Commentary

Sixty Feet, Six Inches: Ligaments come, ligaments go

Updated: July 31, 2008, 11:54 AM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

The biggest name in fantasy associated with Tommy John surgery this season has undoubtedly been Francisco Liriano. From his unexpected start with the big club to his April struggles, from his iffy start at Triple-A Rochester to his recent dominance, we've all considered him perhaps the ultimate shot-in-the-arm guy who could come up in August and change the fantasy landscape.

But two more "Tommy John" names are swirling. Chris Carpenter returned for the Cardinals on Wednesday. And according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tim Hudson looks like a candidate for ligament-transfer surgery, though the Braves haven't announced a decision yet.

Carpenter, obviously, is the happier side of this coin. Facing the Braves, he didn't go deep enough into the game to get a win, but he pitched relatively effectively: four innings, five hits, two walks and two strikeouts. He did allow baserunners in every inning and was, as they say, "wild in the strike zone," but he got out of jams with aplomb. Carpenter is almost certainly not going to be the dominant guy we remember from two seasons ago, but there's no question that he's worth a speculative add in all but the shallowest leagues. His velocity was never his primary calling card, and his pitches have good motion, but what we see again and again in Tommy John patients is that control is the last thing to come back, so that'll be something to watch. Still, he should be owned in a bunch more leagues.

Top 60 Starting Pitchers

Oliver Perez joins the rankings after sparkling in July with a 1.38 ERA and 36 K's in 32 2/3 innings. (This list is meant to capture value from this point to the end of the season.)

1. Johan Santana, Mets (1)
2. Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks (2)
3. Jake Peavy, Padres (4)
4. CC Sabathia, Brewers (5)
5. Cole Hamels, Phillies (3)
6. Dan Haren, Diamondbacks (7)
7. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays (8)
8. John Lackey, Angels (9)
9. Josh Beckett, Red Sox (6)
10. Tim Lincecum, Giants (10)
11. Felix Hernandez, Mariners (11)
12. Scott Kazmir, Rays (12)
13. Carlos Zambrano, Cubs (14)
14. James Shields, Rays (16)
15. Justin Verlander, Tigers (13)
16. Ben Sheets, Brewers (15)
17. Edinson Volquez, Reds (18)
18. Chad Billingsley, Dodgers (19)
19. Matt Cain, Giants (21)
20. Jon Lester, Red Sox (24)
21. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox (17)
22. Joba Chamberlain, Yankees (25)
23. Cliff Lee, Indians (20)
24. Javier Vazquez, White Sox (22)
25. Ervin Santana, Angels (23)
26. Rich Harden, Cubs (27)
27. A.J. Burnett, Blue Jays (30)
28. Zack Greinke, Royals (31)
29. Jered Weaver, Angels (38)
30. Joe Saunders, Angels (32)
31. Fausto Carmona, Indians (28)
32. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks (35)
33. Ryan Dempster, Cubs (37)
34. Ted Lilly, Cubs (34)
35. Justin Duchscherer, A's (33)
36. Andy Pettitte, Yankees (40)
37. Derek Lowe, Dodgers (42)
38. Matt Garza, Rays (41)
39. John Danks, White Sox (36)
40. Roy Oswalt, Astros (45)
41. Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles (43)
42. Gil Meche, Royals (48)
43. John Maine, Mets (29)
44. Erik Bedard, Mariners (39)
45. Mike Mussina, Yankees (47)
46. Chris Young, Padres (50)
47. Scott Baker, Twins (51)
48. Jair Jurrjens, Braves (54)
49. Brett Myers, Phillies (56)
50. Oliver Perez, Mets (NR)
51. Mark Buehrle, White Sox (49)
52. Francisco Liriano, Twins (52)
53. Kevin Slowey, Twins (57)
54. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (46)
55. Aaron Cook, Rockies (58)
56. Jonathan Sanchez, Giants (44)
57. Manny Parra, Brewers (60)
58. Jorge Campillo, Braves (NR)
59. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins (NR)
60. Gavin Floyd, White Sox (NR)
As for Hudson, well, somewhere my colleague AJ Mass is smiling. Not that Mass has anything against Hudson personally (though he is a rather famous Mets fan); no, it's just that AJ and I were recently asked to square off on our vastly differing opinions about Hudson's prospects for the rest of the '08 season. I rated Hudson squarely in the top 20 among starters for the rest of the year, while AJ didn't even put him in his top 340 players in all of baseball. Considering Hudson posted a 3.17 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 11 wins, that was a pretty gutsy stance for Mr. Mass to take, but darned if he didn't turn out to be horribly prescient.

If, as expected, Hudson needs ligament-transfer surgery, he'll be out for all of 2009. With John Smoltz also long gone and hard to find, perhaps for the remainder of his career, the Braves are in very tough shape right now and headed into '09. Jair Jurrjens is a nice discovery, but anyone counting on Mike Hampton just needs to stop. Charlie Morton got shipped out to Triple-A then almost immediately recalled because of all the injuries (and got rocked his first time out). Jorge Campillo has been a nice story and is useful fantasy-wise right now, but he's no star. And Tom Glavine is reportedly a few weeks from an emeritus return. Ugly.

Comings and Goings

The Padres' Chris Young returned from the DL to throw 88 pitches Tuesday night, which took him through five scoreless innings. Young's biggest problem, of course, is a lack of efficiency, and that showed against the Diamondbacks. Still, he's a guy who needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues. … John Maine had to come out of his start Tuesday because of soreness in his shoulder; an MRI revealed a strained rotator cuff. The Mets are calling Maine day-to-day and give him a chance to make his next start Sunday, but it seems likelier that he misses at least one turn. I've dropped him 14 spots in the rankings because the words "rotator cuff" are involved, but as happened with Jered Weaver this week, I'm prepared to bump him right back up if Maine is all right. … Roy Oswalt returned from the DL for the Astros on Monday and went five innings, allowing four runs but picking up a win. … Erik Bedard is still not close to throwing, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, because he still has soreness in his left shoulder. … Pedro Martinez was activated from the bereavement list and will start for the Mets against the Astros on Friday. … The Cardinals have put the brakes on Adam Wainwright's return. He threw in the bullpen Tuesday, but his injured finger experienced pain and he's no longer going to begin a minor league stint Friday. He'll try again next week, but a mid-to-late-August return is now probably the best Wainwright can hope for. … Bartolo Colon will throw two more side sessions before the Red Sox decide what to do with him, according to the Boston Globe. Colon will probably go on a rehab assignment next week. … Jose Contreras experienced no symptoms of his shoulder tendinitis in a side session earlier this week. He could go out on a rehab start this weekend, which could bring him back to the majors in about a week. … Brad Penny had a rehab start pushed back a couple days, but the Dodgers told the L.A. Times they still believe Penny is on schedule to make his long-awaited return in place of Jason Johnson in about 10 days. … On Thursday, the Marlins will recall Anibal Sanchez, who's recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum, to make his first start of the season, against the Rockies. … Eric Hurley will miss his next start for the Rangers because of continued biceps tendinitis. … Jeff Karstens, traded by the Yankees to the Pirates in the Xavier Nady trade, is expected to join the Pittsburgh rotation and replace John Van Benschoten either Friday or Saturday. He could wind up being a fair option in NL-only leagues. … Scott Richmond made his first major league start for the Blue Jays on Wednesday, replacing John Parrish in the rotation. Richmond's an easy guy to root for: a career minor leaguer who spent time in the Northern League. He pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowed seven hits and three runs. … Dennis Sarfate replaced Brian Burres in the Orioles rotation Wednesday, and allowed five runs (three earned) in four innings against the Yankees.

On The Farm

Phil Hughes pitched very well in a rehab start Tuesday night, according to the New York Times. Hughes is currently pitching in Class A and will make at least three more partial starts (he's on a 50-pitch count) before the Yankees will decide if he can help them this year. … Ian Kennedy is also looking pretty good and is further along in his rehab than Hughes. Kennedy had another nice rehab start at Triple-A on Tuesday, allowing three hits and one run in six innings. … The Mets promoted their top remaining pitching prospect, Jon Niese, to Triple-A New Orleans this week. Niese pitched well if not spectacularly at Double-A (3.04 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 112 Ks, 44 BBs in 124 1/3 IP), and Mets beat reporters now maintain he could make a cameo in the rotation if anyone in the bigs struggles down the stretch. … David Price is crushing it at Double-A. In his most recent start Monday, he went eight innings and allowed two hits (both homers), walked no one and struck out seven. He's 5-0 with a 2.20 ERA since his promotion. He's coming to the majors this year, folks. … Jeff Francis will start another rehab game Thursday at Double-A, and thus won't start for the Rockies this weekend. If all goes well in this start, however, he could be back in the middle of next week. … Braves prized pitching prospect Tommy Hanson has temporarily been pulled from the team's Double-A rotation due to shoulder tendinitis. … The Diamondbacks sent struggling Micah Owings to Triple-A after reportedly almost trading him to Atlanta.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.

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