Commentary

Tillman debuts versus Kansas City

Updated: July 28, 2009, 4:38 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes
The baseball world waits with bated breath: Will this be Roy Halladay's final start in his Blue Jays career? One could ask the same thing about J.A. Happ, as he's the primary bait the Phillies have been shopping to acquire Halladay. While rumors swirl about Halladay and/or Happ getting shipped out, don't overlook the debut of Chris Tillman, the 16th-ranked prospect by Kevin Goldstein entering the season. According to MLB.com, Tillman "will likely be with the team for the rest of the season," and we've already seen another top prospect -- Mat Latos, who, coincidentally, will also be making a start Wednesday -- make an impact in recent weeks, and it should go without saying that AL-only leagues should be all over Tillman. Now, on to the day's rankings!

For starters

Selected notes: Even in his bad start, J.A. Happ was good. Despite allowing 10 hits and five runs versus the Cardinals, he still went six innings with a 6-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That made it his seventh consecutive start with at least six innings pitched, and with one of the majors' best offenses backing him, his ability to pitch deep into ball games makes it that much more likely to result in wins. Indeed, it would be surprising if a matchup with Yusmeiro Petit and the Diamondbacks didn't result in his eighth win. … Aaron Harang has pitched a lot better than his raw numbers would suggest; 7.80 strikeouts and 2.12 walks allowed per nine innings deserves a lot better than a 4.25 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, especially in the weak NL Central. His batting average on balls in play is a ridiculous .344, a number that should assuredly come down considering the Reds have one of the better defenses in the league. As a result, we like Harang's chances at evening out some of his bad luck when he faces a Padres offense with the lowest OPS in July (.607). … Randy Wells' ERA is rising, slowly but surely, as the league begins to figure him out, but he still has his uses -- namely, against mediocre offenses. The Astros sure fit the bill: Even with Lance Berkman, they rank 23rd in the majors in OPS against right-handers. With the Cubs' offense finally coming alive -- thanks, Aramis Ramirez! -- there's a good chance Wells can pick up his fifth win in six opportunities. … Dave Duncan must be an incredible pitching coach to coax this kind of season out of Joel Pineiro. He's walking less than a batter per nine innings and has an insane ground-ball rate of 63.1 percent. All the same, while such peripherals are a testament to Pineiro's skill, there will still be some regression, if for no other reason than those are historically great marks, to say nothing of his microscopic rate of home runs per fly ball. Things are also much different when you're facing an elite offense, which the Dodgers definitely are. While Pineiro was just fine against the Phillies in his most recent start, he has hardly faced any upper-echelon offenses and hasn't represented himself particularly well when he has. He's probably worth keeping active, because he deserves some benefit of the doubt at this point, but it's hard to go wrong with exercising caution against the elite offenses, no matter the pitcher. … It's great that Joba Chamberlain has allowed five hits combined in his past two starts, but the quality of opposition wasn't overwhelming -- the Tigers and A's -- and the six walks don't provide reassurance when he faces the Rays, normally one of the best offenses in the league. Luckily, they're struggling this month, but Joba is also going up against Matt Garza, which decreases the odds of a win, and you're always playing with fire when you walk as many batters as Chamberlain does. … Another weak opponent, another recommendation for Mat Latos. His opponents this time around, the Reds, are only hitting .201 in the past week, making him a super sleeper special once again. … Speaking of sleepers, Chris Tillman will make his major league debut versus the Royals, which is one of the easiest matchups you could ask for in your debut. He struck out better than nine batters per nine in Triple-A this season, and could make an immediate impact. … Sure, the Braves are a tough opponent these days, but Manny Parra did little to prove that he's ready to become a solid pitcher, walking three batters for the second consecutive start. He draws the Nationals next, a team that, buoyed by the recent exploits of Josh Willingham, is up to a .765 OPS this month, a mark that ranks 12th. It will be a good opportunity to see if Parra can ever be trusted against a decent offense; we're not particularly optimistic.

Now batting

Hitters' count

Jhonny Peralta, SS/3B, Indians: He's heating up, with a five-game hit streak, including three consecutive multi-hit games. Peralta enjoys batting against John Lackey too, with 10 hits in 23 career at-bats.
Juan Rivera, OF, Angels: Fantasy owners are an impatient lot -- Rivera's ownership has dropped more than 10 percent in the past week as owners have grown increasingly frustrated with the hamstring injury that caused him to miss eight games -- but it's nice to see that when he did return, he is healthy enough to contribute: He went 2-for-4 with a home run Monday. He's been one of the hottest hitters in the majors over the past 2½ months, and his specialty is crushing lefties (six home runs with a .373 average in 67 at-bats); therefore, he must be considered a must-start against lefty Aaron Laffey.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: It's a small sample size of eight at-bats, but since half of them have resulted in hits -- including three doubles -- then it's a lot easier to put stock in Roberts' success against Zack Greinke. Even the new-and-improved Greinke has been no match for Roberts, who has gone 2-for-3 with a double and a steal off Greinke this year.
Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Yankees: Like Roberts, he has faced Matt Garza in limited at-bats (five), but the results have been so overwhelming (three hits, all extra-base hits, including two home runs) that it's likely Swisher just has Garza's number.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Kubel hits .349 against right-handers; Bartolo Colon allows lefties to slug .602, with 10 home runs allowed in 118 at-bats. Sounds like a match made in heaven. Kubel's idea of heaven, anyway.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Although Konerko has only two hits against Francisco Liriano, both were homers, including one earlier this year. All but one of Liriano's 18 home runs have been blasted by right-handers, so you have to like Konerko's chances for an encore performance.
Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Cardinals: It's just so easy to keep putting him here when he keeps facing left-handers! His slugging percentage is now up to .649 against them, and, since manager Tony La Russa is making habit of hitting him second against lefties, it's that much harder to pitch around him with Albert Pujols in the on-deck circle.

Pitchers' count

Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: The switch-hitter has just one walk and five extra-base hits in 67 games against left-handed pitching, and is often benched against lefties as a result, the most recent benching coming Friday against the likes of Francisco Liriano. Aaron Laffey may not be Liriano, but so far batters are slugging only .333 off him, so he can hold his own.
Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners: A cold streak has been long overdue for Branyan, although to his credit, even though he's batting .153 in July, he's still launched five balls out of the park. He'll be hard-pressed to touch up Roy Halladay, however, with his microscopic rate of 0.63 home runs per nine innings, and in 11 lifetime at-bats against Doc, Branyan has three times as many strikeouts (three) as extra-base hits (one).
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: It's rare to see Suzuki hit .235 against anyone, but that's what his lifetime average is in 34 at-bats versus Halladay. Seven of his eight hits have been singles, so his .265 slugging percentage doesn't offer much hope either.
Michael Young, 3B/SS, Rangers: Young has more strikeouts (five) than hits (three) against Justin Verlander in 19 at-bats, never a good sign. And with this being Verlander's most productive season, it's therefore no surprise that this is also the year Young has fared the worst: He's hitless with two K's in five at-bats this season.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Like his teammate, he's also failed to clear the Mendoza Line in his at-bats against Verlander; he's sporting a .143 mark in 14 at-bats, fanning four times.
Nyjer Morgan, OF, Pirates: No matter how hot he's been in recent weeks, remember that he's hitting just .159 in 88 at-bats against southpaws, and even grinds to a halt on the base paths, having gotten caught stealing in four of nine attempts.

If you're hard-core

Ryan Garko, 1B, Giants: The Giants made a modest improvement to their offense Monday, acquiring Garko, who should make them that much more potent against left-handers. After an off year last season, he's back to crushing southpaws, hitting .333 with four homers in 69 at-bats this year.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: Might it be that all Francoeur really needed to unlock his massive potential was a change of scenery? Is his .327 average since joining the team a sign of the numerous batting titles that are in store for him? Well, he still has walked only once in 52 at-bats, striking out five times, so it's probably the same old Francoeur, or something close to it. However, he is 13-for-36 (.361) his past nine games, so call a spade a spade -- in this case, a hot streak -- and walk away satisfied.
Adam Kennedy, 2B/3B, Athletics: Kennedy is 6-for-16 (.375) with a couple of doubles versus Brad Penny for his career. Just as importantly, he's also picked up two steals, and considering how bad Penny has been at keeping runners on -- just one caught stealing in 19 tries -- and Jason Varitek's 17.8 percent caught stealing rate on a whopping 86 attempts, chances are Kennedy can turn a hit or two into a stolen base for Oakland, where even manufacturing runs is now an option for a decrepit offense.
Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: Just when it looks like Gomes might cool off, he's come through with a homer; five of his past six hits have been long balls, making an otherwise mediocre .260 average that much more tolerable. He gets a matchup Wednesday against Mat Latos, a rookie who has already allowed three home runs in his first two starts. It's time to pick up Gomes and show some faith in his production until he cools off for good.
• Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: A 4-for-4 game here, a 2-for-4 game there, and a home run a day later, and it's easy to forget Willingham ever had a 1-for-17 stretch. Normally a classic hot-and-cold player, he's been virtually hot all season, and is now up to seven home runs in 78 at-bats in July. Put him in the batters' box against a left-hander and watch out; he's hitting .319 with four homers and a .660 slugging percentage in 47 at-bats, and power hitters from the right side are precisely the kind of hitters Manny Parra struggles with.
Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: Feliz's eight-game hitting streak isn't as impressive as you would think since he has no power to speak of, with zero extra-base hits in that span, but a .393 average -- his average during the streak -- obviously has value nonetheless. There are few pitchers better than Yusmeiro Petit (.322 average against righties) to keep that streak alive, too.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants (forearm; available to pinch hit): An MRI on Monday revealed a slight tear, and he cannot play the field for a couple of days. It's surprising that he'll avoid the disabled list, but he'll still be available to pinch hit.
Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets (15-day DL, hamstring)

Injury list: Day-to-day

• Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners (back)
Ryan Church, OF, Braves (elbow)
Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (shoulder)
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs (back; probable)
Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners (back): Manager Don Wakamatsu said he gave both Lopez and Branyan a scheduled day off to rest their sore backs, but that they would likely return to the lineup by Tuesday.
Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals (heel)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates (knee)
Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians (illness)

Weather concerns

• The games played in Seattle, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Arizona all will be weatherproof, as usual.
• Boston and Baltimore are the two cities in the Northeast that have to worry about thunderstorms, with 40 and 50 percent chances of rain, respectively.
• There's a significant risk of thunderstorms in Miami (40 percent), which isn't exactly unusual. A chance of storms also exists in Cincinnati (30 percent), although the storm should be on its way out later into the night. And in Arlington, a 30 percent risk of thunderstorms rounds out the forecast for the day.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE