September offers a little something for every fantasy owner. For those of you still in contention, it's nail-biting time as you micro-manage in hopes of squeezing out every last roto point or category win. For the rest of you, September call-ups provide an opportunity to test drive prospects in advance of 2005 drafts. As we inch closer to the fantasy playoffs, The Skinny will try to cater to both groups of managers.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- It might have been too much for Mets fans to take. Newsday reported Sunday that Victor Zambrano may be shut down for the season to let his strained elbow heal. This news broke less than a week after the guy they traded to get Zambrano – 2002 first-round draft pick Scott Kazmir – pitched five shutout innings to win his Major League debut. A solid second start by Kazmir Sunday against Oakland might have sent New York fans to the streets on the heels of 100,000 anti-Bush protesters. Thankfully for New York's finest, it wasn't meant to be.
Kazmir hit 96 mph on the radar gun against Oakland and displayed the same nasty off-speed stuff that kept Seattle off balance in his debut, but he put too many pitches over the heart of the plate and Oakland made him pay. He allowed nine hits and five earned runs and failed to make it out of the fourth inning. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on the remainder of Kazmir's season. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff and could be a solid sleeper pick in 2005 drafts.
- The Skinny was equal parts impressed and frightened by Jeff Francis' Major League debut Wednesday. He struck out the first batter he faced. He retired 10 straight batters against one of the hottest teams in baseball. He struck out eight and walked only one in five innings. Success? Well, there is the matter of the three home run balls he served up. Not exactly what you're looking for when grooming a prospect for life at Coors Field.
Despite the loss, it was an impressive outing. Francis' delivery is similar to that of Pittsburgh ace Oliver Perez. Both get the ball on top of hitters in a hurry and from an angle that will make things difficult on left-handed hitters. Fantasy owners in need of a strikeout boost could do worse than sign Francis and bench him strategically at home when the opponent isn't favorable. We'll see Act II out of Francis Tuesday at San Francisco.
- Those of you who spent the bulk of last week shuffling tight ends up and down your draft cheat sheet might be interested to hear that Troy Glaus is back in the Anaheim lineup. Not surprisingly, he was the most added position player in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball leagues over the weekend. After nearly four months on the DL, Glaus is like found money for fantasy owners – any return is a bonus. He hit two homers in five games during his Class-A rehab assignment, a sign that it may not take long for him to resume his torrid power pace from early April.
Glaus will DH for the remainder of the season, allowing Chone Figgins (.260, 6 SB in August) to retain his fantasy value. Glaus' return signals another big downgrade for Jeff DaVanon, who was seeing significant time at DH with Tim Salmon hurting. Salmon was placed on the DL Sunday, essentially ending another disappointing fantasy campaign for the slugger.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Juan Uribe, CWS, 2B – After a miserable two-month stretch during which he hit just .188 in 43 games, Uribe is once again getting it done at the plate. He has 11 hits and eight RBIs in Chicago's last seven games to bring his August totals to .292, 5 HR and 16 RBIs. Uribe hit .335 in the season's first 45 games, so we know he's capable of maintaining this pace. Another middle infielder to watch is Placido Polanco, who through Sunday was batting .330 with seven homers and 15 RBIs in August.
- Bobby Madritsch, SEA, SP – With just a few lucky breaks, Madritsch could be 4-0 this month. He allowed three runs and struck out eight against Kansas City Saturday, but settled for a no-decision in a game the Mariners would eventually win. Earlier this month, eight innings of five-hit ball were spoiled under similar circumstances. The lefty has a 2.81 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 34 August innings. Be warned, however, Seattle has the toughest schedule in the majors heading down the stretch.
SPEED-O-METER: Checking the latest movements on the basepaths
- Clint Barmes, COL, SS (Called up) – Barnes was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he had 20 stolen bases and 104 runs scored in 125 games. He'll share time at shortstop with Royce Clayton.
- Freddy Guzman, SD, OF (Settling in) – Guzman has hit safely in 10 of 12 games since his recall from the minor leagues. Baseball America recently rated him the fastest baserunner in Triple-A, and he has three steals in four attempts with San Diego.
- Cesar Izturis, LA, SS (3 steals/last five games) – One of the season's top fantasy surprises, Izturis has 10 hits and three steals since Aug. 25.
- Maicer Izturis, MON, SS (Little brother can run, too) – Izturis was batting .338 with 14 steals at Triple-A Edmonton before making his Major League debut last week. He collected three hits and an RBI in his first three starts.
- David DeJesus, KAN, OF (Green light fading?) – DeJesus was caught stealing for the ninth time Sunday and now has a success rate (5-for-14) that resembles Shaq's free-throw percentage. Otherwise, with a .363 average and 21 runs scored, he's having a breakthrough month.
- Juan Pierre, FLA, OF (Breakout week) – Pierre won't approach his 2003 stolen base totals, but his Week 21 performance was one to remember. Since Aug. 20, Pierre is 16-for-31 (.516) with eight stolen bases.
- Luis Terrero, ARI, OF (2 steals/last 4 games) – Terrero had to complete an anger-management program earlier this year after striking a female fan with a thrown bat. He's beginning to channel his aggression appropriately. He has eight hits and two steals in the club's last four games.
- Craig Biggio, HOU, OF (Sudden burst) – After stealing just one base in his previous 68 games, Biggio suddenly swiped three bases in a four-game span last week. He's hitting just .205 in August, continuing a recent trend of August and September struggles.
- Brad Wilkerson, MON, OF (A little of everything) – He's not your prototypical leadoff hitter, but you can't argue with the numbers. In 76 games atop the Montreal lineup, Wilkerson has scored 67 runs, hit 20 homers and stolen seven bases.
- Orlando Hudson, TOR, 2B (Circling the bases) – Hudson has scored 18 runs in Toronto's last 15 games and is hitting .391 in the same span. He's probably been passed around your league a few teams, but he's worth another look.
- Brian Roberts, BAL, 2B (1-for-August) – Roberts' stolen base draught reached 25 games Sunday. It's a curious slide when you consider that he's batting .343 in August, easily his best month of the year.
PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm
- Ryan Howard, PHI, 1B (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
Howard added a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored to his minor league resume' Sunday for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. In 29 games since earning a promotion from Double-A, Howard has nine homers and 29 RBIs. The combined minor league totals for this free swinging lefty are rather Thome-like: 46 homers, 131 RBIs, 166 strikeouts. Those strikeout totals and Thome's presence on the Major League roster are the big reasons this 24-year-old is still in the minors. Barring an injury, Howard is likely to get nothing more than spot work when rosters expand in September.
- Gavin Floyd, PHI, SP (Triple-A) – ETA: September 3
Not since Brett Myers arrived in 2002 has this much hype surrounded the Major League debut of a Philadelphia pitcher. With Randy Wolf headed to the DL, Floyd will make his first career start on Friday against the Mets. Floyd has breezed through the Philadelphia system after signing as the fourth-overall pick in the 2001 draft. Owner of a fastball in the mid-90s and a classic drop-off-the-table curveball, Floyd posted a 2.57 ERA and 94 strikeouts at Double-A Reading this year. His numbers were less dominant at the Triple-A level (1-3, 4.99), but the 21-year-old impressed team brass enough to get the call.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
1 The number of career RBIs for David Wells after his run-scoring single Sunday in his 100th Major League at-bat. Until Sunday, the phrase, "he helped himself there" could only be heard on the post-game buffet line.