Into the second week of the season we move, and fortunately I no longer think of April 15 as tax day. I think of it as Jackie Robinson Day, which is so much better in every way (although I love our country, and have no problem paying my taxes, for, after all, I do use the roads and like to depend upon the police and fire departments, and so on).
Anyway, on the heels of Jackie Robinson Day, there are a couple of players local to the Bay Area (San Francisco, that is) who deserve a look, starting with pitcher Santiago Casilla, for the now 32-year old relief pitcher is pegged to the the Giants closer with Brian Wilson and his tired elbow likely shut down for the season. Casilla is a hard thrower who has banked really strong seasons for San Francisco since 2010 (9-4, 1.91 over 104 games and 109.2 innings) logging eight saves over that spread. As my mate Perry Van Hook noted on his special Sunday Captain's Log Casilla will be among a committee converting from the Giants pen, but I am guessing Casilla gets the bulk of conversions.
While we are at it, I have been a fan of Hector Sanchez, the San Francisco back up backstop since the beginning of last season, where the 22-year old Venezuelan began the season at High-A San Jose (.301-11-58), then skipped AA and moved to Fresno of the PCL (.261-1-26) and even spent time at ATT (.258-0-1). Sanchez presence forced the Giants to jettison two experienced catchers in Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside, and over three games so far the youngster is .286-0-3. Sanchez not only catches for Barry Zito, but also will spell Buster Posey to ensure the Giants mainstay catcher does not burn out. This kid can hit and in an NL only format, he is a good #2 catcher.
With the outfield causing some grief for fantasy and major league owners, let's look at a few possibilities there starting with Matt Carpenter who has been getting time with Lance Berkman nursing a sore body. A 13th round pick of St. Louis in 2009, out of Texas Christian, Carpenter climbed through the minor league ranks as a third baseman. As a minor leaguer Carpenter hit a solid .300-27-161 with 205 walks to 209 strikeouts (.408 OBP). Carpenter has been playing the outfield and coming off a big Sunday (4-for-4, a homer and five RBI) Carpenter is now hitting .409-1-10 over 22 at-bats. Like Sanchez, he can hit.
The Mets promoted flychaser Kirk Nieuwenhuis, a third round pick in 2008, in the wake of the Andres Torres injury, and the 24-year old third round pick in 2008 responded with his first major league homer last week. With a solid minor league resume of .280-44-193 over 383 games, Nieuwenhius brings a solid complement of skills (a little pop with a .464 SLG, a little speed with 47 steals, an ability to get on with a .354 OBP) and is a good bet right now in NL only leagues, and is worth tracking in a mixed format.
Across the league, I had my doubts about Cleveland's Shelley Duncan with .242-31-110 career totals over 236 major league games, but the 32-year old outfielder is playing every day, and hitting the ball well (.333-2-6) as the everyday left fielder for the Tribe. With Grady Sizemore in question for the year (and ever), Duncan, the progeny of pitching coach Dave Duncan, will continue to see at-bats as long as he keeps hitting, and right now shows no signs of stopping. When he is ready, Johnny Damon is going to join Duncan manning left field, but it is not going to be a strict platoon so Duncan will still see plenty of trips to the dish. And really, what are the chances a 38-year Damon makes it through the season healthy now that he has to don a mitt regularly and not DH?
The Red Sox are having outfield injury issues with Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Kalish on the shelf. They recently brought up journeyman Jason Repko (.226-16-67 over 355 major league games), and they also have Darnell McDonald (.250-17-69 over 277 games) but I really like Ryan Sweeney the best of the bench possibilities. Sweeney and his .284-14-174 numbers over 479 contests makes the best contact and looks like the guy who has a big year or two in him. Go that way.
Finishing with some arms, a very nice looking relief pitcher (so far) is the Yankees David Phelps. A 14th round pick of the New Yorkers in 2008 out of Notre Dame, Phelps has been a starter in the minors, with solid 38-15, 2.66 numbers over 86 starts and 496.2 innings. Phelps 410 whiffs to 112 walks and 476 hits (1.18 WHIP) and over his first 8.1 innings, has allowed just one hit (an unlikely dinger to Vernon Wells). Phelps could well find himself in the Yankees rotation if he continues to be effective and if Phil Hughes' struggles persist.
The Rockies gave Drew Pomeranz, part of the spoils of the Ubaldo Jimenenz swap of last fall his first start of 2012 and the fireballer was knocked around (five runs, nine hits, and a pair of walks over 4.1 innings Sunday). But, the right hander and former first round pick out of Tennessee in 2010 by Cleveland is much too good for the minors at this point with 4-3, 1.71 totals over 21 starts and 105 minor league innings. Pomeranz has everything that suggests success but last year over four starts he was 2-1, 5.40 over four more starts and 18.1 innings, so expect the 23-year old to struggle a little over the season as he gets the hang.
Finally, San Diego promoted Joe Wieland, part of the riches San Diego received (along with Robbie Erlin, who also should be on your radar) in exchange for Mike Adams last summer. Wieland, a fourth round pick of the Rangers in 2008 was 33-19, 3.29 over 86 starts and 439 minor league innings. With 408 strikeouts to just 80 walks, Wieland has serious control (431 hits and only 28 homers) and though he was rocked his first start (six each runs and hits and a walk over five innings) he is a better bet than Pomeranz partially because of his control skills, but mostly because of his home ball park. Both are rookies, though, so guard accordingly.