The Cleveland Indians are on quite a roll. Their 1-0 win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night gave them wins in eight of nine games, and starting pitching has fueled the streak. This was the Tribe's fifth shutout of the season; last year's team produced six, along with a staff ERA of 4.78, second worst in the game. Today it's 3.92. Right-hander Zach McAllister tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings Tuesday, a day after Ubaldo Jimenez fanned eight over 5 2/3 effective (for him, at least) frames.
Fantasy owners have been asking about the relevance of these guys, as well as Wednesday's scheduled starter Justin Masterson and rejuvenated lefty Scott Kazmir, but to me, the Tribe option with the most upside is the guy who nearly tossed an erratic no-hitter Tuesday afternoon for the organization's Triple-A club in Columbus, Ohio. Yep, it's the same guy who has walked 13 big league hitters in 10 innings this year, the former first-round pick the Arizona Diamondbacks couldn't wait to unload.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer is a bit too wild to be unleashed regularly on big league hitters just yet, but when he figures things out, watch out. Last week, Bauer was unhittable against the Philadelphia Phillies, permitting just one hit through five innings for his first win and striking out five. He also walked six, as his fastball command remains erratic. On Tuesday, Bauer was one out from a seven-inning no-hitter against the Charlotte Knights in the first game of a doubleheader (doubleheader games are seven innings), but control was again an issue. Bauer walked four and hit four batters, and only 60 of his 106 pitches went for strikes. He did not earn the win. You won't see many lines like this: 6 2/3 innings, zero hits, two runs (both earned), four walks, seven strikeouts.
The truth is that I'm not terribly interested in any Indians starting pitchers for ESPN standard (10-team) mixed leagues. McAllister boasts a 2.63 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over six starts, but there's little upside. He's not a strikeout pitcher, and the former New York Yankees prospect has an xFIP of 4.32, which tells a more accurate story. His ERA last season was 4.24 as he won six of 22 starts.
I won't go near Jimenez, the former Colorado Rockies flamethrower. His win Monday was his second consecutive, but the walks scare me away. It's tough to issue nearly five walks per nine innings and get away with it. Jimenez is inducing more ground balls while maintaining a strong strikeout rate, but a .240 BABIP against is likely to regress a lot. I see an ERA in the 4.75-to-5.00 range.
The occasionally useful Masterson is the lone Tribe starter owned in more than 5 percent of leagues, but he's also being mass-dropped after allowing 12 runs in his past two outings. His strikeout rate is up, but I don't trust his fine April work against lefty hitters. If it seems unsustainable, it probably is. He'll give you 200 innings, but do you want another 4.93 ERA and 1.45 WHIP like last year?
Kazmir has pitched well his past two outings and he's throwing hard again, but right-handed hitters aren't being fooled in the least, with a .341 batting average and nine extra-base hits in 44 at-bats. That'sa scary stat!
Bauer is the future ace, once he figures out where the ball is going. I'd stash him away in larger mixed leagues and AL-only formats, for he's a lot better than Corey Kluber and has more upside than the other members of the rotation. I'd take McAllister next, as it's certainly possible he remains consistent and avoids blowup outings, but I fear his numbers will regress. Bauer might never be Matt Harvey -- that didn't take long -- but there's something there.
Box score bits (AL): While Bauer was slingin' it at Columbus, his center fielder was Michael Bourn, playing his first game on what figures to be a short rehab assignment for a finger injury. Bourn singled, walked and stole a base. He should be leading off for the Indians by the weekend and is worth activating immediately. ... The new top of the order for the Houston Astros fared well Tuesday. Rookie Robbie Grossman stole the first two bases of his career and scored twice. Jimmy Paredes, called up earlier in the day, doubled in a run. And Jose Altuve batted third and homered. Watch Paredes, a switch-hitter who finally showed plate discipline at Triple-A. He brings pop and speed. ... Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks had another hitless game Tuesday, lowering his batting average to .192, and he left early with pain in his right side after colliding with catcher David Ross. Middlebrooks has a three-homer game this season, but other than that, he has been terrible. Move on in 10-team mixed leagues. ... We don't have to consider Toronto Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ in a fantasy league to root hard for his health after a line drive struck him in the head Tuesday night.
Box score bits (NL): Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich had quite a night for Double-A Jacksonville, getting five hits in six at-bats, with a home run and pair of triples. Yelich, 21, is hitting .333. Hey, if the Marlins' Marcell Ozuna can skip Triple-A, why not Yelich? I could see this happening within a month, though it's premature to stash him in 10-team mixed formats. ... OK, New York Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is ridiculous. On Tuesday, he fanned 12 and allowed one baserunner in nine innings, though he didn't win (thanks to the Mets hitters). Other than Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez, would you take any pitcher over Harvey today? I'm not one for hyperbole, but yeah, he's my No. 4 pitcher. ... Tim Lincecum used to be held in such high regard. I watched his Tuesday outing as one struggling Phillies hitter after another squared up his straight fastball and hittable changeup and slider. This is the same guy as in 2012. Lot of strikeouts, lot of walks, lot of runs. He's still worth owning in a 10-team league, but don't buy low.