Thursday, September 20, 2007

Miranda Warnings: The Fantasy Baseball Weekly Dose (FBWD)

Welcome back, baseball fans. It's Michael Miranda, your loyal fantasy baseball expert. Here’s the latest “dose”. Let’s get it on…

American League Update:

The “Butler” did it: Heading into 2007, Kansas City wanted to keep Billy Butler in the minors for another year of defensive seasoning (offensively, he’s been ready since spring training). But, sometimes the hands of fate (in this case, Mike Sweeney’s knee injury) have a way of changing a teams intentions. Sweeney injured his right knee in mid-June, resulting in surgery. Consequently, Butler has received regular AB’s and hasn’t disappointed, hitting .294 with 7 hr’s and 49 rbi in only 299 AB’s! KC is currently giving Butler a trial at 1B. The organization hopes that his defense doesn’t prove to be a liability. If Butler can’t hack it at 1B, he can DH regularly. Butler hasn’t had any extended hitting funks, impressive for a rookie, and will be a mainstay in KC’s lineup for years to come. His power will come as he matures and KC’s lineup improves. 25 homer, 100 rbi seasons will become the norm for Butler sooner, rather than later. He’s a great mid-round pickup for your fantasy team on Draft Day 2008.

Pettitte still has it: Despite an achy elbow that has bothered him since late 2006, Andy Pettitte has put together quite an impressive 2007 (14-8, with a 3.79 ERA). Mariano Rivera was shaky Tuesday versus Baltimore, but was able to seal a 2-1 Yankee win and in the process saved Pettitte’s 200th career victory. Pettitte leads the Majors with 10 second-half wins. As Pettitte approaches 40, he’s worth having on your fantasy team if (and this is a BIG IF) he returns to the Yanks in 2008. Pettitte has a $16 million player option for 2008.

“Defense, Defense”: Don’t believe those who say that defense means nothing in fantasy baseball. A perfect example is Chicago’s Josh Fields. Fields has put together an impressive 2007 rookie campaign (20 hr’s, 63 rbi in only 344 AB’s), but he’s been shaky defensively at third base and left field. Additionally, White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen has made it clear that unless Fields’ defense improves, he won’t see regular AB’s in 2008. “It is not automatic that he will be there next year," Guillen told Fields offensive potential is impressive, but as a fantasy GM this means nothing to you if Fields doesn’t receive regular playing time. Approach with caution.

BJ Ryan who?: Entering 2007, BJ Ryan was not only Toronto’s closer, but one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball. Elbow-ligament replacement surgery has Ryan out until mid-2008. In the interim, Jeremy Accardo hasn’t dominated, but has been very successful, racking up 28 saves, a 2.32 ERA and a tiny 1.177 WHIP. If Accardo carries his 2007 success into 2008, you have to think that Toronto will stick with him as their closer even after Ryan returns. It’ll be interesting to see how this situation plays out.

Vlad’s “Tri”ing to play RF: Vlad triceps inflammation continues to limit him to DH duties. Guerrero’s offensive production remains solid, but he hasn’t played RF in over a week. Guerrero wants to play the field, but the Angels are being cautious with their superstar. Although antibiotics and an offseason of rest should solve the problem, this is definitely a situation worth monitoring.

Oh no, O’s!: In last weeks “Fantasy Baseball Weekly Dose”, I questioned how long Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada would continue to tolerate the Orioles losing ways. The results are in and the numbers are ugly. Since late August, Roberts' average has plummeted from .314 to .290. Ouch! Fortunately for his fantasy GM’s, he does have four steals in the past six games. Tejada is 3 for his last 27! Double ouch! Both players are studs, but the losing in Baltimore is definitely taking its toll on them.

Déjà vu All Over Again?: The Red Sox are doing their best to repeat 1978’s infamous collapse, which saw them blow a 14 game AL East lead to the Yankees, then lose a one game playoff. The 2007 collapse is almost complete. After being swept in Toronto Wednesday, Boston’s once 14 ½ game lead over the Yanks has dwindled to 1 ½ games and all facets of their game have deteriorated recently. Of particular concern is the bullpen. Eric Gagne has been horrific since being acquired from Texas at the trading deadline, compiling a 9.00 ERA in 15 games. Hideki Okajima has been shut down for several days because of a tired arm and has been just as bad as Gagne lately. And the usually dependable Jonathan Papelbon has suddenly become undependable. Papelbon has given up 3 earned runs in his last 1 2/3 innings, including a grand slam to Russ Adams on Wednesday that broke open a close game.

National League Update:

Mikey Likes it: Speaking of collapses, on September 12th, the Mets led the Phillies by 7 games. That lead now stands at 2 ½ games after the Mets snapped a five game losing streak, beating Washington 8-4. Mike Pelfrey came up big with a solid, if not spectacular, effort (5 IP, 9H, 3 ER) and he did so with the Mets desperate for a victory. With the win, Pelfrey has turned his 2007 around in a major way. Once 0-7, Pelfrey is now 3-7 and showing signs of becoming a solid mid-rotation pitcher. Some pitchers take longer to develop than others, so don’t give up on Pelfrey just yet. He’s worth a flier in 2008.

If the shoe, err boot, fits… wear it: In more Met news, Newsday is reporting that Orlando Hernandez was diagnosed Monday with a bunion on his right foot and must wear a protective boot for 7 to 10 days. There’s even talk of shutting him down for the season. With Pedro Martinez back and Pelfrey showing signs of improvement, perhaps shutting down El Duque might be for the best. El Duque, one of the biggest clutch game performers in baseball history, would be sorely missed during the playoffs.

Pujols “disappointing” 2007 ends?: Mere mortals would salivate with a stat line of 31 homers, 95 rbi and a .321 average. But, when you’re Albert Pujols that stat line is disappointing. Injuries to the Cardinals and to Pujols himself have resulted in an “off” year for the slugger. Now, it appears he’ll be shut down for 2007 with a strained calf.

Mulder Done: Mark Mulder is done for 2007 and, perhaps, a lot longer. Mulder’s labrum has healed fully from 2006 surgery, but the same can’t be said about his rotator cuff. He’ll go under the knife soon and will likely miss most, if not all, of 2008.

Come on Chris: Unfortunately, Chris Burke is doing nothing to establish himself as a major leaguer. The only reason Burke will most likely enter 2008 as a starter (2b or CF) is because Craig Biggio is retiring and Jason Lane and Luke Scott have been as inept as Burke. Burke is young/talented, but he needs to do more than 6 homers, 9 stolen bases to make some noise.

Manuel Manager of the Year: There should be zero doubt that Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel is the NL Manager of the Year. Despite extended DL stints for several key players in 2007 (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Freddy Garcia and on, and on, and on…), the fightin’ Phils are in the thick of the NL playoff hunt as the 2007 season enters its final week. All Philly hitters should remain active in your fantasy lineups as the Phils play for their playoff lives, while playing their final six games in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

He’s “Werth” it: Jayson Werth has stepped in admirably as Shane Victorino’s (calf) replacement. In September, Werth has been solid, hitting .298 with 12 RBI. Heading into 2008, Werth figures to be a fourth outfielder behind Pat Burrell (LF), Aaron Rowand (CF) and Victorino (RF).

Same ‘ol Story: Ben Sheets is injured… again! Sheets was removed from Tuesday night's game in Houston because of tightness in his hamstring. Sheets is back in Milwaukee (while the Brewers are in Atlanta) for an MRI exam, which tells us that the Brewers feel this might be serious. Monitor the situation closely.

It’s a girl!: Roy Oswalt left the team this past Sunday to be with his wife, who gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday. Oswalt hoped to make a start on Saturday in St. Louis. Instead, he'll start the final game of the series versus the Cardinals on Sunday.

Byrne(s), baby Byrne(s): Take note of what Arizona’s Eric Byrnes has done in 2007… a .290 avg., 21 hr’s, 82 rbi’s, 98 runs and 45 steals! Wow! Byrnes recently signed a three year extension and the young Diamondbacks figure to be competitive for years to come. Byrnes is in a good situation and should continue to put up solid numbers for several more seasons.

No “Holliday” for Matt: Matt Holliday has now put together back to back monster seasons. His 35 homers, 128 rbi’s, .340 batting average, 111 runs and 11 sb’s make him a 1st round pick heading into 2008 and a keeper in keeper leagues.

Bonds in 2008?: Barry Bonds has indicated several times during 2007 that he intends to return in 2008, But, for who? San Francisco desperately needs to rebuild and Bonds body no longer allows him to play regularly. The Giants need to start a youth movement ASAP and allow Bonds to move on, if anybody wants him.

Michael Miranda is a fantasy baseball expert and Commissioner Emeritus of Madison League Baseball. "Miranda Warnings: The Fantasy Baseball Weekly Dose" appears on Thursdays at SportsJudge Blog.

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