September 2012

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Closer Updates: Dodgers, Rangers, Padres

Now that I'm back from my weekend dead-arm sabbatical, please remember to follow @closernews on Twitter for breaking updates on all the bullpen situations. That being said, three's a lot to address this week, so I'll try to keep 'em short and sweet.

Dodgers
Kenley Jansen has apparently gotten a clean bill of health and is expected to return to Los Angeles' bullpen tonight. Despite a several-week layoff, I'd expect him to return to closing after one outing, if not sooner, so Brandon League owners should be ready to cut away. In fact, at this point of the season, depending on where you are in the standings, I don't mind making that move even before KJ is back on the hill, which I typically don't advise. End of the season calls for bold flavors moves, eh?

Rangers
Joe Nathan's surgically repaired 37-year-old right arm has generally held up surprisingly well this season (surprising to me, at least), but he was unavailable over the weekend due to a so-called dead arm period, his second such hiatus. He's supposed to be ready to return on Tuesday, but it's one worth watching. Meanwhile, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando are both dinged, so if you want to foray into this mess, Koji Uehara is your guy.

Padres
Luke Gregerson owners who have been dreading the impending return of Huston Street may get a reprieve after all. Details have been sketchy, but Street is apparently fit to return ... yet he hasn't. Perhaps the Friars are shelving Street because they know he's rickety and he's under contract for a couple more years. Not to mention, Gregerson has done a fine job in Street's absence (with an odd assist or two from Tom Layne et al). LG is well worth holding onto until Street is on the mound again in a Major League game.

Reds
Aroldis Chapman says his fatigued shoulder is feeling better, but neither he nor the Reds have provided a firm timetable as to when a potential return could happen. The guess here is that both pitcher and team will want him to see some game action before the playoffs get underway, but he could take off another week or 10 days and still make that happen. Till then, Jonathan Broxton is the optimal add, but since he's not allowed to pitch on more than two consecutive days, Sean Marshall is worth a look if you're scrounging for every last save you can find.

Angels
Ernesto Frieri owners were dealt a double-punch to the gut this weekend, when the previously immortal right-hander blew a save in very un-Nasty-like fashion and then saw Kevin Jepsen convert one the next night. The former isn't a huge concern, per se; even the best closers blow saves. But no one would blame Frieri owners if the timing of Jepsen's unexpected save had them a little uneasy. Not to fear, apparently, as Frieri was just getting a breather. He should be good to go now, having rested on Sunday and Monday.



Silver League Update: How'd It Go?

Everyone in the Silver League started with a strategy. We all had players we liked and didn't like, trends we believed in and didn't, plans we thought occurred to nobody else. Right after the draft, I felt like it was an impressively equal league. Nobody seemed to get all the good picks, nobody seemed to bomb their team in March. I knew it would be a tough league to win, and judging by my place in the standings, it was.

But things happen over the season. Injuries, breakouts, trades, good luck and bad luck, and everything else that makes baseball great -- and frustrating. For the next couple weeks, I'll be taking a look at each team, to see what went right and what didn't, what strategic moves helped (and could help again), and which gambles didn't pay off. Though things can (and will) still change, I'll go roughly in reverse order of standings, so here's the 12th place team:

Mr. Perfect 56 -- 38.5 points, 12th place

R   HR   RBI   SB   AVG   W   SV   K   ERA   WHIP
4     1        2        4      8      4.5    8     1    3            3

Top 6 Draft Picks:
Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Napoli, Elvis Andrus, Eric Hosmer

What Went Right:
Not a lot, honestly. The brightest spot on the stat line is the eight points in batting average. Chris Perez and Jim Johnson were a way better pair of closers than I would have imagined and have led the way to a respectable save total. Getting Johnny Cueto in the 17th round was a great pickup. A.J. Pierzynski in the 24th round should have been low-risk but he really brought upside, especially early in the season.

What Went Wrong: 
Just take a look at those top six picks -- who wouldn't have been jealous of the Gonzalez/Hosmer first-base combo in March? Napoli should have locked the catcher position down all by himself. Unfortunately, the rest of Mr. Perfect's draft went the same way as far as luck goes: Michael Pineda and Ryan Madson didn't play at all. Jhoulys Chacin, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ricky Romero turned into pumpkins in a big way. Justin Morneau and Nick Markakis spent a lot of time on the DL. Ichiro became an elderly person. There was a lot of bad luck, but I do think avoiding pitchers until taking Josh Johnson in the eighth round might have something to do with some very low pitching scores.

Major Moves:
Early in the season, Mr. Perfect sent a slumping Hosmer to McRuder for Miguel Montero and Madison Bumgarner. It was a great return for Hosmer, all the better since he never did shake off the slump. Mr.Perfect also sent Shane Victorino and Markakis (in separate trades) to Spirit of St. Louis for Chris Johnson, Jonathan Broxton, Shaun Marcum, and Neftali Feliz. Few of the players in those trades have been much help, but at least he got some saves from Brox.

Analysis:
Mr. Perfect could move into 11th place, but isn't likely to go farther than that, as the 10th place team is almost 20 points ahead. This team hit some serious bad luck, over and over. Players like Gonzalez, Hosmer, and Napoli should have been rocks for this team, but they'll be big question marks going into next year too.

 

JamesRiverTrophyCarp--40.5 points, 11th place

R   HR   RBI   SB   AVG   W   SV   K   ERA   WHIP
8     9       5       7        1       2.5   3     3      1             1
 

Top 6 Draft Picks:
Matt Kemp, Adrian Beltre, CC Sabathia, Dan Uggla, Stephen Strasburg, Lance Berkman

What Went Right:
The beginning of the season, from the looks of it. Matt Kemp started out on fire, as did late-rounder Bryan LaHair. Grabbing Adam Dunn in the 17th round must be a big part of those 9 points in HR ... and that last-place average. In fact, that general homers at expense of average has worked, with players like Dan Uggla, J.J. Hardy, and Ian Desmond all contributing.

What Went Wrong:
The homers-for-average trade might have worked a little too well, with the nine points and one point averaging out at just five. This was a team that could have really used a few BA anchors to balance things out. Uggla, of course, hasn't helped in HR enough to justify that average. Berkman never got off the ground. The real mess is in the pitching, though. JamesRiver's top pitchers were Sabathia, Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, Josh Beckett, and Mat Latos. Only Sabathia is still on the team, supported by Jeremy Hellickson, Rick Porcello, and Brett Anderson. Ouch.

Major Moves: 
Speaking of things that didn't go well, JamesRiver made two early trades that didn't quite pan out. They swapped Wainwright for Mariano Rivera before the season started and then sent Strasburg and Zach Cozart to McRuder for Hellickson and Johan Santana. To be fair, Santana was pitching really, really well at the time. Still, these two trades really hurt the JamesRiver pitching staff.

Analysis:
There's always a lot of bad luck on teams this far out of contention and JamesRiver is no exception. I would have thought a team with Rivera, Andrew Bailey, and Brandon League was pretty stacked for closers at the beginning of the year. Losing your No. 1 hitter (Kemp) and pitcher (Sabathia) for extended periods is always rough. Sometimes you just get a team where nothing seems to go right, whether it's losing stars or seeing useful role players like Berkman or Peter Bourjos disappear into uselessness.

 

Rally Beers--58 points, 10th place

R   HR   RBI   SB   AVG   W   SV   K   ERA   WHIP
11  12       7        1      5         1      4     5     6            6

Top 6 Draft Picks:
Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Kevin Youkilis, Alex Rodriguez

What Went Right:
There's a big difference between this team and the two behind it, as you could say that "power" really went well for the Rally Beers. They're sitting on top in runs and homers, and above average in RBIs. Beyond the big names, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Chase Headley, and Garrett Jones have added plenty of power.

What Went Wrong:
Things weren't so successful on the pitching side. Zack Greinke started strong, but hasn't pitched terribly well since returning to the AL, dragging down his once ace-level stats. The real answer to that question, though is in the Beers' 5th-10th draft picks: Youkilis, A-Rod, Carl Crawford, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, and Cory Luebke. There was a good plan for pitching in here, it just happened to fall flat. Crawford should have helped drag the Beers out of the steals cellar, but that didn't happen either.

Major Moves: 
The Rally Beers swapped Kelly Johnson for Brett Myers, which didn't help that much in saves. They made a great trade in August, sending Austin Jackson to the Playmakers for Jay Bruce and Matt Moore

Analysis:
The Rally Beers are the last in a group of tightly packed teams--only 12 points separate the Beers from third place, so this team could realistically move far up in the standings by the season's end, and probably can't finish any lower than this. They gave a good draft, and got more bad luck than good, which is why they're on this end of the pack. There's still plenty of room for things to change.

 

Busey's Bandits--60.5 points, 9th place

 R   HR   RBI   SB   AVG   W   SV   K   ERA   WHIP
 6      4        8       5      6       4.5    9     4     9            5     

Top 6 Draft Picks:
Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes, Felix Hernandez, Matt Holliday, Jon Lester, Brian McCann

What Went Right:
This is an interesting team to look at, because they aren't at the top or bottom of any category: all their scores are between four and nine. Nabbing Tyler Clippard -- and staying patient with him until he became closer -- worked out really well, as did picking up Carlos Marmol and Ernesto Frieri from the waiver wire. King Felix as been an ace of aces and well worth his third-round pick. 

What Went Wrong: 
Together, McCann and Joe Mauer can do it all. Too bad they can't both have power and average like the old days. They're still a great catching duo, but the cost was probably higher than they've actually been worth. The back of the Bandits' outfield is rough, with Chris Young, Drew Stubbs, and Logan Morrison disappointing. The traded-for Ryan Zimmerman certainly hasn't been himself.

Major Moves:
The Bandits made two huge trades with McRuder, trading for and then trading away Joey Votto ... just in time for his April power slump. Allen Craig, Hellickson, and Lester also changed hands twice, so the trade ended up being Robinson Cano and Jason Heyward for Ryan Zimmerman, Billy Butler, and Joel Hanrahan. I'd take McRuder's side of that, but the Bandits did get value here.

Analysis:
As I noted above, this isn't a team that things have gone terribly for or excellently. They're in ninth place at this writing, but I wouldn't be shocked if they moved up or down by the time you're reading this. As for the rest of the season, they could viably finish as high as third still, but something between seventh and tenth is more likely.

Next week we'll look at the next four teams on the list, and work my way up from there. Of course, teams will be changing places and climbing over each other in that time. Maybe even mine will ...


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This Week In Streaming Strategy: Sept. 17-23

We're nearing the end of the line of the 2012 season, so hopefully you're holding on tight to your dreams of fantasy success, lest someone bring you down in the final weeks. If you think there are some secret messages within these opening lines, don't feel confusion. I'll get to the point; I listened to a Jeff Lynne compilation last week, and now I can't get it out of my headDon't walk away from this column, I'm getting to the streaming stuff right now, here is the (fantasy baseball) news.

The focus this week is on a few well-known players who you should be streaming OUT of your lineups. We're in the crunchiest of crunch time in the fantasy season, so you have no room for dead weight on your roster when you're in your playoffs or fighting for a league title.  

* Carlos Beltran.  The once-reliable Beltran has quietly become a big fantasy drag over the last few months, posting just a .211/.267/.396 line since July 2.  It's getting to the point where Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is starting to give Beltran more and more days off, beyond just the point of "resting the veteran" and edging into "we need a hotter bat in the lineup if we're going to win the wild card" territory.  You should take it a step further than Matheny and bench Beltran altogether if you have any better outfield options on your roster.  Don't be fooled by the tempting matchups this week (the Cards face the Astros and Cubs), as Beltran has had two and a half months to get himself together with no results, so he's long overdue for a benching.

* Josh Willingham.  The Twins face right-handed starters in five of six games this week, so it's all systems go for such righty-killers as Justin Morneau or Ryan Doumit.  Willingham also holds some pretty nice numbers (.873 OPS) against right-handers this season, but most of that was total was accumulated over Willingham's red-hot first half. Over Willingham's last 39 games and 157 plate appearances, he has hit just .218/.312/.421. That battling line looks pretty similar to Willingham's road splits of .219/.324/.438 and wouldn't you know it, the Twins are away from Target Field all this week.  It all adds up to another down week for the Will Ham, so he's another one you can think about sitting if you have a hotter bat on your bench.

* A.J. Griffin. It occurs to me that 'Icarus Pick' is a great name for my weekly choice of a hot fantasy player who's about to regress. It's a good thing I came up with this exciting new column feature ... uh, by mid-September. Anyway, this week's player who is about to get burned by flying too close to the sun is Griffin, and try as I might, I couldn't quite come up with a decent pun here involving griffins and flying. Ol' Arthur Joseph is scheduled for two road starts this week against the Yankees and Tigers, who respectively rank first and third in team OPS against right-handed pitching. If that wasn't enough, there are lots of warning signs that Griffin's incredible performance is semi-smoke and mirrors -- his 1.94 ERA looks a lot uglier (3.55 SIERA, 3.63 xFIP, .238 BABIP) through the lens of advanced metrics. This week is going to be a big test for the rookie, and I'd advise using caution if starting him or picking him up off waivers, as Griffin is available in 61% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  If he's still throwing darts against the Tigers and Yankees, then yikes, this really is Oakland's season.

* Shane Victorino. I think we can conclude that Victorino's move to Los Angeles has been a bust. Rather than rise to stardom like so many fresh-faced unknowns in Hollywood, Victorino entered Saturday's action hitting a dinner theatre-esque .247/.314/.329 in 178 plate appearances as a Dodger. Whereas Beltran at least was on fire until the end of June, Victorino has been a big letdown all season long. If you're still giving him regular playing time in your lineup, Victorino provides no victories for your fantasy squad.

* Jonny Gomes, Chris Carter. Not much has changed since the last time we checked in (not an ELO link, I swear) on the Athletics' first base and DH platoons.  The A's are scheduled to face right-handed starters in five of six games next week, which means Gomes and Carter should be riding the pine for much of the week, though it's interesting to note that the right-handed hitting Carter actually has a better OPS against righties (.921) than against lefties (.890).  Normally you wouldn't be thinking of benching a player with splits like that, but Carter has just a .676 OPS overall in the month of September, so the A's are understandably going with hotter hands as they fight for a playoff spot.

* Doug Fister.  The Tigers right-hander has been a solid fantasy option in 2012 but I'll level with you folks, I think Fister is a vampire.  That's the only logical explanation.  Inside sources tell me that Fister just stands around outside the Tigers clubhouse for hours before games until someone invites him in.  He is also NOT a Kristen Stewart fan since, and this is a direct quote from Fister,"what, is she too good for vampires or something?"  The most glaring bit of evidence, however, are Fister's day/night splits.  Fister has a strong 2.93 ERA in 14 night starts this season, as opposed to a 4.63 ERA in eight starts under the sun.  Hmm, it's almost like the sun sapped his abilities or something.  Since Fister is scheduled to pitch twice this week during afternoon games, you're probably best served by putting Count Dougula on the bench and streaming another starter in his place.

(Editor's note: Yeah, Doug Fister isn't a vampire.  That's not true whatsoever.  We're not sure what got into Mark this week.  Maybe since we're nearing the end of baseball season, hockey season may be a wash, and the weather is getting cooler up there in Canada, Mark may be going a little batty.  Wait a minute...BATty?  Mark is a vampire!)


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Stock Watch: Buy & Sell Analysis

Stock Watch over the last few weeks of the season will focus on players mostly available on waiver wires, since trading deadlines having passed and teams are focusing on waiver claims that can help during the stretch run of the season or in head-to-head playoff matchups.

Buy

  • Dewayne Wise - Owned in only 9% of Yahoo! leagues, Wise has been on a tear recently with 4 steals, 2 home runs and a .324 batting average in September.  Compare that to the last outfielder on your roster.  Rule of thumb for September fantasy baseball is to ride the hot hands no matter what history tells you their production "should" be.
  • Nate McLouth - Hitting leadoff and playing every day for the surging Orioles following the injury to Nick Markakis, McLouth is hitting .342 in September with 8 runs and 2 steals.  He hit 20 home runs as recently as 2009, and provides a decent power/speed combination. McLouth is only owned in 3% of Yahoo leagues but is performing better than the last hitter on most fantasy rosters.
  • Anthony Gose - Owners looking for speed should nab Gose off waivers as he is owned in only 4% of Yahoo leagues.  Gose has 14 steals on the season, including 4 over the last 6 games.  Gose also stole 69 bases in 587 plate appearances for Toronto's AA affiliate last season.
  • Jed Lowrie - Back from injury and owned in only 19% of Yahoo leagues, Lowrie qualifies at SS and 3B and has 14 home runs on the season in 332 plate appearances.
  • Kyle Kendrick - Excellent since the middle of August with a 1.49 ERA in winning five of his last six starts.  Kendrick starts against Houston on Saturday and should be in all fantasy lineups.  He is the third highest ranked starter in Yahoo leagues over the last 30 days.
  • A.J. Griffin - Sporting a spectacular 1.94 ERA, 1.52 BB/9 rate and 4.82 K/BB ratio in 65 innings, Griffin is a solid mid-rotation starter for the remainder of the season that has been particularly hot as of late with only two earned runs total over his last three starts.
  • Erasmo Ramirez - This Seattle rookie is a good streaming option for home starts (such as on Monday) as he enjoys a 3.49 ERA, 1.86 BB/9 rate and 4.13 K/BB ratio.  Ramirez also has a 3.50 SIERA and 3.59 FIP, and his excellent control and pitcher friendly home park make him a good streamer despite only being owned in 1% of Yahoo leagues.

Sell

  • Mark Teixeira - Owners in daily leagues should be focusing on using as many of their remaining available games for hitters as possible by streaming replacement hitters to cover off days or games when their players are resting.  To achieve this all bench spots are critical.  Oftentimes rankings in cumulative hitting categories are determined by how many games played owners are able to accrue on their team.  Teixeira may return for the last week of the season, but there is no guarantee he will return effectively (if at all).  In the meantime he is taking up a valuable bench spot that can be used to stream hitters (or starting pitchers).  Daily leagues owners with few bench spots should drop their second or third round pick to stream hitters and maximize the games played from their hitting positions. 


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The Best Fantasy Rookie Hitter Of 2012*

* Not counting Mike Trout, because c'mon man.

Other than the imminent insanity of the Wild Card chase, the storyline of 2012 is immediate impact. A number of prospects - both high-end and middling - came up to the show this year and gave their club an instant shot in the arm. Trout has pretty much carried the Angels since the day he was recalled, Manny Machado swatted two homers in his second game as a big leaguer, Matt Harvey whiffed 11 guys in his first career start, Jurickson Profar homered in his first career at-bat ... so on and so forth. With young players becoming more and more important as baseball evolves, kids who come up and have immediate impact are essential in both the real and fantasy baseball worlds.

Trout is, by far, the best rookie of 2012 and possibly the best ever, but he's gotten enough attention this year already. Here are three other top rookies - two just as hyped as Trout, one not so much - who turned into fantasy stalwarts this summer...

Yoenis Cespedes | OF | Athletics | .287/.343/.483 | 18 HR | 45 R | 16 SB | 452 PA

A hand strain and nagging hamstring problems cost the 26-year-old Cuban defector roughly 30 games earlier this season, but he's provided exactly the kind of offensive firepower that was expected when Oakland signed him to that four-year, $36MM contract just prior to Spring Training. It might be a little late to join the 20-20 club but Cespedes almost certainly would have gotten there if it wasn't for the hand strain-induced DL stint in May. I think that more than anything, his batting average is better than expected. Reports indicated that he had wasn't a patient hitter and a little too pull happy with a long swing, but he's been able to stay on breaking balls and pitches on the outer half. The number of .280+, 18+ HR, and 15+ SB outfielders this year is only six deep: Cespedes, Trout, Ryan Braun, Alex Rios, Carlos Gonzalez, and Andrew McCutchen.

Todd Frazier | 1B, 3B, OF | Reds | .283/.344/.516 | 18 HR | 52 R | 3 SB | 422 PA

When Scott Rolen got hurt earlier this season, the Reds called on Frazier to fill the gap at third base and he's done more than that. A prospect for what feels like an eternity -- he was drafted in 2007 and has spent parts of four seasons in Triple-A - the 26-year-old Frazier is one of only seven third base eligible players to hit at least .280 with 18+ dingers this year, joining guys like Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, and Ryan Zimmerman. He filled in at first base while Joey Votto was out and he's also picked up outfield eligibility. The raw production is great, but also having the flexibility to squeeze him into a fantasy lineup on any given day is a huge boon as well.

Bryce Harper | OF | Nationals | .262/.335/.454 | 18 HR | 82 R | 13 SB | 523 PA

It's hard to believe Harper is just 19 years old when you see him hit balls like this. Only two teenagers in baseball history have hit 15+ homers and stolen 10+ bases in a single season, and that's Harper and Ken Griffey Jr. An extended slump after the All-Star break dragged his numbers down a bit, but he's shaken it off and continues to produce like a two tier outfielder at an age when most kids are freshmen are college. The batting average might be a little light, but Harper has scored far more runs than Cesepdes and Frazier thanks to his playing time and spot in the batting order (second rather than fourth or fifth).


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Injury Watch: Berkman & McCarthy Edition

Welcome back to Injury Watch, baseball fans! Though I was gone last week, I'm back now, and ready to update you on some of the league's most important injuries. We'll focus on the injuries that will affect your fantasy team the most, but this time we'll take a long look at two season-ending injuries that may affect players all the way to 2013, or even beyond.

Lance Berkman, Cardinals

The Cardinals were hit with some more bad news recently. Lance Berkman hasn't been able to come back from his nagging right knee injury, and will need another surgery, his second this season. The Cardinals' slugger has made mention in the past that this might be his final season in the bigs, given his recent health issues.

Lance had been having a solid line in the time he was able to get on the field. He had posted a wRC+ of 130, and a wOBA of .361, in just under 100 plate appearances. In fantasy terms, Lance was slightly less impressive, with two homers and steals each, 12 RBI, and a .263 batting average. But Berkman was coming off a stellar 2011, in which he crushed 31 HR and bit .301 on the season, with solid R and RBI numbers as well. If Berkman does return in 2013, I certainly would not expect him to put up those kinds of counting stats again, or to remain healthy through a full season. He could be a fine spot-starter or bench piece for a fantasy team, but don't use a high draft pick on someone who's as risky as Lance.

If the Big Puma rides off into the sunset, do not, and I repeat DO NOT sleep on Allen Craig for next season. Craig is a boss. In 766 career plate appearances, Craig has logged 35 HR and a nifty 138 wRC+. He's got a triple-slash line of .305/.359/.538 this season. Now, given that Craig's in his age-27 season, I don't anticipate that he's going to have a massive spike in performance. I do, however think that this is probably pretty close to his true talent level. If he can stay on the field, and maybe get comfortable at first, I expect his production to be pretty great, both in fantasy and real life.

Brandon McCarthy, Athletics

One of the most unfortunate pieces of news of the last several weeks was the one about Brandon McCarthy's very serious, life-threatening injury. In case you missed it, McCarthy was pitching against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday, September 5, when a batted ball off the bat of Erick Aybar struck McCarthy in the back of the head. McCarthy actually suffered a barrage of effects: the line drive cracked his skull, caused an epidural hemmorrhage, and even caused a brain contusion. After brain surgery, McCarthy remained hospitalized for a few more days, but was recently released and is recuperating at home.

First things first. Although we haven't heard anything officially, it is very safe to assume that Brandon is done for the season. This is a serious blow to the playoff-contending A's, who were leaning on McCarthy as a cornerstone of their rotation. He had followed up on his breakout 2011 campaign with an impressive 3.77 FIP and 3.24 ERA over 111 innings of work this season, and remained a solid fantasy contributor in wins and rate stats, despite a lack of strikeouts. But these kinds of serious, life-threatening injuries tend to end seasons, no matter how well your team is doing, or how well you're pitching. So if you've got Brandon in a redraft league, he's a pretty safe drop.

When it comes to 2013, I'm actually pretty optimistic. McCarthy has dealt with injuries throughout his major league career, and obviously possesses the perserverance and drive to come back from this terrifying event. When he does come back, he'll probably be much the same pitcher he was before: a guy who strikes out few, walks far fewer, and pitches in a terrific pitcher's park. He'll be a mid-to-lower tier starter again, but keep an eye out for updates as he makes his way back in the off-season. And best wishes to Brandon in his recovery.

Quick Hits: Cy Young candidate (yeah, you heard me) Aroldis Chapman has lost some effectiveness recently, and the Reds seem a little worried. While Chapman says that he's tired, not injured, the Reds will still probably rest him for at least a few days. ... Mark Teixeira is dealing with a Grade 1 calf strain, and the injury should keep him out of the lineup until the very end of September or the start of the postseason. ... David Price was dealing with shoulder soreness, but says that the soreness is gone, and intends to start on Friday. Keep an eye on this, as shoulder injuries are dicey. ... Jason Hammel left yesterday's game against the Rays with an apparent knee injury, which is serious bad news for the Orioles as they fight to keep in the Wild Card hunt. Yes, this is the same knee which Hammel had arthroscopic surgery on back in June. And no, the Orioles don't have a lot of depth behind their ace. ... Jed Lowrie has rejoined the Astros, and the potent-hitting infielder could be back on the field today. Get him back in your lineups! ... In case you missed it, J.A. Happ was scheduled for season-ending surgery on his broken foot. Because that's EXACTLY what the Blue Jays needed. ... Rafael Furcal has always had one of the most phenomenal arms I've ever seen in a shortstop, but now that arm needs a lot of rehab. He's dealing with his UCL strain by getting a plasma treatment, and will miss the rest of the season. ... The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo left Tuesday's game after a collision at first, and is day-to-day with upper body soreness. ... Vance Worley will miss the rest of the season after Sept. 7 elbow surgery. Fortunately, he will probably begin a throwing program within six weeks. ... Last, and certainly least, Stephen Strasburg has been shut down as a precautionary measure, in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Expect the reins to be lifted in 2013, when he should resume a normal workload.


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Closers: Reds, Dodgers, Padres

If you think Josh Willingham would look great in the middle of your lineup, be sure to follow @closernews on Twitter.

Reds
It seemed almost inevitable that Aroldis Chapman wouldn't get through the season without some kind of health scare. That may be an unfair observation, because it's probably true of all Major League pitchers. But since the Reds were pretty clearly divided about how to be deploy Chapman earlier in the season, and with the lefty regularly dialing up his hellacious fastball into triple-digits, I always felt like the other shoe could drop for him at any time.

That time might have arrived now, as Chapman's past two outings have been ugly, marked by a lack of control and the always scary diminished velocity. The Reds are concerned about it; manager (and noted arm-shredder) Dusty Baker said as much after Monday night's game in which Chapman issued three walks in only two-thirds of an inning.

I don't want to speculate on what, if anything, is exactly wrong with Chapmania; it's entirely possible that he just had a couple of bad outings back-to-back. But that does seem unlikely considering the velocity dip, and since the Reds are basically on cruise control en route to the postseason, it'd be surprising if they didn't significantly scale back Chapman's workload, or shut him down altogether, for the remainer of the regular season.

Chapman owners should be worried, but a frustration cut would be wildly premature here. Instead, stash primary setup man Jonathan Broxton. I'm a bit of a Sean Marshall fanboy, and I'd love to see him get a shot at redemption after an early-season demotion from the closer's role, but my instinct here is that if Chapman is indeed sidelined, Brox will get first shot at the ninth inning. The husky right-hander has pitched exclusively in the eighth inning since joining Cincinnati, and though Marshall is the better pitcher at this point in their respective careers by virtue of his ability to miss more bats, Baker doesn't strike me as the type to log onto Fangraphs and compare SwStr rates. Plus, in fairness, there's something to be said for preserving a good left-handed reliever for a tough lefty hitter.

Anyway, this one should be watched closely. Hopefully, Chapman is fine, but even if he is, my sense is that the Reds will want to take a conservative approach with him, so in the meantime, Broxton is worth snapping up.

Dodgers
When we last spoke, Kenley Jansen's injury status (irregular heartbeat) was still very much in the air. The possibilities ranged from "out for the season" to "back shortly." The update since then lands firmly in between those two extremes, with Jansen slated to return to game action on Monday. From a long-term perspective, this is Jansen's third episode related to his heart in the past calendar year, so fantasy types should certainly consider it a red flag for 2013 and beyond, but at least his current owners who are still in contention will get a couple weeks' worth of production out of him to end the season.

Old friend Brandon League, who actually lost his closing job with the Mariners before being traded to the Dodgers, has assumed ninth-inning duties in Los Angeles in Jansen's stead. He's not having a very strong year, but saves are saves, so if you need 'em, League will continue to be worth an add over the next week if he's still languishing on your league's wire. Ronald Belisario appeared to be in the closing mix with League shortly after Jansen went down, but League has emerged the sole interim closer. Perhaps it was because of The Experience.

Padres
San Diego closer Huston Street, on the disabled list since Aug. 10 due to a calf strain, threw a simulated game without incident on Monday and is slated for another one on Wednesday. Assuming that one goes well, he could be activated shortly thereafter, perhaps sometime around the weekend. Luke Gregerson has done a nice job filling in for Street, but Street should get his old gig back once he's healthy. As always, though, it'd be prudent for Gregerson owners to hold on till Street is back in uniform and pitching effectively. Street, after all, is prone to injury and already suffered one setback while on rehab assignment.


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Silver League Update: I've Made a Huge Mistake

While head-to-head leagues are starting their playoffs (or continuing them), classic roto leagues like the Silver are entering their final push. There's no chance for a miracle ride from the sixth seed through the playoffs, so a lot of teams and owners are fighting for nothing but pride.

My team, the Inch'on Wyverns (named for a Korean team I watch when I can), is one of those many. My team's bounced from ninth to fifth to seventh and back up to fifth this week. It's actually the highest I've been since Grant Balfour got me the year's first save in Tokyo. It got me thinking about good and bad decisions I've made over the course of the year. If I'd just done this or that would I be one of the teams battling for real victory?

Probably not, but it's nice to think that maybe I could have contended, if maybe I'd been a little more -- or less -- patient. My season started out pretty rough, but some of those early-year slumpers are bringing big dividends to their new owners.

Take the aforementioned Balfour. I figured a good-enough reliever would succeed in a low-pressure closing environment, so I drafted him. Mistake No. 1. When he lost his job, I cut him loose. I don't exactly know if that was a mistake -- who would know he'd have the job back by now? It makes me glad this isn't a head-to-head league; I'm so far from third worst in saves that another closer wouldn't have helped me much. With 15 saves on the year -- eight in the last month -- an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP under 1.00, I really wish he was still on my team.

Maybe one closer wouldn't be enough to move me in the standings, but maybe two would have been. Yes, I was one of those Carlos Marmol enthusiasts before the year started. Regular readers will know how I feel about strikeouts, and when the Cubs traded Sean Marshall (also previously owned by me) away, I figured Marmol would have some job security. Nope. His peripheral numbers are pretty bad, but he got pretty much all 17 of his season's saves after I dropped him.

I was going to stick with Greg Holland as a non-closer, but he hit a rough patch early in the season and I didn't feel like I could keep him...so there he went, with his 12 post-Broxton trade saves to another team. Stinging even worse is how hot he's been in the last month: nine saves, 18 K's in 12.1 IP, an 0.73 ERA, and an 0.89 WHIP. That's help in several categories. To keep full track, I dropped 30 saves that I could have had with patience (and enduring some ugly rate numbers for a little while). The silver lining: those saves would only be worth one spot in the standings, that's how far back I am.

Of course, I could have just drafted Jim Johnson instead of any of those closers, but my lifelong rule of never taking an Orioles closer stopped me. Thank you, ghosts of Kevin Gregg and Jorge Julio ...

Mike Minor is someone I've been excited about for almost two years now, and he's mostly brought me trouble for all the trust I've given him. He got off to an awful start--when I dropped him, his ERA was nearly 7.00. His ERA has steadily dropped since that point--really, it's gone down in nearly every start since the day I dropped him, landing at 4.58. Given that his last month has seen him post a 3.13 ERA and an 0.98 WHIP, I'd bet it keeps going down. So, basically, I got all the bad he was going to do, and let him go before he could fix it. Now he's got a rotation spot on our third-place team.

Jayson Werth was one of my favorite bounce-back candidates of the preseason and he projected to be my number three OF. Instead, he hit the DL for a twelve-week stint. He hit the Silver League wire because I was already sitting on an injury stack so bad that Torii Hunter became my top OF. Yeah. In the last month Werth has hit .330 with 20 runs scored. I'm dead last in runs, so anyone who scores is someone my team misses. At least last place is still worth a point.

Pedro Alvarez is the sort of player that drives you nuts. If you had him on your team at any point--or if you're a Pirates fan--you know what I'm talking about. Of course I picked him up during one of his hot streaks, and of course I dropped him when he went colder than dry ice. Well, the hot has added up to more than the cold, as 27 homers aren't bad at all. Hitting six of those in the last 30 days with an average over .300 is even better.

The worst mistake I made all season, though (outside of drafting Jacoby Ellsbury in the first round), has been Mark Reynolds. Going into the season, I was Reynolds's biggest fan. I'd had him on my team through his 2011 campaign and I don't care too much about batting average. I took him in round six, over the happy, mocking laughter of my leaguemates. I knew Reynolds and I would show them, and--finally--he has. Not me, though. I dropped him in May when he was hitting .191 with just two homers. I was happy to sit out his execrable June and July too, but since August, he's turned it up a bit. That average is all the way back up to .233 and he's hit twelve of his 20 homers in a little over a month. The somehow-contending Orioles owe him some thanks for their good late winning ways, but in the Silver League, all the good he's doing is going to one of my rivals.

To be clear, all these players deserved to be dropped. In some cases, I hung on to them longer than I should have. In others, I drafted them too high or otherwise expected too much from them, but they all needed to be cut from my team. The real mistakes I regret are not keeping tabs on them--I drafted, traded for, or picked up each of them for a reason and didn't notice their resurgence until it was too late. All too often, fantasy baseball in an exercise in "out of sight, out of mind." When these players hit the waiver wire, I was done with them. Now other teams are reaping the benefits and I'm excited to taste fifth place.


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This Week In Streaming Strategy: Sept. 10-16

Football?  Football?!  It's fantasy baseball playoffs time, son!  The NFL can wait until your fantasy baseball bragging rights have been settled.  Leagues could literally be decided by a single point in the coming weeks so every streaming recommendation is critical.  Take heed....

* Delmon Young.  While Young has largely been a fantasy disappointment this season, you'll want him in your lineup in the early part of the week.  Young's saving grace this season has been a .305/.327/.532 line against left-handed pitching, and the Tigers will face lefties in all but one (Jake Peavy on Tuesday) of their four-game set against the White Sox.  If you're looking for a fellow Tiger to stream Young with, look no further than....

* Andy Dirks.  The Tigers face Peavy on Tuesday and are scheduled to face three right-handed starters during their weekend set in Cleveland.  This provides plenty of opportunity for you to stream Dirks in Young's spot, as the Dirkster has a snazzy .884 OPS against right-handed pitching this season.  Dirks is owned in just seven percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues, so there's no excuse to not snag him for your roster for your critical playoff or end-of-season games. 

* Garrett Jones.  This one is mostly for my friend Dave, who owns and often wears a Garrett Jones jersey t-shirt, thus making him arguably the most visible Pirates supporter in all of Winnipeg, Manitoba.  But really, my recommendation of Jones directed towards the Yahoo fantasy community, as Jones is still available in two out of every five Yahoo leagues.  What the deuce, people?  Jones is one of the great streaming options in the game today, hitting .301/.343/.576 with 21 homers against right-handed pitching heading into Saturday's play.  The Pirates will face righty starters in five of six games this week so Jones is a must-play for each of those occasions.  Wear those jersey shirts with pride, people!  Jump on the Jones bandwagon!

* Rob Brantly.  One of my fantasy leagues has 16 managers and two starting catcher slots per team, so there is literally not enough catching depth to go around.  In this league, just having a warm body in a catcher spot is enough to get by, as some managers who risk a spot on a minor leaguer may just be wasting space; for instance, I think catcher-eligible Wil Myers has been picked up and dropped about six different times over the season.  If you're in a similar bind for catching help, give Brantly a shot.  The Marlins have been playing out the string for weeks now and are giving young talent like Brantly more playing time.  The rookie has started seven of Miami's last nine games and has a .967 OPS over those 24 plate appearances.  Miami is scheduled to face right-handed starters in five of six games this week so it stands to reason that the left-handed Brantly will start those games ahead of right-handed hitting veteran John Buck.

* Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum.  The Giants begin the week with a three-game series in Colorado, so beware the Coors Field effect.  Frankly, benching any of these three might be overdue.  Vogelsong had some Cy Young buzz earlier in the season but he's posted a whopping 10.13 ERA over his last five starts.  Lincecum has somewhat righted the ship after his terrible start to 2012, but given his inconsistency and his career 4.08 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 12 starts at Coors, do you want to risk your fantasy season on Lincecum being in good form?  Bumgarner has pretty solid career numbers at both Coors Field and Chase Field (where the Giants will travel next weekend) but he's also been shaky as of late, with a 6.48 ERA over his last three outings.  It's tough to sit a rotation stalwart like Bumgarner in crunch time but given that he's pitching in two very hitter-friendly stadiums, it might be necessary.

* Eric Stults.  (Yes, I did initially type "Eric Stoltz" out of habit.) If you're a Stephen Strasburg owner looking to fill a void in your rotation, you might be tempted by the Padres southpaw with a 1.66 ERA over his last six starts.  And hey look, Stults has two home starts at Petco Park this week, why surely he's a great streaming choice, right?  Wrong.  Stults has a 2.38 ERA but his advanced metrics are terrible -- a 4.81 SIERA, 4.01 FIP and 4.54 xFIP, topped off by a .250 BABIP and just 35 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings.  Stults may be at Petco this week, but it's against the Cardinals and Rockies, two of the league's best-hitting lineups against left-handed pitching.  Just like Robert Zemeckis bumping Eric Stoltz from Back To The Future, I'm going to have to bump Stults from your fantasy options.  Great scott!   

* Mark Reynolds.  True, nine homers over nine games does have a way of trumping my fancy in-depth stats, but it would be very surprising if Reynolds' power burst continues into this next week.  Reynolds has feasted on the Yankees' and Blue Jays' beleaguered pitching staffs, but this week he'll be facing the much stiffer test of the Rays' and Athletics' rotations.  That latter series is in Oakland, where A's pitchers have allowed just 56 homers all season long, the third-lowest home total of any AL team.

* Neil Walker.  The Pirates' second baseman has that most irritating type of injury for fantasy owners --- the 'out of action but not on the DL' kind of ailment that leaves you unable to fill Walker's spot on your roster.  If it weren't September the Pirates would surely have DL'ed Walker by now but they (unlike your fantasy team) have roster spots to spare.  Walker has missed the Bucs' last 11 games with his bad back and it's unclear as to when he'll return, given that he still can't swing from the left side without feeling pain and still hasn't taken full batting practice.  Since it's that time of year, I'd recommend simply dropping Walker outright and picking up another second baseman.  If you're entering a playoff scenario, you simply have no room for error, nor any room for a guy that's just taking up space in your lineup.  It's tough to just outright cut one of the NL's best second basemen but nobody ever won a fantasy title without making a tough choice.


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