Commentary

The Talented Mr. Roto: The improbable rise of Joey Votto

Updated: April 19, 2008, 11:48 AM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

It's not the most improbable of events.

Unlikely? Sure. Unexpected? Definitely. Somewhat of an upset? No question.

But Dusty Baker finally starting to give significant playing time to rookie first baseman Joey Votto is something that was bound to happen, even as fantasy owners were screaming for this way back in the offseason. Votto hit his second home run of the season Thursday night, giving him eight RBIs in 13 games to go along with his .351 average. By comparison, Scott Hatteberg is hitting .171. It's a decision so obvious, even Dusty can't get it wrong.

There seems to be something in the air.

Phil Anselmo (probably not the one you're thinking of): How improbable is it for EPSN to give so much radio/podcast/TB time to a mush-mouthed ginger doofus who sounds like he's got a mouthful of orange slices? More improbable than Joe Borowski getting 25-plus saves? David Ortiz and Prince Fielder fewer than 30 home runs? Pedro Martinez more than 10 wins?

TMR: Well, it's hard to answer because I'm not sure to whom you are referring. But I'll take the over on Borowski's saves (more on that below) and both Fielder's and Papi's home runs. But just barely on Papi. Gimme the under on Pedro and I understanding the use of the adjective "ginger."

Other improbable events currently happening?

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise splitting up. What!? I thought the whole point of Tom "interviewing" (allegedly, he said, so the Disney lawyers don't have a heart attack) potential wives was he found one who could be controlled. But according to "In Touch" magazine, they are splitsville. Here, I'm quoting from an article in a UK publication, which is about the article in "In Touch," because that's how big this is: the news articles have articles about them!

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise
Noel Vasquez/Getty ImagesOh, TomKat, if you couldn't make it work, what chance do we mere earthlings have?
"The showbiz couple have been married for three years but sources claim the actress is tired of dressing up as Mrs. Cruise and playing the perfect wife in public.

"The story also follows reports in the Daily Mail that Cruise wanted Holmes to stay away from one of her few friends in Hollywood - Victoria Beckham, because of the negative effect their friendship was having on his wife's attitude to her own body.

"An insider tells the magazine 'of course Katie still loves him (Tom), but she does often feel like the little wife that has to sit there quietly and smile serenely at everything he says.'"

Three quick reactions:

• That sounds like normal marriage. What's the problem?

• I don't know about you, but I'm relieved to find out that Katie is the only one who has to dress up as Mrs. Cruise.

• I guess it's not all that improbable, because I totally called it when David Beckham signed with the Galaxy. I was all, like, "this is going to be what breaks up TomKat." That Posh Spice is such a home wrecker.

Other recent improbable events include:

• My Lakers are the No. 1 seed for the Western Conference playoffs. At the start of the year, Kobe wanted out, L.A.'s starting center was a 20-year-old and Kwame Brown was getting significant minutes on this team. For Andrew Bynum to emerge, then for the team to survive his injury, then seamlessly work Pau Gasol into the lineup to wind up as the No. 1 seed in the toughest conference in the history of the NBA is simply amazing.

• Me dating a normal chick. This didn't actually happen, so we're still good there.

Anyway, in addition to Mr. Votto and the (allegedly!) soon-to-be-single Katie Holmes, let's dive into the rest of the people you should be looking to pick up this week.

Working the wire

Manny Acosta, P, Braves: Just like what inevitably happens at the draft, here starts the closer run, and I put them here in no particular order. When Peter Moylan went down (which was after Rafael Soriano went down), it left Manny Acosta as the guy next in line for saves. He was brutal in the first game of the year against the Pirates but since then has been fine.

Rafael Betancourt, P, Indians: No truth to the rumor that the Indians have solved their bullpen problems by just trotting C.C. Sabathia out there to insure they don't ever have to worry about a late lead. Instead, with Joe Borowski on the DL, Betancourt gets the first shot and I know, he's had this chance before and blown it. He also has terrible numbers this year. But his strikeouts per nine are right in line with last year, when he was lights-out, and I'll remind you that Borowski's numbers were terrible last year as well. Apparently, Eric Wedge likes closers with the potential for a double-digit ERA. Betancourt will be fine, but when Borowski comes back, I believe he gets the closer job back. They like him in that role. Hey, I can't explain it either, but they do. Nate and I discussed this very subject with Buster Olney on the Fantasy Focus podcast on Wednesday.

Doug Brocail, P, Astros: Got the save the other night. Has eight strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings with a 1.17 ERA. Valverde is both injury-prone and has been lit up in his last two appearances. Enough said.

Jon Rauch, P, Nationals: You remember me saying "don't pay for saves," right? Anyway, if you grabbed Rauch when Chad Cordero hit the DL and you're about to cut him … not so fast. Eric Karabell mentioned this in his "Relief Efforts" column, but it looks as if Rauch is going to be the guy until Cordero gets his arm strength back up, which hasn't happened yet.

Skip Schumacher, OF, Cardinals: He's hitting .429 with a home run and four RBIs in his past six games. Don't expect a lot of power, but he'll hit for a high average with some runs and a little bit of speed. Not only could you do worse, you probably have.

Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies: Thank you, Shane Victorino. With the Hawaiian no longer Flyin', Jayson Werth is getting a lot of playing time for Philadelphia and doing well with it. He has a home run, two steals and five RBIs in 11 games so far this season, with a .370 average.

John Bowker, 1B/OF, Giants: He hit 22 home runs in Double-A last year and the Giants are trying him out at first base to create more playing time for him. Both facts are good things. So are his two home runs, seven RBIs and .578 batting average in his first 13 at-bats.

Mark DeRosa
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesYou can't really put a price tag on "plucky."
Mark DeRosa, 2B, Cubs: Depending on your league, he may actually qualify everywhere. Anyway, he's a guy I've always liked. Very plucky, helps a little across the board. He already has three home runs on the year and 10 RBIs while hitting .306.

Gavin Floyd, P, White Sox: He used to be a very highly touted Phillies prospect. Then he was very inconsistent. Then he went to the American League. Now he's 2-0 with a 1.45 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 19 innings. He's also only 25, so it only seems as if he's been around forever.

Kyle Lohse, P, Cardinals: I'm not a fan. Never have been. But the Cardinals' pitching coaches have done miracles before and so far this year, it seems as if Lohse's name needs to be added to the list. He has a 1.48 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP through 24 innings pitched. Only 10 strikeouts, mind you, which is another reason I don't like him, but you gotta start paying attention to those kinds of numbers.

From the obvious name department

Here are some guys who may be available in shallower leagues or leagues where you play with idiots.

Ervin Santana (P, Angels) has been lights-out this year and, more importantly, two of his three quality starts have come on the road.

Edinson Volquez (P, Reds) seems to do everything right except spelling his name without the "n." He's 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in his first three starts this year.

• If you have room on your bench, you may want to stash Chris Carpenter (P, Cardinals), who threw 60 pitches on Tuesday.

• Very quietly, Mike Jacobs (1B, Marlins) not only has six home runs but is hitting .316.

Carlos Quentin (OF, White Sox) now has four home runs and 15 RBIs this season and is playing every day.

Ryan Church (OF, Mets) is now up to .321 with 10 RBIs and 13 runs scored.

Just below the Mendoza line

Here are some players whom you should keep an eye on, except in deeper leagues, where you might want to snatch them up while you still can.

Always looking for that extra piece of fantasy insight? We've got you covered. ESPN Fantasy experts Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz provide you with all the fantasy strategy you'll need:
Listen to the Fantasy Focus Podcast
With Mark DeRosa moving to the outfield, it means more playing time for Mike Fontenot (2B, Cubs) at second for the Cubs. A career .271 hitter, he won't hurt you and may help a little bit at middle infield for deep leagues.

• Speaking of middle infield, two guys playing very well there are Matt Tolbert (SS, Twins) and Brendan Harris (2B, Twins), who are both hitting for a high average (Tolbert .419, Harris .319).

Reed Johnson (OF, Cubs) is another Cubbie who is getting more playing time. He's hitting .361 in his first 12 games.

• If you are one of those people who play in leagues where middle relievers can help, it's worth noting that Brian Bruney (P, Yankees) has been lights-out this year, with a 1.80 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 10 innings.

• Seattle has recalled Brandon Morrow (P, Mariners), a guy who is absolutely lights-out as well, as long as he's not busy walking the bases loaded. He threw a scoreless inning on Thursday night. Love Brandon Morrow. He's a guy who could potentially be in the closer mix if J.J. Putz is out for a while longer (or gets reinjured).

• Finally, I have mentioned him before, but Eric Hinske (Rays) now has four home runs on the season while hitting .342.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He has been playing fantasy sports for more than 20 years, writing about it professionally for more than 10. He currently appears on or in ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile TV and, as soon as he learns to say "ground-ball/fly-ball ratio" in Spanish, ESPN Deportes.

Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"