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May 25, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Kinsler Returns
Second Baseman Ian Kinsler rejoined the Rangers Thursday night after spending six weeks on the DL with a dislocated thumb. Kinsler will start most of the time. He hit ridiculously well before his injury (.476/.577/.714) and AL-only owners were smart to keep him, but don’t be surprised if he returns a little slowly. First, nobody hits .476 consistently, and second, a dislocated thumb doesn’t promote strong hitting. His owners in mixed leagues, particularly smaller ones, ought to keep him benched for a little while. I’ve said it for years: true rookie hitters almost never make for worthwhile fantasy players (in mixed leagues).

The displaced Mark DeRosa will spot for Kinsler and also sub for others on occasion, thus keeping his bat in the lineup and his value in AL-only leagues mostly intact. Derosa subbed for Brad Wilkerson Thursday. Derosa hits lefties particularly well and should continue to start against most of them.

Nevin’s Slump Halted
DH Phil Nevin didn’t make a single out on Tuesday or Wednesday. Nor did he play. Texas recalled DH Jason Botts from AAA and started him on consecutive days. Botts batted .318/.373/.615 for Oklahoma and began his MLB 2006 two-for-six with a double and two walks. For the short term, he should start most games against righties and sit against lefties. He’s a must-own in AL-only leagues. Since he won’t play every game and has minimal Major League experience, his value in mixed league is light. Botts can also play outfield, though it’s not a pretty sight. Botts has batted eighth, with Hank Blalock, Kevin Mench, Brad Wilkerson and Mark Derosa shifting up one slot.

His long term depends on his performance and that of Phil Nevin, whose line against righties has plummeted to .202/.303/.363. Nevin does have 22 RBI against righties, but so would any other Ranger hitter given the opportunity to bat cleanup every night. Nevin will continue to hit lefties, where his line of .314/.400/.571 will continue to help in AL-only leagues if his owners check the schedule and bench him against righties.

Michael Young Is Terrible
Shortstop Michael Young has only two homers this season. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest you keep him. Young isn’t hitting the ball quite as far as normal but is batting .332 and on pace for over 90 runs, over 100 RBI, and about ten steals.

Francisco Cordero’s loss against the Angels Tuesday killed whatever miniscule chance he had of reclaiming the closer role in the near future. I’ve retained him in a 20-team mixed league; I still expect quality middle relief and an occasional vultured win, if not any more saves. Those in small mixed leagues should have Cordero ready to drop in case another team coronates a new closer who’s in the free-agent pool. Having said that, dropping Cordero for someone like Elmer Dessens makes me pretty queasy. Your mileage may vary.

John Rheinecker has replaced Robinson Tejeda in the rotation at least temporarily and will start on Sunday against Oakland. He’s pitched respectably in AAA – 3.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, seven strikeouts per nine innings – but doesn’t come recommended except in larger AL-only leagues.

Kevin Millwood’s ownership percentage in mixed leagues has been gyrating wildly depending on the results of his most recent start. Thursday night he was lit up, and doubtlessly he’ll hit a bunch of waiver wires again. Potential owners shouldn’t bother trying to time the market. He’ll win plenty of games, strike out a pleasant number of batters, and provide an average WHIP and substandard ERA. If that helps your team, grab him. If not, don’t. He’s useful in mixed leagues of twelve or more teams, borderline in ten-team leagues, and inferior elsewhere.

Posted by Lucas at May 25, 2006 11:39 PM