by Ryan Butler
Here they are folks, the Players of the Week, version 1.0.
Jered Waver– He really put it all together last season, leading the AL in strikeouts (233) and posting an outstanding 1.07 WHIP. Seems like he is picking up right where he left off, going 20.2/3/27/0.87/0.87 in his first three starts. If the Angels can give him enough run support, and the bullpen doesn’t cough up the leads he will inevitably hand them, Weaver will be a Top-Ten fantasy starter.
Dan Haren- Getting out of Arizona was the best thing that ever happened to him. After two outstanding seasons in AZ, Haren’s ERA was an alarming 4.60 in 21 starts with the D-Backs before being traded to the Angels last July. He went 5-4 with a 2.87 in 15 starts with LAA. In three games this season (one relief appearance) he is 2-0 with a 1.15 ERA, a 0.64 WHIP and 13 K in 15.2 IP. My favorite thing about him? Durability. He has never made less than 33 starts in a full major league season.
Edwin Jackson- Maybe this is an aberration, or maybe he has finally put it all together. Until Weaver went totally ape against the Blue Jays, Jackson had been the most dominant starter in baseball thus far. 14/2/20/1.93/1.00 says it all. Granted, his 13-strikeout masterpiece came at the expense of the hapless Rays, but he has pitched better in his short time with the ChiSox than at any other stop in his young, yet much-traveled career. He has a career WHIP of 1.48, so don’t expect anything better than 1.25 in that department, but on a strong White Sox team, the potential for a 15-win season is there. Ownership of Jackson has shot up by nearly one-third, up to 75% in Yahoo! leagues in the days following his outing versus Tampa Bay.
Mariano Rivera- Is anybody really surprised? Mo will probably be lobbing cutters up there until he’s 62 years-old, finally retiring after the 2032 season with 1,211 career saves. Through April 7, he was 4/4 in save opportunities to go with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.46 WHIP. He got off to a shaky start last year, causing some to ask if this one-pitch wonder’s time had finally run out. It hasn’t. He’s a lock for 35 saves.
Craig Kimbrel- The biggest question in the Braves’ camp this year surrounded the closer role. Craig Kimbrel or Jonny Venters? At the onset of the regular season, most figured the two would split time closing games, with Kimbrel getting the lion’s share of the opportunities. So far, he has gotten all of them, converting 3/3 SVO with a 0.00 ERA and 7 Ks in 4.0 IP.
Joel Hanrahan- No one ever doubted Hanrahan’s stuff; it was his seemingly fragile psyche that made him so ineffective in his attempts to close games. Coming off a 2010 season in which he recorded 100 Ks in 69.2 IP, he was the frontrunner for the Pirates’ closer gig despite having blown 13 save opportunities in only 33 career chances. So far, so good, as he has 4 saves and 8 Ks in 6.1 IP along with a 1.42 ERA. But owners beware, for he could detonate at any time.
Nelson Cruz- I have always wanted to see what kind of numbers he could put up over 150 games. As of press time he is hitting .310 with 8 runs scored, 10 RBI, and a majors-best 5 home runs. Hamstrings permitting, Cruz is an MVP just waiting to happen.
Mark Teixeira- I have to give it up to Big Tex. Despite a lousy .182 average (par for the course), he has managed to hit 4 bombs, knock in 10, and score 6 times. Usually he doesn’t have stats like that until May 15.
Matt Kemp- I also have to give credit to Mr. Kemp. “Waste of talent!” as Robert Deniro’s character would say in “A Bronx Tale” if he witnessed Kemp’s joke of a 2010 season. He is a slacker; the Spicoli of Major League Baseball. But, could it be that Kemp actually cares? If early season returns are any indication, he just may! He is currently hitting .438 with 7 runs scored and 4 RBI. Only one homer thus far, but he is 6/6 in SB attempts. Perhaps he has a chip on his shoulder and is out to prove everybody wrong. He is a force to be reckoned with, if motivated.
Honorable Mention: Howie Kendrick- (4 home runs already? Right on!)
Honorable Mention, Part II: Matt Holliday- This guy’s numbers are off the charts. A .750 BA? 1.500 SLG%? An OPS of 2.300? This guy makes Albert Pujols look like Rafael Belliard in comparison…what? Only 4 ABs all season? Oh. Well, at least he leads the National League in emergency appendectomies, with one.
Dishonorable Mention: Ryan Franklin- I guess I just love seeing Tony LaRussa squirm at a postgame press conference. Franklin’s struggles have been well documented, so I won’t rehash them here. It should serve as a reminder however, that if you’re going to roll with a closer who has a career K/9 of 5.5, he is going to blow more than his fair share of saves. Could be a long year in St. Louis.