Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight 4/5: Braves' Jason Heyward Homers in MLB Debut

Nick Kappel@@NickKappelAnalyst IIIApril 6, 2010

ATLANTA - APRIL 5: Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves hits against the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at Turner Field on April 5, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

In case you missed the news, Monday night signaled the start of Fantasy Baseball Insiders’ journey to watch and score 162 games this season.

In addition to this, we’ll gather all of the fantasy-relevant info from every game each night and organize it in one post for your viewing pleasure. This will feature in-depth observations from our game of the day.

As a Cubs fan, there was no doubt as to which game I’d be covering on opening day…

Game No. 2: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves

Marlon Byrd launched a three-run homer in his first at-bat as a Cub, though he failed to reach base in his following three plate appearances. The 32-year-old finished 1-for-4 with a run scored and three RBI.

Aramis Ramirez launched a two-run bomb in the third inning and added a single to lead off the sixth. The Cubs’ cleanup hitter finished 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI. Given a healthy season, the third baseman with the most RBI since 2003 may be in line for another 30-homer, 100-RBI campaign.

Kosuke Fukudome reached base in three of his four plate appearances, with a single, a double, and a walk. Batting in the two-hole in front of Derrek Lee and Ramirez , the Cubs’ right fielder is in a favorable spot, one likely to boost his fantasy value.

Despite slimming down this offseason and vowing to keep his emotions in check on the mound, the “new and improved” Carlos Zambrano was anything but. Big Z allowed eight earned runs on six hits, two walks, and a hit batsmen in 1.1 innings. Facing 13 Braves, he delivered just five first-pitch strikes. The 28-year-old is no longer the All-Star-caliber pitcher he was between 2003 and 2006.

If Zambrano got rocked, Jeff Samardzija was annihilated.

After Sean Marshall and James Russell combined for 4.2 scoreless innings in relief of Zambrano, the former Notre Dame standout Samardzija entered in the seventh. He walked the first three Braves he faced and recorded just one out while allowing six runs (four earned).

For all of the buzz that’s surrounded Atlanta rookie Jason Heyward this spring, you’d think it’d be nearly impossible for him to live up to it. After one game, it’s safe to say he’s going to make an impact this season.

In his first major league at-bat, the 20-year-old showed his ability to turn on the inside pitch, crushing a three-run bomb to right field. He also reached on an error in the seventh and singled in the eighth, compiling a 2-for-5 debut with two runs and four RBI.

Yunel Escobar , batting in the six-hole in front of Heyward, also finished 2-for-5, with a two-run single in the first inning and a bases-clearing double in the seventh. The 27-year-old is a career .301 hitter and may be regarded as a top-five fantasy shortstop by season’s end.

Other notes from around the league:

Hitter of the day: Albert Pujols (4-for-5, 4 runs, 2 HRs, 3 RBI)

Pitcher of the day: Tim Lincecum (Win, 7 IP, 4 hits, 7 Ks, 0 BBs)

Shaun Marcum , who missed all of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery, took a no-hitter into the seventh in Arlington against the Rangers.

After a one-out walk to Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero broke up the no-no. Nelson Cruz followed up with a three-run homer, as the 28-year-old Marcum saw his no-hitter, shutout, and lead evaporate in less than five minutes.

Marcum turned in a respectable showing in 2008, posting a 4.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 7.31 K/9 in 159 innings. While he’s not your typical team ace, he should be serviceable given the right matchups in 2010.

Blue Jays closer Jason Frasor blew a two-run lead in the ninth against the Rangers. After allowing a leadoff double, Frasor struck out Hamilton . He then yielded a single to Guerrero and an RBI double to Cruz that tied the game. Next Frasor intentionally walked Chris Davis to load the bases for Jarrod Saltalamacchia , who delivered the game-winning hit.

Frasor should remain the closer for now, but this situation is worth keeping an eye on. Scott Downs , who pitched a perfect eighth inning, would likely close for the Jays if Frasor continues to struggle.

Franklin Morales, serving as Colorado’s closer in Huston Street’s absence , survived a rocky (pun intended) ninth inning to save the game for Ubaldo Jimenez . The 24-year-old southpaw is a cheap source for saves, though it may come at the expense of your team’s ERA and WHIP.

The aforementioned Jimenez limited the Brewers to one run on eight hits in six innings, recording six strikeouts and producing a whopping 11 ground-ball outs. As long as he’s able to keep his walks down (3.51 BB/9 in ‘09, 4.05 career), the 26-year-old is on his way to becoming a fantasy stud.

Placido Polanco appeared comfortable with his new team, as the Phillies’ third basemen went 3-for-5 with a homer and 6 RBI batting in the two-hole in front of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Philadelphia’s new ace, Roy Halladay, pitched seven strong innings, allowing just one run on six hits and two walks while striking out nine.

David Wright blasted a first-inning homer while finishing 1-for-3 with a run scored and two RBI. Jason Bay collected two hits and scored a run in his Mets debut.

Johan Santana cruised through six inning, allowing just one run on four hits. The 31-year-old walked two and struck out five on his way to a win.

Colby Rasmus collected two hits in four at-bats with two runs, a HR and two RBI. Yadier Molina also had two hits, one of which was a homer. He also had four RBI from the seven-hole in the St. Louis lineup.

Joey Votto went 3-for-5 with two runs and a homer. Drew Stubbs didn’t start the game but he finished it. going 2-for-2 with a run scored and an RBI. Given the majority of the starts in center field, Stubbs could easily steal 40 bases .

Zach Duke held the Dodgers to two runs on seven hits in five innings as he earned the win.

Garrett Jones, starting in right field and batting third, went 2-for-3 with three runs, two homers and three RBI. Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit also went yard, collecting two hits and three RBI while batting cleanup.

Vernon Wells went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI. While it’s easy to forget he slugged 20 homers with a .300 average in 2008, the 31-year-old may be primed for a bounce-back season in 2010.

Mark Buehrle turned in seven spotless innings against the Indians, allowing just three hits and one walk while fanning three.

Johnny Damon went 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBI in his Tigers debut.

Justin Verlander allowed four runs on six hits in five innings. Fantasy managers who expect another sub-3.50 ERA, 200-plus strikeout season are in for a surprise. As I mentioned in an earlier post , Verlander is likely to regress.

Kyle Blanks went 1-for-4 with a homer batting cleanup for Padres. The 23-year-old is a nice sleeper candidate this season.

Stephen Drew, Justin Upton , and Miguel Montero collected two hits, while Drew went yard. Mark Reynolds also had a homer and two RBI, while striking out just once.

Dan Haren stymied the helpless Padres over seven innings, allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out four.

Mark DeRosa scored twice and hit a homer in his first game as a Giant. He’s eligible at first base, third, and outfield in Yahoo leagues, making him a cheap yet valuable commodity.

Seattle’s new one-two punch of Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins combined to go 1-for-7, though they totaled three runs and three steals.

Casey Kotchman went 2-for-4 with four RBI batting third in Seattle’s lineup. If the 27-year-old retains that spot, look for him to be a cheap source of RBI.

Felix Hernandez cruised through the first six innings, though his spotty command caught up to him in the seventh. The soon-to-be 24-year-old allowed three earned runs in 6.2 innings, yielding six walks while striking out four against an average Oakland lineup.

If King Felix is going remain an elite fantasy starter, he must limit his walks the way he did during his 2009 breakout season (2.68 BB/9). The 2008 season was a much different story, as Hernandez posted a walk rate of 3.59.

Brad Ziegler blew his first save opportunity, allowing two walks and two unearned runs in the top of the ninth.

Delmon Young was the lone bright spot for the Twins on opening day, leading the team with two hits, a homer, and a stolen base. Don’t write the former bat-chucker off just yet; he’s still only 24 and owns a career .290 average.

Hideki Matsui and Kendry Morales each had two hits and a homer for the victorious Angels, while Brandon Wood went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

Check back Tuesday night (and all season long) for more Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight updates!


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