William Perlman/Star-Ledger/US Presswire
One is 20 years old, made his major league debut on Tuesday and will surely be surrounded by fantasy buzz for the next several days. His name: Fernando Martinez.
The other is twice Martinez's age, made his major league debut exactly one month and seven days before Martinez was even born, and in the fantasy community the past year has generated such pithy, dismissive evaluations as "he's done." (And I should know, as I'm one of the many who has made them.)
So which one is the one you should be adding to your fantasy rosters today? Sorry, folks, but it's not Martinez; it's the latter player you want, "old man" Gary Sheffield. He homered for a second consecutive game on Tuesday, and has now hit safely in 10 of 12 games since taking over as the Mets' starting left fielder and cleanup hitter on May 13.
I know what you must be thinking: How can a guy like Sheffield, who was all but declared done at the time of his signing with the Mets at the end of spring training, suddenly be fantasy relevant at this late stage of his career? It's hard to believe that a 40-year-old who saw his OPS dip to .725 in 2008, his worst number in 17 seasons, and was relegated to designated-hitter duties in 2007-08, could still have something left in the tank, but amazingly Sheffield keeps plodding along despite being forced to handle the defensive chores of CitiField's spacious left field, having shifted back to the National League.
Not that Sheffield can be considered "safe," for some of the same reasons Milton Bradley is the epitome of "high-risk player" having to man the outfield in Chicago. Sheffield is at greater risk of injury than he might have been in the American League, but he's also in a situation where his prospects for success are greater than they might have been on many AL teams. He's batting fourth, between Carlos Beltran (when Beltran is healthy) and David Wright, and drawing walks at a rate similar to those during the glory days of his career (20 in 107 plate appearances). Sheffield's combination of on-base ability, offensive potential and lineup spot keeps him productive in both runs scored and RBIs, and if the Mets' spacious ballpark concerns you with his offense, well, the veteran slugger is one of the few hitters on the team with the wrist strength to clear the fence. Evidence: Four of his five home runs have been hit at CitiField, and that leads the team.
Sure, the young, exciting Martinez warrants a pickup in NL-only and keeper formats. You can read my full take on his prospects here; he'll play regularly in right field for the next couple weeks. But it's Sheffield, almost as assured everyday at-bats, who warrants a look in mixed leagues based upon his recent performance.
"Done"? He scoffs at the suggestion.
• Now where did that come from? In tossing seven shutout innings of five-hit baseball against the Marlins, Joe Blanton set a new personal best with 11 strikeouts. Not that this should be considered a total shock; his third-best single-start strikeout performance (9) came against these very same Marlins, on Sept. 20, 2008. Seems this Florida team is extremely whiff-happy, with the majors' most strikeouts (402) and worst contact rate (75.4). Keep that in mind, you matchups-seekers hunting for sneaky K choices.
• In that same game, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel apparently stayed true to his word, calling upon his closer, Brad Lidge, ahead by three runs and with runners on the corners with one out. Lidge walked light-hitting Emilio Bonifacio but then induced a groundout and a strikeout to notch his ninth save of the season. One promising outing doesn't get Lidge off the hook for his atrocious performance to date, but it's a start. It's also nice to see that Manuel has enough faith in him to keep trotting him out there.
• Even a lineup change apparently can't cure what ails David Ortiz. In his first game as Boston's No. 6 hitter on Tuesday, marking the first time since May 13, 2005, that he has started a game in any spot in the lineup other than third, "Big Papi" went 1-for-3 with one double, one walk and one strikeout. The best I can say in his defense: It's the eighth time in his 41 games this season he has registered a single-game OPS of 1.000 or greater. Of course, he did that in 41 of his 110 games in 2008, and at the time that was considered a down year by his standards. Ortiz has a lot more work to do.
• Carlos Quentin's week is apparently over, as the Chicago Tribune reports that the slugging outfielder will return to Chicago on Wednesday to have his left foot examined by team doctors. He has been dealing with plantar fasciitis and left Monday's game after hearing a pop in his foot while legging out a double. Quentin won't rejoin the team until it returns home following Sunday's game, and he might be disabled-list bound. A DL trip to heal up might not be a bad thing; he was batting .196 with no home runs and a .536 OPS in the 17 games that he was healthy enough to play in May.
• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Pablo Sandoval, currently battling a strained muscle in his right elbow, won't return to the Giants' lineup until the weekend, and once he does, it might very well be as a first baseman. Perhaps that'd explain the team's decision Tuesday to demote Jesus Guzman, talked about as a possible starter at the position ahead of Travis Ishikawa, to Triple-A Fresno. Sandoval appeared in enough games to retain third-base eligibility into 2010 in most leagues, but the move greatly diminishes the chances he'll play the requisite 10 games behind the plate for catcher eligibility in ESPN formats. In addition, if this is a long-term thing, it'd prevent Guzman from having any chance at breaking in with significant at-bats at the big league level this season.
Shane Victorino, Phillies
About time he started hitting. Since seeing his batting average drop to .252 on May 14, Victorino has rattled off five multihit efforts in his past 12 games, including a 4-for-5 performance on Tuesday. With that his average is now up to .284, and even more encouraging is that he has three stolen bases in his past six contests.
Carl Pavano, Indians
A bust during his days in New York, Pavano has since become a "dragon slayer" of sorts, posting solid effort after solid effort against some of the more competitive teams in the American League. He tossed seven innings of one-run, four-hit baseball to defeat the Rays for his fifth win, and he's now 5-1 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in six starts in May, defeating the Tigers, Red Sox and Rays during that hot streak.
With his complete-game, one-run, six-hit, eight-strikeout effort on Tuesday, Zack Greinke now has a string of 10 consecutive starts allowing two or fewer runs to begin the season. That ties him for the longest such streak to begin any season since 1954; Juan Marichal (1966), Jake Peavy (2004) and Edinson Volquez (2008) are the other three to share the mark. Greinke's season ERA rose to 0.84, incredibly. .
• The Orioles purchased Jason Berken's contract from Triple-A Norfolk in order to grant him the start on Tuesday, replacing the released Adam Eaton in the rotation. Berken enjoyed a serviceable big league debut, going six innings and limiting the Blue Jays to two runs on seven hits. He's more of a finesse type than a top prospect, and had only so-so minor league numbers (3.74 career ERA), but with another couple outings like this, he might be a matchups consideration. Deep AL-only owners should keep tabs on his next start, slated for Sunday. Lou Montanez, who had surgery Tuesday to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb, was placed on the 15-day disabled list to clear a roster spot for Berken.
• The bad luck just seems to keep coming for the Rays. Two days after they lost starting second baseman Akinori Iwamura to a season-ending knee injury, and four days after placing Scott Kazmir and Troy Percival on the DL, the Rays on Tuesday placed shortstop Jason Bartlett on the 15-day DL with a sprained ankle. Joe Dillon, acquired from the Athletics in the trade for Adam Kennedy (a player whom the team might actually have been able to use now), was promoted from Triple-A Durham to replace Bartlett. Dillon's minor league numbers might scream "instant fantasy pickup," but he has shaped up very much as a Quadruple-A type, so says his .709 career big league OPS. The big winners here are Willy Aybar, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist, the same ones who benefited from Iwamura's injury. The difference: Now they have two positions in which to sneak in at-bats.
• Brian Bruney's season might be done after the Yankees placed him on the 15-day DL with right elbow discomfort. He's scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. David Robertson was promoted from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Bruney in the bullpen, but expect the primary result of Bruney's injury to be the New York media increasing its pressure on the team to shift Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen.
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AJ Mass: He probably is worth starting, but keep in mind that as of now, he is not second-base eligible under a 10-game system ... nor is Reid Brignac or Willy Aybar. He'll have to play a full week at second in order for him to be a second-base replacement.
-- Full chat transcript
Brendan Roberts: I think it's Wheeler. He had 13 saves last year, and he's the one most equipped for the job. So why did Joe Nelson get the save chances before? Because when it comes to spot saves, managers like to shake up one guy rather than the whole bullpen. Now a bullpen shakeup is necessary, and Nelson, with all his walks, doesn't deserve it over Wheeler. Neither did Izzy, in my mind, who yes, does have closing experience, but was awful last year with the Cards. I think Wheeler is definitely the lead dog, and I think he'll get a good 70 percent of the chances (not much less than the typical closer, who sometimes needs days off too).
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
• It was a night of rehabilitation starts, as the Mets' Oliver Perez made his first for Triple-A Buffalo, going 4 1/3 innings and allowing one run on three hits. Sounds like a fine outing, right? Wrong. Perez walked five batters and threw but 48 of his 88 pitches for strikes (54.5 percent). He still has work to do improving his command.
• John Smoltz was also on the comeback trail, making his second minor league rehab start, this time for Double-A Portland, as he works his way back from shoulder surgery. He pitched 3 1/3 innings and allowed one run on three hits, struck out two and didn't walk a batter, and threw 36 of his 60 pitches for strikes. Smoltz will make at least one more rehab start, presumably for Portland this coming weekend, and can be kept on his current rehab stint until June 19. But he might be activated sooner than that at this rate.
• Alfonso Soriano, who has an absurd career stat line against the Pirates, gets another meaty matchup in the finale of the Cubs' three-game series at Pittsburgh, this time facing familiar foe Zach Duke. Soriano is a lifetime .560 hitter (14-for-25) versus the left-hander, with three doubles, two home runs and two walks.
• Andy Sonnanstine has to be sick of facing the Indians' Ben Francisco, who positively has owned the right-hander throughout their brief careers. Francisco homered in both of his at-bats against Sonnanstine on May 17, he has taken Sonnanstine deep in each of three career games in which they have faced each other and in his career is 6-for-7 with one double, four homers and one walk versus the Rays right-hander.