Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Joe Blanton, John Jaso and Josh Lueke
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The Phils didn't seem to have a good handle, initially, on the right-hander's elbow injury, which cost him most of the 2011 campaign. In early May, Blanton returned from a short stint on the disabled list, but he ended up back there less then two weeks later. He didn't pitch again until September, and then only in relief.
Philly's backdrop of aces wallpaper and Blanton's backend ability have often made him the butt of baseball banter, roto and otherwise. He's been an adequate performer in Philadelphia, however, especially when he was healthy. He earned the "innings eater" label because of his durability. He earned the respect of his teammates for his willingness to take the ball at any and all times, regardless of his own nagging health issues.
Since entering the NL, Blanton has been a control-rate maven and has posted a K/9 of greater than 7.00. He's a hittable pitcher who pays for mistakes, true. But he'll be just 31 next season. He's not suddenly incapable of having another year like his 2009, when he went 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA, a 7.51 K/9 and a 2.72 BB/9.
The Phils won't bring back Roy Oswalt. With a regular offseason from here on out and low expectations from the masses, Blanton should come cheaply in fantasy baseball leagues. That would set him up to be an NL-only bargain, and he could have value in leagues with deep MLB universes.
The M's, who until 2011 had made it a habit of entering a season without a viable big-league catcher, landed a solid backup backstop. The left-handed-hitting Jaso, 28, will complement the right-handed-hitting Miguel Olivo, perhaps fairly well.
Jaso's contact rate of nearly 90 percent and his patient approach suggest that his batting average should be more of the .264 variety (in 2010) than the .224 style (in 2011). His above-average on-base ability is in stark contract to Olivo's most-or-little-else approach. Only an injury would give Jaso value in leagues beyond the deep AL-only kind, though.
For a low cost, Lueke, who'll be 27 next season, gives the Rays another talented rifle with a high ceiling and some evidence that he'll be a long-term asset. Rays GM Andrew Friedman seemed to express some excitement about the acquisition, with good reason.
The right-hander's April 2011 major league initiation is responsible for his 6.06 ERA in his 32 2/3 total big-league frames. Seattle demoted him near the end of that first full month, only to bring him back two months later. From July 22 through the end of the season, Lueke registered a 3.42 ERA, a 7.12 K/9 and a 2.39 BB/9 in 26 1/3 stanzas.
The Mariners acquired the reliever, along with Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan and Matt Lawson, from the Texas Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade a year and a half ago. Lueke has been attempting to put some dark off-the-field troubles behind him and fulfill the promise he had as a possible closer of the future. He easily may, with his exceptional minor league resume and arsenal, on which Baseball America's Matt Eddy expounds.
The Rays, who've been known to coax high productivity from plenty of pitchers with varying levels of raw ability, give him a chance to do just that. At most, Kyle Farnsworth will stick around for one more season. The Rays are looking ahead; roto players would be wise to recognize Lueke as viable long-term replacement and treat him similarly.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570. Follow @NicholasMinnix
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