SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 11, 2013

Fantasy Forecast: Much ado about Machado

Fantasy Forecast
Andy Silva

---- — Pop quiz: who is currently ranked second among third baseman according to Yahoo!?

Adrian Beltre? No. David Wright? Forget about it. Evan Longoria? Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

No, it is actually young Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. In fact, there are few hotter hitters right now than the man on the hot corner at Camden Yards. In the last two weeks Machado is hitting .368 with 3 home runs, 8 RBI, 3 stolen bases and 13 runs scored. He’s not leading any of the counting categories, but he’s doing consistently well in all of them at the moment.

Perhaps most impressive about his hot start is the fact he’s doing it in his first full season in the majors and at a still relatively new position. Machado had not even played much third base prior to being called up to the big leagues late last summer. His strikeout rate is down 3 percent (going from 18.8 percent to 15.4) and his walk rate (currently 18.8 vs. 15.4 in 2012), BABIP (.348 vs. .293) and slugging percentage (.514 vs. .445) are all up.

Now, once the league gets a better look at the youngster he may hit a wall and see some regression. Perhaps he’ll dip below .300 in batting average. But still, there is plenty to be bullish about. He’s owned in about 85 percent of leagues, so more than likely you’ll have to pry him away from another owner in a trade. If you can talk another owner into thinking this has been the best of Machado, perhaps you can get a reasonable price. Or maybe even wait for him to hit the wall and perhaps then you can buy low. Either way, keep him on your radar screen.

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The back end of the Red Sox bullpen became something of a mess this week.

First the oft-injured Andrew Bailey hit the DL with a strained right biceps after starting the season strong. Then Joel Hanrahan was injured in on Monday night in the midst of blowing a save against the Twins, leading him to be placed on the DL as well.

Initially, it appeared as though the Hanrahan injury was not incredibly serious. An MRI showed no structural damage and the injury was originally termed as a right forearm strain. However, as the week has progress fears have risen to the point where Hanrahan will visit Dr. James Andrews (never a good sign) and has been moved to the 60-day DL. That move means that no matter what tests show, and surgery or no surgery, Hanrahan will be out until at least July.

Bailey did play catch yesterday for the first time since being placed on the DL, saying he “felt pretty good.” However, he also said he doubted he would be able to come off the DL when eligible on Tuesday. And, let’s face it, Bailey has been as fragile as fine china in his career.

So, in the interim John Farrell has tabbed Junichi Tazawa as the closer du jour. Tazawa has been one of Farrell’s favorites this season, already among the league leaders in appearances. And with good reason, as opponents were hitting just .228 against him going into play on Thursday. Plus, Tazawa has proven himself in a setup role, notching 9 holds thus far in 2013.

Tazawa is owned in just 49 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so if you need a quick influx of saves there’s a place to turn. Bailey still could come back and wrestle the job away from Tazawa, unless the Japanese import really excels while the other two are recovering from their maladies. For the time being, Tazawa becomes a player who is a must own, especially given Bailey’s long and varied injury history in the big leagues.

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This may go without saying, but for those still on the fence: Roy Halladay should be dropped in basically all formats.

It was announced this week that Halladay will undergo surgery to remove bone spurs and repair a partially torn rotator cuff. Now, the former ace says he believes he can come back this season, but given his age and performance is that something you even want?

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It’s a small sample, but the question still must be asked: is Scott Kazmir for real?

In his youth with the Rays he was a dynamic lefty (one who especially killed the Sox). However, a few years back he hit a bump in the road and seemed destined to become a footnote in baseball history.

However, he looked great in Indians camp this spring and has been pretty good in three starts thus far this season. He was dominant against the A’s on Thursday and in his last two starts is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA, 17 strike outs and just one walk in 12 innings pitched.

His velocity seems to be up for both his fastball and two-seamer and he has done a better job of mixing up his pitches, relying less on his two-seamer and getting his slider back in the mix. All in all, there’s a lot to be encouraged by.

I’m still hesitant to jump in with both feet on this one, but he’s still only owned in 5 percent of leagues, so I think there is the luxury to watch him for a while longer to see if he can keep up this level of performance. But at the very least it appears as though he could be a streaming option, and that is something one couldn’t have predicted going into this season.

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Andy Silva writes the Fantasy Forecast column for The Salem News. You can read his blog at blogs.salemnews.com/fantasyforecast and reach him at asilva@salemnews.com. You can also follow Fantasy Forecast on Twitter at twitter.com/sn_fantasysport.