The Sacagawea of fantasy primers, the Weekly Rundown guides owners through a forest of obscure stats and exploitable matchups to help the indecisive resolve lineup conundrums. While reading, keep in mind matchups are subject to change due to managerial moves, unforeseen injuries and Mother Nature's influences.
As we head into this week's schedule of games, here's the nitty-gritty on a handful of notable names:
- Feel-good story Rick Ankiel, whose reversal of fortune is destined to be immortalized in a Disney film starring Emilio Estevez (What? You thought he only did "Mighty Duck" movies?), has launched three homers in his first three games as a Major League outfielder. Hopefully you listened to my strong power buy recommendation in this space and my "Bringin' the Noise" column over the past several weeks. Ankiel's insane one homer in every 12.1 at-bats at Triple-A Memphis has transitioned impeccably with the parent club. Remarkably, Ankiel showcases a very refined lefty stroke, which helps him generate natural lift on the ball with little effort. Because many opposing pitchers have yet to study his tendencies, he's benefited significantly from kindly-placed fastballs. Until pitchers begin to mix up their approach to Ankiel, he'll continue to rip the rawhide with a vengeance. But remember he did notch a 23.1 K% at Triple-A, so the likelihood he maintains a .300 BA is minimal. His athleticism, dish muscle, Tony LaRussa affection and glove versatility will keep him in the two-hole nearly every day from this point forward. Those with a high waiver priority in any 12-team format need to put in a claim for Ankiel before he becomes free agent fair game on Monday, August 13. Expect a 150 at-bat line around: .272 BA, 13 HR, 29 RBI, 28 R, 2 SB.
- Cubs skipper Lou Piniella has officially removed Ryan Dempster from sole closer duties and has installed the dreaded bullpen-by-committee. Maybe my Cubbies can coax Lee Smith out of retirement. Since being activated from the DL on July 21, Dempster has allowed five earned runs and a miserable eight walks in nine IP. With Dempster's command on vacation, Piniella will temporarily go with a three-man rotation of Dempster, Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol in the ninth. Of the three, Marmol (17.1% owned), although relatively inexperienced in closing out games, has the best odds to emerge as the primary end-game option come September given his electric mid-90s fastball and hard-breaking slider. In 44.1 IP this season, Marmol has tallied an eye-popping 12.4 K/9. Revitalized former starter Kerry Wood is someone to be mindful of as a possible long-term late-game answer. Although he was not mentioned specifically by Piniella as one of the committee contributors, Wood has pitched fairly well in three relief appearances (3.2 IP, 4 K, 3 H, 2 BB). The trimmed down Wood has been regularly clocked in the 93-95 mph range with his fastball, but must build confidence before being trusted in pressure-packed situations. If you're desperate for saves, scour the wire for Marmol and Howry (14.1% owned), but keep a close eye on the artist formerly known as "Kid K."
- The Flyin' Hawaiian, Shane Victorino, had his minor league rehab assignment delayed by a couple of days on Friday and won't don the Double-A Reading threads until at least Tuesday. On August 10, Victorino mentioned that he "occasionally feels a grab" in his injured right calf muscle and is operating at about "75 to 80 percent." If all goes well in his minor league stint, he could return to the City of Brotherly Love as early as Friday. Because his calf is still bothersome and Victorino is not quite at full-strength, I'm apprehensive that he will return to his prolific base-stealing ways initially. Don't be surprised if it takes him an additional couple of weeks to return to full speed. Regardless, those trying to close the gap in steals should buy on a bear market. Victorino commanded Oliver Perez, Jose Valverde and Garrett Atkins in solo Y! Plus league swaps this week.
- Guitar Hero Joel Zumaya threw to hitters on Friday for the first time since early May and reported no setbacks with his surgically repaired finger. The Tigers triple-digit flamethrower is scheduled to join the Toledo Mud Hens this week and will work an inning on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. If the rehab stint yields positive results he could return to big league setup duty next Tuesday. Available in nearly two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues, Zumaya should be a viable source of strikeouts, ERA and WHIP as a middle-reliever. If he's wasting away on the waiver wire, pick him up in all 12-team leagues.
- The Biggie Smalls of Boston, David Ortiz, continues to be bothered by soreness in his inflamed right shoulder and expects to deal with pain "on and off" over the remainder of the season. The lingering nature of the shoulder injury coupled with Ortiz's torn meniscus in his right knee means a prolonged power outage is likely. With his HR/FB% down 44 percent from last year, his GB% on the rise ('06: 36.4, '07: 40.1) and mired in a 2-for-17 slide with six strikeouts since August 6, Ortiz must be promptly auctioned off to the highest bidder before his value plummets. Big Papi has attracted the likes of Roy Halladay, Manny Ramirez and Dan Haren in one-for-one Y! Plus league deals since August 10.
This Week's Two-Start Pitchers
For those steadfast, stream conscious owners who want to push the innings-pitched envelope this is the list for you. Run support, ballpark factors, historical and recent trends, opposing offenses, opposing SPs, managerial tendencies and weather influences are painstakingly taken into account to give you the top double dippers of each week.
Remaining AL Two-Start Pitchers: Chad Gaudin (at Det, KC), Jon Lester (TB, LAA), Kyle Davies (at Tex, at Oak), Brandon McCarthy (KC, at Min), Dustin Moseley (at Tor, at Bos), John Rheinecker (KC, at Min), Odalis Perez (Tor, at Oak)
Remaining NL Two-Start Pitchers: Chris Capuano (StL, Cin), Kip Wells (at Mil, at ChC), Paul Maholm (SF, Phi), Byung-Hyun Kim (at Fla, at Atl), Russ Ortiz (at Atl, at Fla), Shane Youman (SF, Phi), Brett Tomko (Hou, Col), Shawn Hill (Phi, NYM), Matt Albers (at LAD, at SD)
To Catch a Thief
Unrelated to the "Dateline NBC" predator stories, the "Rundown" investigates the best and worst base burglar matchups for the upcoming week. Stats reflect numbers through August 10:
|BEST AND WORST AT CATCHING BASE THIEFS (and this week's opponents)|
|BOTTOM 5 (Worst)||CS||ATT||CS%|
|Josh Bard, SD – (Colorado, Houston)||7||70||0.100|
|Gregg Zaun, Tor – (LA Angels, Baltimore)||5||46||0.108|
|Johnny Estrada, Mil – (St. Louis, Cincinnati)||11||60||0.183|
|John Buck, KC – (at Texas, at Oakland)||7||38||0.184|
|Jason Kendall, ChC – (Cincinnati, St. Louis)||15||74||0.202|
|TOP 5 (Best)||CS||ATT||CS%|
|Joe Mauer, Min – (at Seattle, Texas)||20||34||0.586|
|Yadier Molina, StL – (at Milwaukee, at Chi Cubs)||18||32||0.562|
|David Ross, Cin – (at Chi Cubs, at Milwaukee)||21||51||0.411|
|Kenji Johjima, Sea – (Minnesota, Chi White Sox)||21||53||0.396|
|Gerald Laird, Tex – (Kansas City, at Minnesota)||30||76||0.394|
AL Steals Shopping: Reggie Willits, LAA, OF (30.8% owned), Shannon Stewart, Oak, OF (9.2%), Mark Ellis, Oak, 2B (14.4%)
Feast or Famine?
Torn between two stat-similar corner infielders this week? Use the pitching staff sorter below to help you decide whether or not Adam LaRoche is fantasy feast or famine. Stats are for games played through August 11.
- Rick Ankiel