Fantasy Baseball This Week

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The call-ups are coming! The call-ups are coming! Over the next 24-48 hours, the rosters of major league teams will balloon with scores of players looking to make an impression for extended looks in spring training '06. The Marlins got a jolt from Jeremy Hermida, who launched a grand slam in his first at-bat. Prince Fielder is back to cause some damage for the Brewers, the Rockies are set to welcome back Clint Barmes, and Jason Giambi is back on the radar again.

I'll investigate these stories and many other topics as I look inside Fantasy Baseball This Week .

INJURY UPDATE

  • Rafael Furcal missed both ends of Wednesday's game with pain in his right knee. There appears to be some damage to the knee, but he's not expected to take a turn on the DL at this time.
  • Staying with injured shortstops, the A's placed Bobby Crosby on the DL on Wednesday after he sustained a broken left ankle. The A's expect that Crosby will return to the field in time for the final week or two of the regular season. Marco Scutaro and Keith Ginter will take Crosby's place in the lineup.
  • Oliver Perez of the Pirates continues his rehab from the foot injury suffered when he kicked that laundry cart long ago. He has been uninspiring in two rehab starts, surrendering nine earned runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched. The Pirates are in no rush to put him back on the mound, meaning that he may miss another two weeks of action.
  • Rich Harden of Oakland missed his Thursday start and is expected to miss another one or two turns in the rotation with a strained back. Owners should be prepared to go down the stretch without him.
  • The rough road for Kerry Wood took another turn on Wednesday when he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder to reinforce the labrum and rotator cuff. He appeared in 21 games this year, starting only 10. Since returning from his last trip to the DL, Wood made 11 August appearances out of the bullpen.
  • Joining Wood on the shelf in Chicago is 3B Aramis Ramirez, who went on the DL late last week with a quadriceps injury. The latest report regarding the power-hitting Ramirez (31 HR, 92 RBIs) is that he might not return this season, moving Nomar Garciaparra to the hot corner.
  • Yankees hurler Kevin Brown was moved to the 60-day DL on Thursday due to continuing back problems. That move ends his season and possibly signals the end of the 40-year-old pitcher's career.
  • Wade Miller of the Red Sox threw off the mound on Wednesday and reported no setbacks. There is some speculation that he'll return for several spot starts before the season end.
  • The "will he or won't he" question related to the return of Barry Bonds has grown tiresome. However, it must be noted that he plans to work out with the Giants for the first time next week in Los Angeles. Bonds isn't ruling out a return to the field before the season ends, but his value is marginal at this juncture.
  • Houston Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell went 0-for-3 in his first rehab game on Wednesday night. He's expected to play two or three more games at Double-A before rejoining the club next week.
  • And, though it's not injury related and has little relevance to fantasy owners, the Orioles placed struggling pitcher Sidney Ponson on unconditional release waivers on Thursday morning. He was 7-11 with a balloon-like 6.21 ERA for the O's this season.

BUZZ INDEX

  • Noah Lowry, SP, SF: Lowry has been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball late in the summer, stringing together a five-game winning streak in August. During the month, he compiled a dazzling 0.69 ERA (three earned runs in 39 1/3 innings pitched) and a batting average against of .167.
  • Clint Barmes, SS/2B, Col: Barmes is ready to return from the DL on Friday following an extended absence after falling down some stairs. He hit .390 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs at Coors Field before his injury. The Rockies will play 13 games at home to finish the '05 campaign.
  • Jason Giambi, 1B, NYY: He's gotten hot again, and fantasy owners are willing to give him another run on their rosters for the September stretch drive. With four home runs and 12 RBIs in his last five games, Giambi is enjoying another big surge. Prospective owners should approach him with caution, however, as he had gone homerless in 19 straight games before his two-HR, seven-RBI output on Aug. 28.
  • Dmitri Young, 1B/OF, Det: Young is a perennially strong player after the All-Star break, and the 2005 season has been no exception. He hit two grand slams this week and has posted a batting average nearly 100 points better than his first-half production. He has hit safely in six of his last seven games with five multi-hit efforts.
  • David Eckstein, SS, StL: Eckstein has been a popular pickup for owners seeking middle infield help this week. He hit .323 during August with four home runs and 21 RBIs. He has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games with seven multi-hit performances.
  • Geoff Jenkins, OF, Mil: Jenkins has been out of the lineup for several days with a sore back. The Brewers want to get a better look-see at prospect Corey Hart, which means that Jenkins may be relegated to part-time duties.
  • Chris Reitsma, RP, Atl: Fantasy owners are waving the white flag regarding the closer situation in Atlanta. Reitsma hasn't saved a game since Aug. 4 (with three blown attempts since) and has watched Kyle Farnsworth swoop in to take the job.
  • Ben Sheets, SP, Mil: After a slow start, the Brewers ace had found his stride over the last two months. He went 7-3 with a 3.08 ERA from July 1 until his last start on Aug. 26th. Unfortunately, he now is done for the year with a partial muscle tear in his back and has been jettisoned to the waiver wire.
  • Gustavo Chacin, SP, Tor: Chacin is winless in his last six starts and has put together two tough outings in a row. He has allowed 11 earned runs in his last 12 2/3 innings of work.
  • Sammy Sosa, OF, Bal: The latest trip to the DL marked the final straw for Sosa owners in '05. They'd ridden out his .221 average and 14 homers this year, but the return to the DL with a toe injury forced owners to claim new bodies for the stretch run.

PICKUP OF THE WEEK

Hermida

Jeremy Hermida, Fla, OF
Hermida made a splash with his first major league at-bat, crushing a grand slam off Al Reyes on Wednesday. He's expected to see time in the outfield during September with Juan Encarnacion's continuing wrist problems.

DROP OF THE WEEK

Palmeiro
Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, Bal
Palmeiro has been absolutely brutal since returning from his 10-game suspension. He's gone 2-for-26 with four strikeouts and reportedly is struggling with the constant boos from the fans. Palmeiro still lingers on a large number of rosters, but his fantasy value is gone. He has lost his starting job and likely will see limited at-bats over the final month of the season, with Alejandro Freire and 322-pound Walter Young splitting time to audition for the role in '06.

HOT AND COLD

up
Bill Mueller, 2B/3B, Bos: Mueller has been on a roll of late, stringing together an 11-game hitting streak. He hit .366 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in August.

up
Jeff Harris, SP/RP, Sea: The 31-year-old rookie has pitched well in his last two starts, allowing three earned runs over 13 1/3 innings of work. His biggest issue thus far has been his propensity to walk hitters. He's walked 11 hitters in his last 22 1/3 innings pitched.

up
Josh Towers, SP, Tor: Towers has been solid in the last month, picking up three wins with a smallish 2.49 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. He next will face the Devil Rays over the weekend. Towers is 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA against Tampa Bay this season.

up
Kameron Loe, SP, Tex: Loe has won two straight decisions, allowing two earned runs in 11 innings pitched against Chicago and Minnesota in his first career starts. The key to his success is solid control, as he has walked only one hitter in those outings.

down
Steve Finley, OF, LAA: With Darin Erstad looking for more time in the outfield and Casey Kotchman in need of more PT, the struggling Finley will find at-bats scarce down the stretch. Over the past month, he hit an anemic .143 with one homer and five RBIs in 63 at-bats.

down
Joe Crede, 3B, CWS: He shows the occasional power surge that keeps him on the fantasy radar at 3B. However, in the month prior to landing on the DL, Crede had just five hits in 53 at-bats (.093) with one home run and one RBI.

down
Gary Matthews Jr.: He has been another streaky player for the Rangers this year. Over the past week, Matthews has hit .148 with four hit in 27 at-bats. He has neither hit a home run nor driven in a run this week.

down
Curt Schilling, SP/RP, Bos: Schilling owners are at a critical decision juncture. He has been hit hard for 11 earned runs and 18 hits in 11 innings pitched in his two starts, which has ballooned his ERA to 6.96.

Matchups to watch:

  • The Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins both are making a mad dash at the AL wild-card spot. They'll play a pivotal series this weekend, starting with C.C. Sabathia taking on Brad Radke. Sabathia has won his last five starts, lowering his ERA by half a run in the process.
  • Jason Schmidt looks to continue his late-season magic for fantasy owners when he takes on Arizona and Brandon Webb on Friday night. Schmidt has won his last four decisions and looked like his old self (save a seven-earned run disaster for which he earned no decision against Cincinnati on Aug. 16).
  • Perhaps the best pitching matchup of the weekend occurs Saturday, when Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals take on Roger Clemens and the Astros in Houston. Carpenter looks to become the first pitcher to 20 wins and to further fortify his claim to the NL Cy Young. Clemens is winless in his last four starts but has received no help from the offense. The Astros have scored just two earned runs in those four games.
  • In another series with playoff implications, the A's take on the Yankees in Oakland this weekend. On Sunday, the rejuvenated Shawn Chacon takes on Barry Zito. Zito has six wins in his last 10 starts and lowered his ERA by a third of a run during that stretch. His last outing was a three-hit, one-earned run masterpiece over nine innings, for which he earned no decision.

IT'S A FACT
It hasn't helped them in the AL West standings, but fantasy owners certainly appreciate the HR-bashing Texas infield. For the second straight year, all four starters in the infield (Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano, Michael Young and Hank Blalock) have clubbed 20 or more home runs. They become only the second set of infielders to accomplish that feat, joining the 1940 Boston Red Sox.