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Roto Roundup: Taijuan Walker, Sonny Gray, Chad Bettis and others

Ray offer his thoughts on some of the top performers from Friday's MLB action, including Charlie Blackmon, Taijuan Walker, Josh Hamilton and others.

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Charlie Blackmon: Same as he ever was

Coming into the season, Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon was the 24th ranked fantasy outfielder according to the NFBC ADP preseason rankings, but I had him a few spots higher. Why? Because he was coming off a season where he hit .288 with 19 HRs, 82 runs scored, 72 RBI and 28 SBs. Some writers out there felt he would regress this season due to his poor second half last season, and that he could see more of a platoon in center field in 2015.

Well, Blackmon is close to repeating what he did last year after the first two months of the season. Granted some of his numbers are down, but you can say that about most Rockies hitter right now, but here is a comparison:

2014: 10 HRS, 36 runs scored, 37 RBI, 10 SBs

2015: 7 HRs, 24 runs scored, 19 RBI, 10 SBs

For some reason the Rockies aren't scoring runs like they did last season, and part of the reason may be due to the disappointing seasons we are seeing from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is on pace for his worst season ever, and Carlos Gonzalez, ditto.

ZiPS projects Blackmon to hit .275 with 11 HRs, 49 runs scored, 45 RBI and 16 stolen bases the rest of the season. Based on that projection, his season stats would look like this:

2015: 18 HRs, 73 runs scored, 61 RBI, 26 SBs

2014: 19 HRs, 82 runs scored, 72 RBI, 28 SBs

Yeah, he's basically the same player this year that he was last season.

That is why when Lenny Melnick was looking for a starting pitcher in the Tout Wars NL only league, I quickly offered him Cardinals starter Lance Lynn for Blackmon. The trade won't be effective until Monday, since this league is a weekly league. And, if either gets hurt between today and Monday, the deal is off. I don't see that happening, and I will gladly add Blackmon to my roster. I will lose some wins and strikeout, but my offense is setting up to be a juggernaut. Fingers crossed.

Roto Roundup

Well, Stephen Strasburg is having one dandy of a season, isn't he? Last night, he lasted just 16 pitches before leaving the game with what was later determined to be a neck injury. A neck injury? That might a first for me. I am curoius if the neck injury is connected to the shoulder injury that he had a few weeks ago. Maybe not, but this guy is a mess right now. Hopefully the Nationals place him on the disabled list to see what the issues are because he doesn't appear healthy and he isn't pitching like he is healthy in my opinion.

One pitching prospect who many felt could have a breakthrough season this year is Mariners starter Taijuan Walker. He has struggled quite a bit this season, but last night, he offered us a glimpse into his potential, as he shut out the Indians on two hits, no walks and 8 strikeout in 8 innings of work in the Mariners 2-1 win. The win moved his record to 2-5 with a 6.18 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and a 47-23 strikeout to walk rate in 51 innings. He has been hurt by the long ball, as he has served up 8 home runs in his ten starts this season, including seven inn his last six starts. Walks have also hurt him, as he is walking more than four batters per nine right now. The home runs allowed (1.41 HR/9) should regress over the season, but he will need to work to limit the free pass.

Rockies starter Chad Bettis put up the best start of his career last night, tossing eight shutout innings vs the Phillies, giving up just two hits, no walks and striking out 7 in the Rockies 4-1 win. Bettis had a perfect game going for six innings, but that was not to be, but he still pitched a gem. The win moved his record to 2-0 in four starts, with a 2.96 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and a 22-6 strikeout to walk rate in 27.1 innings. He has 8 or more innings in his last two starts, and has given up three runs or less in his last three starts. He is owned in under 5% of leagues right now, but he may be worth a waiver wire pick to see if he can continue this over his next few starts.

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has struggled mightily at the plate this season, as I mentioned above, I wonder if he is still not 100% healthy after his hip surgery last year, but last night's performance could be a turning point in his season. Tulo went 4-4 with two home runs and two RBI in the Rockies 4-1 win over the Phillies. The big night at the plate moved his slash line to .285-.303-.456 with 4 home runs, 22 runs scored and 20 RBI in 163 plate appearances. The power and walks are down thus far in 2015, as he has walked just 5 times all season (3% walk rate), and his .456 slugging percentage would be a career low. I think he will hit better as the weather gets warner and be the hitter we drafted in the first round of drafts a few months ago.

Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton had a big night at the plate for the hometown fans last night, going 2-3 with two home runs, 3 runs scored and 2 RBI in the Rangers 7-4 win over the Red Sox. Hamilton just returned from the disabled list earlier in the week and has already had an impact on a game. He is available in 33% of leagues right now, so if you are in a mixed or AL only league, don't hesitate to grab him off of your league waiver wire should you have an underperforming outfielder or utility hitter in your lineup. After all he has been through, I am rooting hard for him to return to the player he was a few seasons ago.

A Twitter follower asked me last night, who would I rather want for the rest of the season: Albert Pujols or Lucas Duda. I quickly responded Duda, as Duda is following up a breakout 2014 season and hitting well again this season. Pujols, on the other hand, is showing his age and is in the decline phase of his career right now, but last night he showed us he might have a little bit left in the tank. Pujols went 3-4 with a home run and two runs scored in the Angels 2-0 win over the Tigers. Pujols is now hitting .250-.304-.460 with 10 home runs, 24 runs scored and 20 RBI in 191 plate appearances. He still has good power, but he certainly isn't the hitter he was just a few seasons ago.

Athletics starter Sonny Gray is one of the lone bright spots on an A's team that has disappointed this season and currently sits in last place in the American League West. Last night, he limited the Yankees to 2 runs on 4 hits, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts over 8 innings in the A's 6-2 win. The win moved his record to 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 66-20 strikeout to walk rate in 74 innings. Gray is pitching very well this season, striking out more than eight batters per nine, as he has increased his use of the slider this season. He limits the free pass and induces grounders at a 52% clip thus far. He could enter the conversation for AL Cy Young award if he can keep this up, but Mariners starter Felix Hernandez appears to be the favorite at this point. Nonetheless, Gray is a top 10-12 starting pitcher right now.

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