Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
5/04/2007 12:58:00 PM
Vote early, vote often
Ian Kinsler's emergence this season could lead to a boost in All-Star votes.
It does seem a bit ridiculous that the All-Star Game ballots have been out since late April, but you have to build up a base of votes at some point, even if you have just a few weeks of information on which to make your decision. While the process is very much a popularity contest, fantasy owners can try to make a difference by selecting players who have helped them at the start of the year and who aren't necessarily the usual suspects, giving them a good base of votes early in the process.
Players such as Jermaine Dye and Brian Roberts in recent years have used hot starts to emerge as All-Star starters, and there could be a few more this year who could fit the bill.
Let's take a look at each position on the ballot to see which of this year's top fantasy stars could make headway in getting a starting nod in San Francisco this July.
1B: Full-time DHs David Ortiz, Travis Hafner and Jason Giambi are all here because there will be no DH in a National League park, and they're arguably the best options based on early stats. Hafner deserves more mainstream attention, but the votes probably go Big Papi's way.
2B: This is a very fluid position where a hot start can mean a lot of votes, so Ian Kinsler could ride his nine homers to a potential starting gig, although Roberts and Robinson Cano may be establishing themselves as the ones to beat. B.J. Upton and Aaron Hill probably have the best stats after Kinsler, but they need to get even hotter to draw the votes necessary to get a starting nod.
SS: Jhonny Peralta has a bunch of RBIs and Julio Lugo has a bunch of steals, but their decent starts probably aren't enough to challenge Derek Jeter or Miguel Tejada, even though their numbers aren't all that impressive for their standards.
3B: There's Alex Rodriguez and everyone else playing for the backup slot.
OF: Vladimir Guerrero and Ichiro are perennial locks, and Vlad's 10 homers and .359 average make him a worthy candidate. Ichiro's .272 average and two steals should improve, but it doesn't matter when it comes to all the All-Star votes he gets. Manny Ramirez and Hideki Matsui often fight for the third spot, but both are only now starting to warm up. So this would be the time to make an impact vote-wise. Torii Hunter is off to a great start and could earn another starting gig, while rising stars Carl Crawford and Vernon Wells deserve attention for their all-around games. An intriguing factor in this year's voting is Sammy Sosa, based on his seven homers and 21 RBIs, although his average is subpar and he may miss this weekend after getting beaned on Thursday night.
C: Mike Piazza's injury takes away any guilt or doubt about him not being on the ballot (Jason Kendall is the A's representative since Piazza is now a catcher in fantasy terms only), although he didn't have the numbers anyway. Among actual contenders, Joe Mauer is hitting for average like he did last year and should help his cause this season, but veterans Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodriguez have good enough numbers to get people's attention. One of these days Victor Martinez will earn a starting nod based on his production.
1B: Adrian Gonzalez is probably the best fantasy first baseman in the NL this year, but good luck getting votes. Derrek Lee is right on his heels, and he'll be the one challenging Albert Pujols for the votes, since reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard is struggling.
2B: There are some nice surprises so far at this position with Kelly Johnson and a resurgent Marcus Giles. However, Chase Utley is starting to make himself the one to beat, although if you're feeling nostalgic, Jeff Kent still puts up decent stats and Ray Durham could get a hometown bump with the game in San Francisco.
SS: This looks to be the most intriguing race with Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins both contending for early MVP honors. Right on their heels is Hanley Ramirez, thus forming a solid triple threat at short, similar to the group of Jeter, A-Rod and Nomar Garciaparra a few years back. Rollins has as many homers as Barry Bonds, but Reyes is running wild and hitting for a better average.
3B: It should be a loaded position here, but many of the top stars heading into the season (David Wright, Garrett Atkins, Aramis Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Ryan Zimmerman) have stumbled out of the gate. On the other hand, veteran Chipper Jones is poised to reclaim a starting job now that he's healthy and leading the National League in homers.
OF: Carlos Beltran is hitting for average to go along with his other talents, so he'll probably get another deserving starting nod. Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano, a starter last year, has yet to do much of anything, but he still should get plenty of votes, deserving or not. You can't ignore Barry Bonds' hot start, and with the game in San Francisco, he is very worthy of a vote, especially if he breaks Hank Aaron's record by the All-Star Game. While those three look to be the odds-on favorites to get starting nods, if you're looking for others worthy of a vote, Matt Holliday is among the league's leading hitters and Adam Dunn is putting up the power-speed numbers that most expected from Soriano.
C: Russell Martin has gotten off to a fast start, but are his numbers eye-catching enough to separate him rising star Brian McCann (whose power is down a tad) or an old standby like Paul LoDuca (who hasn't done much this season)?
Other notes heading into the weekend: -- Tim Lincecum could finally be on his way up to the majors after Russ Ortiz went on the DL with a back injury. For now, the Giants called up infielder Kevin Frandsen, but Lincecum is expected to start on Sunday in a prime-time game against the Phillies, so everyone will get the chance to see the youngster do his stuff.
-- Speaking of the Phillies, Brett Myers got the save on Thursday night against the Giants with a hitless ninth. With Tom Gordon's shoulder an issue, Myers should have the job for a while -- at least through this weekend. It's an interesting turn of events for Myers, who was rumored to get that closer's job in spring training.
-- Mariano Rivera is on his way back, tripling his saves total for the year by picking up two on Thursday as the Yankees swept a doubleheader from the Rangers. However, the Yankees again blew a lead in front of Andy Pettitte (although they did come back to win), but Mike Mussina was solid in five innings in his return from a hamstring injury. Also, to replace Phil Hughes in the rotation, it appears Matt DeSalvo will become the sixth rookie to start for the Yankees.
-- Manny Ramirez is starting to find his swing, belting two homers on Thursday night to beat the Mariners and is 8-for-17 in his last four games. Ramirez helped bail out Daisuke Matsuzaka, who struggled with seven runs and five walks over five innings, raising his ERA to 5.45.
-- Top prospect Billy Butler should stick with the Royals for a bit after Reggie Sanders went down with a torn hamstring. And Ross Gload is cementing his place at first base with Ryan Shealy out after going 4 or 4 and a homer short of the cycle.
-- The A's made another deal on Thursday by acquiring Jack Cust from the Padres to give them another bat with all the injuries in the lineup. Cust had been a highly touted hitting prospect for years, but he hasn't really worked out at any of his stops. However, he seems destined to be a DH, and with Mike Piazza, Nick Swisher and Travis Buck all hurt, Cust may end up with that spot this weekend.
Mike Piazza had just one homer in his first month for the A's.
Another day, another big name goes down as Mike Piazza will be out 4-6 weeks after injuring his shoulder against the Red Sox on Wednesday night. So much for not taking games off as the DH. Oakland's injury-riddled lineup gets shaken up even more, with the injured Nick Swisher possibly filling in at DH, and top prospect Daric Barton could get called up as well. For fantasy owners, this is an odd situation since if you were playing Piazza at DH, you likely have more options (especially in mixed leagues) to replace him in the lineup. But at catcher (where most people have him), the options are probably a lot thinner.
Figuring out who will get at-bats in Oakland these days is almost guesswork, and you can now add Chris Snelling to the mix after he was acquired from the Nationals on Wednesday for Ryan Langerhans, whose A's tenure lasted all of two games. Snelling, a long-time prospect in the Mariners organization, was hitting just .204 in his first season for Washington and will give the A's another bat. After four hitless at-bats for the A's, Langerhans is now 3-for-48 this season. He'll give the Nationals some depth, but doesn't warrant much attention yet, even in NL-only leagues.
And to stick with a busy Oakland team, doctors advised Rich Harden to rest his shoulder, so don't expect him to return until later this month. Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez isn't expected to return Friday as originally scheduled, but could return next week -- just in time for a possible two-start week.
As for other injured pitchers, Jake Westbrook could be headed to the disabled list after going just 1 1/3 innings, leaving with an abdominal injury, which seems to be the ailment of choice for the Indians staff (Cliff Lee opened the season on the DL with a similar injury). Fausto Carmona could be on his way back to the Cleveland rotation to take Westbrook's place.
Tom Gordon is going to have shoulder examined, and there's a decent chance he'll also head to the disabled list. Thus, Brett Myers could indeed become the closer as had been discussed during the spring. Should that happen, Myers' value goes way back up again. It would be a really strange season for Myers, who came in as a highly-ranked starter then demoted to setup man to a closer.
Going beyond the injury front, yet another highly touted prospect is getting at least a small taste of the majors as the Braves called up Jarrod Saltalamacchia to start at catcher, thanks to injuries to both Brian McCann and backup Brayan Pena, the latter going on the DL. Saltalamacchia, who has the longest last name in major league history, seemed to be on a fast track to get to the bigs but then stumbled in Double-A last year and saw McCann blossom into one of the NL's best catchers. McCann could be back from a finger injury this weekend, pushing Salty to the bench, but he'll stick around at least until Pena gets back from the DL. It is worth watching his progress, even if the time is short.
And speaking of short major-league stints by top prospects, Brandon Wood is back with the Angels after Maicer Izturis went on the DL with a hamstring injury. However, Wood is bench help for now, especially with Erick Aybar playing well in Howie Kendrick's place and Chone Figgins back in the lineup.
Laurence Maroney is one of three second-year running backs to leap into the first round.
Peter Read Miller/SI
So the NFL Draft is over, and while my colleague Andrew Perloff is already taking his shots at predicting the 2008 draft, there has already been at least one published 2007 mock fantasy draft, four months from the start of the season.
The folks over at Mock Draft Central ran a draft on Monday, one day after the real one ended. I opted not to take part in it, but probably will be part of the early draft madness soon enough. However, the results are at least interesting to check out. You can see the whole draft here, but here are the first two rounds:
First Round 1. LaDainian Tomlinson 2. Larry Johnson 3. Steven Jackson 4. Frank Gore 5. Shaun Alexander 6. Willie Parker 7. Joseph Addai 8. Ronnie Brown 9. Rudi Johnson 10. Brian Westbrook 11. Laurence Maroney 12. Reggie Bush
Second Round 1. Clinton Portis 2. Travis Henry 3. Willis McGahee 4. Peyton Manning (first non-RB to go) 5. Maurice Jones-Drew 6. Steve Smith (Panthers, obviously) 7. Edgerrin James 8. Cedric Benson 9. Cadillac Williams 10. Deuce McAllister 11. Thomas Jones 12. Ahman Green
Other notes: -- Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson went back-to-back to start the third round, followed by Brandon Jacobs. Randy Moss was taken later in the third round, just before Drew Brees, who was the second quarterback taken after Peyton Manning.
-- Marshawn Lynch was the first rookie to go, chosen in the third round, while the Vikings' Adrian Peterson went in the fourth round, two picks ahead of Tom Brady. Other rookie running backs drafted include Brandon Jackson (8th round), Chris Henry (10th), Kenny Irons (11th) and Michael Bush (13th). Bush was actually taken a couple of slots before the No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell. Brady Quinn was not drafted.
-- Not surprisingly, Calvin Johnson was the first rookie receiver taken, going late in the sixth round. Other rookie wideouts taken were Dwayne Bowe (12th), Robert Meachem (13th), Anthony Gonzalez (13th) and Sidney Rice (14th).
-- Henry, McGahee, Green and Moss were not surprisingly high picks despite changing teams. Other notable offseason movers include Jamal Lewis (4th), Darrell Jackson and Tatum Bell (6th), Donte Stallworth (8th), Joe Horn and Kevin Curtis (9th), Randy McMichael and Drew Bennett (10th), Dominic Rhodes (11th) and Ashley Lelie (13th).
Phil Hughes pitched 6 1/3 no-hit innings before leaving with a hamstring injury.
So it was one step forward, two huge steps backward for Phil Hughes, who followed up his fair first start with an outstanding second one, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning before leaving a game with a strained hamstring that will knock him out for 4-6 weeks at the earliest. Hughes was showing a variety of pitches and fooling a decent Rangers lineup before the unfortunate injury.
So if he can recover well, and that's a big if, he still can be a decent player this season. However, hamstring injuries can be tricky for pitchers, and this is the third time the Yankees have been burned by it this season. Chien-Ming Wang hasn't been particularly sharp yet since returning from the injury, and teammate Mike Mussina is expected to return from a similar ailment today. And for what it's worth, Brian Bannister (then with the Mets) wasn't heard from after suffering a hamstring injury early last season and is now plugging away for the Royals.
In terms of future prospects, I suppose the injury is good in that it will limit Hughes' workload for the season and hopefully won't burn him out in the future. But if you're looking for now, there isn't much value.
Meanwhile, if you're looking for the next big thing pitching-wise, Tim Lincecum is making it tougher for the Giants to keep him in the minors. At Triple-A Fresno, Lincecum is 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA, plus 11 walks with 46 strikeouts in just 31 innings, including 14 in his last start on Sunday. He's allowed just one earned run in five starts this season. It's just a matter of time before he joins the rotation, especially after Russ Ortiz got roughed up again Tuesday.
Another top prospect who is now up in the majors is the Royals' Billy Butler, who got the call after Ryan Shealy went on the DL with a hamstring injury. While Ross Gload will get more at-bats at first in Shealy's place, Butler could see time in left especially after a solid .337-6-23 line for Triple-A Omaha that includes 18 walks and just 12 strikeouts plus an OPS of 1.030. It remains to be seen if he's up for good like Alex Gordon, who's hitting just .167 with 31 strikeouts in 84 at-bats through Tuesday, or is making just a cameo appearance like Brandon Wood just did with the Angels.
As for more experienced players, both New York teams shook up the lineup a bit to get their struggling stars back in the swing of things. With Johnny Damon out with a back injury, Bobby Abreu led off for the Yankees and went 1-for-6 but still he has just four hits in his last 10 games (.103 average). David Wright moved to the No. 2 spot in the lineup and finally hit his first homer of the season, so while this change my just be temporary, it's good to see him have a good game after a big slump.
Wright wasn't the first top-flight fantasy player to hit his first homer of the season Tuesday. Alfonso Soriano also went deep (and tripled his RBI total in the process as well from 1 to 3) against the Pirates in a game that will be completed this afternoon. Soriano probably ranks as the biggest bust early on, although Wright, Ryan Howard and even Albert Pujols are in the running as well.
Dwayne Jarrett probably moves up the depth chart in Carolina by replacing fellow Trojan Keyshawn Johnson.
To follow up on the NFL draft, so much for Dwayne Jarrett learning from Keyshawn Johnson in Carolina. The Panthers cut Johnson to open up a spot for the receiver who's very much like No. 19. That now moves Jarrett's value up among rookies as he can be a solid No. 2 guy next to Steve Smith (the Pro Bowl one, not his former USC teammate now with the Giants).
Keyshawn should be able to find a job sometime in the next couple of months, especially with a number of teams potentially in need for wide receiver help. Obviously, his value will depend on where he might eventually land.
Back to baseball, we've got another change in closers as the Braves put Bob Wickman on the disabled list with a back injury, which might've explained his recent shaky outings. It appears Mike Gonzalez will be the closer for now, based on his past experience with the Pirates last year. However, Gonzalez has been shaky (seven walks in 10 innings) and dinged up a bit this year. Rafael Soriano may also get some looks, but he too has been a slight disappointment in April.
Jake Peavy is going through a weird stretch of bad luck. After getting a no-decision during a 16-K game last week, this time he picked up the loss despite striking out 10 Nationals. He hurt himself after hitting Ryan Church with a pitch and letting him steal a base, leading to a run-scoring hit. Again, sometimes getting those wins are harder than you might think.
On the other hand, a couple of other aces, Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay, showed once again why they were such high draft picks. Webb allowed just one run and four hits over seven innings to beat the Dodgers, although the two strikeouts are a tad disappointing. Halladay went the distance, allowing one run and five hits to the Rangers, striking eight along the way and 18 over his last two starts.
Meanwhile, Jason Schmidt's season could be over before it barely began as there are rumblings in L.A. that his ailing shoulder could require surgery. He hasn't pitched well (1-2, 7.36 ERA in three starts before going on the DL), and the injury issues always made him a risk to begin with.
The Indians indeed demoted Fausto Carmona, despite a couple of great starts, to make room for the returning Cliff Lee. Be sure to keep Carmona on reserve as he should get a call sooner rather than later.
Not only did he turn the most recent unassisted triple play, but Troy Tulowitzki is finding his game again after a slow start. In his last four games, he's 10 for his last 19 with two homers and four RBIs. Meanwhile, the player he replaced at short, Clint Barmes, is back in the minors after going just 2-for-20 with Kaz Matsui injured.
Even more important to fantasy owners is Gary Sheffield's revival. He hit his first homer as a Tiger in Comerica on Monday during a contentious at-bat against the Orioles' Daniel Cabrera. Get Sheffield mad, and he can go off at the plate. Cabrera did that and now Sheffield could be going back to normal.
Brady Quinn fell to the 22nd pick in the draft but is still a viable fantasy option this year.
I've gone over the potential fantasy value of this weekend's NFL Draft picks already. But here's my guess at the order this year's rookies will be taken in fantasy drafts this summer.
1. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: There doesn't appear to be a tandem situation here, which means more looks and increased value.
2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: He may be the better long-term prospect, but the injury and platoon situation with Chester Taylor limits his value initially.
3. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Rookie wideouts are very risky, but he looks to be the real deal. But would you draft Johnson as one of your top receivers?
4. Brady Quinn, QB, Browns: He has decent weapons around him, but the name recognition will inflate his fantasy value for this year.
5. Ted Ginn, WR, Dolphins: His foot injury is a red flag, but after Chris Chambers, the receiving options are thin. So Ginn has a shot. But who throws him the ball?
6. Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: Ginn's Ohio State teammate appears to be slotted for Brandon Stokley's old role, and Stokley proved he can put up fantasy stats there.
7. Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers: If you're a starting running back, you'll be drafted in a fantasy league. Jackson appears to have the first shot at replacing Ahman Green (who's now in Houston) as the starter.
8. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Raiders: Lots of question marks around him, but the talent is there, so he'll be worth a flyer even in non-keeper leagues.
9. Chris Henry, RB, Titans: Again, running backs get hoarded in many drafts, and with this Henry getting a shot to replace Travis Henry, he'll be a popular pick.
10. Robert Meachem, WR, Saints: If Marques Colston can shine as a rookie, why can't Meachem, especially in this offense? It could have been one of many wideouts (Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith or Sidney Rice) in this space.
Also worth watching for this year: Greg Olsen, TE, Bears; Brian Leonard, RB, Rams; Justin Medlock, K, Rams
As for the two big receiver trades this weekend (Randy Moss to the Patriots; Darrell Jackson to the 49ers), I can't help but think of how quarterback values will be shaken up with these moves. Tom Brady has done a lot more with less, so imagine what a top three of Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker can do. Brady was bound to improve even if Moss isn't there. Moss is a wild card, but at least Brady benefits.
Alex Smith showed progress last year and now he has a legitimate No. 1 wideout in Jackson, whose value won't change much. However, Matt Hasselbeck's value has to drop a bit with Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett as his top two targets. (Plus, the Seahawks let Jerramy Stevens sign with the Bucs.)
Going back to baseball, Chone Figgins is ready to return for the Angels on Monday, finally giving owners a chance to use his versatility and speed (especially with Juan Pierre zooming ahead to the stolen base lead this weekend with five steals in four games).
Orlando Hernandez is on the DL with a shoulder injury, and now the Mets will have Chan Ho Park pitching in his place. Ouch. Also in Queens, Jose Valentin could be out a month with a knee injury, which leaves second base likely to veteran Damion Easley. Again, another ouch.
Over in the Bronx, Jeff Karstens will be out 6-8 weeks with the broken leg suffered Saturday. That ensures Phil Hughes another start and brings Kei Igawa back to the rotation after a very brief hiatus. Igawa finally showed something Saturday by pitching six shutout innings in relief of Karstens.
Speaking of disappointing starts, the Braves sent Ryan Langerhans, who was started the season 3-for-44, to the A's for a player to be named. Langerhans now gets thrown into the crowded Oakland outfield, which has been racked by injuries, while Matt Diaz likely becomes the everyday leftfielder in Atlanta, increasing his value.
In a case of tough luck, Cleveland's Fausto Carmona could be headed to the minors despite allowing just one run in 8 1/3 innings on Sunday to the Orioles. Cliff Lee is expected back this week, making Carmona the odd man out in the rotation.
A similar fate could befall Cha Seung Baek, who allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings against the Royals on Sunday, but might lose his rotation spot to Felix Hernandez, who is supposed to return Friday or Saturday against the Yankees. However, Jeff Weaver should be the odd man out, given his start (0-4, 18.26 ERA).