Commentary

Don't overlook Tigers' Oliver

Updated: July 4, 2010, 6:11 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes
In these dog days of summer, it's easy to become a bit aloof with your fantasy team, especially if you're not doing well in the standings. One pitcher you should be careful not to overlook, however, is Andrew Oliver, a recent Tigers call-up. A hard-throwing lefty whose fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s, he posted a 3.61 ERA in 77 1/3 innings of Double-A ball before his June 25 call-up. Scouting reports seem to agree that his secondary offerings need some work, but he might stick around in the majors if Rick Porcello (five runs in six innings at Triple-A last Wednesday) cannot get his act together. See where Oliver lands in Monday's pitcher rankings:

For starters

Selected notes:

• It's amazing that Ian Kennedy walked nine batters in his last start yet managed to remain relatively unscathed, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings. It's even more amazing that he merits consideration for his next start, but that's a testament to how awful the Cubs' offense has been. The team is 26th in OPS against right-handers. Can you really bench Kennedy, who is still striking out plenty of batters, against that offense? And in case you're still on the fence, note that Kennedy has a 2.41 ERA and 0.95 WHIP at home.

• Despite a middling strikeout rate and too many walks, Derek Lowe's ability to consistently induce ground balls has prevented him from turning into a pumpkin. Nearly 60 percent of his batted balls end up on the ground, so in the right matchup, he can still be of some use. Normally a road start against the Phillies would never classify as such, but with the team down two of its more consistent hitters in Chase Utley and Placido Polanco, a slightly above-average offense should now be considered average. Even better, Lowe has always pitched well against the Phillies. The team is hitting just .190 off him in 189 at-bats, which turns Lowe from an iffy start into a slam-dunk option.

• The good times are ending for Mike Pelfrey, who has allowed 25 hits, 11 earned runs and three home runs in his past three starts (17 2/3 innings). If he can't keep the ball in the park consistently, then he's just another guy, and he'll have his hands full versus the Reds, who are third in the NL in homers. They still lead the league in OPS, too, so this is just a bad matchup all around. Start Pelfrey at your own risk.

• After pitching into the seventh inning six out of his first nine starts, Jonathan Sanchez has accomplished that feat just twice in his past seven outings. Fortunately he has allowed more than three runs just once, but the reality is that he has come back to earth after a hot start. He should be firmly planted on your bench against the Brewers, a team that packs a punch against lefties (highest slugging percentage in the NL against southpaws). Fittingly, Sanchez has a career 8.31 ERA against the Brewers.

• Those in AL-only leagues, or heck, even those in mixed leagues with risk tolerance, should consider Andrew Oliver, another power pitcher that the Tigers have churned out. He has true major league stuff, so the 10 strikeouts in 12 innings might not be a fluke, and at home versus a mediocre Orioles offense, there's little downside.

Now batting

Hitters' count

Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: A brutal May is holding down Pena's numbers, but he's not off to a good start in July either, going 0-for-9 with three strikeouts in three games. Fortunately, he has a good track record versus Daisuke Matsuzaka, batting .300 in 20 at-bats, with nine walks, a pair of doubles and a home run.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Red Sox: Matt Garza has been abused by Beltre this season, allowing five hits (including two home runs and a double) to the Red Sox third-bagger in just nine at-bats. As a result, Beltre is now batting .421 (8-for-19) lifetime against the right-hander.

Jason Bay, OF, Mets: Sure, Bay's power has been lacking this season, but he really just needs more at-bats versus Aaron Harang. They have faced each other 47 times, and Bay has dominated the matchup, piling up 17 hits, 12 of the extra-base variety. Bay has taken Harang deep five times, which makes it easy to forgive the 11 times the pitcher has struck him out.

David DeJesus, OF, Royals: DeJesus has done little more than hit for average this season, but he did finish June with a .410 average in 100 at-bats. He has upped his average against right-handers to an impressive .342 mark, and he should continue to do well even against Felix Hernandez. Not only is DeJesus 7-for-20 (.350) lifetime off King Felix, but four of those hits have gone for extra bases, including a home run.

Troy Glaus, 1B/3B, Braves: He's listed as questionable, but with eight teams getting the day off Monday, you might lack quality alternatives. Glaus is worth gambling on, considering he has taken Nate Robertson deep twice in 19 at-bats. Plus Glaus has put in his best work against southpaws this season, needing just 77 at-bats to smash five home runs and four doubles.

Pitchers' count

Carlos Guillen, 2B/OF, Tigers: Guillen might be batting .300 versus righties this season, but it's safe to bench him against Kevin Millwood. He's 2-for-24 (.083) lifetime off the right-hander, striking out eight times.

Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: Victorino can't seem to figure out Derek Lowe. He's 0-for-6 against him this season, which has lowered his career line to a woeful .100 AVG/.143 OBP/.100 SLG mark in 20 at-bats against Lowe.

B.J. Upton, OF, Rays: A career 1-for-13 mark versus Daisuke Matsuzaka doesn't offer much optimism, even if that one hit did leave the park. Upton has struck out four times to boot, and his batting line against right-handers this season (.203 AVG/.286 OBP/.319 SLG) means you likely won't miss much by benching him.

J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: Drew has been coming on these past few games -- he's 6-for-11 with two homers, a double and a triple his past four -- but Matt Garza has his number, limiting him to three hits in 21 career at-bats, including six strikeouts.

Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds: Stubbs has lost much of his power against right-handers this season, slugging a weak .331 in 181 at-bats, and he draws a poor matchup in Mike Pelfrey, who has eaten righties alive. Pelfrey has yet to allow a long ball to any right-handed hitter this year, and he has held righties to a .321 slugging percentage. Don't expect Stubbs to kick out of his slump Monday.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Brennan Boesch, LF, Tigers: Boesch just won't stop raking, finishing June with an absurd .337 average to go along with eight home runs and even one stolen base. Pray for Kevin Millwood, who has allowed lefties to tattoo him to the tune of a .338 AVG/.395 OBP/.525 SLG line.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Rick Ankiel, OF, Royals (15-day DL, quadriceps): Ankiel is set to begin a rehab assignment Sunday. He has some pop against right-handers, making him a potential stash in deeper leagues.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox (hamstring): Originally scheduled to start Monday, word is the team could instead place Buchholz on the disabled list. If that's the case, he would miss only one start. For now, his start has been pushed back to Tuesday.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians (15-day DL, thumb): Choo sprained his right thumb during an outfield dive Friday and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers (15-day DL, hamstring)
Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds (60-day DL, elbow): Volquez is on track to return soon; he could make his final rehab start Sunday. Grab him if he's still floating around on your waiver wire.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Alberto Callaspo, 3B/2B, Royals (wrist)
Troy Glaus, 1B/3B, Braves (knee): Glaus doesn't believe his knee is a major issue despite the cortisone injection he received Friday. He remains day-to-day.
Kelly Johnson, 2B, Diamondbacks (flu)
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (oblique): Reyes reported that his oblique hasn't been improving, and he was out of the lineup Sunday. With the All-Star break approaching, expect the Mets to be cautious with their shortstop.
Juan Rivera, OF, Angels (eyes)

Weather concerns

Monday has four weatherproof games on tap: Cubs-Diamondbacks, Giants-Brewers, Red Sox-Rays and Royals-Mariners.

Scattered storms are expected in Chicago all day and night, so the Reds and Cubs will have a slick field to contend with, at the very least.

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

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