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What is this, "so much for super-two status" week?
One day after the Blue Jays threw caution to the wind, promoting Travis Snider and risking the possibility he'll earn the service time necessary to be a "super-two" arbitration player in 2012, two more top prospects got the call and got their service-time clocks ticking Wednesday. Fantasy owners have been waiting a long time for one, as the Indians promoted Matt LaPorta, but we also welcomed another helpful rookie who was called up by the Reds, Drew Stubbs.
Not that either player is a serious threat to reach an early arbitration threshold by 2012, but teams tend to be so conservative these days with promoting prospects, making the news odd and coincidental. Of course, all that matters to us is that these kids are finally here and finally helping, so naturally, we're happy.
In LaPorta's case, he wasn't in the lineup in his first day on the active roster Wednesday, but don't take that as a sign manager Eric Wedge plans to use him similarly to during his May 2-26 stint with the team, when he appeared in only 13 of 24 games. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Wedge said LaPorta "will play regularly" between the outfield and first base, and his absence from the lineup Wednesday was a result of his having learned of his promotion at 3 p.m. and not arriving in Cleveland until the fifth inning of the contest.
LaPorta was batting .289 (76-for-263) with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs in 72 games between his stints with the Indians, including a .309 batting average and .996 OPS in 16 games in August. He remains one of the better offensive prospects in the game, and if you're skeptical at his chances at outperforming his miserable 8-for-42 (.190 BA) performance in his previous stint, it could be argued that his inconsistent amount of playing time might have contributed to his struggles. He's a must-add in AL-only and keeper leagues, and even warrants a look in deeper mixed leagues.
As for Stubbs, NL-only owners seeking cheap steals should take a look at the newest Reds outfielder. He batted leadoff in his big league debut and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts versus lefty Barry Zito, and while he should get fairly regular playing time for as long as he hits, manager Dusty Baker was a little cryptic on how he plans to use the rookie with the team "in the heart of the pennant race," reported the team's official Web site. It's for that reason owners in shallow mixed leagues might want to take a wait-and-see approach, though Stubbs' 46 stolen bases and .353 on-base percentage in 107 games for Triple-A Louisville, albeit behind a .268 batting average, do hint at his appeal in the stolen-base category.
• The Cardinals signed John Smoltz on Wednesday, and according to the team's official Web site, not only will he be used initially as a starter instead of a reliever, he'll actually make his first start for the team Sunday at San Diego. NL-only owners will need to make a quick decision on him as a result, because he has a soft matchup for his Cardinals debut, at least on paper. To help you decide, here's the bad with Smoltz: He had an 8.32 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in eight starts for the Red Sox, he's 42 and coming off a major shoulder reconstruction, meaning Boston might have been wise to set him free. And the good: He had 33 strikeouts compared to nine walks in his 40 innings of work, so his command was fine, and back in the National League in a pitcher-friendly environment, his chances for success are greater. It's probably risky to activate him Sunday, but keep an eye on him.
• Speaking of veteran players with new teams, Ivan Rodriguez got the start in his first game back with the Rangers, and went 3-for-4 with one double and one RBI serving as Kevin Millwood's catcher. It's unclear whether Texas envisions this as a "personal catcher" arrangement or if it's a hint that he might get more starts than initially expected, but consider it a good first start.
• Jason Marquis moved into a four-man tie for the major league lead in wins with 14, joining Josh Beckett, CC Sabathia and Adam Wainwright, tossing six innings of three-run, nine-hit baseball to defeat the Nationals. Marquis has been a perfectly serviceable fantasy pitcher all season, one you should only bench on the rare occasion he faces a loaded lineup at home or at a hitter-friendly park (think: at Philadelphia), but it's understandable people still aren't fully buying in based upon his seven wins, 3.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings in 14 starts since June 1. Not one of those is a top-10 number in baseball during that time.
• Clay Buchholz is beginning to show some progress at the big league level, tossing six innings of one-run, six-hit baseball, giving him a third consecutive quality start, those three coming against the Yankees, Tigers and Blue Jays. He really has only one bad outing out of seven so far, and if you remove it, his other six starts have resulted in a 2.62 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. There's work to be done, but Buchholz has offered enough hints of sleeper potential to be at least worthy in AL-only leagues.
• The classic Dan Haren second-half decline continued Wednesday, as the righty ace was pounded for six runs on nine hits, three of them home runs, in five innings at Philadelphia. Now his second-half ERA is 4.91, tied for the second-highest in his career behind his rookie year of 2003 (5.03). That suggests Haren probably isn't as bad as his recent numbers hint at, but talk that he's a pitcher who's generally not quite as sharp down the stretch absolutely has merit.
• We have an official number of starts left in Joba Chamberlain's season: six, or so he told the New York Daily News. There will be "a little wiggle room" at the end of the regular season if there's an opportunity to shuffle the rotation for the postseason, and come October, the "Joba Rules" are off so he can be a regular starter during the playoffs. Chamberlain himself longs for the days the "Joba Rules" are gone, and Joba, we can't say we disagree with you.
• Consider the "true" Rich Harden back in full force. Granted, Wednesday's was a soft matchup at San Diego, but he dominated there as an elite starter should, tossing seven shutout innings of one-hit baseball including eight strikeouts. Since the All-Star break he's 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 55 K's in 44 innings and has held opposing hitters to a .136 batting average in seven starts.
• Speaking of "Joba Rules" -- though in this case are they "Latos Rules"? -- the Padres might soon decide to shut down Mat Latos. He was shelled for five runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings, marking his second straight poor outing, and he's now up to 109 2/3 innings for the season between the majors and minors, after throwing only 56 total in 2008. The Padres had previously said they'd shut Latos down in early September, and his recent performance might move that timetable up.
Jayson Werth, Phillies
For the second consecutive night, Werth went deep, this time hitting two home runs and going 3-for-4 versus the Diamondbacks. Though he had been in a mini-funk since the All-Star break, batting .262 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in his previous 30 games, he's now back at full-year paces of 38 homers, 103 RBIs and 107 runs scored, not to mention 18 stolen bases.
Cliff Lee, Phillies
That's four starts, four runs allowed, four quality starts and four wins to begin his Phillies career, as Lee manhandled yet another offense, going the distance and limiting the Diamondbacks to an unearned run and two hits while striking out 11. Lee now has an 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 9.3 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio and .161 batting average allowed in his four starts for the Phillies.
Carlos Gonzalez homered in his fourth consecutive road game for the Rockies, and has six home runs and a .362 batting average in his past 12 games overall. According to ESPN Stats & Information, in the past 30 years only Ken Griffey Jr. (7 in 1993) and Brian McCann (5 in 2006) had longer road homer streaks among left-handed hitters aged 23 or younger.
• In a move that most everyone expected, the Dodgers placed Hiroki Kuroda on the 15-day disabled list with a concussion. Concussions can be tricky to gauge a timetable for a player's recovery, so while Kuroda will be eligible to be activated around the time that rosters expand to 40 payers, it's unclear whether he'll be ready on the first day he's eligible. Jeff Weaver will stand in for him in the rotation for now.
• The Dodgers, in an attempt to add much-needed starting-pitching depth, signed Vicente Padilla to a minor league contract. He was 8-6 with a 4.92 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 18 starts for the Rangers, who released him a couple of weeks ago. However, his 4-2 record, 3.88 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in eight road starts, coupled with his shift to the National League, might make him an NL-only matchups consideration once he's added to the rotation. According to the Dodgers' official Web site, Padilla will make a minor league tune-up start for Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday, then slide into the injured Kuroda's spot next Thursday.
• In order to clear roster room for Drew Stubbs, the Reds placed Willy Taveras on the 15-day DL with a strained left quadriceps, suffered on a bunt attempt in the seventh inning Tuesday. Taveras had a miserable .273 on-base percentage that had limited him to 25 steals in 98 games, so fantasy owners without the luxury of an extra DL spot can feel free to drop him.
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Tristan H. Cockcroft: I think he's a little closer to his true self in the past month than the three preceding it, but I also will tell you I think he's on the low end of a cold spell right now. He's a .260 hitter with a .733 OPS since the All-Star break and I'd expect more like .280/.820 numbers from this date forward. Very good player, but not top-50 overall.
-- Full chat transcript
Eric Karabell: Definitely droppable. He's been hurt for months, and should have been DLed already. Nobody can be so good for two months and then so bad without something hurting them.
-- Full chat transcript
Thursday's fantasy chat schedule:
Jason Grey, 3 p.m. ET
• Zach McAllister, ranked the Yankees' third-best pitching prospect by Baseball America entering the season, ahead of current Yankee relievers Alfredo Aceves (No. 4) and Phil Coke (No. 5), struck out a season-high 11 hitters for Double-A Trenton. He's not being stretched out much since his return from a DL stint on Aug. 8, going 4, 5 and 4 2/3 innings in his past three starts, but has allowed two earned runs on 10 hits during that time. For the season, he has a 2.13 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and .223 batting average allowed in 19 starts at Trenton. At this rate, McAllister might fit into the Yankees' 2010 plans, even if it's as a trade chip.
• Speaking of pitching prospects edging closer to the majors, Daniel Hudson won his second straight start for Triple-A Charlotte, going five innings and allowing one run on six hits. He has a 2.81 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in his three starts since being promoted, and is 14-5 with a 2.26 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in his 24 starts combined for four minor league teams this season. Hudson's extensive minor league use might make him less likely to see considerable time for the White Sox in September, but it might get him a look for a rotation spot in the spring, and the fact that he has pitched 139 1/3 innings already this year might mean the team won't rein in his innings next summer.
• Derek Holland goes for his third consecutive quality start, and keep in mind the previous two came against loaded offenses (Angels, Red Sox). His 6.14 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 11 games (seven starts) at Rangers Ballpark do make him a little riskier play than in a road start, but his 3.13 ERA, .204 BAA and 33 K's in 37 1/3 innings in his past five starts make it a chance worth taking.
• Though he was pounded for 10 runs on 10 hits, three of them home runs, in four innings in his most recent start, Wandy Rodriguez matches up better in a home start versus the Marlins. He's 6-2 with a 1.92 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 11 starts at Minute Maid Park this season, and will be facing a Florida offense that has more strikeouts versus left-handed pitchers than any team in the majors (299).
• For more on Thursday's games, check Daily Notes.