Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gonzalez, Banks: 1-hit wonders?

Everyone is always looking for the hot rookie, even though as fantasy purists, we know deep down only one of every 3.5 or so actually work out.

And maybe 1 in 10 live up to the hype.

But for those of you who missed out on Jay Bruce and Clayton Kershaw or Edinson Volquez or Evan Longoria, keep your chin up.
There's more goodies coming.

Oakland OF Carlos Gonzalez (above) and San Diego SP Josh Banks are two rookies who are hot off the press right now.

First, let's rap about Gonzalez, who was probably the most critical piece of the Dan Haren deal. Ranked by at least one publication as the top prospect in the Diamondbacks organization, Gonzalez is a five-tool guy, although the speed probably won't translate to double digit swipes.

The center fielder of the future for the A's hit .287 in five years of minor league ball and posted 23 and 17 HRs the past two years. Much like Jay Bruce (whose batting average in five games is still over .500), Gonzalez opened eyes in his debut, going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and an RBI.

The biggest unknown is how much playing time little Gonzo will get in a crowded Oakland outfield, once the Travis Bucks and the Ryan Sweeneys of the world get healthy, assuming that happens. Teams usually don't call up their top-tiered prospects to sit on the bench, so expect 4-5 starts a week and if he performs, he'll play every day.

Oakland's a tough park to jack HRs, so don't expect a Mark McGwire-esque rookie season, but 15 the rest of the way is not a pipe dream. Gonzalez hit 8th last night, so unless he gets moved up in the order, his run and RBI production may be only borderline mixed-league worthy.

Quickly, I'll give you the 411 on Banks. Just a moderate prospect with the Blue Jays, he's finally getting a grande cup of coffee with the Padres and he couldn't be pitching in a better ballpark than Petco.

The pedigree is average at best: a former 34th round pick who has career minor league numbers of 4.34 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 7.3 K/9 innings over 761 IP.

But Banks threw 8 scoreless innings out of the bullpen (including 6 in the 18-inning marathon on Sunday) and this afternoon, he stretched that scoreless streak to 16 before the Giants scored a single run in the 9th inning.

Opportunity could be an issue once Jake Peavy and Chris Young come back to the rotation, but Young is having trouble smelling and tasting food right now, so a quick return is dicey at best. And with Shawn Estes as some of Banks' rotation competition, he doesn't have to be lights out to keep his spot.

Still, even in today's complete game gem, Banks only fanned 5 Giants, which is like only taking a couple circus peanuts and some hard candy from a baby.

He's a good NL-only or a deep mixed-league add, or if you're streaming a spot, looking for a guy with upside who could stick.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sosa: From Gastonia to retirement?

Sammy Sosa was back in the news this week, announcing his retirement.

In 2009.

Yeah, it's not quite as bad as NBC announcing Leno's retirement five years in advance, but it still rings just as hollow.

Sosa will represent the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic next spring, then officially call it quits.

For those of you who have ever had Sosa on any of your teams, specifically around the late 90s and early zeros, there should be a fond memory or two in there somewhere.

But the inventor of the "Hop" - who will retire with 609 MLB home runs - actually got his career started right down I-85 with the Gastonia Rangers in 1987. That season, a skinny Sosa hit .279 with 11 HR and struck out 123 times in 131 single-A games.

His rookie card, pictured above, actually went for $610 on eBay in 2000. A quick check today had the only sale of that Gastonia Sosa card at $20, although there were several listed in the $150-$200 range.

My, how the mighty have fallen. Even on eBay.

HOME RUN FEST AT WRIGLEY: One afternoon game on the docket had the Rockies and Cubs slugging it out in 15-mph winds (toward Waveland). The Rockies chased Ted Lilly after 3 innings and 3 HR. Down 9-1, the Cubs took Derek Lee and Geovany Soto out, but then roared back behind HR from Kosuke Fukudome, Jim Edmonds (yes, Jim Edmonds, who had 3 hits), Henry Blanco and Mark DeRosa. Todd Helton, Chris Iannetta and Ryan Spilborghs went long for Colorado in a 10-9 Cubs win/fantasy slugfest.

The Cubs are now 34-21, the best record in baseball. Folks at Wrigley are still stunned and are hanging around their seats, talking to strangers trying to make sense of what they just saw. Destiny? Who knows. But it's getting harder and harder to rule it out.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Braves' Campillo muy bueno

Those outside the Peachtree State have probably not heard of Jorge Campillo.

Actually, most of Mexico is very familiar with Campillo, who played in the Mexican League nearly a decade before coming back to Major League Baseball in 2005 via the Seattle Mariners.

But now, Campillo 29, is turning heads around every corner. After 5 strong innings this afternoon in Milwaukee (1 ER, 4 hits, 0 BB, 6 Ks), Campillo's ERA actually rose to 0.99. The converted reliever was making his third start and now has 36 1/3 innings and has a WHIP lower than his ERA.

The question now most of the fantasy world is asking: Should I pick Campillo up?

If you're pitching has been skidding and you find yourself looking up in most pitching categories, then the risk is definitely worth it.

We don't exactly know how Campillo's Mexican League success will translate to Enlgish since he was used as both a starter and a reliever. In 2004, his ERA through 14 starts was 2.04, pitching in extremely thing air - some 7,000 miles above sea level.

But Campillo comes with risks. He made a total of 8 starts in three years in Seattle, missing most of 2006 after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery.

The upside is Campillo is a much-needed starter on an injury-plagued Braves pitching staff where John Smoltz is moving to the bullpen. His strikeout rate is nearly 1 per inning and Atlanta will provide above-average run support, making a dozen wins the rest of the season possible.

Durability over a 162-game schedule will be an issue as Campillo's career high over a season is 119 IP.

It's still not a bad idea to ride Campillo as far as you can.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Waiver Wire: Add Kouzmanoff, Laffey



If you were a Kouz believer last year, you probably suffered through the first month with him, only to pull the parachute after his average dropped to .108 on May 7. Funny, how it's hard to get that taste out of your mouth.

But all Kouzmanoff did after the All-Star break was hit .317 with 11 HR and 37 RBI, hitting mostly in the 6th and 7th positions in the lineup.

And when you check out his last 162 games, the Padres 3B is not only hitting over .300, but has impressive totals of 25 HR, 88 RBI and 77 runs, which make him ownable in just about any format.

Last week's NL Player of the Week has 5 home runs and 8 RBI while hitting .380 in his past 7 games.

Even though he plays in spacious Petco Park, it's time to click on this post-hype breakout candidate into the hot days of summer.



The numbers are so good, they're almost laughable. Over 6 starts, Laffey has a 1.59 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in 39.2 IP.

Primarily two things have kept Laffey's ownership lower a Hawaiian limbo contest: 1). His strikeout rate is about .5 per IP and 2). Jake Westbrook's imminent return.

But something happened on Laffey's way back to AAA. Fausto Carmona injured his hip over the weekend and will reportedly be out a month. This gives Laffey extra time to prove he belongs in the rotation to stay. And if he can't win his way into the rotation, another injury to an Indians starter would keep him afloat in the bigs.

It's not a lot to go on, but 4-6 more starts from Laffey is worth the risk of cutting your weakest link. Especially in all 4x4 leagues.

And deep down, we all want to get the last Laffey.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reds call up Jay Bruce

The Jay Bruce Era has arrived.

I always laugh when somebody gets their own era. As if we know this player is going to be an automatic smash hit. There's usually a reason, after all, why someone is still in the minors.

But Bruce's numbers through 49 games with AAA Louisville suggest an era may be starting.

  • 10 home runs

  • 37 RBI

  • .364 average

  • 9 doubles

  • 5 triples

  • 8 stole base

Of course, the one number folks don't talk about much is the 45 strikeouts in 184 at-bats. Typical of power hitters, Bruce's K rate is the biggest reason it's taken this long for him to get the call, but as a fantasy owner, the Ks don't pull down a player's value.

Just look at Ryan Howard.

The biggest question surrounding Bruce, who just turned 21, is will he play everyday. The Reds GM Walt Jocketty has been quoted as saying Bruce will not be called up to sit the bench. After all, he was named Minor League Player of the Year by both Baseball American and The Sporting News.

I picked up Bruce on Friday, letting Eric Byrnes go. And while Bruce may not make sense for everyone, his upside is likely worth a spot on 8 out of 10 mixed league rosters. And he will certainly be scooped up in every NL-only league.

The Reds may be trading away Ken Griffey Jr. soon after he hits No. 600 (he's sitting at 598 right now), which would open up a corner OF spot for Bruce, who can also play center. Cincinnati cutting Scott Hatteberg today makes a Griffey trade seem even more likely.

Either way, Bruce should play at least 5 times a week and if he performs, you'll see him out there every day.

Go grab him now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day = Inventory Time

Happy Memorial Day to all you baseball fans.

And really, does it get any better than Memorial Day and baseball?

Maybe it does. Probably a picnic with some pie and maybe some fresh fruit. 

Or a juicy burger.

Anyway, my post today is to tell you a little secret: It's time to take inventory of your team.

The season is almost 1/3 over and each year I use Memorial Day as a mental reminder to address the weaknesses that are probably now apparent.

If your HR and RBI are lacking and you're rockin' and rollin' in wins and K's, it might be time to cash out a Santana or Haren for a Howard or a Teixeira. 

Steals and saves are the categories you can make up the most ground the quickest, so you might wanna target some good buy-low speed like Michael Bourn (horrible avg., but quietly improving) or Todd Jones (Tigers won't keep underachieving all season, right?)

Try not to overreact or overpay, just because you're tanking it somewhere. The best thing about taking inventory is to not just focus on your league standings, but to really analyze who on your team is underproducing or over, for that matter, to get a realistic picture.

And if you've been thinking of punting a category, now is the time. Say Carlos Gomez is your only speedster and you're still sitting in last place ... see who could really use a steal burst and maybe you can fetch a Jason Bay or a Carlos Quentin.

The key is to discover the needs of another owner and start a dialogue. In most cases, you'll have a deal hammered out within 48 hours.

At minimum, you have new guys to follow. And just maybe it'll help the clubhouse chemistry.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kershaw impressive in debut

Clayton Kershaw didn't look 20 today.

"The Golden Child has arrived," Dodgers radio announcer Charlie Steiner said.

There may be just a hint of hometown bias coming through, but if you went online and grabbed Kershaw earlier today when Yahoo! made him available, you couldn't help but agree with Steiner, just a little.

Yeah, there were the first-inning jitters, the 32 pitches it took him to get those first three outs. 

But Kershaw made a name for himself early, striking out Skip Shumaker, Ryan Ludwick and Troy Glaus, the Cardinals No. 1, 4 and 5 hitters, in the first inning.

Besides Albert Pujols predictably getting 2 hits off the Dodgers lefty, Kershaw gave up just 3 other hits and 1 BB in 6 innings. He struck out 7 and gave up 2 earned runs in 102 pitches.

And outside the first and sixth innings where he combined to throw 59 pitches, Kershaw made it look very easy, throwing just 43 pitches in four innings.  Check out this pitch report.

Don't get too wrapped up in Kershaw's debut. After all, it was only one start and two years ago he was wearing a high school graduation cap. And the Dodgers are going to put him on a strick 25 IP count per month, which will knock his value down a bit.

But the Dodgers play offensively challenged San Francisco and San Diego a combined 24 times the rest of the season. 

Just a sidenote, Kershaw's debut happened to come on the same exact day as WillieMays came into the league 57 years ago.

If Kershaw becomes even a fraction of the player Mays was, you'll be happy you took the chance on him. And you'll be saying 'hey' quite a bit.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Kershaw, 20, to make debut Sunday

Two years ago, Clayton Kershaw was a senior, pitching for Highland Park High School in Texas.

In 64 innings, Kershaw struck out almost everyone he faced (139 batters)and finished with a 0.77 ERA.

So, it may not come as a big surprise that as a 20-year-old lefty, after just 201 minor league innings pitched, is getting the call to start for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But what can you expect from this prodigy, picked 7th overall in the 2006 draft?

  • A fastball in the mid-90s.
  • A plus curve in the low-to-mid 70s.
  • A circle change.
  • Nearly flawless mechanics.

So, naturally, you should sprint to your waiver wire to grab Kershaw, right?

Well, not so fast.

Sure, if there's an obvious SP drop, Kershaw's a no-brainer. And in all shallow mixed-leagues and NL-only jobbers, you almost have to take a flier.

But Kershaw is as inexperienced as he is gifted, and the Dodgers are going to handle him with extreme caution, limiting his pitches by either skipping starts or shutting him down at some point.

And, the kicker: He's not even available on Yahoo! leagues right now.

When will Kershaw show up? Nobody knows for sure, but it will likely be after his expected 4:10 p.m. start against the Cardinals tomorrow. It could very well be Monday.

But if you're in need of a power arm (and who isn't, right?), then you might wanna check in hourly over the weekend. Or, if you have a life, at least a couple times a day.

Kershaw is likely the best remaining power arm prospect out there, so it makes sense to use a high waiver position, in case you're in a waiver setup.

But keep the expectations real. He compiled a 2.64 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, but has only limited AA experience with the Jacksonville Suns.

He's very untested and while his 11+ K/9 inning ratio is probably something that will help any team, Kershaw has never faced Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick before.

Still, half the fun is rolling the dice on young guys so put the Kershaw Watch on high alert this weekend.

After all, with gas prices at $4 a gallon, who's leaving home for Memorial Day anyway.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mailbag: Time to build for future?

Fantasy Mailbag:

The season has become a complete train wreck. I'm mired in last place of a 20-team league. Realistically, I'm already looking at next year. Any thoughts on this trade offer? I would get Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Luke Hochever and Rafael Soriano. I'd give up Jimmy Rollins and Michael Cuddyer. It's a 5x5 keeper league. Retain as many players as you want.

- Andrew


Last place in a 20-team league is actually hard to pull off. But don't make a bad situation worse.

It's true, Adam Dunn's been on a roll lately and Soriano is the closer of the future for the Braves, but you are clearly giving up the best player in the deal (Rollins) and Cuddyer is nothing to sneeze at, especially in a 20-team league. And Dunn's average negates most of the brute strength he brings.

Griffey looks like he's sleep-walking. I know he got his 5th HR last night, but he looks like a guy who's putting a couple stamps on it right now and you'll probably see him lose some PT once Jay Bruce gets the call. Reds are waiting to cash in on No. 600 and I wouldn't be surprised to see him shipped to Seattle, which is no hitter's paradise like Great American.

Hochever is a nice young arm, but not a guy you can build a team around.

In a keeper league, especially, you almost always have to live by this golden rule in any trade: Gotta give up a stud to get a stud.

It's still a long season and your team could bounce back. Don't implode your team quite yet. If you're still in the basement on Aug. 1, that's a different story, but still don't give anything away for cheap, just because you're out of it.

The rest of the league will not be happy either, if a contender adds a Rollins without giving up much in return.

Time to hit the reject button.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

News of the wierd

Tuesday night, while grabbing a loaf of bread, some cheese and a thing of crackers at Bi-Lo, a customer near the door was acting strange.

There was an altercation with the security guard, and while it was unclear what the brouhaha was, something clearly was amiss.

"It's a full moon out," the clerk said.

Apparently. It must have had some sort of residual effect Wednesday night, as some unexpected things happened around the world of baseball.

  • Chris Young, SP, Padres: Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols ripped a line drive up the middle that struck Young on the face. The Padres are calling it a broken nose, as Young was able to leave under his own power. But it's a gruesome sight, so don't click on this video if you have a hard time watching the gory Grey's Anatomy scenes.

  • Josh Bard, C, Padres: Just minutes after Young's injury, Pujols also knocked Bard out of the game, sliding into Bard, whose ankle got twisted up. Diagnosis is a high-ankle sprain and Bard's hitting the DL.
  • Bartolo Colon, SP, Red Sox: Listed at 245 pounds (cough), Colon recorded the win last night, giving up 2 runs and 6 hits in 5 innings. Seeing the big guy back on the mound is weird enough. Only those who are not scared of the bizarre affect he could have on your ERA/WHIP will pick up Colon.
  • Atlanta Braves: A 25-year-old man died Wednesday night when he fell roughly 150 feet down a stairwell at Turner Field, landing on the field level during the eighth inning. The report is that alcohol was a factor. Sad story.
  • Joba Chamberlain, P, Yankees: In what's been nothing less than a weird start for the Yankees, Chamberlain was used in the 8th and 9th innings in relief of another Darell Rasner gem and after the game, manager Joe Girardi said the process to stretch out Chamberlain to the starting rotation has begun. Looks like Hank finally gets his way and the Yanks will get a much-needed boost to their rotation. Just bizarre in how this all shook down, but go get him, if he's still on your wire. Power arms don't grow on trees.
  • Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: He's back in the lineup. That's not new. Jeter's been dating actress Gabrielle Union, which isn't too surprising. After all, Jeter's been linked with a long list of celebs, including Jessica Biel and Mariah Carey, but The biggest news here is that the new relationship may have put a spring in his step. Jeter stole his first two bases of the season in the past three games.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Waiver Wired: Grab Cabrera, Lilly


Daniel Cabrera, SP, Orioles

If I told you there was a pitcher on your waiver wire that has thrown eight straight quality starts, your reaction would probably be some combination of "yeah, right" or "what kind of shoestring league do you think I'm in?"

While Cabrera may not be universally available, he's probably available in most 10-team mixed leagues, and maybe some 12-teamers.

The reason? Trust.

Trusting any fantasy pitcher who entered this year with a 5.19 walk rate (every 9 innings) is like trusting a skinny cook. But maybe, just maybe, Cabrera has figured it out.

Still just 26, Cabrera is working with new pitching coach Rick Kranitz and for the second consecutive game, he's not given up a single free pass. In fact, throw out the 7-walk disaster against the White Sox and you have to go back to his second start of the year that Cabrera's given up more than 3 BB.

At any rate, 24 walks over 67 innings shows Cabrera is serious about not giving his owners WHIP-lash this year. So far, that WHIP sits at 1.17 with a 3.48 ERA. Sure the Orioles are playing over their head, but he should finish with 15 wins.

About the only drawback to Cabrera's new found Glavine-esque control is his strikeouts are down a bit, likely because he's throwing more hittable pitches. But even 130-140 Ks won't hurt you too much and there's a chance Cabrera puts it all together and starts fanning batters without walking them. Simultaneously.

But don't get your hopes up.


Ted Lilly, SP, Cubs

Admit it, you thought 2007 was a fluke for Lilly. That 3.83 ERA and 1.14 WHIP was just too good to be true.

You read about how the wind was actually blowing in more times than blowing out at Wrigley. You know Lilly's a flyball pitcher and you've just stayed away.

OK, maybe this isn't you. But this was my rationale to letting him continue to pile up quality numbers the last month, but not pull the trigger.

That all changed for me yesterday, after Jake Peavy hit the DL.

Only two starting pitchers (Edinson Volquez and C.C. Sabathia) have been more valuable than Lilly in the past month, according to Yahoo. And that includes Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum and Brandon Webb.

Don't catch the wrong drift. There's a reason Lilly's still on your wire (if he is). He traditionally gives up a lot of taters. But after back-to-back homer-less outings and four of the last six, Lilly is showing improvement in that department. The walks are down (19 in 56 IP) and the Ks are up (56).

Count on an ERA around 4 the rest of the way and a 1.25 WHIP. But with the Cubs dominant 1-2 punch of Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood, this 5-4 pitcher could threaten 20 wins, if everything broke right.

Regardless, his 170 Ks will fit nicely on any mixed-league roster.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hard to top Lester story

There's no crying in baseball.

That's what they've been saying for years.

But tell that to anyone connected with the Boston Red Sox organization Monday night. There may not have been a dry eye in the house after cancer survivor Jon Lester threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals.

I admit, I'm a sucker for these types of stories in sports. ESPN has made a living, especially during slow periods during the summer, of highlighting the human element in sports.

My wife thinks that all men, deep down, love the stories that pull at the heartstrings. Whether that's true or not, it was hard not to get wrapped up in the drama that unfolded at Fenway Park.

But to truly appreciate this story, a quick history is needed. On Sept. 2, 2006, the Red Sox announced Lester was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer. Lester was able to beat the cancer and returned to the field July 23, 2007.

After 12 appearances last year and a 4.57 ERA, Lester started the World Series-clinching game at Colorado, getting the win after pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings.

Just like in fantasy, sometimes the best trade is the one you propose but the other team doesn't take. In 2004, the Red Sox, trying to land A-Rod, offered Manny Ramirez and Lester, but the Rangers eventually took a Soriano-centered offer from the Yankees.

This past offseason, Lester was rumored to be a part of several packages for Johan Santana, who eventually was dealt to the Mets.

The Red Sox and manager Terry Francona were clearly thrilled they kept Lester on Monday. Francona's embrace with Lester afterward was particularly moving, almost like a father hugging his son. Later, Francona said it was hard to put into words what this meant.

"I've been through a lot the last couple of years. He's been like a second dad to me," said Lester, just 23. "It was just a special moment right there."

If Lester -- who lowered his ERA to 3.41 and his WHIP to 1.30 -- was somehow available on your league's wire, he was almost certainly snatched up last night, or this morning, if your league has a pulse.

He's not a top-tier pitcher, but he could finish with similar ERA/WHIP numbers, 15 wins and 160 Ks. That's not too shabby.

Just like the story that unfolded Monday night at Fenway -- one of baseball's rarest gems, not just this season, but in recent memory.

Check out the last inning. If you're man enough.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend Wrap: Peavy, Oswalt, Smoltz

"It's not like a normal soreness."

Vague as Jake Peavy was with the assessment of his sore right elbow, I'm specifically worried. Especially as a Peavy owner in two of three leagues.

Everytime you hear about a "twinge" or even a "tweak" it's cause for concern, but when the ace of your fantasy staff says that there's pain in his elbow, it's time to start trolling the waiver wire or hatching a trade offer.

Peavy's missing today's start and is getting it checked out. You can almost count on a trip to the DL, as the Padres aren't about to take any chances with their franchise arm.

Oliver Perez, John Lannan or Ted Lilly are all pitchers who have pitched well late and might be on your wire, unless you're in a deep mixed league or NL-only.

Peavy's numbers have been impressive, although not of the earth-shattering 2007 variety. And if you squint, you can see some cracks in his production the past five outings. Peavy was pulled after four innings for a pinch-hitter in his last outing in Wrigley, although there were two on with one out and Peavy had thrown 87 pitches.

Still, a 2.91 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and 60 Ks in 58 2/3 innings can not be labeled disappointing, but if Peavy misses more than tonight's start (he missed five starts with an elbow inflammation in 2004), you have no choice but to hold your breath.

At least misery has company...

Roy Oswalt: After giving up 11 hits and 6 ER on Saturday night, Oswalt says he's unsure he'll make his next start (Thursday) because of a sore hip. Details are still sketchy, but apparently, Oswalt told coaches after the sixth inning he didn't think he could go back out, but Astros manager Cecil Cooper sent him out anyway. Nice. Evidently, it was chalked up to a miscommunication.

John Smoltz: The Braves SP-turned-closer says a return in May is looking doubtful as soreness continues to linger in his shoulder. Smoltz threw on Thursday and Saturday and felt the soreness after each session. Mid-to-late June looks more likely and it could stretch to the All-Star break.

Felix Hernandez: It was just a cramp in Hernandez's right calf that caused him to come out after six innings and shouldn't be of much concern. But that's the last thing this youngster needs as he continues to battle consistency.
Mark Prior: Those of you who scooped up Prior in the 24th round and have been stashing him away, hoping you got the deal of the century, the news is not pretty. After a visit to Dr. James Andrew (do I need to go any further?), it was revelaed that Prior has another tear in his surgically repaired shoulder and will be re-examined in two weeks. Aparently, Prior was shut down after he said he felt "something like a firecracker" go off in the back of his shoulder. This is not the grand finale owners were hoping for.

Brad Penny: After being scratched from Sunday's start because of arm stiffness, Penny is all shined and ready to go tonight against the Reds. Those of you in daily leagues may want to proceed with caution. Not to mention, Adam Dunn is hitting everything thrown in his zip code out of the yard.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dioner Who? Thy name is Navarro

Looking for a decent catcher?

Who isn't these days, right? Unless you have a Soto, McCann, Martin or Doumit on your squad, it's probably slim pickins

When you check out the waiver wire and blur your eyes, they all sort of look the same.

Save for Dioner Navarro.


He's a 24-year-old Caracas native and he's hitting .368 this season.

Excuse me? Did I just hear .368 from a catcher?

It's not a typo. Actually, Tampa Bay's catcher was hitting .373 before a 1-for-4 day on Sunday.

And while he's not going to push Ted Williams as the next .400 hitter, Navarro did hit .285 after the All-Star break with 8 HR. 

The power is yet to come (1 HR, 13 RBI), but the way he's playing (.416 obp.), it's only a matter of time, playing in a good hitter's park, er, bubble, aka the Trop.

For those of you struggling with average and are sporting a Ramon Hernandez (.216), Kenji Johjima (.226) or J.R. Towles (.146), a Navarro swapout is a quick and easy boost that won't cost you anything on the trade market.

Plus, you can't beat the name Dioner Navarro. Certain names are just destined to be fantasy stars.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Don't stick a fork in Conteras

There are certain things you swear you'd never type.

On top of the list is the admittedly shaky advise to pick up White Sox SP Jose Contreras.

(Pause for laughter of obligatory how-old-is-he-really joke).

I think the over/under is 40, although the birth certificate says Contreras is 36. This year he's pitching like he's 26 again as the forkball is snapping and Gary Matthews Jr.'s knees are buckling.

Thursday night in Anaheim, Contreras allowed just 1 run, 4 hits and 3 BB, improving to 4-2 on the season. His numbers of 3.35 ERA and 1.19 WHIP are hardly believable.

You keep waiting for the bottom to drop out, but the only thing falling that fast is Contreras' split-finger.

Don't confuse Contreras' out pitch to Chien-Ming Wang's but when he's on, it's a pretty close facsimile. The question with any forkballer is how often it's forking.

In eight outings, Contreras has given up four runs and one run, four times each.

At this rate, you can count on a mid-3 ERA on a team with a rock solid back end of the bullpen (Dotel, Linebrink, Jenks) and an above average offense.

Fifteen wins this season seems reasonable but Contreras will kill you in a 5x5 as you'll be lucky to squeeze 120 Ks out of that lumbering right arm.

But in all 4x4 or shallow 5x5 leagues, this pitcher should be owned.

Yes, that's right, I said this pitcher. I can't get myself to type it twice on one blog entry.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bourn's identity? Berkman Superman?

Houston, we don't have any problems.

The Astros are 11-2 in the month of may and everything seems to be clicking.

Well, everything except leadoff man Michael Bourn.

Houston's center fielder, whose speed rivals that of Hollywood's Jason Bourne in one of his back-alley uber-sophisticated street fights, could use a few of Matt Damon's tricks at the plate.

Currently mired in a 0-for-22 slump, Bourn is hitting .148 in May and .181 for the season. Unless manager Cecil Cooper has 3D glasses and is something the rest of us aren't, look for Bourn to hit the bottom of the lineup soon with the possibility of getting platooned or benched.

What does this mean, if you're a Bourn owner and you badly need his speed (17 for 17 SB), but your average is getting hammered?

If only Jason were here to answer this. There is no good answer.

Every time Bourn's on base, he steals. The last three games he delivered a hit, he also stole a base. But hitting in front of Tejada, Berkman and Lee, it's almost mathematically impossible that Bourn only has 16 runs this year.

That's what a .252 on-base-percentage will do for ya.

Bourn hit .312 against righties last year in 93 at-bats, but is only hitting .177 this season. Nobody will ever confuse him with Ichiro, but the funk he's in right now is of epic proportions.

Unfortunately, his stock is so low, you probably can get something better off a waiver wire, if it's a medium-shallow mixed league. In deeper leagues, you have to hold onto Bourn and hope he snaps out of it. But keep a close eye on his playing time and spot in the batting order.

If Bourn loses his starting gig, it's time to pull the parachute. There may not be a Hollywood ending.

Berkman superman? While one B is scuffling, another B is playing at levels rarely seen. Lance Berkman hit his 15th HR Thursday night.

In 13 May games (are you sitting down?), Berkman is hitting .580 with a .644 obp., smacking 7 HR and 18 RBI.

He's the No. 1 player in Yahoo! right now, hitting .391 with 15 HR, 43 RBI, 45 runs and 7 SB to boot. Not bad for a player most grabbed in the third round.

The amazing part is teams continue to pitch to this Babe Ruth clone, and hitting between Tejada and Lee is about as good as it gets. But soon, teams will start giving Big B the Bonds treatment and the walks will just continue to rise.

If you can sell high, now might be the perfect time.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quarter report: Marlins, Rays shine

The Marlins and Rays are in first on May 16.

Who saw this coming?

We're 40 games into the season and holding down the top spot in both the AL and NL East divisions are two teams that everyone wanted to contract because they can't comPublish Postpete on a small payroll.

Hello parody. Goodbye dynasty.

Before I get on my soap box on how the NFL has met its match in that every team in baseball can now compete, regardless of its payroll, there's still little reason to believe the Fish and the Rays can keep this up over 162.

Sure, Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez is making more than the entire Marlins team this year. So what? ARod has been hobbled for weeks and the young guns in Miami keep winning with possibly the best fantasy player in baseball in Hanley Ramirez.

Let's break down each league at at the quarter mark.


Biggest surprise: Has to be the Rays. Sitting at 23-17, Tampa Bay was a team most experts predicted to finish as high as .500 this year, but so far, they're on a 95-win pace thanks to strong pitching from James Shields, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine and now they have their ace Scott Kazmir back. Probably the biggest difference this year is the Rays are holding leads late in the game with a revamped bullpen, including Dan Wheeler and Troy Percival. The Rays hitters haven't exactly hit their stride as fantasy studs B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford are all underperforming to some degree. Even rookie Evan Longoria has struggled after a hot start. If this offense could match the pitching side, the Rays could seriously become a serious threat to shock the Red Sox and Yanks.

Runner-up: The Oakland A's, with a cast of no-namers, Sweenys, cast-offs (Frank Thomas) and rookie pitchers (Dana Eveland and Greg Smith) are 23-8 and just a half game behind the Angels.

Biggest disappointment: While most would jump on the Yankees here, it's the 16-26 Seattle Mariners, who were picked to at least compete for the AL West crown, who get my vote. Even after adding ace Erik Bedard, the M's are scuffling so bad that eight of the 10 lowest crowds at Safeco Field have come this season, including one game last week of just over 15,000.


Biggest surprise: The Florida Marlins have been not just better than expected, but they're simply better than everyone in the East, including the mighty Mets and fighting Phillies. Anchored by fantasy surprise Mark Hendrickson (5-2, 3.91 ERA), the Marlins have enjoyed a breakout season from Mike Jacobs (9 Hr, 24 RBI), a comeback season from Jorge Cantu (5 HR, 22 runs) and Jeremy Hermidia finally living up to expectations (.298, 4 HR, 19 RBI). Add that to general greatness from Hanley Ramirez (.327, 9 HR, 13 SB) and the always underrated Dan Uggla (.299, 12 HR, 29 RBI) and you start to wonder if the Fish might have the talent to make the playoffs.

Runner-up: Pitching coach Dave Duncan has his pixie dust working again and the Cardinals' pitching rotation somehow continues to deliver, now 24-18 and just a game behind the Cubs in the NL East. Can the smoke and mirrors continue? Don't count out Tony LaRussa, but I doubt it.

Biggest disappointment: No offense, but the Padres have no offense. At 15-26, San Diego is already 10 1/2 games behind Arizona as its pitching staff has been somewhat of a letdown. Even Cy Young winner Jake Peavy only lasted 4 innings Wednesday night against the Cubs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Waiver Wired: Grab Jackson, LaRoche



Everything's going right in St. Pete.

The main reason is a resurgent pitching staff and Edwin Jackson is part of the new Rays Revolution.

Yes, it's hard to believe, but on May 14, the Tampa Bay Rays are in first place in the AL East, a half game ahead of the Red Sox and 4 1/2 ahead of the mighty Yankees.

Will this continue? Is Jackson suddenly a top-flight starter?

Let's not kid ourselves. The Rays winning the AL East would not only be story of the year, but story of the decade in baseball. But Jackson's success may not be just a flash in the pan.

Tuesday night, Jackson was brilliant, scattering four singles and a Derek Jeter triple, along with one walk, over 7 innings.

Chien-Ming Wang was equally impressive, leading to Jackson's second no-decision in a row, as he blanked the Blue Jays for 8 innings in Toronto on May 8.

Now don't confuse this hard-throwing righty with Josh Beckett or Brandon Webb. He's a strong AL-only guy and is showing signs of being mixed-league worthy, especially the deeper leagues. Over 8 starts, Jackson has given up 0 or 1 run five times and 5+ three times.

But in his second full season, you should expect more good days than bad.

His 3.47 ERA and 1.30 WHIP is about where he'll end up, possibly a little higher on the ERA side, but Jackson should strike out 150 and with a much-improved Rays team backing him, count on 10-12 more wins this season.

There's an outside chance Jackson might be traded to a contender, which if he goes to the NL should push his value up 10-15 percent.



After dropping to .167 on May 2, LaRoche owners may have hit the parachute button.

But it appears the left-handed power hitter who hit 32 HR in 2006 may be snapping out of the early-season funk he seems to toil in every spring.

Last year, LaRoche hit .133 in April, then rebounded by hitting .283 or higher in four of the next five months.

In the past 10 games, he's gone 12-for-27 with 3 HR and 11 RBI, hitting behind Nate McLouth, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady.

Grab him now, while he's still out there.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wrigley vibe unmistakably cool

CHICAGO - It was stocking hat weather.

In May.

Yes, bitter cold, 41 degrees and falling at game time, and the wind gusting in from right field at 7 mph.

Perfect conditions for an offensive explosion, right?

Didn't matter as the Cubs broke out several cans of whoop-up and sent the Padres' Randy Wolf to the showers after the first seven runners reached in the fifth inning.

The electricity started with a Carlos Zambrano double off the wall and an Alfonso Soriano home run to deep center. That's when I found myself high-fiving 6, no, 7, no 8 different strangers sitting in our section.

Then Aramis Ramirez singled home Ryan Theriot and NL Player of the Month Geovany Soto drove home two more.

The "Friendly Confines" were in rare form, as the bubbly was flowing and the jubilation in the stands was continuous. Perfect strangers were transformed into instant BFFs.

The guy in front of us even offered me a drink of his cold one.

Before even checking for floaties, I politely declined.

Finally, after 13 hits and 12 runs, in what was now sub-40 temperatures, the cold had vanished and the mistress that is baseball had captivated nearly 40,000 bundled up Cub faithful.

My voice was hoarse and my hand was starting to burn from all the celebration.

This may not be the year the Chicago North Siders break their 100-year drought, but you would have no way of knowing that on this magical Monday night at the corners of Waveland and Sheffield.

"Meet you back here soon," my new beverage-guzzling confidant said, as we left section 218, row 11. "World Series."

Far-fetched as it once may have sounded, I paused and let the words linger for just a moment.

World Series? At Wrigley?

After a brutally cold night, with a vibe like this swirling, you can't help but start to believe.


Alex Rodriguez still isn't completely healed from the quad injury but is looking at next Tuesday for his return.

John Lackey makes his long-awaited debut Wednesday against the White Sox. He's been throwing well in rehab and he's pitching at home so start him with confidence.

Gillero Mota picked up the save for the Brewers Monday night, but Eric Gagne insists that he's ready to regain the role, just days after he said he doesn't belong in the 9th inning. I think he had it right the first time. Mota may be the best cheap save option right now, but don't count out Salomon Torres, who has 30 career saves.

Fausto Carmona threw a 5-hit shutout against the Blue Jays Monday. Carmona did walk 4 runners, which is still a concern, but 5 hits over 9 innings shows his sinker is sinking quite nicely again. The shutout was overshadowed by Asdrubal Cabrera's diving unassisted triple play, only the 14th in MLB history (you'd think it would be more). Ironically, the Indians have three of those.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekend Wrap: Cueto, Reyes, Nathan

Quick hits from the weekend that was.

Johnny Cueto: Welcome to the big leagues, Johnny. Cueto was rocked again Sunday, giving up 6 ER on 8 hits and 3 BB to the Mets. This isn't a reflection on Cueto's true talents, rather it's major league hitters making adjustments to Cueto's electric stuff. Now, it's Cueto's turn on the chess board.
Fantasy Spin: Cueto has given up at least 5 ER in four of his last six starts, raising his ERA from 2.02 to 5.91. The real Cueto is somewhere in between, probably around a low-4 ERA, but you'll have to endure a few lumps like this along the way. Wait one more start for him to right the ship.

Jose Reyes: Frustrated owners were treated to a 3-for-5, 2-run, 2-SB day as Reyes raised his average from .246 to .259.
Fantasy Spin: This is Reyes' second 3+ hit day in the last 9 days, but his consistency has been spotty at best. It's time to realize he's not the first-round guy you drafted, but with 12 SB now, it's still possible Reyes finishes with 55-60 swipes, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Alfonso Soriano: The Cubs OF raised his average 42 points on Saturday, going 4 for 5 and scored 2 runs, knocking the ball out of Chris Snyder's glove on one play.
Fantasy Spin: The power numbers are still low, but this is great news for owners as Soriano is now hitting .223. Yes, that's an improvement. After a day off Sunday, look for a big week, starting tonight against Padres SP Randy Wolf.

Joe Nathan: Late last night, as the Twinkies tried to finish off the Red Sox, Nathan found himself in a dicey situation. Usually automatic, Nathan gave up singles to Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell and a double to J.D. Drew. Then Coco Crisp reached on a fielder's choice, stole second easily and the comfy 9-6 lead was 9-8 with pinch-hitter Manny Ramirez up. “Tonight was probably seven appearances in one,” Nathan said. But on the 26th pitch of the inning, Manny grounded out to shortstop and Nathan secured his 12th save.
Fantasy spin: Don't worry about Nathan, who has yet to blow a save. Sure, his ERA tripled from 0.69 to 1.93, but the Red Sox are a tough out and he's still a top-3 closer.

Fausto Carmona vs. A.J. Burnett: The anticipated duel between these two hard-throwing righties was washed out Sunday in Cleveland, one of three games in the extended rust belt that deprived mothers of pink bat baseball.
Fantasy Spin: The duo will face each other at 4:05 p.m. today, so only weekly leagues will be affected. The good news for owners is you'll get two starts this week.

Howie Kendrick: This is borderline ridiculous. The on-again, off-again return from the DL may be back on. Or not. "Hopefully we'll get some good news on Monday," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the L.A. Times. Kendrick was apparently headed back to the Angles but tweaked his hammy in a rehab stint on Tuesday.
Fantasy Spin: I know this guy could be a future batting champ and all but he's shown the durability of flat paint in a kids' play room. If you've been holding out for him to fill your 2B need, it might be time to look elsewhere.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gagne, Izzy lose closer jobs

A couple quick bullpen notes as most of the country celebrates a soggy Mother's Day washed away games in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

  • Jason Isringhausen has been pulled as the Cardinals closer after blowing his fifth save of the year after giving up 3 hits and 2 runs in Milwaukee on Friday night. Izzy now has a 7.47 ERA and 1.72 WHIP after laying an egg for the fourth time since April 25.
    Fantasy spin: While Tony LaRusa says Isringhausen will still pitch important innings (just not the 9th), Ryan Franklin and Russ Springer will reportedly split the closing duties for anyone looking to pick up a few cheapies. For what it's worth, Franklin picked up the save on Saturday and Izzy had 16 save chances before getting yanked, so there's some value in both guys at this point.

  • Likewise, Brewers closer Eric Gagne blew his fifth save on Saturday, after giving up 3 hits and 2 ER to the Cardinals. After signing Gagne for $10 million in the offseason, Milwaukee's brass is undoubtedly feeling buyer's remorse as Gagne ERA sits at 6.89 with a 1.85 WHIP.
    Fantasy spin: The Brewers are being a little tight-lipped about who will take over, but conventional wisdom says it will either be former closer Salomon Torres or Guillermo Mota - or a combination of both, although Torres has more closer seasoning. Like Izzy, Gagne may regain his closer role, especially considering his price tag this year, so don't drop either guy unless you have to. I could see both finding their way back to the 9th inning.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Too early to grab Jay Bruce?

Cincinnati Reds fans must be pulling their hair out.

Production from the CF spot is virtually non-existant, yet uber-prospect Jay Bruce continues to rot in AAA Louisville.

Rot? Well, how else do you explain him not getting called up after a 34-game start of .323 (avg)/.350 (obp) to go along side 5 HR and 24 RBI.

Yes, we all know the old standby answer: The arbitration clock is ticking.

Word is, if the Reds call Bruce up before June, he'll get to free agency a year faster. Meanwhile, Cincy dropped to 14-22 and in last place in the NL Central with Corey Patterson's .200 average roaming center at Great American Ballpark.

I will be the first to admit I was wrong about Patterson being a usable mixed-league pickup this year. Dead wrong, it seems. His OBP is scuffling at .260 and he hasn't hit a HR since April 9.

Bruce is a lifetime .299 hitter with 51 HR in 1157 at-bats, or just under two full MLB seasons. He's also stole 33 bases, but don't expect much as most of those were before he hit the upper Single-A level.

The question that you have to answer is when to pull the trigger on Bruce, if he's still on the waiver wire. Conventional wisdom says he'll be called up and given the CF job at the beginning of June, which is three weeks away.

If you have bench spots, the answer is virtually a no-brainer. Add him today and wait for the returns.

But if you're in a league that requires every spot filled every day, it's a delicate issue. Rarely is there such a high risk/reward option out there. My gut is to say find room for him in NL-only and very shallow mixed leagues right now. Four months of Bruce is most likely better than four months and 3 weeks of your weakest link.

Deeper leagues are different as the wire is probably chalk full of guys with similar talents. Although few would carry Bruce's potential upside of .290 with 25-HR pop.

Baker is not a hard guy to figure out. He loves the toothpick. Loves the double-switch. And loves the veterans.

He's already going with on rookie hitter (Joey Votto) and two young pitchers (Johnny Cueto, Edison Volquez), so despite the lousy start, Baker's probably not going to rock the boat too hard to get Bruce up before his early June time crunch.

But especially if you're a team in the bottom of the standings looking for a Bruce, er, a boost of power, it's time to roll the dice.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mailbag: Buy low on Cano?

Fantasy Mailbag:

Would you trade M. Rivera and Brendan Harris for Robinson
Cano and Joey Votto? I still have Saito, T. Jones, B. Wilson, and G. Sherrill as closers. It's a 10-team mixed league.

- Kevin

Man, you can't get to the accept button quick enough.

To be fair, this question was posed just before Votto's 3-HR outburst this week, but the answer before and after is both a resounding yes.

This is a classic deal that falls into the Trade From Your Excess page of your fantasy handbook. In an 10-team, mixed league, four closers is more than enough to get you in the top 2 or 3 of the saves category. You don't need a fifth.

It might be a slight gamble if any of the remaining four were in danger of losing their job, but all four are rock solid right now.

Saito or Rivera will fetch the most on the open market and Cano, in my opinion, is about to break out of this nasty funk he's been in. Actually, Jason Giambi's drinking from the same well of contaminated at-bats.

But if you squint hard enough, you can start to see signs of life in Cano's bat. In the last four games, the Yankees 2B has raised his average from .150 to .172, including a pair of solo HR. Cano's a career .304 hitter with 20-HR upside. Even with an awful start, he'll finish above .250.

Votto's the real diamond in this deal. The Cincy 1B is hitting .302 with 7 HR and 18 RBI - all 7 HR and 17 of the RBI in the last 21 games since taking over the full-time gig from Scott Hatteberg. But you've heard enough from me about Votto's 25/20 potential. I'll shut up now, before you think I'm developing a man-crush.

Harris the Twins 2B/SS, is a serviceable player, but lacks power or speed to be even worth a roster spot in most mixed leagues.

It's hard to give up the best player in a deal, but if it yields two that are very close, it's worth it. Especially, when you have five closers. No team needs to carry five closers. Ever.

Say your goodbyes to Mo and welcome Joey and Robinson into the flock.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sell high on Votto, Gomez?

Two rookies. Two huge games.

If you happen to own Joey Votto or Carlos Gomez, you couldn't help but smile.

If you own both, you were probably delirious.

Votto, the Cincy lefty with the sweet stroke, hit 3 jacks Wednesday afternoon off the suddenly-lifeless Cubs.

Minnesota CF Gomez (pictured above) became the first Twin to hit for the cycle since Kirby Puckett.

So, now what?

Do you hold onto these guys if you're their owner? Do you put in an offer this morning, if you're looking for an offensive boost?

Yes and no.

Only sell if you can get top value. And be prepared to pay retail (like Nordstrom retail) if you want either one of these in the next day or two.

Votto has 7 HR and 18 RBI and is on the good side of the .300 mark with a 3-for-4, 4-RBI day.

Two things stick out to this Votto owner: 1). His home runs were to all different parts of Great American Ballpark (left, center and right center) and he was going the opposite way in his final at-bat when he grounded out to SS, showing he can hit to all fields. 2). Votto recorded his first stolen base of the year.

Now that he's hitting in the heart of the Reds batting order, you can expect the RBI production to start flowing. But it will be Votto's base swipes that will separate him from other waiver options in shallow mixed leagues. (Votto also stole a base on Tuesday night, but it was ruled fielder's indifference).

Then there's Gomez, whose value is almost exclusively from his wheels, but he quietly is showing double-digit HR potential. Gomez started with a solo shot off Mark Buerhle, then struck out in the 3rd. A triple in the fifth was followed by a double in the sixth, leaving just a single for the cycle.

Gomez managed a single to lead off the 9th and later struck out in the inning, giving him the rare distinction of hitting for the cycle AND striking out twice. I love Gomez's speed an energy and his game-changing ability but he's still very green and has 29 Ks in 28 games.

To all Gomez owners flush with speed: Definitely sell high. His return will be far greater than other speed options like Kaz Matsui or Michael Bourn. But Gomez won't be hitting over .280 much longer. A .250 speed guy is a lot harder to unload than a .280 one and Gomez is more the former than the latter.


To show all you Cub haters out there that I do not always tout the Men in Blue, check out these two strikes from pitcher-turned-CF Rick Ankiel on Tuesday night in Denver.

The first, he gunned lightning-quick Willy Taveras tagging up from second to third. The second, he gunned down Omar Quintanilla, trying to stretch a double into a triple.

They don't show it, but the Cardinal dugout looked like school kids or Elvis groupies seeing the King for the first time.

"I don’t believe he did it," Tony La Russa said."“I want to see the replays. I can’t remember a dugout getting a bigger kick out of something. Who could believe it?"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Waiver Wired: Add Rasner, Jurrjens


Darrell Rasner, SP, Yankees

It's been a long road back for the Yankees righty.

Rasner, making his fifth start on May 19 last year, tried to stop an Endy Chavez comebacker up the mound and it breaks his throwing hand and ends his season (he's pictured above, picking up Chavez's ball).

Rasner had been on a roll, lowering his ERA from 10.38 after his debut bombing to 3.28 and now this.

But almost a full season later, Rasner is back.

Injuries and ineffectiveness from Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have opened a spot on baseball's biggest stage and Rasner responded on Sunday with 6 strong innings against the Mariners, giving up 2 ER, 5 hits and 0 BB. He struck out 4.

“Just try to run with this opportunity,” Rasner said. “I think I’m finally getting back in the groove.”

The question for fantasy owners is, should you take a run on Rasner's opportunity? If you look at what Rasner was doing in AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, it seems like a no-brainer. Through 33 IP, Rasner had a 0.87 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP, striking out 27.

But that was Scranton. This is Yankee Stadium.

The question really should be, can Rasner handle the big stage? His minor league numbers are solid but don't blow you away: 3.41 ERA/1.28 WHIP with a 6.78/9 K rate. Rasner, however, is not just a pup. The 27-year-old was drafted by the Expos in 2002 and has been pitching in at least AA since 2004 (shoulder issues sidelined him for most of 2006).

Rasner doesn't project to be a frontline starter, but he could be a quality source of wins and not kill your ERA/WHIP (though don't expect an abundance of Ks). Hughes is out until July, and Kennedy's been demoted. If Rasner performs, he'll stick in what has become a decimated back end of the Yankees rotation.

He's definitely worth a shot in most shallow formats. And if you have a Kevin Millwood or Kenny Rogers hanging around in that last pitching spot, take a gamble on Rasner's upside.


Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves

At 22 years, Jurrjens seems like just a pup. But the Netherlands native has been pitching in the Tigers organization since 2003 and has 500 minor league IP under his belt.

What makes Jurrjens worth a roster spot in almost every format is his control. His 2.17/9 BB rate and career 1.19 WHIP show you that his command is for real. In 7 starts with the Tigers last year, Jurrjens had a few rough outings but finished with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.

The Atlanta organization, always on the prowl for frontline pitching - especially those with Maddux-like control -- scooped up Jurrjens in the offseason in the Edgar Renteria deal. All Jurrjens has done is go 4-2 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 36 Ks in 44 IP.

And with John Smoltz heading back to the bullpen and Mike Hampton eternally injured, the Braves are mighty glad they pushed the button on that trade.

If Jurrjens is still hanging around your wire, it's time to push the same button.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What happened to Max Scherzer?

Before you go all disappointed on me, relax.

It was his first Major League start. And, yes, the hype was unbearable.

Sure, Max Scherzer didn't live up to the billing, lasting just 4 innings and 92 laboring pitches. He gave up 7 hits, 2 BB, 5 runs, but only 2 of them earned.

And after striking out 7 of the 13 batters he faced in his debut, Scherzer fanned only 5 of the 24 Phillies he faced in the desert Monday night, including Pat Burrell twice and Ryan Howard once.

So, what was the problem.

Just like the real estate market. Location, location, location.

“I didn’t get ahead of the hitters as well as I did last time, and that’s just the difference,” Scherzer told the AP.

Mad Max struggled to find the strike zone early in the count and according to manager Bob Melvin, when his 98-mph fastball wasn't hitting for a strike, his secondary pitches, a 93-mph sinker and a developing slider were also just missing in key times.

Scherzer finished with 58 strikes and 34 balls.

Fantasy owners everywhere are sure to blame the "experts" out there branding Scherzer as a can't-miss prospect. In some leagues, he may even be dropped today. And if that's the case, don't hesitate to grab him. Otherwise, he makes a nice buy-low candidate this week.

After all, this is a guy with just one year of minor league seasoning, not even a full year. On the advice of agent Scott Boras, Scherzer held out 11 months after being drafted 11th overall in the 2006 draft and signed on the eve of the 2007 draft.

So, before this year, his resume only carried 72 2/3 IP.

Does he need seasoning? Of course.

Will he stay up in the bigs? That all depends on his next couple starts.

But Scherzer watched closely as old man Jamie Moyer, 45, and his low-80s fastball continue to befuddle a stout Arizona lineup.

“I know firsthand, he throws a 74 mile-an-hour change, then backs it up with a 71 mile-an-hour change," said Scherzer, who was 2 when Moyer debuted with the Cubs. "He’s cutting it to both sides of the plate at 81 or 82, and his fastball’s about the same velocity, but he knows how to pitch."

Scherzer will one day soon. Just give him a little time.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weekend wrap: Papi, Gomez, Utley

The weekend that was...

Big Papi: David Ortiz sat out twice in a three-game series with Tampa Bay because of swelling in the knee. Terry Francona says it's either a bruise or tendinitis but with a day game after a night game, it was a little creaky. Owners better hope this doesn't turn into a Bonds situation.

Jack Cust: After hitting .176 with 0 HR in 62 at-bats, the Oakland OF smacked three HR in 4 games, going 8-for-14 and raised his average 68 points. If you Google streaky hitter, you'll likely see Cust's name pop up on your first page of search results. Ride him ASAP, even in shallow mixed leagues.

Greg Smith: Sticking with the A's, their rookie pitcher threw 6 masterful innings, striking out 10 of the 23 batters he faced, giving up just 1 run, 3 hits and 2 BB. Oakland won 3-1, but Smith got a no-decision. Before this game, I decided to pick him up in a 10-team mixed league and now own him in all 3 leagues. Risky? You betcha. But a 10-K game is a good sign that he's not slowing down. Smith pitches in a great park (look what it did for Mulder and Zito). And it's hard to argue with a 2.54 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Still, I'm realistic.

Carlos Gomez: The Twins OF was carted off the field Friday night after getting knocked in the left ear flap on his helmet, trying to steal second off Ivan Rodriguez. Gomez never lost consciousness, but if you looked close, you could almost see the tweetie birds circling his head. Gomez missed Saturday's game, but was back out there Sunday and scored a run. Exhale, Gomez owners, you should be seeing more of this soon:

Chone Figgins: Another speedster, the Angels 3B injured his hamstring Saturday, but a day after, Figgins told the OC Register the hammy was feeling much better. "It's not pulled. It's just a slight strain." MRI results later today.

Chase Utley: After an 0-for-5 Sunday, Utley proves he's human. But the No. 1 player in Yahoo! so far still leads the world in home runs with 13. And he plays 2B. I know it's early, but next year's draft will either start Hanley-Chase or Chase-Hanley.

Nick Markakis: The O's shook up their lineup a bit, moving OF Markakis to the 2-hole, which isn't great news for owners. But while it may cost Markakis some RBI, he smacked 2 HR in 3 games hitting 2nd, and his SB production will likely tick up (6 SB for the season).

Chris Snyder: Highly touted coming into the season, Diamondbacks C Chris Snyder struggled through April, but roped a double and triple off Johan Santana on Sunday to raise his average to .243. He's probably on your wire, if you're looking for a potential catcher upgrade with upside. And as an aside, why is it that someone's always "highly" touted, but rarely "lowly?"

Max Scherzer: Staying in the desert, all eyes on Mad Max as he makes his starting debut tonight. Word on the street is Scherzer's not a lock to stay in the rotation and could be sent back down to the minors. Don't believe the GM-speak as Arizona is trying to take the pressure off. If he performs, he'll stay up.

Howie Kendrick: Coming off the DL today. Finally. Wait a day to make sure, and then get him in those daily-move lineups. 

Mike Cameron: Hit 2 HR Sunday and continues as the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy baseball. Without the ugly bowling shirt. 

Jose Reyes: Mets SS started slow on the base paths, but stole his 9th base Sunday, and 6th in 10 games. Reyes won't approach 80, but he's starting to look like a 60 SB guy again. That'll be borderline first-round value, if he keeps his average near .300. Still, you probably overpaid.

Gil Meche: Will the real Meche please stand up?

Robinson Cano: Mired in a 3-for-35 slump, Cano jacked out a solo shot Sunday. How bad is it for Cano? His average spiked from .150 to .154 on a 1-for-4 day. Incidentally, how come the only time players are described as "mired," it's when they're in a slump?

Kei Igawa: Sticking with the Yanks, Igawa will likely start Friday or Saturday after going 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA in AAA. With Ian Kennedy sent down, the Yankees are really just looking for anyone who can give them 6 innings. Anyone?

Darrell Rasner: After ridiculous sub-1 ERA and WHIP numbers in AAA, Rasner was only an Adrian Beltre 2-run HR away from pitching a shutout Sunday. As it was, he threw 6 innings, giving up 2 ER, 6 hits and 0 BB with 4 Ks. Most importantly, Rasner got the win. With Phil Hughes out til July, Rasner is a strong AL-only pickup and should be considered in mixed leagues 12 teams and larger.