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Roto Roundup: Jose Fernandez, Will Middlebrooks, Billy Butler, and Others

Ray Guilfoyle highlights some of the top performances from Sunday's MLB action, including the debut of Marlins pitching prospect Jose Fernandez, the dominance of Jeff Samardzija, and huge games from Will Middlebrooks and Billy Butler.

Al Bello

Sunday's MLB action marked the debut of Marlins pitching prospect Jose Fernandez, along with some big performances Jeff Samardzija, a possible closer change in Kansas City, and a huge game at the plate by Billy Butler.

Jose Fernandez dominant in his big league debut

Marlins top pitching prospect, 20 year old Jose Fernandez, made his major league debut yesterday in New York, and looked like a pitcher who has pitched in the big leagues for several years. In 5 innings of work, Fernandez limited the Mets to just one run on 3 hits, a walk and 8 strikeouts. It appears the Marlins are serious about keeping him up with the big league club this season, even though he has never pitched above Low A ball. Here is Clark Spencer from the MiamI Herald:

In an effort to preserve his young arm, the Marlins intend to limit Fernandez’s innings this season to no more than 170. As long as the holds his own, they intend to keep him on the big-league roster, even though it means he could reach free agency a year sooner (2018) than if they would have waited and brought him up from the minors later this season.

I assume this move was to please the Marlins fans, but if he struggles, this could hurt his development. The team is taking a big risk here, but Fernandez did not disappoint in his major league debut on Sunday.

To put Fernandez's performance in perspective, according to Jonathan Mitchell from MLB Dirt and DRaysBay tweeted, he did something only 12 other pitchers have done in their major league debut:

Freddie Freeman lands on the DL

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman landed on the DL with a right oblique strain. As you probably know, oblique strains are not a good thing for power hitters, so he may miss more than the required 15 days. In the meantime, the Braves moved Chris Johnson to first base while he is out, but I wonder if Evan Gattis can play first base. He did play 7 games at first base in 2011 in Low A, so I doubt the Braves will play him there. Johnson and Juan Francisco both benefit from this injury.

Apparently, the DL move came as a surprise to Freeman, via the Associated Press:

"They didn't even give me a choice," Freeman said before Atlanta's game with the Chicago Cubs. "It's my career. I should be able to make that decision."

Freeman said he found out after arriving at Turner Field. He was examined by the team's medical staff on Saturday night after the Braves' 6-5 victory.

"They didn't even tell me anything," Freeman said. "I don't know what's going on. I'm pretty [angry] right now."

It appears the Braves are playing it conservatively by placing Freeman on the DL.

Will Middlebooks homers three times

Red Sox third baseman may have some difficulty making contact at times, but he does have plenty of power. On Sunday, Middlebrooks homered three times in the Red Sox 13-0 pasting of R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays. Middlebrooks went 4-5 with 3 HRs, 4 runs and 4 RBI, and now has 4 home runs in the Red Sox first six games. In 267 at bats last season, he hit 15 home runs and drove in 54 runs, but rarely takes a walk, so I wonder if he will ever become a premiere power hitter in the big leagues. Or will the walks come as he shows off more power?

More Closer changes coming?

Royals closer Greg Holland struggled the day after blowing his first save of the season in grand fashion. On Saturday night, he gave up 3 runs on a hit and 3 walks to blow a two run lead in the ninth. On Sunday, he relieved J.C. Gutierrez, and gave up a run on 2 hits in one-third of an inning. He has struck out 3 and walked 4 in his two innings of work thus far, and his closer job could be on shaky ground, especially after Kelvim Herrera got the final out, via strikeout, to earn his first save of the season. With that said, Kevin Roberts from, indicates that no change is coming:

Yost emphasized that no roles have changed in the bullpen. Sunday was just a day when he had to find a way through it.

"I just really liked the matchup of Herrera on Nix, because of [the] changeup," Yost said. "That's the reason for the move there."

I assume Holland still has the job unless he struggles again in his next save opportunity.

Brewers closer John Axford has been absolutely horrendous to start the 2013 season, and he didn't help himself on Sunday afternoon. Axford gave up the game winning two run home run to Eric Hinske after Jim Henderson pitched a clean 9th inning and struck out two. In his 2.2 innings of work thus far, he has given up home runs in each of his three appearances. A change may be on the horizon in Milwaukee.

Here are more of my fantasy thoughts on Sunday's MLB action:

Royals first baseman/DH Billy Butler had a power breakout in 2012, hitting 29 home runs driving in 107 and participating in the Home Run contest for the first time. Yesterday, he hit his first home run of the season, a grand slam that had to be reviewed to confirm it was gone, and finished with 7 RBI in the Royals 9-8 win over the Phillies.

The Indians roughed up Rays ace David Price on Sunday, with catcher Carlos Santana leading the way with a 5-5 day with a home run, two doubles, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the Indians 13-0 win. Santana's home run was his second of the season, and he is off to a solid start at the plate the start the 2013 season. Santana hit just five home runs in the first three months of the 2012 season, so he is well on his way to exceeding that amount by a wide margin.

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was roughed up in his visit to Great American Ball Park on Sunday, giving up 6 runs on 9 hits, 4 walks and 5 strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work. The performance pushed his ERA over 4.00, and he now owns an 8-4 strikeout to walk rate in 12.1 innings of work, certainly not what fantasy owners expected from him to start the season. The low strikeout total is a small concern and bares watching over his next couple starts. Some say he is pitching to contact more this season, so if that is true, we could see his strikeout rate drop from levels we saw last season.

It appears that Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija made the right decision in electing to play professional baseball rather than enter the NFL Draft. Kudos to the Cubs for convincing him to play baseball, as he has been nothing short of dominant in his first two starts of the season. Samardzija gave up 4 runs on 4 hits, 4 walks and 13 strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work. Of the 17 outs he got, 13 came via the strikeout, and of the 63 strikes he threw, a whopping 25 were swinging strikes. In his 13.2 innings of work thus far, he has struck out 22 batters and walked 5. Yeah, that's dominant.

Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki was a savior for some fantasy owners last season, as he was a late round or waiver wire pick in many leagues, yet he put up an excellent rookie season. Yesterday, he went 4-6 with a double, 2 runs, 3 RBI and a stolen base. He is off to a hot start to the 2013 season, and should provide owners with a .280-.300 batting average, 85-90 runs scored, and 30+ stolen bases this season.

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