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Tommy Hanson continued to prove he belongs on most any fantasy roster with yet another strong outing on Saturday, allowing seven base runners and three runs in seven innings, striking out seven and collecting his fourth straight win. There's nothing not to like about Hanson's numbers since he made his debut earlier this season. In 14 starts, he has nine wins, a 3.12 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings.
What has separated Hanson from other rookie hurlers, such as David Price, has been his command. He's been able to spot his mid-90s fastball all over the strike zone, and his curveball (a 70 on the 20 to 80 scouting scale) has been a true out pitch, as he's shown the feel to not only bury it in the lower half of the strike zone, but also make it a chase pitch out of the zone if he wants, depending on the situation. Coupled with an above-average slider and solid changeup, Hanson has a four-pitch mix that's been tough for big league batters to handle, especially right-handers, who are hitting just .200 off of him. The stuff backs up the numbers.
A telling stat from Saturday was the fact he threw first-pitch strikes 73 percent of the time, attesting to his confidence and command beyond his 22 years. He faced the minimum through four innings, had a shaky fifth, but again showed his ability to rebound from a tough inning to finish strong.
Hanson is still a free agent in 30 percent of ESPN leagues, and the only thing I have to say to that is: Why?
• After admitting on Friday that he was a little "worn down" lately, Jonathan Broxton worked the eighth inning on Saturday, with George Sherrill working the ninth and getting the save. However, Broxton owners may not have to push the panic button yet, as one of the main reasons was the fact the Cubs had the heart of the order due up in the eighth. As manager Joe Torre told the team Web site, "We had an opportunity to save the game in the eighth inning and I just couldn't resist it. Broxton struck out two last night and I basically decided to flip-flop them because of where [the Cubs] were in the lineup. It's a nice situation to have. We're not as concerned about who gets the stat as much as the only stat that's important, the 'W' in the left-hand side. The game dictates what you do, especially when you have options. If we don't have Sherrill, we don't do that." So while there's a possibility Sherrill sees another save chance or two down the road, it's likely not going to be a regular thing.
• J.A. Happ had it working down in the strike zone, inducing 16 groundouts as part of a seven-inning effort against the Mets, allowing just one run, and picking up his 10th win of the season. He's not quite as good as his numbers make him out to be this season, but he's still a solid starter at the back of a big league rotation in the future.
• The Red Sox announced that Tim Wakefield would return to the rotation on Wednesday, and would replace Brad Penny, meaning Junichi Tazawa will remain in the starting five for now after posting six scoreless innings on Saturday.
• Russell Branyan homered for the third straight game, and has now put up his first 30-homer season, although his average has predictably settled in at the .250 to .260 level. Still, it's been better than this guy
• Carlos Pena went yard twice on Saturday, and his 34 homers help take a little bit of the sting out of the fact he's hitting just .219. Pena's batting average has been such a negative that he sits just outside the top 20 among first basemen on our Player Rater, which is lower than most might expect.
• David Wright (concussion) remains on track to return to the lineup sometime around Sept. 1, according to the team's Web site.
• Stephen Drew will be out of the D-backs' lineup for a couple of days as his wife is due to give birth.
• Chipper Jones is playing through wrist pain at the moment, which might be partially the reason for his current 1-for-22 slump. He aggravated the injury on a check swing on Friday.
• Kyle Blanks is day-to-day after suffering a heel injury running the bases. He'll be re-evaluated today.
• The numbers for the full season may still look ugly, but Ervin Santana posted his third straight quality start on Saturday and appears to have turned things around enough that he might be worth an add for the stretch run if you're looking for a high-upside starting pitching play.
• Oakland's Trevor Cahill quietly posted his third straight good outing, as well, on Saturday, allowing two runs in seven innings against the Tigers. The good stretch comes just in time to have his innings likely limited in September.
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
After getting routed by the Yanks on Friday night, the Red Sox returned the favor on Saturday, and Youkilis was a big part of it, doubling, homering twice and driving in six. He's hitting .352 this month.
Charlie Haeger, Dodgers
Rob Neyer is happy, as the knuckleballer hurled seven shutout innings against the Cubs, allowing just seven baserunners and striking out seven for his second solid start since joining the Dodgers' rotation. Can he keep it up? There's no doubt knuckleballers can be volatile and unpredictable, and the downside can be pretty bad in this case, but he's got his pitch fluttering nicely at the moment, so you could continue to get lucky if you take a chance.
After a 2-for-3 night that featured two triples, two walks and two runs scored, that is Dexter Fowler's batting average since the All-Star break, with a .440 on-base percentage and .560 slugging percentage in 27 games. With Carlos Gonzalez swinging such a hot bat in the Rockies' outfield recently (.373 with seven homers since the break), Fowler's improvement has gotten overlooked a bit, but both players are setting themselves up for potential breakout seasons next year. For this year, both players are owned in fewer than 20 percent of ESPN leagues if you need to shake up your outfield a bit.
• Kyle Lohse suffered a strained groin in his start in Friday, and it was serious enough to land him on the disabled list. The team expects him to be ready when the 15 days are up, and called up Mitchell Boggs to take his place. The team won't need a fifth starter until Aug. 29, and Boggs is the favorite to make that start.
• The Twins demoted Anthony Swarzak to Triple-A and called up Armando Gabino to take his place in the rotation. The 25-year-old Gabino spent much of the season as a reliever before being converted to starter recently at Triple-A, but lacks an out pitch and is a risky add in fantasy play, even in AL-only formats.
• The Rockies placed Aaron Cook on the disabled list with a shoulder strain, and have scheduled an MRI for Monday to determine the severity of the injury. The team is expected to announce the signing of Russ Ortiz today as Cook's likely replacement in the rotation.
• Click here for all of the latest MLB transactions.
James Quintong: I think Hanson could be close to fantasy ace material in a couple of years, so the ceiling is way high. As for being a bona fide fantasy ace next year, I'd be slightly hesitant. However, he could be a top 25-30 starting pitcher at the least next year.
-- Full chat transcript
Stephania Bell: Well, it is a nice matchup. And my sentiment is still there. I think that although Smoltz after surgery may never be the Smoltz before surgery, I believe that if he just had a couple of extra months you would see different results. Remember he came back midseason and jumped in. I still think he gets some good results before this year is over.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Christopher Harris, 11 a.m. ET
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
• Esmil Rogers, one of the Rockies' top pitching prospects, is struggling since being promoted to Triple-A, getting lit up again for five runs in four innings on Saturday. After posting a 2.48 ERA in 15 Double-A starts, he has a 6.85 mark in nine Triple-A outings, lending credence to the thoughts of some scouts that his role in the big leagues will be as a reliever.
• Meanwhile, another Rockies farmhand, Christian Friedrich, has quietly emerged as one of the best pitching prospects in the game this season, and he allowed two runs in seven frames at high Class A on Saturday. He has a 2.03 ERA in 19 starts across two Class A levels this season, and has actually done even better since being promoted. He's struck out 147 in 110 2/3 innings this year, walking just 38, and is a must-get in dynasty leagues.
• A sleeper for Sunday is the Rangers' Scott Feldman, who is owned in just 13 percent of ESPN leagues despite having 12 wins, a 3.65 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 22 starts this season. His new delivery, featuring a full windup and a new cutter, has made Feldman a vastly different pitcher this season, and his performance has not been a fluke.
• We get to find out if the Red Sox cut John Smoltz loose a little too quickly, as he takes the mound for his first start in a Cardinals uniform. Although he was the victim of some poor luck in Boston, his fastball didn't have its previous life despite good velocity and he struggled after the first time through the order, suggesting that his best role at this stage of his career is in the bullpen. Still, the move to the NL could be the perfect tonic for him and he could surprise with his new club, making him a potential add in NL-only leagues.
• For more on Sunday's games, check Daily Notes.