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.

Hard to explain Mauer, Papi

In an X-Men world, it would appear Joe Mauer has sucked every ounce of power from Big Papi's bat.

Of course, we don't live in a land of superheroes, although if you squint, you may see that that the Minnesota catcher is not actually human.

Monday night, Mauer hit his 11th home run in 23 games. For Babe Ruth, in his prime, this power display would have be impressive.

But this is an extremely light-hitting catcher, who never hit more than 13 home runs in an entire season.

Last year, Mauer hit 9 HR in 536 at-bats. This year, it's 11 jacks in 81, including last night's 2-run pinch-hit job off red sox stud closer Jonathan Papelbon.

So, how do you explain the sudden blast of pop?

"You guys ask me this; I still don't have an answer for you," said Mauer. "I'm just seeing the ball well and tring to keep seeing it well."

For years, fantasy pundits extrapolated that the power would come from Mauer, but we've been waiting and waiting. And for those of you who thought this was the year, congratulations.

Although, I don't believe you. Nothing hinted that the power would develop even half as much as it has this year. But that's the great part (for Mauer owners) of this game and the frustrating part (for the other 9 teams).

And if Mauer is seeing the ball well, David Ortiz needs a new prescription or the quickest Lasik surgery available.

Papi has exactly 1 more home run than everyone reading this today and that came in a 5-HR slugfest off Toronto pitcher Brett Cecil. The Blue Jays were so disappointed that Cecil gave up the Ortiz HR, they demoted him to AAA. OK, that may not be the entire story, but it sure seemed to play out that way.

The bat speed is simply gone, his average is down to .195 and the Red Sox don't know what to do. He's struck out 41 times in 40 games, including three times in an 0-for-7 May 14 outing where he left 11 runners stranded.

Terry Francona sat Ortiz for three games and since his return he's gone 3-for-20 with 9 Ks.

So, what do you do as an owner? Some Yahoo leagues won't physically let you drop him. His trade value has plummeted so far, you might not even be able to get Casey Kotchman in return.

The Red Sox are finally talking about dropping him in the order. It's about 3 weeks too late, but all that they have left. Rumors have them looking at Nick Johnson as a possible replacement.

So, my question to you: What do the Red Sox do with an aging slugger who is suffering a Sammy Sosa-like decline?

What do you do as an owner?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Price to get start Monday; Kazmir DL'd

The wait is over. Practically.

Tampa Bay playoff hero David Price will get his first start of the year on Monday at Cleveland after the Rays placed LHP Scott Kazmir (right quad strain/no confidence) and closer Troy Percival (shoulder tendinitis/old age) on the disabled list.

And Percival may retire, according to Joe Madden.

The info about Price starting, not made official yet by the Rays can be found in this official Rays blog, which is a good one to book mark, if you own any Tampa players.

Price, from what anyone can figure out, was being held down at AAA Durham to keep his arbitration clock from ticking. Of course, nobody can prove why the Rays thought their best weapon from the ALCS, who was outstanding in spring, was deemed not worthy to make the opening day roster. The only thing that makes sense is it's a money thing.

Price scuffled a couple times in the past few weeks, including his start at Knights Stadium here in Charlotte, but still finished with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP, along with 35 Ks in 34 1/3 IP. His last outing was a no-hitter through five innings, when the Bulls pulled him (via pitch count).

With only 34 1/3 innings through 8 starts, you can expect Price to be freed up to go at least 6 innings a start, after he gets up to full strength. Yanking him after 5 IP will be too taxing on an already depleted bullpen. But Price could get skipped a time or two in the rotation if his innings pile up and the Rays are still in contention.

Fantasy spin: By all means, Price is a must add. If you've held onto him this long, Merry Christmas. I bailed two weeks ago and regret that decision, but fifth starter Jeff Niemann has been solid and Price was going through control problems. Don't expect last year's postseason miracles to translate completely, but he should be a steady source of Ks and wins and he shouldn't hurt your ERA/WHIP, if he can locate the slider and the improved change-up. Price may give you a rookie season comparable to Tim Lincecum, who was dominant, but had his share of blowups in 2007.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What to make of Wood, Felix, Kazmir, Willis

Some big name pitchers are falling to pieces. Another one is putting them back together.

Here's a quick 2-minute drill on some pitchers who may be weighing your staff down:

Kerry Wood: Cubs fans have been here before. Talk about summer rerun season...

Wood entered with a 5-2 lead in the 9th, after Cliff Lee pitched a masterful game (some think he should've been allowed to come back in the 9th after 101 pitches, but that's another blog for another day).

Mike Jacobs and Mark Teahen launch back-to-back homers before a walk, triple and sac fly completed a 6-5 Royals comeback.

“Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen a comeback like this in our home ball park,” said Royals manager Trey Hillman. “As soon as the ball left the bat with Teahen, I think the whole dugout felt like we’re going to do this.”

Confidence is a tricky thing and K-Wood might be a little shy these days. It's only his second blown save, but his ERA ballooned to 8.31, his WHIP is up to 1.77 and probably most worrisome for Wood owners (and Tribe fans) is he's surrendered 9 earned runs in the past 6 2/3 IP.

Not much you can do if you're an owner but sit and hope Wood corrects himself. And remember, he went through a couple of these stretches with the Cubs last year (and don't be surprised if he ends up on the DL soon). You should have been prepared for at least one DL stint, but as soon as he looks right again, try to unload.

You're on borrowed time here.

Felix Hernandez: He flirts with you, throwing impressive outing after impressive out, making big league hitters look silly with that nasty hook.

Then, he'll blow you off, not return your calls and texts....as he did Wednesday night: 6 ER, 11 hits, 3 BB and only 3 Ks.

Felix may never fully figure it out. His ERA/WHIP are up to 4.13 and 1.34 with 56 Ks in 56 2/3.

When the dust clears in Seattle, this is what you're left with. An exciting guy to watch with average ERA/WHIP numbers and above average Ks. But he's not elite and in his 5th season (including an abbreviated first year), you'd think Felix would learn how to minimize damage with such good stuff and more than one out pitch.

Maybe one day, we'll all sit around the fantasy campfire and laugh at the times when nobody could own Felix for a full season as the heartburn was too painful and how now he's the right-handed Johan Santana.

But don't go buying the smores any time soon.

Scott Kazmir: His second consecutive seven-run massacre tonight tells me one thing: The Kaz will be on the shelf soon.

I don't have any inside info, but a pitcher with Kazmir's stuff just doesn't go south without something being physically wrong. And you know the Rays are just dying for an excuse to finally promote David Price now that 1). It's past mid-May and 2). He pitched five no-hit innings his last Durham outing.

This makes his fourth outing in six where he's given up 6 or more ER. Not to mention, he's walked 25 guys in 41 1/3 IP and has a 6.97 ERA ... it's really time to pull the cord.

And stash Price while you're at it (if he's available).

Dontrelle Willis: I asked a trusted colleague what he thought of Willis' outing and his first words: "Don't you dare go after him."

Needless to say, he wasn't buying the comeback gem Willis whirled Wednesday night. I'm not exactly buying it yet either, but I am picking it up off the shelf and checking the nutritional contents on the back label.

Here's the deal with Willis. It was just 2005 when Willis went 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. Those ERA numbers seem very other-world-like (aka Peavish), but there is some inner talent somewhere, if Willis can just figure out how to master his anxiety issues.

But the psychologically-challenged lefty could very well catch a fresh batch of confidence and parlay it into a comeback season of the ages, if he can just figure out his loose wires.

If there's a spot on your bench, Willis is worth a speculative add. Maybe this turns out to be just a false alarm, but the next couple outings will tell us a lot about Willis' recovery.

Yes, you'll take some flack in your league for making the move.

But you may be laughing last.

Just don't tell them I told you to do it. I've got a reputation to uphold.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lackey's 2-pitch debut baffling

When a pitcher has been on the DL all season, then lasts just 2 pitches, you're allowed to jump to conclusions.

Saturday events in Arlington, however, had nothing to do with John Lackey's right elbow inflammation.

Lackey's first pitched sailed behind Ian Kinsler's head. This is the same Kinsler who just so happened to tag the Angels the night before for a couple home runs, his 10th and 11th of the season, in the Rangers' 10-8 victory.

So, he threw one behind his head. Understandable, I guess. Hasn't pitched in six weeks.

The next pitch landed squarely in Kinsler's ribs.

The rest was history. And that included Lackey's first start of the season. If you're keeping score at home, that's two pitches, one hit-batter, one earned run in 0.0 IP.

Yes, the ol' INF score line registered next to Lackey's name. As the owner in one of my leagues put it, pitching your first game at Texas probably wasn't a great time to come back. Especially how the ball is starting to fly out of Arlington (6 dingers the night before when the wind was allegedly blowing IN 18 mph).

I was obviously trying to come in on him but there was no intention to hit him or to come in behind him,” Lackey said. “It was definitely surprising.”

Lackey owners, fear not. With all his warm-up pitches, today just turned out to be a glorified side session, something owners have been reading about for weeks now. It's possible, the Angels will move him up to start before his next turn, so long as no suspension comes his way.

Seems pretty bizarre for a guy to risk sending a message in his first start after missing six weeks of the season already.

There's probably a 96 percent chance it was just lack of control. But after two straight pitches, the umps couldn't take that chance. A warning seemed fair, but instead, Lackey got an early visit to the showers.

Here's crew chief Tim Tschida's version of what happened:

“When the first pitch of the next game to that hitter is behind him, that’s a red flag,” Tschida said. “We gave (Lackey) the benefit of the doubt because maybe he was a little amped up coming off the DL. When he hit him with the second pitch, that was something else.”

Good news for Lackey enthusiasts, his next turn is at Sleepless (Offense) in Seattle.

Might wanna start out a bit outside on Ichiro for starters.

Where's Murphy: Everyone's New York darling Daniel Murphy has almost overnight turned into just a pinch hitting specialist for the Mets. Gary Sheffield has actually been swinging a warm bat, causing Murphy to log four pinch-hit at-bats in four games. If you picked him up, hoping for an oil spring of runs and decent numbers everywhere else, it might be time to bail. I can't believe Sheff is stealing at-bats, but they're both defensive liabilities, so the PT will probably go to whoever's got the hot hand.

Ibanez the pickup of the year? I'll admit it. When the Cubs were linked to Raul Ibanez's name in the off-season, I cringed. He's out of gas. Nothing left in the tank. I didn't want Milton Bradley, but would've taken Ibanez over Bradley and definitely Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu. Well, after a 3-HR day, Ibanez is hitting .368 with 13 jacks and 35 RBI. (Don't ask me to look up Bradley's numbers). Dealt straight-up for Dice-K in the first week of the season, owners thought Ibanez wasn't enough of a hitter to justify that trade. Five weeks later, it's looking just the opposite. Think about selling high. He can't keep this up.

Upton's bat no longer hitting snooze alarm? B.J. Upton, with home runs in back to back games (and a pair of steals in a 9-0 contest on Friday) is proving he might end up being the fantasy commodity that caused folks to grab him in the 2nd or 3rd round (and $24 in our auction draft). Some think the window to buy low has officially slammed shut with today's HR. I disagree. I dealt him awhile back for an equally-struggling Jimmy Rollins, but there's still questions with the shoulder and I bet you can get him for a 15-20 percent discount still. If he has fully recovered, you could have yourself a deal. If Upton hits 9 HR again, well, you should at least get 30+ steals from the speedster the rest of the way.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reimold, Gamel are names to know now

The call has been made.

No, it's not David Price. Or Matt Wieters. Or even Tommy Hanson. But keep your eye on all three.

Two other minor league studs got the call to the bigs on Thursday, mostly to infuse some life into struggling offenses.

Nolan Reimold, Orioles, OF: Adam Jones' hammy and Luke Scott's shoulder are two reasons why Reimold was called up from Triple-A Norfolk, where he was hitting the stitches off the ball.

Check out these numbers: .394 avg., .485 obp., 9 HR, 27 RBI, 6 SB in 31 games.

There's no question Reimold can rake. The question is PT. But with former Cubs flameout Felix Pie still getting regular at-bats, you have to think that Reimold will find his way in the lineup once Jones and Scott are no the mend. All he has to do is perform, to a modest degree.

The future is, well, a year or two away in Baltimore. The O's are enjoying an OK start (15-20), but in the AL East, it's almost time to scrap 2009.

Add Reimold and expect semi-regular starts from here on out and 15-18 HR the rest of the way is very possible.

Mat Gamel, 3B, Brewers: Ranked as a slightly higher prospect than Reimold, the Brew Crew's hot hitter at the hot corner may not make near the fantasy impact as the O's rookie, as Milwaukee is very much alive and well in the playoff race.

The Brewers' problem is their bench has hit around .100 in pinch-hit at-bats and they're looking for a punch. Interleague at Minnesota is around the corner, so DHing that series is likely for the man with a one-T first name.

Word on the street is Gamel would be invited to the Ryan Braun fielding clinic as an guest teacher, committing a whopping 40 errors between this year and last. So, Bill Hall's job as the primary 3B is probably safe for now. But spot starts (ala Cleveland's Matt LaPorta) will trickle in and the more Gamel hits, the more you'll want him on your team.

If your league is one of those with bench spots (or is a keeper league), make the move now and your patience will be rewarded. With 8 HR, 19 extra-base hits, 31 ribbies and a .336 avg. in 119 AAA at-bats, there's a lot of life in Gamel's stick.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mannywood tainted; Melvin fired; Price rocked

The legend that was Manny Ramirez took a huge hit Thursday. And he has no one to blame but himself

When Manny failed a drug test and was suspended 50 games, you could picture all the Hollywood billboard being taken down and painted over.

I mean, Mannywood billboards.

Most reactions around baseball hold court with previous suspensions: Not surprised.

But folks in Mannyland must feel deceived today. One fan said it felt like his dog died.

The Dodgers gave him $45 million for two years, promoted Manny as the face of the franchise, his voice is on commercials in between innings and they even built a Mannywood section (for $99, Manny's number, you get two tickets in the Manny section along with two Manny T-Shirts).

One Mannywood fan calling in on XM today said he paid $40 to have two anti-Manny shirts custom-made to show his hatred for the dreadlocked one in the Manny section.

Manny issued an apology statement, said he only took what his doctor thought was legal. Sorry, Manny, that doesn't hold water. You are responsible for what you put in your body. End of story.

GM Ned Colletti came out and said all the right things, that they do not condoned Manny's actions and are disappointed. None of that is surprising.

A little shocking is that Manny failed the drug text because he took HCG (or human chorionic gonadotropin), which is used as a sexual booster and to build testosterone production. It's banned because it is also used as a masking agent after a player comes down off a steroid cycle.

This doesn't incriminate Manny, but public opinion will. Perhaps, with each Arod and Manny that get caught, the bar on what will be acceptable to Hall of Fame voters comes down a small notch.

Fantasy Spin: Juan Pierre owners (if there were any left out there) are the biggest winners. If he's still on your wire and you need steals, he's a must-add, as he'll get most of the starts as Manny sits until July 3. Losers include most of the Dodgers lineup, albeit not much, but taking one big bat can have a way of affecting everyone's production. Starting pitchers also take a small hit, as each will have 10 starts without Manny, which may translate to 1-2 less wins apiece.

Melvin Fired: The Arizona Diamondbacks (who fell to 12-17 after today's loss at San Diego) have just fired their manager Bob Melvin, according to a source. No official announcement has been made.

Price rocked in Charlotte: For the second straight game, ALCS hero David Price was roughed up, this time giving 4 runs, 5 walks and 6 hits in 4 innings at Knights Stadium. The wind was blowing 11 mph to right, but no HRs were hit. Most disturbing, if you're holding onto Price for what was believed a May call-up, is he didn't strike out a single batter after 79 pitches. It's too early to give up on him in keeper leagues, but if you're holding a warm spot (and that includes yours truly) in a mixed league, it might be send him back into the waiver wire wilderness. The only glimmer of hope is Rays fifth pitcher Jeff Niemann struggled again tonight, yanked in the fourth inning. I'm guessing a mid-June call-up at this point, but it's only speculation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ankiel out of hospital after scary crash (video)

Certain highlights physically make you cringe. 

Rick Ankiel's neck-twisting crash into the wall Monday was one of them. 

Ankiel tripped over the warning track, making another spectacular catch, but ended up head-first into the Busch Stadium's outfield wall. 

Here's it is in case you missed it:

Ankiel laid motionless when teammate Chris Duncan got to him, the brim of his hat in a V-shape from the impact. But he was conscious and able to answer Duncan's question. 

Carted off the field, Ankiel gave a thumbs-up and was released from the hospital today after all tests were negative. Tony LaRussa compared the injury to a bad whip-lash and Ankiel will be back at the park tonight, although his return is in question.

Fantasy Spin: Even the staunchest of Cubs fans hates to see this. Ankiel's comeback story has been nothing short of remarkable and it appears he avoided what looked like a catastrophic injury. Get him out of your lineups in the short-term in daily leagues, until you see him back in the lineup and hitting again. This injury could derail his recent offensive burst.  Long-term, Ankiel's value should be fine, so long as LaRussa gets him enough starts.

Zambrano Update: Cubs pitcher/wannabe slugger Carlos Zambrano, who injured his hamstring trying to leg out a bunt (yes, a bunt ... I couldn't make that up if I tried), has been put on the DL with a Grade 2 hamstring strain (on a 1-3 scale). Jim Hendry says Big Z will probably need 2 1/2 weeks to recover so expect him back, shortly after his 15 days are up.

Hamels Update: Phillies lefty Cole Hamels is scheduled to make his next start on Friday at home against the Braves. Hamels is trying to put a rough April behind him. After two awful starts, Hamels finally looked like Hamels again, when he was struck in the left shoulder with a Prince Fielder line drive. The next start Hamels twisted his left ankle in the fifth, after breezing through the first four innings. Originally slated for Tuesday, Hamels was pushed back three days after a rainout on Sunday helped tweak the rotation. Owners, start him with confidence as he looks to have turned the corner.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Crawford stealing spree ignites Tampa (video)

A frenzy from a stolen base?

It happened Sunday at the Trop, after Carl Crawford stole his MLB record-tying sixth steal against the hated Red Sox.

Six steals. That's a decent season for most of baseball.

And only four other players in the modern era have matched this high burglary honor, with Colorado's Eric Young the last to pull it off in 1996.

But Crawford was on a mission. And the 32,332 in attendance exploded after Crawford's fleet feet tied the feat, although the speedster claims it didn't register what he had done.

“I wish I had known during the game,” said Crawford. “I probably would have broken it if I knew. I’d have definitely tried."

Watch the scene for yourself. Apologies for the shaky video. And the fact that it looks like it could have been taken from the moon.

But what's most interesting about the moment, was the fan reaction from a stolen base, as if it was a game-winning HR in Game 7 of the World Series:

Say what you want about Rays fans, but there's something real building in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay. Who would've thunk it.

Fantasy Spin: After only 25 swipes in 109 games last year, Crawford already has 17 in 26 games. A trusted source of speed for years, the fantasy world has waited and waited for the promised power to come through. In 2006, Crawford belted 18 round-trippers, but only parked 11 and 8 the past two seasons. So far this year, he's failed to leave the park, but five doubles and a triple show he's at least swinging that way. Still, this might be the perfect sell-high opportunity if you have speed to burn. Expect Crawford to break 60 for the first time, maybe even 70, but he'll barely reach double digit dingers.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Josh hits the DL; Hanely, Aramis avoid it

This is the fantasy equivalent of The Perfect Storm.

You have Josh Hamilton, Aramis Ramirez and Hanley Ramirez on your team and they're all not playing. The infamous day-to-day, which is a fantasy player's worst nightmare.

Meanwhile, your team is plummeting in the standings worse than newspaper stock. All you can do is click on the little red update box and day after day after lousy day, you see they are not in the lineup.

Maybe this weekend. Maybe Monday. Possibly next week.

But the kicker: (Insert name here) will appear to avoid the DL.

Personally, I'd much rather one of my stud hitters hit the disabled list if they are going to miss more than one or two days. Otherwise, they hold you hostage if you are in a league without a bench spot.

Currently, I'm a Josh and Aramis owner in a no-bench league. My power is being zapped. Even if I could put a warm body in for these two, I could make a little dent on the sagging power numbers.

Your only viable option is to trade at a discount. But I say don't do it.

Unless you can get fair value for your stud hitter, try to hold on. As the PGA campaign used to preach "These Guys are Good." And a panic trade in April can cost you a chance at any success.

Josh Hamilton (updated): Breaking news out of Arlington, where the Rangers have finally put Hamilton on the DL. Hamilton's rib injury was the most serious of the three as Hamilton injured it running the bases on Sunday. But the day after, he was lobbying to manager Ron Washington for 20 minutes before the game to play. Two days later, he told trainers he was in "extreme pain." Now, he's feeling better, but said he's still not ready to play and today, Texas decided to pull the trigger, which should give fantasy owners closure.

Aramis Ramirez: If you've had Aramis on your team, it's no surprise he's dinged up. Seems like 3-4 times a year, he's dealing with something. Usually it's the back or the quad. But the calf thing seems to be a little more serious than originally thought. An MRI yesterday showed no tear (just a strain), but the Cubs had Iowa's Bobby Scales at the ballpark, ready to call up, pending the MRI results, it was that close. The team is hopeful Ramirez can suit up this weekend, but based on verbage I'm reading, my money is on a Monday return.

Hanley Ramirez: Suffering from a bruised right wrist. Obviously, the Fish are being cautious. Hanley wants to play bad. That's a good sign from a guy who has been dogging it a bit on deep fly balls lately. He was 80/20 to play on Thursday and now, he's out of the lineup again today. Get him back in the lineup tomorrow in daily moves. I'm almost certain he'll be back.