Tuesday, August 15, 2006


So, instead of penning a piece on "Hot" and "Not" Defensive units that would be about as exciting as watching American Idol with the sound turned down... or even watching American Idol with the sound turned up for that matter, I thought I'd bring you... "Highlights from the Weekend in Baseball... and fantasy Baseball's Prospects!"

As we steam into the home stretch, let's start with my beloved Yankees. The club dropped 2 games (Friday and Sunday) over the weekend, Chien-Ming Wang is again looking more like a #3 instead of a staff ace, and his 2nd consecutive poor start (in 5.1 IP, 5 ERs, 2 BBs, 3 Ks) cost 'em yesterday's game. Just like my gas-guzzling SUV's Side-View mirror, "objects are closer than they may appear!" Suddenly, the Yanks' AL-East lead has been reduced to just 1 slender game. The Bombers are also covering their collective eyes like the "See no Evil" monkey" every time A-rod is forced to make a critical, late-inning play (he recorded his 20th "E" on Saturd-E). Abreu and Craig Wilson not withstanding, Sheff' and Matsui can't come back soon enough! While I don't think the Red Sox have the pitching and weapons needed to overtake and put New York away... Baseball's a funny game!
Speaking of funny, who would have believed that young manager Willie Randolph would've taken his club... or "equipa" to most of his players, and run away with the NL East! With the Phillies 15 games back, the Metropolitans are lookin' like heart-attack serious 'Series contenders. With a line of .287/33/98 and with 30 Doubles and 14 SB, Carlos Beltran is earning his preposterous paycheck. Hot on his heels? David Wright (.310/22/86 with 30 Doubles and 15 SB) and Jose Reyes (.295/11/55, with 23 Doubs' and leading the league with 15 Triples and 49 SB!).

Although the NY teams are compelling, how 'bout Indian 1B/DH Travis Hafner? Pronk' hit his 6th Grand Slam Sunday, tying Yankee immortal Don Mattingly for the single-season "salami" record! With more lumber than Indonesia's pristine hardwood forests, poor pitching cost the Injuns' a post-season berth. That team, for all their talented youngsters, needs pitching before they can be taken "series-ly!"

And speaking of talented youngsters, Philly's Phine' Phirst' Bagger crushed his league-leading 41st Homer Sunday. That kid hits with SO much power... the club has been forced to pay NASA a small service charge in order to remove at least a half-dozen balls from a low-Earth orbit.
Angel prodigy Jered Weaver beat the Yankees for his 8th W of the season Sunday. "Weaver the Younger" became just the 3rd hurler in a century to go undefeated over his 1st 11 starts. Sadly, big bro Jeff doesn't possess quite the same talent. Once Jered secures his first Yankee contract he'll undoudtedly provide big bro with a low-interest loan.

Other youngsters to watch and or add to your fantasy roster;
Howie Kendrick: The L.A. Angel of Anaheim and the Lower Valley area... or whatever the Halos are calling themselves these days, is acclimating to the bigs quite nicely. As of today, Monday, the highly regarded corner-infielder is hitting .319 with 11 2-Baggers and a 3-Bagger over his 32 games.
Indians, Ryan Garko: Hitting .364 over his last 10 games with 2 HRs, 2 Doubles, and 8 Ribbies'.
Arizona's Stephen Drew: I snatched the young Shorty' up 2 weeks ago. Dude's hammering-out a .344 BA, put 3 balls into the cheap seats, and recorded 9 Doubles, 4 Triples, and a SLG % of .615 over just 26 games! Can you spell S-T-A-R?
Braves, Brian McCann: With developing power (definitely lookin' like a 30+/100+ Catcher) and remarkable poise, McCann approaches the dish with a plan. Accordingly, the 22 year-old Hot-lanta backstop is swatting a cushy .350/15/57 with a semi-silly SLG % of .571 over 88 games.
Indians, Shin-Soo Choo: The Korean import has been smacking the white offa' the ball and has earned regular time. Currently hitting at a nif-T .395 clip over his last 11 games, the Cleveland Outfielder is hitting .421 with RISP.

Now, let's pan the Diamond and list one worthy young prospect at each position;
Catcher: Although I could've gone with Minny's Joe Mauer, a guy who could one day challenge for both the MVP and Batting titles, Seattle's Kenji Johjima, who is already 30 after begininng his career in Japan, Angel Mike Napoli, the aforementioned crush-alot Brave Brian McCann, or the just called-up Indian Ryan Garko...
I'm going with Dodger Russ Martin: The artful dodger offers both speed and power; the kid's currently at .299/6/47/42, with 21 Doubles, 3 Triples, and 8 SB. Speed kills!

1st Base: Milwaukee's Prince Fielder has rapped-out an impressive line of .282/22/59/62, with 25 Doubles. Milwaukee's young royalty serves as the new Brew-Crew's linchpin and is making papa Cece' proud.

2nd Baseman: Ian Kinsler started off slowly but he's building momentum and is stirring the Ranger pot. On the season, Alfonso Soriano's would-be replacement is at .303/8/36, with 8 SB is fleshing-out Texas' powerful lineup.

Shortstop: After mentioning Stephen Drew above... and make no mistake, Drew is off to a red-hot start, I'll go with Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt. Playing on a young team that is attempting to generate the kind of excitement that's been lacking since the talented troika of A-Rod, Griff' Jr. and Edgar trod Safeco's basepaths, the 24 year-old Betancourt is hitting .299/5/38/51 and 17 Doubs', 4 Trips', and 10 thieved bags.

3rd Baseman: Again, the choices can make yer' lil' head spin! White Sock Joe Crede's having his long-awaited breakout season, Pirate Freddy Sanchez is vying for the NL batting title... but he's 30 already, and Royal Mark Teahen is enjoying a fine year of his own but he plays for a hapless franchise. Which, oddly enough, might be reason enough to vote for him as opposed to against... but I spit in the face of logic; pha-tew! There, I spit in the face of logic, may have shorted-out my keyboard, and definitely disgusted a co-worker.
But alas, Cincy's Edwin Encarnacion gets my nod. "EE," who I wrote about in my "Amid Season Report; 3rd Baggers," has continued his assault on National League pitching. The numbers? .302/11/55/40, with 24 Doubles and a SLG % of .533. Hold-on, gotta' mop up a lil' saliva.

Outfielders: Say Indian Shin-Soo Choo's name alound and someone may say "G-d bless you" (and NO, I am NOT being insensitive... it's just a little sarcastic humor, the kind at which I excel), but his numbers are nothing to sneeze at. If you belong to an ultra-competitive league, the Indian Outfielder may have already been snatched up. Why, you say? Choo's gobbling-up opposing pitching at a .322/2/15, 6 Double pace. All of this in just 14 games? Choo's a white-hot 'Wire grab!

Dodger OF'ers Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp (.279/7/21) are s'pose to be LA.'s dynamic Outfielding duo, but the future would appear to be now for Ethier. Obliterating offerings at a .345/11/47 clip, Ethier's managed to bank 17 Doubles and 5 Triples over just 89 tilts. Again, Baseball offers fantasy owners a wealth of promising young OF'ers. Playah's such as Matt Diaz, Jeff Francouer, and Alexis Rios numbering amongst them... but I'm goin' with St. Louis' super-sleeper Chris Duncan. "Dunk's" nestled amid a bone-crushing lineup, and his .306/10/23/32, 6 Double, 2 Triple line makes for a tidy fantasy pickup. Looking at his numbers another way, 18 of Duncan's 44 hits have been of the extra-base variety!

Pitchers: And what about hurlers? Who will help lead your club to the post-season Promised Land?

Pirates, Tom Gorzelanny: The Bucc' pitcher is certainly not without talent. After being called up, Gorzelanny tossed a pair of no-D's and a pair of losses. Over his last 3 games, however, the 24 year-old lefty' has hung a pair of W's and improved considerably. His one loss saw him surrender just 2 ERs and rack 6 Ks, sadly the 5 BBs didn't help his cause. Gorzy' allowed just 4 total runs over that 3 game complement.

Marlins, Josh Johnson: To savvy roto-rooters, Johnson's no secret. 10-6 with a sub 2.70 ERA, Johnson has allowed more than 4 ERs just twice over his last 10 starts and has notched at least 5 Ks in every outing except 1. Should Johnson remain unclaimed in your league... I would re-examine the competition.

Mets, John Maine: Maine had reeled off 4 straight scoreless games until the Nationals broke the string and forced a no-decision. Those 4 ERs tied Maine's May 2nd outing; the only other start wherein the big (6-4) righty allowed that many runs. Dude averages nearly 5 Ks per start, his WHP is under 1.00, and he's definitely carved out a niche for himself in the Met rotation.

Pirates, Scott Olsen: Pittsburgh, the very definition of a small market franchise, is forced to do much with little. Towards that end, the club likes to groom its own arms. Olsen, who was actually drafted by Florida in '02, is 9-6 with a 4.19 ERA. Those diggies' don't leap out at ya', but 120 Ks in 126 IP do.

Rangers, Edison Volquez: Volquez's slot could've been occupied by another Pirate, Ian Snell, another Cardinal, Anthony Reyes, or even Oakland'a VERY impressive Dan Haren (I'd go with Haren if I could get him, but just like Johnson he's been SO good that he's bound to already be on a roster) but the 1-1 Volquez scattered 4 hits and 3 walks against the Mariners during his last start... and according to scouts, the young Ranger has ample upside.

Here's what they "in the business" call a tease;

1. Why did Dallas allow backup slinger' Tony Romo play the entire game?
2. Who, exactly, will run the ball for the Jets?
3. Will Mike Vick EVER grasp the pro game?
4. Who are the NFL's most promising rookies? Packer LB A.J. Hawk and Seahawk CB Kelly Jennings, are they as good as they looked?


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