Closing Time: Jedd Gyorko, the real deal

Three is a magic number

In most instances, a player like Jedd Gyorko is too good to be the lede in this column. He’s 71-percent owned in Yahoo, so “pick him up” is not a largely-actionable event. He’s long gone in competitive leagues.

Nonetheless, Gyorko is player with a shifting value and a curious perception, so he’s in this leadoff position. It’s my column, and Monday was a partial slate, anyway. Send all complaints to my Gettysburg Address.

Gyorko is on a binge, everyone can see that. He had four hits, two of them homers, in Monday’s loss to Milwaukee. No one expected a .369/.431/.754 slash from Gyorko. Obvious to everyone, he’s not this good. But he might be better than the public perception.

When I made a minor, innocuous tweet about Gyorko during Monday’s game, I was surprised at how many responders were concerned about playing time. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for long — even though I don’t trust Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Gyorko is too versatile, and the St. Louis infield is sorting itself out.

Gyorko has started nine of the past 11 games, and while a hot bat has a say in that, I feel confident he’ll be enough of a regular that you can trust him going forward (even when Jhonny Peralta comes off the disabled list — that tanks looks empty.) Gyorko qualifies at every infield position, a godsend in Yahoo leagues. He’s been the cleanup man in seven of the last nine games.

In those shallow formats where he’s free, I’d definitely be adding him (thanks, Captain Obvious). And while it’s the wrong time to trade for him otherwise, I might kick the tires later in the spring, when his bat eventually cools off. Gyorko was a 30-homer man in just 128 games last year; he might go past that homer and usage count this year, if the Cardinals have finally seen the light.

I’m kicking myself for not prioritizing Gyorko in our Sunday night reboot league, where he went at a reasonable Pick 172. I’m a sucker for position eligibility, especially in league with tight benches. I like a batter in his age-28 season; he still could be on the escalator. I expect the Cardinals to have a plus offense when it’s all said and done. Gyorko’s hard-hit rate is a career best, so he’s making a lot of his own luck.

• I had a Chris Liss email waiting for me this morning, always welcome. Liss correspondence could be a thoughtful link; a rant on life; an invitation to something fun. In this case it was a Friends & Family trade offer, his Dylan Bundy for my Andrew Miller.

All due respect to my friend and esteemed opponent, this was an easy reject for me. And I mention it here for the point it illustrates.

Bundy was sharp add earlier this spring. He beat the Red Sox on Monday, upping the record to 4-1 and trimming the ratios to 1.82 and 1.03. As you’d expect, many good-luck indicators are flashing — Bundy has a 3.23 FIP and a 4.54 xFIP. I think I’m more concerned about his strikeout rate, which is a modest 5.7/9.

But here’s the crux of the argument — when it comes to starting pitching in a mixed league, I want to buy at the top or the bottom. I’m open to trade for a blue-chip starter who already looks like a sure thing — as much as any pitcher can be a sure thing, injuries be damned. Otherwise, I’m a bargain shopper.

Rather than trade for a Bundy at what could be the high end of his range, the goal is to try to find future Bundys, upside plays we can acquire at the smallest opportunity cost. If I’m going to pay up for a starter, I want the established ace.

The Friends & Family League has an innings cap, which makes Miller’s ratio dominance even more valuable. I made him a priority draft pick last year, and I traded a fair amount (Gregory Polanco, along with throw-in Pat Neshek) to get Miller and Kevin Pillar from Andy Behrens last week. If there’s someone who loves Miller to the point of potentially overvaluing him, I’m that guy.

Innings-capped leagues usually open trading paths later in the year. A few teams are on pace to sail past the capped number, which should encourage trading at some point.

The market hasn't caught up to Marco Estrada yet

• Some might be thinking about a sell-high with Marco Estrada, not wanting to fully buy in on a 2.43 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Put me down for the hold side of things. Estrada is getting more than a strikeout per inning (his walk rate is also down), and over the years he’s acquired skills that don’t always translate to commonly-trusted metrics.

Estrada has routinely beaten his peripheral-suggested ERA for years, and the gap has been significant since the beginning of 2015. But do the metrics give Estrada enough credit for what he consistently does well? He’s a maestro at generating soft contact, and his high fly-ball rate is actually a feather in his cap.

While ground balls are justly welcome in our fantasy life, an extreme fly-ball rate is also positive. It’s the middle ground where you don’t want to be; the idea is to control the flow of your at-bats, in one direction or the other. (Old friend Gene McCaffrey said this before anyone else, as far as I know; he also said it far more elegantly than I have here).

Estrada has earned set-and-forget status now (scouting guru Michael Salfino is also on board). He’s about a SP3 on my board, inside the Top 36 (and perhaps a lot higher than that). Shuffle Ups will start next week. Not every outlier is a cinch for major regression; sometimes, it’s all about a skill that the numbers haven’t caught up to yet.

• The Royals offense has been rubbish for the opening month, so any sign of life is encouraging. Jorge Bonifacio, come on down. The recently-recalled rookie outfielder is 9-for-27 since joining the Royals, with three walks and a couple of homers. He went deep in Monday’s win over the White Sox.

Bonifacio’s minor-league resume was more about plate discipline than power — last year he hit a modest 19 home runs, but had a quality walk rate and a surprising .314 average. His role gets cloudy when Jorge Soler returns — that probably explains the one-percent Yahoo ownership. But if you need to take a flier, especially in OBP leagues, Bonifacio offers some plausible upside.