Denny Medley/US Presswire
The Royals placed their closer, Joakim Soria, on the 15-day disabled list with persistent shoulder soreness, an injury that had limited him to one appearance in the past week. It's a significant loss to both the Royals and Soria's fantasy owners. Though only in his third major league season, Soria had quickly emerged as a top-five closer.
Check out Soria's categorical rankings since the beginning of the 2008 season:
The Royals' official Web site reported Sunday that it's unclear how much time Soria will miss, though the fact that he has been dealing with the problem off and on since April 18 doesn't bode well. He had no problems during his most recent outing this past Thursday, but felt soreness the next day. "I think I can be back in the 15 days," Soria said. "It just needs rest. We'll take care of that and see what happens."
In the meantime, fantasy owners should grab Juan Cruz, the most attractive choice from manager Trey Hillman's proposed committee of replacements. He's the standout from a group that might also include Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Mahay and perhaps even Jamey Wright, mainly due to his strikeout ability (169 in 127 innings since 2007).
Farnsworth is obviously the most experienced closer of that group, though hardly a trustworthy one for fantasy. Though he managed 16 saves and a 2.19 ERA in his best season in 2005, the right-hander has turned in an ERA of 4.00 or higher in every year since, and he has served up 34 home runs in 196 2/3 innings, one per 5.8 frames!
• In four games since taking over as the Dodgers' left fielder, Juan Pierre is 9-for-16 with three doubles, four RBIs and two walks, though he's just 3-for-5 on his stolen-base chances during that time. He was slotted ninth in the lineup in the first two games but batted leadoff in each of the past two, the latter far more conducive to making him a standout fantasy pickup for steals and runs scored. Amazingly, Pierre remains available in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues what are you waiting for?
• Matchup-seekers take note: Nick Blackburn continued his productive ways at the Metrodome, going seven shutout innings but failing to earn the win after Jose Mijares blew his lead in the eighth. Regardless, Blackburn is 9-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 18 home starts since the beginning of last season. During that same time, though, he's 4-10 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 22 road starts.
• Brandon Morrow's first appearance fresh off the DL was a rocky one. While he notched his sixth save of the season in Seattle's 5-3 victory, he needed 35 pitches to do it, throwing only 19 of them for strikes and allowing one run, two hits and two walks. He'll continue to get save chances for as long as he can remain healthy, but at that level of inefficiency, he's probably going to need more nights off than your typical closer, meaning David Aardsma owners might yet squeeze some more value out of him.
• Mariano Rivera recorded his sixth save of the season Sunday, and needed a somewhat inefficient 23 pitches to do it. Still, he completed one shutout frame, struck out one batter and walked one, which helps alleviate some of the worries from his previous outing, in which he served up back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career. Rivera might be dealing with some lingering shoulder soreness coming off offseason surgery, but so far the risk presented with that has reared its ugly head more in the form of the occasionally messy blown save than any threat of a disabled-list stint.
• For the second consecutive start, Vicente Padilla went at least seven innings and allowed only one hit and one run, though unlike his May 5 outing in Seattle, he actually earned the win this time. Still, he has a so-so 24 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings and has faced a somewhat light schedule to date; don't expect this streak to last much longer.
• No, it wasn't the signal of a changing of the guard at closer in Atlanta; Rafael Soriano's third save of the season Sunday was more an instance of good old-fashioned baseball smarts. With Phillies 4-5-6 hitters Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Matt Stairs -- all left-handers -- due up in the eighth, manager Bobby Cox decided to play the matchups and called left-handed closer Mike Gonzalez to pitch that frame instead of his traditional ninth. The gig is still Gonzalez's, but such a strategy might hint at future plans by Cox; Soriano might yet sneak in a handful more saves in future situations.
• No worries about the popped blood vessel in Joba Chamberlain's thumb, but there should be concerns about his first-inning issues. With the three runs he allowed in the first inning Sunday, Chamberlain has allowed a .481 batting average and 1.332 OPS, compared to .235 and .693 the rest of the time. Not that it's something he can't fix, but it's odd that a pitcher with his relief background would suddenly need so much time to get up to peak performance in his starting outings. It might merely be a product of him having not entirely adjusted to pacing himself properly.
Adam Dunn, Nationals
With his 3-for-5, two-homer performance, Dunn's batting average for the season is now .311, the highest it has been this deep into any full major league season since 2002, when he was actually batting .321 as late as June 18. He'd hit .199 with a .722 OPS the rest of that year, though, and this season finds himself on pace for 60 home runs and 152 RBIs. Can't think of a more obvious sell-high candidate than that!
Brett Cecil, Blue Jays
After losing each of his most recent three starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, Cecil has registered back-to-back stellar outings to begin his Blue Jays career, with eight shutout innings of five-hit, six-strikeout baseball in his second turn Sunday. Beating up on the light-hitting Athletics, though, shouldn't immediately make the rookie a fantasy staple. After all, he'll draw the White Sox, Red Sox and Orioles (in Baltimore) in his next three turns.
Yes, that's right, Chris Davis is actually on pace to strike out 263 times, which would obliterate the major league record of 204, set by Mark Reynolds last season. Though Davis, who homered Sunday, is on pace for 43 home runs, he might commit another infamous first: He might be the first player whose strikeout total exceeds his batting average (times 1,000, of course). The closest any hitter ever came to pulling off the "feat" was in 1991, when Rob Deer struck out 175 times en route to a .179 season batting average.
• The Red Sox promoted hard-throwing Daniel Bard from Triple-A Pawtucket, and designated the ineffective Javier Lopez for assignment. This might put the team in the market for another left-hander to ease the burden on Hideki Okajima, but for now, those owners in AL-only leagues should take a look at Bard for some ERA/WHIP/K's help in his new middle-relief role. Statistics to think about: In 57 appearances since being converted to relief work at the beginning of last season, Bard has a 1.44 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, .151 batting average allowed and 13.1 K/9 ratio. Now that's dominance.
• To fill Soria's roster spot, the Royals promoted Luke Hochevar from Triple-A Omaha, then announced he would move into the rotation in place of Sidney Ponson effective Tuesday, according to The Kansas City Star. After managing a 3.86 ERA in the spring, Hochevar, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, went 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in six starts for Omaha, effectively owning the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He's well worth an AL-only addition, and might even warrant some mixed-league attention.
Click here for all the latest MLB transactions.
Keith Law: Good one. Greinke. We know what he is. We don't know how long till Strasburg becomes what we think he'll be in the majors; he hasn't exactly had to work on his command while pumping 98 mph aspirin tablets past mid-major-conference hitters.
-- Full chat transcript
Jayson Stark: It's impossible to forecast. I've heard that physically, he's looked great. But he's walking into a situation with a lot of pressure, and with the eyes of the whole planet on him. It's no secret that having the eyes of the planet on him hasn't been his favorite thing about being a baseball player. So I'd ratchet expectations down if I were the Yankees, no matter how much they need him.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m. ET
AJ Mass, 3 p.m. ET
• Mike Carp homered for the second consecutive game and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs to raise his batting average to .312 in 29 games for Triple-A Tacoma. He has eight homers and 22 RBIs to keep himself in consideration for a promotion if the Mariners feel they need either first base or DH help. Of course, that the Mariners have gotten a .280 batting average and .908 OPS out of their first basemen thus far -- and have Ken Griffey Jr., who has too much ticket-selling potential, at DH -- means that call isn't imminent.
• In his only career game in which he faced Gavin Floyd, Shin-Soo Choo went 1-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base against the right-hander. Floyd has allowed more stolen bases than any other pitcher in baseball since the beginning of last season (43), and an .833 OPS to left-handed hitters during that span. Quite the matchup for Choo.
• Jhonny Peralta has four hits, all for extra bases (two doubles and two home runs) in nine career at-bats versus Floyd.
• For more on Monday's games, check out Daily Notes.