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Athlon Sports takes a look at what took place this past weekend on the fantasy baseball diamond
Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.
Interleague play kicked off on Friday, and while series that pit Arizona against Kansas City or Miami in Cleveland may not do it for baseball purists or even the casual fan, there were still some more appealing match ups on display.
The Cubs and White Sox got reacquainted this past weekend at Wrigley, with the Sox playing the role of rude house guests and sweeping the offensively deficient North Siders, along with the rivalry by the Bay - Oakland vs. San Francisco, and the battle for the Lone Star State between Texas and Houston. Heck, the Beltway Series for once was deemed important because it featured two first-place teams in Baltimore (AL East) and Washington (NL East).
Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/14-05/20):
* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues
Youth Being Served
Interleague play aside, there were plenty of offensive fireworks this past week and over the past seven days, the best hitter on the diamond has been one of its youngest. And no, I'm not talking about Bryce Harper. Anaheim's Mike Trout has settled in nicely into the leadoff spot for the Angels, as the 20-year-old outfielder topped all at the plate last week, thanks to a .444 average, seven runs scored, two home rusn and four RBIs. To put it another way, Trout hit as many home runs last week, in 27 at-bats, then his teammate, Albert Pujols, hit in his first 146 at-bats of the 2012 season.
That's not to say that Harper was horrible last week, as the Nationals' 19-year-old outfielder posted a .269-2-4 line of his own, matching Trout with seven runs scored. Harper also has out-paced, if you will, his fellow uber-prospect Trout in terms of media coverage and national attention. But to this point, however, there's no question that Trout (.355-4-11, 15 R, 6 SB for the season) has out-performed Harper (.244-2-7, 14 R, 1 SB) where it really counts, at the plate.
And not to be outdone, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen, who aren't exactly exactly "old" at 26 and 25 respetively, enjoyed pretty strong showings last week. Jones (.308-14-29) extendced his hitting streak to 12 games on Saturday and has hit four home runs over his last six.
McCutchen on the other hand, has slugged seven in May, including two two-homer games in the last week alone. For the month, McCutchen is hitting .389 with seven home runs and 13 RBIs. McCutchen has been raking against left-handers, as he has collected 10 hits in his last 15 at-bats versus southpaws, after getting off to a 8-for-25 start.
Catchers Showing They Can Also Handle the Bat
Besides Trout, those who enjoyed the most success at the plate these past seven days, are those who take up residence behind it when on the field. Among the past week's top 25 hitters (below), 20 percent of them (five) are catchers. That's right, catchers, and not one of them is named Mauer, McCann, Molina (pick one), Montero (Jesus or Miguel) or even Posey.
Toronto's J.P. Arencibia and Jonathan Lucroy each used one monster game to get them in last week's top five. Arencibia socked two home runs and drive in six against the Mets on Friday, as all of his home runs and RBIs from last week came in a span of three games versus both New York teams. Lucroy, meanwhile, did just about all of his week's damage (3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI) on Sunday against the Twins.
At this point, seeing Carlos Ruiz' and A.J. Pierzynski's names on this list probably shouldn't be that surprising. Ruiz is currently top fantasy catcher according to Yahoo! as he leads the position in average (.355) and RBIs (29), and is tied for the lead in runs scored with 21 and tied for second with seven home runs. Pierzynski is fourth as he has maintained a .301 average through the middle of May, along with six home runs and 27 RBIs. Lucroy, but the way is fourth and Arencibia is currently fifth among all catchers, thanks to their production these past seven days.
- Lance Berkman had just finally got back on the field and in the line up a week ago Sunday after a calf injury sidelined him for nearly a month. Then on Saturday, he lef the game against the Dodgers early with an apparent right knee injury. The early diagnosis is that it's a torn ACL, which will be confirmed with an MRI he is scheduled to undergo later today. If it is a torn ACL, then not only is Berkman's 2012 season over, but the 36-year-old's career could be in jeopardy. He is not signed beyond this season.
- Stephen Strasburg left his start against Baltimore on Sunday with what the Nationals are calling a "tired arm." He went five innings against the Orioles, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out eight in five innings and also hit his first career home run in the Nats' 9-3 win. Strasburg was already reportedly under an innnings limit in his his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, so this latest development could result in the team finidng ways to get him more rest between starts, meaning he could be skipped in the rotation here and there. Definitely a situation that bears watching.
- Emilio Bonifacio, who was comfortably leading the majors with 20 stolen bases, was placed on the DL on Saturday after injuring his right thumb in the Marlins' game in Cleveland on Friday. That was just one of several moves the Marlins made this weekend as the team optioned struggling first baseman Gaby Sanchez (.197-1-11) to AAA and recalled outfielder Chris Coghlan from New Orleans.
- Paul Konerko got hit in the face by a Jeff Samardzija during Friday's interleague game, causing him to miss the next two games versus the Cubs with a swollen left eye. He could be back in the lineup on Tuesday, when the White Sox open up a set against Minnesota.
- Austin Jackson hasn't been in Detroit's line up since last Wednesday as he's been sidelined by an abdominal injury. He hopes to be able to return on Tuesday, the Tigers' next game. Jackson is off to a great start at the plate, hitting .331 with five home runs, 17 RBIs, six stolen bases and 29 runs scored.
- Tim Linecum left his start on Sunday against Oakland after four innings because of an apparent thumb injury he suffered in a collision at home plate. He was able to finish the innning, but did not return. The Giants have not said whether Lincecum sustained an injury or not, but it's possible he could miss his next scheduled start on Friday in Miami.
- Chipper Jones injured his calf on Friday against Tampa Bay and missed the next two games. He is questionable for todya's game in Cincinnati. Jones, who's in his last season, has already missed quite a bit of time this season, so this shouldn't come as any surprise. Juan Francisco has received most of the starts at third in Jones' absence.
- Allen Craig, who began the season on the DL, returned there on Friday due to an ongoing hamstring injury. The versatile Craig was hitting .373 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in just 51 at-bats prior to the injury. His health and production will be even more critical to the Cardinals' success this season due to the presumed loss of the aforementioned Berkman.
On the mound, we had Justin Verlander's near no-no on Friday against the Pirates, which was broken up with one out in the ninth. Even though Verlander had to "settle" for the one-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and just two walks, he wasn't even the most dominant starting pitcher over the past two weeks.
That distinction goes to Zack Greinke, who gave up just one run in 21 2/3 innings over his last three starts. Verlander's 12 punchouts weren't even the best performance on his own team. Max Scherzer whiffed 15 Pirates in seven innings on Sunday, a welcome performance considering he was 2-3 with a 6.26 ERA entering yesterday's start.
And speaking of the Pirates, who would have thought that their starting rotation would produce solid fantasy contributors this season? Over the last two weeks, both James McDonald and Brad Lincoln have been among the best in fantasy baseball, while Erik Bedard (3.07 ERA, 44 K in 41 IP) has been sport-start worthy several weeks.
Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:
* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues
Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Tues. - Sun.):
1. R.A. Dickey, NYM: at Pittsburgh (Tues.), San Diego (Sun.)
The knuckle-baller (5-1, 3.75 ERA) shoots to the top of this list thanks to not one, but two, appetizing match ups this week. On Tuesday he will take the mound in Pittsburgh and also is scheduled to go on Sunday at home versus San Diego. The Pirates and Padres have two of the worst offenses in all of baseball as they rank dead last and next-to-last, respectively, in the majors in runs scored and also are at the bottom in batting average. Dickey also has produced a quality start in four of his last five outings.
2. James McDonald, PIT: New York Mets (Tues.)
Snapped his streak of four straight quality starts on Thursday against Washington (5 2/3 IP, 4 H 3 ER, 1 BB, 11 K), but still got the win. He’s won three of his last four starts with a 2.60 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings pitched during that span.
3. Wei Yin-Chen, BAL: Kansas City (Sat.)
The Taiwanese left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his home starts this season, having beaten the Rangers and Yankees (twice) at Camden Yards.
4. Gavin Floyd, CWS: Minnesota (Tues.)
Prior to getting lit up by the Angels on Wednesday (10 H, 7 ER in 6 IP), Floyd was 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA in his first seven starts. Minnesota one of the AL’s worst offenses, 12th in runs, 11th in batting average and last in home runs entering Monday.
5. Scott Diamond, MIN: at Chicago White Sox (Wed.)
Diamond has won all three of his starts since being called up on May 8. He gave up three runs on eight hits in Friday’s start in Milwaukee, but they were the first runs he had surrendered this season and his ERA currently sits at 1.40. The White Sox have scored the fewest runs and have the lowest batting average (.210) against left-handers of any AL team.
Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:
* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues
— by Mark Ross, published on May 21, 2012