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Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight 4/27: Who the Heck is Cliff Pennington?

Wed, Apr 28, 2010

Insiders Tonight

Image courtesy of: Yasuo Hirao

We’re putting our 162-game journey on hold Tuesday night, and instead Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight is covering parts of several games. Here’s everything you need to know from last night’s action around the league:

HITTERS

Hitter of the day: Cliff Pennington (4-for-5, R, HR, 4 RBI)

Batting leadoff for just the third time this season, Oakland shortstop Cliff Pennington recorded his first career four-hit game Tuesday night against the Rays. After blasting a three-run HR in the third inning, the switch-hitting 25-year-old ripped a ground-rule double to right, scoring two (though he was only credited with one RBI).

Pennington’s four-hit night raised his average to .265 with eight runs, three HRs, 15 RBI and two steals through 21 games. The 2005 first-rounder doesn’t possess any outstanding tools, though he could be a decent option at a scarce shortstop position in deep leagues this season.

David Wright was the star of Tuesday’s double-header against the Dodgers. The struggling third basemen went 4-for-6 with two runs, five RBI and a stolen base. Wright’s four-hit day raised his batting average from .222 to .261. Despite his early struggles, the 27-year-old is on a 600-at-bat pace of 88 runs, 26 HR, 132 RBI and 62 stolen bases.

Carlos Lee collected his second-consecutive two-hit game Tuesday night, and is now 8-for-20 since Lance Berkman returned to the Houston lineup last Tuesday. Lee is now batting .181, a mark that will continue to rise. (For more on Carlos Lee’s slow start, click here.)

Geovany Soto went 2-for-4 with an RBI against the Nationals Tuesday night. The Cubs’ backstop now has six multi-hit games in his last nine starts, and is batting .362 on the season. Soto’s plate discipline (15 walks, nine strikeouts, .516 OBP) has been the driving force as the 27-year-old is on his way to a bounce-back 2010 campaign.

Speaking of bounce-back seasons at the catcher position, Ryan Doumit launched his second HR of the season off Trevor Hoffman Tuesday night, a grand slam which broke a 3-3 tie in the ninth.

After his three-hit night, Doumit is now batting .286 and is sporting a seven-game hitting streak. The 29-year-old switch-hitter is always an injury risk, but remains a decent option as long as he is healthy.

Andy LaRoche went 4-for-5 with a run scored Tuesday night, batting second for the Pirates. The 26-year-old is a ridiculous 12-for-18 in his last four games, boosting his season average to .400.

Once the Dodgers’ top-ranked prospect (ahead of Clayton Kershaw and James Loney), regular playing time may finally allow LaRoche to shine. He’s unlikely to hit higher than .270, but still has the potential to stroke 20 HRs.

Ryan Ludwick launched his fourth HR of the season Tuesday night, while going 2-for-4 with two RBI. The Cardinals’ right fielder is now batting .303, and has recorded most of his at-bats in the two hole in front of Albert Pujols.

Given this spot in the order, the 31-year-old is likely to hit 25 HRs with a .270 batting average this season.

After going 2-for-3 with a HR on Monday, Carlos Gonzalez collected three hits and five RBI Tuesday night in the five hole for Colorado,  raising his season average to .342.

The 24-year-old outfielder now has 10 runs, two HRs, 16 RBI and two steals in 73 at-bats this season. Given this, in addition to his second half of 2009, Gonzalez appears primed to fulfill his former status as a top prospect.

Austin Kearns collected three hits and a HR for the second-consecutive day, adding five RBI as well. Given regular playing time, the soon-to-be 30-year-old may approach 20 HRs in 2010, but he’s unlikely to post an average higher than.270.

Brandon Wood hit his first HR of the season Tuesday night, and also collected three hits for the second straight day. The 25-year-old is 8-for-14 on his current four-game hitting streak. Perhaps he’s finally turning the corner. Stay tuned.

PITCHERS

Pitcher of the day: Francisco Liriano (W, 8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, BB, 10 K)

Liriano dominated the Tigers in a pitcher’s duel Tuesday night, flashing his dominant slider and touching 94 MPH with his fastball. He used 112 pitches to work eight innings, allowing just four hits and one walk. He also struck out a season-high 10 batters.

The 26-year-old southpaw now has a 23-inning scoreless streak, and a spectacular 0.93 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and a 27/10 K/BB ratio in 29 innings this season. Despite this success, Liriano has yet to top 200 innings in a season as a pro. In 2009, he was limited to 136 2/3 innings, so it’s unreasonable to expect him to approach 200 frames without breaking down in 2010. He’s a great sell-high candidate.

Phil Hughes followed up his 10-strikeout performance against the Athletics last week, allowing just one run on two hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Orioles Tuesday night. He also walked four and fanned only two.

The 2004 first-rounder now has a 2.00 and 0.94 WHIP, with a less-than-desirable 18/11 K/BB ratio in 18 innings (three starts) this season. While Hughes made his major-league debut in 2007, he’s still only 23. 2010 could be his breakout season.

Continuing the theme of mid-20-year-old phenoms, Clay Buchholz allowed just one run in eight innings against the Blue Jays Tuesday night. Toronto managed just seven hits and two base on balls against the 25-year-old.

Through 24 2/3 innings (four starts) this season, Buchholz has a 2.19 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 22/9 K/BB ratio. He, like Hughes, may be on the verge of becoming a fantasy star.

Shaun Marcum lasted seven innings for the fourth time in five starts Tuesday night, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks. The 28-year-old now owns a 3.44 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and a stellar 28/7 K/BB ratio in 34 innings thus far.

Marcum, who underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2008, is showing little rust after missing all of 2009. He’s always had very good control (career 3.08 BB/9), something he’s maintained thus far. He could wear down as the season progresses, but a sub-4.00 ERA and 1.25 WHIP isn’t out of the question.

The 2005 version of Jon Garland toed the rubber against Florida Tuesday night, as he punched out 10 batters in six innings, while allowing a run on three hits and three walks.

The 30-year-old is now 2-2 with a  2.57 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 28 innings this season. Garland hasn’t recorded more than 115 strikeouts in a season, so don’t expect another double-digit total anytime soon. Pitching in Petco Park, however, could yield a sub-4.00 ERA.

Livan Hernandez continues to defy logic, as he allowed one run on six hits and a walk in seven innings against the Cubs Tuesday night. The 35-year-old has lasted at least seven innings in all four of his starts thus far, and now owns a 0.87 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 31 innings this season.

Hernandez hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2005 (his last full season with the Nationals), and it’s unlikely he’ll do so in 2010. He will get the Braves and Marlins in his next two starts; enjoy it while it lasts.

Mitch Talbot tossed another head-scratcher at the Angels Tuesday night, allowing one run on six hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings. Through four starts, the former Rays prospect is 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

Despite this early success, Talbot’s peripherals (11 walks, seven strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings) scream fluke. The 26-year-old gets Toronto and Detroit in his next two starts; proceed with caution.

RELIEVERS

Alfredo Simon registered his first career save for the Orioles Tuesday night to defeat the Yankees. Entering the ninth with a three-run lead,  the soon-to-be 29-year-old allowed two unearned runs on two hits and a walk.

After Jim Johnson yielded two runs on five hits in two innings Sunday night, Cla Meredith recorded the save for Baltimore on Monday. After Simon got the save Tuesday night, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will get the next opportunity.

One night after Neftali Feliz took the loss, allowing two HRs in a tie game in the ninth, Frank Francisco nailed down his first save (in his third opportunity) without allowing a hit.

This could be a result of Feliz pitching in the two previous games, or it could mean the Rangers’ ninth-inning role is likely to be a back-and-forth situation all summer long. Either way, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Trevor Hoffman blew another save Tuesday night, this time allowing two HRs (one of which was a grand slam) in the ninth inning with a one-run lead, spoiling Randy Wolf’s solid outing.

The 42-year-old has now blown half of his six save opportunities, and has allowed a run in five of his eight appearances this season. It’s hard to imagine Milwaukee replacing the all-time saves leaders, but if he continues to pitch like this, he may just force them to. Todd Coffey and LaTroy Hawkins are candidates to close should the unthinkable happen.

Jason Motte picked up a five-out save for St. Louis Tuesday night, filling in for closer Ryan Franklin, who was apparently unavailable after pitching on Sunday and Monday. No worries here, Franklin should be back in action if needed on Wednesday.

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

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