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Royals starter Jason Vargas returned last September 17 from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and pitched well in three appearances, registering a 2.25 ERA, 0.917 WHIP, and 11 strikeouts across 12 innings. Now almost 21 full months removed from that procedure, the veteran left-hander looks better than ever.
Vargas allowed just four hits -- one double and three singles -- over seven scoreless innings Wednesday night against the Giants, out-dueling Madison Bumgarner in a 2-0 victory for Kansas City. Vargas didn’t issue a walk and racked up nine strikeouts, his most since 2013, while moving to 3-0 on the season with a 0.44 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 23/2 K/BB ratio in three starts covering 20 2/3 innings.
Per beat writer Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, Vargas is just the fourth pitcher in Royals franchise history to work six-plus innings and allow no more than one run in his first three starts to open a season.
But for fantasy prognostication purposes let’s take a step back and try to get realistic.
With an average fastball of 86.6 mph, Vargas is essentially a junk-baller who gets by on craftiness. He keeps the ball down and buries changeups, and that approach has guided him to a lucrative 12-year major league career. To expect him to continue this pace of a strikeout-or-more per inning would be foolish.
Vargas entered the 2017 campaign with a career 5.9 K/9, and that mark has never climbed above 6.5 in a full major league season. He is 34 years old, and those velocity readings aren’t changing.
Vargas makes for a fine streaming option in standard mixed leagues and he might be worth rostering for the ERA and WHIP in deeper formats, but he is not going to be the savior of your rotation.
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Rosenthal Earns Save, Worth A Stash
Seung Hwan Oh was one of the best stories of the 2016 baseball season, but he hasn’t been sharp this year and a familiar name in fantasy circles is now threatening to recapture closer duties in St. Louis.
Oh was used in back-to-back save opportunities on Monday and Tuesday night, so Cardinals manager Mike Matheny opted to trot out former stopper Trevor Rosenthal to wrap up the club’s three-game series sweep of the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon. Rosenthal allowed a one-out single to John Jaso and needed 23 pitches to get through the top of the ninth inning, but it was a scoreless frame and Rosenthal notched his first save since June 21, 2016. Which is extra meaningful given Oh’s early-season struggles.
Rosenthal owns a 2.70 ERA in four appearances since returning April 10 from a late-spring lat strain, with seven strikeouts and zero walks in 3 1/3 innings. He’s again touching 101 mph with his fastball and showing much better control than he did in 2016. The 26-year-old right-hander issued 29 walks in 40 1/3 innings last year for St. Louis while losing his ninth-inning job to Oh. Rosenthal set a new franchise saves record (48) as the Cardinals’ unquestioned closer in 2015.
Matheny isn’t going to make a change yet, but if Oh struggles in his next outing and/or the one after that it could be time for an official break. Oh has allowed six earned runs on a walk and 12 hits in 6 2/3 innings this year, showing far less effectiveness with his slider -- a big out-pitch for him in Asia and throughout his first MLB season. The 34-year-old native of South Korea produced a 1.92 ERA and 103/18 K/BB ratio over his first 79 2/3 big league innings in 2016.
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Mancini Moves To Leadoff For O’s
Seth Smith is on the shelf with a right hamstring strain and Craig Gentry has batted just .111/.105/.278 over his first 13 major league games, so hot-hitting youngster Trey Mancini took a turn at leadoff for the Orioles on Wednesday night against the Reds and went 1-for-4 with a single in Baltimore’s 2-0 victory over Cincinnati.
Mancini wasn’t on the radar in most fantasy leagues entering the 2017 season, but he deserves some attention now with the possibility that more starts -- possibly at leadoff -- could be in his immediate future. The 25-year-old former eighth-round pick batted .306/.357/.472 with 54 home runs and 275 RBI in 483 minor league games before rising to the majors last season as a late-September callup. Since that promotion, Mancini has tallied 14 hits -- including seven home runs -- in 14 big league games. He also has 14 RBI with the O’s, including nine in 2017.
Mancini isn’t much of a defender -- he played first base exclusively as a minor leaguer before the Orioles decided to try him in the outfield -- but when he’s at the plate he hits and he should start showing up in the O’s starting lineups more regularly. AL-only leaguers should already be making a move to grab him. Deep mixed leaguers might want to take the plunge too. He’ll remain a DFS darling with many more games to come at power-friendly Camden Yards.
National League Quick Hits: Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday that Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover will share closer duties moving forward, with Blake Treinen shifting back into a setup role … Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler slugged his first two home runs of the season Wednesday against the Pirates … Addison Russell belted a walkoff three-run homer against Brewers closer Neftali Feliz in the Cubs’ comeback victory on Wednesday afternoon … Bryce Harper went 4-for-4 with two home runs, including a grand slam, Wednesday night in the Nationals’ rout of the Braves … Dodgers placed second baseman Logan Forsythe on the disabled list with a fractured right big toe … Jay Bruce went 3-for-4 and plated five RBI with a pair of home runs in the Mets’ victory over the Phillies on Wednesday … Free agent outfielder Angel Pagan told Yamaira Muñiz Pérez of El Vocero that he will not play baseball in 2017 … Amir Garrett punched out 12 batters while allowing two runs in seven innings but suffered a tough-luck loss against the Orioles on Wednesday … Carlos Gonzalez left Wednesday's game against the Dodgers with a bruised right hand … Trea Turner (hamstring) stole a base in an extended spring training game on Wednesday as he nears his return to the Nationals’ active roster … Madison Bumgarner took a loss despite holding the Royals to one run in six innings on Wednesday … Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud left Wednesday's game against the Phillies due to a right wrist contusion … Clayton Kershaw struck out 10 batters while allowing two runs over seven innings Wednesday in the Dodgers’ defeat of the Rockies … Jhoulys Chacin shocked the world with eight shutout innings Wednesday in the Padres’ win over the Diamondbacks … Jayson Werth was lifted from Wednesday's win over the Braves with a groin spasm … Free agent reliever Matt Capps is hosting a showcase for teams Sunday in Atlanta.
American League Quick Hits: Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (biceps) played catch Wednesday from a distance of 60 feet … Justin Upton was absent from the Tigers’ lineup Wednesday due to a right forearm contusion … Khris Davis went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run in Wednesday's afternoon victory over the Rangers … Roberto Osuna earned his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning Wednesday in the Blue Jays’ shutout win over the Red Sox … Carlos Correa (hand) said he plans on playing in Thursday's game against the Angels … Todd Frazier (flu) was held out of the White Sox lineup again on Wednesday … Mitch Haniger went 3-for-4 with a two-run double, four total RBI, and three runs scored in Wednesday's win over the Marlins … Orioles right-hander Brad Brach struck out one batter in a clean ninth inning to earn a save against the Reds on Wednesday … Aaron Judge went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and a very long solo home run in Wednesday's win over the White Sox … Rays manager Kevin Cash said the hope is that Jake Odorizzi (hamstring) will only end up missing two starts … Orioles closer Zach Britton (forearm) will undergo a followup MRI on Friday … J.D. Martinez (foot) took batting practice on Wednesday … Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar went 3-for-4 and swiped his first two bases of the season Wednesday against the Red Sox … Ubaldo Jimenez gave up just two hits and no runs through 7 2/3 innings Wednesday to beat the Reds … Rays outfielder Colby Rasmus (hip) is aiming to resume his minor league rehab assignment this week … Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence will fill the Blue Jays’ vacant rotation spots this weekend against the Angels … Wilson Ramos (knee) has begun to take dry swings … Josh Reddick homered, tripled, and doubled against the Angels on Wednesday … Evan Longoria went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs in Wednesday's dramatic walkoff victory over the Tigers … A’s starter Daniel Mengden (foot) threw a bullpen session on Monday and will throw another Thursday … Yankees shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres has been placed on the minor league disabled list with mild right rotator cuff tendinitis.