AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
Goodbye, Carlos Pena. The slugging first baseman who remains the AL leader in home runs bids us an early farewell after he had two fingers on his left hand broken by a CC Sabathia pitch in the first game of Monday's doubleheader. Right away the Rays realized there was a major problem; the middle and index fingers were broken, surgery could be pending, and before the night game began, it was announced his season was over as he was placed on the 60-day DL.
Pena finishes with 39 home runs and 100 RBIs -- the former leading the AL, the latter third in the league -- as well as 41 singles, so at least he avoids that potential piece of history of hitting more four-base hits than singles. In fact, this is one of the most unique seasons in big league history, as Pena's OPS of .893 is easily the highest of anyone ever with a sub-.230 batting average. Of course, therein lies the rub. Pena hit .227 this season, which, to some, offset all that power.
Feel free to cut Pena and check out what should be a cornucopia of available options at first base in your league. Among those with run-producing ability available in at least a third of ESPN standard leagues are Chris Davis, Nick Swisher, Garrett Atkins, Michael Cuddyer, Hank Blalock, Casey Blake, Garrett Jones, Billy Butler and Mike Jacobs. Personally, I can't fathom why Jones is owned in a mere 41.6 percent of leagues. He's hit his 18 home runs -- but knocked in only 36 runs -- in 227 at-bats. I would choose him to replace Pena, and enjoy the speed as well. Jones also has nine stolen bases.
If you're in an AL-only league and none of those first base eligibles is out there, check out the guy who played first base following Pena's exit, Willy Aybar. We discussed Aybar before the All-Star break when he was hitting; he isn't quite the next Ben Zobrist, but this switch-hitter does have pop and versatility. In May/June he batted .319 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 116 at-bats. He's done very little since as playing time waned, but he's eligible at first, second and third base, and he's likely to play quite a bit.
For those with a good memory, the player the Rays called up to replace Pena is Chris Richard, the former Orioles -- and briefly Cardinals and Rockies -- "slugger" who hasn't played in the majors since 2003. Richard is 35, so as the Rays run the wrong way from the AL wild-card race after losing both games of the doubleheader to the Yankees on Monday, one would think the younger Aybar would get the longer look. Richard could be worthy of a look in AL leagues as well; he hit 24 home runs in 100 games for Triple-A Durham. A season ago he hit 26 home runs for the Bulls. Stranger things have happened.
Pena makes for an interesting keeper, as he's hit 116 home runs and knocked in 323 runs in three seasons for the Rays, and unless he's traded, will be Tampa's starter next season. Sure, Pena's batting average was a drag this season, but everyone needs power, and few were providing it at a better rate than this guy.
• Congrats to Mark Buehrle! Hope you weren't one of those fantasy owners who dealt the farm to get the underrated lefty right after the July 23 perfect game. Buehrle hadn't won a game since then until beating Josh Beckett and the Red Sox on Monday. For those counting, that's eight winless starts over six weeks, and Buehrle wasn't merely not winning in that span, as he allowed five or more earned runs in four of those starts. Hopefully Buehrle is back on track now after allowing one run in seven innings.
• In case you weren't paying attention to Sunday's games, Chris Young of the Diamondbacks swatted a trio of solo home runs. The feat certainly seemed out of place considering his struggles this season, and didn't help the team much in a 13-5 loss. Young hit another home run Monday -- in yet another blowout loss -- this time with a runner on base, but he's still hitting .199 for the season. Young has eight hits since being promoted from Triple-A Reno two weeks ago, four of them home runs.
• The Phillies needed to summon Jamie Moyer for a start after top rookie candidate J.A. Happ strained a muscle in his side taking batting practice over the weekend. Moyer filled in ably, allowing only two runs in six innings, and it should be noted in deep leagues how well he's hurling, since he'll get another start this weekend, as the Phillies have a doubleheader on the schedule. Happ is 10-4 with a 2.77 ERA, the latter figure seventh in all of baseball and tops among southpaws, and he's expected to make his start later this week.
• Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw might not start at all this week, at the least, after he bruised his right shoulder running into the outfield wall during batting practice over the weekend. Yep, pitchers get hurt not only batting, but shagging fly balls as well. Kershaw's cumulative stats look nice, with a top-10 NL ERA and 167 strikeouts in 159 innings, but note he hadn't won in more than six weeks. The Dodgers get an extra week to decide who sticks in the rotation between Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland.
• Hunter Pence certainly enjoyed Philadelphia's visit to Houston this four-day weekend. Pence hit home runs in three of the games and knocked in eight runs in sum, as the Astros swept the Phillies. Pence might seem a disappointment to some, but 23 home runs and 14 steals, with a .286 batting average, are nice numbers. Plus, Pence has 12 of those home runs since the All-Star break. He might never go 30/30, but he's doing just fine.
• Raul Ibanez homered just like Pence did, but this corner outfielder isn't having nearly the same success the past two months. Ibanez's solo shot was his sixth since the All-Star break, compared with 22 before the groin injury that clearly hampered him since. Ibanez is hitting .191 with two home runs since Aug. 1. It's no coincidence he's starting to be released in standard leagues.
• Closer follies: Mariano Rivera saved his 39th game. He had missed five days with a sore groin. Ryan Franklin will get some more time off as he's struggled a bit, but when Chris Carpenter is pitching, who needs a closer? Jose Valverde saved two games against the Phillies this weekend and won another, so he'll be sorry to see them leave town. Valverde hasn't allowed a run in more than a month. Huston Street threw light catch from 60 feet on Monday, which is a good sign, but the Rockies aren't expecting their closer back until next week. Meanwhile, lefty Franklin Morales saved Monday's win over the Reds, his fourth in as many chances this month. Carlos Marmol picked up his 10th save and still hasn't blown a game since taking the role from Kevin Gregg.
Juan Uribe, Giants
Uribe smacked two home runs and knocked in five against the Padres, scoring three runs and providing his fifth multihit game in his past 10. Uribe hasn't been much of a fantasy option this season; he's hitting .282, but a pace for 50 RBIs and 48 runs scored fails to excite. However, he's hot now, with four home runs and nine RBIs in nine days.
Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
Really, this is getting ridiculous now. Carpenter tossed a one-hit shutout at Milwaukee, walking two and striking out 10, winning his 16th game in 19 decisions and lowering his ERA to 2.16. Consider him the leading candidate for NL Cy Young, Comeback Player of the Year and biggest fantasy late-round steal, if he was drafted in your league at all.
James Loney finally reached double digits in home runs with his majestic solo shot in Arizona off Max Scherzer on Monday -- maybe not, but it did leave the ballpark -- but did you know the gap-hitting first baseman still has yet to homer at home? Dodger Stadium isn't Petco Park or the ol' Astrodome, but Loney could become the first player since Houston's Jose Cruz in 1984 to finish a big league season with 10 or more home runs, all on the road.
• Welcome back, Freddy Sanchez! The former Pirate picked up by the Giants at the trade deadline spent a few weeks on the disabled list for an ongoing shoulder issue, but returned Monday and hit a pair of singles in four at-bats. San Francisco is in the thick of the NL wild-card race and could really use its No. 2 hitter healthy, though he's not much of a fantasy option unless he's hitting .330. Sanchez is capable of that the rest of the way.
• Remember when Corey Hart was a 20/20 lock and a coveted fantasy asset? Hart is expected to be activated off the DL on Tuesday after missing more than a month after an emergency appendectomy. Hart wasn't having a great season before that, with 11 home runs and nine stolen bases in 98 games, but that's not far from a 20/20 pace. If the Brewers play him regularly, which is no lock, Hart could help owners down the stretch. He was 5-for-10 in a brief stint with Triple-A Nashville over the past few days.
• Another outfielder with a history of helping fantasy owners, but not so much anymore, is Andruw Jones of the Rangers. Jones has been on the DL with a hamstring tear for a few weeks, but the team believes he's healthy now and with Josh Hamilton dealing with a pinched nerve in his back, the Rangers need help. Jones hit eight home runs in 67 at-bats in July, but since the All-Star break his batting average is .188.
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Jerry Crasnick: A lot of people have cited the performances by Penny and Smoltz -- not to mention Cliff Lee and Matt Holliday -- as evidence that the NL is a much weaker league. I think there's some merit to the argument. But I will say this: You don't see many pitchers go into Philadelphia and shut down that lineup the way Penny did the other night. The guy does have legit stuff.
-- Full chat transcript
Tuesday's fantasy chat schedule:
AJ Mass, 11 a.m. ET
Brendan Roberts, 3 p.m. ET
• The Dodgers certainly don't need any help in the outfield, but Mitch Jones would seem to deserve some September playing time anyway. Renowned minor league slugger Jones smacked his 35th home run for Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday, his fourth home run in nine games, and the ninth consecutive game he's knocked in a run. Jones isn't really a prospect at this point; he'll be 32 soon and certainly his numbers have been aided by home ballpark. Still, 35 home runs are a lot, and the guy has 235 of them in a long minor league career. Maybe Jones can follow in the footsteps of current Pirate Garrett Jones and eventually find a team that needs his power.
• Mitch Jones hit his Monday home run off Iowa's disappointing Jeff Samardzija, who allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, and saw his ERA rise to 4.35. Samardzija might get another chance to start for the big league Cubs this month, but with 98 hits allowed in 89 Triple-A innings, it might not be warranted, and certainly isn't for fantasy.
• Checking in with the fellow Tampa Bay acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade, second baseman Sean Rodriguez went hitless in four at-bats for Triple-A Durham on Monday. Through five games for the Bulls, Rodriguez has one home run and a .200 batting average. For Triple-A Salt Lake City Rodriguez smacked 29 home runs in 103 games. The Rays haven't announced whether Rodriguez will get a promotion to Tampa Bay this month.
• Pedro Martinez looked very good his last time out, striking out nine Giants over seven innings in upping his record to 3-0, and now he faces the Nationals and John Lannan. Martinez has won both his road outings, though neither was an official quality start. Lannan has won once in eight starts, and he's yet to win in three starts against the Phillies this season.
• Speaking of older right-handers seeking one more playoff run, John Smoltz is 1-1 as a Cardinal, having lost only to Manny Parra last week. They meet again! Smoltz is owned in nearly 20 percent of ESPN leagues. Parra is not; he's allowed 101 runs this season, the most in baseball.
• In another rematch of last week, Felix Hernandez outdueled Scott Kazmir, but both pitched well. Kazmir was making his first Angels start. Now he'll make his first Angels home start. With 18 strikeouts in his past two overall starts, Kazmir should probably be trusted against below-average offenses, of which the Mariners have proved to be one.
• For more on Tuesday's games, check Daily Notes.