Fantasy Baseball Tonight 4/24; Next Wave of Elite Pitchers

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Fantasy Baseball Tonight 4/24; Next Wave of Elite Pitchers

Before the news of the night I want to invite you all to check out an interview that I did recently with Toby Mergler of mlb.com. I am part of the Fantasy Baseball Search expert league with Toby and he is interviewing all of us during the season. And hey, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment afterwards too. Here is the link:
http://welcometotheshow.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/04/fantasy_baseball_expert_interv_2.html

I want to start tonight talking about a bunch of young pitchers who look like they are about to take the next step into elite status.

Yesterday, Chad Billingsley went to 4-0 after throwing 7.1 shutout innings. His ERA is 2.06, while his WHIP is under one. He is right at a strikeout an inning, and in my opinion he will be an elite pitching option this year.

Tonight, Zack Greinke took his next step towards a possible Cy Young award as he went the distance again. Greinke's scoreless inning streak was snapped on an unearned run, but he had another incredible start. He allowed just three hits, walked only one, while striking out ten. I don't care what team he pitches for, Greinke will be one of the top starting pitchers in 2009.

Yovani Gallardo hasn't been quite as impressive as the other guys listed above, but he is far surpassing expectations to this point of the season. He also went the distance tonight, allowing two runs, walking nobody, and striking out seven. Outside of that one bad start, Gallardo has been mostly brilliant this season, getting nearly a strikeout an inning, and keeping his walks under control. He might not be in line for any awards this year, but 15-17 wins could be in the picture for this season.

Outside of his last start, Josh Johnson has been one of the best starters in the National League. Although Matt Lindstrom blew the win for him tonight (in an ugly, ugly fashion; 7 runs in 2/3 of an inning), Johnson was dealing again. He allowed just three hits and whiffed eight over seven shutout innings. In three of his four starts, Johnson has allowed one run or less and has recorded just over a strikeout an inning. The Marlins should be in the NL East race all year long, and Johnson should be a big part of their playoff push.

A guy that I thought would also enter this group in 2009 is Edinson Volquez. However, Volquez has had incredible control problems. It bit him again on Friday, as he was only able to last five innings because he walked SEVEN Brave hitters. That is now three of his four starts that he has walked the same number of guys as he has struck out. The talent is still there, and the strikeouts will still be good, but if he can't stop walking people it will seriously hinder his ability to be successful. I wouldn't try to actively deal him, but I am slightly concerned about Volquez.

For those of you who have had catching trouble or catching injuries, take a look at the Nationals' Jesus Flores. He hit his first home run of the season tonight, has driven in seven runs on the year, and is hitting .289. Flores was a quality player last year at catcher when he drove in 56 runs in just 90 games. Flores is looking like he could be a short term stopgap that might turn into a good catching option.

Michael Young has seen his power numbers bottoming out over the past couple of years, and even his batting average isn't what it once was. But this season he seems to be having a resurgence. He hit his fifth home run of the season, after hitting only twelve in 2008, and just nine in 2007. His batting average is also back over .300. The average could stay where it is, but the power has to be a mirage. If you drafted Young, I would be looking to sell high.

Rick Porcello had another one of his inconsistent starts on Friday, as he gave up four earned runs over six innings, walking two, and striking out four. It wasn't horrible, but it was far from great as well. With a 20 year old pitcher in the majors, you are going to have many more games like this than Cy Young-like gems. Keeper leagues you have to hold him, keeper leagues, i'm starting to worry.

A pitcher who definitely could be available in your league is Nick Blackburn from Minnesota. He allowed only one run over seven innings tonight, while striking out four. Blackburn was an effective starter last year, with a .500 record and an ERA hovering around 4.00. Now I'm not saying that he is going to win you a league, but if you are in a deeper league, he is definitely a pitcher that you can have at the end of your rotation. Blackburn doesn't get you too many strikeouts, but he throws a good game every other start or so. Against weak hitting teams, Blackburn could be a nice guy to throw and then let go of.

Koji Uehara continues to be a pretty effective pitcher for the Orioles. On Friday, he allowed just two runs over 6.2 innings, while striking out six. Outside of one start where he allowed seven runs, he has given up two runs or less in his other three. He is 34 years old, so don't think this is some young hot shot. But Uehara had a great career in Japan, and was a pretty decent strikeout pitcher. He could continue down this road for the O's.

Joba Chamberlain wasn't bad, but wasn't great again on Friday. Joba has had trouble with control for the second consecutive start, and has also been able to last deep into games. Like I say almost every night, you are going to deal with inconsistencies with most young pitchers. Chamberlain is a great young star in the making though, and although he isn't ready for prime time yet he should have his fair share of good outings.

With the injury to Alex Gordon, Alberto Callaspo has been given an opportunity to get some playing time and is making the most of his chance. Over the lsat seven games, Callaspo has 11 hits, and connected on his first homer on Friday. He could hit for a good average, but Callaspo isn't a guy who is going to bring you any power or much speed. If you want to play him while he is hot, that is ok, but I wouldn't plan on keeping him on your roster long term.

Injury News

Carlos Quentin was back in the White Sox lineup on Friday, one night after being hit in the hand by a pitch. His owners (including myself) were freaking after Quentin missed the last month of the season with a broken wrist. I don't know about you, but I was having flashbacks. I had only just traded for him three days ago. Whew!

Brandon Webb suffered a setback on his rehab, and now the next step is undecided. Webb felt tightness in his shoulder while playing catch shortly before his second bullpen session was supposed to take place. Webb is now supposed to see the team doctors before he throws any more pitches.

Aramis Ramirez strained his left calf running the bases Friday was was removed from the game. He has been deemed questionable for the rest of this weekend's series against the Cardinals. This is exactly the kind of injury that Aramis is famous for, and the kind that I was warning you about before the year started. This is pure speculation, but don't be surprised if he ends up on the DL.

After being back in the lineup, Brian McCann took himself out of the lineup before Friday's game when he was dealing with blurry vision again. Apparently, he is now considering Lasik surgery for the second time on his left eye. From reports I've read, it seems that he would end up on the DL. I will keep an eye out for further news on this situation.

Joakim Soria will not be used in this weekend's series for the Royals with some tightness in his shoulder. According to his manager this is not a situation that will land him on the Disabled List. Right now he is scheduled to miss three to five days with this condition. Juan Cruz or even Kyle Farnsworth could fill in for him.

Cole Hamels reported no soreness the day after being hit on the shoulder with a batted ball. As of now, he is still on track to make his next start.

Reader Interaction

Of the great crop of young pitchers (other than Tim Lincecum who has already won a Cy Young), who will be the next to break through to the elite level: Chad Billingsley, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, or Clayton Kershaw? You can leave a comment below or email me at fightingchancefantasy@gmail.com.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome at fightingchancefantasy@gmail.com. I guarantee a response within 18 hours. Also, don’t miss “The Fantasy Baseball Gurus Show” every Wednesday night at 10pm EST on Blog Talk Radio. The show is co-hosted by Todd Farino of fantasybaseballsearch.com, RC Rizza of junkyardjake.com and myself, Ryan Hallam at fightingchancefantasy.com. To hear the show go to www.blogtalkradio.com/the_true_guru. The Fantasy Baseball Scouting Report is also back! Join me with Jeff Mans every Tuesday night at 10pm EST for all the news, free agent pickups, minor leaguers, and injuries. A can’t miss if you plan on winning your league. I also just met the people over at Baseball Trade Rumors and I invite you to visit their site. They have a page for rumors for every major league team, constant updates on the latest rumors, interactive polls, and overall some great content.

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