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.
8/10/2007 12:39:00 PM
Blast from the past
Rick Ankiel had two homers during his stint as a pitcher for the Cardinals before going deep Thursday.
Lots of assorted fantasy baseball and football notes heading into the weekend:
-- Congratulations to Rick Ankiel for belting a three-run homer in his return to the majors as an outfielder. The Cardinals' former top pitching prospect hit 32 homers in Triple-A this season before being recalled. Ankiel did strike out twice against the Padres' Chris Young before going yard. Despite the nice story, it will be tough for Ankiel to get regular playing time in the outfield, with Juan Encarnacion and Chris Duncan playing well at the corners. Otherwise, he could provide some pop to the lineup. Don't go crazy in chasing after him, but if you're desperate for depth, he could be worth a gamble.
In that same game, Joel Pineiro surprisingly threw seven shutout innings at the Padres, something he struggled to do all year in the Red Sox bullpen and in his first start for the Cardinals. I still think he might be marginally useful if you're desperate for starting pitching, but let's see one more start before jumping on him in NL-only leagues.
-- Oddly, Oscar Villarreal got the save for the Braves on Thursday afternoon, although he was being prepped to do ninth-inning mop-up duty that suddenly turned into a save opportunity. Also, Bob Wickman is going to have an MRI on a forearm problem that's been troubling him for a couple of weeks. That could get both Octavio Dotel and Rafael Soriano back into the save mix, although Soriano has been struggling lately.
Also in Atlanta, Mark Teixeira is doing just fine since the big trade as he has four homers in his first eight games for the Braves.
-- Speaking of closers, Jamie Walker has suddenly hit a rough patch in the Orioles bullpen, allowing four runs in just 2/3 of an inning in his last two outings after 19 straight scoreless appearances. Maybe getting the Mariners out of town is a good thing.
-- Scott Kazmir is finding his game again after a spotty first half. Since the All-Star break, Kazmir is 4-1 with a 1.16 ERA, plus 45 strikeouts in 38 innings.
-- There were a handful of trades to go down on Thursday, although most of them are of little relevance fantasy-wise. But to recap:
The Phillies got Russell Branyan from the Indians. Branyan has power but likely will serve as a pinch-hitter/utilityman, since he doesn't have the same skills to replace injured speedsters Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn.
The Mariners added some left-handed relief help by getting John Parrish from the Orioles. Parrish was 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA this season. The Orioles also lost utility infielder Chris Gomez to the Indians on waivers.
The Dodgers added pinch-hitting help by getting Mark Sweeney from the Giants. It's a rare trade between the two clubs, but one of little consequence for fantasy owners.
Over to the football side of things, you can't get too wrapped up in the preseason stats just yet, but the Lions did show some firepower by flinging the ball everywhere, as well as Tatum Bell turning in a couple of big runs. I'm trying not to get too swayed by one game, but Bell, Jon Kitna and Calvin Johnson might be moving up the draft charts because of it.
The one big item to come from the game is that Bengals rookie running back Kenny Irons is out for the season after tearing a knee ligament. Kenny Watson likely becomes the primary backup to Rudi Johnson now.
In the Colts-Cowboys game, both quarterbacks looked to be just fine, which bodes well for their fantasy values heading into the season. However, it was hard to get much of a read on the Marion Barber-Julius Jones race just yet.
As for injuries, L.J. Smith was carted off the field Thursday, although his current status is unknown. He's been banged up this summer and is definitely on the decline in the tight end ranks. Same goes for Alge Crumpler as he figures out how he'll mesh with Joey Harrington.
Finally, best wishes to Mike Alstott, who went on injured reserve with a neck injury, although he has yet to officially retired. Alstott was always a great fantasy running back with all the goal-line touchdowns he picked up in his career, often at the expense of former running mate Warrick Dunn.
Chien-Ming Wang was battered for eight runs in just 2 2/3 innings in Toronto.
Sometimes you'll get stuck with a really bad pitching performance. You can only hope that it's a fleeting thing and not the start of a downward trend. At least that's what Chien-Ming Wang and Yovani Gallardo owners hope -- that they don't follow Dontrelle Willis' path.
Both Wang and Gallardo could only survive 2 2/3 innings, allowing eight and 11 runs, respectively to the Blue Jays and Rockies. Obviously, it was both their worst outings of the season, but at least in the case of Wang, he's been able to rebound from six- and seven-run outings with one- and no-run outings the next time around. In Gallardo's case, it's one bad blip for a highly touted rookie, and not a good sign with the way the Brewers have been playing lately, but the youngster does need to show some poise and pitching a good game the next time out.
Hopefully, though, neither will be Willis, who has now lost nine straight decisions after falling to the Phillies despite hitting a homer (although he also committed two errors as well). Willis has not won since May 29, and is 0-9 with a 6.00 ERA over 13 outings after that. While his collapse this season is bad enough, it probably makes things even worse that he now has the same record (7-12) as Kyle Lohse, who beat him Wednesday, and a worse ERA (4.98 vs. 4.66). I'm thinking you paid a lot more for Willis than Lohse, if you drafted Lohse at all.
As for other bad nights, at least in terms of injuries: -- Alex Rodriguez sat out Wednesday's game with a sore leg suffered from his plunking the day before. -- Todd Helton left the Brewers' rout early with back spasms. -- Dmitri Young left his game with the Giants with a strained hamstring. -- Aramis Ramirez was scratched with a sore wrist. -- A tight knee knocked out Travis Hafner early. -- David Ortiz sat out Wednesday night's game with the sore shoulder that's bothered him for a few weeks.
Plus, it appears David Wells' tenure with the Padres is over after the 10 consecutive hit debacle against the Cardinals earlier this week.
But hey, it's not all bad news across the board -- Barry Bonds hit his 757th career homer and Rick Ankiel is back in the major leagues, this time as an outfielder. He hit 32 homers in Triple-A this season.
Now that Barry Bonds has the all-time record, how many more homers will he hit?
The long journey is over, and Barry Bonds has finally passed Hank Aaron as the all-time home run king.
While watching the game, it felt inevitable that Bonds would break the record. When players like Bengie Molina and Brian Schneider are going deep, you knew it was a favorable night for homers. Plus, Bonds had already picked up a single and a double earlier in the game off Mike Bacsik. In fact, one of my first thoughts after Bonds hit the record homer was whether he would stick around long enough to go for the cycle. Alas, Bonds made one last trip to the field after the fifth inning then was replaced as part of a double switch.
Now that Bonds has the record, you do have to wonder about his future both this season and beyond. The Giants are out of contention in the NL West, so there isn't much incentive to get Bonds in there other than to add to the record. They've got a couple of young outfielders like Fred Lewis and the newly acquired Rajai Davis who would like to see more time. Bonds' playing time could be cut back a bit now that the record has passed. It might not be a bad time to trade him to someone who might be caught up in the record.
And there's definitely no guarantee that he'll even play beyond this season. With Bonds now owning the record, will the Giants need to have him back or will they go younger? How far will Bonds want to build up his record, and if so, where will it be? Could he end up in the American League as a DH? From a fantasy perspective, he's somewhat risky the rest of the year, and a giant question mark next year until we hear for sure what he wants to do.
As for other notes around the league: -- Speaking of near cycles, Justin Upton was a single short of the feat Tuesday night, and he's hitting .419 since being called up. He's already making a push to be part of the Diamondbacks' starting outfield for years.
-- Arizona's starting outfield could be set for a number of years with Upton, Chris Young, and Eric Byrnes, who signed a three-year, $30 million extension Tuesday. Byrnes has really blossomed in Arizona as a power-speed double threat and cashed in before having to hit the free-agent market. The move may end up meaning the inconsistent Carlos Quentin could be on his way out, likely in the offseason.
-- Joba Chamberlain did make his major league debut for the Yankees on Tuesday, allowing one hit and two walks but striking out two in two innings. He showed a few nerves early but also some really good stuff. His future may still be as a starter, but the Yankees may hope he'll pull off a Francisco Rodriguez-like performance from 2002.
-- The bad blood between the Yankees and Blue Jays kept flaring up, with Alex Rodriguez getting plunked by Josh Towers, which triggered two bench-clearing situations, and Roger Clemens getting ejected after hitting Alex Rios in the back. Clemens seemed to play the retaliation game smartly (relatively speaking) by waiting until he had a big lead late in the game to do what he did, knowing he might get thrown out. While Clemens was cruising at that point, it was in the seventh inning, around the time he might've been close to coming out anyway.
-- A couple of hot pitchers to watch: Jake Peavy, who has a streak of 19 scoreless innings after a small hiccup around the All-Star break, and Brian Bannister, who has gone seven innings in each of his last four starts, winning three of them, including last night.
And if you're looking for a quick football note, Brady Quinn ended his holdout with the Browns and is in camp. While the absence wasn't terribly long, don't expect Quinn to be a regular starter right away as he gets in the groove of the offense. But he could be a better option later in the year. My colleague Mike Beacom has more on the Browns QB race.
Joba Chamberlain got a small taste of the big leagues at the All-Star Futures Game.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
There seems to be a constant stream of top rookies reaching the majors this season, whether it be Ryan Braun, Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Justin Upton and a whole host of others. Now you can add Joba Chamberlain to the list as the Yankees are ready to bring up yet another one of their top arms up to the majors.
However, while teammate Phil Hughes is in the starting rotation, Chamberlain is going to be in the Yankees bullpen, but likely in a key seventh- or eighth-inning situation -- similar to Scott Proctor before he was traded to the Dodgers at the deadline. But Yankees fans hope he'll play a similar role that Mariano Rivera had in front of John Wetteland early in his career, or more recently, what Francisco Rodriguez did in front of Troy Percival during the Angels' World Series title run.
Chamberlain, the 41st overall pick in last year's draft out of Nebraska, has already gone through three levels of the minors this season, going 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 135 strikeouts in just 88 1/3 innings. At Triple-A Scranton, Chamberlain struck out 18 in just eight innings of work. So he's got the stuff to be a top-flight pitcher one of these days, although his fantasy value is somewhat marginal in year-to-year leagues right now.
If he really does get into those high-leverage situations late in games, Chamberlain would be a great candidate for vulture wins, some relief strikeouts as well as stabilizing the ERA and WHIP. He probably won't turn around a fantasy team the way rookies like Braun or Pence might because of his role, but he's a good supporting piece for a team needing a solid setup man. And of course, the potential to close makes him a good keeper league candidate.
Chamberlain can only hope to ride the hot streak hitting plenty of the Yankees over the past couple of months with guys like Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano playing themselves back among the top fantasy producers with some huge stats since the All-Star break. Jason Giambi will also hope to get himself going as he's expected to be activated from the DL today as well.
Other notes for Tuesday: -- Curt Schilling had a fair return from the disabled list, allowing four runs and nine hits in six innings in a loss to the Angels, including the go-ahead homer to Maicer Izturis in the seventh.
-- Eddie Guardado is set to return from the DL, but don't expect him to get saves right away. His teammate Ryan Freel is expected to have knee surgery this week, so his DL stint will be longer than 15 days. Not a good sign for those of you trying to catch up in steals.
-- Alfonso Soriano's quad injury is now diagnosed as a tear, so he could miss more than a month, likely killing many fantasy teams' chances. It was interesting that the Cubs called up Eric Patterson (Corey's brother) instead of Felix Pie. Patterson likely will platoon with Matt Murton in Soriano's place.
Frank Gore's broken hand is already causing some panic among fantasy owners this summer.
With one preseason game in the books, and plenty of news about holdouts, injuries and other goings-on already circulating throughout camp, how much have your draft boards changed -- especially at the top of the list? And how much should you stick to your original plans within reason but without completely overhauling your list with new of each little bump or bruise?
There seem to be a couple of reasonable certainties to come up so far this summer: stay away from Michael Vick (except maybe in the deepest of keeper leagues) and Steven Jackson has developed big edge over Larry Johnson in the race for the No. 2 spot in the draft after LaDainian Tomlinson.
However, Frank Gore's broken hand and Willie Parker's knee injury have already caused much concern for fantasy owners even though the season is still more than a month away. Meanwhile, guys like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens have already missed time in camp for a variety of injuries, and those don't seem to have people as worried -- at least for now. Then again, Gore and Parker are potential top-10 fantasy picks, while Moss and T.O. are top receivers but not necessarily first-round material.
By all means, keep a close eye on the injury report, especially for bigger problems, like Gore's hand. My colleague Will Carroll has a good read on a number of these issues. Potentially major injuries will drive a player's value down, but it could also turn that potential bust into a sleeper if he falls further down in the draft. But don't get too wrapped up in a minor ding here, or limited preseason action there until it leads to something big.
As for a couple of the key holdouts, like Brady Quinn, it really comes down to what were your original expectations for them. Quinn wasn't expected to start until a few weeks into the season at the earliest, so a holdout won't kill his draft day value that much. There's no way you'd want him as anything before your No. 3 quarterback anyway.
On the other hand, Larry Johnson's draft value is falling because of his holdout. There were plenty of questions about workload to begin with after last year's excessive wear and tear (record 416 carries in 2006), and while the holdout could save him from extra contact this summer, there's a good chance that other things will negate the "rest" time off the practice field. The return of Priest Holmes, not to mention last year's backup Michael Bennett and rookie Kolby Smith, gives the Chiefs options, if not necessarily the best ones.
Also be very careful when approaching preseason stats. The stars often only get token playing time for the first couple of games, and a lot of the second- and third-stringers who pile up big numbers are doing so against second- and third-string defenses. Still, a good performance here and there can elevate a low draft pick up to a surprise starting job (like Marques Colston last year), but often times you won't see that develop until much later in camp. Although if you play your cards right with lesser names working their way into a starting job, you could have a great late-round sleeper.
One other note based on a draft I'm in the middle of right now, be very careful with players with the same name. Most people there are two Steve Smiths (the Panthers star and the Giants rookie) and two Adrian Petersons (the Bears backup and the Vikings' top draft pick). But already twice I've heard people getting burned by drafting the Panthers' Steven Jackson instead of the one on the Rams.
For many fantasy owners, the Alfonso Soriano injury took precendence over Tom Glavine's 300th win.
It was a busy weekend for milestones, with Barry Bonds hitting his 755th homer, Alex Rodriguez belting No. 500 and Tom Glavine earning his 300th win. While history is great, many fantasy owners were probably as concerned about Alfonso Soriano's quad injury in Glavine's historic game, or the fact that both Bonds and A-Rod struggled for a while before their milestone homers.
Soriano's injury is probably the biggest news to come from this weekend's action as he becomes the latest big name to go down with a major injury just when his team and your fantasy squad need him the most. Soriano is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a strained right quad, and his total production obviously will be tough to match. The Cubs could call up Felix Pie like they did the last time Soriano was hurt, but Matt Murton and Mike Fontenot may also be in the mix, not to mention Mark DeRosa playing the outfield.
Along with Soriano, Miguel Cabrera also left Sunday's game early after being hit on the elbow with a pitch. However, Cabrera appears ready to go for Tuesday. Same goes for Jeff Kent, who's been sidelined with a knee injury most of last week.
Among other big bats dealing with injuries, Edgar Renteria went on the DL this weekend with a hamstring injury, but that just gives rookie Yunel Escobar more at-bats. Escobar has been solid all over the infield, filling in for Chipper Jones at third earlier this season and then splitting time with Kelly Johnson at second.
Noah Lowry had to leave Sunday's start after just three innings with a forearm injury, and with the bullpen depleted, Barry Zito came in for a relief appearance, retiring the side in his inning of work. Also, Ryan Freel is going to have his knee checked this week, as he's been out of the lineup since Thursday. Not good for someone whose primary value is in stolen bases.
But while those guys are hurting, a few other big names look to be on their way back this week. First off is Curt Schilling, who should be back from the DL to pitch against the Angels tonight. Jason Giambi also appears ready to return from a foot injury this week, although the Yankees are going to have an interesting dilemma in figuring out playing time at DH, first base and the outfield. Guys like Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Andy Phillips and newly acquired Wilson Betemit could see their playing time affected the most.
A couple of other notes from Sunday: -- Kerry Wood made his long-awaited return on Sunday night, pitching a scoreless seventh. Right now, he's far away from making sort of fantasy production as a middle man in the bullpen. -- Top prospect update: Justin Upton now has two two-hit games in a row after two hitless games to begin his career. Meanwhile, Adam Jones has gone hitless in his last two games after getting two in his first game back in the majors this season. -- The Diamondbacks went crazy on the real waiver wire on Saturday, picking up Joe Kennedy, Byung-Hyun Kim and Jeff Cirillo. Kim is going to be in the starting rotation for now and might have a tad extra fantasy value. Kennedy will be in the bullpen and Cirillo will provide bench help, so neither have a ton of value outside of deep NL-only leagues for now.