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June 27, 2006

Fantasy Focus

RotoWire Barometer, 6/27/06

by Gus Papadopoulos

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Stock Rising - AL

Jeremy Sowers (CLE) - Made his MLB debut on Sunday against the Reds; despite giving up four runs in five innings, he'll stay in the rotation for now, replacing ....

Jason Johnson (BOS) - ... who'll get run support, if nothing else, with his new club after Cleveland cut him. He'll make his debut on Friday at Florida.

Joey Gathright (KC) - Tampa Bay traded him to the Royals, and Gathright looks to get most of the center field at-bats against right-handers. He'll be a great source of steals ... provided he can reach the one base you can't steal, first base.

Jeremy Bonderman (DET) - He's becoming the stud many predicted he'd be. Last five starts: 1.77 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a 44-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35.1 innings. His near-term schedule looks juicy as well. Next three projected starts: Pirates (road, on Saturday), Mariners (road), Royals (home, after the break).

Placido Polanco (DET) - He's hit safely in 15 of his last 18 games, batting .306 during that stretch with six doubles, two home runs and 11 RBI.

Kevin Millwood (TEX) - Not getting much respect in the roto world, despite pitching quality starts in 11 of his last 14 outings. As a matter of fact, ever since that meltdown against the Twins on May 9 (nine runs, nine hits in one-and-a third), he's gone 5-0 in his last eight starts (four at home, four on the road), with a 3.53 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and a 38-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53.1 innings. What else can you want pitching out of Arlington? Next three projected starts: Giants (road, on Tuesday), Astros (home), Twins (home).

Vernon Wells (TOR) - On pace for his career bests in batting average, homers, RBI, on-base and slugging.

Tadahito Iguchi (CHI) - Warming up: hitting .333 (18-for-54) in his last 12 games, including those two homers against the Astros on Sunday.

Kiko Calero (OAK) - Hasn't given up a run in his last 12 outings (12.2 innings).

Check Status - AL

Frank Thomas , Mark Ellis (OAK) - Both could come off the DL (quad for Thomas, hand for Ellis) as soon as Friday.

Eric Chavez (OAK) - Sat out Sunday's game (forearm tendinitis); day-to-day, but should return Tuesday.

Shannon Stewart (MIN) - Could come off the DL (plantar fasciitis) by the weekend. Note that he may not come back as the leadoff hitter, so he won't be a big source of steals upon his return.

Robinson Cano (NY) - Left the nightcap of Sunday's doubleheader in the sixth inning with a hamstring injury. It appears he may be out for at least a week, and could go on the DL as a result.

Kenji Jojima (SEA) - Sat out Sunday's game after taking a foul ball off his leg Saturday; day-to-day, and could return Tuesday.

Josh Towers , Ty Taubenheim (TOR) - Word from T.O. is that Towers' most recent ugly outing on Sunday was the last straw, and the Jays are ready to either send him back to the minors or cut him loose, with Taubenheim likely taking Towers' spot in the rotation.

Falling - AL

C.C. Sabathia (CLE) - Looked great in May, but has stumbled in June: 0-3, 10.24, 1.97 WHIP in four starts (19.1 innings). His schedule through the All-Star break won't help. Next three projected starts: Cardinals (road, on Tuesday), Reds (road) or Yankees (home), Orioles (home).

Dallas McPherson (LA) - Went on the DL over the weekend (back spasms); likely out until the All-Star break at this point.

Adam Loewen (BAL) - Lost his rotation spot and was sent to the minors to make room for Russ Ortiz. Which means he shouldn't be down long.

Kameron Loe (TEX) - Expected to come off the DL (bone bruise, elbow) either by the weekend or shortly after, but it appears he'll come back as a long reliever rather than a starter.

Mark Grudzielanek (KC) - In some Eastern European language, "grudzielanek" means "June swoon"; hitting just .207 (17-for-82) since May 31.

Luis Castillo (MIN) - Another slumping middle infielder; hitting just .196/.245/.218 in his last 21 games (through Sunday).

Travis Lee (TB) - Only seven starts in Tampa Bay's last 18 games; if you're a first baseman hitting .203/.274/.302, a good glove only takes you so far.

Rising - NL

Albert Pujols (STL) - Back off the DL (oblique), and went 7-for-20 in his first five games. Assuming he's really healed, a 60-homer season is still possible; Pujols would become the first player ever to hit 60 before his 27th birthday.

Derrek Lee (CHI) - Back off the DL (wrist); went 1-for-4 in his return on Sunday and followed that up with a 2-for-4 night on Monday. And the Cubs aren't too far behind in the race, either:

Race for the number one pick in the 2007 amateur draft

     L   W   GB

KC   50  24  ---
PIT  51  26  0.5
CHC  47  28  3.5

Angel Guzman (CHI) - He'll move into the Cubs' rotation for now, with his first start coming Wednesday against the Brewers. The timing of this move is interesting; makes you wonder if the Cubs aren't showing Guzman off for a team or teams potentially interested in trading for him.

Cesar Izturis (LA) - Came off the DL (elbow) last week and will play third base for the Dodgers going forward; went 8-for-20 in his first seven games back.

Ben Johnson, Eric Young (SD) - They'll share time in left field for the Padres until Dave Roberts (knee) comes off the DL. Johnson is the one taking real advantage of the opportunity, however; he went 8-for-21 last week, with homers on both Saturday and Sunday against Seattle, while Young went just 1-for-12.

Chuck James (ATL) - Made his first career MLB start on Sunday and looked mah-velous, holding Tampa Bay to one run in eight innings (eight baserunners, eight strikeouts). He'll stay in the rotation for now.

Scott Thorman (ATL) - Called up from Triple-A last week, making his major league debut. He's started six of Atlanta's last seven games, but went just 2-for-24, so we'll see how much patience the Braves show.

Byung-Hyun Kim (COL) - Last two starts (both at home, against the A's and Rangers); no runs and 14 baserunners in 13 innings, with 12 strikeouts. That's impressive. Next three probable starts: Mariners (road, on Saturday), Diamondbacks (home), Reds (road, after the break).

Orlando Hudson (AZ) - While many of the Diamondbacks' sluggers have gone ice cold of late, Hudson has picked it up at the plate after a slow start, hitting .329 (26-for-79) in June.

Check Status - NL

Chris Capuano (MIL) - Left Monday's game in the ninth inning after taking a liner off his left (pitching) arm; no further word at press time.

John Smoltz (ATL) - Left Friday's game (groin strain), but he looked and felt good in a bullpen session Monday, so he's probable for his next start Wednesday against the Yankees.

Moises Alou (SF) - Expected to return to the lineup Tuesday after missing a week due to back problems.

Omar Vizquel (SF) - Left Sunday's game (lower back strain), but the Giants expect him back by Tuesday.

Armando Benitez (SF) - Wasn't available on Saturday or Sunday (elbow irritation); the Giants hope it clears up by--you guessed it--Tuesday.

Duaner Sanchez (NY) - Had to leave Friday's game (pinched nerve in neck); day-to-day, but likely to return before the big to-do with the Yanks this weekend.

Dan Uggla (FLA) - Out since Wednesday (tight hamstring), and still day-to-day.

Scott Williamson (CHI) - Could come off the DL (elbow) as soon as Tuesday.

Falling - NL

Mark Mulder (STL) - Well, now we know why he's been pitching poorly of late: an MRI Friday revealed a shoulder impingement, inflammation of the rotator cuff, and slight fraying of the labrum. He'll be on the DL at least a month.

Juan Pierre (CHI) - Went 3-for-5 against the Twins on Sunday, raising his batting line to .248/.294/.313 on the year. His resulting OPS of .607 (through Sunday) ranks dead last among all NL outfielders who have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. Worse than Willy Taveras. Worse than Nate McLouth. Worse than Reggie Abercrombie. The worst in the league. Yes, the injuries to Lee, Prior and Wood have hurt, but the Cubs have also been hurt by this Very Bad Trade.

Freddie Bynum (CHI) - Went on the DL, and had to be hospitalized on Saturday, with significant inflammation and swelling in his right arm.

Noah Lowry (SF) - He's showing decreased velocity (clocked at 84-85 mph in his last start on Wednesday after hitting 88-91 consistently last season), and his strikeout rate has literally been cut in half (7.6 punchouts per nine innings last year, but only 3.8 this year, and just 12 in 34 innings over his last six starts). The Giants will give him two extra rest days before his next start on Wednesday, but if that doesn't do the trick, the team will start wondering if he's healthy.

Ken Griffey Jr. (CIN) - Hitting just .177 (11-for-62) with a .582 OPS in his last 15 games.

Ryan Madson (PHI) - Last five starts: a 7.62 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP despite a lucky 2-2 won-loss record.

Eric Byrnes (AZ) - After being the team's hottest hitter throughout April and May, Byrnes' numbers have fallen off a cliff in June, as he's hitting just .186 (11-for-59) in his last 16 games.

Zach Duke (PIT) - All of Duke's peripherals are going in the wrong direction when compared to his great rookie season last year:


         IP   H/9  HR/9  W/9  K/9
---------------------------------
2005   84.2   8.4   0.3  2.4  6.2
2006  100.0  10.2   0.9  3.5  5.3
That strikeout rate is a real concern, because few major league pitchers are effective with a rate as low as five whiffs per nine. He has to make adjustments.

Oliver Perez (PIT) - Last five starts: 0-5, 9.26, 1.93 WHIP, and a 17-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23.1 innings. However, he's not kicking laundry carts anymore.

Craig Biggio (HOU) - Slumping of late; hitting just .218 with a .549 OPS in his last 17 games (17-for-78, just one homer).

Brad Ausmus (HOU) - This is like shooting fish in a barrel, but here goes: just 7-for-58 (.121) in his last 15 games.

J.J. Hardy (MIL) - Suffered a setback in his rehab last week; there's a chance he'll need surgery, which would effectively rule him out for the year.

Tony Armas Jr. (WAS) - Went on the DL (forearm strain); likely out until at least the All-Star break.

Brian Jordan (ATL) - On the DL (broken collarbone) until at least mid-August; if the Braves are out of the race by then (actually, heck, they're out of the race now), they may hold off on recalling Jordan until rosters expand in September as they let the prospects play. Jordan might not get more than a handful of at-bats then, and that may be all she wrote as far as Jordan's career goes.

The Disclaimer

One of the problems with writing an upgrade/downgrade column for baseball is the very nature of the sport. Nearly every player goes through assorted streaks and slumps, and trying to capitalize from those swings is a dangerous business. Fantasy players run the risk of catching the tail-end of such a swing, just in time to see the opposite take effect after you act. While we will point out such streaks in this column, please keep in mind that we are also looking for role changes, or changes in the player's base skill-sets.

Gus Papadopoulos writes the Barometer for RotoWire on Tuesdays each week and is their beat writer for the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks. He can be reached here.

Related Content:  Back,  A.J. Ellis,  All-star Weekend,  Quad-a

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