WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- For the first time on his tune-up tour, the Rocket failed to earn the crowd any take-home goodies. Cheered on by 13,000 plus at Triple-A Round Rock last Friday – including Wooderson of Dazed and Confused – the 43-year-old superstar struggled initially allowing three runs on 42 pitches in the top of the first. After a troubling start, he settled down to retire 15 of the next 17 batters faced, finishing with a reasonable line of: 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 5 K. "I'm a little winded, but my body is feeling fine," Clemens said. Interestingly, Clemens backtracked a bit when probed further, "I'm not happy with where my body is now, but I think it's good enough to get going. I'm going to make it happen. I have to find a way to get it done regardless." He is expected to take the mound against the Minnesota Twins on June 22nd.
Owners should tame their expectations somewhat in his first couple of starts. Once Clemens regains full stamina, dominating 6-8 K efforts will surely follow. Look for him to come close to his second-half numbers from a year ago – 2.27 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 81 Ks, in 108 IP. However, with his advanced age, expect more six-inning efforts this time around. If your opponent is offering the farm for his services, strongly consider maximizing your profit based on the hype.
- Earmuffs, AL-only owners: Trade rumors for crazy legs Carl Crawford are really beginning to heat up. Over the last couple of weeks the Angels, Cubs, Dodgers and Rockies have contacted the D-Rays front office inquiring about his services. One of the elite players in fantasy, Crawford said that the trade rumors were "not really serious," but he is intrigued by the possibilities of playing for a contender. According to one source, the Angels low-balled Tampa Bay, offering starter Ervin Santana straight up for Crawford. Ultimately, it will take a number of top prospects, along with a frontline starter, in order for a deal to get done considering he is one of the premiere all-around threats, and only 25 years of age.
For those of you hoarding FAAB cash in NL-only formats, start sacrificing small animals to the trade gods now. Although a deal is highly unlikely at this point, could you imagine if Crawford played everyday in Colorado? On pace for a libido driving 20 HR, 75 RBIs, 100 runs and 50 steals, his power totals would certainly edge closer to 30 bombs and 90 RBIs with a move to Coors. If you're in a competitive AL-only league, don't panic. It will take a blockbuster offer for the D-Rays to pack his bags.
- Off-the-field influences continue to push the thermostat in Arizona to uncomfortable levels for Diamondback fans. Late last week, D-Backs executive Ken Kendrick fostered suspicions that popular outfielder Luis Gonzalez abused steroids, saying "there have certainly been whispers." In response, a vehement Gonzalez called a press conference last Thursday and stated, "I don't want to be in this situation. I don't think any of my teammates do. It's unfortunate that I almost have to sit here today to defend myself for no reason." This came only nine days after Jason Grimsley dropped an HGH bomb on the club, sending the D-Backs into a tailspin. They have lost 12 of their past 13 games.
From a fantasy perspective, this is a very interesting situation. With Gonzalez obviously angered by the implications and with his numbers lacking – he is hitting just .265 with 5 homers and 30 RBIs – there is a strong likelihood he dons different threads by the trade deadline. What does this mean? Hitting phenom Carlos Quentin could get a chance to showcase his talents by the end of July. In 233 at-bats at Triple-A Tucson, the 21-year-old has six homers, 32 RBIs and a stellar 37:26 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 452 Triple-A at-bats last season, Quentin hit .301 with 21 bombs and 89 RBIs. Keeper leagues and NL-only formats need to have their trigger fingers ready to pluck the talented prospect. He could be a valuable source for batting average, home runs and RBIs with regular playing time come August.
- Injury news and updates: Albert Pujols is rapidly recuperating from an oblique strain after taking 30 cage swings on Saturday and several cuts against live pitching on Sunday. Asked about his return, Pujols commented, ""I think it's going to be soon, but I don't want to say a whole lot more. My rehab is going great. It's going real good." Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa insisted that his All-Star first basemen would "play before the All-Star break." Best-case scenario has Pujols back on the field within two weeks, but be cautiously optimistic. For those attempting to coax a trade, his sale price will expire soon … As reported last week, Oakland fireballer Rich Harden was expected to miss 2-3 months with an elbow injury. Now, the setback appears to be less severe. Team orthopedist Dr. Jerrald Goldman believes that Harden's sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament is a "mild one" and he could return just after the All-Star break – Surprising Cleveland outfielder Casey Blake was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained muscle in his left side. He was hitting .304 with 10 HRs and 36 RBIs. Rookie Franklin Gutierrez, Todd Hollandsworth and Eduardo Perez will likely platoon in right field in Blake's absence … If you had June 17th in your Cliff Floyd injury pool, congratulations. On Saturday, the oft-injured outfielder was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to June 7th with a sprained ankle. He twisted the ankle on June 6th attempting to take third after a Jose Valentin double. The "frustrated" Floyd has logged 75 DL days since 2001. There is a slight chance he could return to action this weekend, but expect a Lastings Milledge and Endy Chavez timeshare in left until Floyd is 100 percent.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Joel Zumaya, Det, RP
In recent appearances, Zumaya's fastball has reached speeds Esteban Loaiza wishes he could touch without the benefits of operating a Ferrari while intoxicated. Despite allowing his first run since May 23rd over the weekend – a solo shot to the red-hot Aramis Ramirez – Zumaya has dominated this season, limiting opponents to a stifling .160 BAA. His blazing 100-mph fastball, knee-buckling curve and underrated change, are a recipe for strikeout success – as his 44 strikeouts in 34.2 innings and 13 punchouts in his past eight appearances attests. For those owners banking on a marginal fifth or sixth starter, grab this hungry Tiger as a terrific source of Ks, ERA, WHIP, and, eventually, saves. Earning his first save on June 11th, Zumaya confidently predicted "there will be many more to come." With Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney's recent troubles, Zumaya may indeed be a clairvoyant. It's a crime he is available in nearly 86 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Chad Billingsley, LAD, SP, (ETA: Now)
Guess what? Another rookie in La La Land is producing. Billingsley is a premiere high-K talent and one of the brightest pitching prospects to hit Los Angeles since Fernando Valenzuela. Impressive in his first start in San Diego, the 21-year-old power righty threw 5.1 innings, giving up two runs on six hits, three walks, while striking out three. Touching 96 MPH with his fastball in his debut, the stout power pitcher also boasts one of the best sliders in the Dodgers organization and a plus curveball. He projects as a No. 1 starter and will likely be a stud staple for years to come. As Dodgers manager Grady Little said earlier this week, "This guy is what you call the package." Go bonkers for the youngster in keeper formats, but be cautious in shallow yearly leagues. Similar to Cole Hamels, Billingsley will be erratic at times. This is Billingsley's second turn in the "Prospect Watch" section – Brandon Funston accurately predicted back on May 1st that Billingsley would reach the show sometime in June.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Yahoo! Experts League Update
RotoWire_Liss remains bunkered in atop the league standings. He sits 14 points above KFFL-Anderson. Last week, Yahoo! held three spots in the top five, but each of those teams have slipped a bit of late, with Y!-Buser dropping out of the top five (now at seventh). Recent adds across the league include Jorge Posada, Jacque Jones, Ronnie Belliard, Trot Nixon, Orlando Hernandez and Juan Encarnacion.
- Joel Zumaya