Heading into the home stretch of April, fantasy owners have already witnessed a number of closer merry-go-rounds (see Matt Romig's The Skinny for complete details) and a number of key offseason acquisitions have been sidelined by injury.
Two of the big signings in the AL East, Jaret Wright for New York and David Wells of Boston, weren't paying off and now they're both on the shelf for a month. Magglio Ordonez recently underwent hernia surgery after signing a huge contract with the Tigers. He was 0-for-10 before the injury, which will now sideline him for at least two months. Owners are actively scouring the waiver wire and exploring deals to shore up their rotations and benches in response to these long-term losses. Let's take a closer look at what is going on in Fantasy Baseball This Week.
- Kerry Wood, who left Sunday's game early with tendonitis in his right shoulder, is questionable for his next scheduled start on Saturday. The Chicago Tribune reports that Glendon Rusch or Mark Prior would take his start if he's unable to go.
- Staying in Chicago, just after taking over the closer role from LaTroy Hawkins, 34-year old reliever Chad Fox suffered an elbow injury that may just end his career. Joe Borowski has begun to throw after breaking his wrist out of the gate. With Hawkins' ineffectiveness, Borowski should have a shot to reclaim the role. I've begun throwing on the side in case the Cubs need a lefty junk-baller 15 years removed from organized ball.
- Those who snagged Lance Berkman on draft day have to be excited by his first rehab start, which saw him homer from both sides of the plate. He's still several weeks away from returning, but all signs point to a full recovery.
- Ben Sheets is facing a stint on the disabled list as he recovers from an inflammation of the inner ear. He had been hospitalized with the condition and has stabilized somewhat, but still experiences great discomfort. More details to come as this situation develops.
- Chipper Jones of the Braves bruised his foot and currently can't put pressure on it. Wilson Betemit will take over third base duties until Chipper returns. Right now, he's expected back in the lineup for the weekend.
- Pat Burrell strained his right groin on Sunday. He expects to play on Tuesday night despite initial reports that detailed the excruciating pain he felt. Wait as long as possible each day this week to fill out your lineup card, as this likely isn't a done deal. With his recent funk (two for his last 17), a day off or two might not be a bad idea.
- Jaret Wright left Saturday's game with a shoulder injury which has been diagnosed as torn scar tissue from past surgeries. He'll miss 4-6 weeks and will be replaced in the rotation by Chien-Ming Wang, who will be expected to aid a big turn-around in the Bronx. I'll be at Yankee Stadium to catch his first start against the Blue Jays and will report back on what I see in next week's FBTW.
- Ramon Ortiz is scheduled for a rehab start on Tuesday night. If it goes well, he'll rejoin the Reds rotation as early as Sunday.
- David Wells of Boston was placed on the DL with a bruised foot that may sideline the veteran hurler for as much as a month. John Halama is expected to take his spot in the rotation. Halama once won 14 games for Seattle back in the day, but he'll drag on your ERA and WHIP. Unless you're desperate for wins, look elsewhere for help.
- Finally, Barry Bonds had some fluid drained from his injured knee at the end of last week. He's still a ways from beginning extensive rehab, but he did walk across the clubhouse without crutches to resume a game of backgammon with Armando Benitez. No word as to the outcome of that particular performance or how to score it for fantasy purposes.
- Jon Garland, ChW, SP: After a masterful complete game shutout of Oakland on Monday night, fantasy owners flocked to the available players list to seek him out. He has only 11 strikeouts in 30 innings of work, but his 1.80 ERA and tiny 0.87 WHIP beckon his acquisition.
- Cliff Floyd, NYM, OF: Floyd brings a 12-game hitting streak into Tuesday's action and is tied for eighth in the National League in RBIs (15) and one off the league lead in home runs with five. As we know from his past (even missing five games already this year with a strained ribcage), you need to ride Floyd's bat while you can, because a trip to the DL is inevitable.
- John Patterson, Was, SP: It's almost sad that Patterson only has a record of 1-1 the way he's been tossing. He has allowed only two earned runs in 21 innings pitched for the Nationals while striking out 17.
- Mike Adams, Mil, RP: He changed his motion, lost some velocity and now Derrick Turnbow stole his job. As he works to regain his form with pitching coach Mike Maddux, Turnbow is the man. Get thee to the waiver wire to check his availability.
- Barry Zito, Oak, SP: Fantasy owners have turned their backs on the former Cy Young winner, dropping the lefty to the waiver wire after Monday's lost. There was no hesitation, despite the fact that Zito had strung together 11 consecutive scoreless innings before allowing a home run to Chris Widger. For what it's worth, Zito has yet to pitch with a lead this season.
- Joe Randa, Cin, 3B: With just two hits in his last 25 at-bats, owners have soured on the concept of a dream season from Randa. He has driven in one run in his last seven games and naturally, due to how early in the campaign we still are, his batting average is down 119 points from April 17th.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Javier Vazquez, Ari, SP
Yes, I recall my diatribe against Vazquez just two weeks ago. Such is the fickle world of fantasy sports. Vazquez has put together two dominant performances, earning two wins while pitching 15 innings. During those outings, he allowed only two earned runs, giving the type of production expected with his return to the NL.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Ken Griffey Jr., Cin, OF
Though he put up three hits on Monday night, Junior has yet to homer and owns just three RBIs on the season. Prior to that "breakout" game, he'd collected one hit in his previous 20 at-bats. Right now, he's a reserve in the "Sentimental Favorite" roster spot.
HOT AND COLD
Joe Crede, ChW, 3B: A notoriously slow starter, Crede has been an important component of the White Sox's red-hot start. He enjoyed a 14-game hitting streak (snapped Sunday) and possesses a season average of .324 entering Tuesday night's action. Crede has been prone to inconsistency during his career, thus far, so if he's available, it may be time to strike while he's hot.
Omar Vizquel, SF, SS: The veteran shortstop may provide relief for those owners recovering from Nomar Garciaparra's injury. He's already swiped six bases and is swinging a solid stick (four multi-hit games in his last six). Vizquel had back-to-back three-hit nights and even drove in a pair of runs to end the weekend.
Victor Diaz, NYM, OF: The talk is that Diaz is just holding the spot warm as the Mets await the return of Mike Cameron. His season totals are propped up on the strength of two great games, but he's hit safely in eight of his last 10.
Jeff Francis, Col, SP: After a rough first start, the 24-year old Rockies hurler has posted an ERA of 2.41 in his past three starts. His last two outings were at home against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. His WHIP (1.54) took a beating in his first battle against Arizona. Francis looks like he's settling into his role and has pitched well so far at Coors … knock on wood.
Ryan Franklin, Sea, SP: Like Jon Garland, Franklin's not going to blow anyone away, but he's been effective in his last three outings. He's gone at least eight innings in each start, compiling a 2.55 ERA with a miniscule WHIP of 0.72.
Mike MacDougal, KC, RP: He seemed like a lock to take over the Royals closer job until Jeremy Affeldt was ready to come off the DL. Not so fast, said Tony Pena, who handed the job to Ambiorix Burgos. The Royals have recorded one save, thus far, while recording a 5.29 team ERA.
Scott Elarton, Cle, SP: Elarton has failed to escape the sixth inning in his past three starts, allowing five earned runs in each outing. With an ERA above 8.00 and a WHIP hovering around 2.00, it's time to cut the cord.
Jerome Williams, SF, SP: Williams put forth a nice effort in his season debut against Colorado, allowing just one earned run in seven innings. He then made only one appearance out of the bullpen before his next start on April 19th, which wasn't good for anyone. He allowed four earned runs in four innings of work. He got shelled again on the 24th, prompting his demotion to Triple A-Fresno.
Jeff Bagwell, Hou, 1B: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The former fantasy standout has been jettisoned to the waiver by thousands upon thousands of owners after a week of hitting .190, with five RBIs and zero homers. He's currently hitting .227 with 11 RBIs on the season.
Jamie Moyer, Sea, SP
Why he's being dealt: Fantasy owners who got him on the cheap after his disastrous 2004 season are reaping the benefits of his hot start (4-0, 2.53 ERA). Those dealing for him are shoring up slow-starting rotations anchored (in a bad way) by the now-injured Jaret Wright and pitchers of his ilk.
What you're getting: Moyer has been getting dealt straight up for a range of relief pitchers. On the high end, owners have received Armando Benitez or Danny Graves. On the low end, they've swapped Moyer for closer-in-waiting Dustin Hermanson. Moyer has been package with upper-tier middle infielders such as Jeff Kent, Jimmy Rollins or Rafael Furcal in exchange for power pitchers such as Roger Clemens or Jake Peavy.
Mark Teixeira, Tex, 1B
Why he's being dealt: Savvy managers are sending out the feelers for Teixeira before his bat heats up. With three homers in his last five games, the window of opportunity is shrinking.
What you're getting: Teixeira is rarely dealt straight up within leagues except for four-category starters such as Ben Sheets. He typically commands two or three players in return, one of whom is normally a fellow 1B down the list such as Jeff Bagwell or Sean Casey. The other component of the deal is normally one of the historical upper-level 3B such as Mike Lowell or Eric Chavez.
Carlos Delgado, Fla, 1B
Why he's being dealt: Average and RBIs are there, but he's hit only two homers, thus far. Owners are selling high in fear of a season-long power outage.
What you're getting: Owners can expect to receive five-tool hitters like Bobby Abreu or dominant hurlers like Tim Hudson straight up. In package deals, Delgado is frequently paired with players such as Chipper Jones and J.D. Drew in exchange for superstars such as David Ortiz and Jim Thome with lower-tier relievers such as Danys Baez and Octavio Dotel.
Brian Roberts, Bal, 2B
Why he's being dealt: Tied for the AL lead in home runs and still stealing bases. Managers are striking while the iron is hot.
What you're getting: One recent trade for Roberts returned Randy Johnson and Mark Loretta. Nice move! More realistic exchanges bring back players such as Loretta or Clint Barmes alongside closers B.J. Ryan or Danny Kolb.
Coors Field Factor:
- The Marlins are in Colorado for a three-game, mid-week set beginning Tuesday night, after which the Rockies hit the road until May 9th. The schedule and rotations line up so that Dontrelle Willis won't need to put his perfect mark on the line at Coors.
- Juan Encarnacion has failed to take advantage of the riches that Coors Field affords most hitters. In 35 career at-bats, Encarnacion owns a .114 batting average (4-for-34), with one double and three RBIs.
- Jeff Conine sees the ball just fine in Colorado and will likely see some action during the series. He holds a career .423 average in 78 at-bats with seven home runs and 22 RBIs.
- Fantasy owners looking for Al Leiter to rebound from a rocky outing might leave him on the bench for Wednesday's start. Leiter owns a 2-3 career mark with a ballooned ERA of 6.63 and WHIP of 1.71 in six Coors Field outings.
Matchups to watch:
- On Friday night in Atlanta, former teammates Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson will face off. After two rough starts to begin the year, Mulder has pitched 18 straight shutout innings. Hudson has allowed only three earned runs in 28 innings of work, two of which came on solo home runs.
- Two future Hall of Famers face off in Houston on Friday when Roger Clemens takes on Greg Maddux and the Chicago Cubs. The Astros have scored a total of four runs in Clemens' first four outings, and he actually drove in two of them. He's allowed one earned run (a solo homer) in 28 innings pitched for a ridiculous 0.32 ERA. Maddux has pitched well since struggling in his first outing against Arizona. He has three straight no-decisions despite an ERA of 3.31 in those outings.
- Dontrelle Willis will look to go 5-0 when he faces the Phillies this weekend. In eight career starts against Philadelphia, he owns a record of 3-1 with an ERA of 2.44 and WHIP of 1.01.
- On Wednesday, young pitching will be on display when Gustavo Chacin and Scott Kazmir face off in Toronto. Chacin looks to start a new winning streak after a loss in his last start. Kazmir threw seven strong innings against Boston on Friday night, allowing just four hits and one earned run with five Ks.
IT'S A FACT
If he gets his 10th home run of the season prior to May 30th, Manny Ramirez will reach the 400 mark for his career before his 33rd birthday. That blast will move him into 39th place on the all-time list, passing Hall of Famer Al Kaline and the recently retired Andres Galarraga.