Commentary

Rays prospect Davis set to debut

Updated: September 4, 2009, 5:14 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Daily Notes

We head into September full throttle with the unofficial last weekend of the summer as Labor Day looms large Monday. While we kick off this weekend with college football on the mind, there still are plenty of good baseball matchups on tap, with plenty of established pitchers ready to help out fantasy owners -- guys like Zack Greinke, Matt Cain and Yovani Gallardo lead a long list of more than a dozen starters with nine or more victories on the season. Meanwhile, Sunday has some interesting stories as well, with Tim Hudson hoping to continue his successful return from Tommy John surgery and Wade Davis hoping to do his best David Price impersonation as he makes his big league debut for the Rays. Before you start packing up all your white clothes for next year, take a gander at our complete rankings below:

For starters

Selected notes for Saturday: Zack Greinke takes the lead against the Angels. Even though he did lose to them earlier this season, he allowed only one run in the effort and has posted a 2.25 ERA in his past three outings. … Washington has done better against Josh Johnson of late, but he still is 4-0 lifetime against the Nationals, with a 3.67 ERA. … Matt Cain and Yovani Gallardo square off in the best pitching duel of the weekend. We give Gallardo the slight nod at home, as he already has bested the Giants twice in 2009 and Cain's ERA at Miller Park is 6.43. … Scott Baker has owned the Tribe this season. It's hard not to like a 3-0 record and a 0.78 ERA. … There must be a full moon, as Randy Wolf has had super stuff of late, with a 2-0 record and a 1.77 ERA in his past three games. Expect more goodness against the Padres. … Andy Pettitte hasn't lost since July 25, and we're not going to bet against him when he is facing Brett Cecil and his 12.00 ERA in his past three starts. … James Shields has yet to suffer defeat at the hands of the Tigers, with a 3-0 record and 2.97 ERA against them. With Armando Galarraga being thrown into action due to an injury to Jarrod Washburn, we like Shields' chances to come out on top in this crucial game for the Rays. … Gavin Floyd has struggled lately, dropping three of his past four decisions, but but he's either going up against a not-100 percent Tim Wakefield, Junichi Tazawa, who was, in a word, awful, allowing nine runs in four innings against Chicago last week or possibly even both - depending on how things shake out.. … Roy Oswalt is 6-1 lifetime against the Phillies, and this game is at home. Meanwhile Joe Blanton is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his past three games, so this one should be close. We again go with the home cooking and give the slight nod to Oswalt. … Rich Harden and Nelson Figueroa both are pitchers we'd consider starting; however, we clearly are far more confident in Harden, despite the fact that Figueroa already has defeated the Cubs this season. … Kevin Millwood is 4-1 for his career at Camden Yards, but we're not sure that's enough to overcome his recent slide -- a 6.35 ERA in his past three starts. … Some middle-of-the-road options: John Lackey has to be near perfect going up against Zack Greinke, but his 5.12 ERA in his past three outings doesn't exactly scream perfect. Doug Davis is 0-2 against the Rockies this season, but we think that facing Jose Contreras, he might be staked to a big enough lead to work his way to a win. … Youngsters Brian Matusz and Justin Masterson are pitching in front of friendly crowds, but neither one appeals to us more than Mat Latos, who is expected to be shut down after this start, so he should feel free to leave it all out there on the mound.

Selected notes for Sunday: We're going to put Joel Pineiro in the crow's nest, thanks to an eight-game winning streak and a 2.78 ERA in his past three starts. Plus, he's going up against the light-hitting Pirates (.254 for the season). … Jon Lester doesn't need to leave Boston to have a good outing. He's gone 2-0 in his past three, with a 2.61 ERA, but he might have a challenge on his hands facing John Danks, who has been nearly as good, with a 2.79 ERA while winning two of his past three starts. We'll give the edge to Lester, as he has a better set of bats behind him. … Jorge De La Rosa might seem like an odd choice in the top five -- after all, he's no Cole Hamels -- but he's faced the D-backs three times this season and posted a 1.25 ERA against them. That's why we like him better than, say, Edwin Jackson, who has struggled lately and has a 5.43 ERA at the Trop for his career. … Randy Wells has pitched well this season, but his WHIP in August was 1.42, far higher than in any other month so far this season. More runners on base means less chance at victory, even against the Mets and Mike Pelfrey, who, despite mediocre stats, has a 3.80 ERA at home this season. … Paul Maholm and Nick Blackburn round out our top selections for Sunday. Maholm has a 2.75 ERA in his past three starts, while Nick Blackburn has a 2.05 ERA at Progressive Field for his career. … Braden Looper has never defeated the Giants (0-3, 5.65 ERA), but against Jonathan Sanchez and his 14.46 ERA at Miller Park, we're leaning slightly in Looper's favor. … Hiroki Kuroda is set to start Sunday for the first time since getting nailed in the head by a Rusty Ryal line drive. Cautiously, we'll rank him next, and we hope he'll be able to put that incident behind him without a severe case of the "flinchies," which could play havoc with his career. … Jeremy Guthrie has been solid recently, with a 1.80 ERA in his past three games, but he's facing the Rangers, who did rough him up a bit -- three runs in five innings -- earlier this season. Still, Derek Holland's 10.67 ERA in his past three is reason enough to think Guthrie can come out on top this go-around. … Johnny Cueto and Tim Hudson square off in a battle of weakened arms -- Cueto's from overuse and Hudson's from a lengthy surgery recovery. The uncertainty that brings makes us keep the pair of them in the middle of the pack. … It's a risk going with guys like Sergio Mire, Luke Hochevar and Doug Fister, although all are better options than the likes of Bud Norris (0-3, 13.11 ERA in past three starts) and Gio Gonzalez (0-2, 6.75 ERA in past three). … As for J.D. Martin, while he's only going up against our No. 18 starter, Anibal Sanchez (3-0, 3.16 ERA lifetime against Washington), he comes in last in our rankings, because even with a good outing, he's not going more than six innings. Given his track record (6.23 ERA versus Florida), odds are he'll do far more bad than good. Stay away.

Now batting (Saturday)

Hitters' count:

Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: As Heidi Klum says, "You're either in or you're out." Hafner has been the epitome of that statement with his shoulder woes, but he homered in his only start in the past five games and has four lifetime blasts off Scott Baker, to go along with a .407 batting average. We say, "In."
Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: Feliz isn't the first name you think of when you ponder the Phillies' lineup, but Roy Oswalt knows Feliz, and his .452 average against the Astros pitcher is there.
Carlos Guillen, DH, Tigers: Guillen has a .462 batting average and two home runs squaring off against James Shields. He's had three round trippers in his past three starts, so the fireworks might continue.
Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays: He's hitting .333 (6-for-18) over his past four games, recovering nicely from an 0-for-11 stretch in his previous four. Color us impressed with the turnaround.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Gonzalez is a career .357 hitter against Randy Wolf and appears to have left his biceps problems of a week ago completely behind him.
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals: He has been hampered by a bad foot but should be motivated to get back into the starting lineup versus Josh Johnson, as he's had more success than most against him -- a .364 average.
Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Angels: Zack Greinke could well pitch a no-hitter any time out, given the way he's pitched this season, but if anyone is going to put the kibosh on those plans, it's Vlad, who has a career .429 average and five RBIs against Greinke.

Pitchers' count:

Jason Bay, OF, Red Sox: Bay is only 2-for-12 for his career against Gavin Floyd and has struck out 15 times since Aug. 22.
Orlando Cabrera, SS, Twins: Hitting only .156 since Aug. 23, and is worse off facing Justin Masterson -- .143 lifetime.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves: Kip Wells might not be the source of too many nightmares, but Jones seems to lose sleep after facing him -- he's managed to go just 3-for-24 against him over the years.
Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: Only a .111 average against Brett Anderson of the A's is strike one. One hit in his past 17 at-bats is strike two. You starting him Saturday is strike three.
Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: Cameron simply is not able to hit Matt Cain, with 10 strikeouts in 27 career at-bats and a .111 batting average.
Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles: If you're looking for pop from your third baseman, you will not find any here. Mora is slugging a pitiful .125 against Kevin Millwood.
Jorge Cantu, 1B, Marlins: Livan Hernandez has retired Cantu in 86 percent of his at-bats against the much-traveled pitcher, who now takes up residence in the Washington rotation .
Jose Guillen, OF, Royals: Blaming his latest hamstring woes on a tight knee brace? Guillen is falling apart at the seams. Even if he can play Saturday, his 1-for-13 record against John Lackey screams for a benching.

If you're hardcore

• Buster Posey, C, Giants: I doubt they called him up to sit him the entire month of September. The catcher of the future might be worth a shot, assuming this is the day they let him don the mask.
John McDonald, SS, Blue Jays: He's hitting .333 since Sunday and coincidentally has the same average for his career against Andy Pettitte over 21 at-bats.
Jayson Nix, 2B, White Sox: Nix hit .300 on the recent road trip through Boston, New York and Minnesota, including going 2-for-2 against Junichi Tazawa.
Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds: Three home runs in four games is always something to take note of, especially if you're looking for a little power boost late in the season.
Aaron Boone, 1B, Astros: It's a near miracle he's on the field after open-heart surgery. I'm willing to buy a little share of that miracle. How about you?
Micah Hoffpauir, 1B, Cubs: Something clicks when he faces the Mets, with seven hits in eight career at-bats, including two home runs.
Skip Schumaker, 2B, Cardinals: Schumaker is hitting .400 since Aug. 26 and an unfathomably high 1.711 OPS against Ross Ohlendorf of the Pirates.

Now batting (Sunday)

Hitters' count:

Joe Mauer, C, Twins: We all know about the .385 average since Aug. 1. Now throw a career 6-for-9 against David Huff onto the pile, and Mauer is the best play of the day.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers: A recent bout with kidney stones has slowed Byrd, but Jeremy Guthrie might speed his return to fantasy relevance. Byrd is a .429 career hitter against the Orioles starter.
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: Drew has a seven-game hitting streak working and a 1.000 slugging percentage facing John Danks.
Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers: So far in 2009, Braun has bashed Giants pitching with a .391 batting average. Expect more of the same this weekend.
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: Helton is hitting .407 since Aug. 18 and .571 against Yusmeiro Petit.
Hideki Matsui, DH, Yankees: Matsui is 7-for-14 in his career against Brian Tallet and has had 16 RBIs since Aug. 18.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals: Not that it isn't always a good idea to start "The Machine," but with Paul Maholm on the hill, even Pujols' output takes a huge leap. He's hitting .591 against Maholm.

Pitchers' count:

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: He is a weak hitter against the Twins' Nick Blackburn, hitting only .143 with no extra-base knocks to his credit.
Gordon Beckham, 3B, White Sox: Beckham's baseball bat must be bent against Boston, because he's hitting only .118 against the Red Sox's current collection of arms.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: Disappointing Drew has never fared well against Jorge De La Rosa, striking out seven of the 13 times they've battled, with only two hits.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: He ended an eight-game hitting streak Wednesday, but his average was only .258 during the so-called "hot streak." Not exactly setting the world on fire.
Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers: Ramirez is hitting only .207 against the Padres this season, and that's after a .500 April against them. Yikes!
Marco Scutaro, SS, Blue Jays: Scutaro is 0-for-16 in September and has never had a hit off Sergio Mitre. Need we explain further?
Carlos Lee, OF, Astros: Cole Hamels has been pitching well of late, which doesn't bode well for Lee, who has only a .167 OBP against the Phillies starter.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Regardless of the status of his wrist, Phillips has never performed well against Tim Hudson, with only a meager .143 batting average and a .286 slugging percentage against the veteran.

If you're hardcore

Chris Coghlan, OF, Marlins: This 11-game hitting streak is legit; he has a .435 average in this stretch.
Aaron Miles, 2B, Cubs: He's 3-for-6 lifetime against Mike Pelfrey. Hardcore players might want to roll the dice on this one.
• Josh Thole, C, Mets: Thole could well be the Mets' catcher in 2010, especially if he repeats his 2-for-5 debut his next few starts. Especially in two-catcher leagues, where there is always room to reach.
Alex Avila, C, Tigers: Not much to base things on, but Avila did go 2-for-4 against the Rays when he played against them last week. Another reach behind the plate? Sure it is -- as would be Bobby Wilson of the Angels or Brayan Pena of the Royals.
Bill Hall, 3B, Mariners: Hall has started September hot with a 3-for-8 stretch, including a home run. He's had good stretches in the past. Perhaps this is the beginning of a long string of good games.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Michael Young, 3B, Rangers (hamstring): Right now, the earliest Young is expected to return to action is Sept. 18 against the Angels.
Huston Street, P, Rockies (tendinitis): An MRI revealed no structural damage in his right biceps, but it appears Street will be out until at least the middle of next week.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (pinched nerve): He's visiting doctors to determine the severity of the damage, but it's unclear when the inflammation will lessen enough for Hamilton to feel comfortable on the field.
Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins (ribs): A little bit of ice should help ease the pain for Hermida, who felt a "grab" in his ribs Wednesday … but this could be one of those injuries that could return unexpectedly without a few days off to heal completely.
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays (ankle): Upton rolled his ankle in a collision with Carl Crawford in the outfield Thursday. X-rays were negative, which, as you know, is positive.

Weather concerns

• The weekend's weatherproof games: Phillies-Astros, Giants-Brewers, Tigers-Rays and Yankees-Blue Jays.
• Saturday looks to be a beautiful day for a baseball game throughout the country, with only Kansas City playing spoiler to a clear sky clean sweep. Isolated thunderstorms are expected there.
• On Sunday, the weather system moves into the Ohio Valley, with showers on tap for Cleveland and Pittsburgh. There also is a slight chance of heavier rains in Atlanta. However, the rest of the schedule appears safe.

AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can follow AJ on Twitter or e-mail him here.

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