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Fantasy Baseball This Week

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The performances of many players, good and bad, have thrust them into water-cooler conversations.

Baltimore fans reveled in taking two out of three in the Bronx, but they wonder exactly where the power is (not counting Brian Roberts and Luis Matos).

Atlanta fans saw John Smoltz, having returned to a starter's role, pitch a 15-strikeout gem against the Mets, only to watch the offense tally two hits and one run against Pedro Martinez.

And, of course, Dodger fans are looking for an early refund on the contract of J.D. Drew (.074 batting average, zero extra-base hits and zero RBIs).

Conversely, fantasy owners marvel at Johan Santana's 17 strikeouts, Hideki Matsui's evolving game and the happy returns of Troy Glaus and Richie Sexson to the power columns.

It's still early, of course, but it's never too soon to comb the waiver wire to see what other league managers are missing. Remember, those last roster spots filled with "would-be, could-be" prospects or comeback specials can be effectively used to block your fellow manager. Players such as Xavier Nady, Omar Vizquel and Brady Clark are more useful on your bench than another's active roster.

INJURY UPDATE

  • Hot-hitting Cubs 2B Todd Walker (.381, two doubles, three RBIs) sustained a severe MCL sprain in Sunday's game against Milwaukee when Carlos Lee slid hard into him. He's been placed on the disabled list and will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks. Jose Macias and call-up Mike Fontenot will play second base during Walker's absence. If you're a Walker owner, check the waiver wire for other options. Edgardo Alfonzo, Jorge Cantu and Craig Biggio, newly eligible at 2B, may greet you.
  • Curt Schilling surrendered seven runs in his rehab start at Triple-A Pawtucket, but looked better as the game progressed. He'll rejoin the Red Sox to face, who else, the Yankees on Wednesday night.
  • After getting hit in the head with a pitch last Wednesday, Minnesota 1B Justin Morneau has been bothered by headaches and dizziness. A second CT scan showed no damage, but a trip to the DL appears to be in the offing. Matthew LeCroy will take Morneau's spot in the Twins lineup.
  • The Twins also got hit by the injury bug in their rotation. Carlos Silva, who has experienced soreness in his right knee since spring training, was placed on the disabled list with a torn meniscus in his right knee. He may miss 4-to-6 weeks. Joe Mays, who missed all of 2004, will assume the role of fifth starter and warrants a look-see.
  • Derek Lowe took a line drive off his pitching arm in the fifth inning of Sunday's game against Arizona. He's listed as day-to-day, but is currently expected to take his next scheduled start. Dodger fans certainly expect him to, particularly after he traveled to Boston on Monday to collect his World Series ring.
  • Sleeper pick Bobby Madritsch of Seattle has been placed on the disabled list with what has been classified a strained left shoulder. It looks as though he'll miss at least the next month. Ryan Franklin picked up the ball for Madritsch and pitched eight strong innings against Kansas City on Monday. He'll pitch on the road against Chicago this weekend.
  • Madritsch's teammate, Joel Pineiro, will return to the rotation this weekend against Chicago. He pitched seven innings at Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday and demonstrated that his shoulder is ready. With Seattle's revamped offense, it's worth a glance to the waiver wire to check on the availability of Pineiro.
  • Philadelphia outfielder Kenny Lofton left Sunday's game with a tight right hamstring. He'd battled a sore left hamstring in spring training and has a history of hammy problems. Jason Michaels got the start Monday night in place of Lofton. Keep an eye on this one, as a trip to the DL is not out of the question.
  • Detroit continues to await a regular appearance by off-season acquisition Magglio Ordonez. He has missed four straight games with a viral infection, but is expected back in the lineup for Tuesday night's game against Minnesota.

BUZZ INDEX

  • I once had a reader write to tell me that "Edgardo is not a real name." It doesn't matter to fantasy owners, who are picking up Edgardo Alfonzo in droves. The sweet-swinging infielder, who is attempting to pick up the slack for the myriad of injured players in San Francisco, already owns four multi-hit games and carries a robust .455 batting average through the first week. Alfonzo's value is boosted by his 2B eligibility.
  • Eric Hinske of the Blue Jays has rediscovered the stroke that carried him to the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year award. He owns three three-hit games and has knocked in two runs in four consecutive games. With a number of top-tier 3B struggling early (Eric Chavez, Mike Lowell, Scott Rolen), fantasy owners are looking to ride the hot hand until their studs kick it into gear.
  • Owners looking for starting pitching jumped on the Philadelphia's Brett Myers after two strong starts. He's fanned 15 hitters in 12.1 innings of work and has allowed only one earned run.
  • Conversely, after one stellar start without a decision and one miserable offering, fantasy owners are selling Jarrod Washburn. I believe it's a bit short-sighted, as he did face the same potent Texas lineup in both of his starts. That second start is usually fraught with issues.
  • With dual position eligibility at SS and 3B, Jose Valentin has been snapped up by fantasy owners after several big hits in his first week as a Dodger. He's hitting .389 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
  • The "wait and see" approach to Jason Giambi's 2005 season lasted one week. He's among the players dropped most frequently each day as Tino Martinez continues to re-establish himself in the Bronx. Several defensive lapses and a slow bat (.190 average in 21 at-bats) signal a platoon situation at best.

PICKUP OF THE WEEK


Craig Biggio, Houston
The cagey veteran re-established his 2B eligibility over the weekend. As a result, demand for Biggio's services has skyrocketed. The 39-year old Houston mainstay has already stolen two bases, knocked in four runs and holds a batting average of .400. He had been drafted in only 60 percent of Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball PLUS leagues.

DROP OF THE WEEK

Greg Aquino, Arizona
Not only did he lose the closer role to Brandon Lyon, he found himself on the disabled list with a nerve irritation in his right elbow. I don't mean to pile on, but a middle reliever recovering from an elbow issue doesn't have any place in your fantasy bullpen.

HOT AND COLD

Brian Roberts, Baltimore: He's clearly enjoying that Jerry Hairston Jr. now makes his living in Chicago. Roberts has already launched three home runs and driven in six runs. Eventually he'll start toward stealing the 30 bases fantasy owners expected. I've already heard several pundits reference the HR explosion of Brady Anderson in relation to Roberts (who hit four homers in all of 2004). It's a long way to 50, folks.

Richard Hidalgo, Texas: The movie Hidalgo didn't do much for Viggo Mortensen, but Richard Hidalgo is doing plenty for Texas. His .276 average isn't world-beating, but his six runs scored, two home runs and six RBIs are a welcome start for this former 40-HR producer.

Russ Branyan, Milwaukee: OK, Branyan's still hit or miss (one strikeout per four at-bats), but that shot off of the center field scoreboard warranted a mention in this space. He's hitting .381 (that's 150 points over his career average) and has slammed two home runs with seven RBIs. Enjoy it before the inevitable plummet.

Gustavo Chacin, Toronto: The 24-year old youngster won his first two starts, allowing three earned runs in 11 innings. The key for Chacin is that he's only walked two hitters.

Adam Eaton, San Diego: Eaton threw six shutout innings against the Cubs on Monday after a no-decision in his first start at Colorado. He's tallied 10 strikeouts in 10.2 innings pitched while walking only two. He's got one more road start at Los Angeles before going home to Petco Park.

Brad Wilkerson, Washington: I would be remiss if I failed to mention Wilkerson's tear after a rough first day at the plate. He's hitting an even .500 since Opening Day, but has had three games in which he has fanned three times.

Sammy Sosa, Baltimore: Sosa is off to a miserable start in the AL, hitting just .200 through six games. He's yet to homer or drive in a run. However, he did steal a base, his first since 2002.

Raul Mondesi, Atlanta: The Braves' right fielder possesses a miniscule .174 batting average, .208 OBP and just two RBIs through Week 1.

Cristian Guzman, Washington: Guzman has been downright useless to fantasy owners, contributing just four hits in 27 at-bats (.148) with zeroes in every other 5x5 category.

Greg Maddux, ChC: Maddux has been battered about in his first two starts, surrendering 15 hits and eight earned runs in 10 innings. Opponents own a huge .366 batting average against Maddux and his 1.70 WHIP is staggering.

Brad Radke, Minnesota: The veteran Twins hurler is 0-2 and currently holds one of the stranger stat lines you'll see. Despite a terrible ERA of 6.08, his WHIP stands at a strong 0.83 (he's yet to walk a hitter). The culprit of Radke's early woes: gophers. Radke has served up four home runs in his first 13.1 innings.

Kip Wells, Pittsburgh: Wells' 2005 has been a horror story: 0-2, 8.03 ERA and 1.78 WHIP. His struggles can be attributed to the five home runs and nine walks allowed in 12.1 innings.

TRADING POST
Shingo Takatsu, CWS
Why he's being dealt: Ozzie Guillen has been non-committal about his role with Damaso Marte and Dustin Hermanson waiting in the wings, and those three home runs allowed vs. Cleveland were bombs.
What you're getting: Straight up, trades for Takatsu return starting pitchers such as Bronson Arroyo and Odalis Perez. Package deals involving Takatsu usually combine his services with that of a shortstop or catcher in exchange for a top hitter such as Andruw Jones or Albert Pujols.

Shawn Green, Arizona
Why he's being dealt: Those who drafted Green are capitalizing on his powerful first week (.320, two homers and six RBIs). Others scuffling with sub-par 1B love the dual position eligibility.
What you're getting: In exchange for Green, managers are looking to shore up their bullpens. The most common names in these exchanges are LaTroy Hawkins, Troy Percival and the aforementioned Takatsu.

Barry Bonds, San Francisco
Why he's being dealt: The news on when he'll return remains all over the map. It's the great gamble on both the buyer and seller sides of the equation.
What you're getting: Managers in straight up deals involving Bonds are returning top closers such as Brad Lidge or Armando Benitez or top-flight starters such as Jake Peavy and Roger Clemens. In multi-player deals, Bonds is usually packaged with a second-tier reliever or outfielder in exchange for top performers such as Todd Helton or Alex Rodriguez.

John Smoltz, Atlanta
Why he's being dealt: After his first start, there were fears if he was ready for the starter's role. After his second, managers seek depth in their rotations.
What you're getting: Ironically, Smoltz has been getting dealt straight up for relief pitching (Francisco Cordero and Jason Isringhausen most noticeably). Smoltz is being packaged with emerging stars such as Michael Young or Aubrey Huff in exchange for all-world sluggers like Jim Thome or David Ortiz.

ON DECK
Coors Field Factor:

  • The Giants come to Colorado for a weekend series.
  • Giants' ace Jason Schmidt will take the hill either Friday or Saturday. He's 1-0 in six career appearances at Coors with a 4.97 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Even with those elevated levels, you just can't bench an ace.
  • Edgardo Alfonzo owns a career .330 average in 185 at-bats with six home runs and 30 RBIs at Coors.
  • Those owners running Marquis Grissom on the pines should consider his insertion this weekend. Grissom holds a career .335 average with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 52 games.
  • Finally, J.T. Snow rules Coors Field. In 174 career at-bats, Snow has hit .385 with 26 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs.

Matchups to watch:

  • Curt Schilling makes his much heralded first start of the season against the Yankees on Wednesday. Last season, Schilling went 2-0 in the regular season against New York with inflated ERA (4.82) and WHIP (1.45) numbers.
  • Dontrelle Willis pitched a complete game gem against Washington in his first start (five-hit shutout). He'll face a more potent Philadelphia lineup for his follow-up.
  • Willis' teammate Josh Beckett will look to extend his scoreless streak in Friday's outing against the Mets. Through 15 innings of work, Beckett has allowed just seven hits (two for extra bases) and whiffed 17 hitters. This could be the season fantasy owners had been anticipating for some time.
  • Javier Vazquez has been a train wreck in his first two outings, allowing 12 earned runs in seven innings. If he can't put it together in Thursday's outing against Washington, it's time to cut the cord.

IT'S A FACT
Pat Burrell is back on the fantasy radar with his unbelievable first week. He was begrudgingly selected in the 18th or 19th rounds of most Yahoo! default league drafts. With 17 RBIs through Monday, Burrell stands halfway to the April RBI record. Juan Gonzalez drove in 35 April runs for the Rangers in 1998. The Phillies would certainly love to see him make a run at that mark, as they play division rivals in 15 of their 17 remaining April games.