Billy Burns was originally drafted by the Nationals but made his way over to the A’s in an off-season trade after he just had completed an amazing season in the Minors in 2013. In that season, he split time between high-A and AA and compiled a .315 AVG with 0 HR, 37 RBI, 96 R, and 74 SB. Obviously the stolen base total was terrific, but maybe the more impressive thing was his feel for the strike zone as he walked 13.3% of the time while only striking out 10.0% of the time. So ever since then he has been someone that has been firmly on my radar as I tend to get enamored with players who have the capability to walk more than they strikeout.
However, 2014 season was a little bit of a different story. He split time between AA and AAA in his first year in the A’s organization but didn’t show the same hitting and on base skills as he had just a .237 AVG, 9.8% BB%, and 15.5% K%, but the speed was still there with 54 SB and all reports suggested that his speed would definitely be a factor once he reached the Majors.
As an outfielder, Burns did not have a clear path to everyday playing time for the A’s to begin the 2015 season as Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry. and Rule 5 Draft pick Mark Canha all were ahead of Burns on the depth chart. So while Burns did crack the opening day roster, he was sent down to AAA after a couple of games where he could get everyday playing time. However, Burns was recalled on May 2 and ever since then I have been touting him and recommending him as a pick up in fantasy leagues. Crisp returned from the DL on May 6, which didn’t look good for Burns’ playing time outlook, but Crisp went back on the DL on May 20 to relieve any concerns for Burns on the playing time front.
So for the most part, Burns has been an everyday player since his recall, starting in 19 of his team’s 22 games during that stretch and he is making a very nice impact for the A’s and fantasy owners alike. On Sunday’s first pitch of the game, Burns crushed the Erasmo Ramirez offering into the right field bleachers for the first home run of his Major League career and only the 3rd home run of his career as a professional. Burns later on added a stolen base to his box score line. The home runs will be few and far between for Burns, but it is his tremendous speed that is going to be his best asset and make him valuable for fantasy purposes. For the season, he has swiped 7 bags already in just 20 games played to go along with a .309 AVG. His walk rate currently stands at 5.7% and strikeout rate at 16.1%, so there is some to be desired in those areas considering what we have seen from him in the Minors, but as he gains more experience he may see improvements. Having a starting job and hitting atop the lineup for the A’s is good enough for now, and being a switch hitter is certainly a quality that should help to keep him in the lineup on most days.
Heading into the season, Burns and the recently demoted Micah Johnson of the White Sox were my two strongest candidates to be this year’s Dee Gordon to establish themselves as 50+ SB threats in the Majors. That’s clearly not going to be happening for Johnson being back at AAA, but Burns could be on his way there (but he may have some competition in Delino DeShields). I do not think that Burns is going to go away, and he is definitely a player that needs to be owned in all 12-team leagues. There are only 3 players in the Majors who have more SB than Burns since he got called up, and those players are Gordon (9), Deshields (9), and Justin Upton (8). Barring injury, Burns will be near the top of the stolen base leader chart by the end of the season, and at just 6% ownership in Yahoo, fantasy owners need to wake up before they get “burned” by not picking up Billy.
Let’s take a look at the rest of Sunday’s action heading into the Memorial Day holiday…
Kyle Seager – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R. I mentioned Seager in the daily notes on Saturday and he makes it here again with back to back games with a HR. I said we hadn’t heard much from him this season, but that he should get it going soon. So here he is getting it going!
Taijuan Walker – 5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K with the L. Another bumpy one for the young righty. After his last start I said: “I wouldn’t give up on him, but I wouldn’t start him in any games except against the weakest of teams for now.” The Blue Jays were his opponent on Sunday and they do not qualify as a weak team, so they got to Walker and you shouldn’t have started him if you own him! He now owns an ugly 1-5 record with a 7.33 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, and 39 K/23 BB in 43 IP.
Edwin Encarnacion – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. If you haven’t been following along, this was Encar’s 12th HR of the season, 8th of the month, and he needs just 3 more by the end of May to prove this prediction of mine right. I traded him in a league last year when he was slumping and then he went on a killer run in May. I made him my 1st round pick in that same league this year and was not going to make the same mistake again.
Aaron Sanchez – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K with the W. Sanchez finally has brought back his K/BB ratio to even. What an accomplishment! Sanchez can throw some gas and has some nice offspeed pitches, but he doesn’t find the plate enough or strikeout enough guys to be worthy of your consideration.
Miguel Cabrera – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. I was looking at M-Cab’s career stats and was marveling at them. In his rookie season in 2003, he only played in a little more than half a season, but from 2004 onward, he has hit at least .290 with 25 HR, 100 RBI, 85 R in 11 straight seasons. That is filthy.
Anibal Sanchez – 5.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 11 K. Anibal went on a strikeout binge but he also gave up a couple homers. Sounds like a start versus the all or nothing Astros! Anibal is now 3-5 with a 6.12 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 59 K/17 BB in 60.1 IP. The strikeout and walk rates are solid and his BABIP at .306 is pretty regular. But the 59.5% strand rate is one of the worst in the league, so he should start seeing some better fortune soon to bring that ERA down. But an interesting thing to note is that he has been a little more of a ground ball pitcher throughout his entire career, but this season he has been a fly ball pitcher and giving up HR at a much greater rate because of it. The only thing different in his pitch usage or pitch movement is that he has all but scrapped his changeup, according to PITCHf/x.
Evan Gattis – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB. The 3-hit day finally pushed Gattis’ AVG over .200 to go with 9 HR. His raw power is nearly unmatched at catcher for fantasy purposes, but he has really struggled this season for his new team. Continue to expect the HR to come along with the poor AVG.
Preston Tucker – 2 for 2, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R. Tucker didn’t start the game, but he came in and swatted a homer. I’ve talked about Tucker a couple times now and have noted how he was destroying it in AAA before his call up, and that he should start to see more regular playing time with the way that a lot of the outfield/DH types for the Astros have struggled. He is surely worth a flier in deeper leagues and should be scooped up in dynasty leagues. He is now hitting .324 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in 37 AB.
Luke Gregerson – 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 B, 2 K with the SV. Gregerson gave up a solo shot to M-Cab, but worked around it for his 12th save. He’s getting the saves but not always in pretty fashion. He is safe for now as the closer for the Astros, but I don’t think it would hurt to shop him around to see what you can get if you own him.
Martin Prado – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R. Prado has been hitting cleanup for the Marlins in the last 5 games as new Marlins manager Dan Jennings seems to like him in that spot. Obviously hitting cleanup on any team is good for fantasy purposes, but it’s hard to get too excited over Prado. He never had much power to begin with, but his ISO only sits at .083 this year and he may not be the best candidate to be put into a run producing spot. Nonetheless, he hit his 3rd HR of the season on Sunday and is batting .278.
A.J. Ramos – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB 0 K with the SV. Ramos picked up his 2nd save since moving into the closer’s role for the Marlins. I called for him getting inserted into the closer’s role before it happened and I said that he should run away with it. That is precisely what he is doing. Hopefully you got on the train before it left the station.
Raisel Iglesias – 3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K with the L. Iglesias got the start in place of Johnny Cueto and his stiff elbow, and Iglesias actually looked pretty good early on. He has a delivery that can be pretty deceptive, reminiscent of fellow Cuban Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. However, he ran into trouble when he couldn’t find the strike zone, but the 6 K’s in just 3 IP shows that he does have some good potential. He’s not someone to run to the waiver wire to pick up, but he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on with how he progresses if he gets additional starts.
Trevor Bauer – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K with the W. Bauer turned in a solid game and even though he didn’t strikeout many guys, it was only the second game this year where he allowed less than 2 walks. If he can have good control like that in most games that he pitches then he is going to be a great force in the Indians rotation. He’s transforming into more of a pitcher than a thrower this year as he seemingly has held back on his heater this year as it’s had a 1.6 MPH decline from last year. Usually the decline in velocity is not a good sign for pitchers, but for Bauer I think it is an intentional decline to give himself more control and command, as the velocity of most his other pitches has not gone away. He now is 4-1 with a 3.02 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 55 K/22 BB in 56.2 IP.
Josh Reddick – 2 fo 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Reddick has cooled off of late, but he was able to deposit one over the fence on Sunday. His overall line still looks very nice at a .309 AVG with 7 HR, 30 RBI, 21 R, and 2 SB.
Sonny Gray – 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K with the W. Gray was on his way to a great game, but he had to leave early due to getting struck on the ankle by a comebacker. He should be fine for his next start though.
Hector Santiago – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the L. Another quality start for Santiago, but I’ve been saying he is due for regression because of his low BABIP and high strand and walk rates. Consider this a little mini start toward that regression.
Xander Bogaerts – 4 for 4, 2 R. The perfect day on Sunday has Bogaerts’ AVG up to .290 now. With just 2 HR and 2 SB though, he has been far from a fantasy asset in his sophomore season. However, a great sign is the type of contact skills he is showing. This year he is only striking out 13.9% of the time as opposed to 23.9% last year. For a player his age of 22 years old, that is an incredible improvement to show. The bad news though is that most of that contact he is making is not hard contact. The big breakout season for Bogaerts may not be this year, but it looks like he will bring some sort of momentum heading into 2016 at least.
Mike Napoli – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K. I mentioned in Saturday’s notes that Napoli hasn’t been doing much this year and that he might be more suitable for a platoon role versus left-handed starting pitchers. Well, it was another lefty on the hill that he was facing on Sunday and he had another good game.
Wade Miley – 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the W. After acting as a punching bag for the first month of the season, Miley has actually put together a nice little 3-start run where he has only given up 3 ER in 21.2 IP. Unfortunately, he only struck out 2 batters on Sunday and only 1 batter in one of those other starts, so it’s not all wonderful. But the nice run has trimmed his ERA down to 4.47 and WHIP to 1.31 and I think that he should settle in around those marks.
Mike Foltynewicz – 7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the W. This was by far the best outing that the rookie Foltynewicz has turned in this season, but it came against a pretty pathetic looking Brewers lineup that was missing Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. However, Folty definitely has strikeout potential as I have mentioned before. But poor control can seriously hinder him on any given night. He’s worth a flier and a start against weaker offenses or offenses that do not have great walk rates, such as the Brewers. He is now 3-1 with a 4.25 ERA, 1.42 ERA, and 30 K/12 BB in 29.2 IP.
Jimmy Nelson – 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K with the L. The bad Jimmy Nelson showed up on Sunday. He can’t seem to put together any sort of consistency and is now 2-5 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 47 K/23 BB in 56.1 IP.
Andrew McCutchen – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB. Back to back games going yard for Cutch. I said it in Saturday’s notes, he is definitely out of his early season funk.
Starling Marte – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. It was Marte’s first HR in 13 days and back then I said that I think Marte would fall a tad short of 20 HR. I’ll still stand by that, but I still like him a lot despite the poor strikeout to walk ratio of 45 K/9 BB. I usually don’t like players with that kind of ratio, but his ability to hit a lot of line drives and leg out infield hits keeps his BABIP high so that he can have a respectable AVG.
Francisco Liriano – 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 K with the W. Liriano had a very good bounce back start after getting pounded by a Twins offense that feasts on lefties. When Liriano is on, he is just about as tough to hit as any pitcher in baseball. Being among the league leaders in swinging strike rate definitely backs up that notion. He is now 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 64 K/23 BB in 53.2 IP.
Gio Gonzalez – 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the W. Things should continue to get better for Nat-Gio. I’ll repeat that his line drive rate is a little inflated over past years, but his hard hit rate is actually very much decreased from past years. Those things seem to be contradictory and I expect him to continue to post better numbers. He is a buy low candidate.
Jose Abreu – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Naturally, after I mentioned his power outage in Saturday’s notes he goes and hits one out on Sunday. As an Abreu owner in a league, I am not complaining.
Jose Quintana – 6 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K with the L. If you’re a regular reader of The Backwards K then you would know that the Twins offense crushes left-handed pitching. Quintana pitches with his left hand and on Sunday he faced the Twins. I am sure you can figure out what the end result was.
Brian Dozier – 2 for 5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 2 K. Dozier is one of those Twins who has a big positive ISO and wOBA split versus lefties. He now has 9 HR on the season to along with a .253 AVG, 24 RBI, 34 R, and 3 SB. Last year he scored an incredible 112 runs and somehow he continues to score runs at an incredibly high rate despite a less than stellar .335 OBP. I’m not sure how he does it, but he does. Using the formula R / (H + BB + HBP), Dozier is scoring 53% of the time that he is on base, which is remarkable and can be considered pretty lucky given that he doesn’t exactly have a crew of big time mashers hitting behind him. Out of leadoff hitters, it is reasonable to expect a rate of 40%, but anything over 50% is just out of this world.
Kyle Gibson – 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W. Quite the stellar outing for Gibson as the strikeout outburst was very much in the same vein as his teammate Trevor May from Saturday. What’s gotten into these Twins pitchers? Gibson has by all accounts been a pitch to contact type of pitcher since he entered the Majors despite decent strikeout rates in the Minors, and he entered Sunday with just 3.54 K/9. I wouldn’t expect high strikeout games like this to turn into the norm for Gibson and he’s probably best left for someone else in your league to pick up.
Matt Carpenter – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K. Carpenter keeps going strong and with his 8th HR on Sunday he has already matched his HR total from all of last season. He’s a true hitter and it looks like he’s going to continue to produce at a nice level.
Michael Wacha – 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K with the W. Wacha improved to 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 35 K/14 BB in 57.2 IP. On one hand, I do like me some Wacha. On the other hand, I know that unless he shows some big improvements with his strikeout rate (currently 5.46 K/9), then he’s going to be in for a lot of regression.
Ender Inciarte – 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 SB. Inciarte’s ownership in Yahoo has gone down from 40% to 39% since the last time I checked. Tsk tsk. He’s cooling off a bit, but the .302 AVG with 6 SB and 27 R has been useful.
Paul Goldschmidt – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. Such a beautiful baseball specimen that Goldschmidt is.
Brad Ziegler – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K with the SV. Ziegler locked down his second save of the weekend on Sunday and should be in the driver’s seat for the Arizona bullpen after both Addison Reed and Enrique Burgos suffered some rough games over the weekend. Until further notice, consider Ziegler as the closer, but I think that he will run into some tough times soon.
Jason Hammel – 7 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 9 K with the L. A solid strikeout performance from Hammel and I gave him a vote of confidence in my post “U Can’t Touch This, Hammel Time!”
Will Venable – 4 for 5, 3 R, 1 BB. Venable is filling in for Wil Myers and has been doing a fine job. He’s two years removed from a 20/20 season, so he does have a decent blend of power and speed. He’s a deep league option for as long as Myers remains shelved.
Justin Upton – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. Huge day at the plate for Upton who has been one of the best fantasy players of the year so far. We knew that his power was still there and that his power was great enough to probably play in any stadium, but it was assumed that his speed had diminished given that he only had 8 SB in each of the last two seasons. However, at 27 years old, he should be in his prime and he already has 9 SB on the year to go along with 12 HR, and would seem to be on pace to beat his career bests of 21 SB and 31 HR from 2011.
James Shields – 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the W. Shields just keeps getting it done and improves to 6-0. With Shields receiving 11 runs of support on Sunday, it goes to further show that rotation mate Andrew Cashner is definitely on the wrong side of luck with his 1-7 record, as I outlined in “Cash In With Cashner.”
Nolan Arenado – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R. Arenado definitely needed a game like this. He fell a double short of the cycle and it was the best performance he has had all season and could be the start of things to come for the talented third baseman. With a .275 AVG, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 21 R and 0 SB, he has actually been pretty good, but I expected a lot more from him, especially in the AVG department.
Chad Bettis – 8.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K with the W. Quite possibly the best pitching performance from a Rockies starting pitcher this year. He ended up giving up 2 runs, but he entered the 9th inning with a 2 hit shutout in tact before getting touched up a bit. But at Coors Field versus a hot Giants team, this was an outstanding game from Bettis. However, with a lack of an attractive looking Minor League track record and just for being a Rockies pitcher, he is not a recommended option.
Delino DeShields – 2 for 5, 1 R. DeShields led off once again for the third straight game and contributed to the stat sheet. Josh Hamilton is slated to return on Monday and play left field where DeShields has been seeing some time. So we’ll see have to see how Hamilton’s return affects DeShields’ playing time. Of course I have been saying all along that DeShields needs to/should stay in the lineup, particularly at 2B where the Rangers have not been receiving great production. The other option for them would be to bench Leonys Martin in CF to make way for DeShields.
Prince Fielder – 3 for 5, 2 RBI, 2 K. I went more in depth on Prince in “Prince’s Return to Royalty” in Saturday’s notes. He continued his hotness on Sunday.
Yovani Gallardo – 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W. I had really bad things in mind for Gallardo when he was traded to pitch in his home state of Texas this past off-season. With the move to the AL, a dip in his strikeouts was to be expected, especially considering that he doesn’t throw as hard as he used to. Also expected was a rise in his HR allowed rate because of moving to a more hitter friendly ballpark. Both those things have happened, but he was able to turn in a quality performance on Sunday. He’s now 4-6 with a 4.13 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 40 K/16 BB in 56.2 IP. This might be as good as it gets for the veteran righty.
Shawn Tolleson – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K with the SV. Well, this was a statement game if there ever was one. If you recall, before Neftali Feliz was even removed as the closer for the Rangers, I said that Tolleson needed to be stashed. He now has earned saves in 3 consecutive opportunities and on Sunday he did it in perfect fashion striking out the side in order. This has the makings of Tolleson running away with the job. As with A.J. Ramos, I hope you got on this train before it left the station. His 3.10 ERA and 1.13 WHIP aren’t the greatest, but his 29 K/4 BB in 20.1 IP is to die for.