Known as the Sacagawea of fantasy primers, the Weekly Rundown guides head-to-head owners through a forest of obscure stats and exploitable matchups in an attempt to help solve lineup conundrums. While reading, keep in mind matchups are subject to change due to managerial moves, unforeseen injuries and Mother Nature's influences.
• St. Louis' pitching staff figuratively and literally has been a fragile house of Cards this season. However, two rotation royals, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, are expected to stabilize Master Splinter's (Dave Duncan) rotation soon.
Nail-driving ace, Carpenter, will throw roughly 65-70 pitches in his first rehab start for Double-A Springfield on Sunday. After suffering a minor setback in his recovery from Tommy John earlier this summer, the 33-year-old righty has made steady progress. Cards GM John Mozeliak issued a few tantalizing quotables to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Friday:
"He's healthy and he's building up his pitch count," Mozeliak said. "He just needs to fine-tune to be game-ready. He said he feels strong. Velocity is there. His breaking pitches are all there. It's just about getting him the command and the overall package he needs to face major-league hitters."
It's a year ago this month the former Cy Young winner succumbed to the scalpel. With his fastball already registering in the low-90s, Carpenter's rehab assignment could be brief. Ideally, Dave Duncan would like to see him toss 90 pitches before deciding if he's prepared to rejoin the rotation.
Owned in just 20.2 percent of Y! leagues, the former fantasy ace warrants immediate consideration in all 12-team mixed formats. If he regains his '06 form, a sub-3.50 ERA, 1.20-1.25 WHIP, ample wins and adequate K numbers are possible down the stretch.
As for Wainwright, who probably hasn't brandished the bird over the past several weeks recuperating from a ruptured pulley in his right middle finger, he's scheduled to return to the rotation the first or second week of August, assuming team doctors approve him for a more vigorous rehab program Monday. After playing long toss July 16, the 27-year-old expressed cautious optimism to MLB.com about his recovery:
"The first couple of breaking balls are going to be, 'Let's not re-pop this thing,'" Wainwright said. "But I have every confidence that as soon as I get into my brain that my finger is healthy, I'll be fine."
Prior to his finger debacle, Wainwright was a consistent No. 3 in most mixed leagues. Although somewhat fortunate (.263 BABIP), his supreme command (1.96 BB/9) and groundball coaxing skills (47.7 GB%) clearly explain why he compiled eight quality starts in 13 outings.
Savvy owners looking to bolster their rotations for a championship run should pitch an offer for Wainwright's services now before the discount window closes. This week he was shipped for Clay Buchholz, Xavier Nady and Matt Kemp in Y! Plus league one-for-one transactions.
• Jeopardy! time: Name the only starter currently available in over 99 percent of Y! leagues that has tossed a complete game no-hitter in the past six years.
It's Florida's Anibal Sanchez.
Missing most of 2007 with a torn labrum, the 24-year-old Venezuelan import is expected to toe the rubber once more for Double-A Carolina Wednesday before potentially rejoining the Marlins rotation July 28 against the Mets.
The post-post hype righty has compiled an eye-opening 2.57 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.00 GB/FB ratio and 7.71 K/9 in 21 minor league innings. With his heater velocity reportedly back to pre-surgery speeds (89-91 mph) and his slider, curve and change command no longer erratic, the 0.17 percent owned Sanchez could surprise over the final two months. Given the Marlins run support and friendly pitching specs of Dolphins Stadium, he could become mixed league worthy soon, especially if he continues to coax groundball outs. Sanchez is must own material in very deep mixed (14-teams plus) and NL-only formats.
• First reported by the Piano Man in Friday's Aussie-rific "Closing Time" - No Olivia Newton John mention, Scott? - the A's are toying with recalling strikeout specialist Gio "Speedy" Gonzalez from Triple-A Sacramento once league officials rubber stamp Joe Blanton's departure to Philadelphia. Oakland Assistant GM David Forst hinted to MLB.com Friday that the young southpaw could be ticketed for a promotion:
"Gio's definitely pitched well enough to put himself in the conversation," Forst said. "I don't know if he's going to be the guy."
Gonzalez is the prototype big K prospect that whets the fantasy whistle. In the hitter-heavy PCL the electric lefty has racked a 4.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 9.57 K/9 in 110 IP. His season ERA and WHIP tallies are unimpressive, but since June 29 he's yielded a mere three earned runs in 28.1 IP with 34 strikeouts.
Equipped with a deadly arsenal - 92-96 mph sinking fastball, knee-buckling curve, improving change - Gonzalez has the stuff to dominate, especially in McAfee Stadium's spacious comforts. However, occasional control mishaps (4.33 BB/9) should be anticipated.
Deep-thinking owners in the market for strikeouts should speculatively add the 0.05 percent owned hurler.
Oh and for those perplexed as to why the Noise "divorced" - really we're legally separated - Billy Butler in the Friends and Family League, it's because I desperately need Gonzalez's strikeouts. But have no fear. The Noise will reconcile with KC's prince of plod shortly. His .256 BA and Bob Hamelin-wide derriere are too damn irresistible.
• On the mend: Alfonso Soriano (hand), Troy Tulowitzki (hand), Shaun Marcum (elbow), Jeff Francis (shoulder), Fausto Carmona (hip), Johnny Damon (shoulder), Kerry Wood (finger), Troy Percival (hamstring)
Hidden Lumberjacks (last 7 days): Brent Lillibridge, Atl, SS (7-12, HR, 5 RBI, 0.02% owned), Aaron Miles, StL, 2B/SS/3B (7-15 HR, 6 RBI, 1.1%), Chad Tracy, Ari, 1B/3B (7-15, HR, 6 RBI, 0.97%), Nomar Garciaparra, LAD, 3B/SS/1B (6-13, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4.9%), Fernando Tatis, NYM, CI/OF (6-15, HR, 4 RBI, 1.8%)
Whiffers o' the weak (last 7 days): Andruw Jones, LAD, OF (0-10, 8 K, 35.4%), Evan Longoria, TB, 3B (0-10, 5 K, 98.9%), Joey Votto, Cin, 1B/OF (1-13, 5 K, 70.2%), Dan Uggla, Fla, 2B (2-11, 5 K, 99.9%), JJ Hardy, Mil, SS (1-13, 5 K, 96.1%)
For stream conscious owners who want to push the innings-pitched envelope this is the list for you. Run support, ballpark factors, historical and recent trends, opposing offenses, opposing SPs, managerial tendencies and meteorological influences are painstakingly taken into account to give you the top double dippers of each week.
Other NL Double Dippers: Homer Bailey, Cin (SD, Col), Barry Zito, SF (Was, Ari), John Van Benschoten, Pit (at Hou, SD), Mark Hendrickson, Fla (Atl, at ChC), Runelvys Hernandez, Hou (Pit, at Mil)
TO CATCH A THIEF
Unrelated to the "Dateline NBC" predator stories, the "Rundown" investigates the best and worst base burglar matchups for the upcoming week. Stats reflect numbers through July 18:
FEAST OR FAMINE?
Torn between two stat-similar infielders this week? Use the pitching and hitting staff sorters below to help you decide whether or not Adam LaRoche or Scott Olsen is fantasy feast or famine. Stats are for games played through July 18:
Full Slate (teams with 7 games): Baltimore, Chicago Cubs, Florida, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto