Known as the Sacagawea of fantasy primers, the Weekly Rundown guides head-to-head owners through a forest of obscure stats and exploitable matchups in an attempt to help solve lineup conundrums. While reading, keep in mind matchups are subject to change due to managerial moves, unforeseen injuries and Mother Nature's influences.
• Milledge's fantasy flavor could be long Lastings down the homestretch.
Washington's Lil' Wayne look-a-like (Edit: We know it's a stretch, but we were subliminally influenced by "Lollipop") has posted crunkalicious numbers in August slapping 13 hits (.419 BA), including four homers, seven RBIs, seven runs and two steals in 31 at-bats. His spectacular 5-for-9, five-RBI doubleheader total in Colorado Thursday was an eye-opener. After his memorable day, the former Mets top prospect told MLB.com:
"Today, I got pitches that are in my hot spot," Milledge said. "To be a great hitter, you have to capitalize on those consistently -- day in and day out. Hopefully, I can be consistent."
During his current nine-game hitting streak, Milledge has been sensationally consistent.
The plucky 23-year-old is spraying the ball to all-fields with dynamite efficiency (35.7 LD% in last nine). On the year, Milledge's more selective plate approach ('07 K%: 22.8, '08: 17.1) has enhanced his contact percentages ('07 CT%: 76.0, '08: 76.9) and subsequently his overall numbers. Apparently, the lessons instilled by Nationals hitting coach Lenny Harris have finally rubbed off on the free-swinging youngster. More comfortable at the dish, he's starting to harness his athletic talents, tapping into his enormous potential.
With Emilio Bonifacio and Cristian Guzman setting the table effectively, Milledge could net appreciable yields in homers, RBIs and steals the rest of the way in 12-team mixed leagues. Owned in just 5.5 percent of Y! leagues, he might just be this year's Nate McLouth.
• Atlanta's Omar Infante must have been a Mongol warlord in a previous life.
The nomadic utilityman, who qualifies at four different positions (2B, 3B, SS, OF) in Y! leagues, filled in admirably for the injured Chipper Jones. So well in fact, Bobby Cox labeled the well-traveled 26-year-old an "everyday player." Per MLB.com:
"He looks like an everyday player to me," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I think he can play on an everyday basis."
The ultra-versatile Infante started in left on Friday and will likely wrestle away at-bats from Gregor Blanco, Mark Kotsay and especially Jeff Francoeur (Post-ASB: .203 BA, 0 HR, 5 RBI) in the Bravos outfield over the final 40-plus games of the season. He'll also occasionally spell Chipper, Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson in the infield.
Batting almost exclusively in the four/five spot while "Larry" recovered from a bum hamstring, Infante collected 21 hits in 66 at-bats (.318 BA) with two homers, 13 RBIs and 12 runs scored.
Given the depth at 2B and OF, most of Infante's immediate value is tied to shortstop. The severe shallowness of the position has launched the Braves Cuisinart into the positions top-12 over the past 30 days in Y! leagues. For Edgar Renteria backers, Infante, who is owned in just 5.6 percent of Y! leagues, could possess medicinal powers.
Infante's improbable 32.9 LD% combined with prolific contact returns (86.2 LD%) are strong indicators he will continue to be an adequate batting average and RBI source at middle infield in deeper 12-team mixed leagues. He isn't particularly exciting in any single category but his well-rounded resourcefulness is invaluable. In many ways, he's the NL's version of Ramon Vazquez, minus the porntastic stache.
• The Schiznit is on the verge of sidewinding his way back to Phoenix.
On Thursday, the 24-year-old powerhouse tossed four scoreless innings, yielding two hits, two walks with six strikeouts. In his past two outings with Triple-A Tucson, Scherzer has punched out 13 and surrendered just three hits in seven innings.
After missing more than a month with shoulder fatigue, Scherzer's fastball is once again registering in the high-90s and his slider and change are improving with each toe of the rubber. Sidewinders pitching coach Mike Parrot remarked to the Arizona Daily Star August 9:
""His fastball is coming out of his hand as freely and as easily as it ever has."
Scherzer added he's rediscovered his groove:
"You take a month off throwing, you're not going to be the same person," he said. "It was just getting back into game reps to get the feel back (of pitches). Once I got more and more reps in the game, the more I got comfortable and the more I was able to throw strikes."
Arizona's current plan for Mad Max is to increase his pitch count in 15-pitch increments over his next few appearances, eventually having him eclipse 100 tosses within the next two weeks.
Once he returns to full strength, the D-Backs will likely reassess their rotation situation. If stopgap Yusmeiro Petit, who has a 3.60 ERA in his past three starts, continues to pitch reasonably well, its possible Doug Davis (12 ER in last 6 IP) could become a rotation casualty. Regardless of who clears space for the 95 percent available Scherzer, he is someone to stash immediately in deep-benched 12-team mixed leagues. His colossal K-upside could provide plenty of punch for owners battling for points in strikeouts.
*Ride the Pine: Michael Cuddyer (broken foot)
Hidden Lumberjacks (last 7 days): Emilio Bonifacio, Was, 2B (11-32, 3 RBI, SB, 0.17% owned), Marlon Byrd, Tex, OF (11-27, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0.30%), Lastings Milledge, (11-27, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 5.5%), Denard Span, Min, OF (10-24, 5 RBI, 2 SB, 0.95%), Daniel Murphy, NYM, 3B (9-18, 3 RBI, 0.05%)
Whiffers o' the weak (last 7 days): Michael Young, Tex, SS (5-27, 10 K, 99.9%), Adam Dunn, Cin, OF (4-24, 9 K, 99.9%), Josh Hamilton, Tex, OF (4-22, 9 K, 99.9%), Adrian Gonzalez, SD, 1B (2-20, 8 K, 99.9%), Troy Glaus, StL, 3B (4-24, 6 K, 93.6%)
For 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 meteorological influences are painstakingly taken into account to give you the top double dippers of each week.
Other NL Double Dippers: Jeff Karstens, Pit (Cin, NYM), Jonathan Sanchez, SF (at Hou, at Atl), Jeff Francis, Col (Ari, at Was), Odalis Perez, Was (NYM, Col), Jeff Suppan, Mil (at SD, at LAD), Joel Pineiro, StL (at Fla, at Cin), Chuck James, Atl (ChC, SF), Zach Duke, Pit (at NYM, NYM), Brandon Backe, Hou (SF, Ari), Che Seung Baek, SD (Mil, Phi)
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 8:
FEAST OR FAMINE?
Torn between two stat-similar infielders this week? Use the pitching and hitting staff sorters below to help you decide whether or not Adam LaRoche or Scott Olsen is fantasy feast or famine. Stats are for games played through August 8:
Full Slate (teams with 7 games): Baltimore, Boston, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Florida, Houston, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Louis, Toronto, Washington