Fantasy Baseball: Jake Peavy carrying Dixie torch for Levon Helm?

      April 20, 2012 @ 17:31:13 PDT

Levon Helm, the legendary drummer and vocalist for The Band, passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer. Quite a remarkable musician. You've probably heard "The Weight," but if you've never seen "The Last Waltz" or heard their self-titled album, get on it, immediately after reading this.

I'll never tire of hearing "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Helm, a native of Arkansas, assisted Band songwriter and Canada-born Robbie Robertson with the historical narration during the writing process.

The tune is one of the finest, most moving Americana songs in the last 50 years. It was written for Helm to belt out in all his Southern glory and marks a poignant canonization. RIP

Meanwhile, another native son of Dixie thought to be driven down to irrelevance is doing right by his region and fantasy baseball owners. All together now: "IT'S EARLY!" But Mobile, Ala. native Jake Peavy looks like a prime candidate for AL Comeback Player of the Year ... and fantasy baseball steal of the year.

You'd love to see him induce more grounders, and his 3.8% HR/FB will come back to earth sooner than later given his penchant for fly-ball allowance and how early it is in the season. But, especially for the price most bought him at this year (yours truly, $1, Tout Wars mixed), he's showing the proper signs that say he'll deliver an attractive profit.

19 2/3 innings, 21 K's, two walks. Did we time-warp to 2007? This fast start has come against three capable offenses: Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and the much improved Baltimore Orioles, so it's hard to say it's baseless.

The cut fastball that became a frequent weapon in his first full South Side season has been his best offering so far to go along with his more capable two-seamer. Getting back nearly 1 mph on his four-seamer is having a positive trickle-down effect. His changeup works better if there's more heat for it to balance. Also, he has added significant horizontal movement to his cutter and slide piece.

As Nicholas Minnix expounded in our preseason sleeper and undervalued pitchers list, Peavy's injuries and stubbornness in pitching through them held him back during his arrival in the Junior Circuit. He couldn't establish a sound program to combat the shift from PETCO Park to one of the friendliest hitter havens in baseball ... and to the less favorable league for hurlers.

Even with his poor ERA outputs in the last few years, his component skills remained among the best in the league, making him a poster boy for FIP and xFIP. Those cases don't always correct themselves to reach expectations, but a pain-free Peavy stands as one of the strongest cases in recent years to do so.

Plus, from his comments following his Wednesday game, it seems like he truly relishes the fact that he's healthy. No act, just appreciation for winning ballgames. Sure, that sounds like gooey positive-spin speak, but for a big-contract player who has disappointed, having a grateful attitude will supplement his physical revival moving forward.

Not a bad place on next week's AL 2-start rankings, either.

There's health; motivation; the extra work he seems to have put in on conditioning, video scouting and preparation; and the enhanced arsenal. Imagine if he works with noted pitching coach Don Cooper and starts generating more downward movement....

There's admittedly palpable temptation to sell high. If you can score a normally elite player, fine. But if others are skeptical and won't overpay you, ride it out. Maybe we're not talking "2000s stud" value, but with his elite command history and returning velo, you can't write off his upside as a No. 2 mixed SP that'll carry The Weight.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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