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.
It's "Groundhog Day" again in the Big Apple.
For the third time in as many seasons, premiere prospect Phil Hughes will lead mixed leaguers down temptation's road. Rumored to take the ball Tuesday at Detroit in place of Chien-Ming Wang, who was DL'ed Friday by
a severe case of suckitis hip weakness, the much ballyhooed starter will once again try to shoulder mammoth expectations.
His first two attempts were considerable failures.
During his inaugural campaign in '07, he showed occasional flashes of brilliance, but his unpolished control (3.59 BB/9) marked him untrustworthy in mixed formats. The following year, the powerful righty, somewhat seasoned with over 72 big league innings pitched, was expected to make significant strides. Unfortunately, he suffered a stress fracture in his ribs in April, marring his highly anticipated "breakthrough" season.
Still a wee lad at 22, the third time could be the charm for King Philip.
Unlike a year ago, Hughes began '09 in a tensionless situation. The early returns have been spectacular. In three minor league starts, he's looked composed, exuded confidence and dominated. Embarrassing opponents with a lethal mixture of blazing fastballs and filthy offspeed junk, he's compiled an 8.84 K/9 in 19.1 innings. In his last start Thursday against Buffalo, he skinned the Bison, conceding just one run over 7.2 innings. He also notched a sensational 7:1 K:BB split. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitching coach Scott Aldred was amazed by the performance:
"From a ‘pitch' perspective, that's the best I've seen him pitch this season. He did what we're looking for - the ability to throw any pitch in any count. His cutter was real good. His curveball was outstanding."
Hughes has overpowered Triple-A hitters before, but the difference between this season and previous campaigns is rooted in his ability to throw the bender for strikes, a quality he's yet to showcase routinely at the major league level. If his impeccable command carries over (1.40 BB/9 at Triple-A) and he can induce more groundball outs (40.0 GB%), the 35 percent-owned glove-popper may finally don a jeweled crown.
If the reports prove true, K-strapped owners in 12-team and deeper mixed leagues should acquire and insert Hughes into their lineups for Week 4.
Fearless Forecast: 130 IP, 9 W, 4.02 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 118 K
• Premiere centerfielder, and "Farm Aid" subject from earlier this season, Andrew McCutchen (three percent-owned), could be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis possibly as early as this week. The oblique strain Nate McLouth has battled with over the past couple games is worse than originally thought. Pirates management has not ruled out a possible DL stint for their star centerfielder.
McCutchen, arguably one of the brightest all-around outfield prospects in the minors, has scorched at Triple-A, collecting a .304 BA with a homer, six RBI, five triples and four steals in 69 at-bats. He's also posted an admirable .351 OBP. Given his plus tools, keen eye and drag-racer wheels he could yield instant dividends in SBs if promoted. With a torrid trial run, he could force McLouth permanently to left. If that situation unfolds, Nyjer Morgan could supplant the light-hitting Brandon Moss in right, a position he played six times in '08.
Owners with limited bench options in very deep mixed and NL-only formats should stash the 22-year-old immediately.
• Coincidentally, as the thermometer has heated up in Chi-Town so has Alexei Ramirez's stick. Responding positively to threats he would be moved to the bottom of the order, Senor Grand Slam cracked his fifth-career salami off Jays reliever Shawn Camp Saturday night. The Cuban import, who moseyed out of the gates a year ago (.138 BA in April), has slapped six hits in his past 18 at-bats with a homer, five RBIs, three runs and two steals.
In his brief career, Ramirez has notoriously scored in bunches. Based on his recent yields, the buy-low window is quickly closing. Owners in need of an upgrade at short should pitch a discounted offer before Sexy Alexei ditches Mr. Mendoza once and for all.
• Battered, bruised or should not be used: Brian McCann (eye, 15-day DL), Jon Lackey (elbow, beginning rehab soon), Aramis Ramirez (calf, out 4-5 days), Joe Mauer (back, rehabbing in minors), Stephen Drew (hamstring, DL stint likely), Alex Rodriguez (rehab assignment could begin late next week), Melvin Mora (might return Tuesday), Carlos Marmol (knee, will miss 4-5 games), Josh Hamilton (ribs, day-to-day), Cole Hamels (missing '08 mojo)
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 AL Double Dippers: Scott Baker, Min (TB, KC), Brett Anderson, Oak (at Tex, at Sea), Jeff Niemann, TB (at Min, Bos), Chris Jakubauskas, Sea (at ChW, Oak), Shane Loux, LAA (at Bal, at NYY), Matt Harrison, Tex (at Bal, ChW)
Other NL Double Dippers: Braden Looper, Mil (Pit, Ari), Barry Zito, SF (LAD, Col), Jeff Karstens, Pit (at Mil, Cin), Yusmeiro Petit, Ari (ChC, at Mil), Josh Geer, SD (at Col, at LAD), John Lannan, Was (at Phi, StL), Jason Hammel, Col (SD, at SF), Livan Hernandez, NYM (Fla, at Phi), Shairon Martis, Was (at Phi, StL)
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 April 25:
Image courtesy of Getty