- Sean Allen
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The Yankees have been accused of handing out many questionable contracts, but one that not even the most loyal Yankees fans will stand up for is the contract handed out to Carl Pavano. Pavano has been tabbed as Saturday's starter, just his third appearance in pinstripes since June 2005. To this point in his contract with the Yankees, Pavano has made $2 million per start ($38 million, 19 starts). Any interested fantasy owner should not expect to see $2 million worth of pitching Saturday, but he does play for a winning team that has done well during recent stretch drives. Pavano should at least be on your radar.
But there is another pitcher making his season debut in the American League who should get more attention than Pavano. Read on!
Matchups for Saturday, Aug. 23
All times are ET.
Jason Isringhausen, RP, Cardinals (elbow)
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (hernia)
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Braves (bereavement)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (oblique)
Troy Percival, RP, Rays (knee)
George Sherrill, RP, Orioles (shoulder)
Ryan Braun, 3B/OF, Brewers (back)
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (back)
Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals (quadriceps)
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (thumb)
John Maine, SP, Mets (shoulder)
Brandon McCarthy, SP, Rangers (forearm)
Nate McLouth, OF, Pirates (flu)
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (foot)
Carl Pavano, SP, Yankees (elbow)
Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers (knee)
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (thumb)
Jim Thome, DH, White Sox (leg)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: J.D. Drew and Placido Polanco are strong candidates to return by Saturday, but both have been injured on a semi-regular basis in the past and bear watching. Drew is 2-for-6 (.333) with a home run off Blue Jays starter Jesse Litsch. Paul Konerko deserves a start against Scott Kazmir. He is 4-for-11 (.364) with a home run against the lefty, and even if Jim Thome is good to go, he might sit with a southpaw on the hill. Consider trolling for replacements for any Blue Jays hitter in your lineup. They rank near the bottom of the league in OPS against left-handers this season, and Jon Lester has dominated the lineup in his career. Toronto batters are a combined 4-for-34 (.118) against Lester with Vernon Wells, Scott Rolen and Alex Rios combining to go 0-for-12. Robinson Cano can ride the fantasy pine versus Jeremy Guthrie, as he has managed a mere single in 14 at-bats against him.
Pitchers: Note that Scott Kazmir hasn't been his dominant self lately and his slider has been erratic at best (just look at his walks and pitches per plate appearance). The White Sox are tied with Baltimore for the best team OPS this month (.877). I'm not saying bench him, but I will say proceed with caution. The bloom is wilting on Jorge Campillo. He has allowed five earned runs in each of his past three starts. Bench him against the Cardinals and hope he regains form. John Maine's shoulder is going to bother him for the rest of the season, according to the Mets. That is not the vote of confidence you as a fantasy owner want to hear. I'd shy away from Maine in all but the friendliest of matchups, and a date with the Astros doesn't qualify. I must sound extra negative today, but I also am going to warn against Edinson Volquez's start in Colorado. A date in Coors Field is never encouraging for a starter, and the Rockies blasted Volquez on July 25 in Cincinnati. I do believe Volquez has recaptured his form somewhat after a stretch of rough starts from July 20 through Aug. 5, but leave him out of this game unless you need to risk a big payoff in head-to-head play to win your week. Like Volquez, Aaron Cook has hit some rough patches lately. Notably for Cook, it's been at home in Coors Field. In his past four starts in Denver, Cook has allowed 23 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings. Cook, however, has dominated the Reds' batters historically and pitched an eight-inning gem versus the Reds in that July 25 game.
Hitters: It's been a good week for some widely available catchers. Miguel Montero has caught Yusmeiro Petit's past three starts and had two home runs in his most recent start. Meanwhile, Kurt Suzuki has two home runs and five RBIs since Aug. 15. Juan Uribe has managed two homers and six RBIs in his past seven games. Travis Metcalf is the latest Ranger on a home run binge. He smacked one Sunday and followed that up with a two-homer performance Wednesday. For an average boost, go with Ronnie Belliard. Everything is finding a hole for him lately, as he is 14-for-his-past-23 (.609). Gabe Gross is taking advantage of playing time in Tampa Bay's outfield. He is 6-for-his-past-20 (.300) with a home run, stolen base and five walks. Gary Sheffield has hit .357 with seven RBIs and a home run in the previous week, and he's available in 70 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers: Jarrod Washburn is your best spot-start of the day. Which team has the worst OPS in August? Oakland (.604). Which team has the worst OPS this season against left-handers? Oakland (.641). Need I remind you which month this is and which hand Washburn pitches with? Jesse Litsch's return from the minors looked very good, and he has a four-seam fastball in the mix after working on it during his Triple-A stint. He is 3-1 with an OK 4.57 ERA versus the Red Sox. He is an option in AL-only. Clayton Kershaw is still available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, despite notching five straight quality starts in which he has allowed just four runs. There will be a good pitching matchup in Arizona, although it might fly under the radar. Yusmeiro Petit has had great control during his sporadic role as the Diamondbacks' fifth starter. His sub-1.00 WHIP is evidence of that. He's also managed at least five strikeouts in each of his two most recent outings. While Chris Volstad has struggled a bit more with control, he has been able to get out of jams to keep his ERA down at the same level as Petit's (3.02). Both pitchers could have value, but lean on Petit first, as he is at home and the Marlins' offense might be missing Hanley Ramirez, depending on his thumb. Don't get sucked in by Kirk Saarloos' solid numbers in three relief appearances since being recalled from Triple-A. He had only average numbers this season in Triple-A (4.22 ERA and 18 home runs surrendered in 140 2/3 innings). Saarloos will need a couple of good starts before being considered anywhere but in the deepest AL-only formats. Maybe of more interest to fantasy owners than Pavano's return is Brandon McCarthy's return to the Rangers' rotation. He is a speculative must-add in all formats deeper than 10-team mixed leagues. McCarthy is coming back from severe forearm inflammation that has kept him out all season. Of note is the story that after a few rehab starts in late July and into August, McCarthy was unhappy with the results and had a meeting with Nolan Ryan and the Rangers' pitching coaches about what to do. They changed up his mechanics, and McCarthy responded with 13 innings of four-hit ball in his next two rehab starts (striking out 11). He could be the ace pitcher this Rangers club hasn't had all season.
In the Windy City, a 40 percent chance of rain will threaten both the Nationals-Cubs game and the Rays-White Sox contest. There also is a 40 percent chance of showers to the south in Kansas City (Tigers-Royals). There is a 30 percent chance of precipitation in St. Louis, Denver and Arlington. So be aware of that for your Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Rockies, Indians and Rangers. Weatherproof contests will be played in Toronto (Red Sox-Blue Jays), Milwaukee (Pirates-Brewers), Arizona (Marlins-Diamondbacks) and Seattle (A's-Mariners).
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.