Eno Sarris

Baseball Daily Dose

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King of Birds has Wounded Wing

Monday, June 20, 2011

We are just one more start at third base away from a new fantasy superstar: Albert Pujols, third baseman. With four games started at the position, he's now only one start away from that eligibility to his considerable portfolio in many leagues.

But, as always, were just one wrong move away from losing Albert Pujols, first baseman, from all leagues. A Sunday collision with Wilson Betemit while stretching for a throw left Pujols with a strained wrist that was visibly swelling after the game. Tests said that it wasn't anything worse, but his owners should be prepared to be without their stud corner infielder for a few days at least.

Pujols' news wasn't the only injury situation worth monitoring over the weekend, though. Not even on his own team. Lance Berkman missed Sunday because of a barking back and leg, which will happen when you move from first base to the outfield at his age. Joe Mauer returned from the DL and collected a hit and a walk in twelve plate appearances over the weekend. Just playing daily is an awesome sight for his owners. Carl Crawford went the other way, as he's now on the 15-day DL with his strained hamstring. It might only be for the minimum. Alex Rodriguez has been struggling recently, and might have a left shoulder injury of some sort to blame. He's getting older.

A little further down the list of stars, there were still some notable injury snippets. John Danks was hit in the head by a Stephen Drew line drive Saturday in the middle of a good start against a weak offense (that's three in a row now) but a CT scan came back negative and he should make his next start (a good one against the Nationals). Hunter Pence hurt his elbow, but it was only a simple sprain as well. In both of these cases, a sprain is a tear, but a minor one and this shouldn't lead to extended absences from either. Mike Stanton is out with an eye infection. The Florida outfield will look pretty wonky in the short-term, as Chris Coghlan informed his team of an ongoing issue with his knee and is headed to the DL.

* A few young players provided some interesting play over the weekend and deserve mention. Jemile Weeks collected three hits and a stolen base against the Giants Sunday and is making his case to keep the second base job even when Mark Ellis returns. Freddie Freeman has two home runs in the past two weeks and had one stolen by Nelson Cruz on Sunday. It's okay, the first baseman collected three hits anyway. Now that he's making adjustments and learning the majors, he looks like he could at least be a utility bat in most leagues. Danny Espinosa has bettered his plate discipline and is no longer striking out in a third of his at-bats. He's been hot of late, too, as his Sunday home run was his third home run in his last eight games. But his batted ball mix lacks the line drives that it needs in order to produce a decent batting average. If you can handle the poor average, his power and speed on the infield are useful.

* Justin Verlander headlined the excellent pitching over the weekend. His second complete game in a row just highlights how ridiculously good he is right now. It was just the Giants, but Trevor Cahill reminded us that he has the upside to combine strikeouts and groundballs galore when he held San Francisco to one run in eight innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. James Shields took advantage of an NL lineup by striking out ten in a shutout against the Marlins, and he's been excellent this year. Jair Jurrjens held the Rangers offense to one run in 5 1/3 innings and barely outdueled Alexi Ogando (one run, three strikeouts in five innings). Both guys are average groundball guys with average-ish strikeout punch and strong control. It's a package that can work, but they could also hit a little regression in the coming months. Francisco Liriano has pitched three times since he eschewed the pitch-to-contact approach his team was recommending. In those three games, he's struck out 24 batters in 20 innings. He's looking good again, even if allowing three runs to the Padres at home isn't a great effort. Wandy Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings with six strikeouts and one walk Saturday. Even though it was only the Dodgers, he's an every-starter again. Scott Baker's eight shutout innings with ten strikeouts seem to suggest that he can maintain his new, nicer strikeout rate. Tim Stauffer only gave up one run against the Twins, and did it by not walking anybody and keeping the ball on the ground. He can keep doing that. Jason Vargas here? Yes, he threw his second shutout of the season by striking out six and only walking two Phillies. He's at least a spot-start when home and pitching against NL lineups. Bud Norris threw a ton of pitches (99) in six one-hit shutout innings against the Dodgers. With his strikeout rate, he's ownable in most leagues, but his control isn't always as nice.

* Sometimes the more marginal pitching performances are more important, though. Brandon Morrow's control problems have him on some wires, but with strikeout upside like he owns, he should be owned in most leagues. Just look at what he can do when he has his control, like he did Saturday when he pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings with six strikeouts and one walk against the Reds. Philip Humber continued his good work with two runs, five strikeouts and one walk in 7 2/3 innings in Arizona. He's been good, and has great control this year. He's also getting very lucky on balls in play and is more serviceable than exciting. Daniel Duffy hasn't been great so far, but he struck out nine Cardinals in 3 2/3 innings before a calf cramp felled him Sunday. That's the kind of upside that makes him worth owning in all keeper leagues and most deeper leagues. Dustin Moseley held the Twins to one run, but that's a poor lineup and he allowed Alexi Casilla his first home run of the season. He usually gets groundballs, but Sunday more of his contact was in the air. He doesn't strike people out (three in six innings against the Twins), but as long as he's limiting the walks he's a decent spot-start. Chris Volstad is striking batters out more, walking them less, and getting a decent amount of groundballs. Just about every fly ball is turning into a home run, and once they stop doing that, he'll have more games like Sunday's one-run four-strikeout seven-inning performance against the Rays. Still, he's more of a deep-leaguer because of muted upside. Rubby De La Rosa gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings Saturday, but he's still striking people out. He'll need a little time to iron out the control to really get to that ceiling.

Some of the marginal guys are just not worth owning in most leagues. Josh Collmenter gave up three earned in seven innings against the White Sox and has been showing great control. The problem is that his fastball doesn't crack 88 and most of his strikeout upside comes from his funky delivery. He's a very risky add in any league. Carlos Villanueva has enjoyed Toronto, but going up against an NL lineup was especially tasty for the former Brewer. He only gave up two runs to the Reds, but he also only struck out three in seven innings. His control suggests that he could be passable all year, but he's been lucky on batted balls of all types and is a shaky bet to keep it up. Aaron Cook is available on most wires, but for good reason. He doesn't strike batters out and his walk rate the last couple of years hasn't been good enough. Then again, even if he controls the walks like he did Sunday (two in six innings) and gets his groundballs (11 to five), you can't expect much better results than he got (four strikeouts, four earned). He's mostly a pass. Tyler Chatwood held the Mets scoreless for seven innings, but he only struck out four and walked four, and gave up just as many fly balls as ground balls. Long-term, he has some ground-ball upside, but he's not a real sleeper and isn't a great prospect. His opponent Jon Niese gave up four runs and lost the game but is the more interesting own despite his own flawed ability to get strikeouts. Bronson Arroyo held the Toronto offense to one run in eight innings. He's been a little unlucky on fly balls, but he's a fly-ball pitcher in a bad park for those, and he very rarely manages even a decent strikeout rate. No thanks. Chris Jakubauskas held the Nationals to three runs in five innings. He even struck out six. Still, the Oriole is more of a stop-gap starter than a long-term piece, as his minor league numbers suggest. His opponent, Tom Gorzelanny, is also no more than a spot-start. And even without the DH, the American League lineup was too much for the lefty. He gave up ten hits in 4 2/3 innings and didn't strike a single batter out. Mike Pelfrey threw a complete game against the Angels but doesn't have the stuff, predictability or consistency to even be a spot starter.

* Bullpen alert! Javy Guerra completed a successful save in Los Angeles and he's indeed the man of the moment. Hong-Chih Kuo is up now, though, and once he can deal with high-pressure roles, he might close some too. Jonathan Broxton begins his rehab assignment Monday, and Kenley Jansen was just activated, so as always with the Dodger bullpen, expect change. At least we now know that Vicente Padilla is most likely gone for the year … Fernando Salas blew his second save of the season when he allowed a home run to light-hitting Alcides Escobar, but he limited the damage and got the win when Skip Schumaker took Tim Collins deep in the bottom half of the inning. That should allow him some more leash. Brian Fuentes got a save Sunday, but only because Andrew Bailey finally pitched back-to-back games Friday and Saturday and proved that he was the clear closer. Fernando Rodney is expected to be activated when eligible Friday, but Jordan Walden has job security for now. Joe Nathan pitched a perfect inning, struck out two, and most importantly, hit 93 on the gun. He could be back as soon as Friday. Oh, and Brandon Lyon's probably going to have season-ending surgery, to congratulations to all the Mark Melancon owners.

National League Quick Hits: David Wright took ground balls on his knees and had a limited workout Sunday -- he also said he felt good … Chipper Jones is dealing with a sore groin and will be day-to-day for now … Boston is destroying everyone right now, so don't worry that Yovani Gallardo gave up eight runs in three innings … Shaun Marcum (hip) had an MRI that show no structural damage but the team is not sure he'll make his next rehab start anyway … Ubaldo Jimenez was pulled Saturday from an okay start (three runs in five innings) because of a calf cramp that he says won't keep him out … Brandon Beachy (oblique) is on track to start Wednesday … Orlando Hudson (groin) is back and active, so Logan Forsythe was returned to the minor leagues … Jose Tabata missed Sunday with a sore left thumb but he should be back Monday … Nate McLouth returned from the DL and started in left field with Martin Prado out, so Jordan Schafer will retain his deep league value for a while still … Casey Blake (neck) returned to the starting lineup Saturday … Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) pitched two perfect innings in Double-A and should be back soon … Homer Bailey (shoulder) will make one more rehab start at least … Rick Ankiel (intercostal) will need a couple weeks to get healthy … Nick Punto (forearm) will begin his rehab assignment Monday … Reds' shortstop prospect Zach Cozart is scalding in Triple-A but his GM says he's not coming up real soon despite the offensive sinkhole the position has been in the majors for them … The Diamondbacks gave up on Sean Burroughs, waiving him and calling up Wily Mo Pena to play DH during interleague play … Rod Barajas is on the DL with a sprained ankle and A.J. Ellis is up … The Pirates might be interested in Scott Kazmir … The Braves signed Ruben Gotay and Chris Carter to minor league deals to give their system some depth.

American League Quick Hits: Paul Konerko homered in the third straight game; Guess that wrist feels good ... Boston is calling up Andrew Miller and he should get at least a few starts with Clay Buchholz headed to the DL with his back issue; Miller has been good in Triple-A but his control still bears watching … Dustin Pedroia went from possible surgery to flaming hot; He homered and doubled Sunday … Nick Swisher had three hits Sunday, one a tie-breaking home run, and is playable again in most leagues … Phil Hughes hit 95 MPH and sat 92-93 on the gun during a rehab outing … Carlos Carrasco held the Pirates to one run over 6 1/3 with four strikeouts; If only he was striking out more batters he'd be a play in all leagues, but as is he's still valuable in deeper leagues … Alberto Callaspo (hamstring) should return Monday … Luke Scott was removed from Saturday's lineup with some back spasms, but should be available Monday after a day off … Matt LaPorta has a "mild" high ankle sprain will be out at least two weeks if not more, so Travis Buck will retain some value still … Michael Cuddyer has gotten some trade interest from Philadelphia, a move which could provide a welcome (if slight) boost to his power … Josh Willingham (Achilles) sat out Sunday and might not play until Wednesday … Cord Phelps hit a walk-off home run in the 11th Sunday, but with Orlando Cabrera playing better and Jason Kipnis coming up behind him, the odds are stacked against him going forward … J.P. Arencibia will play two of every three games until his thumb feels better … Danny Valencia (triceps) thinks he'll return to the lineup Tuesday … Aaron Hill hit a home run Sunday and is now hitting in the .250s instead of the .240s, yay … Travis Snider has been raking in Triple-A, but now he has a concussion after a bean ball and will be out a little while … There's gathering support for Dayan Viciedo to take Juan Pierre's spot in left field, but the manager on the field likes speed atop the lineup for now … Brandon Webb allowed six hits and four runs in two-thirds of an inning in Double-A … Kyle Davies had a mediocre rehab start, but it will be his final one before returning to the major league rotation … The Royals demoted Vin Mazzaro to make room for the returning Bruce Chen, so we won't have him to kick around any more.

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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