Fantasy Baseball

Baseball's weekend takeaways

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Ryan Fowler

Ryan Fowler has spent the past 10 years covering and talking sports on TV and radio, in newspapers and on the web. He joined FOXSports.com as lead Fantasy Sports Editor and also acts as Digital Content Manager at WhatIfSports.com. Follow him on Twitter. Listen to his FOX Sports Team Report Podcasts on SoundCloud and iTunes

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Here are my top MLB takeaways from the weekend of June 21, 22 and 23.  Enjoy!

Taijuan Walker
Stats: 4-7 / 2.46 ERA / 96 K in 84 IP (Double-A)
Takeaways: The Seattle Mariners are 34-43 and 10 ½ games out of first place in the American League West. This organization has dipped into its farm system on a regular basis this season and I believe we’ll see more promotions in the months to come. Here’s your Mariners’ prospect crash course:

It began with starting pitcher, Brandon Maurer, and his big league debut the first week of April. Later on, with catcher Jesus Montero struggling mightily at the plate, they called up Jesus Sucre. Second baseman Dustin Ackley’s batting average hovered above the Mendoza Line at .205 and was sent down to Triple-A in late-May. The M’s called up Nick Franklin to replace him. A couple weeks after Sucre failed to impress, the organization pulled the trigger and called up Mike Zunino from Tacoma. Granted, he was only hitting .238 at the time of his promotion, but possessed the power this offense so desperately covets.

That brings us to Mr. Walker. Taijuan absolutely dominated the Double-A Southern League with the Jackson Generals and was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. Don’t let the 4-7 record fool you. In his final three games with Jackson, Walker struck out 28 and walked only one in 20 innings of work.  He's scheduled to make his first Triple-A start on June 25.

Walker and a rehabbing Danny Hultzen (rotator cuff) – who made an extended spring training start on 6/22: 5 IP / 8 K / WIN, will eventually lead a nasty 1-2 punch in Tacoma’s rotation. If they impress the front office, don’t be shocked if the duo make their big league debuts in 2013.

The Mariners would then boast a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Walker, Hultzen and either Joe Saunders, Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman.

Byron Buxton
Stats: .341 BA / 68 R / 55 RBI / 32 SB (Class A Cedar Rapids)
Takeaways: You may have read about Kyle Gibson’s impending promotion to Minnesota in John Halpin’s morning fantasy blog, but for those lovers of all things baseball, the Twins farm system made a second newsworthy minor-league transaction over the weekend. The organization’s No. 2 prospect, 19-year-old Byron Buxton, was promoted to the Florida State League (Class A Advanced) after he tore the cover off the ball for Cedar Rapids.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft led the Midwest League in runs scored (68), triples (10), on-base percentage (.431), slugging percentage (.559) and OPS (.990). Although you won’t see Buxton in 2013, the plan is to have him, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia (both currently in the bigs) roaming the Twins’ outfield for years to come.

Jay Bruce
Stats: Has hit 10 home runs since June 3
Takeaways: It’s funny how a power surge at the plate can silence the haters. By the end of April, Bruce had one home run, struck out 40 times with only 10 walks – a ratio of four strikeouts for every one walk (who says journalists aren’t good at math?!). Fantasy owners of Bruce and those in the greater-Cincinnati were outraged!

Fast forward to the end of May and Bruce finished with 27 strikeouts and seven walks (4:1 K:BB), but banged seven out of the park. The Bronx cheers began to dissipate.

Twenty-four days into the month of June, Bruce has struck out 24 times with five walks and 10 home runs – eight dingers in the last 10 games. What strikeouts?!

Now, for those eager to acquire his services in a fantasy baseball trade, hold on one second and hear me out. If you look at his 3-year splits, the month of July is by-far his worst month. During that stretch he owns a .222 batting average with seven homers combined in 2011 and 2012.

Ryan Howard
Stats: Hitting .357 in June
Takeaways: If Howard can keep his batting average above .350 for seven more days, it would mark his highest monthly batting average since 2006 when he hit .387 in September (October was omitted for this study). That’s the good news. The bad news for fantasy owners is his home run production is down when he’s not facing Dillon Gee. He hit three in April, four in May and only has three this month (two off Gee who he has hit six off in his career). One other noteworthy stat is that Howard has drawn 11 walks this month. Since 2008, his monthly-high walk total was 20 (September 2010).

Atlanta Braves Offense
Stats: Ranked 27th in June batting average (.234)
Takeaways: Since June 16, the Braves’ offense has averaged 2.6 runs per game. The lineup’s two high-water marks were five runs against the MetsShaun Marcum who saw his record drop to 0-9 on the season and six runs off Brewers’ Triple-A pitcher Alfredo Figaro.

How bad has it been for the Braves this month? B.J. Upton, he of the .175 season batting average, has more hits and home runs than younger brother Justin in June. B.J. has 17 hits and four homers compared to Justin’s 15 and one.

Pop Tarts' 1,323,343 new flavors
Takeaway: 
I ranted about this on Twitter over the weekend, but it bears repeating.  I think the makers of Pop Tarts have abandoned their traditional flavors business model and embraced the strange.  From their core flavors comes: Red Velvet, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, Cookie Dough, Chocolate Fudge, Cinnamon Roll, Confetti Cupcake, Cookies and Creme, Hot Fudge Sundae, S'mores, and something called Wild Fruit Fusion.  Considering the colors portrayed on the outside of the box, I'm not ruling out a nuclear reaction in the baking process.  Now, I don't want to come across as a Pop Tart purist, but what was wrong with cinnamon and brown sugar?  More importantly, I think after introducing Cookies and Creme it would be okay to eighty-six the vitamins and minerals boast.

Tagged: Twins, Mariners, Braves, Reds, Mets, Phillies, Ryan Howard, Jay Bruce

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