WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- 1998 was the year of Viagra. It was also the debut season of Baltimore power-hitting prospect Calvin Pickering. Let's just say that Pickering's career didn't exactly follow the meteoric rise of that little blue diamond-shaped pill. But after a two-year big league hiatus, Pickering is back in the major leagues with the Kansas City Royals. Pickering spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he slammed 35 home runs in just 299 at-bats. In his '04 debut on Sunday, Pickering went yard twice, tallying 6 RBIs in the process. Pickering, still just 27 years old, owns a .300-plus career minor league batting average and has shown an ability to draw walks. Those fantasy owners starved for power could do worse than to roll the dice on Pickering's comeback attempt.
- The bloom is off the rose for Pittsburgh SS Jack Wilson. The source of many double takes among fantasy owners when he hit .332 with 8 HR and 35 RBIs in the first half, Wilson has but one home run and a .238 average since. In fact, he has gone more than 100 at bats since his last long ball and does not have an extra-base hit (just five hits total) in his past 34 at bats. To say that it is time for fantasy owners to cut bait is an understatement. At this point, rookies Khalil Greene and B.J. Upton would be more prudent options at shortstop.
- If everyone has their 15 minutes of fame, then it's officially the 16th minute for New York Yankees SP Esteban Loaiza. Last season's fantasy darling (21 wins, 2.90 ERA, 207 K) has a 6.25 ERA since the break, with opponents hitting him at a .313 clip. And that trade to New York hasn't come close to being the boon that fantasy owners were expecting. In pinstripes, Loaiza owns a 6.17 ERA and zero wins in four starts. At this point, the Yankees can't even trade him to Texas, whose current rotation boasts four starters with an ERA north of 4.50. Like Wilson, it is time for owners to start formulating an exit plan for Loaiza, if they haven't already.
- Fantasy FYI: Cincinnati OF Austin Kearns returns from injury on Tuesday. He was hitting .338 during his Triple-A stint in Louisville. He's expected to start in right field. While he has been every bit as injury-prone as teammate Ken Griffey the past couple of seasons, Kearns possesses 25-HR, .300-BA potential and merits fantasy attention when healthy.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Carlos Pena, DET, 1B – Has the light bulb finally clicked on for Pena? One of baseball's more hyped prospects when he debuted with the Texas Rangers in '01, Pena never showed the plate discipline and power that his minor league numbers promised. Until now. He's hitting .328 in August with 5 HR and 12 RBIs. And his 14:15 BB-to-K ratio for the month is a vast improvement on his 33:88 ratio prior to August. Pena faces Kansas City – he owns a .346 BA this season against the Royals – seven times in the next 17 games
- Gil Meche, SEA, SP – Apparently a minor-league stint was just what Meche needed. Before his June demotion, Meche was 1-5 with a 7.06 ERA. But since his recall at the end of July, he is 3-0 with a 3.48 ERA and an outstanding 3:27 BB-to-K ratio in 33.2 IP. Meche flashed his considerable talents in '03, winning 15 games for the M's. And it looks like he has rediscovered the form that made him a steady fixture in the M's rotation a season ago.
SPEED-O-METER: Checking the latest movements on the basepaths
- Torii Hunter, MIN, OF (7 steals in August) – A sore neck kept Hunter out of action Friday but it did not prevent him from burning up the bases upon his return. He swiped a base on Saturday and Sunday, giving him four in his past five games.
- Freddy Guzman, SD, OF (1 steal/first five games) – Guzman posted totals of 69, 90 and 48 steals in his past three seasons on the farm. He made his ML debut last Tuesday and stole his first base the following day.
- Corey Patterson, CHI, OF (Still doing it all) – Patterson's double-threat skills are moving into Bobby Abreu and Carlos Beltran territory. He has a league-leading 11 steals in August to go with six home runs.
- David DeJesus, KAN, OF (At least he's trying) – DeJesus has 3 SBs this month, but has been thrown out five times. Fantasy owners have to appreciate the effort, not to mention his .358 BA in August.
- Johnny Damon, BOS, OF (0 steals/last 26 games) – More disconcerting for fantasy owners than his 0-for-3 in steal attempts in August is the fact that he hasn't even tried to run in his past 11 games.
- Mike Cameron, NYM, OF (6 steals in August) – Cameron has 6 SB and 6 HR for the month but took a day off on Sunday after getting just one hit in his previous 13 ABs.
- Ryan Freel, CIN, 3B (5 steals/last 11 games) – In addition to his five steals this month, Freel is also hitting .327.
- Jimmy Rollins, PHI, SS (2 steals/last 2 games) – Rollins is giving himself SB opps, drawing 12 BBs in past 12 games. The result is 3 steals and 12 runs in that span.
- Steve Finley, LA, OF (0 SB attempts with LA) – Apparently the Dodgers didn't trade for Finley's speed. He had 8 steals with Arizona, but no attempts in LA. He is, however, hitting .365 in Dodger blue.
PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm
- Dallas McPherson, 3B (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
With injuries to Troy Glaus and now Robb Quinlan, Anaheim has been given ample reason to give McPherson his first major league opportunity. But the Angels aren't biting. Despite 38 HRs and a BA of .300-plus between Double-A and Triple-A, McPherson remains at Salt Lake. Manager Mike Scioscia was quoted in the LA Times as saying, "Dallas is going to be here when he's ready for that challenge and the opportunity presents itself." Huh? One has to wonder how two injured third basemen and 38 minor league home runs doesn't add up to opportunity and readiness. Regardless, September 1 roster expansion is looming and one has to figure Anaheim's hand will then be forced.
- Scott Kazmir, TB, SP – ETA: Currently in major leagues
Monday, Kazmir makes his major league debut against the Seattle Mariners. The lefty was the prize the Devil Rays extracted from the New York Mets in the trade that sent Victor Zambrano to the Big Apple. The 20-year old owns a 2.50 ERA and 104 K's in 101 IP on the farm this season. Considered one of the games' top pitching prospects, Kazmir has 283 strikeouts in 228 career minor league innings and has dominated at every level of competition he's faced.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
.398 Ichiro Suzuki's batting average since May 1. He's now on pace for 262 hits, which would break the major league mark of 257 set by George Sisler in 1920.