May 3 Fantasy Watch: Crawford, Billingsley, Verlander, and More

Eric StashinSenior Writer IMay 4, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 3: Outfielder Carl Crawford #13 of the Tampa Bay Rays steals second base against the Boston Red Sox May 3, 2009 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Has Justin Verlander returned to form?  What did Carl Crawford do that was so special?  Is Chad Billingsley a true ace?  Let’s look at these stories and all the rest from yesterday’s games.

Cleveland vs. Detroit

  • Justin Verlander was stellar for his second straight start, giving up one run on two hits and three walks while striking out 11 over seven innings. He’s now struck out 20 batters over his last two starts. Is he fully back?  Who knows for sure, but owners have to like what they have been seeing recently. His next start is a rematch against the Indians, one that you should certainly use him for.
  • It was an all right start for Cliff Lee, as he gave up three runs on 12 hits and a walk, striking out four over seven innings of work. Obviously, the hits are way too high, but the results are acceptable.  It marks four straight usable starts for Lee.
  • Matt LaPorta and Luis Valbuena were both in the lineup in this one.  LaPorta in right field went 0-for-4 and Valbuena at second went 0-for-2. Not the strong debuts owners were have hoped for.

Baltimore vs. Toronto

  • Scott Richmond improved to 4-0 after giving up three runs (two earned ) on five hits and two walks, striking out six over seven innings of work.  Having posted a 2.67 ERA with 26 Ks over 30.1 innings certainly has to have opened up some eyes. While shallower league owners can still afford to be skeptical, deeper league owners should be ready to pounce. The Blue Jays pitching staff has certainly been in shambles, so anyone who shows signs of life like this is guaranteed a spot for a long time.
  • Melvin Mora went 1-for-4 with a run, putting him at 5-for-19 with one run and one stolen base since he returned to the line-up. He really should be left until the deepest of formats unless he heats up like he did in the second half of last season.

Boston vs. Tampa Bay

  • Carl Crawford went 4-for-4 with an RBI, two runs and six stolen bases.  What?!? Really? That’s just unbelievable. He now has 17 stolen bases on the season, jumping into the league lead.  Yeah, he hasn’t hit a home run this season, but when you have the ability to post this type of a day, who really cares? Not me, that’s for sure.
  • Kevin Youkilis went 2-for-4 with a homer (his lone run) and two RBI, putting him at .407 with 6 HR and 20 RBI.  Is anyone still doubting this guy? He’s a Top-10 first baseman in all formats at this point.
  • Brad Penny pitched better, giving up three runs on six hits and two walks, striking out eight over six innings, but he still took his first loss of the season. With a 7.61 ERA, he’s only lost once? It must be nice to have that type of offense behind you, but that doesn’t mean that fantasy owners should be using him.

Kansas City vs. Minnesota

  • One minute Scott Baker had a no hitter going through six innings, the next he’s getting shelled. If you looked away, you missed him giving up five earned runs without recording an out in the seventh inning, ultimately getting saddled with the loss. Unbelievable, huh?  At least he showed signs of improvement, so you can consider using him in future starts, but right now I just couldn’t bring myself to use him. He hasn’t proven to be trustworthy enough at this point.
  • Jose Gullen went 2-for-3 with one home run, four RBI and a run. As I’ve said before, now that he’s healthy, he’s certainly a player worth using.

Oakland vs. Seattle

  • What a game this one was, going 15 innings. Oakland had two chances to win the game, but squandered a one-run lead in the ninth and a three-run lead in the thirteenth. Brad Ziegler, out with an illness, certainly was missed.
  • Wladimir Balentien went 3-for-5 with two runs, raising his average to .353 on the season.  He is not an every-day player, and therefore not worth using, but it is nice to see him succeed after falling flat last season despite significant hype. If he were to find his way into the lineup on a daily basis, he’d potentially have value in five outfielder formats, so keep the name in mind. But for now, do it from a distance.

Chicago (AL) vs. Texas

  • Ian Kinsler simply continues to excel, going 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and two runs. He’s now hitting .336 with nine homers, 25 RBI, 23 R and 7 SB. Wow…
  • Elvis Andrus went 2-for-3 with a run and a stolen base. He’s been solid at .274, but he hasn’t offered anything outside of that with only one dinger, four RBI, 13 runs and three stolen bases. He has the potential to develop into something special, so keep an eye on him.  Right now, he doesn’t have much value.
  • It was a second straight stumble for John Danks, giving up five runs on 10 hits and a walk, striking out three over five-and-a-third innings. While giving up 10 runs over his last nine innings is bad enough, he’s only struck out 8 in his last 16. That should be just as concerning for owners.

Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh

  • Ramon Hernandez went 2-for-3 with three RBI, putting him at .261 with 7 RBI on the season.  Is that a tremendous start to his season?  No, not really. It’s a lot worse then many expected, but given the way the catching position has performed this season, he certainly has to be considered solid. Better days are likely on the way, but I still would only use him in NL-only and two-catcher formats.
  • Johnny Cueto tossed eight shutout innings, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out nine. This lowered his ERA to 1.65, and brought his strikeout total to 28 in 32.2 innings. I’d say he’s worth using, no? Those who got him late in their drafts have certainly gotten an early season steal.

Houston vs. Atlanta

  • Pitching on the road, is it any surprise that Wandy Rodriguez did not have his best start? He still wasn’t awful, as he gave up three runs on six hits and three walks, striking out three over five innings of work.  This was only his second start of the season where he has given up more than one earned run, the other also came one the road (at St. Louis, Apr. 12). With a 0.95 ERA at home, he certainly has proven to be a must-use when he’s pitching there, but he also has been good enough on the road to be used there as well. Tread carefully, given his history.
  • Yunel Escobar went 2-for-4 with a run. He’s scored just two runs over his past seven games, as well as not stealing any bases and picking up just two RBI. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. He just doesn’t offer enough upside anywhere to make me want to use him.

Arizona vs. Milwaukee

  • Who believes that Mike Cameron will hit over .300 this season? Well, after going 2-4 with a solo homer, he has his average at .321 with 6 home runs and 16 RBI. At 36 years old, Cameron is a .251 career hitter, having never hit over .273 in a season.  He certainly seems like the perfect “sell high” candidate, doesn’t he?
  • Conor Jackson went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .203.  As I’ve said before, he has very little power upside, so if he’s not able to hit for a respectable average what value does he really have?  He should rebound, considering he’s .284 career average, so if that’s what you’re looking for, feel free to use him.

Florida vs. Chicago (NL)

  • Looking for a short-term, fill-in at catcher?  John Baker may be as good as anyone.  After going 3-for-4 with a solo home run and three runs, he is hitting .302 with 2 HR, 10 RBI and 19 R.  That’s a solid run total, which certainly is aided by the fact that he’s generally batting second in the Marlins lineup. That’s doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon, so he will continue to have plenty of run upside moving forward.
  • Speaking of catchers, Geovany Soto went 1-for-4 with a run, raising his average to .158. Owners are all still waiting for his breakout, so just keep hanging strong and do not panic.
  • Derrek Lee is not the power source he once was, but he went 1-4 with a home run, four RBI and a run yesterday, giving him home runs in back-to-back games. Don’t get fooled by the illusion, but it’s still nice to see. The average, currently at .209, is going to rebound, so stay patient.

Colorado vs. San Francisco

  • Would anyone have expected a Jason Hammel vs. Barry Zito pitching duel? Well, that’s just what we got, with neither team scoring until the tenth inning. Hammel went six shutout innings giving up six hits and two walks, striking out one.  Zito went seven shutout innings giving up two hits and a walk, striking out four.  Neither are advisable options, but it was nice to see.
  • Bengie Molina was on the bench, but Pablo Sandoval stayed at third. Sooner or later he’s going to get to his five games to be eligible, but it’s just taking a lot longer then expected.

San Diego vs. Los Angeles (NL)

  • Chad Billingsley is pitching like he is one of the league’s elite, improving to 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA after giving up two runs on four hits and four walks, striking out eight over seven innings. Yes, the walks were a little high, but it’s going to happen. So far this season he’s struck out 42 batters over 40.2 innings, so we all can deal with a slightly elevated walk rate.
  • Matt Kemp got moved up to fifth, but of course went 0-for-4. He’s hitless in his last three games, and five out of his last seven. Maybe I should stop pushing for him to be bumped up the line-up, huh?  Maybe, but I don’t believe it.  He’s just in a cold spell. And I believe he’s going to snap out of it.

Anyone have any thoughts?  Anything to add?

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