|Lincecum has had just one quality start in nine outings. (US Presswire)|
Each Monday, after a week of play and of scouring the major leagues for the best information, Jon Heyman passes along tips on whose stock up and whose is on the decline.
1. Brandon Beachy, Braves SP:
Beachy, an undrafted first baseman/pitcher and pre-law student from Division III Indiana Wesleyan University, might well be a lawyer in his hometown of Kokomo, Ind., if not for the surprise discovery of four-decade scout Gene Kerns one summer night. Kerns, a Braves scout who previously worked for the Dodgers and Mets, happened to spy Beachy in the Virginia Valley League, an obscure college summer league, and was so impressed two days later he convinced his bosses to sign the undrafted right-hander to a $20,000 bonus.
"For eight innings nothing happened. When he came in the ninth inning and started throwing warm-ups, he woke me up," Kerns recalled by phone to CBSSports.com. "He had great arm action with not a lot of effort and a very good breaking ball. So I put a gun on him, and he was pretty good." At first, it took some doing to convince the Braves' bosses to invest in Beachy, as Beachy's stats at the Division III school didn't blow anyone away, but they readily agreed after Kerns went back a second night, and saw a repeat of what he saw the first night, only better.
Beachy still features that very breaking ball, along with two fastballs, a changeup and slider, and now he's using that repertoire to dominate major-league hitters. Beachy's five-hit shutout of the Marlins this week was his seventh quality start in eight, and he now has a 6-1 record, big-league best 1.33 ERA and 0.84 WHIP as he's outdoing a much more heralded rotation of Braves pitchers, and frankly, just about all the other pitchers in the National league.
Beachy was in the majors within two years of his chance meeting with Kerns, and by last year he was surpassing much more publicized Braves pitching prospects like Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizacino and Mike Minor. Now Beachy has a chance to be an All-Star. Even better, Kerns said, "You don't find a more quality individual. It took me 15 minutes to find that out."
2. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers C:
The Brewers signed Lucroy to a long deal this spring, and their timing could not look more fortuitous, as he's been the biggest bright spot in the Brewers' injury-wracked start to the season. Lucroy made the Brewers feel a bit better about their rough health situation (they've lost Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez for the year) with a franchise-tying record 7 RBI game Sunday in a 16-4 victory over the Twins, and he's now batting .342 with 27 RBI (he trails only the Phillies' Carlos Ruiz in both categories among catchers.) And by the way, neither Ryan Braun nor Prince Fielder has ever had a 7 RBI game. The Brewers have to feel good about the five-year deal that will be worth $11 million, or $13 million depending whether he qualifies for "super two" status.
As for the baseball numbers of Lucroy, who is also from a relatively small school (Louisiana-Lafayette), they are fairly ridiculous following a stretch of 18 games with hits in 19 of them. Lucroy's .939 OPS and his three triples are a nice bonus. Plus, his .552 batting average with runners in scoring position is the best in the majors, no surprise.
3. Justin Verlander, Tigers SP:
The Pittsburgh Pirates never had a chance as Verlander absolutely dominated them on a one-hitter that would have been Verlander's third no-hitter if not for Josh Harrison's broken-bat grounder through the middle with one out in the ninth. Teams all seem to struggle against Verlander, but especially teams that rarely see him like Pittsburgh. It isn't often one comes up against a pitcher who averages 91 mph with his fastball through the first three innings, and 98 mph in the final three, as Verlander did in dominating the Pirates, 6-0.
Verlander is now 5-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 68 Ks this year, meaning he's on a pace to beat his numbers for winning percentage, ERA and strikeouts from his magical year of 2011 when he swept the Cy Young and MVP awards. He's just a bit behind with his victory total as he's on pace to finish 20-4 (compared to his 24-5 mark last year, when he had a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts. But that's on the
1. Tim Lincecum, Giants SP:
Yes, it's true The Freak has been hurt by the big inning like no one else this year, as he's allowed three runs in an inning four times, and four runs three times. Sure, it's true that if not for those innings, he'd be doing his usual great work. But the reality is, those innings do exist. And they keep happening.
He had a four-run inning in his defeat to the crosstown A's before he had to leave the game when he was bowled over by squatty outfielder Collin Cowgill on a play at the plate. It wasn't the first time he was hit hard this year, as Tiny Tim has allowed 51 hits in 47 2/3 innings. The timing of those hits hasn't helped, either, as he's pitched a bit better than his unsightly 6.04 ERA.
Sure, he's pitched better than that ERA. But that doesn't mean he's pitched well, by any measure. With all those big innings, he's had only one quality start in nine. This is no way for the two-time Cy Young winner to be.
2. Ike Davis, Mets 1B:
Manager Terry Collins conceded the obvious when he wouldn't rule out a demotion to the minors for Davis, whose average continues to plummet against all odds. Davis' OPS of .524 in fact is below that of the marks of two first basemen already demoted, the Marlins' Gaby Sanchez (.539) and the Blue Jays' Adam Lind (.586).
Davis was suggested by the Mets to possibly be afflicted with Valley Fever, though Davis has maintained he's felt no ill effects. He's continued to play, so it's possibly just your regular type slump, though perhaps on a grander scale. Davis, who has missed out on all the early heroics by the Mets' young nucleus, hasn't hit too well anywhere this year (he's at .163 overall), but he's been particularly limp at home, where he is 4 for 62 (.065) with no home runs a hard-to-believe .081 slugging percentage. The fences being moved in at Citi Field haven't helped, obviously.
3. Brent Morel, White Sox 3B:
I hate to pick on anyone who's having back pain because it surely isn't easy to play with such an affliction. But Morel has been trying, and not succeeding. He has no home runs, five RBI and a .177 batting average. He also has only seven walks vs. 39 strikeouts and a .420 OPS. On the plus side, he does lead the league with five sacrifice hits.
Morel is really a defensive specialist at third base, but he's been such a drag on the White Sox's struggling offense that Chicago is about to sign the recently-released Orlando Hudson, who isn't exactly hot, either.