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August 16, 2006

Fantasy Focus

RotoWire Barometer, 8/16/06

by Gus Papadopoulos

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The Week Ahead

  • Given St. Louis' recent struggles, the Reds-Cards series early this week has major impact (Aaron Harang versus Chris Carpenter Tuesday, Bronson Arroyo against Anthony Reyes Wednesday, both on Extra Innings, Cardinals' feed). In addition, the Marlins-Dodgers, Giants-Padres, D'backs-Rockies and Mets-Phils series all make for significant baseball in the senior circuit as the week opens.

  • Over in the AL, the Tigers and Red Sox wrap up their early-week series (Jeremy Bonderman versus Curt Schilling Tuesday on INHD, Justin Verlander against David Wells Wednesday on ESPN), while intramurals continue in the AL West (M's-A's, Angels-Rangers). ESPN then follows the Tigers back home for the Thursday opener of their four-game set against Texas (Edison Volquez, 23, takes on Kenny Rogers, 43, in another iPod-takes-on-eight-track classic).

  • Hype alert: the five-game Yankees-Red Sox series from Fenway will be all over the airwaves this weekend, starting with a day-night double-dip on Friday and going all the way to Monday afternoon. (Day game Friday on ESPN; night game Friday on Extra Innings, NESN feed; Randy Johnson faces Josh Beckett Saturday afternoon, Fox; Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling square off Sunday night on ESPN; finally, it'll be Cory Lidle versus David Wells in the Monday afternoon finale on ESPN.)

  • Also this weekend, the Giants host the Dodgers (with a Brad Penny-Jason Schmidt matchup on Friday, Extra Innings, Dodgers' feed); the Diamondbacks face the Padres (Claudio Vargas faces Clay Hensley Saturday on the Fox west coast feed); the Mariners visit the Angels (Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver square off Friday, Extra Innings, Angels' feed); and the White Sox and Twins duel again, this time from the Metrodome (Jon Garland versus Brad Radke, Saturday night on WGN; Javier Vazquez faces Johan Santana on Sunday, Extra Innings, Chicago feed).

  • Heads up going into next week: the White Sox and Tigers square off again starting Monday at the Copa, while the Dodgers face the Padres in a big NL West clash at Petco.
Please check our projected starters grid for the latest info on this week's pitching matchups.

Note: all statistics below are through Monday, August 14, unless otherwise noted.

Rising - AL

Wily Mo Pena (BOS) - Getting hot at the right time for Boston; went 9-for-24 (.375) with three homers and nine RBI last week (through Sunday).

Doug Mirabelli (BOS) - It'll be Mirabelli and not Javy Lopez who'll get the bulk of the work behind the plate until Jason Varitek gets back.

Robinson Cano (NY) - A red-hot 10-for-26 (.385) in his first seven games since coming off the DL.

Joe Blanton (OAK) - Trying to pick up the slack with Rich Harden still out; 5-1, 3.32 in his last six starts, although he's been a little lucky, with a high 1.50 WHIP over that stretch. Next three probable starts: Royals (road, on Friday), Blue Jays (road), Red Sox (home).

Ryan Garko (CLE) - Went 8-for-23 (.328) in his first six games after his callup; he's playing every day at first base.

Boof Bonser (MIN) - Called up to replace Francisco Liriano in the Twins' rotation; got the loss on Saturday against Toronto, but he'll try it again Friday against the White Sox.

Joe Kennedy (OAK) - Back from the DL (shoulder); he'll work in middle relief.

Check Status - AL

Troy Glaus (TOR) - Left Sunday's game (sore knee); day-to-day. The injury came as the Jays had back-to-back series scheduled at turf stadiums (Glaus got hurt in Minnesota on Sunday; the Jays open a three-game set at Tampa Bay starting Tuesday), so Glaus may be rested until the Jays get back home.

Jermaine Dye (CHI) - Left Monday's game (HBP, calf); sounds like he'll probably return Tuesday or Wednesday.

Ervin Santana (LA) - Took a liner off his left knee on Thursday, but it appears he'll be able to make his next start on Tuesday at Texas.

Garret Anderson (LA) - Out since Friday (back spasms), and day-to-day.

Kip Wells (TEX) - Scratched from his scheduled start on Thursday (foot), and the DL is a possibility.

Keith Foulke (BOS) - Could come off the DL (elbow, back) sometime this week.

Bobby Crosby (OAK) - Could come off the DL by Wednesday (back).

Mark Kotsay (OAK) - Still day-to-day (back), but he did play Monday as a late-inning defensive sub, so he should be ready to return Tuesday against Seattle.

Falling - AL

Francisco Liriano (MIN) - On the DL, fortunately with just a mild UCL strain in his elbow. However, the Twins absolutely will not rush him back. With only 119 innings pitched this year to date, that means it's extremely unlikely Liriano will be able to qualify for the ERA title (he'd need 43 more innings; if you figure he needs seven starts to get that, and he goes every fifth day, he'd have to be back around September 1 to have a chance). FYI, going into Tuesday, Tigers rookie Justin Verlander was the league ERA leader (non-Liriano division) at 2.95.

Jorge Cantu (TB) - Hitting just .167 (10-for-60) since July 24, as he's been bothered by a sore neck and back from an outfield collision.

Melvin Mora (BAL) - Only one home run in 28 games since the All-Star break. Could be worse, though...

Magglio Ordonez (DET) - Hasn't homered at all since the All-Star break (last 28 games).

Scott Podsednik (CHI) - Hitting just .206 (13-for-63) with an abysmal .484 OPS in his last 18 games.

Gil Meche (SEA) - Falling apart in his last four starts: 10.57 ERA, 38 baserunners allowed in just 15.1 innings.

Runelvys Hernandez (KC) - Not very effective since coming back from the minors: 0-3, 10.98 in his last four starts.

Rising - NL

Miguel Cabrera (FLA) - If the Marlins were just a little bit closer in the wild card race, we could call this an MVP run; hitting .420 in August (21-for-50), with a streak of seven straight multiple-hit games before taking an o-fer on Monday.

Ryan Howard (PHI) - You could say the same thing about Howard and the Phils; he's hitting .382 (21-for-55) in August, with six homers and 19 ribbies.

Kenny Lofton (LA) - On fire; hitting .442/.489/.609 in August (through Sunday).

Chipper Jones (ATL) - Came off the DL (oblique) on Sunday, and then had a monster game Monday night (4-for-5, three homers, five RBI). However, everything still hurts, and if and when the Braves fall out of the race, they'll likely sit Jones down for the year at that point.

Corey Hart, Gabe Gross (MIL) - They'll split time in right field over the rest of the season, as Geoff Jenkins takes a seat.

Jason Hirsh (HOU) - The Astros call up the phenom, and although he got knocked about by the Padres in his debut on Saturday (nine baserunners, three homers in just four innings), he'll stay in the rotation for a while.

Luke Scott (HOU) - He's been hot; hitting .438 (35-for-80) in his last 22 games.

Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) - Also hot of late; hitting .329 (51-for-155) with 28 RBI in his last 40 games.

Ryan Spilborghs (COL) - Went 6-for-11 against the Cubs this weekend after his callup on Friday; he'll get most of the at-bats in center field the rest of the way for the Rox.

Brad Hennessey (SF) - Inserted into the rotation, and he'll get at least a few more starts after pitching shutout ball for five-and-two-thirds against San Diego on Monday.

Rajai Davis (PIT) - Made his MLB debut on Monday, and could get some PT in right field as the Pirates play out the string.

Check Status - NL

Jason Bay (PIT) - Scratched on Monday (tight hamstring), snapping a streak of 307 consecutive starts. Might be out until Thursday.

Pedro Martinez (NY) - Left Monday's game with a strained right calf, which probably felt much worse after he gave up six runs in the first against the Phils. No further word at press time, but boy, we'd be surprised if he was back this weekend.

Roy Oswalt (HOU) - Took a soft liner off his right hand in the seventh inning on Monday; got through that inning and then left the game. At press time, he looked mildly probable in terms of making his next start, at Milwaukee over the weekend.

Mike Piazza (SD) - Left Monday's game (HBP, forearm); day-to-day. Actually, a bunch of guys had to leave games Monday after being hit by a pitch, including ...

Matt Holliday (COL) - Left Monday's game (HBP, wrist). He might be able to return Tuesday, as could ...

Jack Wilson (PIT) - Left Monday's game (HBP, hand).

Tom Gordon (PHI) - He's day-to-day (sore right shoulder), and likely will miss the entire four-game series against the Mets that runs through Thursday.

Scott Spiezio (STL) - Injured his left Achilles tendon while taking BP before Sunday's game; day-to-day.

Falling - NL

Mark Prior (CHI) - On the DL (shoulder). Boy, we never saw that coming.

Pat Burrell (PHI) - Admitted last week his right foot is still bothering him, and he may need another offseason operation; if the Phils sink out of the race, he may get shut down early.

Lastings Milledge (NY) - Hitting just .226 (7-for-31) since his recall on August 1.

Geoff Jenkins (MIL) - He'll see bench duty only for the rest of the year, as the Brewers give looks to Gabe Gross and Corey Hart.

Juan Cruz (AZ) - Gets bounced from Arizona's rotation after the arrival via trade of Livan Hernandez.

Nate McLouth (PIT) - On the DL (ankle sprain); should be back in September.

Preston Wilson (HOU) - Designated for assignment; wherever he goes, he won't be in a more hitter-friendly park than the Juice Box.

Kent Mercker (CIN) - Out for the year (surgery on his left elbow to repair both a torn flexor tendon and the UCL), and he may retire as a result. 1,283 career big-league innings, plus he got his ring with Atlanta in '95.

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 is a RotoWire Staff Writer. He can be reached here.

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