By Andy Behrens
May 15, 2007
Roto Arcade This Week : May 14
If there's one essential recurring theme in this column, it's … well, OK, it's the ineffable awesomeness of Tim Lincecum, epic hero.
But if there's another recurring theme, it's that fantasy baseball is a game, and it needs to be actively played. Successful owners are tacticians. They know precisely what's allowed in their leagues, and they take full advantage of settings and rules. One of the strategic concepts we've discussed here is utilizing your DL spots, however many you have. It's an excellent way to stockpile tradable assets while keeping useful players off of your opponents' rosters.
You wouldn't leave a bench spot empty, would you? Of course not. The disabled list is really no different. Earlier this season, owners were dropping players like Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver instead of DL-ing them. Those guys should have been 100 percent owned all year. Yes, adding someone to your DL might mean that you'll need to drop somebody else. But it's really a two-for-one swap. You're dropping, say, Braden Looper (85.9 percent owned), then adding an injured player, stashing him on your DL, and adding another free agent. Doesn't that seem like a reasonable exchange? It does to me.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the ten most interesting DL-eligible players who are owned in fewer than 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues. No B.J. Ryan, Mark Prior, or Jake Westbrook here. We're looking for players who can make an impact in fantasy leagues, even if it's just as trade-bait …
Howie Kendrick, 74.6 percent owned, broken finger – Kendrick will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday at Triple-A Salt Lake, and he should return to the Angels next week. At the time of his injury, he was batting .327 with two HR and two SB in 14 games. Don't be surprised if he maintains that average and goes 15/15 this season, which should make him a top-five second baseman. Kendrick should be 100 percent owned.
Jason Schmidt, 72.3 percent, shoulder bursitis – Schmidt threw off a mound last Thursday and again on Sunday. His manager then told the Dodgers' website, "He's progressing. That's certainly better than regressing." Grady Little possesses a kind of Taoist magic, doesn't he? I wouldn't want to rely on Jason Schmidt to return to his 2006 form, and it's not clear that he'll make it back before June or recover his velocity. I suspect his trade value will peak in the days before he returns from the DL. If you can stash him for awhile, then flip him in a multi-player trade, do it.
Pedro Martinez, 69.3 percent, torn rotator cuff – The 1997 to 2000 version of Pedro was the greatest pitcher of my lifetime, and maybe the best of all time. Just throwing that out there. On April 25, the 35-year-old Martinez told the Associated Press, "I feel as good as I did in 1996 and 1997." Then he added, "I haven't felt any pain during rehabilitation and I think that in a month I'll be throwing from the mound and then do a short rehabilitation in the minors." Expect caution and relatively low pitch-counts from the Mets. Expect diminished velocity from Pedro, but at his peak, that was really the least of his talents. Pedro should be owned in all leagues. During the final two weeks of September – that's championship week in head-to-head leagues – the Mets will face only the Nationals and Marlins. If they haven't wrapped up the NL East by then, all Mets starters will be useful.
Mike Piazza, 66.9 percent, sprained shoulder – If Jack Cust keeps up this madness, what the heck will Oakland do with Piazza? Fantasy owners don't really need to worry about that until mid-June, when the DH with catcher-eligibility returns. Piazza remains ownable in mixed leagues for exactly the same reason most of you had him rated as a top-five fantasy catcher. That is, wherever he plays, he's likely to DH.
Scott Podsednik, 65.8 percent, right adductor strain – There's a great KFFL player note on Podsednik right now: "Chicago White Sox OF Scott Podsednik (groin) ran around an obstacle course in the outfield, Saturday, May 12, and hopes to take batting practice in two or three days." Like he was jumping through flaming hoops or something. Cedar Rapids native Ryan Sweeney has played relatively well in Podsednik's absence, so there's no obvious need for the White Sox to rush Pods back. Still, he seems to be close to returning. All of his value is in his speed, though, so the injury is significant. If you need steals, you can't let Podsednik remain a free agent. Even if you don't need steals, he's still a decent trade chip.
Octavio Dotel, 50.5 percent, strained oblique – The Kansas City Star reports that Dotel is now with Double-A Wichita, and he could return to the Royals next week. K.C. manager Buddy Bell said, "There's a better chance that (Dotel) will come back as the closer than in another spot. We just want to make sure there are no setbacks." You might recall that all the spring reports on Dotel were fantastic, right up until the day he hurt himself. He belongs to one of the lowest levels of the fantasy closer hierarchy at the moment, but that could change. And every closer is ownable.
Akinori Iwamura, 39.8 percent, yet another oblique strain – Iwamura and his .339 average could return soon, certainly before the end of the month. He'd been hitting sixth for the Rays, and they were letting him run. He's a decent add for batting average and a modest number of steals. If you're sickened by the likes of Scott Rolen or Hank Blalock, stash Iwamura on your DL.
Phil Hughes, 17.5 percent, strained hamstring – Amazing that Hughes has been dropped in so many leagues. He's one of baseball's top pitching prospects, he's a Yankee, and he was throwing a no-hitter when he got injured. Hughes' injury isn't as severe as we all initially feared, and he's likely to return right around the same time Roger Clemens makes his first re-un-post-retirement start for New York. Yet another great KFFL note: "The Associated Press reports New York Yankees SP Philip Hughes (hamstring) played catch with SP Roger Clemens at the team's minor league complex Monday, May 14. Clemens also stood with Hughes on a mound and spent 30 minutes with him discussing pitching mechanics." And Andy Pettitte wept, emitting loud, womanly sobs.
Kazuo Matsui, 6.7 percent, back spasms – Matsui recently reported for extended spring training, and Rockies manager Clint Hurdle told the team's website, "We want to push him as long as there's no residual setbacks, pain or soreness. We'll get him a few innings on the field and maybe one or two at-bats." There's a chance Matsui can return by the end of May. Whenever he makes it back, it appears that the plan is for him to run. A lot. Before the injury, the second baseman had five stolen bases in only nine games.
Jon Lester, 3.0 percent, recovery from lymphoma – Although he left a Triple-A start with forearm cramping, his eight minor league innings went reasonably well: six hits, two earned runs, three walks, 10 Ks. Lester threw a bullpen session in Fenway on Sunday, and another is expected on Wednesday. He's clearly in Boston's second-half plans. The left-hander went 7-2 with 60 Ks in 81.1 innings last year, though he did it with ugly ratios (4.76 ERA, 1.65 WHIP). He's ownable in AL-only leagues, and in mixed leagues that involve Boston fans. Let's hope the forearm thing was really just a harmless blip.
First base is just too deep for me to include the heavily auto-picked Nick Johnson in the above list, even though he's been fielding grounders and hitting off tees, or Ryan Shealy, even though he's about to return for the Royals. Still, if I had an open DL spot and all ten of the above players were owned, I'd add one of 'em. Because you really shouldn't let roster spots go to waste. When a player returns from the DL, that's a good problem to have.
Wednesday we'll discuss the fantasy annoyance that is interleague play, as well as the Washington Nationals 2007 All-Star Game representative, Jason Bergmann.
Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Tuesday, May 15, 2007 4:46 pm, EDT
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