Welcome to the latest installment of Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight , your number one source for daily box score updates. Thursday’s games featured strong pitching performances from C.J. Wilson , Mat Latos and Jonathan Sanchez , as well as a two-homer night at Coors Field.
Hitter of the day: Ryan Zimmerman (3-for-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI)
• Ryan Zimmerman teed off on the previously untouched Jhoulys Chacin , going 3-for-5 with three runs, two homers, and six RBI. The Nats’ third baseman is now batting .319 with 15 runs, eight homers and 22 RBI in 27 games this season.
• Hunter Pence went 1-for-4 with a three-run homer off of Chris Carpenter Thursday night. In his last four games, Pence is 7-for-18 with five runs, three homers, and seven RBI. His season average, however, is just .240, thanks in large part to an equally pathetic BABIP .
The window to buy low on the 27-year-old Pence has likely passed. The Astros’ right fielder is coming off back-to-back 25-HR, 10-plus-steal seasons, and owns a career batting average of .285. Pence might hit in one of the league’s worst offenses, but he’s perhaps one of the most underrated fantasy players because of it.
• Like Pence, teammate Lance Berkman is on a four-game hot streak. Counting his three-hit performance Thursday night, Berkman has seven hits in his last 14 at-bats with five runs, two homers and four RBI during that span.
Also similar to Pence, Berkman’s season struggles (.239 average through 21 games) can be blamed on a .222 BABIP. Given his health (and possibly a new team by July 31), Berkman should push for 25 homers and a .300 average in 2010.
• Chone Figgins went 0-for-4 Thursday night, lowering his season average to .185. The 32-year-old is still taking walks (17.1 percent BB/9), but his current strikeout rate (26.7 percent) is way above his career mark of 17.4 percent. Figgins’ contact rate , which is usually among the best in the majors, is slightly below-average. In addition to this, Figgins is suffering from a .250 BABIP (compared to his career mark of .339).
These factors explain the slow start, but his career totals suggest Figgins’ futility shouldn’t last long. Most agree that his 2009 line (114 runs, 42 steals, .298 average) is unattainable, but 80 runs, 35 steals and a .270 average are still well within reach, making Figgins a decent buy-low option.
• Luke Scott went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBI Thursday afternoon. He’s hit .259 (7-for-27) with five runs, four homers, and seven RBI in seven games since the calendar turned.
Scott’s .213 season average can be partially blamed on his unlucky .213 BABIP. His free-swinging mentality (career 23.3 percent strikeout rate) and low contact percentage (career 76.6), however, make him prone to this.
Luke’s bat can carry a team at times, just be sure to bench him when it goes cold. Come season’s end, fantasy managers can expect another 25-HR, .260-average season from the Orioles’ left fielder/designated hitter.
• Brennan Boesch is making a strong case to remain in the Tigers’ lineup when Carlos Guillen returns from the DL in a few weeks. The 25-year-old left-handed batter went 2-for-3 with two runs and a homer off C.C. Sabathia on Thursday, his third in just 16 games this season. He’s also batting .368. (For more on Brennan Boesch, click here .)
Pitcher of the day: Mat Latos (W, CG, H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K)
• Latos tossed a one-hit shutout, walking none and striking out six, improving his record to 3-3 while lowering his ERA and WHIP to 3.32 and 0.97, respectively. If you toss out his April 26 outing against Florida, (everyone deserves at least one mulligan) Latos would have a 1.99 ERA.
The 22-year-old appears to be hitting his stride on his way to a breakout season, just as I predicted .
• Jonathan Sanchez was the tough-luck loser Thursday night, surrendering just one run on three hits and one walk in eight innings. In seven starts (44 innings) thus far, Sanchez sports a 2.66 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, with a 45/20 K/BB ratio.
Sanchez’s high walk rate (3.99 thus far, 4.67 career) will be a number to keep an eye on. If he can limit his free passes, the 27-year-old southpaw may be en route to a breakout season.
• Bud Norris has struggled through his first six outings this season, failing to register a quality start. The Astros’ 25-year-old hurler had a breakout performance Wednesday night against the Cardinals, however, as he allowed just one run on six hits in eight innings. Norris also fanned eight.
Norris is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, as he throws a 93-95 MPH fastball and an upper-80’s slider. For him to be effective as a Major League starter, he’s going to have to develop his seldom-used changeup. His rough start thus far (6.03 ERA, 1.69 WHIP) can be partially attributed to a .421 BABIP and 56.6 percent strand rate. He’s probably much better than what he’s been in his first six starts, but Norris is a long ways away from being a reliable fantasy option.
• C.J. Wilson continued his inexplicable dominance on Thursday, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks in seven innings against the Athletics. Wilson’s 1.48 ERA and 1.09 WHIP have been aided by a .259 BABIP and 82.4 left on-base percentage . His 4.25 xFIP, however, suggests trouble ahead. The converted reliever is a solid sell-high option.
• Jhoulys Chacin had a 15.1 scoreless innings streak to start the season working in his favor as he took the hill against the Nationals Thursday night. The streak ended abruptly, however, as Ryan Zimmerman blasted two homers off Chacin, the first a two-run shot in the first inning, the second a three-run bomb in the fifth.
Chacin left after five innings, allowing six runs on six hits and one walk. Like most 22-year-old pitchers, Chacin will likely provide many ups and downs, but keeper/dynasty league managers should take notice of his nasty fastball/changeup combo .
• Baltimore closer Alfredo Simon picked up his fifth save in as many chances on Thursday, extending his scoreless innings total to eight. The recently-turned 29-year-old has filled in for injured reliever Jim Johnson admirably, but his walk rate (5.15 BB/9) in limited action suggests possible trouble ahead.
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