While Halladay is the consummate ace both in real life and in fantasy, Braden and Galarraga present a bit of a conundrum. Neither of them had so much as pitched a shutout prior to their flawless performances last month. That's why you should be skeptical of their true potential to help your squad.
Braden is 4-5 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.09 WHIP this season, but his success has come largely because of his ability to limit walks (just 13 in 76 1/3 innings). The 26-year-old thrives on control and pitches for a team with one of the lowliest offenses in the league — that means his only reliable contributions in fantasy come in the ERA and WHIP department. He's a solid option for owners who stream pitchers based on matchups, particularly when pitching at home against a lefty-heavy lineup, but Braden doesn't have enough upside to make owning him worthwhile in most leagues.
Galarraga, on the other hand, is a more interesting option because the Tigers have enough thump to give him consistent support. The 28-year-old's rotation spot is secure after Detroit sent Dontrelle Willis to the Diamondbacks in a trade, and, when healthy, Galarraga has proven effective, most notably by collecting 13 wins while logging a 3.73 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 2008. He, too, doesn't have the stuff to dominate big-league lineups, but might be worth grabbing if your pitching staff is running thin. Just use caution when deciding whether to start Galarraga, especially if he's facing one of the AL's powerhouses.
Now, it's time to check on the rest of the league.
As always, the Three Up, Three Down segment will highlight the players who have been peaking and slumping of late, and the Pickups section will feature three players who might be worth plucking from the free agent list depending on your team's needs. Finally, you'll find my suggestions for owners who are streaming pitchers in Down the Stream.
Miguel Cabrera, first baseman, Tigers
If you're wondering whether it's too early to start discussing Cabrera as a Triple Crown threat, no, it's not. The Tigers first baseman is batting .355 (27 points off the pace set by Minnesota's Justin Morneau), with 16 homers (two fewer than Toronto's Jose Bautista) and 51 RBIs (the highest total in the majors). And Cabrera isn't showing any signs of slowing down, as he's gone 11-for-23 (.478 average) at the plate over the last six games.
Josh Johnson, starting pitcher, Marlins
If Johnson hadn't been the victim of an error by Cameron Maybin, Halladay's perfecto might not have been enough to get a win. That unearned run was the only one Johnson allowed over 31 innings, before the Brewers got to him on a sacrifice fly on Thursday. With 77 strikeouts and just three homers allowed over 77 innings of work, the 26-year-old flamethrower is right there with Halladay and Ubaldo Jimenez as one of the best pitchers in the NL.
Clay Buchholz, starting pitcher, Red Sox
Buchholz has made a habit of dominating the Orioles throughout his young career, but his shutout on Friday was still notable because it was his first since he no-hit Baltimore back in 2007. The 25-year-old still isn't fanning enough batters (just 49 in 71 2/3 innings), but because he's consistently kept the ball on the ground and in the yard, Buchholz is tied with the Rays' David Price atop the AL leaderboard with eight wins.
Denard Span, outfielder, Twins
Span was supposedly feeling fine after a scary collision with second baseman Orlando Hudson, but his performance has suffered over the past four games. The speedy outfielder hasn't authored a hit in his last 16 at-bats, and he hasn't stolen a base since May 26. Since Span's fantasy value is limited to his batting average, swipes and runs, he was the definition of a dud during the past week.
Wade Davis, starting pitcher, Rays
The Rays aren't short on options for their starting rotation, and that's bad news for Davis, who has been shelled for 16 runs in his last 13 1/3 frames on the mound. The 24-year-old is teeming with ace potential, but if he doesn't turn things around soon, Tampa Bay will be tempted to turn to fellow top prospect Jeremy Hellickson, who has a 2.28 ERA and is averaging a strikeout per inning for Triple-A Durham.
Kevin Gregg, relief pitcher, Blue Jays
The word “meltdown” doesn't come close to describing the fate Gregg suffered on the mound in the ninth inning on Tuesday. Toronto's closer entered a 5-3 game in the top of the ninth, and promptly coughed up four runs on a hit and five walks. That's a good way to lose your job, and, not surprisingly, manager Cito Gaston has decided to go with Jason Frasor and Scott Downs for the next few save situations.
Matt Thornton, relief pitcher, White Sox
Thornton doesn't have much sink or break in his arsenal, but his mid-to-high 90s fastball seems to get the job done on its own. The southpaw has surrendered only 11 hits in 23 2/3 innings, while striking out 34 and walking only five. Although Thornton has primarily been used as a setup man to date, his 1.52 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and the aforementioned strikeouts have been plenty valuable in fantasy. If he ever supplants Bobby Jenks as the South Siders' closer, Thornton will immediately join the ranks of the elite ninth-inning men in the league.
Yunel Escobar, shortstop, Braves
Plenty of owners were fed up with Escobar when he entered Atlanta's game on May 26 batting .175 with a .491 OPS. While the Cuban shortstop has yet to notch his first homer, he has five multi-hit efforts in the Braves' last six contests, and his average has climbed to .238. If Escobar is still sitting on your free agent wire unclaimed, he's worth grabbing, and should at least provide a solid batting average the rest of the way.
Kris Medlen, starting pitcher, Braves
The Braves were disappointed to lose Jair Jurrjens to an injury earlier this season, but they might soon have trouble fitting the young righty back into their starting staff. That's because Medlen has gone 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA over five starts in his stead. Medlen's strikeout rate is down from last year, but he has showcased excellent command by walking only nine batters in 48 1/3 innings. Manager Bobby Cox will have a hard time removing Medlen from the rotation, even when Jurrjens is ready to return.
If you are playing in a head-to-head league, a potentially useful if controversial strategy is streaming pitchers. The key is to get as many wins and strikeouts as possible during the week, without entirely conceding the ERA and WHIP categories. Below are pitchers that you're likely to find on your league's waiver wire, who have optimal matchups for streaming on each day of the coming week.
Saturday, June 5: Paul Maholm, Pirates — vs. Giants
Sunday, June 6: Gio Gonzalez, Athletics — vs. Twins
Monday, June 7: Jason Hammel, Rockies — vs. Astros
Tuesday, June 8: Armando Galarraga, Tigers — at White Sox
Wednesday, June 9: Carl Pavano, Twins — vs. Royals
Thursday, June 10: Trevor Cahill, Athletics — vs. Angels
Friday, June 11: Kevin Correia, Padres — vs. Mariners
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