AP Photo/Tony Dejak
But other than the stolen-base potential, was there a real difference between Braun and Fielder heading into 2009? Fielder's numbers were similar to Braun's in 2008; Prince is actually younger; and one would think his future looked just as bright. So why was Braun a consensus first-rounder while Fielder slipped to the third round in many leagues?
On Monday, the Brewers' wrecking crew combined for a pair of home runs and 11 RBIs in a fun but rather ugly 14-12 win in Cleveland. Oh, if only Brian Sipe could lead the Browns back against the Raiders (the famous January 1981 playoff game ended with the same score). OK, so it wasn't a football game, but the way everyone was hitting, there were similarities.
While Braun's stock continues to rise as one of the top young hitters in the game, Fielder seems to be a bit overlooked. It doesn't seem possible, especially since the first baseman's six RBIs pushed his season total to 62, passing Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay and moving to the top in all of major league baseball. Fielder also has 16 home runs, the last one when he teed off on the first pitch beleaguered Tribe reliever Rafael Perez threw in the eighth inning and blasted a long grand slam to give the Brewers the lead. Fielder is on pace for 157 RBIs. If you were redrafting now, it's likely Fielder is back to that level of first-round value, in the same area as Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard when it comes to top first basemen.
The Brewers own one of the top offenses in baseball, but other than Braun and Fielder, the production has been a bit sketchy. Corey Hart is hitting .258 and isn't stealing many bases. Mike Cameron and J.J. Hardy have really struggled in June; Hardy finally broke a 0-for-30 string Monday. Rookie Mat Gamel hasn't really established himself at the plate, and could be headed back to Triple-A when interleague play ends. But as long as you've got Braun and Fielder, who became the fifth pair of Brewers teammates in franchise history to knock in five runs in the same game, maybe you don't need much else.
• Then there's Milwaukee starter Dave Bush. He clearly didn't have his best stuff Monday, allowing eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. What's amazing about Bush is that despite this pounding, his worst of the year, his season WHIP remains a palatable 1.31. That's Dave Bush in a nutshell. He lures you in with a decent WHIP, but he offers little else. Still, at this point and pretty much every other point, I'd take him over Pavano.
• There was one other game Monday night: Angels starter John Lackey continued to pitch well in interleague play, raising his record to 12-3 with seven strong innings in San Francisco. Lackey struck out 10 and has the second-lowest ERA in interleague play -- among those with a minimum of 100 innings -- next to Freddy Garcia. Fantasy owners would like to see Lackey, who has had a few bumps in the road this season, also pitch well in league play. On a night when 42 runs were scored -- in two games! -- and 24 of those runs were allowed by the four starters in 19 innings, Lackey kind of stood out.
• Meanwhile, in other Angels rotation news, Ervin Santana has been lit up pretty good in three of his past four starts, and now we might have found out why: The right-hander has been scratched from Tuesday's start with forearm tightness. Santana is owned in 87.7 percent of ESPN standard leagues, so maybe missing the start is doing a whole lot of people who weren't aware of Santana's struggles a favor. Sean O'Sullivan was summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake, where he was a cool 5-2 in 10 starts but with a 6.02 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. He'll fit right in.
• Fantasy owners weren't getting too excited about Maicer Izturis at second base, especially when he was getting the playing time for demoted Howie Kendrick. Middle-infield prospect Sean Rodriguez hit 21 home runs for Triple-A Salt Lake, but Mike Scioscia isn't always so kind to young hitters (see Wood, Brandon). Rodriguez started Monday and swatted an eighth-inning home run, so keep an eye on his playing time.
• It might end up being no reason for concern, but Angels center fielder Torii Hunter left the game with bruised ribs after running into the outfield wall, and will be re-evaluated Tuesday. Hunter is having a terrific season, one of five players with double digits in home runs and stolen bases, and he's the No. 3 outfielder on the Player Rater. His loss would be a tough one. Gary Matthews Jr. stands to gain more playing time.
• Speaking of a player who probably deserves to play, the Giants didn't start Andres Torres on Monday, but he cracked a pinch-hit home run off Lackey and stayed in the game to play center field. Torres singled, doubled and tripled in Sunday's game as well. He's not going to replace Aaron Rowand, but certainly the unproductive Fred Lewis has reason to worry. Torres is 31 now, and the former Tiger and Ranger is known more for his speed than power. Lewis isn't making a strong case for playing time.
• The Indians can certainly use more pitching, and the return of Jake Westbrook is anxiously awaited. Westbrook is an extreme ground-baller who won 44 games from 2004 to '06, then succumbed to Tommy John surgery. He's recovering, but was scratched from his next rehab start Wednesday with general soreness. The Indians say Westbrook could still return later this month.
Pablo Sandoval, Giants
Sandoval waited a while to get his numbers Monday, but he smacked home runs in the eighth and ninth innings, finishing with three hits and four RBIs, his best game of the season. Sandoval is sixth in the NL in batting at .332, and his power production is coming around as well.
Trevor Hoffman, Brewers
Hoffman picked up his 16th save with a scoreless ninth inning, bouncing back from Sunday when he allowed his first run of the season. Also pretty impressive was seeing the 41-year-old pitch on three consecutive days. Despite missing most of April, Hoffman is the No. 5 relief pitcher on our Player Rater.
Ryan Braun's line of a homer, triple, five RBIs, four runs and a stolen base is rarer than you think. He's the fourth player in the divisional era to put up these numbers, and the first since 2001, when legendary Roger Cedeno did it for the Tigers. The others are more well-known: Paul Molitor and Darryl Strawberry.
• The Jason Isringhausen era in Tampa Bay is likely over. The longtime closer with 293 career saves left Saturday's game with elbow pain, and has been placed on the 60-day DL with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Folks, that means Tommy John surgery is pending. It's not clear whether Isringhausen, who threw eight innings with the Rays, will try to continue his career after the surgery. The Rays called up Triple-A closer Winston Abreu from Durham, where he was 3-0 with 10 saves and a 1.41 ERA, with 49 strikeouts in 32 innings. Don't look for Abreu, 32, to get save chances, though. He has 33 games at the major league level with the Orioles and Nationals, and a 6.81 ERA.
• The worst team in baseball picked up some relief pitching depth Monday, but I can't say this is good news for any Nationals starting pitchers. Welcome Horacio Ramirez! He gets a minor league contract and heads to Triple-A Syracuse. You'd think the Nationals would see what their young pitchers could do, but at this point, does it matter?
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Christopher Harris: In AL-only leagues, sure -- he's been stellar in his first two starts back in the majors, and in deep leagues you're always looking to catch lightning in a bottle. But in mixed leagues -- man, I think I'd have to pass. This is a guy with a history of looking lights-out for short periods, and then giving up nine runs in 1 1/3 innings, you know? I'm probably pretty conservative when it comes to flash-in-the-pan men like Contreras, so I'm staying away. Hey, but if you really, really need help, and don't mind taking a chance, you might as well go with a smoking-hot pitcher like this, right?
-- Full chat transcript
Matthew Berry: More than anyone else. Though it's worth noting the Rays called up Winston Abreu, who was closing in AAA: 10 saves, 3 wins, 1.41 ERA and 0.750 WHIP.
-- Full chat transcript
Tuesday's fantasy chat schedule:
AJ Mass, 11 a.m. ET
Brendan Roberts, 3 p.m. ET
• While Josh Outman shines in the Oakland rotation, the key to the Joe Blanton-to-Philly trade was probably middle-infield prospect Adrian Cardenas, who had four hits Monday, raising his batting average in Double-A Midland to .382. Cardenas doesn't project much power or speed, but his game is mature and the Athletics could give him some playing time this season.
• The Rangers' leadoff hitter of the future is probably not Josh Hamilton; he's ticketed for a corner outfield spot, so it's nice to see center-field prospect Julio Borbon playing well. Borbon singled, doubled, scored a run, knocked in a run and stole his 17th base Monday for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He's 23 and has no power, but rarely strikes out and can be a big base stealer and defender at the major league level.
• Unstoppable Justin Verlander leads the majors in strikeouts, and hasn't lost in 11 starts. Right-handers are hitting .181 with a .485 OPS off him. Adam Wainwright is going to need to be pretty good, but he's allowed double-digit hits in two of his past three outings.
• Wandy Rodriguez seemed to get on track in his last start, allowing one run to the Cubs in seven innings. Rodriguez has always been a better pitcher at home than on the road, but this season his road ERA is a respectable 3.74. Opponent Kevin Millwood has a 2.72 ERA, and at home it's an inexplicable 2.19.
• For more on Tuesday's games, check out the Daily Notes.