Wrapping Up: Wade LeBlanc could pickoff a ghost runner

Wade LeBlanc | Photo by Dirk Hansen

CPR’s wrap up of the day’s most useful fantasy news from the diamonds of the Majors.

Pitching Pulse
– I’m buying Wade LeBlanc. The Padres pickoff specialist picked up his second win Thursday with 6.1 shutout innings of work against Milwaukee at Petco. The 25-year old scattered eight hits, but struck out six without allowing a walk. His K/BB numbers improved to 16/4 on the season through 17.1 innings. Also impressive is LeBlanc’s devastating pickoff move. Coming into Thursday’s game, the lefty had already picked-off five runners in just three starts, and he added yet another one against the Brewers. LeBlanc is owned in just 7% of Yahoo! standard leagues at the moment, expect that number to climb soon. The pinpoint control and LeBlanc’s home ballpark make him a viable starter in medium to deep leagues, and his pickoff move just makes him that much more attractive to fantasy owners looking for ERA help.

Ian Kennedy is making a great case to find a rotation spot on your fantasy team too. The former Yankees’ prospect went eight innings for the second straight start Thursday and picked up his first win of the season allowing six hits and four runs to the Cubs at Wrigley. Kennedy had allowed just a run on three hits in seven innings before running into a little trouble in the eighth. By that point the Diamondbacks had a 13-1 lead, however, so manager A.J. Hinch didn’t have a problem leaving his third starter in to finish the eighth. Another good sign for Kennedy is how his control has improved dramatically this season. Through 30.1 innings, the righty has struck out 27 batters compared to just eight free passes. Kennedy should be owned in all 14-team leagues and deeper, but could also be a solid spot start candidate in shallower leagues as the season goes on.

Justin Duchscherer‘s comeback story could have hit a bump in the road. The A’s starter left after 3.1 innings with a left hip injury Thursday, allowing four runs on five hits at Toronto. Duchscherer has had consistent trouble with his right hip in the past, but this looks like a new injury that could land the former All-Star on the DL for the sixth time in his career.

– The Pirates’ Brian Burres delivered a solid, but lucky, outing at Chavez Ravine Thursday night as the Bucs downed the Dodgers 2-0. Burres went 5.1 innings and allowed just four hits, but he also surrendered four walks to just three strikeouts. Only consider Burres in the deepest of leagues at the moment.

– And… Dontrelle Willis picked up his first win of the season with six innings of four-hit baseball against the Twins. Congrats to the D-Train. Willis has burned me too many times to trust him again on any of my fantasy rosters, but feel free to give him another spin if Thursday’s start peaked your interest.

Hitting Heads Up
– Unheralded Blue Jays’ catcher John Buck had three hits Thursday. All of them left the park. Congrats to Buck on a feat rarely seen in the bigs, especially from catchers. The last time a backstop hit three homers in the same game was nearly six full seasons ago, when Victor Martinez pulled off the hat-trick.

– The Rangers’ Justin Smoak may have finally broken out. The first baseman went 2-for-4 with a double and his first major league homerun Thursday against the White Sox. Smoak had just one hit in his previous 15 at bats this season. If another owner in your league has already hastily dropped Smoak, now might be the time to swoop in and snatch him up.

David Freese had a stellar day Thursday afternoon at Busch, going 3-for-3 with a double, a homer and six RBIs. Freese won’t give you the power of the top-tier third basemen in fantasy, but his average should always be high and hitting in that potent Cardinals’ lineup shouldn’t hurt his RBI or runs totals either. There’s value to be had from Freese in 2010.

Austin Jackson continues to hit for the Tigers. The starting center fielder in the Motor City collected two more hits Thursday to raise his average to .330. It’s reasonable to expect a regression from Jackson at some point this year, but for the moment things are clicking at the plate for the youngster.

Closer Checkup
– Pirates’ manager John Russell said that closer Octavio Dotel would keep the closer job in Pittsburgh, but the veteran got a day off to rest Thursday and youngster Evan Meek picked up his first MLB save with a perfect ninth in Dotel’s absence. The 26-year old Meek entered Thursday’s game with a stellar 0.64 season ERA. If you’re chasing saves this year or looking to build saves in the future for dynasty greatness, picking up Meek now could turn into bold dividends down the road.

Francisco Cordero (8) allowed just a hit in a scoreless inning at Houston for the save… Kevin Gregg (6) nailed down another save by striking out the side in the ninth against Oakland… And Jose Valverde (7) shutdown the Twins in the ninth 3-0.

Tags: Austin Jackson Brian Burres David Freese Dontrelle Willis Evan Meek Fantasy Baseball Francisco Cordero Ian Kennedy John Buck Jose Valverde Justin Duchscherer Justin Smoak Kevin Gregg Octavio Dotel Victor Martinez Wade LeBlanc

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