Lecure, Ron Swanson or Ron Burgundy?”

Easy: we all do, Deagran. We all do.

LeCure’s Stats: 3.0 innings, 6.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, three strikeouts
Batters Made Look Like a Fool: Five.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Barry Zito, Giants
Oh my, a Barry Zito sighting! The 2002 AL Cy Young winner awoke from a seemingly five-year hibernation and submitted a gem, surrendering just four hits and striking out four in a complete game shutout against the Rockies. It was Zito’s first shutout since 2003 and just the second shutout posted in Coors Field history by a left-handed pitcher. And you thought the Giants didn’t know what they were doing when they handed Zito that nine-figure deal.

Spit Your Tobacco at: Me
Seriously David Freese, we get it. Please, please stop making me look ridiculous every at bat. My bearded photo above this article clearly takes care of that task.

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