Cockcroft: Clay's 2007 future
What's been going on around the American League in the past week? Tristan H. Cockcroft takes a quick-hitting look at the news and notes for each of the 14 AL teams:American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Erik Bedard missed his most recent start on Saturday and could be done for the season due to a strained oblique muscle. He has returned to Baltimore and was to be examined on Tuesday, after which point the Orioles will make a decision on his status. Bedard hopes to pitch again this season, no surprise considering how well he has performed all year, though with the team out of contention, it has no reason to push him unless his prognosis is good. An oblique strain isn't anything to be concerned about with his keeper-league value, but keep tabs on his reports the next couple days, as his status will have a huge impact on most leagues' fantasy playoffs. Scott Moore, acquired from the Chicago Cubs in Friday's Steve Trachsel trade, could see a noticeable amount of playing time at third base in the season's final weeks. Manager Dave Trembley told the Baltimore Sun on Saturday that Melvin Mora might sit more often in September to get Moore's bat into the lineup, such as the game that day, which Moore started. It's not a bad idea for the Orioles to use Moore, if only against right-handers; he batted .290 with a .397 on-base percentage and .597 slugging percentage against righties while at Triple-A Iowa. Those in deep AL-only formats can pick up Moore, while Mora's owners should be prepared for a reduction in his playing time. In addition, monitor Moore's performance this month, as he could be an AL-only sleeper for 2008 with a hot finish to this season.
Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz tossed a no-hitter in a spot start on Saturday, his second career MLB start. That's a remarkable performance for a pitcher of his age (he's 23) and with his level of experience, yet incredibly, it's unclear when he'll take his next turn in the rotation. The Red Sox are privately concerned about Buchholz's workload. Between his 15 innings at the big league level and 125 1/3 between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, he's at 140 1/3, 21 1/3 more than he pitched in the minors in 2006. Of course, that the Red Sox left him out there to throw 115 pitches in the no-hitter suggests they might not be that worried. He might not make more than another start or two, meaning he's much more appealing in keeper leagues than yearly formats. Buchholz should enter 2008 among the top candidates for rookie of the year honors, though, and he'll be a strong bet for the Opening Day rotation if he finishes the month strong.
New York Yankees: Rookie Ian Kennedy stepped up with a quality-start effort in his MLB debut on Saturday, tossing seven innings and allowing only three runs (one earned) on five hits against the Devil Rays. That was enough to earn him another turn, scheduled for Friday against the Royals, and it's possible he'll remain in the rotation the remainder of the year if he's successful again. AL-only and deep-mixed owners should pick Kennedy up, and in keeper leagues, keep in mind that the better he does this month, the stronger his chances of breaking spring training as a member of the 2008 rotation. Roger Clemens, meanwhile, will miss his next scheduled start with elbow soreness, a concern for the Yankees at such a late -- and important -- stage of their season. It's unclear how much time he'll miss, but his absence will allow Mike Mussina another chance to start, while making youngsters like Kennedy and Phil Hughes better bets to stick in the rotation despite any possible struggles. Andy Phillips will undergo potentially season-ending surgery on a broken right wrist he suffered when he was hit by a pitch by the Devil Rays' Jason Hammel on Sunday. He'll be sidelined for six weeks, meaning the only way he'd play again this season is if the Yankees advance deep into the postseason and choose to activate him, an unlikely scenario. With Phillips sidelined, Jason Giambi should sneak in more time at first base, helping increase both his and Johnny Damon's fantasy appeal, and Wilson Betemit could also sneak in a handful more at-bats as a result.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Delmon Young hit safely in an 11th consecutive game on Monday, the fifth time this season he has compiled a hitting streak of 10 games or more. That ties him with the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki for the most by any rookie in a season in the past 50 years, pretty impressive company considering Ichiro managed 242 hits and a .350 batting average as a rookie in 2001. Young's cumulative numbers are now .297/.327/.414, decent rates but not quite up to the superstar levels some fantasy owners had hoped for in the preseason. Still, they bode extremely well for a player only 21 years old and with shaky numbers in the plate discipline department. Remember, many hitters don't reach their power prime until their mid-20s, meaning Young has plenty of room for growth in that department, and it's important to remember he had only 14 homers and a .463 slugging percentage in 138 games for Triple-A Durham in 2005-06, despite a .304 batting average. He's clearly capable of hitting for a high average, .300 or better, in 2008, and it's possible he'll bump his power output into the 20s with double-digit steals, making him a nice breakout candidate. Don't take his "disappointing" rookie-year numbers too much to heart.
Toronto Blue Jays: Rookie Adam Lind was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, and he might see a decent share of playing time in the season's final month. He batted .297 (41-for-138) with four homers and 21 RBIs in 38 games for Syracuse between stints with the big club, and could be a candidate to start in left field next season. Lind was rather disappointing in his last stint with the Blue Jays, registering .230/.274/.383 numbers in 73 games, but he's a capable batsman with decent power worthy of stashing on an AL-only bench. He's only 24 years old, and potentially a .300-hitting, double-digit power candidate as early as next season, so expect the Blue Jays to work him in a fair share in these final weeks, mostly at the expense of Matt Stairs. Stairs has actually enjoyed a fine season, and batted .462 (24-for-52) with 13 RBIs in limited at-bats since Aug. 1, though he started only 14 of the team's 31 games during that span.American League Central
Chicago White Sox: Perhaps concerned about the left-hander's 0-6 record and 7.62 ERA in six starts in August, the White Sox announced Friday that they'll give John Danks 10 or 11 days off to rest his arm. The rookie had actually pitched respectably the first half of the season, with a 4.62 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and .276 BAA in 16 starts, but with his innings total for the year up to 136 1/3, the White Sox are obviously attempting to keep his full-year workload reasonable. Danks totaled 140 innings in the minors in 2006, meaning he might get only a couple more starts in September, so don't count on much in the way of a fantasy contribution from him. Still, while he's a little under the cutoff as a keeper candidate, he might not be a bad AL-only sleeper for 2008. After all, Danks was considered a top prospect while rising in the Rangers' minor league system, and he averaged better than a strikeout per inning for his minor league career (9.27 per nine). At 22 years old, Danks should have many better seasons ahead of him.
Cleveland Indians: Josh Barfield, who officially lost his starting job to Asdrubal Cabrera on Aug. 15, isn't expected to reclaim his former role the remainder of the season. Barfield has been a tremendous disappointment in his first year in Cleveland, managing only .244/.272/.326 rates for the season, and .202/.244/.277 in 43 games since July 1, slipping into only a pinch-running and defensive replacement role. He has become far too strikeout-prone -- he has averaged one per 4.71 at-bats -- and actually hasn't even been as solid on defense as he was as a rookie for the Padres in 2006. Cabrera, meanwhile, has .313/.348/.484 numbers in 18 games since taking over on Aug. 15, despite his reputation as a defense-first kind of player. AL-only owners can apparently count on him getting regular at-bats the remainder of the year, though Barfield will probably get another chance to earn the second base role back next spring. Still 24 years old, Barfield has 20/20 potential in him, though he's looking pretty shaky even in keeper formats right now.
Detroit Tigers: Kenny Rogers (elbow) is scheduled to rejoin the Tigers' rotation Wednesday against the White Sox, after pitching a successful bullpen session on Sunday. With a somewhat light remaining schedule -- the Tigers have six more games apiece against the Twins and White Sox and three against the Royals -- Rogers could have a decent share of matchups appeal in September, but don't count on too much from him. After all, while he managed a 1.04 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and .206 BAA in his first three starts fresh off the DL in late June and early July, he wore down considerably shortly thereafter, with 9.98/1.89/.309 numbers in his next three turns. Rogers might not get back to 100 percent until next season, and even then, he'll be 44 years old to begin the 2008 season. Gary Sheffield (shoulder) plans a Thursday return from the DL, coincidentally the first day he's eligible to return. Perhaps the two weeks' rest has helped refresh him, something his fantasy owners can only hope for after enduring his .220/.312/.333 rates in 32 games since the All-Star break. Sheffield probably won't be a .300-hitting, elite power source the rest of the year, but expect a fair share of AL-only and deep-mixed value from him.
Kansas City Royals: Mark Teahen returned from the DL with a 3-for-5 performance on Monday, and should reclaim the bulk of the at-bats in right field the remainder of the year. Though he has been a real disappointment in the power department this season, with only six homers overall and one in 68 games since May 30, Teahen has still batted a respectable .288 with 11 stolen bases, making him useful in AL-only formats. He'll turn 26 on Thursday, meaning he still has time to develop a bit as a power hitter, but it's quickly becoming clear he's more of a batting average type than a pure power type. Teahen could be a candidate to bat .300-plus in 2008, though the smart move would be to pencil him in for 20 homers or fewer, plus double-digit steals. Luke Hochevar, the No. 1 pick overall in the 2006 amateur draft, was scheduled to join the Royals on Tuesday. Unfortunately, he's expected to pitch in relief with the Royals in September, meaning his value remains limited to keeper formats. Hochevar began the year with a 4.69 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and .286 BAA in 17 games (16 starts) for Double-A Wichita, then had 5.12/1.28/.244 numbers in 10 starts for Triple-A Omaha, disappointing numbers by top-prospect standards. He'll be a candidate for the 2008 rotation, but more likely will begin the year in Triple-A ball, working for a midseason call-up.
Minnesota Twins: Rookie Kevin Slowey, an early-season sensation while at Triple-A Rochester, is back in the rotation, having been called up Monday to start Tuesday's game against the Indians. It's supposed to be a one-and-done thing, but don't be surprised if a solid outing earns the right-hander some more starts, especially with the team beginning to make its rotation plans for 2008. Slowey had a 2.21 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and .244 BAA in 11 starts for Rochester between stints with the Twins, demonstrating that he has mastered the Triple-A level even if he has yet to get comfortable in the big leagues. He had 5.84/1.68/.323 numbers in seven starts for the Twins earlier in the year, incredibly not suffering a single loss during that span. The long ball was Slowey's greatest weakness; he allowed 13 in his 37 innings of work. He'll be a prime candidate for the 2008 Opening Day rotation, meaning AL-only keeper owners should monitor his performance closely in this season's final weeks. A strong finish will make him a much better bet for next year.American League West
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Ervin Santana is apparently back on his dominate-at-home, struggle-on-the-road trend, dominating with 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a Monday start at Angel Stadium, after allowing five runs in one-third of an inning at Seattle's Safeco Field on Aug. 28. His career splits are remarkable: He's 24-8 with a 3.18 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and .233 BAA in 41 home starts, 10-20 with 7.19/1.65/.301 numbers in 38 road starts. Santana should get at least one more start, Saturday at home against the Indians, an important outing in determining his value the remainder of the year. That's because Bartolo Colon is nearing a return from the DL, having allowed four runs on nine hits in eight innings in two rehabilitation starts for Triple-A Salt Lake the past week-plus. Colon might be ready to rejoin the Angels' rotation by next week, meaning Santana needs another solid outing to have any chance of retaining his starting role. It seems fairly likely that'll happen, though one of the two will almost assuredly have to shift to the bullpen in the next week or so. Colon's experience might make him the better bet for this month, though Santana is an important part of the team's future.
Oakland Athletics: With the Athletics all but mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, the team announced Friday that Travis Buck, Eric Chavez and Mark Kotsay, all of whom are on the DL, will be shut down the remainder of the season. Buck is slated to undergo season-ending surgery Sept. 10 to clean out bone chips and spurs in his right elbow, an operation that should cost him only six-to-eight weeks' recovery time. He should be fine for spring training, though his propensity for injury as a rookie should limit some of his sleeper appeal for 2008. Chavez will also undergo season-ending surgery, his set for Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, an ailment he says has plagued him for nearly 10 years. He could also require an operation on his back, though, which might delay the start to his spring training. Chavez might be in better shape to succeed after having surgery, but don't be surprised if he begins the 2008 season on the DL. As for Kotsay, he won't have surgery, but he had been playing at less than 100 percent for some time. He's under contract for next season, though it wouldn't be at all a surprise if the Athletics -- or a team they unload his contact to -- regards him as a backup for 2008.
Seattle Mariners: With the Mariners still in the thick of the wild-card -- and to a lesser extent, the AL West -- race, don't count on youngsters making much of an impact for them in September. Top prospects Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement were the most prominent names scheduled to join the team in New York on Tuesday, though Adam Jones' usage the past several weeks should be the best example why the Mariners aren't inclined to shake up their lineup while they're still in the playoff hunt. Jones has only nine starts and 38 plate appearances in the Mariners' 30 games since his promotion on Aug. 3, mainly spotting in for left fielder Raul Ibanez against tough left-handers. Balentien, who batted .291 with 24 homers, 84 RBIs and 15 steals in 124 games for Triple-A Tacoma, should provide only added outfield depth. Jones remains ahead of him on the depth chart, though. Either outfielder could break camp with the team next spring, depending on whether Jose Guillen's option is exercised or if the team offers him a long-term deal. Clement, who batted .275 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs in 125 games for Tacoma, will merely provide depth behind Kenji Johjima and a bat off the bench. Johjima appears the team's future behind the plate, meaning Clement's best chance at a fantasy impact next season is as a designated hitter.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers activated Hank Blalock from the DL on Saturday, despite his being another week to 10 days away from being able to play third base. He picked up two starts at designated hitter over the weekend, hitting a grand slam on Sunday and going 2-for-8 (.250) combined. Blalock experienced soreness in his arm during a throwing session while in Los Angeles for that series, though, so don't be surprised if he's limited mainly to DH/pinch-hitting duties in September. He should have some AL-only appeal in those roles, but don't expect him to be mixed-league worthy again until 2008, and only if he remains with the Rangers. After all, Blalock is only a .243/.300/.396 career hitter away from Rangers Ballpark, and .225/.278/.351 lifetime against left-handers, numbers that have all the makings of an ideal matchups type. His best value, as it has been in recent seasons, has him limited to leagues with daily transactions.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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