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May 12, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend
On Friday evening, Texas embarks on a ten-game road trip through Boston, New York and Houston. That spells trouble for Ranger starting pitchers and anyone owning them. In all but the largest of mixed leagues, any Ranger starter is marginal. Consider benching them during the next week-and-a-half. Even in AL-only leagues they’re high-risk plays right now.

Kevin Millwood had a career-worst start against Minnesota that by itself will account for 0.40 of ERA by season’s end. A one-inning, nine-run outing is a soul destroyer but doesn’t change his outlook. I’m holding to my preseason prediction of a 4.55 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 145 strikeouts. He’ll get his share of wins. If statistics like that are an asset in your mixed league, enjoy.

Vicente Padilla is pitching to expectations except for an improved strikeout rate. On several occasions he’s started superbly, only to self-immolate in one of the middle innings. Until he improves his control, he could benefit from a quicker hook from Buck Showalter.

Like Millwood, Kameron Loe alternates between brilliance and inaptness. Unfortunately, he won’t offer the strikeouts that can somewhat mitigate and otherwise rough performance. Loe has yet to whiff over three in a start.

John Koronka motors away. He struggled against Cleveland near the end of April as I expected, but since then he had dominated Baltimore and pitched respectably against Minnesota. Obviously, he demands ownership in AL-only leagues, though my caution about the road trip applies. In mixed leagues, he might merit a spot start against the next weak offense he faces. I can’t countenance him maintaining a sub-4.00 ERA.

Texas optioned would-be fifth starter Robinson Tejeda and probably will alternate between him and John Rheinecker in that role as the need arises. Don’t be tempted by either on this road trip.

Phil Nevin is batting .129/.227/.154 in May after his torrid April. Though in no imminent danger of losing his job or even his valuable cleanup spot in the order, he has to be concerning his owners. Nevin’s problem isn’t his recent slump as much as his five-year-long inability to hit right-handed pitchers. Thus, he must kill lefties in order to maintain overall usefulness. Active owners should consider benching him against tough righties to maximize his value. Should Texas have to call in a replacement, alternatives include Erubiel Durazo (soon to return from a minor leg injury) and Jason Botts.

Likewise, Rod Barajas and his .207 batting average aren’t disappearing from the box scores any time soon. He’ll continue to start two of every three games. If he can’t resume hitting his normal .250 with decent power, Gerald Laird will see more playing time… but not until at least June.

2B Ian Kinsler began a rehab assignment and could join the active roster during the next week. He won’t return to an everyday role yet, instead sharing time with recently hot Mark DeRosa. That’s understandable given the severity of Kinsler’s injury, but the nagging worry is Buck Showalter’s deep and abiding love of DeRosa, a fine bench player who just doesn’t deserve daily play. Kinsler owners can't count on him as an automatic starter for the indefinite future.

Texas recently acquired outfielder Freddy Guzman from San Diego for a couple of minor leaguers. The Rangers will send him to AAA initially but may ask him to replace backup outfielder Adrian Brown before long. Guzman has decent on-base skills, zero power, and ferocious speed: 166 steals versus 30 caught in 249 minor-league games. Guzman might provide a little help in AL-only leagues if a Ranger starting outfielder suffers an injury. Keep his name if the back of your head. A true center fielder by trade, Guzman’s arrival would appear to dump water on the smoking embers of Laynce Nix’s fantasy value.

Posted by Lucas at May 12, 2006 07:31 PM