Too early to tinker? For the fantasy owner, there's no such thing, so why should The Skinny be immune to a little early-season fine tuning? Back for the 2005 MLB season, you'll notice one slight change to our tried and true format. Gone is the Speed-O-Meter, replaced in the lineup by a more generic Market Movers section. We'll continue to focus on the basepaths, but since nobody is stealing anyway, the area will also track position battles, hot players, not players and whatever else comes to mind. Think of it as a utility player. Introductions complete, let's take a look at the on-the-field action from the weekend:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- With closers blowing leads left and right in the opening week, The Skinny kicks off the 2005 season with a look at a different kind of save – the type delivered by a starting pitcher when his team desperately needs a win. We'll start in Philadelphia, where Gavin Floyd took the hill for the Phillies on Saturday trying to stop a three-game skid. How did the rookie fare? Not bad – assuming you're OK with mowing down 19 straight hitters while holding the defending National League champion Cardinals to one run on three hits over seven innings. The fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft is now 3-0 in five career starts.
Floyd struggled with his control after his September call-up last season and didn't show signs of improving his command this spring, walking 13 in 25 innings. Rising to the occasion on Saturday, he did not walk a batter against the Cards. Manager Charlie Manuel may soon have a dilemma on his hands. Floyd secured the final spot in Philadelphia's rotation only because Vicente Padilla was injured. He's scheduled to return in the third week of the season. By then, Floyd may have made three starts. Whether he proves to be indispensable remains to be seen, but fantasy owners should pay close attention.
- As far as stopper starts go, it doesn't get much better than the effort Pedro Martinez put forth in Atlanta on Sunday. New York's ace struck out nine and allowed only two hits and a walk while recording just his second complete game since 2003. In a duel that would be matched in drama and clutch performance only by the Woods/DiMarco showdown at the Masters later in the day, Martinez matched Atlanta starter John Smoltz pitch-for-pitch as the Braves hurler fanned 15. Only one would emerge with a win, but the game was a relief for fantasy owners of both starters.
Martinez proved he's still a top-of-the-rotation guy in fantasy and real life and Smoltz laid to rest any doubt that his return to the rotation was the right move. Of concern, however, may be a lack of run support for Smoltz. The Braves are hitting an MLB-worst .216 with only 16 runs scored in six games. Their new-look outfield of Brian Jordan, Andruw Jones and Raul Mondesi is hitting a combined .226 with one homer and five RBI's. Meanwhile, down on the farm, Andy Marte has three homers in four games for Triple-A Richmond. The Braves aren't dying to move Chipper Jones back to the outfield, but they may need to start exploring ways to get Marte's bat in the lineup.
- It's never too early for injuries to rear their ugly head. Justin Morneau has been absent from the Minnesota lineup ever since he was hit by a pitch on Wednesday against Seattle. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Morneau has asked to see a neurologist as he continues to experience dizziness and headaches. The Tribune reports that this is Morneau's fourth concussion, which raises concerns that the slugger may be sidelined for an extensive stretch. Matthew LeCroy will have a regular spot in the lineup until Morneau returns.
The Twins did get some encouraging news about injured starter Carlos Silva. The team had feared the right-hander would miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus, but team doctors examined him on Sunday and reported that the injury may not be so severe. He's still due for a long stretch on the DL, so the team promoted David Gassner to take his place in the rotation.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Xavier Nady, SD, OF
Eric Young's injury all but assures Nady the one thing he's been thirsting for since he debuted with the Padres in 2000 – regular big league at-bats. He spent most of the 2004 season in the minors, where he hit a career-best .330 with 22 homers and 70 RBI's in 74 games between trips to San Diego. Despite a torrid spring in which he hit .357 with five more homers, Nady was scheduled to return to a utility role when Dave Roberts was ready to go. That all changed when Young crashed into the center field wall on Thursday. He'll miss at least half the season, though likely more. Nady, a top prospect in the Padres organization since 2000, now has his shot as a regular.
- Denny Bautista, KC, SP
Signing Bautista could easily be classified as an overreaction to a hot start. Nevertheless, his season debut on Friday gave fantasy owners a lot to think about. This wasn't a gift win over Pittsburgh or Detroit. This was Los Angeles. And it was on the road. Bautista struck out Darrin Erstad and Vladimir Guerrero twice each in holding the Angles to three hits in eight innings. This was on the heels of a solid spring that saw him strike out 23 in 25.1 innings. He'll get his next start on Thursday at home against Seattle. He might not last the night as a free agent if he holds to form against the M's.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Joey Gathright, CF, TB – Oakland catcher Jason Kendall said watching Gathright run the bases on Saturday was like watching a movie in fast-forward. General Manager Chuck LaMar is giving the act rave reviews, leaving the door open for a position battle between Gathright and the currently suspended Alex Sanchez.
Omar Vizquel, SS, SF – The Bonds-less Giants are now in the business of manufacturing runs, and part of that formula appears to involve giving Vizquel the green light. Through six games, the 37-year-old has four steals.
Ryan Church, CF, WAS – Church, who hit 17 homers at the Triple-A level in 2004, hit a home run and launched another ball to the warning track in his first start of the season on Saturday. He led the Nationals with 10 spring training RBI's.
Willy Taveras, CF, HOU – Center field in Houston belongs to Taveras – at least until Lance Berkman returns from the DL. Taveras stole 10 bases this spring, then started the season with four multi-hit games. He's 1-for-2 on stolen base attempts, so far.
Dave Williams, P, PIT – Solidifying his hold on the No. 5 spot in the Pittsburgh rotation for now, Williams held San Diego to one run on four hits in nearly six innings on Sunday. Top competitor Zach Duke was so-so in winning his 2005 Triple-A debut.
Jason Ellison, OF, SF – Ellison jump-started San Francisco's 11-run attack on Sunday by leading off with a bunt single, stealing second and scoring on a groundout. He stole 27 bases at Triple-A in 2004 and should continue to see regular at-bats with Moises Alou on the DL.
Emil Brown, OF, KC – After an impressive spring thrust him firmly into Kansas City's outfield mix, Brown started off hot in Week 1, hitting two homers and batting .308 on the week.
Jason Bartlett, SS, MIN – Will earn shortstop eligibility after one more start there. After hitting .370 this spring, Bartlett has started the season on a 6-for-17 tear.
Melvin Mora, 3B, BAL – Mora hit .233 for a full season as recently as 2002, so there's fear that his 3-for-26 start could be more than just a stumble out of the gate.
Robb Quinlan, 3B, LAA – A .344 hitter a year ago, Quinlan is playing himself out of the lineup with his bat (2-for-16) and glove (2 errors).
Hee Seop Choi, 1B, LA – Choi has yet to homer as a member of the Dodgers and he's off to a 1-for-15 start in 2005. Rookie Norihiro Nakamura was recalled after homering in two of his first three games at Triple-A Las Vegas. Choi needs to start hitting to hold him off.
Ryan Freel, 3B/OF, CIN – Freel isn't getting away with anything these days. He was arrested for a DUI following the team's season opener and is now 0-for-3 on stolen base attempts.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, CLE – Peralta already has four errors on the young season. He was forced to the bench Sunday. Good thing the guy he beat out, Brandon Phillips, is just 2-for-14 at Triple-A Buffalo.
Jeremy Reed, CF, SEA – First the good news: Reed collected two hits Sunday to raise his average to .182. The bad news: He still hasn't attempted a steal – and we drafted him to run.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
12-0 Roy Oswalt's career record against Cincinnati in 16 career starts. Oswalt beats the Reds Sunday. His next scheduled start? You guessed it – he'll face the Reds this weekend.