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June 03, 2005

ESPN Column

Clemens to Texas?
ROGER CLEMENS, Texas Ranger? Not yet, perhaps not ever, but let’s explore the fantasy implications. Those who own him in a mixed league needn’t worry. The Ballpark adores hitters, but so does Minute Maid. Clemens has always excelled at keeping the ball in the park and has a reasonable 1.45 ground/fly ratio. Certainly, he won’t face an “adjustment period? for American League hitters. The Clemens rumors should provide a wake-up call to AL-only owners to achieve the highest waiver position possible. Clemens could win a league championship, so don’t waste a waiver pick on a utility guy you’ll drop in two weeks. For what my opinion is worth, I think he’ll end up donning pinstripes again.

Interleague Play Arrives
After the weekend, Texas travels to Philadelphia and Florida for some National League ball, leaving DHs DAVID DELLUCCI and CHAD ALLEN temporarily jobless. In the case of Allen, he’ll simply watch from the bench. In Dellucci’s case, Texas would prefer to have him in the lineup. I’ve heard nothing on how they plan to handle these games, but I envision a rotation among Dellucci, KEVIN MENCH and RICHARD HIDALGO in the corner outfield slots. Possibly but less likely, Texas could play Mench or Dellucci in center in place of LAYNCE NIX, so far the weakest hitter of the four. Unless you have an obvious replacement, you should keep the Ranger outfielders in your lineup despite the chance that one of them won’t play on any given day. I’ll post an update as the situation develops.

Regarding Dellucci, I’ve seen some interesting heads-up trades for him lately. The last five, per ESPN, were for Johnny Damon, Tori Hunter, Tino Martinez, Juan Encarnacion, and Hideki Matsui. Martinez and Encarnacion don’t excite me much, as both are playing above their heads. As for the other three, if someone offers you a player of this caliber for David Dellucci, you absolutely must accept. Yes, he’s had an exceptional, Lasik-empowered two months, but he is also a career .261 hitter who has averaged 13 homers per 500 at-bats coming into 2005. Last year, he batted .242 (with an excellent walk rate that won’t help most fantasy owners) and slumped terribly after the All-Star break. Sell high if you can. Come September, he might be in the free-agent pool in most ten-team leagues.

Rogers and Young Revisited
Three-plus years into my “job? and I finally get to write more about the starting pitchers than “don’t own them.? KENNY ROGERS tossed yet another gem last Tuesday and now sports a 1.65 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Rogers has pitched exceptionally well but has also had extraordinary luck. He’s striking out less than four per nine innings and batters are only hitting .247 on balls hit into the field of play. .300 or so is typical for a Ranger pitcher. I estimate that Rogers’ ERA would be around 3.70 without said luck, an enormous increase due to his low K rate. Still, 3.70 is good enough for all but the smallest of mixed leagues. Barring adjustments for off days, Rogers will face the Royals and Marlins on the road followed by the Nationals at home, then start twice against the Angels.

CHRIS YOUNG had reached six innings only once this season before his last two starts. Unlike Rogers, his 3.03 ERA doesn’t bear the epithet of “lucky,? and he provides plenty of strikeouts. He has offered only one terrible performance in eleven starts to date. Having said that, Young is a virtual rookie with good but not outstanding minor-league statistics. Don’t be shocked if he backslides some. Young will start next at Philadelphia, at home against Atlanta and Washington, and then at Houston. A warning to those owning any Ranger starter: in July, Texas will play sixteen games against everyone in the AL East except Tampa Bay. These teams are ranked second through fifth in the league in offense (Texas is first).

On the Farm
Buck Showalter hinted that Texas might option a reliever and recall catcher GERALD LAIRD as an extra bat for interleague play. Laird is batting a gaudy .306/.380/.531 for the Oklahoma Redhawks and certainly has made his case to start in Texas over the hitting-challenged ROD BARAJAS, still enjoying the windfall of those six weeks last year when he channeled a young Mike Piazza. I don’t expect a change yet, but those in AL-only leagues should keep a close watch. Given the state of catching for fantasy purposes, Laird could help if given regular duty. --- Injured outfielder GARY MATTHEWS is at least one week away from returning. ADRIAN GONZALEZ is now hitting well in AAA but has no chance of a recall.

Posted by Lucas at June 3, 2005 02:17 PM