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April 10, 2006

Fantasy Focus

FAAB Factor

by Jeff Erickson

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Baltimore

  • P John Halama: Halama is representative of most of the AL callups this week-pretty bland stuff. He replaces Eric DuBose in the bullpen, serving mostly in a long-relief capacity. Sure, Daniel Cabrera had seven walks in his debut, but if the O's were ever to replace him, they'd probably call on a starter from the minors rather than turn to Halama. Mixed and AL: No.

    Boston

  • P Jon Papelbon: Papelbon has picked up the first three saves for the Red Sox, including one on Sunday when he protected a three-run lead. Manager Terry Francona has emphasized how Papelbon is ready to get clutch outs now, whereas he doesn't yet have that confidence in Keith Foulke. Despite that, Francona says that he still considers Foulke his closer, or at least he's continuing to pay lip service to that notion. Consider Papelbon to be the closer for the rest of this month, but his role over the course of the season might vary. Nonetheless, his skill set is worth owning, no matter what his role is. Mixed: $10; AL: $22.

  • OF Adam Stern: Late news out of Boston suggests that Coco Crisp could be out for up to a month with a broken knuckle. If this is the case, Stern is the likely playing time beneficiary, since he's the one remaining outfielder on the team who can realistically play center field on a regular basis. It is possible, however, that they could get a wild hair and give Wily Mo Pena a few starts there as well. At any rate, wait to see what the news is on Crisp before you bid too aggressively. Stern has negligible value without an extended Crisp absence. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

    Chicago White Sox

  • UT Rob Mackowiak: Jermaine Dye sat out a couple of games this week with a calf strain before returning on Sunday. Mackowiak is going to play the super-sub role for the White Sox this season, who don't have much else in the way of backup outfielders (with the possible exception of Ross Gload). Don't be surprised if Mackowiak ends up with nearly 400 mediocre at-bats. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.

    Cleveland

  • P Jason Davis: Davis is filling in for the injured C.C. Sabathia, but like Kevin Correia in the NL, he's going to be given standard April fifth starter's treatment. His first start will occur on April 15th, and he probably will be used sparingly otherwise. Davis has a live fastball but has often had issues with his command, especially at the major league level. Look for his tenure as the fifth starter to last only as long as Sabathia is out. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

    Detroit

  • P Jordan Tata: Tata is one of the Tigers' top pitching prospects, and is up now while Todd Jones is on the DL. His long-term projection is as a starter, a role he was dominant in for Lakeland in the High-A Florida State League last year. He'll pitch in relief for now, until Jones returns. Frankly, the Tigers probably shouldn't have called Tata up right now-he has no prior experience above Double-A, and really could use at least a half a season getting used to the jump in talent level there. Because of his prospect status, keeper league owners can't safely ignore him, but calling him now is really a disservice to his development. Mixed: No; AL: $0, only in keeper leagues.

    Kansas City

  • P Denny Bautista: Talent hasn't ever really been a question mark for Bautista, but he's had an awful time with finding the strike zone and staying healthy. His health has returned, and Bautista has won the Royals' fourth starter's job. After his first start of the year, a win over the White Sox in which he held the defending World Series Champs to one run on one hit over six innings, he might be subject to a few bidding wars in your league. While there's no denying that he's the most talented starting pitcher in the Royals' rotation right now, don't get caught up in the bidding war here. Why, you ask? The control isn't necessarily back: he walked five batters over six innings in that win. Also, he's going to struggle to get much support from his club's offense and bullpen. Call this the Greinke effect. In 5x5 leagues he'll have value with his strikeouts, just don't go overboard here. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.

  • P Luke Hudson: Hudson has had the same sort of command and health issues that have dogged Bautista. In fact, he's a pretty good point of comparison, but perhaps with less upside. The Royals converted him to relief work after claiming him off of waivers from the Reds. This might actually be a good switch for him, since he doesn't now have to worry about pacing himself, and can instead throw all-out. With the lesser margin for error that relief work provides, it might force Hudson to throw more strikes as well. Don't bid now, but watch from afar to see how he develops. Mixed and AL: No.

    New York Yankees

  • C Koyie Hill: Once upon a time, Hill was a decent catching prospect, but his bat slowed down at the major league level, aided in part by a broken ankle suffered shortly after he got traded to the Diamondbacks from the Dodgers in 2004. His defense was never particularly strong, so he needs to turn it around at the plate and soon, as he's out of options. Working in his favor is that the Yankees have very little organizational depth at catcher, but at the same time, he's the clear third option at catcher at the major league level. Mixed and AL: No.

    Seattle

  • P George Sherrill: Sherrill picked up a save earlier in the week, but don't let that confuse you with making him a pitcher worth bidding on, manager Mike Hargrove's bullpen usage patterns notwithstanding. Sherrill only got the opportunity because Eddie Guardado, Rafael Soriano, and J.J. Putz had been used heavily in the games prior to that. He's still the fourth-best option in the Mariners' bullpen, at best. Mixed and AL: No.

    Tampa Bay

  • P Shawn Camp: Chad Orvella is in the minors, Shinji Mori is out for the year, Danys Baez and Lance Carter are now Dodgers, and Jesus Colome first got hurt and then got released. Dan Miceli is the current closer for the Rays. If that scenario doesn't scream out opportunity, there is no such thing as opportunity. Camp had an awful 2005 campaign, but as a groundball pitcher, he was hurt by the Royals' subpar defense behind him last year. He still doesn't strike out batters at a pace that we'd like, but given the lack of useful alternatives in the Devil Rays' bullpen, who knows, he could be this year's version of Ryan Kohlmeier. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

  • INFs Nick Green and Tomas Perez: Julio Lugo is on the DL with an oblique strain, but the Devil Rays don't want to call up B.J. Upton for various reasons, not the least of which is his future arbitration status. Thus, Green and Perez will share the job, also occasionally filling in at second base for the injured Jorge Cantu. Both are lightweights at the plate, however. Look for Green to get a little more playing time than Perez, but that shouldn't amount to a landslide of fantasy value. Bids for both: Mixed: No; AL: $1.

  • INF/OF Russ Branyan: With all of the outfield talent the Devil Rays have, somehow "Russell the Muscle" (as RotoWire colleague Herb Ilk refers to him) has already gotten three starts in right field and none at third base. The Devil Rays apparently are taking this Aubrey Huff at third base experiment seriously. Branyan is good for some cheap power, to go along with a usual paltry batting average. In leagues where his walks are rewarded better he'd be more valuable than in traditional fantasy formats. Mixed: No; AL: $3.

    Texas

  • P John Koronka: Despite new GM Jon Daniels' determination to upgrade the Rangers' starting pitching over the offseason, they've somehow found a way to open up the year with Koronka as their fifth starter. Despite giving up four runs in five innings in his first start, Koronka has leapfrogged R.A. Dickey to be the fourth starter. Well, more accurately, Dickey found a way to be much, much worse, giving up six homers to the Tigers in his start. Our outlook for Koronka pretty much summarizes our point of view: "Our writeup from last season needs virtually no modification: 'Koronka doesn't throw hard, and while he has decent control, no one is going to mistake him for David Wells. The best thing he has going for him is being left-handed, which could land him a middle-relief job at some point.' He did a better job of keeping the ball in the park in 2005, if you want to dig for something." Yes, I'm quoting us, quoting us, but literary missteps aside, it fits. Mixed and AL: No.

    FAAB Factor appears weekly on RotoWire.com

    Jeff Erickson is the Senior Editor at RotoWire, and the host of XM Radio's "Fantasy Focus," heard every weekday at noon ET on XM Channel 175. He can be reached here.

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