Is anyone still playing fantasy baseball? Was that a starting outfield of Preston Wilson, Magglio Ordonez and Tim Salmon I came across in one of my leagues today? Doesn't anyone relish the role of spoiler anymore? Sure, it doesn't measure up to winning, but there's something to be said for influencing the league championship from the bottom of the standings. Just make sure that when you steal the point that knocks the leader down to second, you let him know you're the one who put him there. On to the weekend that was:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- The curveball was every bit as nasty as advertised. The fastball didn't quite measure up to scouting reports, but after seven masterful innings, who's going to squabble over a few digits on the radar gun? Philadelphia's Gavin Floyd will not save Larry Bowa's job and he probably isn't a fantasy savior this year, but his Major League debut Friday against New York was noteworthy nonetheless. First the numbers: seven innings, four hits, one earned run, two walks, five strikeouts.
Now the reality: Floyd probably faced a tougher lineup in his last start for Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Jeff Keppinger? Gerald Williams? Eric Valent? As disgruntled Tribe fans asked before Jake Taylor and Roger Dorn turned things around in Major League, "Who are these guys?" Remember – the Mets have scored two or fewer runs in nine of their last 15 games. Not a bad team to break in against. Floyd, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2001 draft, gets his next start Wednesday at Atlanta.
- Depending on which play on words you prefer, a young pitcher either has Houston Back(e) in the race or he's carrying them to the playoffs on his Back(e). Your local sports anchor probably doesn't care that Backe, as in Brandon Backe, is pronounced BACK-ee. Heck, you can butcher the name all you want so long as you don't lose sight of some eye-popping numbers. If you toss out one unfortunate outing at Wrigley Field, Backe is 2-0 in three career starts with a 0.45 ERA and a WHIP of 1.05.
Not bad for a converted outfielder who couldn't cut it in the Tampa Bay organization. Is Backe a fluke destined to crash down to earth like Noah Lowry of the Giants? Maybe. He wasn't considered a top prospect entering this year, which is always a red flag. But his Triple-A numbers were solid (6-5, 2.80, 74 Ks in 64.1 IP) and he's already fared well at Minute Made Park (1-1, 3.00 ERA). He also has a fantasy friendly schedule, with starts against Pittsburgh and Milwaukee twice on the horizon.
- Several injury updates could have a dramatic effect on fantasy leagues. Johnny Damon went on the DL Monday, meaning that 30-plus stolen base guy Dave Roberts once again has fantasy value. He has only one stolen base since joining Boston on August 3. … Edwin Jackson completed his rehab assignment with the Dodgers and will re-join the team later this week. Jackson is 2-0 in three starts this year and merits attention as a spot-starter. … The injury to Kevin Brown gives prospect Brad Halsey another chance to prove he belongs in the majors. Halsey was 11-4 for Triple-A Columbus this year and he looked like a big leaguer in starts against Los Angeles and Boston earlier this year. He'll get his next start Wednesday against Tampa Bay … Finally, Jarrod Washburn returned from the DL Saturday to pitch five strong innings in a win at Cleveland. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his last seven starts.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Jason Michaels, PHI, OF – Michaels was a teammate of Pat Burrell at the University of Miami, and to a degree he owes some of his recent success to his old college buddy. It was Burrell's injury in early August that allowed Michaels to begin seeing regular at-bats. Since breaking an 0-for-9 skid on August 21, Michaels is batting .362 (21-for-58) with three homers and nine RBIs. Burrell is back now, but that isn't about to force the streaking Michaels out of the lineup. Marlon Byrd has been miserable, so manager Larry Bowa will go with dual Hurricanes in his outfield until one or both cools off.
- Rodrigo Lopez, BAL, SP – Jon Leiber could get the nod here, but his recent success has come at the expense of the dregs of the American League. Lopez has returned to 2002 form against the class of the junior circuit. His improbable run of success began on August 7 when he held Texas scoreless over 6.2 innings, allowing only two hits and striking out seven. Since then he has road wins at Anaheim and New York as well as quality no-decisions against Texas and Oakland (twice). Not bad for a guy who pitched his way out of the rotation in 2003. He should draw two starts against Toronto and one versus Detroit down the stretch.
SPEED-O-METER: Checking the latest movements on the basepaths
- Clint Barmes, COL, SS (Still waiting) – Barmes was thrown out Wednesday, so the wait for his first big league steal continues. He does have a homer and five RBIs in six games and he hasn't even played at Coors Field yet.
- David Wright, NYM, 3B (30/30 preview?)– Mets rookie is 7-for-17 with three homers and three steals in September. He had 22 steals and 18 homers in the minors this year.
- Scott Podsednik, MIL, OF (Back in gear) – Benched occasionally in August, Podsednik has seven steals and two four-hit games in his last eight contests.
- Coco Crisp, CLE, OF (Still trying) – Crisp is batting .378 (17-for-45) since August 24. Unfortunately, he's only slightly more successful on the basepaths over the same span (2-for-5). He's been caught 11 times in 27 attempts on the year.
- Chris Burke, HOU, 2B (Called Up) – Burke began his second stint with Houston on Sept. 2. The former first-round pick was third in the Pacific Coast League with 37 steals this year. He'll sit behind Jeff Kent as long as Houston remains in the playoff chase.
- Brian Roberts, BAL, 2B (Nothing in the tank?) – Roberts continues to pile up hits – he's batting .364 since Aug. 1 – but suddenly he can't run. He has one steal in the same span and has been nailed in each of his last four attempts.
- Luis Terrero, ARI, OF (4 steals/last 10 games) – Continues to command attention with 14 hits, two homers and four steals since August 25.
- Corey Patterson, CHI, OF (Oh no Canada!) – Patterson was 0-for-17 in four games against Montreal through Monday. He has just one steal in Chicago's last 11 games.
PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm
- Jeremy Reed, SEA, OF (In the majors) – ETA: Called up September 6
The Mariners have been well represented here in 2004, which means either their future is bright, or The Skinny is trying to curry favor with his editor, a Seattle native. Whatever the case, Reed is the latest prospect to surface on the M's big league roster. Acquired from Chicago in the Freddy Garcia deal, he hit .305 with 13 stolen bases in 61 games for Triple-A Tacoma. Reed stole 45 bases and hit nearly .375 as the prize of the White Sox organization in 2003. With the futures of Raul Ibanez and Randy Winn up in the air, the club will be well served to give Reed a long look as a long season winds down.
- Ben Hendrickson, MIL, SP (In the majors) – ETA: Recalled August 30
Hendrickson struck out seven over six strong innings Saturday to beat Cincinnati and earn his first major league win. That's the good news. The bad news is the rookie is now 1-6 after seven career appearances. Like many young pitchers, however, he appears to have benefited from a return trip to the minors. He was 3-1 for Triple-A Indianapolis in August, including a two-hit shutout on August 20 against Louisville. He finished the year on the farm with an 11-3 record and a 2.02 ERA. He'll get another shot at the Reds in his next start on.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
.670 Minor league slugging percentage recorded in 2004 by Dallas McPherson, who was recalled by the Angels Monday. McPherson, who has 90 extra-base hits and 75 singles, would lead the American League with that total (.623 Ramirez).