Eno Sarris

Baseball Daily Dose

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Chase Utley's Big Return

Monday, May 23, 2011


The door in the doctor's office lets people in, and it lets people out. Sometimes you're on your way in for surgery, and sometimes your on your way out, cleared for action. Watching those comings and goings is one of our tasks if we are going to dominate our fantasy leagues.

This weekend saw some news about potentially big returns from the disabled list. Chase Utley, one of the bigger injury losses of the young year, is already back on the Phillies' official roster. He played well enough on his rehab stint that he should go directly into your starting lineup. Joe Mauer is going to test his legs and play his first live baseball early this week - extended spring training. The Rangers are on track to get both Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz back from their respective ailments Monday, and not a moment too soon for many owners. Aroldis Chapman may have spotted some mechanical issue while he was out and will begin a rehab appearance Monday. Lance Berkman may be destined for more ouchies while running around in that St. Louis outfield, but he returned Saturday from his latest (a strained wrist from a diving catch). Jim Thome (back) also returned to give his owners the strikeouts and power they were missing. Franklin Gutierrez may not feel like a big return, but his pinch-hit single Sunday shows that he's on his way back. He can provide some speed in deeper leagues. Oh, and Rafael Furcal is back!

Baseball did lose a couple stars to injury this weekend. Matt Holliday re-aggravated his quad injury Sunday - so far he's out for precautionary reasons. The Braves finally gave up on precautionary missed games and sent Jason Heyward to the DL with shoulder soreness. It's just rotator cuff inflammation right now, but it's sad to see such a great player struggle with nagging injuries so far in his young career. Nate McLouth also left Sunday's game with a possible oblique injury, so it's about to get ugly in the Atlanta outfield. (Eric Hinske! Joe Mather!) Marlon Byrd was hit in the head by an Alfredo Aceves pitch Saturday and is dealing with multiple facial fractures. Being beaned in the face is no laughing matter. We all wish him a speedy recovery. Josh Johnson went on the DL with shoulder inflammation but might not be out too long. Matt Garza will see a doctor about elbow tightness. Uh-oh. Pedro Alvarez hit the DL with quad tightness. And, finally, how about Andre Ethier, who left Sunday's game for injuries to his right elbow, lower back, and left big toe after crashing into the outfield wall. None of the injuries should keep him out a long time, but a collection of problems that impressive probably will mean a missed game or two.

* We've got to watch that bullpen door, too. For every new closer that emerges, a struggling reliever returns to contemplate his failures. Brian Fuentes didn't allow many hits - just two singles to the shallow outfield hit by two seldom-used Giants' reserves - but he did blow the game and garner his third loss of the month. With Andrew Bailey making his second rehab appearance on Monday, Fuentes' run of usefulness is almost up. Joel Hanrahan has been dominant this year, and the Rangers noticed, making inquiries with the Pirates. Still, he's under team control until 2013 so he might cost too much. Everyone screwed up in Arizona Saturday as the Twins bullpen fell apart. Joe Nathan put a guy on, so did Glen Perkins, and then Matt Capps let em all in with a two singles, a double and a gram slam to Kelly Johnson. Joe Nathan might be creeping back in the race, but nothing changed over the weekend.

Fernando Salas, on the other hand, finished a four-save week with a save against the Royals on Sunday. His stuff isn't as exciting as some of the other Cardinals' relievers, but it's working now and he's the closer. Craig Kimbrel has nasty nasty stuff and his 12th-inning save against the Angels Saturday shows he has rope left. Ryan Madson, a month after being mocked by his manager and GM, is now being talked about as keeping the closer role even after the currently injured Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras return. Well, Madson was hit on the hand by a liner on Friday and was unavailable through the weekend. That's a small uh-oh. Jordan Walden had a poor stretch last week as he blew two save chances and made his owners worried, but after shutting the door on the Braves Sunday, he suddenly looks safe again.

* Young pitching is always so exciting, but owners have to be careful because adjustment periods are always uncomfortable. Gio Gonzalez held the Giants to one earned over 6 2/3 innings, and his eight strikeouts are the reason he's so exciting. But the Giants offense is only so-so, and though Gonzalez walked only two, it's the control that bears watching. If he can continue to limit the walks, he'll have a great year. Dan Hudson had some early-season struggles - his adjustment period - but his velocity is up and after limiting the twins to two earned over eight innings (with six strikeouts and no walks), it's clear that he's around to stay. Michael Pineda has been dominant all year, so of course he shut down the Padres. He amassed nine strikeouts in seven scoreless innings. Josh Tomlin, who kept the Reds to one run in seven innings Saturday, has an ERA that seems to belong in this group. He doesn't really have the underlying skills to support the number, though. Homer Bailey, the loser in the game Saturday, has more strikeout upside and is showing great control right now. He is more ownable.

With only 30 starts per year, though, it seems like a pitcher has to be around a while before we truly know them. Francisco Liriano had a great year last year, and at 27 he might be considered young, but this year has not been kind, no-hitter aside. On Sunday, he kept Arizona down (two runs in six innings), but only struck out four against four walks. The swinging strikes are still there, but the control and effectiveness are not. He might be a decent sell with a couple superficially good starts under his belt now. Ubaldo Jimenez was lights-out last year and can't find the plate this year. He's never had elite control, but he's back to walking more than one every two innings, which is unacceptable. Jimenez followed up last week's great start against the Giants with a complete-game loss to the Brewers on Sunday. Or, rather, two earned in eight innings sounds great, but four strikeouts against five free passes is not actually sweet. Add in the velocity Jimenez has lost, and you wonder if he's even a great buy-low. Watch the gun and the walks in his next few starts.

If we aren't sure what Liriano and Jimenez are, then we're definitely not sure what Tim Stauffer is. He hasn't won a game on the season, but the Padres' offense surely has something to do with that. Sunday, he struck out three and walked one and got 15 of his 17 balls in play on the ground, but also gave up ten hits and looked hittable in his third straight start. He's a cautious play in deeper leagues until we know more. Chris Tillman (five innings, two walks, four strikeouts and one run) had a good game against an NL team (Washington) playing both of their catchers in the lineup. His opponent, Jordan Zimmermann, struck out five and walked one. Though he gave up more runs than Tillman, Zimmermann (because of his strikeout-to-walk ratio) is the one that should be owned in all leagues. Rick Porcello may never be Justin Verlander, but his groundballs and improved control led him to eight scoreless innings against the Pirates. Also, Pittsburgh featured Lyle Overbay and Steve Pearce at the corner infield spots. Mike Minor, who is up to make a start for Tim Hudson (back), is an exciting young left-handed prospect that has shown that he can strike out major league hitters and has strong control. Maybe Minor can begin to correct his 6.40 career major league ERA on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, when he makes a decent spot start in deeper leagues. Tyler Chatwood only allowed one earned run to the Braves Sunday night, but he doesn't get strikeouts (25 in 51 innings) and despite his reputation as a groundballer, he's been average in that category as well. He's not a great add in any league.

* Can some veterans turn it around? Torii Hunter hit a home run Sunday against the Braves but he's hitting so many balls on the ground that his power doesn't look like it's coming back. Since his speed is already on the wane, he's not a great play in mixed leagues. Dan Uggla went hitless in the same game and is mostly just having terrible luck on batted balls. He's also hitting fewer fly balls, though, so perhaps this won't turn out to be a normal power year for him either. Josh Willingham hit a home run and drew three walks against the Giants. Maybe that will get The Hammer going. Kelly Johnson had four hits over the weekend, but more importantly he only struck out once. A little more contact will do him well. Colby Lewis has used starts against Oakland and Philadelphia (six strikeouts and two runs in 6 2/3 innings) to get back on track. Javier Vazquez threw seven shutout innings against the Rays Saturday and even averaged over 90 on the gun. He might make for a good streaming in the future.

National League Quick Hits: Andrew McCutchen got two walks and stole a base and those two things are linked … Jonathan Sanchez gave up one run over six, but it was the two walks that were most exciting about his effort against the Athletics … Domonic Brown looks like he'll be playing against most right-handers and has the tools to be a pickup in most deeper leagues … Wandy Rodriguez gets bonus points for taking Toronto down in Toronto (six strikeouts, three walks, two runs in six innings), but then again, Edwin Encarnacion is their DH … Angel Pagan (oblique) should be back Sunday since he's still trying to get it going at Triple-A … Chipper Jones missed Sunday's game with mild hamstring tightness (or feeling his age) … Hiroki Kuroda was roughed up by the White Sox (four earned in 5 2/3 innings), but he's fine in the weaker National League … Nyjer Morgan (broken finger) is ready according to him and a week out according to his team … Jason Bourgeois (oblique) will swing a bat Monday, and Jeff Keppinger (foot) will be back some time this week … Jerry Sands went four-for-four Sunday and hit his first home run Saturday, but isn't making enough contact or showing enough power to be rostered in mixed leagues yet … Juan Miranda got hit on the wrist, but if it's minor he's a decent pickup in NL-only leagues as he's playing (decently) against right-handers … The Phillies signed Scott Podsednik to a minor league contract, but things shouldn't get that dire in that outfield …Evan Meek (shoulder) returned from the DL … Gerald Laird has a broken bone in his hand and is headed to the DL … Will Venable (hand) returned to the Padres lineup Friday, and he's playable in some leagues against righties and away from home … The Diamondbacks outrighted Armando Galarraga, who wasn't really ownable anyway.

American League Quick Hits: Curtis Granderson hit three home runs over the weekend and should hit a new career high this year … Grady Sizemore (knee) may not be activated Friday when he's eligible … Asdrubal Cabrera is a madman; He extended his career-high in home runs by two on Sunday … Howie Kendrick (hamstring) might be headed to the DL after missing his third straight game Sunday and receiving a cortisone shot … Brian Roberts (concussion) won't be back Tuesday and that could be bad news … Brian Matusz should be back this week … Matt Harrison kept the slumping Phillies offense down (eight scoreless) but his strikeout-to-walk ratio (three to three Sunday) is not good … John Lackey is responding well to a cortisone shot but does not yet have a timetable … Edwin Jackson struck out seven Dodgers in 5 2/3 innings Sunday, but if that's what he does in such a tasty spot start, then he's risky in the American League going forward … Kyle Drabek still has promise, but if he's going to be a groundballer he has to show better control - he walked three, struck out three and allowed three in six innings Sunday against the Astros … J.P. Arencibia hit a home run Sunday and is a fine mixed-league option despite a batting average that won't get a ton better … Mitch Moreland should be owned in most leagues, if only for his good splits (righties, at home); He hit an RBI double off of Roy OswaltCarlos Carrasco is mostly a spot-start in every league, but he did his job (four runs, three strikeouts and one walk) against Cincinnati … Reid Brignac will miss four games due to the death of his grandfather … Ben Revere was returned to Triple-A by the Twins but remains an AL-only speed sleeper … Josh Outman will take over for Brandon McCarthy (shoulder), but he's been wild in Triple-A so be cautious even if you're in a deep enough league to consider him … He is one of the better pitching prospects on the Indians, but Alex White will now miss 8-12 weeks with a strained ligament in his finger … Mike Wilson is only playing against left-handers in the Mariners outfield it seems.


Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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