There's plenty of fantasy action to catch up on this week, including new injuries, players on the mend and those who should be on the radar as we hit the summer months. Let's get inside Fantasy Baseball This Week.
The injury that everyone is talking about is the derailment of Clint Barmes' run to the NL Rookie of the Year. He sustained a broken collarbone while walking up a flight of stairs and carrying his groceries. He became impatient while waiting for an elevator and, well, the rest is history, as is the tremendous season he'd put together for fantasy owners. I know online grocery delivery provider Webvan is defeated, but isn't Peapod still around? Doctors think it'll be at least three months before Barmes is ready to begin rehabbing. You know what that means – Get thee to the waiver wire and toss Barmes back to the masses.
Johnny Estrada got lit up by Darin Erstad in the eighth inning of Monday's game against the Angels. He took a shoulder-first, Road Warrior-like hit at the plate. Early speculation is that Estrada may be out of commission for the next week and could hit the DL (shoulder and neck). Brayan Pena will start in his place for now, and Eddie Perez is due back from the DL shortly.
Jeff Bagwell will finally head to the operating table to repair his damaged right shoulder. A very optimistic analysis has him eyeing an early September return. Forget about it. Unless the Astros make a remarkable turnaround to rival that of 2004 and get back into contention, Bagwell is done for the year. Those owners and Bagwell loyalists holding out for a big return need to let it go.
Brian Roberts continues to sit out with his rotator cuff injury and is listed as day-to-day until he can convince Lee Mazzilli that he's ready to return. If you're in a weekly league, it's possible that you'll miss out on stats this week. Those in daily leagues need to be vigilantly following Roberts' progress each night and await the submission of starting lineups.
Todd Greene will join Barmes on the DL with a hamstring injury. He had seen increased playing time in place of the struggling J.D. Closser (.183, 1 HR). Danny Ardoin, who was hitting .338 with six homers and 24 RBIs at Triple-A Colorado Springs, was recalled for Greene's inevitable trip to the DL.
The injured left foot of Chipper Jones finally forced him to the DL. He battled valiantly to stay in the lineup, and fantasy owners paid for it. Jones was mired in a 1-for-27 slump and hadn't homered in nearly a month. He'll have an MRI to determine whether he'll need surgery. Andy Marte was recalled to take Jones' place on the roster. The 21-year old slugger is one of the top prospects in the game and one of the most highly anticipated call-ups for the '05 season.
Jaret Wright increased his throwing distance to 90 feet in a rehab session on Monday, an encouraging sign that his arm strength is returning. He hopes to be throwing off a mound in the next two weeks. The Yankees will take any good news they can get on the beleaguered pitching staff. He won't be ready for another month, but his progress should be monitored, as he's likely to have been dropped in loads of leagues.
Kevin Brown is nursing a bruised throwing shoulder and may be forced to miss his next turn in the rotation. Though he put together a four-game winning streak in May, Brown has been mostly awful this season. Fantasy owners need to watch this situation in the event that it further deteriorates.
Erubiel Durazo will miss at least another week with tendonitis in his left elbow. He's itching to get back into the lineup now that Bobby Crosby has returned and Eric Chavez is hitting again – AL Player of the Week.
Rich Harden tossed from the front of the mound on Sunday as he works toward a return from his strained oblique injury. The A's estimate that he's still another 2-3 weeks away from returning.
Finally, some good news for Scott Rolen owners. He had a productive week of rehab, including some work in the batting cages. Rolen won't return for another 2-3 weeks, but those owners running with the likes of Joe Crede and Mike Lowell in his absence will no doubt be psyched to hear of his progress.
Neifi Perez, 2B/SS, ChC: Perez is the popular choice for owners still trying to grasp the loss of Clint Barmes. He owns an 11-game hitting streak and has provided contributions to all five traditional scoring categories. He's hitting .319 with seven homers, 26 RBIs and four stolen bases. With Nomar Garciaparra's return date still up in the air, he's worth a look-see on the waiver wire given his dual position eligibility.
Morgan Ensberg, 3B, Hou: While he has yet to become a consistent threat, Ensberg is showing shades of the player that made fantasy owners sit up and take notice in the summer of 2003. He has clubbed four homers in his past ten games and raised his average back to .292.
Troy Percival, RP, Det: Percival returned from the DL over the weekend and will handle the set-up role for the Tigers until manager Alan Trammell deems him ready to resume his closing duties. There's much speculation that either Percival or Ugueth Urbina (eight saves in Percival's absence) will be dealt soon.
Chase Utley, 2B, Phi: From my attendance of the Phillies-Diamondbacks double-header on Saturday, I began to grasp the popularity of Utley in the Philly area. He received thunderous applause in each of his at-bats. Fantasy owners are jumping aboard the Utley bandwagon this week, as he's contributed nine RBIs and hit safely in six of his past seven games. He's proving to be one of the most consistent middle infield performers, offering both power and speed.
Reggie Sanders, OF, StL: Sanders is not going to light up the batting average column, but the rest of his numbers make him a fantasy mainstay. Through Monday, Sanders had slugged 11 homers to go with nine stolen bases. With two multi-steal games on the books in June already, owners are hoping that manager Tony LaRussa continues to let the veteran outfielder roam free on the basepaths.
Glendon Rusch, SP/RP, ChC: Rusch has been outstanding for the Cubs and one of the catalysts for their recent success. He's allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his six starts and has won three straight outings.
Cory Lidle, SP, Phi: The Phillies are heating up, but Lidle struggled mightily again on Monday against Arizona. He allowed six earned runs and eight hits in three innings of work. That outing elevated his home ERA to 7.36 with a WHIP of 1.91 (.362 average against). You can comfortably start him on the road, where his ERA stands at a solid 2.87 with an accompanying WHIP of 1.11.
Eric Hinske, 1B/3B, Tor: Hinkse takes a 2-for-19 slide into a week of interleague play at National League sites. As such, he's likely the odd man out and looking at pinch-hitting opportunities only.
Mike Hampton, SP, Atl: Hampton returned to the DL after experiencing tightness in his forearm again. He's been brilliant when available, but his 6.1 innings of work in the past month isn't inspiring fantasy owners.
Ryan Klesko, LF/1B, SD: Klesko has already hit more homers in 2005 (10) than all of last year (nine), but that hasn't been enough to keep him from being dumped by anxious fantasy owners. He's missed two straight games with the flu after a 2-for-20 funk.
Ryan Wagner, RP, Cin: Two miserable outings in Colorado (eight earned runs in 2.1 innings pitched) were enough to shake fantasy owners' confidence in the young reliever. He's yet to record a save as part of the Reds' closer by committee situation. Wagner is still considered the top option out of the pen, but the pattern of use in the Cincy pen makes us want to see it to believe it.
Milton Bradley, OF, LAD: The slight ligament tear in Bradley's right ring finger forced him to the DL and prompted fantasy owners to send him packing. He's struggling to grip the bat right now, but is eligible to return from the DL in a week's time. The jettison of Bradley to the DL was premature and you should capitalize on the itchy trigger fingers of owners in your league. Even though his average was down in May, his power production (five homers and 10 RBIs) and speed (four SB), cannot be ignored.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Matt Holliday, OF, Col
Holliday has hit safely in 15 of his past 17 games, with three homers and three steals in that period. He's raised his batting average 35 points in that span.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Josh Towers, SP, Tor
After rattling off four straight wins in May, Towers has lost his past three starts. He's allowed 27 hits and15 earned runs in his past 14.2 innings pitched.
HOT AND COLD
Eric Chavez, 3B, Oak: After receiving hundreds of emails calling for his ouster, Chavez's bat finally awakened this week. He's hit .348 over the past seven days with three homers and eight RBIs.
Brian Fuentes, RP, Col: That's right, I'm putting a Rockies pitcher on the list! Fuentes had a great week, converting three saves and picking up a win. He's still available in a number of leagues, so those looking for immediate bullpen help should act quickly.
Nook Logan, OF, Det: Logan has hit safely in eight of his past nine games and raised his batting average to .311. More importantly, he's swiped five bases in that stretch to bring his season total to 11.
Randy Wolf, SP, Phi: Wolf has won five of his past six starts after a 1-4 start. He pitched well enough to win the sixth start in this stretch, but the Phillies bullpen betrayed him. He's allowed three or fewer earned runs in six of his past seven outings, yet he remains available in a number of leagues. He's allowed only two earned runs in his past 13.2 innings of work.
Dan Haren, SP, Oak: To quote the Traveling Wilburys, "he's been beat up and battered around." Well, Haren is finally getting the run support that abandoned him earlier in the season and has contributed two straight wins for fantasy owners – 16 innings, three earned runs. OK, so the opponents (Tampa Bay, Toronto) have left some owners skeptical, but there's no denying Haren's upside. And, the A's are finally starting to hit.
Tim Wakefield, SP, Bos: Wakefield is currently riding a five-game losing streak. He's allowed 11 earned runs in his past 11.1 innings of work while allowing 16 hits and six walks (1.94 WHIP).
Gregg Zaun, C, Tor: After a great first six weeks of the season, Zaun has fallen on hard times. He's knocked in only one run in his past 12 games. Additionally, Zaun is just three for his past 21 at-bats.
Guillermo Mota, RP, Fla: Since returning from the DL, Mota has been ineffective. He's allowed eight earned runs in his past three outings, watching his ERA balloon to 6.28 from 1.69. Mota will continue to play set-up man to Todd Jones.
Casey Blake, 3B/OF, Cle: The time to let Blake go is well in the past. Blake remains saddled with a batting average under .200 and has not homered since May 11th. With the returns of Jody Gerut and Coco Crisp, there's no room in the Indians outfield.
Sammy Sosa, OF, Bal: Since returning from the DL, Sosa has been awful. This past week he hit .154 (4-for-26) with one HR and one RBI. The O's may still be hot, but Sosa is on ice.
Juan Pierre, Fla, OF
Why he's being dealt: Current owners don't see the big average swing forthcoming. Those acquiring him think that his four steals in his past seven games might be the start of something.
What you're getting: Recent straight up deals for Pierre have involved fellow speed merchants Ryan Freel and Chone Figgins, starting pitcher Matt Clement and struggling sluggers Jim Thome and Aubrey Huff. Package deals pair him with young starters such as Ben Sheets and Rich Harden in exchange for RBI machines such as Garret Anderson, Manny Ramirez and the surging Vernon Wells. One of those hitters is paired with a second-tier starting pitcher or a member of a closer-by-committee situation.
Kenny Rogers, Tex, SP
Why he's being dealt: Current owners feel that they've gotten the best out of the 40-year old hurler. Those acquiring him suspect that the wins will continue due to the power-laden Rangers offense, even if the ERA and WHIP are likely to inflate some.
Mark Buehrle, CWS, SP
Why he's being dealt: Buehrle has been spectacular for the White Sox, compiling a record of 7-1 with an ERA of 3.15. I've received several notes from owners looking to deal him due to the amount of innings they've run through. Buehrle himself is already approaching 100 innings for the season.
What you're getting: The deals for Buehrle have been all over the place this week, with separate straight up deals returning slugger Kevin Mench, hitting machine Ichiro Suzuki and Melvin Mora. Package deals usually ship Buehrle with a player at a scarce position (Joe Mauer, Johnny Estrada and middle infielder Felipe Lopez are but three examples) in exchange for players of the caliber of Gary Sheffield, Mark Teixeira and Joe Nathan.
Todd Jones, Fla, RP
Why he's being dealt: Those set in the closer spots are dangling Jones to those crippled by injuries or committee situations. With the number of bullpen oddities this year, those left without closer help have no option but to deal.
What you're getting: A number of players seen as under-performing for the early part of the schedule have been targeted by Jones' owners. Separate deals this week returned Victor Martinez, Bret Boone and the aforementioned Juan Pierre.
Coors Field Factor:
The Rockies will finish the long homestand with a final game against the White Sox and Orlando Hernandez on Wednesday and a weekend visit by the Tigers.
El Duque had a solid outing for the Sox in his return from the DL against Cleveland. He pitched scoreless ball for five of six innings, but allowed four earned runs in a rough Cleveland third. This will mark his first career start against Colorado.
With his efforts on Monday night (2-for-3, 1 HR, 2 RBIs), Paul Konerko improved his disappointing career numbers at Coors. He's now hit two homers and driven in five runs in 34 career at-bats at Colorado. Konerko has only hit .235 to boot.
Moving ahead to the weekend, Ivan Rodriguez owns a career average of .429 with two homers and 10 RBIs at Coors. Since breaking a bone in his hand, Rodriguez has strung together a five-game hitting streak.
Dmitri Young has slammed four homers in his past 10 games and will be excited to hit Coors Field. In 24 career games, he's hit .344 with two homers and 18 RBIs. Young has also hit 12 doubles over those 24 games.
Since his recall to the big leagues, Chris Shelton has shown great discipline at the plate. He's gone 5-for-16 and knocked in two runs. I expect manager Alan Trammell to find him a few at-bats over the weekend. Nothing boosts the confidence of a young hitter like a trip to Coors!
Matchups to watch:
Chris Capuano and the Brewers face Mike Mussina and the Yankees on Wednesday night in Milwaukee. Capuano possesses an ERA of 3.01, which is the danger zone for the Yankees. They're 0-20 this year when they've scored three or fewer runs.
Jake Peavy takes his unbeaten record to the hill on Wednesday when he faces the Cleveland Indians at Petco Park. He was skipped over the weekend while battling the flu. The Indians are averaging 4.1 runs per game on the road. Peavy owns a career 2.45 ERA in 20 Petco starts. Teammate Adam Eaton (8-1, 3.48) will follow him in the rotation against Jake Westbrook on Thursday.
Tom Glavine will look to keep his resurgence going on Thursday against the Houston Astros. He won his past two starts and allowed two earned runs over 13.2 innings of work. The Astros have a 5-22 record on the road this season, and Glavine is 4-3 with a 4.15 ERA at Shea Stadium. He's won three of his past five starts and pitched well enough that he could have won a fourth. Andy Pettitte will oppose Glavine in this one.
One of the most anticipated series of the year kicks off on Friday when the Boston Red Sox visit the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Bronson Arroyo will match up against Greg Maddux in the first game of the series. Arroyo is trying to get into the win column for the first time since May 5th while Maddux looks to make it three straight.
Meanwhile, the Yankees invade the Cardinals for a three-game set. Chien Ming-Wang, who has won his past three decisions, will take on Jason Marquis (7-3, 3.50) in the first game of the series. Marquis has pitched at least five innings in each of his starts.
IT'S A FACT
Through 12 starts in the 2005 season, 40-year old hurler Kenny Rogers has compiled a record of 8-2 with a Major League-leading ERA of 1.62. You would need to turn the clock back to 1989 to find Rogers' only full season with an ERA under 3.00, which he accomplished as a reliever. The NL leader is Roger Clemens, showing that the veterans can still get it done.
I had the good fortune of visiting Philadelphia for a twinbill with the Diamondbacks this past weekend. I had hoped that the baseball gods would align the matchups to send Javier Vazquez against Brett Myers for my first look at Citizens Bank Park. Instead, I watched Vazquez get battered around in the first game, surrendering eight earned runs over four innings – Bobby Abreu's second HR landed just four rows in front of me. I thought about diving onto the masses, but with no big payday on the line, I didn't want to sacrifice my typing ability – Myers started the nightcap, and he gave the Philly faithful some anxious moments early, but made the pitches when he needed to, striking out six in his six innings of work.
I enjoyed my trip to the Philly area, taking in some grub at Tony Luke's before heading to the stadium. The amount consumed kept me from loading up once we arrived, so I'll take recommendations as to whether Pat's or Geno's is the next stop upon my return to the area. The highlight of the night, though, was getting a chance to meet my boyhood idol, Greg Luzinski up near Bull's BBQ area in right-center. Check the photos of "The Bull" during his time in Chicago and my mug on this page. It just seems right that my dad tagged me with the same nickname.