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:
- Beluga Bob Wickman (97.3 percent owned) has finally been harpooned. On Friday, the corpulent closer was designated for assignment by the Braves. Wickman has as many saves (20) as walks this season and has registered three blown saves in his past nine end-game chances. A contender in need of veteran bullpen help will undoubtedly pitch a low-ball offer for the stubby stopper. However, he's destined to work in middle-relief over the remainder of the season and deserves to rot on league waiver wires. Flamethrower Rafael Soriano will take over ninth-inning duties in the short-term with Octavio Dotel netting some opportunities when he returns from a right triceps strain sometime in mid-September. Although Soriano has struggled over the second half (5.21 ERA, 2.8 HR/9), he excelled in late-game execution in early May converting four save chances. Blessed with a 97 mph fastball and a filthy offsetting slider, he has the stuff to be a top-ten closer in NL-only and top 20 stopper in mixed leagues. Soriano, owned in just over half of Yahoo! leagues, will net roughly 4-6 saves in September as long as he can avoid being tattooed by the long-ball (14.3 HR/FB%).
- Cubs budget-breaker Alfonso Soriano has seen dramatic improvement in his injured right quadriceps over the past few days and could be activated in time for the Cubs' pivotal series against the Brewers on Tuesday. Originally, the Fonz was scheduled to return around Labor Day, but Lou Piniella said on Friday that his prized left fielder looked "amazing" running around the bases. Soriano took batting practice without recourse on Friday and was noticeably "upbeat, jovial and joking around in the clubhouse." At this point it seems very likely he'll return to action no later than mid-week. Once activated, Soriano is expected to resume hitting in the lead-off spot, forcing the red-hot Ryan Theriot (.320 BA since Aug. 5) back to his customary position as the No. 2 hitter. Even though he has looked fluent around the bases, don't expect Soriano to get the green light on the basepaths anytime soon. With the Cubs in a heated division race, Sweet Lou will exercise extreme caution with Soriano in order to keep him healthy. Owners must erase any thoughts of Soriano reaching 25 steals, but expect his power numbers to remain potent.
- Joe Torre and Derek Jeter must secretively practice Voodoo. Gary Sheffield aggravated his shoulder injury during batting practice early last week and will likely be out until at least September 1. Hopefully you heeded my warning three weeks ago when I strongly recommended dealing the maligned Tigers outfielder while his value still commanded fair market value. Sheffield has hit a paltry .185 this month with one homer and four RBI. Because his bum shoulder will continue to be a nuisance, it wouldn't be a dunce move to drop Sheffield in shallow mixed leagues. For those willing to demote the nine-time All-Star, Jeremy Hermida (Aug: .375 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI), Jonny Gomes (.257 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI), Ryan Spilborghs (.267 BA, 3 HR, 8 RBI) and Matt Kemp (.333 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB) are all viable pop replacements owned in fewer than five percent of Yahoo! leagues.
- Reigning AL batting champ Joe Mauer pulled up lame Saturday night, suffering a significant hamstring injury – a 15-day DL stint appears likely. Prior to the injury, Mauer complained on Friday that he's dealt with "general fatigue" at the plate stemming from a previous quad injury. His confession obviously explains his lack of power at the plate this season (1 HR per 72 at-bats). Those scrambling to find a signal caller on waivers who won't destroy your batting average should scour the wire for Josh Bard (10-for-his-last-22, 3.3 percent owned), Kurt Suzuki (.272 BA, 2 HR, 10 RBI since Aug. 5, 1.5 percent owned) or, Mauer's replacement, Mike Redmond (.288 BA in 243 at-bats, 0.97 percent owned).
- For those in search of a middle-infield waiver wire savior, investigate the whereabouts of Cleveland Indians second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera (0.03 percent owned). As noted in last week's "Rundown," Cabrera, despite having a first name that sounds like a term out of a proctology textbook, is a bootylicious source of batting average and runs. He has slapped five multi-hit games in his past seven and was promoted by Eric Wedge on Saturday to the run-friendly two-hole. Cabrera is expected to be a fixture in that position over the remainder of the season making him a quality pick-up for those in deeper leagues who are tired of dealing with mediocrity or injuries (i.e. Ray Durham, Edgar Renteria or Dan Uggla) at middle-infield.
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: Daniel Cabrera (TB, at Bos), Jeff Weaver (LAA, at Tor), John Danks (at Tex, at Cle) Edwin Jackson (at ChW, at NYY), Jose Contreras (TB, at Cle), Jason Hammel (at Bal, at NYY)
Remaining NL Two-Start Pitchers: Kip Wells (at Hou, Cin), Justin Germano (Ari, LAD), Woody Williams (StL, ChC), J.D. Durbin (NYM, at Fla), Josh Fogg (at SF, at Ari), Lance Cormier (at Fla, NYM), Elizardo Ramirez (at Pit, at StL), Fabio Castro (NYM, at Fla)
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 24:
|BEST AND WORST AT CATCHING BASE THIEFS (and this week's opponents)|
|BOTTOM 5 (Worst)||CS||ATT||CS%|
|Josh Bard, SD – (Arizona, LA Dodgers)||8||87||0.091|
|Gregg Zaun, Tor – (at Oakland, Seattle)||10||65||0.153|
|Johnny Estrada, Mil – (at Chi Cubs, Pittsburgh)||11||68||0.161|
|Jason Kendall, ChC – (Milwaukee, Houston)||18||93||0.193|
|John Buck, KC – (Detroit, at Minnesota)||9||43||0.209|
|TOP 5 (Best)||CS||ATT||CS%|
|Yadier Molina, StL – (at Houston, Cincinnati)||20||36||0.555|
|Joe Mauer, Min – (at Cleveland, Kansas City)||21||39||0.538|
|Kenji Johjima, Sea – (LA Angels, at Toronto)||23||60||0.383|
|Gerald Laird, Tex – (Chi White Sox, at LA Angels)||31||81||0.382|
|Chris Snyder, Ari – (at San Diego, Colorado)||23||67||0.343|
AL Steals Shopping: Shannon Stewart, Oak, OF (7.4% owned), Cameron Maybin, Det, OF (3.4%), Nick Punto, Min, 2B/SS/3B (3.2%), Alexi Casilla, Min, 2B (0.29%)
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 25.