Aces make second start; Leake debuts
The first full weekend of the season brings with it the second time around the rotation. As a result, the aces are plentiful for those owners looking to make a late-week run in head-to-head leagues. However, the player I'm most interested in seeing is Mike Leake of the Cincinnati Reds, scheduled to take the mound Sunday against the Chicago Cubs and Tom Gorzelanny. Leake was the No. 8 overall pick by the Reds in last year's draft and has yet to throw a single pitch in the minor leagues. He's going straight from Arizona State to the show, the first college pitcher to make such a leap since Darren Dreifort in 1993. Certainly we're not throwing him right into our fantasy lineups just yet, but a good start may well earn him an immediate place on our bench. As for the rest of our weekend rankings, read on:
For starters: Saturday
Starting pitcher rankings for April 10
Selected notes: Dan Haren tops the table for Saturday. His April numbers are usually impeccable, and opponents hit only .171 against him in 2009. Ubaldo Jimenez's home ERA was 3.34 last season, and he is coming off a road start in which he was keeping the ball on the ground, an essential part of his success at Coors Field. Zack Greinke has an 0.61 ERA against the Boston Red Sox since 2007, but we still like Josh Beckett's team to provide just enough run support to give the slight nod to the Boston pitcher. Yovani Gallardo held the St. Louis Cardinals to a .174 batting average in 2009, just slightly better than the .192 average Felix Hernandez limited Texas Rangers hitters to last season. Splitting hairs, we are. CC Sabathia had a rough 2010 debut, and that 10.80 ERA in two games at Tampa Bay last season make us a little nervous for today's outing. Scott Baker is going to have to make it through five full innings before he makes it into our top 10. So we'll give the No. 10 spot to Mat Latos, who held hitters to a .211 batting average on the road last season. Middle-of-the-road options include John Lannan, who should be far better than he showed against the Philadelphia Phillies in his first start, and Aaron Harang, who doesn't have to face the likes of Albert Pujols when facing the Chicago Cubs lineup. Speaking of the Cubs, we'll give Carlos Zambrano, bumped up a day in the rotation, a bit of a mulligan on his opening salvo for 2010, but the leash is very short. In the trailing third of picks, Jeremy Bonderman takes the mound, coming off an injury-shortened 2009 and an 8.71 ERA and a couple of complete "unknowns" in Mitch Talbot of the Cleveland Indians and Jaime Garcia of the St. Louis Cardinals.
For starters: Sunday
Starting pitcher rankings for April 11
Selected notes: Tim Lincecum likely will reside at the top of the charts for quite some time in 2010, especially as long as he continues to keep a perfect 0.00 ERA. Roy Halladay slots in just behind the San Francisco Giants' ace, as he takes his turn at facing the Houston Astros on Sunday. Chris Carpenter went 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA against the Milwaukee Brewers last season. Hard to find anything we don't like in his game right now. Ditto that for Justin Verlander, who won all four of his starts against the Cleveland Indians last season with an 0.90 ERA. Derek Lowe is 2-0 in five starts against the San Francisco Giants over the past two seasons, and few pitchers are as good as Mark Buehrle when they are in a groove, as he appears to be right now. Rounding out our top 10, we'll go out on a limb with Greg Smith, a late insert as the Colorado Rockies try to juggle their staff early to improve their fortunes, and Shaun Marcum, who looked pretty good up until Nelson Cruz took him deep in the season opener. Middle-of-the-road picks: Randy Wolf won his Milwaukee Brewers debut because his lineup kept the runs coming. He's facing Chris Carpenter, so we don't expect that to happen in his second start. We're a little leery that the change in leagues will be the fantasy death of Edwin Jackson, especially when he takes the mound at Chase Field. Bringing up the rear of the rankings, and only for the brave, is Kevin Millwood, who seems to lose his control when he sees maple leaves. He's got a 5.33 career ERA versus Toronto. Also at the bottom of the barrel, Livan Hernandez -- who should be activated by the Washington Nationals in time to square off against the New York Mets -- and Charlie Haeger. Never put your trust in a knuckleballer not named Wakefield.
Hitter matchup ratings for April 10
Hitters' count: Saturday
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies: There aren't many pitchers Rollins doesn't want to see on the Houston Astros staff. He's a career .300 hitter against the current batch of arms, including .333 facing Felipe Paulino.
Aaron Rowand, OF, San Francisco Giants: The Giants center fielder doesn't get a lot of love or attention, but the Atlanta Braves know who he is. He's the guy hitting a collective .403 against their pitching staff.
Pitchers' count: Saturday
Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers: Hamilton has started off the season 0-for-8, and isn't likely to do much better against Felix Hernandez. He's only 2-for-21 lifetime against the King.
David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: Big Papi is nursing a pain in his neck, and Zack Greinke has been a thorn in his side as well. Ortiz has only managed a .100 batting average against the Kansas City ace.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: Tulo is hitting .267 since 2007 against the Padres, and has yet to scrape out a hit against Mat Latos.
Hitter matchup ratings for April 11
Hitters' count: Sunday
Scott Rolen, 3B, Cincinnati Reds: A slow start to the season may quickly turn around against Tom Gorzelanny. Rolen has a .900 OPS in his at-bats against the Cubs' scheduled starter.
Fernando Tatis, 1B, New York Mets: New York's jack of all trades will likely find his way into the Sunday lineup, based on his .950 slugging percentage in 20 at-bats against Livan Hernandez.
Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Florida Marlins: In the field, he looks completely bewildered. At the plate, however, he's a keeper. The .636 slugging percentage is no fluke.
Garrett Jones, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Sure, it's easy to say we're just being trendy here after Jones' power output of the first few days of 2010, but the .556 average against Arizona makes the recommendation a bit more grounded.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies: Can a player stay as hot as Gonzalez has been so far this season? Against Jon Garland, we think he will, thanks to a career 7-for-11, with five of those hits being doubles.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs: Ramirez has a.324 batting average and a .944 OPS against the Reds with major league experience. Pity poor Mike Leake making his big league debut today.
Mark Reynolds, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks: Every hit this season has been a home run for Reynolds all one of them. He needs a pick-me-up in the form of Zach Duke, who has served up six hits in 10 at-bats, four of the extra-base variety.
Pitchers' count: Sunday
Hunter Pence, OF, Houston Astros: Pence's stat line has more eggs than the White House lawn on Easter. He may well get hit No. 1 before Sunday, but if not, we're not optimistic against Roy Halladay.
Nate McLouth, OF, Atlanta Braves: It's bad enough he's struggling and batting eighth in the Braves' lineup. Throw in a faceoff with Tim Lincecum and the odds of a golden sombrero increase exponentially.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Braun hit only .262 against St. Louis last season, and Chris Carpenter has retired him all six times they've done battle.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Slugging a mere .222 against Randy Wolf is not exactly a positive omen for starting Ludwick, considering his power is the only reason you'd want him in your lineup in the first place.
Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend
Saturday: Ichiro Suzuki, RF, Seattle Mariners: Not only does Ichiro have a .444 career batting average against Matt Harrison, but no team was more inept at stopping him from swiping bases in 2009 than Texas.
Sunday: Delmon Young, LF, Minnesota Twins: Young posted a .308 batting average versus the White Sox last season, and hopes to keep the ball rolling against Mark Buehrle, against whom he's a lifetime .364 hitter.
Injury list: Out
Sammy Gervacio, RP, Houston Astros (15-day DL, right shoulder strain)
Brandon Webb, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (15-day DL, previous shoulder surgery)
Marc Rzepczynski, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (15-day DL, fractured middle finger)
Dustin McGowan, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (15-day DL, previous shoulder surgery)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Boston Red Sox (15-day DL, neck strain)
Matt Joyce, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (15-day DL, right elbow)
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers (15-day DL, ankle sprain)
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros (15-day DL, knee)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (ankle; Stephania Bell says it's possible he could miss this weekend's series)
Jeff Niemann, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (right shoulder contusion)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves (strained right oblique)
Mike Morse, 1B, Washington Nationals (calf)
Orlando Hudson, 2B, Minnesota Twins (head/neck)
Luis Castillo, 2B, New York Mets (calf)
Weatherproof games: Phillies at Astros, Cardinals at Brewers, Pirates at Diamondbacks and Yankees at Rays. As is typical for the Miami area, there are possible scattered thunderstorms for the weekend games between the Dodgers and Marlins, but more often than not, Florida's home games get played. Other than that, the only game on the schedule that may see delays is in San Francisco, where a 70 percent chance of rain Sunday might interrupt the Braves and Giants.