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Monday September 11, 2006 2:39 pm

American League Fantasy Notes:  A.L. East




Posted by Tom Massimo Categories: Editorial, Fantasy, MLB

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Rodrigo Lopez has been moved to the bullpen for the rest of the season.  After a brutal first-half of the season, he has actually pitched rather well since the All-Star break, with a 4.52 ERA, 7.51 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9.  Lopez is a free agent at the conclusion of this season and almost certainly will not be back with the Orioles in 2007.  If he moves to the National League, he could be a sleeper for next year.

The second-half of the season is a better read on a rookie’s skills.  After hitting .285 in the first-half of the season, pitchers have caught up with Brandon Fahey, as evidenced by his post-All-Star break batting average of .175.  His future is as a utility infielder.

You know things are bad when you allow 7 ER in 3 innings and actually lower your ERA from 108.00 to 36.82.  Avoid Hayden Penn in all formats for the rest of this season.

BOSTON RED SOX

With Jason Varitek back and the team going nowhere, the Red Sox cut loose Javy Lopez.  Even if he catches on with a contending team, it will be nothing more than as a pinch-hitter.  You can safely release him in all formats.

Who would have thought that a home run would prevent David Ortiz from hitting for the cycle on September 8th against Kansas City?  At least he is back and swinging the bat well.

Tim Wakefield and Curt Shilling should both be back this week.  Wakefield is penciled in to start on Wednesday against the Orioles.  Shilling is scheduled for Sunday against the Yankees.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Hideki Matsui should rejoin the Yankees tomorrow.  He will DH the rest of the way, which takes AB away from Bernie Williams and Craig Wilson.  Melky Cabrera will continue to start in leftfield.

Mariano Rivera is probably out until at least the weekend.  The Yankees really don’t have an incentive to rush him back.  He should be reserved this week.  Kyle Farnsworth will continue to get the save opportunities. 

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

34 year-old Greg Norton has been a nice surprise this year.  In 234 AB, he is batting .307, with 14 home runs and 35 RBIs.  With a 77% contact rate and a .45 batting eye the average is over his head, but the power, which he has displayed in previous seasons, is legitimate.

Don’t be fooled by Jason Hammel’s 6 inning, 1ER performance against the Twins on September 6th.  In three starts since his recall in August, he has allowed 12 walks in 17.1 innings, while striking out just 8.  He still has some work to do before he can be considered for a fantasy league staff.

Since being installed as the starting shortstop, rookie Ben Zobrist has struggled.  In the minor leagues, Zobrist had a batting eye greater than 1.0 at every level, but so far in the major leagues it is .37.  To be successful, he will need to make better contact and work counts because his power is below average.  He is supposed to have some speed, but Double-A catchers caught him stealing 5 times in 14 attempts and he is just 2 for 4 with the Rays.  Right now, all fantasy owners are getting from him is an empty, poor batting average.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Aaron Hill is hitting an empty .284 on the season.  With strong contact skills and a decent batting eye, he will not be a drag on your fantasy team batting average.  But without power or speed, he is the definition of a replacement level player.  He is just 24 year old and with 23 doubles in 475 AB, some power may develop in the future.

In his last 3 starts, covering 18.1 innings, Gustavo Chacin has allowed 2 ER.  He is clearly not dominating hitters with 8 K’s and 7 BB’s in that period.  He remains an extreme fly ball pitcher, with a low K/9 and a high BB/9.  Avoid him in all formats.

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