Archive for April, 2007

Closing Time

Monday, April 30th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

We interrupt celebrating the Warriors’ 3-1 lead for a quick look around the league’s closing situations:

Anaheim Angels – Francisco Rodriguez – Rock Solid

He hasn’t been quite as dominant so far, but obviously nothing to worry about here. K-Rod has struck out a ridiculous 12 batters per nine innings throughout his career.

Atlanta Braves – Bob Wickman – Solid

Wickman figures to be given a fairly long leash this year, and he’s proven capable now pitching in the NL. He’s walking way too many batters and still remains a slight injury concern. Plus, the Braves will only wait so long, as Wickman has given up five runs over the last 1.1 innings. Rafael Soriano is probably the second option to own. His 4.38 ERA is out of line with his otherwise dominant peripherals. Soriano is a top-5 set-up man in fantasy leagues and should finish the year with a handful of saves.

Arizona Diamondback – Jose Valverde – Solid

There’s always the chance Valverde implodes at any given moment, and his 1.55 WHIP is ugly, but he’s mostly getting the job done. Brandon Lyon is the alternative in Arizona’s pen, but Valverde is securing himself into the role. He’s on pace for 65 saves this season.

Baltimore Orioles – Chris Ray – Rock Solid

Ray currently sports a 5.11 ERA, but that is accompanied by a 0.81 WHIP and 14:2 K:BB ratio. He’s been unscored upon in 11 of his 13 appearances this season.

Boston Red Sox – Jonathan Papelbon – Rock Solid

So far, so good. Papelbon has remained healthy, while also refusing to allow a run, having tossed 9.1 scoreless frames so far. Fantasy owners are likely to experience a Papelboner for the rest of the year.

Chicago White Sox – Bobby Jenks – Solid

Spring struggles have not carried over into the regular season. Despite a decrease in velocity with his fastball, Jenks has struck out 11 batters over 12.2 innings this year, and is locked in as Chicago’s ninth-inning guy.

Chicago Cubs – Ryan Dempster – Solid

Dempster has easily exceeded my expectations this year, drastically reducing his walk rate. With Kerry Wood out of the picture, Dempster’s role is even more secured. Bob Howry is the alternative if Dempster were to suffer an injury.

Cincinnati Reds – David Weathers – Solid

He’s never been a closer for a full season, but Cincy has zero alternatives right now. Weathers is also continuing his solid ways. He’s not exciting, but looks like a cheap source for 30 saves.

Cleveland Indians – Joe Borowski – Shaky

Finally, some instability. Borowski already has nine saves and is flashing his best strikeout rate of his career by far, fanning 15 batters over 11 innings. Still, he also sports a 9.00 ERA and 1.73 WHIP. Rafael Betancourt appears to be the likely replacement, but Fernando Cabrera looks like one of the best relievers in baseball. Since Borowski is probably Cleveland’s third or fourth best reliever, he figures to lose the job one way or the other. Cabrera is the guy to own long-term.

Colorado Rockies – Brian Fuentes – Rock Solid

The pride of Merced, California, Fuentes just keeps on getting the job done.

Detroit Tigers – Todd Jones – Shaky

There isn’t a luckier pitcher in baseball. Some how, some way, Jones has managed a 3.00 ERA despite a 2:5 K:BB ratio. Over the last 76 innings, Jones has struck out a paltry 30 batters. There’s simply no way he can keep this up. With eight saves already, and Joel Zumaya allowing runs in four consecutive appearances before Sunday’s outing, I recommend selling Jones now. Expect Zumaya to occupy the ninth-inning role over the final few months of the season.

Florida Marlins – Henry Owens – Questionable

Jorge Julio is about as likely to reemerge in the closing role as Alec Baldwin’s daughter is growing up normal – not very. Kevin Gregg is doing solid seventh and eighth inning work, but Owens is the current favorite for saves in the Marlins’ pen. But Taylor Tankersley, despite being a southpaw, might prove to ultimately be the best arm of all. Both need to be owned in all leagues.

Houston Astros – Dan Wheeler – Solid

Wheeler has thrown eight straight scoreless innings and is getting more job security with each outing. There’s no doubt he’s an effective reliever, but Brad Lidge does still loom. Lidge has struck out eight over the last four innings, all scoreless, so there’s still a chance he turns it around. His stuff is still there.

Kansas City Royals – Joakim Soria – Questionable

He’s yet to blow a save and is flashing a great strikeout rate. One of the better Rule 5 picks in recent memory, Soria could take the job and run with it, but Kansas City did sign Octavio Dotel to close. Still, Dotel is suffering set back after set back in his rehab, and there’s no guarantee he stays healthy when he does finally return.



Los Angeles Dodgers – Takashi Saito – Solid

Saito has picked up right were he left off last year, actually improving on last season’s terrific numbers with a 1.42 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 15:1 K:BB ratio over 12.2 innings this season. If possible, Jonathan Broxton, the no doubt closer of the future for L.A., has been even better; posting a 0.66 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 12:2 K:BB ratio over 13.2 innings. A closer look at Saito’s number’s from last year revealed that the NL West hit him much harder than the rest of the league, suggesting that the more times teams see him, the easier he becomes to hit. Still, that hasn’t translated this year, and it’s hard to argue with the results.

Milwaukee Brewers – Francisco Cordero – Rock Solid

There hasn’t been a more dominant reliever in baseball this year than Cordero, who has yet to give up a run and has struck out an unbelievable 19 batters over 11.1 innings. Since coming over to the NL, he’s been a top-3 fantasy closer. The Brewers also employ maybe the game’s best set-up man this season as well, as Derrick Turnbow has a 2.19 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 12.1 innings. Milwaukee was smart not to sell-low after last year’s disastrous campaign from Turnbow.

Minnesota Twins – Joe Nathan – Rock Solid

Must. Resist. Killing. Brian Sabean.

New York Yankees – Mariano Rivera – Rock Solid (if healthy)

Rivera seems to always stumble early in the season, the NY media overreacts, and then the Yankee closer finishes with an ERA around 1.50. However, this year there seems to be at least a slight cause for concern, as his nasty cutter currently doesn’t have quite the same bite as normal. He’s in a contract year, so motivation shouldn’t be a problem. I just worry he’s concealing some sort of injury – if not, then he’ll be just fine and even makes a good buy low candidate.

New York Mets – Billy Wagner – Rock Solid

Looks like a top-3 closer.

Oakland A’s – Huston Street – Rock Solid

Already walked more than half the batters from all of last year’s total in just 13 innings of work but has been solid nevertheless.

Philadelphia Phillies – Tom Gordon – Very Shaky

Gordon has an ugly 5.40 ERA and 1.92 WHIP, but even more worrisome is Brett Myers’ move to the pen. Even if Gordon turns it around, which he likely will, the Phillies seem all but certain to move Myers into the ninth-inning role. A switch back to the rotation obviously makes the most sense, with Adam Eaton’s terrible performance making it even easier, but Charlie Manuel apparently isn’t quite playing with a full deck. Myers is making too much money for a set-up role, and the move is inevitable. If you can get anything halfway decent for Gordon right now, I’d do it.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Salomon Torres – Shaky

For a guy who has been able to throw more than 93 innings in each of the past two seasons, Torres makes more sense in a set-up role anyway. He’s allowed at least one run in seven of his last 10 appearances and sports an unsightly 7.36 ERA and 6:4 K:BB ratio over 11 innings. The fact the Pirates have already produced 10 save opportunities is quite surprising, but Matt Capps figures to be receiving those soon enough. He’s the guy in Pittsburgh’s pen I’d want to own the most from here on out.

San Diego Padres – Trevor Hoffman – Rock Solid

Despite blowing back-to-back save chances last week, Hoffman’s job remains safe. The one that blew Jake Peavy’s 16-K gem was especially hard to swallow for this fantasy owner.

Seattle Mariners – J.J. Putz – Rock Solid

Putz has shaken off spring injury concerns to resemble last year’s dominant self. More save opportunities are sure to follow.

San Francisco Giants – Armando Benitez – Solid

Smoke and mirrors. Benitez has lost 25 pounds recently, cutting out alcohol and improving his diet. He’s also 7-for-7 in save chances, with a 2.16 ERA. Still, there’s plenty to be concerned about here. He has a 8:5 K:BB ratio and allowed multiple baserunners in seven of his first eight appearances. His splitter is no longer an effective pitch, and he lost his best fastball years ago. There’s a chance he remains mildly effective all year long and accumulates 35 saves, but he’s a sell-high candidate in my eyes. However, other than maybe Tim Lincecum, the Giants have no alternatives to close, so his job is safe despite the Bay Area’s general distaste for him.

St. Louis Cardinals – Jason Isringhausen – Rock Solid

Looks like hip surgery worked. Go ahead and go back to considering Izzy a middle to top tier option.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Al Reyes – Solid

Maybe Reyes’ season so far shouldn’t have come as such a surprise; after all, he is just two years removed from a 2.15 ERA, 0.93 WHIP season pitching for the Cardinals. Since he’s 37 years old, these seasons have somewhat come out of nowhere, but it’s clear he’s developed into an effective pitcher. His current stats are in no way sustainable while pitching in the AL East, but he’s building quite a bit of confidence with Joe Maddon. He looks like a top 10-15 closer.

Texas Rangers – Akinori Otsuka – Solid

While I’m not quite ready to suggest Gagne’s career is taking the Mark Prior/Kerry Wood path, it’s awful close. There’s a lot to be discouraged about, that’s for sure. He’s probably one of the bigger past steroid abuser candidates out there. Otsuka, meanwhile, just keeps on getting the job done.

Toronto Blue Jays – Jason Frasor – Shaky

I wouldn’t count on much from BJ Ryan this year, but Frasor won’t have a ton of security after allowing three runs in a blown save Saturday. Still, he’s been effective for the most part and is the guy to own in Toronto’s pen.

Washington Nationals – Chad Cordero – Rock Solid

The Chief has been incredibly shaky so far, due largely to a lack of control. He’ll turn it around, but another 47-save season isn’t happening anytime soon.

NFL Draft Recap

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Calvin Johnson is a beast and should immediately put up big numbers in Mike Martz’ system. Just because Charles Rogers and Mike Williams failed, doesn’t mean the Lions shouldn’t have taken a receiver. He and Roy Williams are not going to be easy to defend. It’s just too bad Johnson is blocked by Mike Furrey.

The 49ers have to be happy coming away from this draft. Not only is Patrick Willis an immediate impact, but Joe Staley qualifies as a steal as well. It may have been a steep price to pay, but no amount of draft picks are too much to pay to get Kwame Harris out of the starting lineup. Jason Hill was another excellent pick – you got to love guys who had their stock fall because they were nagged by injuries senior year. This kid was legit during his sophomore and junior campaigns. Also, how does Darrell Jackson only cost a fourth rounder? If any receiver this side of Calvin Johnson taken during this draft has a career like Jackson’s, that team would be ecstatic. Plus, he’s a lot cheaper than one taken during the first round. San Francisco has a chance to win the NFC West this year.

As much as I wanted Carolina to draft him, the Giants got great value with the Steve Smith pick. Amani “it’s not a” Toomer is done, and Sinorice Moss is more of a No. 3 guy. It’s just too bad New York didn’t address their glaring weakness – the QB position.

Ted Ginn has to be one of the most obvious NFL busts in recent memory. His game simply is not going to translate well into the NFL. I mean, punt returners have their value and all, but they aren’t worthy of a top-15 draft pick. The fact Ginn is coming off a serious foot injury that is still affecting him four months later makes the decision even more perplexing. But hey, at least they replaced Wes Welker!

Marshawn Lynch immediately becomes the best fantasy option out of this year’s draft. He doesn’t have the ability of Adrian Peterson and character questions abound, but Buffalo didn’t select Lynch in the first round to sit behind Anthony Thomas. He’s a top-20 RB for fantasy purposes.

The Vikings have serious QB questions with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm, but Adrian Peterson was too good to pass up. Chester Taylor put up decent numbers last year purely because of the excess in opportunity – he’s not a very good NFL running back. Brad Childress compared the situation to Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter when he was in Philly, but if Peterson can remain healthy – admittedly a big if – expect him to receive the lion’s share of the touches by mid-season. In a keeper-league, he’s probably worthy of an early second round pick, if not higher.

The way I see it, both teams came away winners in the Cleveland/Dallas trade. The Cowboys easily benefit, moving down 13 spots for a likely top-5 pick in next year’s draft. While it also makes sense for the Browns, who were almost certainly going to use that early pick next year on a QB, but now have one in Brady Quinn, who will also already have a year under his belt opposed to next year’s rookie selection. Getting a left tackle and QB, the two most important positions on the football field, is quite a coup for this Cleveland franchise.

Michael Bush is the early consensus pick for steal of the draft, and his health status is the only holdup from the prognostications becoming true. Before the ugly leg injury, Bush showed an impressive power/speed combo. With all due respect to LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes apologists, Bush enters a situation with pretty weak competition for carries in Oakland’s backfield. If a fantasy draft were held today, I’d much rather own Bush over any other Raiders’ ballcarrier.

Speaking of sleepers, Green Bay’s Brandon Jackson is looking like one of the best for the upcoming season. If you listen to the coaches talk, everyone in Green Bay wants this kid to be the primary ballcarrier next year. For all of the Packers’ faults, they still produce very good ground game stats, and with Vernand Morency the main competition, Jackson belongs firmly on everyone’s fantasy radar.

Well, I got the Randy Moss to New England rumor wrong. I never thought it would happen, but if Bill Belichick can turn around Rodney Harrison and Corey Dillon, why not Moss? Donte Stallworth and Randy Moss are slight upgrades over Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney.

Mailbag

Friday, April 27th, 2007

On the eve of the NFL Draft, I thought I’d break out a mailbag to start off the weekend. Remember, e-mail me any thoughts/questions/rants at seven3d@aol.com to appear in future versions. Thanks to those (few) who did write in, and for those who did but didn’t make the cut onto the site, there’s always next time:

Ben asks:

Who is/will be the best pitcher this year & WHY?? J Hirsh, D Cabrera, M Buehrle, F Garcia. After the best, please rank the other 3 from best to worst w/reasoning. Thanks.

RotoScoop says:
Daniel Cabrera will be because he has the best arsenal of pitches and is finally improving his command. Although still a little too high, he’s cut his walk rate down significantly, and his strikeout potential is second to none.

2)Buehrle – he’s pitching for a contract and looks ready to greatly improve upon last year’s subpar effort. Soft-tossers are just so much safer healthwise as well.
3)F. Garcia – not what he once was but should rebound in the NL. His numbers aren’t good so far, but he’s had two tough matchups (Mets and @ Cincy).
4)Hirsh – not a bad option either, but Coors Field is still very much so a hitter’s park.

Mark asks:

Should I drop Willy Taveras for Kenny Lofton? The only reason I have Taveras is for SBs. However, he’s hurting the rest of my stats. H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, K, AVG.

RotoScoop says:
The fact Steve Finley is getting so many starts over Taveras is quite ridiculous and discouraging. That said, for a leadoff hitter, Taveras certainly doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on base. While a DL stint is probably likely at some point this year for Lofton, I’d still go ahead and make the switch.

Jack asks:
I have been offered David Dejesus and Tom Glavine for Andruw Jones and Brett Tomko. Dejesus is currently leading Jones in EVERY category… including home runs! And I think he’ll end the season with more SBs… the question is, can Dejesus keep it up without a little help and is Andruw about to blow up? Remember, this is a contract year for Jones. Tomko has a better ERA than Glavine, but he’s 0-1 and Glavine is 3-1. Tomko has better K numbers, and my team is hurting in that category but Glavine has a better WHIP, which I’m doing well in. Another big factor is the NL West is MUCH improved over last year, and to me the Mets seem to offer much better run support. Any feelings on this?

RotoScoop says:
I’d take Glavine over Tomko, since he’s the better pitcher and could approach 15-17 wins pitching for that powerful Mets team. Tomko may have greater strikeout ability, but his WHIP suggests a big increase in ERA is sure to follow. Still, Andruw Jones is much, much more valuable than DeJesus. Sure, he looks better now, but DeJesus has NEVER played in more than 122 games in a season, or finished with 10 HRs or 10 SBs in a season. And like you said, Jones is playing for a contract – he’ll turn it around. I would not do this deal.

MT asks:
5×5 14 team mixed league – Have been offered a trade — I get Sexson & Sosa — I give E Byrnes & Hawpe …. I could use Homers — I’m concerned that the AVG will kill me. Your thoughts?

RotoScoop says:
I actually wouldn’t recommend doing this deal. I know it sounds crazy, but Byrnes is the most valuable fantasy commodity here with his power/speed combo. Sexson and Sosa will demolish your average, and Hawpe will come around (he’s showing real good plate discipline, some power will come). Don’t do it.

The Haves and the Have-Nots

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Chances are, if you drafted a hitter in the first three rounds of your draft, you’re either quite satisfied with their performance, or incredibly disappointed. That’s because a quick look back at Yahoo’s original top 25 hitters shows a remarkable disparity between the players who have performed up to (or exceeded) expectations and those who have not.

Sixteen of those original top 25 hitters crack Yahoo’s top 40 overall player rankings for this year. In fact, with the notable exception of Ian Rever-Kinsler, all of the top 7 batters so far were likely taken in the first two rounds. It is a rarity this early in the season for most of the top guys to actually come through and perform like top draft picks.

The other side of the coin are the nine guys who range from rankings of 107 (Derek Jeter) up to a simply horrific 576, 699 and 742 (Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira, respectively). While most of these studs should come around and finish up among the elite, a few legitimately worry me:

Mark Teixeira – Much like me, it’s starting to look like Teixeira peaked a couple of years ago. Look for him to barely surpass his down totals from last season.

Ryan Howard – Speaking of over the hill, 2006 may very well go down as the best season of Howard’s career. Even his prorated 2005 stats might be somewhat lofty expectations. Look for 100/120/40/0 with an average in the .270s when all is said and done.

Alfonso Soriano – As much as it pains me to do this, it is looking more and more like Soriano is going to be a 2nd round guy next year. He should still be able to get close to 30/30 this year, but those are Grady Sizemore numbers. I’m sure someone in your league still feels like he is a top 10 talent, so go ahead and see if you can move him to that team (note: If anyone in my league wants Soriano for some serious talent, let me know).

NFL Mock Draft

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Like last year, this draft is star-powered and full of intrigue. With many potential blockbuster trades legitimately in the works, this weekend should be plenty watchable. I’m not going to humor anyone into thinking I can predict the unpredictable, so I’ll just take a stab at the top 10 picks. I’m already excited just imagining Mel Kiper and Mel Kiper’s hair getting irate over an egregious fifth-round pick.

1. Oakland Raiders – Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech

All signs seem to point to JaMarcus Russell. During a lengthy tongue-lashing delivered to Art Shell on Jan. 5, Al Davis accused Shell of persuading Davis to bypass Matt Leinart with the seventh pick of last year’s draft. “You set this franchise back 10 years. Now I have to fix it,” Davis said. Quarterback may be their most glaring need, but smart franchises draft for value and get their needs through free agency. Obviously, no one is going to confuse Oakland with a smart franchise, but they can’t be dumb enough to pass on a once-in-a-lifetime prospect such as Johnson, can they? Coach Lane Kiffin calls Johnson “basically perfect.” Remember, Davis hasn’t used a first-round pick, let alone the top pick, on a quarterback since the Raiders selected Todd Marinovich in 1991. Look for the Raiders to address the QB position either by acquiring Daunte Culpepper and/or drafting a Trent Edwards type later in the draft.

2. Arizona Cardinals (via Detroit Lions) – Joe Thomas, LT Wisconsin

That’s right, I’m already predicting a trade. I’m not going to get into details, but the Lions move down into the Cardinals’ No. 5 spot. If the Raiders pass on Johnson and take Russell, all bets are off, as numerous teams will slobber over moving up to nab the Georgia Tech toker. Arizona has its defensive needs, but the offensive line is the more glaring of the two. With the skill positions set, Thomas is brought on board in hopes of opening the first hole Edge James has seen since he signed in the desert.

3. Cleveland Browns – Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma

Brady Quinn is another strong possibility here, but coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage are worried about their jobs, and Peterson will have the greater immediate impact. QB is a serious position of need and more important than running back, but that doesn’t make Peterson a bad pick. After all, he is a special talent.

4. Tampa Bay – Gaines Adams, DE Clemson

Jon Gruden has selected offense in each of his three first-round picks with Tampa Bay. He finally relents and lets his defense take the draft’s top pure pass rusher.

5. Detroit Lions (via Arizona Cardinals) – Patrick Willis, LB Ole Miss

The Lions traded down in hopes of getting Gaines, but they’ll have to settle for Willis instead. He’s nearly 240 pounds and ran a 4.37 forty at the Ole Miss pro day. He’s going to be good, although in my opinion, linebacker is the most fungible position on the football field.

6. Miami Dolphins (via Washington Redskins) – Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame

With only one pick in the first four rounds, Washington needs to stockpile as many extra picks as possible to work on much-needed depth. As such, the Dolphins make a splash (pun intended) by moving up three spots to take their quarterback of the future.

7. Minnesota Vikings – JaMarcus Russell, QB LSU

Coach Brad Childress would be admitting that last year’s trade of two third-round picks for Tarvaris Jackson was a mistake, but it’s better late than never. Russell is too tough to pass up at this spot, especially with what Childress has done in the past regarding quarterback development.

8. Atlanta Falcons – LaRon Landry, FS LSU

If Calvin Johnson starts slipping, an Atlanta move up to pair the local product with running back Michael Vick isn’t out of the question. Still, a team in desperate need of safety help, Landry is a perfect fit for the Falcons.

9. Washington Redskins (via Miami Dolphins) – Amobi Okoye, DT Louisville

The Nigerian Nightmare, part deux.

10. Houston Texans – Levi Brown, LT Penn State

While this may be somewhat of a slight reach, the Texans are in dire need of a left tackle. His agility should fit Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme quite well.

Player Spotlight: Tim Lincecum

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Life is good in the Bay Area sports world right now. The Warriors look like they have a legitimate chance at one of the biggest playoff upsets in NBA history, the A’s are in first place, and the Raiders, well, they have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft! And then there’s the Giants, who after an awful start have now won five in a row and seven of eight. Barry Zito is rounding into form, Matt Cain looks like a Cy Young candidate and Barry Bonds is back. In case you haven’t noticed, Bonds is slugging an acceptable .804 on the year and homering every 7.67 at-bats.

And yet, over any of the above mentioned, I’m most excited about Tim Lincecum, aka “The Franchise.” Most have him ranked below Philip Hughes, and many have him behind Homer Bailey and Yovani Gallardo as the game’s top prospects. Many would be wrong. There probably isn’t much more I can add at this point – the svelte right-hander has allowed nine hits, walked five and struck out 28 in 18 2/3 scoreless innings for Triple-A Fresno so far this season. He might already have the best curveball in baseball. Including his performance at Fresno this year, Lincecum has faced 191 batters as a professional and struck out 86 of them. His strikeout rate is roughly six standard deviations above the average for minor league pitchers. PECOTA views him similarly:

Upside
1. Tim Lincecum, Giants (23) 205.6
2. Philip Hughes, Yankees (21) 197.2
3. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers (21) 132.4
4. Kevin Slowey, Twins (23) 123.3

Of the top-10 strikeout rates in the PECOTA database that dates back to 1997, Lincecum sits in first place, fanning an unbelievable 30.9 percent of the batters he’s faced. “Lincecum is probably best conceived of as a hybrid of Kerry Wood and Francisco Rodriguez, his top two PECOTA comparables, and he probably has better mechanics than either of them.” Not bad.

Now, Hughes is probably the safer bet of the two because of his build, but remember, he’s also set to pitch in the AL East, while Lincecum gets the NL West and one of the game’s best pitcher’s parks. He should be owned in all leagues right now, no matter how shallow. Although opportunity remains up in the air, as the one area of no concern for San Francisco currently is their starting rotation. And as much as Armando Benitez is likely to implode sooner rather than later, Lincecum absolutely has to remain a starter. Still, if an injury doesn’t strike first, Russ Ortiz’s 11/6 K/BB ratio over 20.2 innings will eventually catch up to him.

I have a friend of a friend (name drop alert) who played with Lincecum briefly last year in rookie ball, and let’s just say, the kid isn’t short on confidence. Neither am I when it comes to his ability.

The Scoop

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Last week the Reds scored in only two innings during the 3-game series against the Cubs yet won 2 out of 3 games.

Last week after Grady Sizemore led the game off with a double, the Indians were no-hit the rest of the game. And they won.

The Yankees are 0-7 this year when Alex Rodriguez doesn’t homer.

Jose Reyes is on pace for a .370, 19 HR, 152 RBI, 200 R, 95 SB season.

I wasn’t high on Adam LaRoche entering the season; after all, two months worth of production shouldn’t overshadow an otherwise mediocre career. Still, fantasy owners need to be patient with his ice-cold start, as he has a .187 career batting average during April.

Despite the slow start in average, Kelly Johnson’s ability to take a walk has really been an asset atop the Braves’ lineup. After Sunday’s two jack game, his skills may no longer be a secret. With 20/20 potential and a threat to score 110 runs, Johnson is worthy of a MI spot in even shallow leagues at this point.

Melvin Mora may not be done after all. Not only is he showing improved plate discipline early on, but the .514 slugging percentage is key after last year’s near career-low .391 mark. Batting second in a fairly productive Orioles’ lineup, Mora is a useful corner infielder.

Hope you didn’t panic over Travis Hafner’s sluggish start – he’ll finish the year as a top-10 fantasy player.

Todd Helton is batting .339 this year with a remarkable 3/15 K/BB ratio. He clearly has gas left in the tank, but unfortunately, the power hasn’t reemerged, as he has just one long ball to show for it. Even if he’s only able to contribute 15-20 big flies this season, he should still finish as a top-10 fantasy first basemen.

As the best bat on a team that could make the playoffs, look for Adrian Gonzalez to get some MVP votes come season’s end. Petco Park obviously limits his upside somewhat, but he’s only getting better. Gonzalez is going to make a run at 125 RBI this year.

Entering the ninth inning Sunday, Matt Cain had allowed just four hits over the previous 22 innings. He’s going to be good.

Round One Playoff Preview – Western Conference

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Utah (4) vs. Houston (5)

Utah: The Jazz are back in the playoffs for the first time since Karl Malone and John Stockton departed after the 2002-03 season. However, the team stumbled down the stretch, going just 4-6 over the final 10 games. Utah also relies heavily on their homecourt advantage, something Houston possesses during this series. Deron Williams is already a top-3 point guard in the league, and Carlos Boozer is a force in the paint. There may not have been a more disappointing season than Andrei Kirilenko’s, however.

Houston: Tracy McGrady has still never won a playoff series. For a top-5 player in the league, that’s pretty hard to fathom. Coming off one of his best season’s in his career, in which he averaged a career-high 6.5 assists per game, he’s running out of excuses, especially since Houston has the homecourt edge this time around. Yao Ming is healthy, making this team a pretty dangerous one. Jeff Van Gundy is my runner-up for Coach of the Year honors.

Outcome: Utah is no pushover, but the Yao and T-Mac tandem should be enough to give Houston the slight edge. Rockets 4-3.

Los Angeles Lakers (7) vs. Phoenix (2)

Los Angeles: Although they have lost three straight to Phoenix, the Suns aren’t the worst matchup for the Lakers, as the run-and-gun up-tempo style fits Kobe Bryant’s game perfectly. Still, the Lakers almost didn’t even make the postseason, as their second half to the season failed to match their hot start. The 42-40 record is the worst-ever by a Phil Jackson coached team. It’s best not to count them out in a seven game series format with arguably the game’s top player on their side, but this battle is definitely an uphill one.

Phoenix: Unbelievably, Amare Stoudemire didn’t miss a single game this season. Steve Nash’s ability to incorporate him into the offense without anyone else suffering was quite a coup, and Nash very well may have had his best season yet. He probably won’t win a third straight MVP award, but handing out 11.6 assists per game while making 53.2 percent of his shots in unheard of in today’s game. He shot 45.5 percent from downtown and 89.9 percent from the line. Of all his seasons, this one was the most deserving of MVP honors.

Outcome: A rematch of one of the best playoff matches in recent memory last year, the Suns have too much firepower for the undermanned Lakers to handle. Suns 4-2.

Denver (6) vs. San Antonio (3)

Denver: The Nuggets enter the postseason winners of nine out of the last 10 games. It took more than a little while for Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony to gel, but this team is tough to beat when the chemistry is working. If not for health concerns, Marcus Camby would be a top-5 pick in fantasy leagues. The Nuggets have been bounced from the playoffs in five games in each of the last three seasons, by San Antonio, Minnesota and the Clippers. They haven’t won a playoff series since 1994.

San Antonio: While Dallas and Phoenix have largely been the talk of the league throughout the season, the Spurs might very well be the best team. The AP has been having some fun with this squad recently, first listing Robert Horry as “DNP – Old Age” a couple of weeks ago and then Brent Barry “DNP – Tummy Ache” last week. However, this team is certainly no joke and should have little trouble moving into round 2.

Outcome: Denver loses in five for the fourth straight year. Spurs 4-1.

Golden State (8) vs. Dallas (1)

Golden State: Surprisingly, there isn’t a hotter team in the NBA right now. The Warriors finished the season 16-4, including 9-1 over the final 10 games. They were the only team in the league to win the season series with Dallas, sweeping it 3-0. In fact, they have beaten Dallas six straight times. Admittedly, the last contest was little more than an exhibition, as the Mavs sat all of their starters, which shows just how unworried the team is with a first round matchup against Golden State. It is a little curious, however, because the Warriors do happen to match up well against Dallas, as the small ball effect seems to work. Don Nelson wants his revenge.

Dallas: The Mavs don’t have an easy first round opponent, but they were the best team in the NBA this regular season. Remember, they started off 0-4 and gave away that win to G. State, so this team easily could have won 70 games. A closer look at the roster reveals nothing too special, so that’s why I think Avery Johnson has done the best coaching job this season. This team is underrated defensively.

Outcome: Listening to the Bay Area media, almost everyone thinks the Warriors have a legitimate chance at an upset here. As much as I hope I’m wrong, I just can’t see it. Although winning games at the ruckus Oracle Arena is going to prove to be difficult, as Golden State finished 30-11 there this season. Mavs 4-1.

Round One Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference

Friday, April 20th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

New Jersey (6) vs. Toronto (3)

New Jersey: The Nets come in on a roll, winning four straight and eight out of the last 10 contests. No one in the NBA is hotter than Vince Carter, as he’s posted two triple-doubles this month and fell just one assist shy of a third as well. He’s also averaging 29.0 points per game on 48 percent shooting during April. Of course, Carter is THE story of this series, since his departure from Toronto wasn’t so amicable. He should be plenty motivated, but so will the Toronto fans, as no athlete in recent memory gave up on his team more so than Carter with the Raptors. With Jason Kidd still playing at an elite level and Richard Jefferson around, it just feels like the Nets should be a better team.

Toronto: The Raptors had the most surprising season of any team in basketball this year. Picked by many to finish last in their division, including myself, the Raptors somehow managed to win the Atlantic Division. I think I’ve even heard Sam Mitchell and Coach of the Year both uttered in the same sentence. A quick glance at the weather channel revealed nothing of hell freezing over.

Outcome: The teams split the four-game regular season series, but Kidd sat out one of the losses. New Jersey is playing their best basketball at the right time and should be able to outlast a fairly vulnerable No. 3 seed. Nets 4-3.

Miami (4) vs. Chicago (5)

Miami: The Heat may be the No. 4 seed, but they do not have homecourt since the Bulls finished with a better regular season record. Miami is the type of veteran team that can turn it on once the postseason roles around, but Dwayne Wade’s injury is especially worrisome. How healthy is he? In the history of the NBA, no championship team’s leading scorer has missed more than 16 games. Wade’s missed 30 this year. Still, they are the defending champs and should be extra motivated with the Bulls’ recent trash talking.

Chicago: The Bulls’ loss to the Nets on the last day of the season meant a first round matchup with the Heat instead of the depleted Wizards. Chicago nearly beat Miami in last year’s playoffs and took three out of four from them this season. However, the Bulls haven’t won a playoff series since Michael Jordan left the team in 1998. This one is probably going the distance.

Outcome: Wade’s ability to get to the basket is the difference here, as his frequent trips to the line was the main reason Miami took home the Championship last year. There probably isn’t enough in the tank to go much further, but Miami takes down the Bulls in Round One. Heat 4-3.

Orlando (8) vs. Detroit (1)

Orlando: Nice to see the snake-bitten Orlando franchise finally back in the postseason, but it should be short-lived against the Eastern Conference favorites. The Magic won four straight to end the season, but it’s going to take a monster effort from Dwight Howard to win more than one game in this series.

Detroit: The Pistons are attempting to reach the conference finals for the fifth straight year, a streak only one NBA team has surpassed in 20-plus years. Detroit won all four games over Orlando during the regular season, as Chauncey Billups abused Jameer Nelson. He has a major size and strength advantage over the Magic’s point guard, and it’s a mismatch Detroit figures to continue to exploit. There could be some complacency issues here, but it’s the Pistons 4-1.

Cleveland (2) vs. Washington (7)

Washington: Losing both Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas means the roster of a last place team enters the postseason. They were just 2-8 over their last 10 games of the season. Antawn Jamison is going to have to carry the load, but this series is the most likely to end with a sweep.

Cleveland: Is LeBron James finally ready to take the next step? Things couldn’t have worked out more perfectly, as the Cavs get a decimated Wizards’ squad first, and then either the beatable Raptors or Nets. James had a pretty decent campaign for such a “disappointing season.” Still, he does seem to lack that killer instinct, and there’s no better way to prove those doubters wrong than playoff time. Cavs 4-0.

Hot Starts

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Considering that Alfonso Soriano and Manny Ramirez were my first two picks (with Alex Gordon my “late round steal”), you won’t find any of my guys on this Hot Starts list. Below are 11 of the top 50 fantasy hitters so far this season, according to Yahoo! I rate each of them on a scale of 1 to 10, one being trade them ASAP for whatever you can get and 10 meaning hold onto them for dear life. Remember, no matter how much you love Josh Hamilton and think he’s legit, there is probably an owner out there who loves him even more. Shop your hot starts aggressively and see if anyone overpays.

Jose Reyes and Alex Rodriguez – 10/10

I would trade Soriano and Ramirez for either one of these guys. If I drafted today, I would probably go 1. Reyes 2. Pujols 3. A-Rod

Ian Kinsler – 6

I am always suspect of anyone named “Ian,” but have to admit lesser players have had some pretty big seasons at Ameriquest. 25/15 with an average in the 300s and great peripherals seem to be reasonable for this up-and-comer.

Derrek Lee – 7

Burned by Mr. Lee last year, I thought he was a good third round gamble this year. While he has yet to hit a home run, his average and speed are certainly there. He may only hit 25-30 bombs, but his other numbers should hover around his impressive 2005 totals.

Eric Byrnes -6

Mr. Byrnes won my approval when, in an unprecedented fashion statement, he folded French cuffs over his blazer on Baseball Tonight. Last year he quietly put up career numbers in homers (26) and steals (25) and is well on his way to surpassing that total this year. I would set the over/under at 27/32 with decent peripherals.

Russell Martin – 8

The new Jason Kendall, Russ Martin has impressed early on and with 20-steal potential. He is probably deserving of a spot after the big three assuming he puts up decent peripherals.

Kaz Matsui – 3

I liked Kaz as a fantasy sleeper in Colorado and owners had to love his early season steals. However, with a bulging disc landing Kaz on the DL, his days of running wild may be over. His owners will probably just have to wait this out.

Rickie Weeks – 7

Weeks has shown off his power/speed combination atop a solid Brewers’ lineup and has an outside shot of reaching 30/30 this season. Look for his average to be respectable, as well.

Luis Gonzalez – 1
Luis has already peaked. See if you can still move him and then cut bait in shallow leagues.

Barry Bonds – 3

Barry! Barry! Bonds is still a great hitter and will remain motivated until he surpasses Hammering Hank. After that, the man is going to be about as motivated as I am to get tested for HIV. Don’t get stuck with Bonds late in the year.

Josh Hamilton – 4

Josh “The Hammer” Hamilton (sorry Alex Gordon, you don’t deserve the nickname anymore) was on my fantasy team twice already this season. Unfortunately, both times he was dropped before even playing a game. He is probably the biggest question mark on this list, and while his talent is undeniable, there is probably someone out there who would rather roll the dice with this success story. Plus, Cincinnati has a crowded outfield and there is always the “off the wagon” factor. Hitting a home run undoubtedly feels great but I would venture to guess that injecting heroin feels even better.

Melancholy

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

I’m depressed. Wednesday wasn’t a very good day for me in the fantasy sports world:

1) As previously mentioned, I own Felix Hernandez in every league I play in. Watching him throw pitch after pitch in the dirt and then signal to the trainer, I’m not optimistic. After such a dominant first two starts, it almost makes this even more difficult to swallow. I hate complaining about injuries, but losing both him and Chris Carpenter might be too much to handle in my NFBC league. I’m expecting the worst.

2) While I didn’t lose Brett Myers to injury, I lost a whole lot of innings from him due to stupidity. Actually, to call this move stupid would be an insult to the stupid. You really don’t need me to go over the numbers – he struck out 107 batters with a 1.17 WHIP over 100 innings after the All-Star break last year and had whiffed 19 guys over 15 1/3 innings to start this season off. The best part is the decision is made the day Myers declares he’s detected a mechanical flaw as the cause for his two recent bad outings. Moving their best pitcher to a role that means about 70 percent fewer innings pitched isn’t a very smart decision.

3) I lost a head-to-head fantasy basketball league 5-4 in the championship round. Did I mention the points scored category came down to me losing by four points? As in, two baskets was the difference between first place and not winning. T-Mac’s DNP didn’t help.

4) Just when I think things can’t get any worse, Sanjaya gets booted off American Idol! Geesh. I did win my other hoops league, and the Warriors are going to the playoffs, so I guess this whole “woe is me” act can stop now.

The Scoop

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Jorge Julio is currently sporting a hard to fathom 2/11 K/BB ratio. If you haven’t already, cut bait, and don’t look back.

Matt Cain has allowed a total of three hits over the last 14 innings pitched and has zero wins to show for it. He’s 0-1 on the year despite a 1.80 ERA.

Kyle Lohse is worth picking up. He probably won’t maintain an ERA better than 4.0, but the NL has transformed worse pitchers into valuable fantasy commodities. He’s pitching for a contract at season’s end, and that 19/2 K/BB ratio is hard to ignore.

Scott Olsen makes for a good buy low candidate right now. His control problems won’t lead to a great WHIP, but he does figure to improve his command enough to get his ERA in the 3.80 range. Plus, he’ll be a big asset in strikeouts. Go after him before he faces the Nationals later this week, as there isn’t a better cure for your ills than Washington’s impotent lineup.

Tim Lincecum has been flat-out dominant at Triple-A Fresno, striking out 28 in 18 2/3 scoreless innings. He’s worth a roster spot right now.

Last week in my deep, 15-team NFBC league, I bid $195 (out of my allotted $1,000 FAAB) on Adam Lind, only to lose him to the top bidder at $205. I’m mad I didn’t go ahead and go higher because in a league this deep, he’ll be worth it. Especially if he sees more time in the No. 2 hole like he has been.

I can admit when I’m wrong. I clearly underrated Ian Snell going into this year. Score one for the RotoScoop readers who called me out on it, because Snell has opened the year on a tear, striking out 20 batters in as many innings. Although shutting down the Cardinals’ offense, whom he has faced twice, isn’t quite as impressive as it used to be.

Alfonso Soriano and Manny Ramirez have as many home runs as I do this year.

How about the Dallas Mavericks sitting out basically their whole team against Golden State Tuesday, almost asking for the Warriors in round one. If I’m the Clippers, I’m none too pleased. Golden State, by the way, is the only team with a winning record against Dallas this year, sweeping the season series 3-0.

There isn’t a better block of television than HBO Sunday night’s right now. Of course you’ve got The Sopranos and Entourage, but also De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7 – a four part series leading up to the May 5 fight. Bringing in trainer Freddie Roach could be key to De La Hoya’s chances, and he certainly looks motivated for what could be his last fight. And I also worry about Mayweather’s confidence, as he doesn’t seem to have much of it. Forget Roy Jones, pound for pound, Mayweather is the best (non-heavyweight) boxer of our generation, and he’s going to prove it by soundly beating the Golden Boy come May 5.

Piece of Schmidt

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

I’ve been worried about Jason Schmidt ever since I personally saw him toss a one-hitter at AT&T Park against the Red Sox three seasons ago. You see, it took 133 pitches to accomplish. The funny thing is, that wasn’t even the most pitches he’d thrown to complete a one-hitter THAT MONTH. No, that honor occurred a few weeks earlier in a 144-pitch gem. Even crazier, he only walked two and one in those games, respectively.

To call him inefficient would be an understatement, but it’s hard to fault Felipe Alou for not giving Schmidt an earlier hook, since he was tossing one-hitters and all. Maybe that wasn’t the beginning of the end, but Schmidt has dealt with numerous injuries since that 2004 season. A season in which he finished with a miniscule 2.34 ERA.

Jason Schmidt is a hypochondriac. When he refused to take the mound late last season because of a perceived minor back problem, many in San Francisco’s organization accused him of worrying about free agency over the team. The fact the rotation had to be completely reshuffled, and the Giants stumbled to a 1-9 finish made things even easier to place blame squarely on Schmidt.

Schmidt has been moderately effective with a decrease in velocity over the last two years, still flashing that nasty changeup. Still, it was more than a little apparent that something was going on with his shoulder. The strikeout rate, while still solid, has been falling pretty dramatically. I’m not going to kill the Dodgers for giving him $47 million over three years; after all, he could not throw another pitch for the duration, and it still wouldn’t hurt as much as other contracts signed during the offseason. Still, Los Angeles can’t be surprised by the early DL stint. The fact he was topping out at 85 MPH during the last couple of starts suggests this may be more than the 15-day variety.

Perspective

Monday, April 16th, 2007

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

I was recently mocked by a furious owner in my league for offering him Randy Wolf and Aaron Hill for Randy Johnson. Now, I’m not going to argue that it was a great deal, Dalton has already pointed out that Aaron Hill has a limited track record of hitting home runs or swiping bags, but it certainly wasn’t a bad one. I, for one, think that Randy Wolf has a very good shot of outperforming The Big Unit this year.

Now, this brings us to a bigger issue. How early in the season do you start taking stock in a player’s performance and ignore their previous body of work. Should you trade Albert Pujols for Miguel Cabrera (no)? Is Alex Rodriguez more valuable than Alfonso Soriano (sadly for me, the answer is yes)? The obvious answer is that it depends. But the moral of the story is that there are always those in your league who put too much stock in past performance (like my nameless competitor) and those who put too much faith in fast starts (the Chris Shelton lovers). The key is figuring out who these owners are and exploiting them.

Additionally of note:

I was flipping through the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition this morning and, although I know it came out a couple of months ago, I would be remiss if I didn’t make a couple of quick comments.

1. Marisa Miller has been holding it down as top dog for quite some time now. I’m not sure why she hasn’t been in a bunch of movies yet. At least give the lady her own cover.

2. I’m actually pretty underwhelmed with the other gals in the magazine. Maybe it’s because there are so many other mediums for “entertainment” these days, and the magazine no longer spends months at a time under my mattress, but it seems like the golden era of the late 90s has passed. Bar Rafaeli put in a pretty solid rookie effort, though.

3. I’m kind of over the body painting. It is a cool concept, and I liked it when it first came out, but now it just looks kind of weird. The 3-D glasses are far and away the best recent innovation.

I played my first game of pickup hoops in a while at the park across the street from my apartment. When the game before me broke down into a five minute argument over whether the score was 1-1 or 1-0, I knew I was in for a long day. After one guy threatened to “shoot the whole place up” if his little cousin (who was about 11) didn’t get to play next, he used the following flawless logic: “This is how MJ came up learning how to play, this is how Kobe learned how to play and this is how I learned the game!” When his team won on a controversial call, I was fortunate enough to be matched up with a guy who was literally foaming at the mouth and talked like DMX with a bad cold. He stormed off the court after two minutes, frustrated with a touch foul (it fortunately wasn’t me) and screaming how he couldn’t “drop” one of my teammates because then he would be the one locked up. Life’s unfair sometimes.

Hot and Not

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

HOT

Dontrelle Willis – Willis is a major league leading 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA after three starts. He’s also struck out 17 batters over 19 innings. Remember, the WBC is at least partly to blame for his sub-par 2006 season. Still, April is always his best month, so he’s not a bad sell-high candidate. Willis is 12-1 with a 2.49 ERA during his career in April. Plus, he’s never a big help in WHIP.

Jimmy Rollins – He was my favorite second round target in fantasy leagues this year, but since I was often given an early pick, unfortunately he never fell to me. Dating back to early August of last year, Rollins has now clubbed 19 home runs – the second most in the majors during that time span. He’s also walking more and has been successful on 33 out of his last 35 stolen base attempts. A move in the order to the cleanup spot isn’t out of the question. He’s a legitimate top-15 fantasy player.

Adam Dunn – Dunn missed Sunday’s contest because of back spasms, and he still strikes out way too much to bat .280, let alone the .326 he is now. Still, he’s extra motivated this year and will probably finish with a batting average closer to .260 than last year’s .230. He could also swipe 20 bases if he were so inclined. Dunn will put up a 50-homer season one of these years.

Grady Sizemore – 92 extra base hits as a 23-year-old is special. Apparently, that power is going to translate into more home runs immediately. I admit, I should have been even higher on him entering the year, as a 30/30 season looks likely. If he maintains his early season improved ability to walk, how many runs is he going to score this year? 150?

NOT

Michael Young
– Despite the media’s insistence on calling him underrated, Young is actually a slightly overrated baseball player. And fantasywise, his lack of HRs and SBs really hurts, but getting 700 at-bats and playing in Ameriquest still leads to big numbers in the other categories. While the .222 average isn’t anything to worry about, Young’s best seasons are behind him.

Alfonso Soriano – Fellow RotoScoop scribe Robby, an Alex Rodriguez apologist, has to be kicking himself right now for taking Soriano over him. How Soriano performs after signing the huge contract is of some concern, but it’s obviously too soon to panic. Remember, he has a career .325 OBP and .833 OPS, so he’s not a superstar in real baseball. Still, he’ll hit enough bombs and steal enough bases to be worthy of that first round pick you spent on him. I would say the 11 strikeouts in 11 games is worrisome, but he fanned 160 times last year during a 40/40 campaign.

Ryan Howard – A repeat of last year’s .313 average was next to impossible if he continued striking out once every 3.2 at-bats, but the early season slump has also seen a big drop off in power, as Howard has slugged just one long ball so far. He’s also being pitched around more frequently, as he’s already walked 16 times, many intentional. Don’t worry, the power numbers will be there.

Ichiro Suzuki – I made a bet before the season started that Albert Pujols would have a better average than Ichiro Suzuki this year. Entering Sunday, Pujols was batting .158 while Ichiro was hitting a robust .192. Both had big days, so the inevitable bounce backs have already started to occur. As the person backing Pujols, the stat that caught my eye with Ichiro is the fact that he’s already struck out eight times in 26 at-bats. It’s probably nothing to worry about, but he did strike out 27 times (high for him) while hitting .283 over the final two months last season. Maybe this is the beginning of a decline for the 33-year-old; although a big rebound is at least as likely, since he’s set to enter free agency and command a huge contract after the season.

The Scoop

Friday, April 13th, 2007

The Nationals may present one of the best spot start opportunities the league has seen in years. Hope you bet the under on their win total this season, because Washington looks historically bad right now.

Now that’s the Oliver Perez we all know and love. The only thing consistent about Perez is his inconsistency. Walking seven batters and hitting another in less than three innings of work is pretty impressive. Of more concern than his decrease in velocity is his utter lack of command. That upside makes him worth owning in virtually all leagues, but another 2004 type season just isn’t happening.

While it wouldn’t exactly be considered buying low, I advocate trying to trade for Rickie Weeks while he’s hitting .242 right now. Sure, injuries are always a concern with the young second baseman, but few offer his power/speed combo at the middle infield position. It’s an early sample size, but his plate discipline is improving, and the .606 slugging percentage shows how powerful that bat is. He has legitimate 30/30 potential, and with him batting atop the lineup, a 115 runs scored could be reached as well.

If Taylor Tankersley is sitting out there on your waiver wire, pick him up. Jorge Julio was mercifully relieved of closing duties, and Tankersley looked like the ninth-inning favorite entering spring. If healthy, he’s the best arm in Florida’s pen and could occupy the closer’s role for the rest of the season, despite being a southpaw.

Although I’m a Ryan Freel owner, I’m happy for Josh Hamilton. When the dude was burning the flesh on his own arm for the fun of it, odds were he would never fulfill that potential. He strikes out too much to be an immediate star, but he already looks like a better hitter than Ken Griffey Jr.

The only thing less surprising than Kelvim Escobar going on the DL is the fact Mark Prior is experiencing shoulder soreness. I guess I should stop writing about him and start writing him off.

Apparently, the Robert Horry – DNP – “Old Age” AP box score has been changed to DNP – Inactive, but that blunder still wasn’t as good as this one. Check out when his daughter Yamely was born. It never gets old.

It’s pretty apparent the Mayor of Cincinnati didn’t play much baseball as a kid.

Radio, Mailbag and a King

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

I mentioned this before but was under the assumption it was a one-time deal. Apparently, I haven’t messed up too badly, because they keep asking me back. So if any of you are interested and have XM Radio, I have a regular guest time slot Wednesdays at 11 a.m. on Channel No. 144. Check it.

I wanted to try out a mailbag: We have a RotoScoop e-mail, but in truth, it’s not checked all that often, so if you have any questions and/or general comments e-mail me at seven3d@aol.com. I’ll respond to all of them, but a few may end up on the site as well.

Over the last two years, I’ve played in five main fantasy baseball leagues. Of those five, I drafted Felix Hernandez in every single one of them. While last year was construed as a disappointment, it wasn’t that bad for a 19-year-old. Considering he’s the best prospect of my lifetime, I was still underwhelmed. Good thing I kept on the bandwagon, because fantasy owners this year look like they have a top-5 pitcher. A complete game, one-hit shutout at Fenway Park? It’s safe to say those extra pounds he shed during the offseason is showing up in the results. Getting knocked around during his second year may prove to be the best thing for him, as he entered last offseason with a little extra motivation.

If anyone watched Wednesday night’s game, they know how filthy his stuff is. In fact, we need to come up with a new word to describe it, as filthy just doesn’t cut it. Not only does his fastball approach 98-99 MPH, but it has a significant amount of movement as well. His slider, curve and changeup are also plus pitches. I’m not giving him the Cy Young after two starts, after all, his command will likely be inconsistent this season, but he does have the ability to enter next year as a legitimate first round pick in fantasy leagues.

After two starts this year, he has 17 shut out innings with a respectable 0.47 WHIP. Of the 51 outs he’s recorded, 29 have been on the ground and 18 have been punch-outs. That’s just four flyball outs in total – flat-out dominance. In keeper leagues, there isn’t a fantasy player I’d rather own. The King has arrived.

The Scoop

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Handed the No. 1 pick in not one, but two different fantasy leagues this year, I debated long and hard over whom to take between Albert Pujols or Jose Reyes. It’s early, but not too soon to be extremely frustrated. I like Pujols’ chances of improving on his .152 average, but Reyes has LaDainian Tomlinson like fantasy dominance ability. He could lead the league in steals and also swat 25 homers. The fact he’s already walked five times in seven games shows he’s continuing to improve.

If I set the over/under on Alex Rodriguez’s RBI total at 140 for the season, which side would you take? He’s the first Yankee to homer six times in the first seven games and should be batting with both Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu on base 40 percent of the time. He’s not a sell-high candidate, so sit back and enjoy.

Tim Hudson’s splitter looked nasty Tuesday. And even though he was pitching against the Nationals, MLB is going to go ahead and still count the stats anyway. While oblique injuries have robbed Hudson’s ability to lift weights during the offseason in the past, Hudson ignored that cautious tactic and lifted six times a week during winter. Apparently, this “best shape of his career” storyline may be for real. The 12 strikeouts over 14 innings are especially important for Hudson, who hasn’t been missing too many bats in an Atlanta uniform. A return to 2003-type numbers are unlikely, but Hudson is going to put up his best season in the Senior Circuit by far this year.

Congratulations if you drafted Orlando Hudson, as it looks like you got a potential top-15 middle infielder at a likely cheap cost. O-Dog has always had this ability but been a little slow to develop. Already the game’s premiere defensive second basemen, Hudson is in prime position to have his best season yet, hitting third in one of the very best hitter’s parks. This isn’t out of nowhere, as Hudson dramatically improved his plate discipline after the All-Star break last year, sporting a 27:32 K:BB ratio. A 20/20 season is attainable.

Delmon Young and Jeff Francoeur are hitting a combined .345, yet with a 12:1 K:BB ratio, suggesting that average will last about as long as Jorge Julio will as Florida’s closer – not very.

Can’t wait for Dice-K v. King Felix Wednesday night.

Market Watch

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

As early as it is, it’s never too soon to be working the phones and trying to hammer out deals. One good game can make that target of yours who is hitting .230 all of a sudden a .300 hitter, so act now.

Sell High

Akinori Iwamura – He flashes skills with the glove and is currently batting a cool .500 on the year. Not only does he have two stolen bases so far, he’s also been caught once as well, so he’s certainly trying to reach his spring prediction of 40 steals. Hitting at the bottom of Tampa Bay’s order, however, will suppress his counting stats. Also, the power he displayed in Japan is highly unlikely to translate here in the states, so don’t expect anything more than 18-20 homers. If he keeps maintaining this plate discipline, there’s no doubt he could hit .290-.300, and if he does contribute 20 steals, he’d be a top-10 third basemen, so don’t give him away. Just see how much that 1.300 OPS can net you right now.

Don’t Sell High

Miguel Cabrera – Here are Cabrera’s OPSs for the first four years of his career: .793, .879, .947, .998 – see a trend? He’s also decreased his strikeouts and increased his walks each campaign as well. The lack of home runs last year was nothing more than a fluke, as he also clubbed 50 doubles. Do you realize that he’s 23 years old? The only reason I wasn’t higher on Cabrera entering the year was because third base was so deep, but there’s at least a decent chance that he enters next season at the very top of many drafts boards.

Buy Low

Brett Myers – Pitching in Philly figures to mean homers will be a problem, but Myers’ ability to miss bats should curtail that somewhat. Currently sitting with a 6.75 ERA after last season’s so-so 3.90 mark, it’s possible Myers’ owner doesn’t realize what he has in the young ace. He posted a tiny 1.17 WHIP with 107 punch outs over 100 second half innings last year. He’s already struck out 15 over 12 innings this season. Since he also doesn’t walk many batters, a much lower ERA is sure to follow. With the potent Phillies’ lineup behind him, a strong win total should be attainable as well. Go get him.

Don’t Buy Low

Chris Carpenter
– This may seem Captain Obvious, but as a fellow Carpenter owner, I’m officially a couple of steps beyond worried. Arthritis in his elbow? I’m no doctor, but I did stay at a Holliday Inn Express last night, and I don’t like the sound of that. Even though the recent MRI result is supposedly moderate to good news, be afraid. If you can get Brett Myers for him, do it.

News & Notes

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Dave Duncan has done this before: Kip Wells deserves consideration in deep leagues after surrendering just one hit over seven innings Sunday. Healthy after two lost seasons to injuries and playing behind the NL’s best infield defense, Wells could post an ERA under 4.0 and approach 15 wins.

The Indians find themselves in quite a unique situation, as weather will require them to make up four games later in the year during scheduled off days. That can’t be good. To make matters worse, they won’t even get to play at home during the upcoming Angels’ series; instead, Miller Park in Milwaukee will be their homefield.

Mark Prior STILL hasn’t made a start at extended spring training. How much time does it take for this guy to build up arm strength? By this rate, maybe he can get a call up sometime in August. Of course, he’ll probably only be able to work five innings.

Daniel Cabrera is officially the easiest pitcher to steal a base on. There isn’t a slower delivery in baseball.

Is it just me, or does A-Rod appear to be a little motivated this season? You hate to get too excited so early on, but fantasy owners should probably not be looking to sell-high.

Brian McCann is my long-shot, sleeper MVP candidate for the NL this year. I picked the Braves to win the wild card, and the Mets’ three candidates could cancel each other out. McCann, meanwhile, is quickly turning into one of the game’s most underrated players. He has more power than Joe Mauer, shows good plate discipline and could easily drive in 100 runs. While having to sit every fifth day hurts his counting stats, he also produces those numbers from the thinnest position on the diamond. Position scarcity doesn’t just exist in fantasy baseball.

For those of you playing with an innings cap, it doesn’t get much more efficient than Scott Olsen’s 2-0 start, as he’s thrown 10 1/3 innings.

The Nationals aren’t very good, so start any and all hurlers facing them. Unfortunately the same could also be said for my beloved Giants. Speaking of which, don’t get too worked up over Barry Zito’s poor start; his Aprils are notoriously bad. During his career, he has a 5.20 ERA during the first month of the season, and in no other month is it more than 3.80.

With the Braves victory Sunday, the Mets fell out of first place in the NL East for the first time in more than a calendar year.

Elijah Dukes became the 99th player to homer in his first official MLB at-bat.

Ervin Santana is 20-5 with a 3.07 ERA in his career at Angel Stadium and 9-11 with a 6.46 ERA on the road. He starts at Cleveland and Boston this week.

Mike Lowell committed three errors Wednesday in Kansas City. His career fielding percentage ranks first all-time at his position.

643 — Days of rest between big-league starts for Carl Pavano, who started on Opening Day for the Yankees.

Saw “Grindhouse” over the weekend, and I must say, that’s some good, clean family fun. Rarely does a movie peak before it even starts, but “Machete” made this the case in this instance. Although the fact 25-30 people left the theatre during the second act might suggest I’m in the minority, but I liked “Death Proof” much more than “Planet Terror.”