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Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight 4/15: Brewers’ Ryan Braun, Twins’ Francisco Liriano Shine

Fri, Apr 16, 2010

Insiders Tonight

Image courtesy of: Steve Paluch

Fantasy Baseball Insiders’ 162-game journey is being put on hold for one night. While time didn’t allow the Insiders to score an entire game on Thursday, we did watch parts of multiple games.

For this reason, we’ll skip straight to the relevant player information from Thursday’s games.

Previous Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight updates:

 

HITTERS

Hitter of the day: Ryan Braun (4-for-5, BB, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI)

Ryan Braun went 4-for-5 against the Cubs on Thursday, raising his batting average to .378. Milwaukee’s left fielder now has seven runs, three HRs and 11 RBI through nine games. Top-five fantasy player? I think so.

Shin-Soo Choo went 2-for-4 with a HR and three RBI against the Rangers on Thursday. Cleveland’s No. 3 hitter is now batting .323 (10-for-31) with eight runs, three HRs, five RBI, and three steals through nine games.

As I mentioned in March, Choo has a legitimate shot at a 100-run, 20-HR, 100-RBI, 20-steal, .300-average season in 2010.

Jason Heyward went 2-for-3 with a run and two RBI against the Padres Thursday night. The 20-year-old now has a hit in six of his first nine games, and is batting .303 (10-for-33) with three homers and 12 RBI. The Braves’ right fielder could become the most fantasy-relevant 20-year-old in recent memory.

Robinson Cano continued his hot start to 2010 Thursday night, going 2-for-4 with two homers and three RBI. Notoriously known for being a second-half hitter, the Yankees’ second baseman appears primed for a monster season.

Alex Gonzalez collected four hits in five at-bats Thursday night, raising his average through 10 games to .349 (15-for-43). The 33-year-old shortstop now has eight runs, four HRs, seven RBI, and a stolen base, numbers similar to what Marco Scutaro surprisingly posted last April as Toronto’s shortstop.

2004 was the last time Gonzalez registered 450-plus at-bats, as he started all but two games for the Marlins that season, posting 23 HRs and 79 RBI. Gonzalez hit 16 bombs in 393 at-bats as recent as 2007, so perhaps 15 to 20 HRs is reasonable assuming he continues to play every day.

Gonzo’s .248 career average, however, suggests his hot-hitting is unlikely to continue. Ride it out for now, but don’t expect this production from him all year.

Cameron Maybin delivered his most productive game of the young season Thursday night, going 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs, and a solo HR. The Marlins’ center fielder is now batting .310 (13-for42), and has scored a run in nine consecutive games.

The 23-year-old Maybin oozes with talent, and is a legitimate 30/30 candidate in time. Keeper league players should snatch him up and hold on tight, as 2010 could be his breakout season.

Maybin’s teammate Jorge Cantu continued his historic run Thursday night, collecting a hit and RBI in his tenth consecutive game to start the season.

Though his power has fluctuated each season since 2005, the Marlins’ third baseman has 210 RBI and a .283 batting average since the start of 2008. “Sneaky good?” I suppose so.

PITCHERS

Pitcher of the day: Francisco Liriano (W, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K)

Francisco Liriano handled the Red Sox Thursday afternoon, allowing no runs on four hits in seven innings. The most encouraging stat, however, is the number of walks he issued: two. He also struck out eight.

If the 26-year-old southpaw can lower the 4.28 BB/9 that plagued him last season, he might be on his way to becoming a reliable fantasy option again. It is, however, just one start. Don’t get too excited yet.

Matt Harrison was the tough-luck loser in a pitcher’s duel between the Rangers and Indians Thursday afternoon. In seven innings, Harrison allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits and one walk.

Through two starts (against Seattle and Cleveland), the 6’4″ 240-pound southpaw has a 1.38 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. While he’s probably not as bad as his 2009 ERA of 6.11 suggests, he’s clearly not this good either. As Baseball America noted in 2008, Harrison is “likely a No. 4 or No. 5″ starter.

With matchups against the Yankees and Tigers in the near future, there’s a good chance the 24-year-old’s early success is about to end.

Opposing Harrison on the mound Thursday afternoon was Indians’ No. 4 starter David Huff. The 25-year-old needed just 104 pitches (71 strikes) to pitch his first career complete game. He allowed two runs on four hits and one walk, lowering his ERA and WHIP to 1.80 and 0.87, respectively.

While Huff has slightly more upside than Harrison – “the potential to develop into a No. 3 starter” according to Baseball America - keep expectations for him in check. Though he did post a 2.95 ERA, 8.1 K/9, and a 2.4 BB/9 in 250 career minor league innings, his early performance only warrants an add in leagues with 16 teams or more.

Astros’ starter Bud Norris silenced a red-hot Cardinals’ lineup on Thursday, allowing zero runs on four hits and three walks in five innings. The 24-year-old also struck out nine.

A sixth-round pick in 2006, Norris ranked as Houston’s No. 2 prospect last year according to Baseball America. Norris’ minor league stats, in addition to his 94 MPH fastball and hard, 88 MPH slider, suggest his high strikeout totals might be legit. Although his upside is the highest of the pitchers mentioned before him, Norris continues to post high walk rates. For now, he should be owned only in deep keeper leagues.

On a day full of unheralded pitching, Mike Pelfrey didn’t disappoint, shutting out a potent Colorado lineup for seven innings while allowing just five hits and zero walks. The 26-year-old also struck out six. Pelfrey now owns a 1.38 ERA and 1.00 WHIP through two starts.

The No. 9 overall pick in 2005 has failed to fulfill expectations in two seasons as a big-league starter, and two stellar outings to start 2010 hardly changes that. The brutal truth about Pelfrey is this: his stuff simply isn’t good enough. With a career batting average against of .284 and a career BB/9 of 3.43, the 6’7″ right-hander leaves much to be desired. Did I mention his career 1.49 WHIP?

Though he’s off to a nice start, Pelfrey is a long way from earning my trust.

With a 3.23 ERA and 13-2 record since last July, Jorge De La Rosa has drawn quite a following. While his high strikeout and win totals have some fantasy managers salivating, this Insider is unimpressed, and his performance against the Mets Thursday night demonstrated why.

In six innings, the 29-year-old southpaw allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits and five walks – that’s 13 base-runners – while recording five punch outs.

Although he owns a career K/9 that approaches eight, his career walk rate is a whopping 4.61. Be careful not to confuse him for an up-and-coming star, as 2010 is De La Rosa’s seventh season in the majors. Before he can become a trusted fantasy pitcher, he must lower his BB/9 into the 3.50 range, a feat he has yet to accomplish.

J.A. Happ needed 97 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings against the Nationals on Thursday. The 27-year-old southpaw allowed one unearned run on three hits and a whopping total of six walks.

Though he has yet to allow a run in 10 1/3 innings this season, I’m convinced he’s the luckiest pitcher in baseball. Despite posting a 2.93 ERA in 166 innings with the Phillies last season, his FIP was 4.33, giving him the biggest difference between the two categories among all starters.

Now is a great time to unload the Phillies’ No. 3 starter to an unsuspecting manager.

Dana Eveland impressed again Thursday night, allowing just two runs on three hits and three walks in six innings against the White Sox. The Toronto southpaw has a 1.35 ERA and 0.98 WHIP through two starts, but I’m not buying into him yet. Keep a cautious eye on the 26-year-old hurler.

Ben Sheets turned in an encouraging outing against Baltimore Thursday night, allowing zero runs on five hits and three walks in six innings to pick up his first win of the season. The 31-year-old worked mostly with just two pitches, his 90-91 MPH fastball and his mid-70′s 12-to-6 curve.

A little rust is expected since he missed all of 2009 while recovering from elbow surgery, making the 3.09 ERA and 1.15 WHIP he posted in 2008 easy to forget. With a little bit of luck, Sheets could become one of the great bargains of 2010.

Hiroki Kuroda pitched seven solid innings against the Diamondbacks Thursday night, allowing three runs (two earned) on 10 hits and zero walks. The 35-year-old also struck out seven. Kuroda now has a 1.20 ERA and 1.07 WHIP to go along with a stellar 14:1 K:BB ratio in 15 innings (two starts) this season.

The key to Kuroda’s unheralded success in his incredibly low walk rate. In 2009, he walked 24 batters in 20 starts, leading to a 1.14 WHIP. Despite his age, Kuroda is a solid No. 3 starter, and a guy worth targeting in all leagues.

Yankees’ fifth starter Phil Hughes allowed two runs on three hits and five walks against the Angels on Thursday, picking up the win in his first start of the season. The 2004 first-rounder also fanned six. It’s easy to forget that Hughes is just 23-years-old, and retains loads of upside.

RELIEVERS

Trevor Hoffman picked up his third save this season on Thursday, pitching a troublesome ninth against the Cubs. The all-time saves leader gave up two doubles on his way to allowing a run in his third consecutive appearance. While this is a bit concerning for the 42-year-old, Hoffman’s job as the Brewers’ closer is obviously safe.

Though he allowed his first run of the season, Nationals’ closer Matt Capps recorded a five-out save Thursday night, his fourth in as many chances.

His 2009 ERA (5.80) was clearly out of line with his 2008 (3.02) and 2007 (2.28) totals. Considering Capps’ performance thus far, it’s reasonable to expect 25 saves and a 3.50 ERA from the 26-year-old.

Chad Qualls blew his second consecutive save Thursday night, allowing two runs on three hits and a pair of walks in one inning. This is concerning news for Qualls’ owners, but to be fair, the Diamondbacks don’t have any reliable alternatives in their bullpen.

Check back all season long for more Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight updates!

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