« Who Is Hank Blalock? | Main | Volquez Recalled »

August 06, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Buck Showalter has promoted Gerald Laird from Catcher 2 to Catcher 1(A). Early this season, Laird started only once every four games or so. He then graduated to designated lefty-starter and Kevin Millwood personal assistant. Now, he has retained his full-time status against lefties plus 50/50 status against righties. If this arrangement holds, Laird can expect between 55%-65% of the playing time versus Rod Barajas. As such, Laird is the preferable choice in AL-only leagues, though his average should decline some. Laird still has only minimal value in typical mixed leagues.

Lee, Cruz and Stairs
Carlos Lee has done little in a Texas uniform (.259/.286/.359, 7 runs, 0 homers, 3 RBI in ten games). He's healthy, if that's crossed your mind. He should be fine.

Nelson Cruz has batted .300 and hit his first MLB homer since joining Texas. He'll start strictly against lefties for now, so he has little value even in AL-only leagues. As he's fairly young and not a rent-a-player like Stairs, he could gain additional playing time if Texas falls out of the division race. Keep him in mind should that happen. He supplied average, power and speed in AAA.

Matt Stairs has started three of seven games as a Ranger. With Brad Wilkerson hurting and struggling, Stairs stands to pick up a more at-bats. However, if Texas falters, the aforementioned Cruz may add some start against righties at Stairs's expense. In sum, his situation is fluid. He has modest value in AL-only leagues, a bit less than when he toiled for Kansas City. His owners must carefully monitor his situation and always bench him against lefties.

Yeesh. Brad Wilkerson may have decided to forego surgery until the "season is decided," but his owners need to consider excising him now. Over the All Star break he received another cortisone shot which may have cured his pain but sure didn't cure mine. Wilkerson has batted .167 with five runs, two homers and 11 RBI since the break and has started only four of the last eight games. At the moment, he's sitting against lefties and sharing time with Stairs against righties. He's not worth the bother in most mixed leagues, and even in small AL-only leagues he's dubious. Those in larger AL-only leagues should continue their prayer vigils. Yes, I did think he'd have a great season. Yes, I am paying dearly for that opinion.

I wrote about him at my blog on Saturday. Blalock has batted well in August -- .304 with two triples(?) -- but has a history of extreme second-half fades and persistent struggles against lefties and on the road. Showalter has benched him in two of the last three games against a lefty starter. I kid you not: over the coming weeks he could actually hurt owners in mixed leagues. His owners must practice active roster management to protect themselves.

Eaton, Wells and Volquez
Management cautiousness, erratic control and erratic umpiring have limited Adam Eaton to ten innings in three starts, making his future difficult to gauge. I wasn't fond of him before the season and haven't changed my outlook. He posted an ERA of 4.34 prior to 2006, seemingly adequate but earned in the decidedly pitcher-friendly realm of Petco Park. I definitely wouldn't bother with him in mixed leagues. In AL-only leagues he'll help owners in need of strikeouts and perhaps wins, but he could give up ground in ERA and WHIP.

I'm even less enamored of Kip Wells. Perhaps you'd read that he rebounded from his shaky return after surgery. He allowed only four runs in his last three starts. Unfortunately, he also allowed 30 baserunners in those starts (1.52 WHIP) and nine more in five innings against Minnesota. Eventually, those baserunners will become runs. Wells does provide an upgrade on John Rheinecker but hasn't pitched well consistently since 2003, and his strikeout rate has fallen off a cliff. Furthermore, he'll miss Monday's start because of a sore shoulder. Avoid him unless you have little to lose. It's hard to envision his presence on a winning fantasy roster.

Wells's absence opens the door for Edinson Volquez to start against Oakland on Monday. One of the Rangers' top pitching prospects, Volquez has an eyepopping 130 strikeouts and just 89 hits allowed in 120 Triple-A innings. He also has, gulp, 72 walks. Volquez struggled mightily in a few MLB starts in 2005 and is probably still too raw to offer much value. Still, his upside is substantial. Make a note to check his performance Monday night.

Posted by Lucas at August 6, 2006 11:59 PM