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September 07, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

What September Brings
The Rangers have as much chance of winning the division as you do of winning the lottery, but for the most part they’ll continue to play their front-liners until they’re eliminated. Only two notable changes among position players have occurred.

First, Nelson Cruz, acquired as part of the Carlos Lee trade, has become an everyday player. Previously he’d started only against lefties. Cruz hit well in AAA (.302/.378/.528 with 20 steals in 104 games) but has shown little in the Majors except for a three-for-four, two-homer, five RBI afternoon against Oakland three days ago. Still, he’s worth considering in most AL-only leagues if only because almost every full-time player has value. At this point in the season, you should take a chance on him if you needed hitting. Pass if you’re satisfied with how your hitting has contributed to your place in the standings. The loser in Cruz’s ascension is Matt Stairs, who hasn’t started a game this month. Those in larger AL-only leagues probably have little choice but to keep him and hope he gets a few starts down the road. Those in smaller single-leagues and mixed leagues can waive goodbye.

Second, Gerald Laird has started six consecutive games at catcher. Unfortunately, his increased play is not a belated realization on Buck Showalter’s part that Laird is the better catcher right now and for the future. No, Rod Barajas just has a sore back. Though I suspect Laird still won’t start much more than 50% of the time once Barajas recovers, he’ll remain the better choice. Neither has value in typical mixed leagues.

Blalock’s Descent Continues
Hank Blalock briefly abandoned his second-half slump for a few weeks but has since resumed not hitting. Blalock has started 46 of 53 games since the All-Star break and has batted .261 with 23 runs, three homers, and 22 RBI. I would seriously consider dropping him in all but the largest mixed leagues. I’m not saying that because I’m in your league and ready to claim him off waivers. Here’s Blalock’s last three Septembers:

2005 -- .208/.259/.347
2004 -- .250/.346/.398
2003 -- .226/.245/.453

Blalock is batting .136/.136/.136 with no runs, homers or RBI in five games this month. He’ll should still earn a good number of RBIs simply because of his position in the batting order, but otherwise he could actually hurt your team. A minor injury has relegated him to DH lately, but he should continue to start against all righties and about 50% of lefty pitchers. Mark DeRosa may be available in your league and probably constitutes a better play. Really.

Pitchers
Kevin Millwood has overcome his home-park issues lately, making him a slightly better play in mixed leagues. Don’t bother with him if a small hit in ERA would cost you points. Wins and strikeouts are what he contributes. Vicente Padilla is nearly identical to Millwood statistically but isn’t nearly as widely owned, mostly because he’s not a “name.? If your mixed league is large enough for Millwood to help but he’s unavailable, consider Padilla. Simlar to Cruz above, he’s a choice for owners needing to take risks to catch up, not for owners maintaining a lead.

Adam Eaton had a career ERA+ of 92 in San Diego and has an ERA+ of 96 in Texas. Who would have guessed? Given that he’s allowed twenty walks and eight homers in just 42 innings, he’s lucky to have an ERA of 4.93. A weak play in all but the largest of AL-only leagues. Robinson Tejeda and Edinson Volquez round out the present rotation and are toxic in any league or format.

Posted by Lucas at September 7, 2006 06:25 PM