St. Paddy’s Fantasy Report: Episode 1

Welcome to St. Paddy’s Fantasy Report, where I’ll be recapping the half-month that was the world of fantasy baseball! Here, we’ll be exploring the hot and cold starters, looking at closer situations, and monitoring some key injuries and position battles. The format is a work in progress, but for now, I think I’m going to go team by team and provide a capsule of what you need to know to go forth and dominate your league. Or, like, drive your competitors to the bottom of the standings like snakes into the ocean. That sounds more appropriate.

Anyway …

Arizona Diamondbacks

Who’s hot? Willie Bloomquist has been a roto stud so far, hitting over .300 and stealing bases at a Coleman-esque clip. He has seven in 12 games, in addition to 10 runs and seven RBIs. He’s still Willie Bloomquist, though, so don’t get too excited … Justin Upton has been similarly outstanding thus far, though he (obviously) commands much more faith. Four HR, so far, for the youngster, for whom a 25-20 season should be a baseline … Miguel Montero has been one of, if not the best option at catcher so far, but his .432 BABIP suggests that he won’t keep that up … Chris B. Young is one of the most frustrating fantasy players I can remember, but if you drafted him, you probably knew you were gunning for a .250-25-25 season. He should manage that, but he might be trouble in OPS leagues since I doubt he can maintain a .517 SLG … Stephen Drew and Russell Branyan both have averages over .300, but don’t expect that to continue for either … J.J. Putz has been outstanding this season, and should remain an excellent option as long as he stays healthy.

Who’s Not: Dan Hudson has scuffled relative to his breakthrough 2010 campaign, but his 4.26 ERA isn’t representative of how well he’s pitching. His strikeout rate — nearly 11 per nine innings — and 2.58 FIP show that we can expect good things from him going forward … The rest of the pitching staff has been really bad, but the only one you should’ve had on your draft board is Ian Kennedy. So, I’ll just tell you that he’s not worth holding on to; pedestrian K and BB rates mean that he’s a viable option only in deep mixed leagues.

Atlanta Braves

Who’s Hot: Brian McCann has lived up to his billing as the NL’s top catcher, supplementing a .339 average with a couple of homers and 9 RBIs … Chipper Jones has rewarded any of you who took a chance on him by posting a .298 average with 2 HR and 12 RBIs. You obviously have to be concerned about the inevitable days lost to injury, but for now, he’s worth having in all leagues … Derek Lowe has been masterful this season, and while he hasn’t quite pitched as well as his 1.82 ERA suggests, his peripherals still say that he’s been nearly ace-level. His strikeout rate is higher than it has been since 2001, when he was closing for Boston, and he’s demonstrated excellent control. Snap him up … Craig Kimbrel has been absolutely electric, having yet to allow a run while striking out 15 batters per nine. I’d treat him as a top relief option going forward.

Who’s Not: Virtually everyone else. Tommy Hanson‘s been bit by the long-ball bug, and his peripherals say that an ERA around 4.00 is perfectly appropriate. He’ll need to start racking up more Ks to remain a top-shelf fantasy starter … Jason Heyward leads the team with 4 HR, but unless you’re in an OPS league, his .222 average leaves a lot to be desired. If you are, though, then congrats on having him! … Martin Prado is hitting .250 this year and has walked just once in 75 PA … Dan Uggla has scuffled mightily to open then year, but this is nothing new for him — in April, he’s hit better than .255 just once in his career (probably because he insists on showing off the guns).I’d call him a good buy-low option … Freddie Freeman has performed mostly as you’d expect a rookie to perform. Stay away from him in all but the deepest formats.

Baltimore Orioles

Who’s Hot: Zach Britton has delivered on the hype, posting a 2.75 ERA on the strength of his ground-ball-getting acumen. He won’t strike out many batters, but until the league adjusts to him, he’s safe to start every day … Jeremy Guthrie is healthy for the time being, and though his strikeout stuff has been lacking thus far (just over 4 K/9), he’s a good bet for a sub-4.00 ERA for as long as he can stay healthy. Which is no small matter considering his injury-prone track record, but hey: strike while the iron’s hot … Koji Uehara hasn’t shown off the same kind of control that was his hallmark last season (1 BB after the All-Star Break), but he has yet to allow a run and could be in line for saves since Kevin Gregg is doing Kevin Gregg things.

Who’s Not: The aforementioned Kevin Gregg is walking batters like it’s his business, and when business isn’t good, he’s serving up home runs instead … Pretty much every hitter in B-More is struggling; Adam Jones and Brian Roberts lead the team with three HR apiece, but Jones is hitting .208 while Roberts clocks in at .266. Neither are stealing many bases, and their respective positions have both been very strong this season … Matt Wieters has two HR, but also a .209/.277/.395 triple slash that’s not so pretty.

Closer Watch: There are two main candidates here in Uehara and Gregg, and to my eyes, Uehara is clearly the superior choice. He’s been healthier of late, and doesn’t suffer from the insidious HRBB disease that has afflicted Gregg. Keep an eye out for Jason Berken, though, as he’s striking out better than 12 batters per nine and has a 1.42 ERA.

Boston Red Sox

Who’s Hot: This all depends on the type of league you’re in. Are you playing OPS? Then nearly the entire team — with the notable exception of Carl Crawford — is carrying its weight. Dustin Pedroia is hitting the ball very well, and Jed Lowrie is making a strong case to join Pedroia as one of the better-hitting double play combos in the game … Kevin Youkilis (.213), Adrian Gonzalez (.263) and David Ortiz (.265) aren’t hitting for average, and have just five combined HR, but they’re all getting on base very well and I expect better power numbers from each, and a higher average from Youkilis and Gonzalez … J.D. Drew holds some promise if the team keeps him in the lead-off spot, as his strong OBP skills will ensure that he scores plenty of runs … Josh Beckett has been outstanding, as has been his wont in odd-numbered years. Lots of Ks and a sub-2.00 ERA have made a lot of fantasy owners happy … Jon Lester hasn’t been the same Cy Young candidate he was last year, but don’t let that dissuade you; he’s still phenomenally talented … Jonathan Papelbon still has some control issues, but the strikeouts are back, and I expect the saves to pile up as the Red Sox start playing up to their talent.

Who’s Not: Somewhat incredibly, Carl Crawford has already cost the team a full win; his -1.1 WAR comes on the back of a dismal .133/.175/.167 line. A .160 BABIP and two SB thus far do leave room for optimism, though … John Lackey probably shouldn’t have been drafted in most leagues, as his approaching-16.00 ERA shows … Clay Buchholz has been all sorts of bad this season, and it’s not a fluke; he’s walking more batters than he’s striking out, and is barely keeping his FIP under 9.00 … If you grabbed Bobby Jenks hoping for some vultured saves, take heart that his FIP is 1.99. His ERA, though, is over 7.00, which he’ll have to improve if he’s going to get any serious looks at the end of games.

Chicago Cubs

Who’s Hot: Starlin Castro apparently decided to have Albert Pujols touch his bat, because he’s turned into a MonStar. .408/.432/.563 with a home run and two steals is excellent production from any player, let alone a shortstop. He’s got a .424 BABIP, though, so don’t overpay for him … Aramis Ramirez appears to have recovered well from his injury-plagued 2010, hitting .333 with a homer. If he’s truly healthy, more power will come; the average is encouraging for now … Alfonso Soriano has five HR, which is a good sign since the only reason you’d draft him at this point is for power.

Who’s Not: Geovany Soto was one of my favorite targets this season after the way he destroyed pitchers last season, because with the departure of Lou Piniella, he figured to get more burn ahead of Koyie Hill. He has, but hasn’t produced, hitting just .255 with one HR. Stay with him, though; having a weak catcher generally won’t kill you, and there’s tons of upside here … Carlos Pena has shown literally nothing in the way of the power that the Cubs signed him for, and I wouldn’t hesitate to cut bait unless you believe that the cold April air is dimming his power … I know Carlos Zambrano hasn’t been great all season, but his last start, where he struck out 10 Padres, is — I think — more indicative of his potential this year. I’m calling him a buy-low candidate … Matt Garza‘s ERA is an ugly 6.27, but his peripherals are simply outstanding. He’s striking out batters like never before, and I recommend grabbing him if you can … Ryan Dempster is in a similar pickle. He’s struggling with home runs, but is due for some serious regression down from his 6+ ERA.

Injury Update: SPs Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells are both set to begin throwing programs on Friday. Both pitchers are going to be re-evaluated at the end of the Cubs’ current homestand, though Cashner’s injuury — a strained rotator cuff — is probably going to keep him on the shelf for awhile yet. If you’re not in a very deep league, there’s no need to hang on to either; I’d expect both to be available once they’re activated.

Chicago White Sox

Who’s Hot: Edwin Jackson has continued his Don Cooper-led renaissance (or, I guess, just ‘naissance’), striking out over a batter per inning with a walk rate below three per nine innings. He’s for real … John Danks looks to have taken a step forward this year, striking out a batter per inning. The walks are something of a concern, but his xFIP suggests that an ERA around 3.50 isn’t out of order for the big lefty … Sergio Santos is going to start getting a lot of attention for the closing job if Matt Thornton and Chris Sale continue to struggle. The converted shortstop has yet to allow a run, and is striking out batters with authority … Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez are all mashing the ball. We knew Quentin had the potential to hit as well as he has this year if he could stay healthy, so keep an eye on the Sox’ injury report. Konerko appears to be staving off Father Time for yet another year, and Ramirez is emerging as a top option at shortstop.

Who’s Not: Gordon Beckham may not, as some had thought, have turned the corner on the slump that persisted throughout most of last season. He’s hitting just .231/.282/.385, though he does have a pair of homers and a steal. The only reason he maintains value is because he plays second base … We knew Adam Dunn wasn’t much of a contact hitter, but he’s going to have to improve on that .182 average. He does have two HR and seven RBIs, but has done very little since the opening series against the Indians … The woes of Matt Thornton and Chris Sale are well-documented, but bear repeating: Thornton is struggling with his command to the point that he is posting a K:BB ratio near 1.00, and Sale, despite excellent strikeout and walk numbers, has been thoroughly victimized by the long ball. I’d be tempted to go with Sale over Thornton at this point, since Thornton appears to still be throwing a good fastball — it’s just getting pummeled. Bad sign.

Closer Watch: The industry of keeping an eye on closers for roto purposes seems to have been invented basically for this team. For what it’s worth, my current pecking order looks like this: Sale, Santos, Thornton, Jesse Crain. Sale’s been pitching the best, Santos is the exciting alternative who hasn’t blown anything yet, Thornton has been too good in the past few seasons to have already run out of chances, and I don’t trust Crain even a little bit.

As a side note, I hate all the chatter about how some guys just can’t handle pitching in the ninth inning, as if it’s somehow harder to get three outs with a three-run lead than it is to get outs with a one-run lead and the bases loaded in the eighth. But I loved this quote from Ozzie Guillen: “A baseball closer in Chicago, you have to have stones like Ozzie Guillen.” Read that again, and bask in its greatness.

Cincinnati Reds

Who’s Hot: Last year’s MVP, Joey Votto, is currently hitting .429/.535/.643. That’s a 213 wRC+, which means that he’s been more than 100 percent better than your average big league hitter. So, y’know, he’s been pretty good so far … Brandon Phillips is hitting .354, but a sky-high BABIP means that figure will be coming down at some point. He’s still a decent 20-20 candidate, but don’t expect his current performance to hold … Jonny Gomes has six home runs and a .190 BABIP, which suggests to me that even if his power isn’t quite as good as he’s showing this year, he’s a reasonable option in all leagues … Drew Stubbs is still striking out all the time, but 4 HRs, 4 SBs and a .273 average are a good cure for the K woes … Sam LeCure was off to a good start, but surrendered four tater tots to the Diamondbacks and is not a good option in mixed leagues.

Who’s Not: Travis Wood has an ERA near 6.00, but his peripherals suggest that’ll be coming down soon. He’ll get you nearly eight strikeouts per nine innings, and if he can keep the ball in the yard, he’ll be a useful add in deeper leagues … Mike Leake wasn’t pitching badly before getting popped for thievery, but keep an eye on how he’s punished … Jay Bruce is hitting an uninspiring .268/.311/.411 despite a .356 BABIP. I’m perhaps irrationally enamored of his game, so I’ll be holding on to him, but you’d be forgiven for putting him on the short list for the waiver wire … Scott Rolen has scuffled so far this year, and his lack of plate discipline is alarming. I’d recommend finding a better option.

Aroldis Chapman Watch: Chapman is back up to his old tricks, firing a pitch that the Great American Ballpark’s radar gun clocked at 106 mph. Yeah, the gun’s juiced, but it’s good to see that a bit of rest apparently did Chapman a world of good.

Cleveland Indians

Who’s Hot: Well, Grady Sizemore has a 383 wRC+ (!!!), so it’s safe to say that he’s looking good in his return from an Sisyphean recovery program. Run, don’t walk, to your waiver wire and scoop him up, but be warned that the team is probably going to take it slow with playing him several games in a row … Travis Hafner looks like the Pronk of old, hitting .353/.414/.617. Yeah, his BABIP is .400, but the walk rate and power are encouraging. Worth keeping an eye on if you don’t mind having DHs on your team … Asdrubal Cabrera (four home runs) is showing a surprising amount of power, and needs to be owned in all leagues, if he’s not already … Don’t look now, but Matt LaPorta looks like he may have figured something out. He’s got an ISO of .200, and has a power pedigree … Justin Masterson, former Red Sox prospect, has had an encouraging start to the year (1.33 ERA), but I’m not a believer. His struggles against righties are too ingrained in my memory; if you can flip him for someone, do it … Mitch Talbot has an ERA in the ones, but isn’t worth picking up except in deep AL-only leagues … Chris Perez has five saves and has yet to allow a run. Might be a nice piece to pick up, since he has little name value.

Who’s Not: Shin-Soo Choo, the one Indians hitter I thought would be a productive player, has been prettay, prettay, pretty bad so far, hitting just .213 while striking out in nearly a third of his at-bats. I’d try to buy low, because he’s too good to keep hitting this poorly … Fausto Carmona has an ERA of 4.74, but has strong strikeout and walk rates. He, too, might be a decent guy to grab on the cheap — provided, of course, that he can keep striking out nearly eight batters per nine.

Colorado Rockies

Who’s Hot: Troy Tulowitzki has been so good in the early going that he’s inspiring talk about whether he has overtaken Albert Pujols as the best player in baseball. For what it’s worth, I’d rather have Tulo than Pujols … Jonathan Herrera is ripping the cover off the ball, and I recommend picking him up if you can. Don’t trade for him — I don’t trust the skills to maintain — but he’s a good free agent pickup to ride for a couple weeks … Chris Iannetta‘s .211/.423/.500 batting line is best suited for OPS leagues, but as long as the plate discipline and power are there, he’s going to be one of the better options at catcher … Dexter Fowler appears to have finally learned how to take a walk, which, with his good speed, might make him a valuable pickup as the season wears along … Jhoulys Chacin has a 1.64 ERA, and I expect him to start recording more strikeouts as we go along. I doubt he’s readily available, but try to snatch him up once that ERA starts to regress a bit … Jorge de la Rosa isn’t going to maintain a 3.18 ERA, but he will start to strike out a few more batters. Judge him accordingly.

Who’s Not: Carlos Gonzalez is hitting for average and has three steals, but isn’t showing the kind of power (.398 SLG) that was such a big part of his breakout last year. It’ll come … Ian Stewart was just demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs, but he’s too good to stay there for long. Someone will eventually realize that he’s a better option than Ty Wigginton or Jose Lopez, right?

Injury Update: Ubaldo Jimenez went on the DL with a finger issue after his first start of the season. In his return, he lasted five innings, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks. He recorded six strikeouts and hit 96 on the gun, so it’s safe to activate him in all formats.

Detroit Tigers

Who’s Hot: Miguel Cabrera is doing Miguel Cabrera things, hitting .317 and setting a pace to score 120 runs, drive in 96 RBIs and hit 40 HR. Nothing to see there … Alex Avila is hitting .279/.340/.535 this year, and while he’s never shown that kind of power in the past, I recommend jumping on it while you can … Justin Verlander is performing up to the ace level that we expect from him and shows no signs of slowing down … Phil Coke has a 2.25 ERA, but it’s important to remember that (a) his K/9 is below 6.00 and (b) he’s still Phil Coke. I don’t buy him continuing to perform like that.

Who’s Not: Austin Jackson, poster boy of BABIP regression, is hitting .164. He’s stolen two bases, but has no business being near a fantasy lineup for the time being … Magglio Ordonez might have finally hit the wall. A .200/.294/.233 line isn’t exactly the stuff fantasy dreams are made of … Victor Martinez is off to a slow start, hitting just .250/.292/.417. The power’s still kind of there, and his catcher eligibility makes him too valuable to bench … Max Scherzer‘s 4.30 ERA is discouraging, but the strikeouts (9.00 K/9) are there. Once the HR/9, which is near 2.00, comes down, he’ll be better.

Florida Marlins

Who’s Hot: The Marlins have eight home runs as a team. Logan Morrison, upon whom the one aspersion might have cast last year was a lack of power, has four of them. Pick him up … Gaby Sanchez is hitting .340, but isn’t really an option at first base in any but very deep or NL-only leagues … Josh Johnson (1.35 ERA, near no-hitter against the Braves) would like to remind you that he’s very much a candidate for the NL Cy Young.

Who’s Not: Hanley Ramirez is hitting .244/.358/.333. That is worrisome enough in and of itself, but also of significant concern are the stolen base total (one) and the BABIP (.282). There’s a little bad luck in there, but he’s just not hitting the ball very well. You don’t really have a choice but to wait it out, though … Mike Stanton, the young power hitter extraordinaire, is off to a .194/.286/.323 start, but has struggled through a quad injury. Keep him on your bench until you start to see more homers from him, but I suspect he’ll turn it around … Anibal Sanchez is striking out batters like never before, but is being victimized by walks, homers and bad BABIP luck. Good buy-low candidate … I don’t know if Ricky Nolasco is just never going to satisfy the sabermetric community or what; first, it’s uninspiring results despite excellent peripherals, and now he’s striking out a batter every other inning while walking fewer than one per nine. He’s a confusing guy, and yet I’m sure I’ll have him on my team for, like, the next six years … Drop Javier Vazquez if you haven’t already.

Houston Astros

Who’s Hot: Hunter Pence isn’t getting much in the way of counting stats — just one homer and stolen base — but he’s got a good track record and a .297 average on his side. Stick with him … J.R. Towles might finally be ready to deliver on his promise, or at least get enough playing time to show once and for all whether he can or can’t hack it at the big league level. He’s hitting .386/.400/.526 so far, and if he continues to hit one home run per 20 at bats, he’ll have 25 by the time he gets to 500. Hurray for extrapolation! … Michael Bourn already has stolen seven bases, so if you picked him up for steals, you’ve got to be happy … I know it’s tempting, but I promise you: Angel Sanchez really isn’t that good. Just stay away … Brett Myers has a 2.35 ERA and a 4.78 K/9, but don’t be afraid: A zero-K season opener is dragging down his overall numbers. I stand by him.

Who’s Not: Carlos Lee is hitting .234 with one home run. You don’t have him on your team, do you? Good … I cut ties with Wandy Rodriguez (7.31 ERA) in one of my leagues. He does boast a walk rate below 2.00 per nine, but I don’t see that as sustainable and don’t trust him to get a whole lot more Ks. If he proves me wrong in the next outing, well, hey, I’m sure he’ll still be on the waiver wire … Brandon Lyon has an ERA over 5.00 despite having not walked a batter this season. That’s how you star in mediocrity, folks.

Closer Watch: Brandon Lyon is probably not a great choice to be closing out baseball games at this point in his career. Of course, I probably could’ve written the same thing two or three years ago, but hey. Keep an eye on Mark Melancon, who’s appeared in 10 games already this season and has a 9.35 K/9, 2.08 BB/9 and 2.08 ERA.

Kansas City Royals

Who’s Hot: Jeff Fr — Fran — ah, boy. Ok, come on, all together now: Jeff Francoeur is hitting .328/.358/.525 this season with a pair apiece of taters and steals. But do me a favor, will you? Don’t pick him up. You’ll only get hurt in the end … Billy Butler is doing what he was put here on Earth to do: hit baseballs. .368/.493/.544 looks real good, and though it’ll come down a bit with his BABIP, he’s a great fallback first baseman … Could this be the year Alex Gordon finally puts it together? His .353/.380/.515 line and buckets of Rs/RBIs say yes, but I look at the plate discipline and BABIP and say noWilson Betemit is worth a pickup in all leagues for as long as Mike Aviles is struggling … Want to grab some really cheap steals? Pick up Jarrod Dyson, who will probably get two or three PA a week, but has five steals … Jeff Francis has been very good thus far, but doesn’t strike out enough batters to be useful in most fantasy leagues.

Wow, six Royals in the Hot section? Bookmark this page for your grandchildren.

Who’s Not: Mike Aviles (.200/.245/.422) is, I think, launching a personal vendetta against me for drafting him in most of my leagues. I can’t imagine why he’d be so offended by that, but, hey: baseball players. Drop him … Kyle Davies has an ERA over 7.00, but he’s striking out nearly eight batters per nine, which means he could have some value as a spot starter in very deep leagues … Joakim Soria has been horrendous this season, coming by a 5.59 ERA quite honestly (3.12 K/9, 4.15 BB/9, 1.04 HR/9).

Closer Watch: Let’s be clear: I’m not suggesting that Joakim Soria is about to lose his job. I’m merely pointing out that he’s been awful and that rookies Aaron Crow and Tim Collins have been better. Both the youngsters have double digit strikeout rates, and while Collins has to get his control under, ahem, control (8.00 BB/9), it’s hard to envision the Royals being worse off in the short term by giving Soria some rest. It certainly seems like he could use it.

Los Angeles Angels

Who’s Hot: Remember when Howie Kendrick was commonly thought of as a future batting champ? He’s hitting .318/.392/.621 with five home runs this season, showing unprecedented (for him) plate discipline and power … Maicer Izturis is hitting .391, and I think he’s a very good middle-infield option even when that average takes a tumble; he’s got 15-15 potential, which is better than most guys you might plug in at short … Alberto Callaspo (.321/.397/.464) is someone I have little faith in; he’s been slumping a bit in the past week or so, and is past the point in his career where we hold out hope for guys to make a leap forward … Jered Weaver is showing that his 2010 campaign (wherein he led the AL in strikeouts) is no fluke; he’s clocking in at 10.08 K/9 this year, with a 1.30 ERA … Dan Haren is showing why people thought the Diamondbacks got fleeced when they sent him to the Angels; his sterling 0.58 BB/9 and 1.16 ERA are fantasy gold.

Who’s Not: Vernon Wells (whose acquisition more or less undermines all the goodwill the Angels’ front office received for bringing Haren aboard) is hitting .169/.217/.231 and should not be on anyone’s roster at the moment — ditto Torii HunterErvin Santana has a 5.26 ERA that probably isn’t as bad as it looks, but he’s going to have to do a lot to prove to me that he’s going to be a viable fantasy starter at any point going forward.

Closer Watch: There was a minor uproar when Jordan Walden was named closer over Fernando Rodney only for manager Mike Scioscia to turn around and use Rodney in a save opportunity shortly after the announcement. However, Walden looks to have established himself in the role, having three saves to Rodney’s two, and generally holding a lot more promise as a productive pitcher. Walden is the guy to own here; Rodney can be dropped in just about all formats.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Who’s Hot: This question, as posed to all other teams, might as well read ‘Who’s doing a good Matt Kemp impersonation?” — .438/.515/.656 with three homers and eight (!) steals does the heart good … Andre Ethier is the only other Dodger hitter worth owning at this point, posting a .362 average on the year. Just one home run, but it’s safe to expect those to come along … Jerry Sands is not, to my eyes, worth a pickup in any but the deepest leagues. He’s been hitting the ball well in his two big league games, but he’s not a guy that screams “impact rookie” to me … Clayton Kershaw is making a compelling case early on for the NL Cy Young, striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings, and backing up his 2.96 ERA with a 2.94 xFIP … Hiroki Kuroda has a 3.33 ERA despite a strikeout rate of just 5.33. He’s better than that, so don’t be scared off by his FIP.

Who’s Not: As evidenced by the fact that there were more “hot” Royals than Dodgers, just about everyone in La-La Land falls in this category, including the franchise itself, which is going to be taken over by MLB. But you don’t own the McCourts in your league. You might, however, own Chad Billingsley, and I suggest you not be too scared of his near-5.00 ERA. His FIP and xFIP are both hovering around 3.00, and are a much better barometer of his talent … Jonathan Broxton has good velocity on his fastball, but it’s not been elite — a problem you can see in his low K rate (6.14) and the way batters are launching his pitches into the stands (25% HR/FB). Yeah, you expect that number to normalize, but if not for the lack of other options in the Dodger bullpen (Matt Guerrier isn’t good enough and Hong-Chih Kuo isn’t sturdy enough), it wouldn’t surprise me to see Broxton lose some save opportunities.

Injury Update: Rafael Furcal (broken thumb) won’t even be on the radar for another month. Kuo was placed on the 15 day DL on April 17, so he’s on the shelf until at least May.

Milwaukee Brewers

Who’s Hot: Chris Narveson has emerged from obscurity to a 1.45 ERA. He’s striking out more than one batter per inning, but his walk rate is near 4.00 and he’s yet to allow a home run, despite getting just 43% of balls in play to burn worms. Keep him for now, but don’t be shocked if he crashes and burns … Shaun Marcum has been what the Brewers hoped they were getting from the Brewers, joining Narveson in the sub-2.00 ERA club. He, too, looks to have gotten a bit lucky with HRs so far, so the same caveat applies here as with Narveson — though with less force, since Marcum has a better track record … Randy Wolf is striking guys out like it’s, uh, some year that has never existed. He doesn’t have the stuff to keep the Ks up, and I can’t recommend giving up anything of value to get him, despite a 3.33 ERA … Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks are each top-tier talents and virtual locks to keep producing as long as they stay healthy.

Who’s Not: Yovani Gallardo hasn’t been himself this season, with a strikeout rate around half of what you’d expect from him and an unsightly 4.62 ERA. Keep him on the bench until we see if he’s turned it around, because he might be hurt … John Axford has identical K/9, BB/9 and ERA figures (8.53). Remarkable, but also not decidedly unfortunate for your fantasy team … Casey McGehee can be dropped in most formats, as his .262/.310/.400 isn’t going to cut the mustard, and I won’t believe you if you tell me that you acquired him at great cost … I know you want Carlos Gomez only for his steals, which he’s delivered (four), but how willing are you to put up with a .197 AVG? Yeah, that’ll come up with his BABIP, but I don’t advocate waiting for regression with guys whose values are so inseparable from their batting average.

Closer Watch: There isn’t really an option to replace the struggling John Axford, considering that Takashi Saito is on the DL. Bench him if you want to see how he does in the next couple games, but don’t drop him.

Injury Update: Zack Greinke completed his first rehab start, throwing 27/35 pitches for strikes and recording four strikeouts in three shutout innings. Tom Haudricourt, a Brewers beat writer, says he’s expected to return May 4.

Minnesota Twins

Who’s Hot: Denard Span (.313/.352/.418) and Jason Kubel (.311/.354/.492) are knocking the ball around a bit, but neither are great options in most fantasy leagues since they’re neither hitting home runs nor stealing bases … Nick Blackburn has a 3.06 ERA on the year, but a strikeout rate that doesn’t figure to threaten 6.00 means he’s a non-factor in fantasy leagues.

Who’s Not: Justin Morneau may or may not be still fighting off concussion-related symptoms, as his .208/.250/.302 line suggests that something is wrong with the Canadian slugger … Delmon Young is finally walking like a good hitter should, but a .228 average isn’t going to get the job done. You can probably let him go in shallow leagues … Francisco Liriano has been bad at just about everything this season, though he is getting a lot of ground balls. Stash him on your bench until he can break the deadlock that his K/9 and BB/9 are locked in right now.

Closer Watch: Joe Nathan has scuffled this season in his return from Tommy John surgery, and requested that the team use Mat Capps in his (i.e. Nathan’s) stead. Capps should be owned for as long as he’s racking up the saves, but Nathan is the more talented pitcher and the guy I’ll be picking up once Nathan corrects the early-season woes.

New York Mets

Who’s Hot: Jose Reyes has six steals, and looks to be his old self again … Chris Young has a 1.46 ERA and is striking out nearly a batter per inning, but I don’t believe that he’s found some magic in a Mets uniform. His walk rate (4.38) is still high, and there’s not a sensible fantasy owner out there who trusts him to stay healthy.

Who’s Not: Angel Pagan hasn’t lived up to his breakout season from last year, as he’s hitting under .200 on the year. He has stolen four bases, though, and has a .179 BABIP. Wait on him … David Wright is hitting just .239/.297/.403, but does have two HRs and SBs each. He’s still striking out in nearly a thid of his PA, which is worrisome, but it’s way, way too early to give up on a talent like Wright … R.A. Dickey has an impressive-for-a-knuckleballer 7.36 K/9, but is struggling with his control and will probably see his ERA hover around 4.00 for the rest of the year unless he takes steps to fix it .

New York Yankees

Who’s Hot: Alex Rodriguez is tearing the cover off the ball at a .385/.500/.821 clip that helps remind you why this guy is paid as exorbitantly as he is … Curtis Granderson is hitting exactly like you expected he would last year, with an average around .260 but having deposited six baseballs in the stands. The steals will come, too … Russell Martin is hitting like he forgot he turned himself into a non-tender candidate with his performance the past few years. Four homers and two steals for the backstop, and though he’s walking in fewer than four percent of his PAs, he’s a must-play guy … CC Sabathia has been pretty much exactly what you paid for, posting a sub-3.00 ERA with nearly a 9.00 K/9 and solid control.

Who’s Not: Derek Jeter (.237/.303/.254) is doing very little to dispel the notion that he’s washed up. He still retains value because of the amount of runs he figures to score (nine, so far), but he’s quickly making himself (gulp) droppable … Nick Swisher is back to his old tricks, showing that 2010 was probably a fluke. .268 average and negligible power? I wouldn’t stand for it on my team … I don’t know that any of you would have A.J. Burnett on your team anyway, but his 4.37 ERA and 8.00+ K rate, while not great, are pretty much what you can expect from him the rest of the way. Deep leaguers only, though.

Injury Update: Debate the validity of the Yankees putting Phil Hughes on the DL all you like, but the fact is that the young hurler is there for the time being. He threw a bullpen on April 20th, and hopes to head on a rehab assignment soon to show that he’s regained the velocity that has apparently decided not to accompany him to New York this season.

Oakland Athletics

Who’s Hot: Brett Anderson has looked great in the early going, with a 1.63 ERA and a walk rate under 1.00. The strikeouts haven’t shown up yet, but with his talent, they shouldn’t be long in coming to the party. The question with Anderson has always been health, though, so keep that in mind … Brandon McCarthy has a 2.45 ERA, but don’t forget one important thing: he’s Brandon McCarthy. I don’t recommend adding him in anything but deep, AL-only leagues … Trevor Cahill has earned his new extension thus far, joining Anderson and McCarthy in early-season excellence. He’s striking out more batters than ever (9.59) and hasn’t lost anything on his control. I was down on Cahill because his peripherals last season suggested that he wasn’t as good as his ERA looked, but he may have corrected that this year.

Who’s Not: If there’s a hitter on your team with an OAK next to his name, he’s on the ‘not’ list. Josh Willingham (.203 AVG, 93 wRC+) paces the team with three home runs, and with the exception of OBP machine Daric Barton, no one else even cracks league average … Brian Fuentes is getting the saves, but he’s not looked good in so doing; 6.52 K/9 and 4.66 BB/9 are ugly numbers that are going to play a big part in an ERA nearing 5.00.

Closer Watch: Like in Los Angeles, the Athletics might like to turn away from Brian Fuentes in the ninth inning, but they don’t really have the personnel to do it. Brad Ziegler might be a solid choice as the club awaits Andrew Bailey‘s return, and it’s Ziegler, not Grant Balfour, that I’d grab if you’re looking for some speculative save chances.

Philadelphia Phillies

Who’s Hot: Surprise, surprise, the Phillies’ pitching staff has been outstanding. Yeah, Cliff Lee‘s ERA looks a little high, but he, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels all have FIPs around 2.00, while Roy Oswalt has taken the tack of throwing up a 2.50 ERA on the back of a 3.79 FIP. They’re all obviously worth owning, though I will continue to refuse to accept that all four will stay healthy … Jose Contreras has been rock solid in his role as interim closer, and though his 2.00 K:BB ratio isn’t outstanding, it’s been enough to help him keep the opposition scoreless thus far. He should be owned in all leagues until Brad Lidge makes his return … Placido Polanco is hitting .358, which merits mention. His .371 BABIP says it’s not for real, but there’s nothing wrong with riding a hot streak if you’re replacing, say, Casey McGehee … Ryan Howard has just three home runs, but is hitting for a solid .283 average … Jimmy Rollins is hitting .277 with four steals. No homers, and while I’m not going to predict a 20-HR year from him, he still represents a better option than most SS on the market.

Who’s Not: Phillies hitters haven’t really been bad enough to merit mention here, but also haven’t been outstanding enough to really justify making the hot list (as you could probably tell when you read through it). Like, Carlos Ruiz is hitting .286 with a couple dongers, which is pretty good for a catcher, but, I mean, is that really hot? I will say that if you’ve been using Ben Francisco or Raul Ibanez, now’s as good a time as any to cut bait … Kyle Kendrick has a 1.50 K/9 and 9.00 BB/9 through six innings. I don’t think anyone has Kendrick on their fantasy team, but I did think that was worth pointing out. Because no one likes Kyle Kendrick.

Injury Update: Chase Utley is still progressing in his return from the knee problems that have plagued him all year. He’s yet to put on cleats, but is doing some jogging and lateral work in sneakers. As of yet, there’s no timetable on his return, though the optimist in me suggests that he could be ready by the end of May. But don’t quote me on that unless that’s how it turns out.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Who’s Hot: Jose Tabata would really appreciate it if you’d remember the days when he was a top Yankee prospect, and to that end is hitting .303/.410/.500 with three tater tots and eight stolen bases. The BABIP is a touch high, but for a guy with his speed and pedigree, I’m buying everything we’re seeing from him so far … Neil Walker has been a pretty good option at second base so far, with a .277 average and three homers. Expect similarly solid numbers throughout the season; he could be a solid producer lacking a flashy name that you could pursue in a trade … Garrett Jones is flashing his old power, with a .220 ISO and three HRs … My advice regarding Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton is precisely the same: neither guy strikes out enough batters (3.72, 2.45 K/9, respectively) to maintain their current ERA (2.48 and 1.64, respectively) … It’s probably too late to add Joel Hanrahan off the waiver wire, but if it’s not, do so immediately.

Who’s Not: Andrew McCutchen, wherefore art thou? A .230 average, three homers and one steal aren’t going to win us our fantasy leagues. I will offer up his .244 BABIP as evidence that a resurgence is coming, so see if you can’t find someone willing to cut bait … Pedro Alvarez looks to have taken two steps back in his development, as his .183/.246/.217 performance so far is only marginally better than Ronny Cedeno. No sense in keeping him on the team until he shows he can be better than that … James McDonald is doing precisely none of the good things he did last year that gave us hope he could develop into a useful big league starter. Too few Ks, too many BBs and an ERA in the stratosphere is all we have to show for our faith thus far.

San Diego Padres

Who’s Hot: Nick Hundley, of all people, has been one of the better-hitting catchers going, with a healthy .340/.404/.600 line and three homers. There’s no small amount of BABIP luck involved, but when it comes to catchers, you gotta ride whomever you can for whatever you can … Cameron Maybin is hitting just .232, but has two homers and four steals. He could be a poor man’s Chris B. Young  … Orlando Hudson has six steals, but his average is falling fast. If you were on that train, hop off with the quickness … Aaron Harang has shown flashes of his old self in his hometown of San Diego, with 8.00 K/9, 2.50 BB/9, and a tidy 1.50 ERA. He’ll regress, but there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to be useful in the coming months.

Who’s Not: Mat Latos, in his return from rotator cuff soreness, has a K/9 near 9.50, a BB/9 under 3.00, and yet an ERA over 5.00. He’s going to see some regression from a .179 BABIP against, but should also start having better luck stranding runners. If you’re going to buy low on him, don’t pay like you would have paid for him last year … Dustin Moseley has a 1.83 ERA that equals his 1.83 K/9. He’s somehow pitched well in each of his starts, but has yet to record a win. I think that was his window of opportunity to be useful in fantasy, and it’s closing quickly … Would you believe me if I told you that the Padres offense, collectively, is hitting .213/.299/.318? Of course you would, and (this time!) you’re right to. Like with Oakland, stay away from just about any hitter on this team if you’re looking for long term solutions.

San Francisco Giants

Who’s Hot: Timmay! Tim Lincecum is every bit the ace he has been in his career … Jonathan Sanchez looks to be a useful roto starter, as his K rate is over 10.00 and his walks are under control enough to have an ERA in the 3.00 range. Add him if you can … Matt Cain‘s ERA is shiny, but his K rate is about half of what you’d like to see. He got plenty of Ks on the 20th against the Rockies, but was also touched up for six earned runs. He’s too good to play the wait-and-see game with, but there is cause for concern here … Pablo Sandoval, in leaving half of himself at home, has become twice the player he was last season. His .328/.400/.603 line isn’t sustainable, but it does show that the Panda is back and should be a reliable option at third going forward … Buster Posey has picked up more or less where he left off, with a .290 average and three homers … Freddy Sanchez is swinging a hot bat and is worth a pickup only because he’s 2B-eligible; that average will come down, but the .500+ SLG is an encouraging sign for the former batting champ … Yeah, Aaron Rowand is hitting .320, but come on: he’s Aaron Rowand. Cody Ross‘s return will spell fewer ABs, and as the season wears on, Rowand’s going to turn back into, well, Rowand.

Who’s Not: Aubrey Huff is hitting an anemic .254/.310/.397, though maybe his impending return to first base will help him at the plate. If not, it’s time to go looking for a new thong player … Madison Bumgarner, whom I had high hopes for this season, has been flat-out awful. I’ve dropped him in any leagues where I owned him, and I don’t think I’m remiss in advising you to do the same … Brian Wilson has gotten his saves so far, but they haven’t come without a price; his 7.94 ERA is breathtaking in all the wrong ways, and his BB/9 isn’t far off that same figure. Don’t be afraid to keep using him, though; I’m sure the wildness is just part of the rehab process.

Injury Update: Cody Ross is back, but wait on him to show that he’s not going to fall back to his first-half-in-Florida ways from last season before you snap him up. Also, Barry Zito is going to miss at least a month from the day of this writing, but I doubt that many fantasy players batted an eyelid at that.

Seattle Mariners

Who’s Hot: Michael Pineda (2.33 ERA, 7.45 K/9, 3.26 BB/9) is pitching far beyond his years. He’s worth picking up until the league adjusts to the rookie … Justin Smoak is starting to show why he was the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade: .291/.403/.491 so far. Only two home runs, sure, but the talent and the underlying performance is there. Counting stats will come.

Who’s Not: Felix Hernandez appears to have traded his Cy Young trophy for a paper crown, as King Felix has a 4.33 ERA and is striking batters out at roughly the same pace as the aforementioned Pineda. His control is still excellent, and there’s room for regression with his BABIP, so hold on to him if you have him and grab him if you can find an owner to fleece … Erik Bedard had some promise for guys who were digging deep into the depths of starting pitching, but his velocity has been down, which is more or less the exact opposite of what you hope to see from a guy you know to be injury prone. Avoid him in all formats until we find out what’s what … Ichiro Suzuki makes the ‘not’ list only because his .286 average is a good 30 points lower than what you expected from him. He still has six steals, though … Chone Figgins, to my eyes, is done as a valuable fantasy contributor.

St. Louis Cardinals

Who’s Hot: Classic Cardinals: go out and grab some veteran in his mid-30s, then watch him tear into baseballs with a vengeance. Lance Berkman hit six homers in a week, and is currently sitting on a .308/.368/.692 line that shows he still can be an asset to your team. Don’t overpay based on that torrid streak, but don’t be afraid to play him, either … Colby Rasmus is stepping into his own, and everybody better watch out. .364/.440/.591 is more than we expected from a prospect of that caliber, and indeed the BABIP is a bit high. He’s still an exceptional fantasy play, though … Matt Holliday is hitting .441 with a homer. What appendectomy? … I got stuck with David Freese in an autodrafted league (how, I do not know). I recommend ESPN’s autodraft program as a fantasy authority, since Freese is hitting .360 with a pair of dongers … Ryan Theriot is doing exactly what you drafted him to do: hit around .300 with a couple handfuls of steals … Jaime Garcia has been out of this world. 1.97 FIP, 9.00 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 … Kyle Lohse has a 2.82 ERA and is just close enough to league average with strikeouts to make me think he could be useful if you need a spot starter and the waiver wire looks particularly barren … Kyle McClellan has made the transition to the rotation better than just about anyone expected, but he’s probably not ready to be a fantasy asset … Are we done yet?!

Who’s Not: Albert Pujols. Man, has he killed a lot of fantasy teams this year. I don’t know if it’s the pressure of a contract year, or what, but a world in which Albert Pujols is hitting .239/.288/.433 isn’t one I particularly enjoy. His BABIP is .211, so that regression will help, but a walk rate that’s roughly half of what it should be (for him) is extremely worrisome. You can’t sell low on him, but if the plate discipline doesn’t come back, it’s fair to say that he’s not the same hitter he was even a season ago … Chris Carpenter has a mediocre 4.13 ERA thus far, but a 7.50 K/9 and 1.88 BB/9 show that he’s just fine. He’s struggling through some bad luck with home runs at the moment, is all.

Closer Watch: Ryan Franklin is in line to lose his job after 4.2 innings of some of the worst pitching you’ll see this season. I didn’t think it was possible to allow nearly six homers per nine, but hey: thanks to Franks for showing me the way of the world. Eduardo Sanchez and Mitchell Boggs are among the favorites to replace Franklin in the ninth, and while Boggs is the more likely (and established) candidate, Sanchez has a 0.00 ERA, -2.27 FIP and -1.88 xFIP. I feel like you need to know these things. Anyway, yeah, add Boggs if it’s saves you want. Add Sanchez if it’s mathematical near-impossibilities that catches your fancy.

Tampa Bay Rays

Who’s Hot: Sam Fuld could not be any hotter. I wish I’d managed to finish this article so I could show you the Legend of Sam Fuld as if it were something new, but this is the internet, kiddos. .368/.403/.561 triple slash for the youngster, though it’s worth noting that as the season wears on, he’s going to derive almost all of his fantasy value from stolen bases (of which he has seven already) and average … Felipe Lopez is, against just about all odds, a productive hitter for this Rays squad (.286/.318/.500), and is worth a look for desperate teams. That is, until his utter lack of patience comes back to bite him … Matt Joyce is hitting .300, and though he doesn’t have any homers, I think he’s an intriguing option in deep or AL-only leagues … I wish David Price were striking out more hitters. He’s sitting below league average with his K rate, and is still posting a legitimate sub-3.00 ERA. If you want to trade for him, do it before the strikeouts start a-coming … James Shields‘ stats are quite similar to Price’s, actually, but because he doesn’t have Price’s track record, I’m not recommending him as a pickup … Kyle Farnsworth is, somehow, one of the better closers in the league. I don’t get it either, but I am rushing to pick him up.

Who’s Not: Ben Zobrist looks way more like his 2010 self than the 2009 incarnation, which is troubling for fantasy players. He’s not worth a roster spot in most leagues at this point, unless there isn’t a better 2B-eligible option available … Is a .232 average and just a couple homers and steals really all we can expect from B.J. Upton every few weeks? I still have too much faith in him to write him off, and would point to his 42 SB last season as evidence. Even if he disappoints the baseball fan in us, he still has fantasy value … Man, Manny Ramirez is really slipping, huh? … Jeremy Hellickson has failed to impress in his full season debut, posting a 4.50 ERA and struggling with his control (4.50 BB/9). He’s not worth holding onto right now … I don’t know how many people besides myself were excited about Jake McGee this season, but he’s another guy whose K/9, BB/9 and ERA (4.50 each) are all the same, and all kind of suck. Is it just me, or is that really weird?

Injury Update: Evan Longoria hopes to come off the DL by the end of April. I have my doubts that he’ll make that deadline, as oblique injuries tend to linger, but he’s been taking swings off a tee, so don’t despair.

Texas Rangers

Who’s Hot: C.J. Wilson is proving that last season was no fluke, as the converted reliever is posting a 3.08 ERA that’s backed up by all his peripherals. I really hope the secret to his success isn’t his straight-edge lifestyle … Former Braves prospect Matt Harrison is making good on his promise with a 1.23 ERA so far. His very high strand rate suggests that he’s due for some struggles, but he’s worth a speculative add for a start or two if”n you’re desperate … Derek Holland is also worth a look in deep leagues; the 3.66 ERA won’t wow anyone, but it’s backed up by solid peripherals … Adrian Beltre has five home runs and a decent average considering his .226 BABIP. Early congratulations to whomever believed in his monster 2010 campaign … David Murphy, the biggest beneficiary of the Josh Hamilton injury, is hitting .351 and has the speed to nab you 20+ bases with enough playing time. He’s worth an add for the two months that Hamilton figures to miss … Mitch Moreland isn’t getting a full complement of playing time, but he’s still hitting .311/.392/.556. In the off season, I (somewhat foolishly) wondered if he wasn’t going to be one of the top-10 first basemen this season; while he probably won’t hit that mark, his performance to this point is extremely promising … Michael Young is hitting .348, but it won’t last. Don’t bother adding him.

Who’s Not: Colby Lewis, oh no! I like the 3.18 BB/9, but there’s not much else encouraging to find in his stat line unless it’s that there’s no way he’s bad enough to be allowing more than two homers per nine innings. He’s worth stashing on your bench if you can afford the spot, but don’t be afraid to cut bait if you need the room … Ian Kinsler is hitting just .213, but has four HR and a stolen base. I know that second base seems stacked right now, but if there’s some way you can trade for him — and have a backup plan for his inevitable injury — do it … Elvis Andrus wasn’t worth drafting in my book, and his .213 average shows you why. He does have four steals, but it’s not like speed is at a premium at shortstop. Keep him only for the BABIP regression, and then only if you can handle the waiting … It’s starting to look like Julio Borbon is never going to be a fantasy asset, let alone the player baseball fans wanted him to become … Keep running Nelson Cruz out there. The power is there, and the steals will come when the average catches up.

Injury Watch: Alexi Ogando has struggled with blister issues, which is why I’m choosing to discuss him here instead of the other two spots. Put simply: don’t bother with him. The transition from bullpen to rotation is killing his strikeout rate, and the ERA simply isn’t sustainable without the Ks … Tommy Hunter is due back from injury soon, though he’ll likely have to compete for a job. Wait and see how things play out before making a decision, unless you’re Tommy Hunter, in which case, knock yourself out, pal. You’ve earned it.

Toronto Blue Jays

Who’s Hot: Jose Bautista is saluting his haters with a .308/.455/.558 line that would allay concerns about his long-term performance if not for an elevated BABIP that figures to drag him down as we go along. Even if he doesn’t hit 54 HR again, he’s still a great option at 3B … Oh, hi, Yunel Escobar. Didn’t see you and your .315/.391/.537 triple slash there. The average and OBP aren’t likely to sustain, but I’m not about to bet against a Toronto player putting up big power numbers. Pick him up if he’s available … J.P. Arencibia is showing why he was such a highly touted prospect, hitting .286/.348/.571. He’s there to provide power, and he should easily be among the top half of catchers at doing just that … Don’t look now, but Corey Patterson is hitting .270 and has stolen three bases in Rajai Davis‘ absence. If you’re feeling a little frisky, go ahead and pick him up … Ricky Romero is earning his contract, with a sparkling 3.12 ERA on the back of  8.31 K/9 and 3.12 BB/9. I wouldn’t think you were crazy if you compared him to CC Sabathia … Jesse Litsch has been very similar to Romero this season, and you could do worse as a spot starter. Just make sure that the team doesn’t make a huge mistake and use his rotation spot for Brandon Morrow‘s (whom you should also own!) return … Kyle Drabek is drawing a lot of hype, but wait until his control settles down before adding him.

Who’s Not: Jon Rauch did his best to show the disconnect between sabermetrics and fantasy baseball, posting three saves and a 2.73 ERA despite pedestrian peripherals. Now that Frank Francisco‘s back, though, Rauch takes a big hit in value … I know it seems like forever ago since Aaron Hill was a top second baseman, but that’s only because it was forever ago. He’s hit zero homers so far this year, but he has swiped six bases, which kind of suggests that he’s given up on the dream of being a power hitter. At this point in the season, he’s comparable to Orlando Hudson, which tells you all you need to know … Adam Lind and Travis Snider are both struggling mightily, and I don’t have much faith in either right now. Snider at least has a bad BABIP on his side; Lind, whom I’ve dropped in the one league where I owned him, needs to hit a lot better to justify the limitations his DH status places upon him, and in a head-to-head league, I don’t have the patience to see if he can do that.

Injury Watch: Frank Francisco is now active, and is worth adding once the team shows they’re willing to use him to close games. He did allow six runs in five minor league innings, so exercise a little bit of caution in the early going … Brandon Morrow is also set to return this week. The strikeout machine is worth an add in all leagues.

Washington Nationals

Who’s Hot: Inherent in any fantasy baseball column is propagating the willful ignorance of the danger of small sample sizes. So it’s with no small amount of trepidation that I tell you that Jason Marquis is actually pitching extraordinarily well (~7.00 K/9, <2.00 BB/9, 2.65 FIP). That’s partly because I really dislike Jason Marquis, and partly because I’m adamant that there’s no way he continues to perform this well. That said, I … ah, boy. I guess you could do worse than adding Marquis.

Excuse me. I need a moment.

Yeah, so, anyway: Livan Hernandez is also doing really well, and —

Wait, what the hell? I literally cannot believe that I just praised the performances of Jason Marquis and LIvan Hernandez, let alone in the year 2011. Look: there are times when you need to let your heart guide you. This is one of those times: please, for the sake of all that is good in the world, do not add these pitchers to your team. If you must have a Nationals pitcher, look to Jordan Zimmermann, who’s ridden the power of the extra ‘n’ to a 2.45 ERA*, or Sean Burnett, who’s closed out three games and has yet to walk a batter … As for the hitters, former Twins prospect Wilson Ramos has gotten off to a rip-roaring start that, while aided by a .545(!) BABIP, has established him as at least capable of delivering on some of his promise this season. I don’t recommend selling out on your current catcher to add him, but he’s someone to keep an eye on … A lot of Danny Espinosa‘s value is coming from the two homers he’s hit and .512 SLG that he’s posted so far, but neither of those are sustainable. Don’t be fooled into giving up valuable pieces for him until he fixes that .256 AVG … Ian Desmond, Espinosa’s double-play mate, has two homers and six steals, but is hitting a pitcher-esque .217/.266/.383. He’s better than that, but not by much.

*Well, if you can look at a sub-5.00 K rate and give me a better explanation, I’m all ears

Who’s Not: Drew Storen, a popular choice for late-round saves, has been bumped from the closer role and has no value to your roto team … Jayson Werth is off to a miserable .200/.302/.382 start, but I’m encouraged by the 102-point difference between his average and OBP. He’s still seeing his pitches, and has two HR and SB. Be patient — after all, it’s not like you paid $126MM to him … I don’t know if any of you thought Mike Morse or Rick Ankiel would be valuable this season, but they’re doing a very good job of proving that they will not be.

Injury Update: The most recent information I can find on Ryan Zimmerman‘s abdominal strain is from a week ago, which says that he might be ready to come off the DL the first day he’s eligible to do so, April 24th. But Zimmerman’s tone in the article, as well as the headline (suggesting that the team isn’t going to rush him) tells me not to expect him back until the calendar reads May.

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