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MLB Barometer: Shoot That Poison Arrow

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Now this is where we see true dedication at work. Believe it or not, Memorial Day Weekend can be a major difference-maker in your fantasy league. The deliciousness of summer is nearly upon us, the weather is breaking into something beautiful and suddenly people have trips planned and BBQ's to attend. The notion of sitting inside, in front of the computer and poring over the latest MLB news is becoming less desirable with every anticipated trip down the Slip-n-Slide. Whether it's the casual fantasy player or the guy who is being glared at by his wife as she gets the kids ready to head to her sister's house for the family block party, there are tons of fantasy owners who are being pulled in a million different directions and none are headed towards the waiver wire. That means it's your time to shine.
Call me a nerd. I don't care. Laugh at me for preferring the comfort of my living room to the sweltering heat of a crowded beach. I am unfazed. You go have a great time eating come charred-to-a-crisp burger prepared by some lousy amateur chef down the street while listening to the aggravating screams of children running wild through the neighborhood. I'm ordering a pizza, propping my feet up and listening to the dulcet tones of Vin Scully and the moronic pontifications of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck.
Meanwhile, you're stuck in a conversation with some random dude that makes you want to slam your head in a door a thousand times while I'm rifling through the latest updates and cherry-picking players who are going to help me win my fantasy league. Sure, you can say that you're out there "living your life" but when it comes to the end of the year and your commissioner is handing me the league trophy and prize, how many fond memories from that BBQ are racing through your head?
With so many people being distracted and pulled away from the rigors of maintaining a quality fantasy team, your opportunity to get a leg up is staring you right in the face. I may be exaggerating a little here, telling you to forego life in favor of the latest Triple-A shortstop, but there is actual meaning behind it. Take the time to do your work. Let others slack off. Give your team the attention it deserves on a daily basis and you'll be laughing at all of them come the Labor Day BBQ because the lead your team has is insurmountable.
Now let me get to the players here because I can feel the stare of my wife burning through the back of my head. I told her to go on without me but I don't think that's really going to happen.

On the Rise

Brett Gardner, OF NYY - To paraphrase the old adage, one man's disaster is another man's dance party and I'm doing a little jig because Gardner is right back to being an everyday player. It's a total bummer for Curtis Granderson and his owners, but because Vernon Wells hasn't slowed a bit, Gardner was losing time once Grandy came back from his broken arm. And that couldn't have come at a worse time too because Gardner was actually just starting to heat up on the basepaths. The latest injury is supposed to keep Granderson on the shelf for a minimum of four weeks, so raise your red Solo cups and toast to a month of June loaded with Gardner-licious stolen bases.

Francisco Rodriguez, RP MIL - When Jim Henderson grabbed his hamstring and dropped to the ground, you could almost hear the joyous squeals of John Axford owners everywhere. But wait a second! It was our beloved K-Rod who came in for the one-out save, not Axford. And then, just to dash the hopes of those stashing Axford, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said on Saturday that he'd prefer to leave Axford where he is right now. Should you be a Henderson owner or just in need of saves, make your move on K-Rod now. 

Jason Castro, C HOU - Truth be told, I was never a big Castro fan. I'm still not, but my latest catching woes (Miguel Montero is a disaster and Devin Mesoraco rarely plays) have pointed me in his direction for a closer look. While I still don't like what his increased strikeout rate indicates down the road, for a short-term look, his developing power is certainly legit. He's maintaining a solid line drive rate while increasing his fly ball percentage as he lifts the ball more and the results have been fantastic, relatively speaking. We're not talking 20-home run power, but if he can hit you another six to eight, you're likely still coming out way ahead from what you probably paid for him.

Staying the Course

Fernando Rodney, RP TB - The disaster of the blown save has reared its ugly head in Tampa five times this year and Rodney has now allowed a total of seven runs over his last five appearances (4.2 innings). You would think that maybe it was time to start looking into picking up Joel Peralta, right? Wrong. Or at least not yet.  Joe Maddon put the kibosh on any change-in-closer speculation when he reiterated his faith in Rodney. With his job still secure, Rodney's value remains unchanged.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF MIN - Yes, he was just recently demoted by the Twins, but despite a recent run of bad luck at the plate, Arcia was not sent down based on performance but rather a need for a pitcher to be added to the roster. In fact, manager Ron Gardenhire already intimated that he didn't want to send Arcia down, but because he still had options, it was the right move. He also indicated that Arcia's stay at Triple-A Rochester wouldn't last long. Though no timetable was given, "sooner than later" seems about right which helps maintain his value.

Mike Moustakas, 3B KC - Let's face facts here, Moustakas' value couldn't get any lower than it is right now, could it? Those who drafted him are beyond frustrated and chances are he's probably sitting on your waiver wire right now. If not, then he's definitely on your bench. But while he's lost his job on your fantasy team, he hasn't lost anything more in the real world as manager Ned Yost expressed continued optimism that Moustakas would work out of this slump and be just fine. He may lose a few at-bats to Miguel Tejada, but the job remains his and his value in fantasy remains the same.

Heading South

Ike Davis, 1B NYM - For the first time this season, Mets manager Terry Collins publicly wondered if it was finally time to send Davis down to Triple-A to fix whatever his problem may be. Obviously there's no guarantee of demotion, but once the handwriting goes up on that wall, demoted or not, faith in Davis on the fantasy front is greatly diminished. He goes from potential buy-low candidate to cautionary tale immediately and could land on waiver wires everywhere if he's not already. Between last year's Valley Fever scare and this year's nightmarish beginning, he's probably not even worth stashing at this point as the wasted bench spot could hurt you more in the end.

Rafael Betancourt, RP COL - While I never like to put someone here because of injury, there could be more than just a sore groin at play here. Betancourt missed a few days because of the injury but after a clean MRI, a trip to the disabled list was avoided. In his absence, Rex Brothers closed for the Rockies in their only save opportunity and when another emerged and it went to Betancourt, he promptly blew the save. There has been no word of the team changing its mind about a DL stint, but since Betancourt is a free agent after the season and a major trade candidate, the Rockies could take this opportunity to give Brothers more of a look as the team's closer. This is purely speculative right now, but to me, the handwriting is already on the wall.

Jeremy Guthrie, SP KC - Well, it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? After 19 straight starts without a loss (dating back to August of 2012), Guthrie finally succumbed to the odds and took a loss to the Angels on May 14. He then got smacked around by the Astros during his following start and finally, this past Saturday, he coughed another six runs in 7.1 innings to take his third straight loss. The magical run of Guthrie-luck has obviously come to an end and the Guthrie we all once feared having on our roster has returned. Sure, you could stash him and maybe play the match-ups, but 17 runs in 19.1 innings speaks pretty loudly, don't you think?