Greetings and salutations to the fantasy baseball universe. It is everybody’s favorite day of the week (and by everybody I mean nobody), so that means it is time for the Tuesday Night Top Ten list of newsworthy fantasy baseball happenings. We are now in Week 11 of the season which is hard to believe because it feels like just last week was Week 10. So without further adieu, here are your headlines for this Tuesday night.
10. Captain Crunch – For Yankees fans, the news that Derek Jeter was placed on the disabled list just six hits shy of 3,000 was akin to telling Ashton Kutcher that Twitter has been destroyed by Skynet. For everyone else, no one really cares unless Jeter was your starting shortstop on your fantasy team. Nonetheless, it is newsworthy that Jeter will be out for at least two weeks as he closes in on 3,000 hits for his career. He has regressed in terms of offensive production, which is not surprising given his age and the position he plays. However, Jeter is still a valuable fantasy player at a weak position so his injury could be significant in your league. His replacement, Eduardo Nunez, is only worth a pickup if you get points for at bats or throwing errors.
9. Happy Holliday – The Cardinals are expected to activate Matt Holliday in time for Thursday’s game this week. Holliday has been sidelined since the end of May with a left quadriceps tear, which came only six weeks after he returned from an emergency appendectomy. It has been a frustrating season for fantasy owners of Holliday who has put up huge numbers in the limited time he has played. With Albert Pujols finally heating up and Lance Berkman still producing, Holliday should fit right in the middle of that and continue to maintain a batting average well above .300 along with impressive power numbers and run production. He is an elite outfield option in any fantasy format, but he is an injury risk this year so be cautious and keep Allen Craig and Jon Jay close by in case Holliday suffers a relapse.
8. No More Morneau – As if it can’t get any worse for the Minnesota Twins, now Justin Morneau has landed back on the disabled list with a left wrist injury. The former MVP has not been the same player since he sustained a concussion in July 2010 that ended his season and clearly still affects him today. The Twins are hopeful that this will resolve itself within the 15 days that Morneau is out. However, even if Morneau does come back quickly, what exactly are you getting from him in fantasy baseball at a premium power position. Morneau is only batting .225 with 4 homeruns and 22 RBI, so his value has already plummeted. Stash him on the disabled list if you have the room, but look for other options at first base under the assumption you won’t start Morneau even when he comes back. The guy is too talented to struggle this bad, so once he is able to heal from all of his injuries, then Morneau will be More-Yes.
7. Yo Adrian! – When the Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego this past winter, the general consensus was that we would finally get to see how truly great A-Gone is when hitting in a potent lineup and a hitter-friendly ballpark. What we have seen thus far from Gonzalez goes beyond any of those expectations. Gonzalez currently leads the American League in batting at .347 as well as RBI with 60. He has anchored Boston’s lineup and thrived hitting behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia who both always seem to be on base for him. Gonzalez hasn’t homered as much as one would have predicted, but that shouldn’t matter because as hot as he has been, some of those flyballs and laser beams will start finding their way over the fence. Right now, Gonzalez is the best first base option in fantasy baseball.
6. Niese to Meet You – In a shocking turn of events, there is actually a reason to covet a Mets starting pitcher on your fantasy team. Jonathon Niese has quietly put together a very solid season thus far in earning the right to be owned in mixed fantasy leagues. Niese won his sixth game of the year tonight against the Braves making this the sixth straight start where he has allowed two earned runs or less. He is commanding his deadly curveball which has led to an increase in strikeouts and a decrease in walks. If he is available, you should add him immediately and ride the wave of his success.
5. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay - Jason Bay has been one of the most disappointing players in all of baseball for the last year and a half. After signing with the Mets for huge dollars prior to the 2010 season, Bay has produced as much offense as a backup middle infielder. He has essentially become an automatic out at the plate with his poor pitch selection, lack of discipline, and inability to have a good at bat. Mets manager Terry Collins has finally seen enough to make the decision that Bay was hurting the team by being in the lineup. As a result, he has ridden the bench several times over the past 10 days. This does not appear to be a permanent thing, or even a strict platoon. However, it is apparent that Bay will not be playing every day unless and until he starts hitting the ball like a $16 million/year player should. If Bay is in your fantasy team’s starting lineup, then you might as well start Henry Blanco too.
4. Philling Better – Amidst all of the Yankees injury problems lately, they actually have received some good news. Phil Hughes, on the disabled list since early April, threw 49 pitches during an intrasquad game where he consistently hit 92 mph with his fastball. The plan going forward is to have Hughes slowly extend himself and build back his endurance before he inevitably returns to the rotation sometime in July. Fantasy owners who have stashed him on the disabled list will be rewarded when he returns and likely assumes the #2 spot in the Yankees rotation. If for some reason Hughes is floating around your league’s waiver wire, grab him…but not in THAT way, sicko.
3. Return of the Zimm – Nationals star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman finally made his return to the lineup after missing over two months due to surgery repairing an abdominal tear. Zimmerman was thought to be the second or third best option at third base heading into this fantasy baseball season, so owners have been anxious to receive a return on their investment. Zimmerman’s return should also help the production of Jayson Werth who has struggled mightily to anchor Washington’s lineup in his absence. When healthy, Zimmerman is a solid candidate for .290, 25 HR, and 90 RBI. He will need some time to readjust, but your patience will be rewarded.
2. Good News for the Steals Category – Those of you who drafted Hanley Ramirez have been sorely disappointed by his .210 batting average, 4 homeruns, 17 RBI and multiple week stint on the disabled list. Now not only is he back in the lineup, but he is back in his old leadoff spot in the Marlins lineup. This is good news for Hanley owners who have been craving that deadly combination of power and speed. Not that Hanley was doing much when he was healthy, but batting third in the order severely limited his stolen base attempts. Now that he is leading off again, look for him to start doing a Mike Leake impression and stealing quite a bit. There is still time to justify why you drafted him second overall.
1. The Justin Verlander School for Pitchers Who Aren’t Good – Justin Verlander was already in the upper echelon of pitchers in both real and fantasy baseball. With two no-hitters already on his resume, Verlander nearly tossed his third tonight against the Indians. He would have been the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1973 to throw two no-hitters in the same regular season, but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, Verlander had to settle for a two-hit, complete game shutout compiling 12 strikeouts on his way to his eighth win of the season. Verlander has firmly entrenched his position as one of the elite pitchers in the game and can be relied on as the anchor of your fantasy team’s pitching staff.
Tuesday Night Top Ten – May 3, 2011
According to reliable sources such as the internet and high school students, Tuesday is the least popular day of the week. In an effort to bring some respect, credibility and entertainment back to Tuesdays, I will be paying homage to David Letterman and provide a weekly Top 10 list for newsworthy fantasy baseball events that take place. Each event will have a brief description including what, if any, impact it has on fantasy baseball. The ranking is completely subjective so do not even think of challenging my authority. In fact, in the words of Eric Cartman, you will respect my authority! Without further adieu, here is the debut of the new Tuesday Top Ten List (as of 10:15 PM EST):
10. Phil is ill, but with what? – Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes apparently doesn’t have thoracic outlet syndrome, which is good news, but it also leaves many questions unanswered. Doctors and experts are still trying to figure out what is ailing the Yankees’ young hurler. Regardless, it doesn’t look like Hughes is going to contribute much to the Yankees or fantasy owners this year. His velocity is down and his stuff is flat. There is very likely a physical reason why, but thus far no one can provide an answer. For now, stash him on the DL if you have the room. But don’t expect anything from him in 2011. On a side note, going back to all of the trade discussions between the Mets, Yankees and Twins for Johan Santana in 2008, it is sadly bizarre and ironic that former Mets prospect and current White Sox starter Philip Humber is likely to be the best pitcher of them all this season.
9. D-Choo-I – Yet another major league baseball player has been arrested for driving while under the influence. Indians outfielder Shin Soo Choo is the most recent drunk driver pulled over in what seems like a weekly occurrence. Choo had one too many Cheongju before he got behind the wheel. No one ever accused baseball players of being smart, but come on…this is getting a little ridonculous. Assuming his situation is like every other offender, he shouldn’t miss any time so there will not likely be any effect on his fantasy status. That is, unless, he shows up drunk at a game and starts referring to himself as Kim Jong Il.
8. Oh Jenrry – Mets prospect Jenrry Mejia will likely need to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair an injured ligament in his elbow. Mejia was being groomed to become a starter in the Mets rotation of the future, but this will have to be put on hold for at least a year assuming he goes under the knife soon. Mejia has electric stuff and is a popular keeper in roto fantasy leagues due to his potential to either start or relieve. If recent history is any indication, there is no reason Mejia can’t come back and be an effective pitcher within 18 months of the operation. He is only 22 so there is still plenty of time for him to make an impact. But those of you who are stashing him in keepe leagues, you might as well clear the roster space.
7. Not Werth the Money – Jayson Werth made his long awaited return to Philadelphia in a Nationals’ uniform and was met with a mixture of ovations and boos. This is not surprising because Werth’s decision to sign with Washington is understandable, but his comments after he left were unnecessary. No one could argue with Werth agreeing to that ludacris contract, because let’s be honest, any one of us would take the money and run. But when Werth later came out and made some disparaging remarks about the Phillies and their lack of attempts to bring him back, it soured the fans’ feelings towards him. Werth should thank the Phillies for giving him the opportunity to put up great numbers as the team’s fourth offensive weapon. Now he is the focal point of the Nationals’ lineup and will soon realize Adam LaRoche is not Ryan Howard and Danny Espinosa is not Chase Utley.
6. Goose Eggs and Hamels – It is common knowledge at this point that the Phillies have the greatest starting pitching in baseball, and arguably one of the greatest staffs in the history of baseball (the 2005 Mets are in that conversation as well with Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson). Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee seem to get most of the attention, and deservingly so. But Cole Hamels is on the brink of becoming truly an elite pitcher in real and fantasy baseball. There has never been an issue with his talent. The biggest question mark with Hamels has always been his maturity and mental strength. After what he pulled in the 2009 World Series, he has clearly grown up and emerged as a potential Cy Young candidate. He threw a complete game gem against the Washington Nationals and continues to make people vomit at the thought he is the Phillies number three or four starter.
5. Pain in the Neck – Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista will miss some time this week with an injured neck. He must have strained it from looking up at all the homeruns he has hit since the beginning of 2010. I will admit that I was wrong about him being a fluke. He will probably not come close to hitting 54 homeruns again, but he is clearly an established slugger who knows how to hit. It seems as though he is consistently befelled by nagging injuries. I recently had a nagging injury. My wife wouldn’t stop nagging me, so I hit my head against the wall and sustained a laceration to my forehead. I looked like Ric Flair in a steel cage match.
4. Bay-bee Daddy – Mets outfielder Jason Bay is on paternity leave for a couple days to be with his wife who is expected to give birth to the couple’s third child. Bay sustained a concussion in July 2010 and missed the rest of the season. Then, just days before Opening Day, he sustained a strain to his oblique muscle requiring him to miss the first three weeks of the 2011 season. After playing in 10 games, it was clear he needed some time off. Oh calm down, I am kidding. It is great the MLB has implemented a new paternity leave program for players so they can be with their wives when children are born. Given the baby is due in the beginning of May, that means it was likely conceived in July or August 2010. Hmmm, didn’t Bay sustain his concussion around that time? I guess he wasn’t injured enough to knock up his wife when he clearly couldn’t knock any balls over the fence.
3. Celebrity Rehab – American League MVP Josh Hamilton is in rehab once again. No silly, not for smoking crack or building meth labs. Hamilton is recovering from a fractured arm when he inexplicably was sent home to score on a foul popup and dove into home plate. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to swing a bat for the first time since the injury which means he is at least one week ahead of schedule in his recovery. It was originally anticipated that Hamilton would miss 6-8 weeks and not swing a bat for the first four weeks. He was injured three weeks ago, so do the math. What? You were told there would be no math? Just use a calculator. In fact, type the number 55378008 and turn your calculator upside down. The result answers the question “How would you describe Gwyneth Paltrow?”
2. Battle of Wounded Knee – Chase Utley may not be far from returning to the Phillies. The all star second baseman has been bothered by an ailing knee for months and has yet to see any game time in spring training, the minor leagues, or the major leagues. Reports out of Philadelphia are that Utley may be sent to Clearwater to play in some extended spring training games which would enable him to face live pitching for the first time since 2010. This bodes well for fantasy owners who drafted Utley and have stashed him on the DL in the hopes he would return sooner than later. If he is healthy, the Phillies should look into possibly trading him because they clearly can win with the “talented” duo of Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr playing second base. Just FYI, the quotation marks were meant to indicate sarcasm font.
1. LIRIANOOOOOO! - Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox in Chicago tonight. There is no debating Liriano’s talent, but he has been atrocious thus far in 2011 and his starting job was in jeopardy with Kevin Slowey being considered to take his place in the Twins’ rotation. That debate has been quelled for now as Liriano threw his first career complete game in the no-hit effort. He walked six and only struck out two which indicates he relied on his defense instead of trying to strike every batter out. Perhaps this is a sign that he has turned the corner and is on his way to reclaiming his status as a top tier fantasy pitcher. Or it could just be a fluke and he will get bombed in three innings next time out. That is the problem with Liriano – he is so inconsistent and almost impossible to predict. Those of you in points leagues where no-hitters are credited had a good night if Liriano was in your lineup.