Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2010 Keepers: Catcher

Paging Matt Wieters, paging Matt Witers...

If there ever was a thin position in a keeper league, the 2010 catcher crop is it.

Which is where Wieters becomes very much an enigma. So much promise, yet so much disappointment until the middle of September hit.

Wieters ripped off 4 HR and 16 RBI in the final 19 games, including five games with three hits.

Significant? Perhaps.

Wieters was hitting .239 on July 18, but finished with a strong .288 average.

I've got him as a definite maybe, but if you have a man crush, then go ahead and retain his services.

Definite Keepers
Joe Mauer
Victor Martinez

Definitely Maybe
Brian McCann
Jorge Posada
Matt Wieters

Only in Deeper Leagues
Benji Molina
Kurt Suzuki

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2010 Keepers: 3B

Two thrilling walkoff HRs in one night? 


You can't beat playoff time. 

Unless your favorite team and fantasy both tanked and have moved quickly onto football.

But let's stop for a second and talk about third. As in the hot corner.

Who do you keep and who do you throw back? It's fairly straightforward as we look forward to the 2010 draft.

Definite Keepers (10 team, 6 keeper league)
Miguel Cabrera
Mark Reynolds
Alex Rodriguez
Evan Longoria
Ryan Zimmerman
David Wright
Kevin Youkilis

Definitely Maybe
Chone Figgins
Pablo Sandoval

Only in deeper leagues
Michael Young


Commentary: Chipper Jones, Mike Lowell and Scott Rolen, you are honorably dismissed from the third base keeper discussion. You all served this position well, but age and injury have caught up to you and you're no longer keepable. Keeper is largely based on youth and projection of stats, not what you've done for me lately -- or two years ago. There will likely be little argument with anyone on this list. Each definite keeper finished in the top 40 of Yahoo's ranking this year with the exceptions of ARod and Wright, who both missed time. Wright could be moved to the maybe list, if you honestly believe his power has been zapped, but I don't think that's the case. A return to 25 HR is likely and I wouldn't be surprised if they moved the fences in at Citi. Young, if he was 5 years younger, would be definite material, but he's not, so he's not. Figgins and Sandoval are both tough calls. Consult your roster for final verdict. If you have no other speed, go ahead and retain Figgy's services. Sandoval just turned 23, folks, making him a very tough call and I would definitely keep him in 12-team or greater formats. The hot corner is just not that deep.

 

Friday, October 9, 2009

2010 Keepers: SS

For all you disgruntled Jose Reyes owners out there, take a deep breath.


Sure, you were burnt by a Top 5 pick this season. Reyes' hamstring issues probably kept you from contending all year, but if you're in a keeper league, do you still hang onto Mr. Excitement?

How could you not?

OK, there's the feat that he won't fully recover, but he's only having surgery to remove the scar tissue, not to repair the September tear, which tells me it's not as bad as some of his early-career hamstring woes.

Anyone with 70-SB, 15-HR potential has to be given a longer leash, even if he only had 147 at-bats this year.

My advice would be try to find the Reyes owner in your league right now and make a low-ball offer while his 2010 outlook is still somewhat murky. He may be thinking of throwing him back in the pot next year anyway.

As far as the rest of the SS position, it's pretty much slim pickens out there. Here's how I see it.

Definite Keepers
Hanley Ramirez
Troy Tulowitzki
Derek Jeter
Jimmy Rollins
Jose Reyes

Definite Maybe
Jason Bartlett
Michael Young

Only in deeper leagues
Yunel Escobar
Alexei Ramirez

Commentary: Outside of Reyes, Bartlett is probably the toughest call here. I would like to see more than one pretty good year to elevate him into "Definite" status. If you drafted him this year, you probably rode his 30 SB and .320 average to a high finish and may want to reward him. I have no prob with that. The average may be a one-time deal (career .298 hitter in the minors), and there's not a lot supporting his 14 HR this year, but the speed is for real. Rollins finished as a top-80 player after one of the worst starts in MLB history (17/14, .272 after the break), but I would understand if you lost faith in his elite status. Escobar reminds me of someone who's on the cusp of breaking out, but I'd still be surprised if it happened. I don't think we know what we have with Alexei, another big disappointment this year. Tons of raw talent, which makes you at least stop and think before sending his services back.




Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2010 Keepers: 2B

Remember when this position used to be Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler and everyone else?

Those days are over.

Sure, Utley still is proably the king of second, but the gap is getting very, very thin with the emergence of Aaron Hill and Ben Zobrist.

So let's get down to brass tax.

Definite Keepers (based on 6 keepers in 10-team league):

Chase Utley

Ian Kinsler

Aaron Hill

Ben Zobrist

Definitely Maybe


Chone Figgins

Robinson Cano

Brian Roberts

Brandon Phillips

Only in deeper leagues


Jose Lopez

Dan Uggla

Chris Coughlan

Ian Stewart


Commentary:
If there's anything to take away from this year, it's that the second base position is deeper than ever. Ideally, you grab one of the top 8, as there's a bit of a dropoff after Phillips, but even then, an improving Lopez or power-heavy Uggla isn't exactly a door-prize juicer. The real question is do you believe the hype with Hill and Zobrist? Hill has been primed for a breakout, but 36 HR? That's borderline ridiculous. But still, the runs, RBIs with a modest average is hard to ignore. And Zobrist, coming out of nowhere with a 27/17 season, has earned a spot as an everyday player in Tampa, so much so that there's rumors of the Rays dealing the disappointing B. J. Upton this offseason. Figgins, Cano, Phillips and Roberts all had nice rebounding seasons, but let the rest of your roster determine whether or not to bring back their services. Remember, in terms of depth, second base is the new first base

Monday, October 5, 2009

2010 Keepers: 1B

With your season officially in the rear-view mirror and the MLB playoffs to look forward to, there's only one thing left to discuss:


How did this year's fantasy season go so bad...

No. It doesn't do any good to wallow in the past. Time to look forward. 

Time to take an early look at next year, specifically those in keeper leagues.

Let's start at 1B and work our way around the diamond.

Definite Keepers (10 team, 6 keeper league):

Albert Pujols

Prince Fielder

Ryan Howard

Mark Teixeira

Miguel Cabrera

Adrian Gonzalez

Kevin Youkilis

Victor Martinez

Kendry Morales

Borderline

Derek Lee

Carlos Pena

Adam Dunn

Pablo Sandoval

Joey Votto

Michael Cuddyer

Only in deep leagues

Lance Berkman

Billy Butler

Jose Lopez


Commentary: Morales a keeper?  Really, the only difference between him and Cabrera this year was 20 batting average points. Sure, Morales has only one full year of a track record, but he's still relatively young (26) and hits in a top 5 lineup. He'll be gone by the third round next year. Derek Lee not a lock? You have to look at his past 3 years and even with 35 HR this season, he's only averaging 25 a season. Plus he just turned 34. Adam Dunn's .267 average is a bonus, but he probably won't repeat that, knocking him down a notch. Same with Carlos Pena (.227), who tied for the AL home run lead (39)  despite missing the final month. Both those guys drag your average down too much to be considered locks.  And what happened to Lance Berkman? He'll be 34 this offseason and not only does the HRs trend downward, but he quit running (7 SB compared to 18 in 2008). This position will be way too deep in '10. Billy Butler, the man who hits everything, is showing real signs of life, but I'd like to see him take just one more step. And Mark Reynolds? Well, he won't qualify at 1B, or else the answer would be without hesitation, yes.

Thoughts?


Monday, August 31, 2009

Has Morales reached keeper status?

If you saw this coming, raise your hand.

Very few even drafted Angels 1B Kendry Morales, and those that did, like in our 10-team Observer league, dropped him after a slow start.

He was picked up, dropped, picked up. I've traded him away and back twice.

But after Friday night's 5-for-5, 2 HR, 6-RBI, I think it's as clear as it is that the Cubs are out of the playoff chase that Morales is a 2010 keeper.

I'll explain on the other side of this video (Kendry's 2nd HR on Friday):




Entering 2009, Morales had 12 HR in 377 at-bats. So far, he's belted 30 HR in 454 ABs.

Surprising? Hardly.

Anyone who's followed Morales' power-filled minor league career knew that he brought 30-HR and 130-RBI power (over 162 games). Those numbers don't always convey, but often times they need no translator.

What's separating Morales from a lot of other power guys is he's hitting .311 this year. With 94 RBI already, we're looking at a likely 36-HR, 115-RBI season with plus-.300 average.

That's nearly Miguel Cabrera-esque.

Morales is a career .337 minor league hitter, so a dropoff to the .270 range in future years seems as unlikely as Scott Kazmir regaining his 2007/2008 form and playing up to the $21 million the Angels will owe him after picking him up for prospects. (Kazmir does start his first game with the Angels on Wednesday and could be a little better with a change of scenery).

Back to the keeper question. Sure, 1B is a deep position. I still wouldn't rank Morales ahead of the big 7 (Pujols, Reynolds, Fielder, Howard, Cabrera, Teixeira, Morneau), but I think he's every bit as valuable as Youkilis, Gonzalez, Dunn, Pena, Lee or Martinez.

Morales is still young (just turned 26 in June) and could be a 40/120/.310 guy for years to come in what should be a potent Angels lineup for the foreseeable future.

Rarely does one night in baseball elevate a guy into the keeper ranks, but in this case, i'll take a front-row seat on the Morales bandwagon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tips on finishing the year, and one great catch

Welcome to the grind. Six weeks left in the season and you may find yourself toiling in the middle of the pack.

But now is not the time to pack it in. The guy one or two spots ahead of you might be turning his attention to football. How easy to look forward to a fresh start.

You, however, must stay hungry.

Just like the Cubs freshly called-up outfielder Sam Fuld, who was handed one start by coach Lou Piniella and he's playing so well, Piniella keeps sitting slumping Alfonso Soriano.

He's hungry. He wants it. Maximum effort. Hustling on the base paths. Battling each pitch at the plate.

And then there was this catch yesterday, one of the gutsiest plays of the season, risking his face just to catch a ball.





Let me give you three practical tips as we hit the home stretch.

1). Manage categories. This may seem like fantasy 101, but if you are so far out of it in power stats, don't keep picking up Hideki Matsui, trying to squeeze a few more HR and RBI when you can't realistically catch the next guy. If you can catch a handful of guys in speed, go grab the Rangers fleet-footed Julio Borbon.

2). Keep inventory on playing time. If you have borderline guys who are on teams that are out of the playoff race, it might be time to chuck 'em back into the waiver pile. Think the A's will keep giving Jack Cust at-bats, when they have all those young outfielders they'd like to take a look at? If you're still hoping Mike Jacobs gives you that late power, think again. The Royals likely have seen all they need of Jacobs and will be giving other prospects a cup of coffee. Likewise, if a team clinches a playoff spot, playing time might also become scarce (i.e. don't be afraid to sit Manny that final week if the Dodgers clinch).

3). Visit the stream room. It's not the most popular way to finish out a season, but you may be in a situation to start streaming starting pitchers, if the gains in Ks and Ws are greater than what you can (and will) lose in ERA/WHIP. Look at those specific categories right now and it might be time to use one or two of your SP spots as a revolving door. Take a look at the best options for the next day's pitchers and roll the dice on the best matchup. This doesn't always work, but it's a lot funner trying and failing than doing nothing. After all, half the fun of playing fantasy is having fun. So finish the year by having fun.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wright, Kuroda, Kinsler suffer head beanings

Two of the worst-looking head injuries in baseball happened on the same day Saturday.


Fortunately, both seem to be fine.

First, a 95-MPH fastball from the San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain got away from him, drilling Mets All-Star 3B David Wright in the head.

Wright was put on the DL with post-concussion symptoms after staying overnight in a Manhattan hotel.

Here's video. Queasy stomachs need not watch.



The second brutal head injury came when Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was smacked on the head by a scorching line drive off the bat of Diamondbacks' Rusty Ryal.

Kuroda laid on the ground for several minutes, clutching his head, but never losing consciousness. A CT scan revealed no fractures or bleeding. Reportedly the first thing Kuroda asked at the hospital was, translated, "did they catch the ball that went off my head?"

Here's a clip of Kuroda. Again, women and small children may want to pass.




Ian Kinsler was also drilled in the head, although it did not seem as severe (and there's no YouTube video ... yet). Kinsler shook it off and stayed in the game. Earlier he homered and stole a base.

Read more about the status of Kinsler, Wright and Kuroda here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Few good seats left for Peavy in Charlotte


There are very few times when a Cy Young winner will pitch at Knights Stadium. 

Thursday, however, Charlotte will be treated to 2007 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy making a rehab start against Pawtucket in Fort Mill. 

Game time is 7:15 p.m. and a few good seats remain although they're going quick.

Peavy, traded about 4 minutes before the trade deadline on July 31 from the Padres to the White Sox, has a 3.97 ERA, uncharacteristically high, although several of his starts came on a bad ankle.

Peavy strained a tendon in his ankle in late May and finally hit the shelf on June 9 after trying to be a warrior and pitch on in it a couple times. No dice.

As of 10 minutes ago, you could still get seats in the Field Box and Lower Reserve sections, although it was as far down the line as you can get. General Admission seats ($7) are also still available on the Knights web site

Another possible rehab start on Aug. 18 would be in Durham, if it's with the Knights.

Fantasy spin: A long-time fantasy stud, Peavy went 19-6 in 2007, striking out 240 batters with a 2.54 ERA. Hopefully, you've either traded Peavy for something valuable shortly after he went down, or you've stashed him on your bench. Look for a boost to your strikeouts and wins, along with mild help to your ERA/WHIP as Peavy now pitches in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Park. Don't trade him now, unless you can get 70 cents on the dollar.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Upton on DL; Cruz next? Bay hamming it up

Just a couple quick injury updates to help you get through your weekend.

Justin Upton: Up 4-2 in the 9th on Wednesday, Upton tried stealing second and wouldn't you know it. The official diagnosis is straight right oblique muscle, but the AZ brass is hopeful Upton pops off the DL as soon as he's eligible.

Fantasy spin: Anytime a hitter with 20 HR and 16 bags, who hits in the heart of an order hits the shelf, the first trip to the waiver wire gives you the willies. D'Back reserve Alex Romero could be a decent fill-in for Upton. Another option that is Parra for the course (groan) is Gerardo Parra, who will give you the occasional steal or long ball, while racking up plenty of runs and a .280-ish average. If you need speed, take Lastings Milledge for a ride. Now, if power is your main need, your best bet is David Murphy, the best thing named Murphy since the bed, who's hitting third for the Rangers while Nelson Cruz likely goes on the DL (see below).

Nelson Cruz: If losing Upton hurts, losing Cruz may bring tears. It's not official that he's headed to the shelf, but Cruz couldn't even throw before Thursday's game because his sprained ankle was too tender. After a 25-HR, 17-SB season, this year's best offensive surprise not named Mark Reynolds has just screeched into a parking spot in the proverbial fantasy garage. The Rangers are trying to avoid the DL with Cruz, as they're still fighting for a playoff spot, but this weekend's looking like a no-go, so get ready for Plan B.

Jason Bay: Bay is likely out Friday and possibly longer as he is quoted on ESPN.com as saying he has "no idea how much time he'll miss" after injuring his right hamstring. Bay had slumped after a torrid start so a break might be perfect timing. Still, if you're in daily-move leagues, keep your ear to the ground on this one.

Jake Peavy: For those of you holding tight, keep squeezing. ESPNChicago.com says Peavy could be making his White Sox debut on Aug. 28 in the Bronx against the Yankees. No pressure there.

Torii Hunter: One word you don't want to hear if you're a Torri owner. Setback. The strained muscle in his side is not healed properly and the rehab assignment has been scratched for now. The dream season is quickly turning nightmarish, if you've kept a lot of stock in the Angles CF.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Late trade roundup: Peavy to ChiSox

This time, it's for realsies.


Jake Peavy, the Padres ace, sidelined since June 9 with a bum ankle, was dealt to the Chicago White Sox today for a wheel barrel of youngsters: Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter and Adam Russell. 

Back in May, Peavy was traded to the South Siders, only to turn it down, which he has the authority with a full no-trade clause. 

This time, he consented.

“He never said no, he just said ‘not yet,”’ White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said.

Richard, who you may have seen a time or two at the Knights Castle, is the most major-league ready of the bunch, throwing back-to-back gems and has a 4.65 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. He was also scheduled to pitch tonight for the Pale Hose.

Peavy (6-6, 3.97) was having a down year, although apparently pitching through ankle issues his final four starts or so. 

He's expected to be back on the field in late August.

In other late trade news...

JOHNSON TO FISH: Nationals 1B Nick Johnson was traded to the Marlins for AA starter Aaron Thompson.

ROLEN TO REDS: Toronto 3B Scott Rolen was dealt to the Blue Jays for Edwin Encarnacion and an unnamed minor-leaguer.

HARRISTON JR. TO YANKS: Jerry Harriston Jr. was sent to the Bronx for catching prospect Chad Weems

BEIMEL MILE HIGH: Steady reliever Joe Biemel was traded to the Rockies  for two unnamed prospects.

LAROCHE BACK TO ATLANTA: This was in the previous blog, and it's a minor note, but it bears repeating....Adam LaRoche was traded to Atlanta for 1B counterpart Casey Kotchman. Huh?

GONZALEZ, HALLADAY STAY PUT: The Toronto Blue Jays' price was too high for anyone to meet and the Doc, Roy Halladay will stay in Toronoto. ... The Dodgers kicked the tires on Adrian Gonzalez, throwing out James Loney and a few other names, but San Diego wasn't biting.

Tweet: V-Mart to Boston official

Through the magic of Twitter, we've learned that, it is likely, in fact, that the Indians are about to deal 1B/C Victor Martinez to the Red Sox, waiting the confirmation of, well, anything really.


Actually the source is solid. USA Today writer Bob Nightengale is the one who broke it on his Twitter page. Ed Price at upstart AOL Fanhouse also has Twittered that it "looks good"  a deal will happen. Fox Sports also supports the validity, in a non-Twitter story.

Of course, in this Twitter age, by the time I hit publish post, the news may be completely changed, so stay tuned.

(UPDATE: Nightengale has just posted a Tweet that the deal is offiical and the haul is pitchers Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. Hagadone and Price were first-round picks for Boston in 2007 and 2008 and both were currently pitching like top prospects in AA Greenville).

Wait, things just changed. No. That was a false Facebook flury. Some Yankee fan trying to make a joke.

No word from MySpace, if anyone still has an account there. And I'll check to see if there's any trade commentary on YouTube (just as soon as I re-watch the JK Wedding Entrance).

You had to know technology would be flying fast and furious on baseball's version of Christmas Eve.

Will your team make the critical move to get over the hump? Or stay pat.

Here's a couple other nuggets from today:

  • Twins acquire Orlando Cabrera from the A's for SS Tyler Ladendorf, a young, cheap, talented Billy Beane special.
  • Musical chairs continues for Adam LaRoche, who just finished filling out his change of address forms. LaRoche is headed back to Atlanta, as Boston now has a logjam at first with Martinez. LaRoche broke into the bigs with the Braves in 2004 before being traded to Pittsburgh before the 2007 season.
  • The Padres have been listening to offers for 1B Adrian Gonzalez, but appear to be holding onto their only real offensive weapon. Rumor has it, had they traded Gonzalez, Selig was going to ship them to the Pacific Coast League.
  • Tigers get resurgent starter Jarrod Washburn from the M's for pitcher Luke French and pitching prospect Mauricio Robles. I still like the Twins or White Sox chances better to win the AL Central.
  • Roy Halladay appears to be staying in Toronto. This isn't news, but it's worth repeating. Toronto's price was just too high.
  • Mariners had six teams trying to pry Felix Hernandez loose, and like a stubborn fantasy owner in a keeper league, Seattle has wisely said no thanks.
  • After snapping up LHP George Sherrill yesterday, the Dodgers sent Claudio Vargas to Milwaukee for C Vinny Rottino. As a side note for those of you in dynasty leagues, it might be time to go out and grab 3B Josh Bell, the main piece in the Sherrill trade. I'm hearing Bell has the talent to be manning the O's hot corner for the next decade. And they've got quite an impressive young offense brewing in Baltimore.


Does Ortiz steroid news taint Red Sox titles?

We're all sick of this 2003 steroid test.

Arod. Sammy.

Now, Ortiz and Manny.

Well, we've known Manny Ramirez hasn't been clean for awhile, but David Ortiz?

Big Papi?

This, after just a few months ago, he came out and drew a hard line in the sand, saying if someone tested positive, "Ban 'em for a year."

Hypocrisy? You be the judge.

Was he the only one doing it? Not hardly. We've beat this drum before and most people think 70 percent or higher of all baseball players were using. And we've long had the discussion on whether it should taint the all-time records.

We've all thought about the Barry Bonds asterisks. The Great Home Run Chase of 1998? We're all still wondering if we got one pulled over on us during that great Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa theatre.

We've debated on whether or not steroid users should be allowed in baseball's Hall of Fame. Some think they should have a separate category.

But we haven't talked about team accomplishments.

When the Red Sox won in 2004, it was such a huge story in baseball. The curse was broken. Boston fans could finally die happy. And then they won it again in 2007.

But are these championships legit?

Technically, sure. But what will public opinion say?

Ortiz and Ramirez were the Red Sox offense that year. They combined for 88 home runs and 269 RBI that season. That's over half the entire Pittsburgh Pirates team last season (153).

But it was Big Papi's clutch hitting, night after night, that people look back on and for the first time are starting to see how much it has affected baseball, and to a degree, how much we were all duped.

Great theatre? Or great acting?

Ortiz hit .400 that postseason with 5 HR and 19 RBI in 14 games.

I'll give Papi credit for facing the media, although he did so without actually saying anything:



Is there any wonder why Ortiz only hit 38 career HR in about 1,200 at-bats before signing with the Red Sox, then ripped off seasons of 31, 41, 47 and 54.

Oh, and since baseball's testing and penalties have ratcheted up? He hit 23 HR last year and has 14 this season, hitting .225.

Know what the difference between a 20-HR guy and a 40-HR guy is?

About $15 million a year.

Longtime Twins teammate and good friend Torii Hunter said it best.

"This hurts, this really hurts," Hunter told ESPN.com. "I don't know what to think about this. I guess you just never know what people do in the dark.

"I still love him but at the same time it's tough to hear that. I know it's going to be tough on him and tough on his family once this gets out. It's Big Papi, man, it's the Big Dog of Boston and he helped win two World Series with those guys, with the clutch hits. And now all those things are going to be tainted.

Tainted.

Pretty strong language.

And after about 8 hours to digest the situation, I can't disagree.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kicked ball not ruled a catch?

Did you catch this?

Well, Delwyn Young did, a spectacular grab by the Pirates 2B after left-fielder Garrett Jones made an acrobatic kick save in one of the craziest plays in recent baseball memory.

But the umpired ruled it a hit. Read for yourself here

See for yourself below. Yet another argument for instant replay on all baseball plays, not just boundary calls.

 Although I'm still not for it. It's a slippery slope.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Former Knight Wise saves Buehrle perfect game


Mark Buehrle may not believe in Déjà Vu.

But he's got to be a little suspicious after today.

Chicago LHP Buehrle spun a perfect game against the Tampa Bay this afternoon, the first perfect game since Randy Johnson's 2004 gem, and only the 16th pitcher to accomplish the feat in MLB history.  That's not the Déjà part.

This is. On April 18, 2007, Buehrle threw a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in a game lasting 2 hours and 3 minutes. Guess how long today's perfect game lasted? Yup: 2:03.

That's not all. Eric Cooper was the home plate umpire during Buehrle's 2007 no-no. Who was behind the plate today? Why, of course, Mr. Cooper.

You realize there's 68 full-time MLB umpires out there, right?

Perhaps less Déjà but still with plenty of Vu is that each game featured a great catch in center field.  In 2007, Aaron Rowand banged up against the fence to save the no-hitter, while former Charlotte Knight DeWayne Wise did Rowan one better.

Gabe Kapler drove a 2-2 pitch into left-center, where Wise made possibly the best clutch perfect game-saving catch anyone can remember.

"I was hoping it was staying in there, give him enough room to catch it," said Buehrle, who received a congratulatory call from President Obama, an unabashed White Sox fan. 

Wise sprinted to exactly the perfect spot, robbed Kapler of a home run, but the impact of hitting the wall jarred the ball loose, temporarily dislodging it before Wise snagged it with his bare-hand as he fell to the ground. 

And Wise had just entered the game that inning as a defensive replacement.

Check it out yourself: 
 


"I was so pumped when I caught it," Wise said. "It was an unbelievable feeling."

Nobody knew that more than Buehrle. I'd say dinner at Ruth's Chris is on him sometime very soon.

Fantasy Spin: A quick quiz: Who belongs to which set of numbers? 3.78 ERA, 1.26 WHIP  and 3.66, 1.24 WHIP.  The first is Buehrle and the second is Yankees' C.C. Sabathia. Sure, Sabathia also comes with a truckload of K's, but Buehrle is worst-case a poor-man's version with similar other numbers. The lefty struck out six on Thursday and now sports a 3.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 11 wins. Frankly, I still can't get the taste of 2006 out of my mouth, but even with 120-130 Ks a year, he's still a top 35 pitching option.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kazmir, Soriano snap out of it


Is it ever too late to amend for a bad season?

Scott Kazmir and Alfonso Soriano are trying to make up quickly for lost time. But is it enough to make owners forget about an awful first half?

Doubtful.

Actually, it's Rays and Cubs fans that probably need the most convincing, but Saturday night showed promise for both.

Kazmir: The Rays struggling lefty had lost velocity on his fastball this year. From 95 to 90, Kazmir had regained a couple ticks recently, back up to 92 and tonight, while walking four Royals, the lefty did pitch six solid innings, giving up just 4 hits and 1 ER.

No, you probably can't go out and swap him straight-up for Javier Vazquez, but his stock did raise a bit. Still concerning is the low K total (3 Ks) and is more reminiscent of lefty Joe Saunders than Clayton Kershaw.

Kazmir did leave the game early, in the 7th, but mlb.com is reporting it was just mild cramping and he should be OK.

Soriano: The bad news is he struck out three times tonight. The good news is he jacked a 3-run home run in his old stomping grounds, and lifted the Cubs to a 6-5 win over the Nationals. It also gave hard-luck starter Randy Wells a makeup victory from several he should've won back in May.

Probably most encouraging wasn't so much that Soriano went yard, it was how he did it -- opposite field. And even impressive was that the $136 million man even played, as he jammed his pinkie finger on Thursday and was possibly going to miss the entire series as of Friday night.

My professional advice, as a Soriano owner, is to just be patient. Dropping him, or selling him for pennies will not end well for you. Soriano still has 15 jacks, despite not hitting a HR since June 7.

Is he the 40-HR Soriano of old? I wouldn't take that bet, even on 10-1 odds. But he could still smack a dozen HR the rest of the way and steal 6-8 so don't cut your losses now, especially when he's been moved into a prime RBI spot in the Cubs order.

Remember, Soriano has always been streaky. If his knee was really bothering him the past month-plus, you have to hope the under-reported injury of the year has healed enough and that Soriano goes on one of his patented tears like September of 2007 when he carried the Cubs with 14 September homers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Even LaRussa smiled at Lou's antics

If Lou Piniella took this one from a book, nobody knows where that library is.


Proving you haven't seen everything yet in baseball, the Cubs manager, with only one lefty in his bullpen, Sean Marshall, used a little razzle dazzle to escape a bases loaded, nobody out jam in the top of the ninth.

With a rightly splitting up two left-handed Cardinals in Sunday night's game, Piniella decided to bring in right-handed Aaron Hielman. Here's where it got interesting.

Piniella electrified the Wrigley crowd, sending Marshall to left field, and bringing in Alfonso Soriano. With Marshall manning left field Hielman threw a steady diet of inside pitches to the right-handed Brendan Ryan before striking him out.

"It was kind of funny to watch Heilman pitch because he was throwing so many pitches inside because if he does hit it will it will be right at me and hopefully I can make a play and throw someone out,” said Marshall.

By now, Wrigley was in a near-frenzy, with fans in the bleachers chanting: “We are Marshall.”

Marshall came back in to pitch, with Reed Johnson going to left field. Marshall struck out Jarrett Hoffpauir, then coaxed a fly ball to Colby Rasmus, that Johnson made a stumbling, diving catch to end the rally and igniting the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crowd.

Still, the Cubs lost 4-2, but it was baseball theatre at its best. Even Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who tries to outstrategize everyone he comes into contact with, could appreciate Piniella's creativity.

“I stopped (Cubs first base coach Matt Sinatro) and said you tell Lou that was a classic," LaRussa said. "It was fun to be a part of it no matter how it turns out. It takes creativity and it takes guts. Lou showed both of them. That was fun actually. It was terrific."

Waiver wired: If Pirates OF Garrett Jones is still on your waiver wire, it's time to find room for him on your roster. Jones is hitting third and was a big reason the Pirates felt comfortable trading Nate McLouth and Najer Morgan. A 25-15 prospect, Jones has hit 5 HR and stole 3 bags in 42 ABs.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

After 3-HR night, is it Andruw time?


Revivals have been started in less obvious places.

But Arlington's hot summer air has been known to defribillate some of baseball's least likely suspects.

Andruw Jones is the latest hitter-left-for-dead, taken off the scrapheap, propped up at home plate and turned into a reliable fantasy player.

In 2007, Sammy Sosa was able to smack 21 HR and drive in 92 runs, albeit while hitting .252, but still finishing higher than anyone thought possible after his swift demise from Wrigley to Camden to the Dominican.

But longtime Braves slugger Andruw Jones is experiencing a stunning turnaround from a 2008 season where he .158 with 3 HR in 209 ABs.

“He’s having a terrific season for them,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s obviously much more comfortable in the batter’s box than he was last year when we saw him with the Dodgers.”

On Wednesday night, Jones matched his total in the span of 5 innings, launching 3 HR in Anaheim, giving him 14 HR and 34 RBI, along with a respectable .250 average in 160 ABs.

Andruw put us on his back and everyone followed,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Now, the question is will you put Andruw back on your team, after secretly vowing to never trust him again?

My official advice: Be careful.

It's clear Andruw has regained some of his power stroke that led to 368 home runs with the Braves.

The real question: playing time.

Josh Hamilton is back and Nelson Cruz is a fixture in the lineup. That leaves one OF spot for David Murphy, who's been raking lately, and Marlon Byrd.

Fortunately for Jones, the Rangers have grown tired of the K machine Chris Davis and sent him to AAA despite 15 HR in the first half.

Hank Blalock has moved to 1B, opening up the DH spot for Jones, but Davis is bound to come back as soon as he regained his stroke (ala Howie Kendrick), creating a logjam, where Jones may be back to half-time status (he's only on pace for 320 ABs).

Fantasy Spin: If you're starved for power, in an NL or a shallow mixed league, I could endorse the Andruw ticket. As for mixed league pedigree, the RBI and run totals, not to mention the dragging average, should probably be left alone in 10-team leagues or smaller.

If it's any indication, it's been 24 hours since Jones' 3-HR outburst and nobody has taken a flier on Jones in our ultra-competitive 10-team Observer league.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Choo, Lee, Pujols ... and one important holiday

Fourth of July and baseball. It really doesn't get much better than this.


And in fantasy, this holiday is significant in more ways than one.

Taking a break from the sporting world, Independence Day is truly a significant mark in the history of our country. 

Think for a second where we'd be, had it not been for our foresight of our forefathers. Freedom is not cheap and we live in the greatest country there is.

OK, back off my soap box, and onto your fantasy team, which may be struggling mightily in the first half, the 4th of July is very significant.

It's time to take real inventory of where your team is, what categories are lacking, and take action. Whether it's dropping the dead weight, punting categories or trading away excess, the halfway point is your last real chance to make worthwhile change.

Time is running out.

Power surge: In case you've been off-line the past few days, two players have lit the world on fire in one game: the Cubs' Derek Lee and the Indians' Shin Soo-Choo. Both players had a 2-HR, 7-RBI game in the past 48 hours and if somehow you happened to own both, you probably saw a surge in the standings.

Lee was especially disappointing, with just 6 HR and 23 RBI in the first two months of the season. But in the past month, he's racked up 8 HR and 24 RBI and hit over .300, sparking memories of the Triple-Crown-threatening 2005 season. If you gave up on him too early, as I did, shame on you. And if you own him, you might wanna sell high, if you can. Can't imagine him keeping up this pace.

Choo now has 12 HR and 53 RBI. Add in 13 SB and a .301 average and the Indians new cleanup hitter is ranked 20th in the Yahoo! game and is one of the best first-half steals not named Mark Reynolds.

And while we're talking about power surges, The Machine, aka Albert Pujols hit another one last night, this one a grand slam, giving him 31 HR and 82 RBI over the first half, begging one fundamental question:

Why are teams pitching to him?

The Twins said they play the game right and their fans deserve to see them challenge Pujols and not give him a free pass. I say bologna. An intentional walk, when used right, an be the biggest weapon in all of baseball. If managers are afraid to use it, then they deserved to be beaten by arguably the best hitter in the game (and as a Cubs fan, that pains me to say).

Barry Bonds was never pitched to this much in his prime. In 2004, he walked 232 times, most of them intentional. Pujols has just 64 free passes this year at exactly the midway point (81 games).

With no other hitter worth a salt right now in St. Louis, I would walk Pujols every single time, unless the bases were loaded. Make Ryan Ludwick or Chris Duncan beat you. And even then, I'd think about it. 

Last year, down two runs, Joe Madden walked the Rangers' Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. And guess what, the Rays retired the next batter and won by a run.

Teams will start to wise up sooner or later and if they don't, pencil the Cardinals in the playoffs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's wrong with Big Game James?

He was dangerously close to becoming the face of the young Rays.

As flashy as Carl Crawford? Well, no? As electric as Scott Kazmir? Not exactly?

As much hype as Evan Longoria? Not even close.

But after James Shields silenced the red-hot Phillies for Tampa Bay's only World Series win last October and finished with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP, both the Rays and fantasy nation were taking note.

His specialty, was somehow keeping runners off base in a loaded AL East, posting back-to-back whips of 1.11 and 1.15. That's what happens when you only walk 36 and 40 runners in consecutive seasons.

But it was Shields' moxie, his big-game reputation, the 1-hitter against the Angles, the beam ball to the Red Sox's Coco Crisp that has endeared him to Tampa fans.

They marketing team was even building campaigns around Big Game, who will gladly pose for a photo with fans.




And while Shields hasn't been near the disappointment of teammate Kazmir or World Series hero Cole Hamels, the WHIP has been very normal.

Shields is now 6-6 after giving up 5 runs (4 earned) against Toronto, with a WHIP of 1.27.

"Once May started, everything started clicking," Shields said after a rare gem on May 19 against the offensively-challenged A's, where he retired 17 in a row.

Shields retired the first eight batters he faced on Thursday, but lost focus as he dropped to 1-4 on the road.

And since the end of April, Big Game has given up 7 or more hits nine times in 13 appearances, including double digits on four occasions. That's more than all of 2008.

“I felt great, I thought I batted today,” said a frustrated Shields.

Fantasy spin: The walk and HR rate are about what they were last year and the K projections have crept back to the 150 neighborhood, so there's no real cause for alarm. And this might be the perfect buy-low opportunity, as Shields may get two more home starts before the break (Toronto and Oakland) and then start off the second half at Kansas City. The Rays, 5 games back of the Red Sox, need him to be the staff horse as most of their rotation has been inconsistent at best.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Smoltz back, but worth a pickup?


No, the line wasn't pretty:  5 IP, 7 hits, 1 BB, 5 K, 5 ER.

But don't discard John Smoltz's first outing of the season and debut with the Red Sox.

Sure, it came in D.C., but the Nats are a pesky-hitting bunch and when you look at the bigger picture, there were several encouraging signs for Smoltz owners (or all you wanna-be's out there who can't quite muster up the nerve).

  • Rust factor: For starters, 4 of the 5 runs came in the first, as did 4 of the 7 hits and the lone walk. In anyone's first inning, there's bound to be nerves, regardless of the experience level. Giving up just one run and three singles in the next four inning is nothing to sneeze at.
  • Velocity: Smoltz was in the low-to-mid 90s at times, averaging 91.7 mph, which shows the arm strength is not an issue.
  • Control: Of the 92 pitches thrown, 62 were for strike (67 percent) and Smoltz's one walk shows he's still got the pin-point accuracy that he famously would paint the corner in Atlanta for a million years. 
The next start at Baltimore will be even more telling, but one look at Smoltz's pre-All-Star schedule and it's almost impossible not to pick him up on speculation: at Baltimore, vs. Oakland and vs. Kansas City.

And perhaps most telling is the what the 42-year-old Smoltz, fresh off shoulder surgery, had to say afterward.

"I feel like I can accomplish whatever I want this year," Smoltz said. "That's why I came back and the rehab went the way it did. Now it's just a matter of going out there and doing it like I did before."

And knowing how competitive Smoltz is, I wouldn't count anything impossible.

Fantasy spin: Sure, it's a little risky to add a 42-year-old who pitches half his game at Fenway, but this is no ordinary flame-thrower. Now, that Smoltz has a little of the rust off, it could be the perfect time to add him. All it takes is one gem and he'll be flying off the shelves. Look for an ERA just under 4.00 and a nothing-to-write-home-about 1.25 WHIP, but with plenty of Ks and Ws in the second half.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sosa steroid news barely raises eyebrows

After a few days digesting the Sammy Sosa link to PEDs, I'm still a little foggy on where I stand on the steroid issue.

Not that I'm saying it's right. But I think there's shades of grey starting to appear on the issue.

This is what happens when the biggest home run hitters of our generation (Sosa, Arod, Giambi, etc.) are being exposed for testing positive. And we know there's at least 100 more names that haven't been disclosed from the now-infamous 2003 test.

Am I ashamed, as a Cubs - and Sosa - fan that Sammy was caught? To be honest, not really. I'm trying to articulate in my own mind why that is and here's the best I can come up with:

Steroids were legal in baseball. End of story.

Sure, they are horrible for your body. They set an awful precedent to our youth. They've distorted the home run record book forever.


But, folks, they were not illegal.

I wonder if I'm making excuses for Sammy and then I remember thinking the same thing when Mark McGwire was vilified by Congress, and more importantly, public opinion for not answering the steroid question (and later dodging it again by an ESPN reporter).

It would be so much cleaner and tidier, had Sammy not played the language barrier card that day, asking for a translator.

He should've owned up and said, hey, I did it. We all did it. Look at the pictures of me 10 years ago and then today and it's not rocket science (and we all had our suspicions). Nobody gets that big, that fast. Not Barry. Not Mark. Not me.

And then he could've said something like "baseball's been bery, bery good to me."

We all would've chuckled and went about our day.

Think about it. Jason Giambi apologized for his usage (albeit indirectly). Andy Pettitte has admitted to it. Brian Roberts came clean.

What do all these guys have in common? They're forgiven. At least in my mind they are. Maybe yours, too.

We've moved on.

The talking heads this week all say that the 2003 list will eventually come out so let's just tear the Band-Aid off. I'm actually in favor of this. Every time a name is leaked, it sets baseball back a couple years.

"It's a shame baseball keeps going back to the past," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said this week, then admitted about releasing the list. "It might be the best thing."

Those names on the list will have some answering to do, certainly.

But 2009 is a different time than 2006. We're numb to the steroid news now. Once the ARod came out, all other news will just be a footnote.

The Hall of Fame will have to deal with this era at some point. And my guess is eventually McGwire and Sosa and Bonds will all be inducted. Perhaps with an asterisk.

After all. How can the Hall hold against players something that was within the rules of the game?

They can't.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Is Minute Maid hill really a good idea?


HOUSTON - For a split second, as Michael Bourn fell on his back, you could almost hear the thoughts of Astros fans whisking through Minute Maid Park.

That stupid hill.

Bourn backpedalled faster than most people can frontpedal and had a beat on a towering blast by the Cubs' Micah Hoffpauir on Thursday afternoon.

Nanoseconds before the ball return to earth, Bourn hit the inclined hill in center field and landed square on his back.

That stupid hill.

The name of that hill is Tal's Hill, named after Astros owner Tal Smith, who came up with the idea as a tribute to Cincinnati's Crosley Field. There's a flagpole in fair territory, two feet from the fence, inspired by Tigers Stadium.

A flagpole inside the outfield fence? What is this, a park rec softball field?

Ten years ago, the idea of the pole and hill was novel. In some ways it still is.

But is it really necessary?

The hill, called "The Grassy Knoll" by some players, added some needed character to what is otherwise an ordinary retractable-roof stadium (I'd rank Minute Maid in the middle of the pack of stadiums I've seen, although the brick facade outside is stunning). A Minute Maid experience feels like a night at a Bobcats game:

T-shirt giveaways. Cd-giveaways. Air-guitar cams.

Most of the summer, the roof is closed to keep out the extreme Houston heat, which have to help season-ticket sales.

A wall of windows certainly disguises the fact that you are watching it indoors. It's light years ahead of watching ball at The Trop in Tampa, but indoor baseball is like putting ketchup on a steak.

Regardless, as Bourn laid on his back, he never thought about giving up on the catch, even though he wasn't exactly sure where it was landing.

Watch the catch here.

“I never lost the flight of the ball,” Bourn told the Houston Chronicle. “I lost the sight of it at the end, but I kind of knew where it was at. I just put my glove up to where it was going to be at and I caught it.”

And as the Minute Maid crowd roared, he momentarily forgot about that hill.

That stupid hill.

"I practice going up the hill a little bit," Bourn said. "But in that instance you just have to go on instinct."

But what about the other 29 center fielders in baseball? How often do they practice such a play?

And as my brother-in-law said, "What happens when a $50 million dollar player breaks his leg on that hill?"

My guess is the hill will be leveled the next day.

Stupid or not, the hill is a bit gimmicky, but one of the most unique places in all of sports.

And maybe, just another reason to love baseball.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Peavy may be out for 12 weeks

A quick update about Jake Peavy, who's been doing a lousy job disguising his hobbled ankle, but gutsy nonetheless...

The Padres are saying Peavy will be out at least a month with a cast on his ankle to help a partially torn tendon heal. Peavy has been dealing with it since May 22.

But a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune late Friday night says that, according to trainer Todd Hutcheson, it could be eight to 12 weeks before Peavy gets back on the mound.

Eight to 12? At least a month? Maybe it's all the same diagnosis, but if you're an owner (or worse, in multiple leagues), you have my deepest sympathies. I'm feeling your pain. Send yourself some flowers if it'll help.

But it's time to move on. Time to write him off, at least for considerable contributions. The injury probably eliminates any trade talk to the Cubs or another contender. Maybe you'll get 12 starts out of Peavy, but counting on anything more is about as smart as buying stock in GM. In 2006.

Certainly, if you can get 70 cents on the dollar, sell. I'm thinking a John Lackey, Felix Hernandez or Cliff Lee type would all be decent 1-for-1 returns.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What to make of Hanson's debut

Baseball prediction are as worthless as a Canadian nickel at a soda machine.

Über-prospect Tommy Hanson of Atlanta made his major league debut on Sunday and all week Yahoo! was asking folks to predict the outcome. You know, rub your crystal baseball.

But very few thought it would go like this: 6 IP, 6 hits, 7 runs, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks.

So, what happened??? Isn't this the same guy who posted a 1.49 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 66 1/3 innings in AAA?

In a phrase...welcome to the big leagues, Tommy.

No, the difference isn't usually that stark, but it really shows you how master pitching in the majors takes more than just great stuff.

Hanson was hitting upper 90's in spring training, with a filthy slider. He fanned 90 batters in 11 starts with Gwinnet, but he wasn't facing the Charlotte Knights or the Norfolk Tides.

"Just chalk it up to, today happened, get it behind me, get ready for the next one," Hanson said. "If I keep my command I think it turns out a lot better."

If you're like most fantasy players, you were itching to grab Hanson like a poison ivy patient at a crowded Urgent Care. For some Yahoo! leagues, he's not even on the site yet (that should be happening around 3 a.m. Monday).

I'm still putting all my chips down on this rookie.

You certainly have to temper your expectations down to roughly a Freschetta Pizza plateau. Almost all rookies have rough patches in their rookie campaign, but Hanson's the rest of the way should be better than most.

And on Sunday, he simply mowed through the first 13 batters, striking out the side in the second with a 96-mph heater. Then the wheels fell off, starting with a pair of home runs to Ryan Braun and a Mike Cameron 2-run shot. The first home run pitch was so meaty, it almost was dripping with some marinara. But Hanson will quickly learn where not to throw pitches to one of baseball's Top 5 hitters.

Figure around this sort of production the rest of the way, as you contemplate whether or not to dip your toe into the Hanson waters: 3.65 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 115 Ks, 9 wins.

Glavine update: The Tom Glavine era may be over in Atlanta, but the drama may not be. A report by FoxSports.com says Glavine's agent is looking into filing a grievance over Glavine's $1 million roster bonus. The Braves swear money wasn't an issue, and since it's not a black and white issue, this grievance may not go very far. But stay tuned.

Friday, June 5, 2009

In a flash, Knights lose Beckham

To call Gordon Beckham's rise through the minors meteoric is almost an insult to the solar system.

The White Sox promoted Beckham from AA Birmingham to Charlotte after just 38 games. Then, after 7 games in Charlotte, Knights manager Chris Chambliss called Beckham into his office after a 3-for-5 night about 10:15 p.m. and told him the news.

You're headed to the bigs.

"It was an unbelievable moment for me," Beckham told the Chicago Tribune. "I couldn't even describe it."

Beckham, 22, was the No. 8 overall pick in 2008 after a stellar career at Georgia, leading the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish. With only 58 minor league games, Beckham is the fastest White Sox player since pitcher Alex Fernandez (1990) to get the call.

What can you expect from Beckham?

Well, he doesn't come with a Spice Girl, if that's what you're thinking.

But if his pedigree is plenty spicy (.411 average, 22 HR in 71 college games in 2008; .319, 7 HR, 58 games in the minors). To answer your next question, Beckham's probably worthy of a pickup in all NL-only leagues and some shallow mixed leagues as he'll take over the regular 3B job from Josh Fields if he hits a lick.

Initially, the White Sox might bury Beckham at the bottom of the order, but one thing Ozzie Guillen will do is push the guys who are performing up high. Take one look at scrap-heap castoff Scott Podsednik for proof. (Of course, Beckham went 0-for-3 in his debut, but give him some time).

Unfortunately, for Knights fans, Beckham only played two of his seven games at Knights Castle. But for those in attendance either Tuesday or Wednesday, they may one day be able to say they saw a future baseball all-star.

And on top of his talent, Beckham is a very articulate interview. Here's a bit after he hit a home run in the CWS last June.



Andrew McCutchen: If you missed the fallout of the Nate McClouth-to-Atlanta trade, it's the promotion of McCutchen a 5-tool prospect with more speed than power, but someone who is making immediate impact and should be picked up yesterday. McCutchen could swipe 20-30 bases the rest of the way and hit 5-10 HR and should give you a steady diet of runs as the new Pirates leadoff batter.

Jose Reyes: Late news just in about the rehabbing Mets shortstop is not going. Reyes tore his right hamstring and is behing shut down for a couple days before resuming treatment. For a guy who makes his living on the basepaths, this isn't thrilling news.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Braves release Glavine, trade for McClouth


Braves fans won't like this one.

In a stunning move that saves the team a $1 million roster bonus, Atlanta released 43-year-old Tom Glavine on Wednesday.

Thanks for the memories, Tom.

Glavine, who had just completed a six-inning shutout with Class-A Rome on Tuesday night, is the final pillar of the pitching trinity of Glavine-John Smoltz-Greg Maddux that anchored 14 straight playoff appearances in Atlanta.

Recovering from shoulder and elbow surgery in the offseason, Glavine's all-time record stands at 305-203. This may be the end of the road for Glavine, although a contender in need of an innings-eater like the Phillies may be send his agent a text message as we speak.

The Braves also traded for Pirates' five-tool OF Nate McClouth, giving up three prospects – OF Gorkys Hernandez, LHP Jeff Locke and RHP Charlie Morton. Hernandez was ranked as the No. 4 Braves prospect, while Locke was No. 7.

Announcing the beginning of a new era, the Braves also made it official that fireballer Tommy Hanson will be called up to start Saturday, with Kris Medlen moved to the bullpen after Jorge Campillo was placed on the DL today.

Hanson had a fine spring, hitting 99 on the radar gun in his debut.

Fantasy spin: The biggest of the three news items is Hanson, who has dominated at AAA Gwinett, compiling a 1.49 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 90 strikeouts in 66 1/3 IP. He's a must-add in every format and while you can't expect these numbers, check back to Tim Lincecum's rookie season for a guideline.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Manny an All-Star? It's possible

If you watched the Cubs-Dodgers blowout Sunday night, you heard plenty of debate about Manny Ramirez.


Way too much, as it were.

But there were a few interesting topics brought up:

1). Should Manny be allowed to begin a minor league rehab with 10 games left on his suspension?

2). If Manny is voted in as an All-Star starter, should he be allowed to play?

The first issue is not a Manny-specific rule. It's a baseball rule and in the collective bargaining agreement it states that a person suspended for 50 games for violating the drug policy can start a minor league rehab after serving 40 games. 

I personally disagree with this, as the suspension should cover his time away from baseball. Sure, a week-long stint in AAA Albuquerque isn't the same as the majors, but it feels more like a 40-game suspension and this penalty should be more severe, if anything, not less.

The second issue may not come into play now, as the latest All-Star voting results have Manny slipping to fifth place in the N.L. outfielder vote behind Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran. Manny would need to make up 135,000 votes to crack the starting lineup.

And since he's eligible to come off the suspension on July 3 (and the All-Star Game on July 14), it's possible for Manny to play in the mid-summer classic.

Some think Manny should come out with a statement, urging fans to cast his vote for other deserving N.L. outfielders, thus not having to force Bud Selig's hand if he's voted in.

Frankly, I don't want to see Manny there, but by voting him in, this may finally change the way the All-Star voters are selected, which is long overdue. It's simply a popularity contest, having very little reflection of who is deserving.

What do you think about these two issues?

Should Manny be allowed to go on a minor league rehab stint? Should he be allowed to play in the All-Star game?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

O's to call up Wieters Friday

The future is now in Baltimore.

Well, it's Friday, anyway.

Matt Wieters, everybody's rookie of the year favorite before the season started, will start for the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, presumably at catcher.

Wieters, who hit .355 with 27 home runs in 2008, had scuffled in comparison this year, hitting .285 with 5 HR and 26 RBI in 36 games. Striking out 30 times, Wieters also has 10 other extra base hits for AAA Norfolk.

(Check out this earlier blog from Weiters' trip to Knights Castle in mid-April).

So, is Wieters an automatic pickup? Well, not exactly.

It all depends on the makeup of your roster and your league. If you're carrying Joe Mauer or Brian McCann, and you're carrying only one catcher, the answer is probably not. Now, if you have bench spots, and think you can grab and stash and it's a good trading league, then I'd try to get him now. And yes, he's worth a high waiver claim.

For leagues where Wieters won't be put on Yahoo! until 3 a.m. on Saturday, the question becomes, is he worth setting your alarm? Again, only you can be the judge. I'd say it depends on the ratio of young kids that will wake you up before 7 a.m., divided what odd jobs you wanna get accomplished on Saturday, subtracted by any dinner parties you need to bring your "A" game for.

If you're still riding with Geovany Soto or A.J. Pierzynski at catcher, my advice is not only set your alarm for 2:55 a.m., but the phone, too.

Unless, of course, you're getting married on Saturday.