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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Pick Three and more notes

I'm back from vacation, we're anxiously awaiting news on Charlie Villanueva's free-agent destination and the Indians have raised the white flag faster than Tracy McGrady's knees.

Two out of three ain't bad, but the thought of Chris Perez being the cornerstone of a trade involving Mark DeRosa is quite the opposite. OK, I've wasted enough of your time ... On to the much-anticipated, two-weeks-in-the-making Pick Three.

As always, these are players who are owned in fewer than 50 percent of the leagues on

Juan Rivera, OF, Angels (owned in 49.6 percent of the ESPN leagues):
A surge of 11.7 percent in the past couple of days almost took him off the list, which means owners have belatedly noticed Rivera's June. He headed into Tuesday night's game at Texas with a .302 batting average, eight homers, 24 RBI and a .955 OPS in 96 at-bats this month. For the season, he's batting .307 with 13 homers and 43 RBI in 251 at-bats. Rivera won't help you on the basepaths (he has nine steals in 621 career games), but he will provide a power boost and increase your batting average.

Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves (43.1 percent): He, too, has seen a big spike in ownership (up 7.3 percent this week). The Braves' rookie right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his first five big-league starts. He's won each of his last four starts, and he hasn't allowed a run in his last three. The only area in which he's been lacking thus far is strikeouts (18 in 29 innings), but I would expect that to change. Hanson struck out 463 in 389 innings in the minor leagues, and he fanned 90 while compiling a 1.49 ERA in 66 1/3 innings in Triple-A in 2009.

Fernando Nieve, SP, Mets (6.8 percent): The first two players on this list were gimmes, but this is much more of a reach. In NL-only or deep ESPN leagues, Nieve is a luxury because you can start him as both a reliever and a starter. The 26-year-old won his first three starts, then received a reality check on Monday at Milwaukee, when he allowed 11 hits and three runs in 3 1/3 innings. Once a highly touted Astros prospect, don't expect him to be a No. 2 or 3 starter. But if you need a No. 5 for a week, he can be useful if he can hold his spot in the Mets' rotation.

-- Fishing for a closer? If so, it's worth looking into acquiring a couple of Marlins.

Matt Lindstrom, who had 14 saves in 16 chances despite a 6.52 ERA that would fit right in with the Tribe's bullpen, will be out at least six weeks because of an elbow injury.

His job seemed to belong to Dan Meyer, who is 1-0 with a 1.99 ERA, one save and 30 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old, however, was removed after recording two outs and running into trouble in the ninth inning on Monday. His replacement, Leo Nunez, got the final out and his first save.

Nunez, 25, and Meyer could share the closer duties for now. For the long term, I would expect Nunez to have more fantasy value.

Both pitchers are useful only in deep category leagues in which saves tend to be overvalued. Nunez is owned in 5.8 percent of the ESPN leagues, and Meyer is at 2.8 percent.

We'll be back later this week with a look at John Smoltz and Boston's starting rotation, and have a look ahead to the second half of the season in Saturday's print and online editions.

Good luck and remember to thank the owners in your league who dropped Gavin Floyd and Ricky Nolasco.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fantasy focus: LaDainian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson

LaDainian Tomlinson turned 30 today.

In lieu of cards and cake, the Chargers running back and this decade's fantasy MVP (who needs a Super Bowl when you have that title?) asks that you select him in the first round of your fantasy draft in two months.

I laughed, too, until I researched fantasy football's top 12 for a column I wrote for the News-Herald's print and online editions.

Two players I wasn't expecting to crack the top 12 were Tomlinson and Rams running back Steven Jackson. In 2006, they were the best fantasy had to offer.

In 2008, one looked old and slow (Tomlinson, who has now reached the age at which most running backs' careers go the way of a "Sopranos" character), and the other played in only 12 games for the second straight season (Jackson).

Thus, they can't be first-round picks in 2009, right?

That's what I thought. But consider the following names: Drew Brees, Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook, Tom Brady, Brandon Jacobs, Calvin Johnson, Peyton Manning.

In point-per-reception leagues, would you take any of those players over Tomlinson or Jackson? When you know even in bad seasons, the pair averaged 17.4 and 19.2 points per game, respectively? When you know you can always get an effective quarterback and wide receiver in Rounds 2 and 3?

Those are questions quite a few of us will be asking ourselves on draft day. Clearly, Brees is the safest pick of the aforementioned group. Clearly, Brady could score more points than anyone next season.

Still, I always defer to the running back.

In the case of Jackson, it's simple. If he's healthy -- which too often he wasn't in 2007 and '08 because of quadriceps, groin and back injuries -- he's a stud. In 2006, he rushed for 1,528 yards, caught 90 passes for 806 yards and scored 16 TDs. He closed last season by rushing 86 times for 360 yards and three scores in the last three weeks, a span that included 10 catches for 101 yards.

Because of the injury risk, I wouldn't select Jackson over the likes of Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Slaton, Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson and DeAngelo Williams. But if he's there at No. 10, I'd take the chance. And I wouldn't be surprised if he outscored Peterson this season.

Tomlinson is a more difficult call.

There's the milestone birthday. There's the fact he averaged only 3.8 yards per carry last season -- his worst norm since his rookie season of 2001. There's the presence of Darren Sproles, the electric back the Chargers value so highly they guaranteed him a $6.6 million salary in 2009.

At No. 11, however, everyone has flaws, aside from Brees, whom I am only downgrading because of his position. Manning doesn't have the weapons he used to, Brady is coming back from a very serious knee injury, Gore and Westbrook are injury prone, etc.

Tomlinson has never rushed for fewer than 1,110 yards in his eight-year career. He's never failed to reach double digits in touchdowns. He has never caught fewer than 51 passes.

In PPR leagues, even with Sproles as the third-down back, L.T. should score a dozen touchdowns and average 100 total yards per game.

That's a down year for the old L.T.

That's still enough for a late first-round pick.

But hold the cake. He's not 29 anymore.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Hafner, Big Papi and more notes

If Travis Hafner is on your fantasy team, you know the routine.

Play two, sit one. Play two, sit one.

Even when Hafner has back-to-back one-homer, three-RBI games, as was the case Monday and Tuesday, Pronk rests on Day 3 as he tries to regain full strength in his shoulder following offseason surgery.

None of this would be an issue if Hafner hadn't turned back the clock to 2006 this month -- only if the 2006 Pronk played two of every three days. In June, Hafner is 9-for-29 (.310) with three homers, eight RBI, five walks, one strikeout and a 1.101 OPS.

In 92 at-bats this season, Hafner, who missed all of May because of the shoulder, is hitting .283 with seven homers and 16 RBI. Multiply those totals by six (approximately a full season), and the former fantasy stud would have 42 homers, 96 RBI, 42 doubles and a .970 OPS.

The latter stat line certainly is start-worthy.

The play-two, sit-one is not.

All of which results in a simple solution for fantasy owners who need Hafner's bat in their lineups. The answer has two requirements: You must keep track of Hafner's game log, and you need to be a third-grade math wiz.

The Indians don't play seven games in a week until Aug. 24-30 -- Week 21 of the fantasy season. Thus, when the Tribe plays six games, Hafner won't play more than four -- meaning you can't start him, 1.101 OPS or not.

Now for the good-news portion of this analysis: Your favorite burly, high-priced, prodding designated hitter said Wednesday he wants to be able to play three consecutive games "pretty soon."

"Pretty soon," you can start him. Until then, he's a part-time member of the Tribe and a full-time fantasy reserve.

Speaking of struggling, one-dimensional players ...

June has been very good to another fielding-challenged former slugger, David Ortiz.

Big Papi, who entered the month batting .185 with one homer and 18 RBI, is 13-for-38 (.342) with eight runs scored, four homers, 10 RBI, a .457 on-base percentage and a 1.167 OPS in June (prior to Thursday night's game against Florida).

Now that you're thinking of putting him back in your lineup, there's the pesky matter of interleague play. Ortiz and the Red Sox play six games next week -- three at Washington and three at Atlanta.

That likely will result in Ortiz playing one game at first base and being available as a pinch hitter in the other two. That results in Big Papi remaining on your bench.

If he continues to show signs of improvement, I would start him -- in Week 13 (June 29-July 5).

Save your excitement

J.P. Howell recorded his third save of the season Sunday, tying him with Randy Choate for second on the Rays behind the injured Troy Percival (six). Since June 4, Howell has two saves and two blown saves, despite not being charged with a run in that span.

His season statistics (2-2, 1.95 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings) certainly merit roster consideration in deep category leagues. The problem: The Rays have had seven players record a save thus far, and they seem to be taking a committee approach with Howell and Choate (3-for-3 in save chances, with 11 strikeouts in nine innings since being promoted from the minors).

Of the two, Howell is the better fantasy option -- which is like saying Nicky is the better Hilton sister.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Pick Three and pitching questions

If you're in an league, you've probably noticed the %OWN icon listed along with each player's statistics. You probably haven't thought anything of it, but if you're a stats geek, it can be an interesting tool.

Many fantasy starters are owned in fewer than 40 percent of the ESPN leagues, and duds such as Royals infielder Mike Aviles (.183, one homer, eight RBI) are owned in more than half.

Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson, who has been dreadful, is still owned in 60.9 percent of the leagues on ESPN. Clint Barmes, who is eligible at second and shortstop, is owned in only 32.5 percent of the ESPN leagues, and Kansas City second baseman Albert Callaspo, who's batting .318, is available in 84.7 percent.

Are owners not paying attention? Is Steve Phillips doing the math, proving he can be annoying in two mediums? Why do I care?

The latter question is a very good one, but caring does at least give me a method of selecting the weekly Pick Three. Again, the following players are available in more than half of the ESPN leagues (this week, it's 67.5 percent and up).

Clint Barmes, 2B, SS, Rockies (owned in 32.5 percent of the ESPN leagues): You're not going to confuse him with Ian Kinsler, but any time you can acquire a middle infielder who is eligible at two positions and is batting .289 with six homers and 30 RBI in 61 games, it's worth a shot. Barmes has been very good this month (.367 with 11 RBI in 60 June at-bats), and he's stolen five bases and has an .823 OPS overall. Factor in his 393 at-bats last season, and he has 17 homers, 74 RBI and 18 steals while batting .290 in 594 at-bats (roughly a full season) since 2008.

Nick Blackburn, SP, Twins (13.2 percent):
He won 11 games in 2008, his first full big-league season, and he's been lights out of late (3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last five starts). For the season, he's 5-2 with a 3.31 ERA. The only negative is his lack of strikeouts: 37 in 84 1/3 innings this season and 96 in 193 1/3 last year.

Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies (7.8 percent): Once a decent source of home runs (Feliz had 20 or more every year from 2004 to '07 with the Giants), he has hit only three long balls. Still, he's batting .318 with 35 RBI in 60 games, numbers that certainly are worthy of a roster spot. Feliz is batting .367 with an .855 OPS in June.

Speaking of percentages ...

-- How is Tim Wakefield owned in only 38.9 percent of the ESPN leagues? Yes, he celebrated his 40th birthday almost three years ago, but the knuckle-baller is 8-3 and gets more run support than a pitcher who throws 36 times a year at the new Yankee Bandbox. Since May 2, Wakefield is 6-2. In those eight starts, the Red Sox have scored 56 runs.

-- Did almost everyone give up on Gavin Floyd? The White Sox pitcher is only a season removed from winning 17 games, but he's owned in only 35.2 of the ESPN leagues. If an owner foolishly dropped Floyd after his awful start, acquire him. In his last five starts, he's won only once, but seems to have turned his season around. He has a 1.67 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings in that span.

-- Don't drop Ricky Nolasco, who incidentally is still owned in 61.2 percent of the ESPN leagues despite getting demoted to the minor leagues last month. In two starts since being recalled by the Marlins, Nolasco has struck out 13 in as many innings and has a 2.77 ERA. He was 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA and 186 K's last season.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Pick Three

This week, it's more of a six-pack -- don't worry, there's no charge, though I do ask that you refrain from imbibing until you view one of the following: an uncomfortable Eric Wedge expression or a disturbing post-basket look from Kobe Bryant.

Our weekly look at three players who are available in a majority of the leagues on and should be an asset in deeper category leagues (all statistics are through Monday):

-- J.A. Happ, SP, Phillies (owned in 11.1 percent of the ESPN leagues): The 26-year-old lefty was 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA prior to Tuesday night's start against the Mets. He made 12 relief appearances before earning three starts, and he was 2-0 with a 2.46 ERA in 18 1/3 innings in the latter role entering Tuesday. If you're in one of those goofy 5x5 category leagues in which you have to start a handful of relievers, he's even more valuable because you likely can play him at reliever even though he starts. Tuesday was only his ninth career start, so you have to expect the hitters to catch up with him, but Happ will help you in strikeouts (he had 545 in 528 innings in the minor leagues) and he pitches for one of baseball's best teams.

-- Jose Guillen, OF, Royals (9.2 percent):
I stumbled upon Guillen's low ownership rate while researching Monday's blog, and I still don't get it. His stats are mediocre (.255, six homers, 25 RBI), but he's a power hitter who is capable of batting .270 with 20-plus home runs and 90 RBI. In 2007, he hit .290 with 23 homers and 99 RBI, and he had 20 homers and 97 RBI last season. If this was a real clubhouse, then I can see why you wouldn't want to take the risk. Otherwise, Guillen is an asset as a No. 3 outfielder in mixed leagues.

-- A quartet of closers: Ryan Madson, Phillies; Andrew Bailey, Athletics; Randy Choate, Rays; and Mike MacDougal, Nationals. The closer's role continues to be fantasy baseball's most volatile, as the four are their teams' second, third, third and fourth choices, respectively, to finish games.

A quick breakdown of each, in order of current value:

1. Madson (owned in 4.8 percent of the ESPN leagues): He won't hold this job long, but until Brad Lidge returns from a 15-day stay on the disabled list because of a sprained knee, Madson has considerable value in category leagues. He has 31 strikeouts and a 2.22 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, and he should get a couple of save opportunities per week playing for Philly.

2. Bailey (31.0 percent): He's blown three saves in eight chances, but is 3-for-3 in June, throwing five scoreless innings and striking out six in that span. The rookie has 44 K's in 37 1/3 innings, and he's 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA. If you need someone for the rest of the season, he's the best of the four.

3. Choate (2.3 percent): He's recorded three of the five saves since Troy Percival was injured, and he seems to be the Rays' best option. The 33-year-old hasn't pitched more than 16 major-league innings in a season since 2004, so don't expect the second coming of Mariano Rivera, but Choate does have value in AL-only and deep category leagues. A few more words of caution: His three saves have been of the one-, two- and one-out varieties, meaning he's clearly not the runaway winner in a competition that's even less compelling than the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback race.

4. MacDougal (1.7): You mean only 1.7 percent of you have jumped at the chance to acquire MacDougal on the waiver wire? Joel Hanrahan has lost the closer's job for the second time since April, giving the role to a 32-year-old who saved 27 games for the Royals in 2003. Since being released by the White Sox, MacDougal has had five consecutive scoreless appearances for the Nationals, which is that bullpen's equivalent of DiMaggio's hitting streak, and he could be a cheap source of saves in 12-team category leagues.

A quick reminder: Check the News-Herald's online sports section Saturday for more fantasy football draft talk, including a breakdown of who should be the No. 2 overall pick behind Adrian Peterson.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Josh Hamilton and more Week 9 notes

Since the Rangers rank in the top eight among among major-league offenses in home runs (second), total bases (second), slugging percentage (second), RBI (fifth) and runs scored (eighth), you would think replacing an injured Josh Hamilton might be as simple as glancing at Texas' depth chart.

You would be wrong (but if you want to waste your time, as I did, here it is).

Hamilton, a second-round pick in many leagues after a monstrous 2008 (.304, 32 homers, 130 RBI, .901 OPS), will miss four to six weeks with a partially torn abdominal muscle. He's played in only 35 games and has been one of fantasy's bigger disappointments with a .240 average, six homers and 24 RBI.

His extended absence will mean more time for David Murphy and Andruw Jones, but not enough to warrant fantasy consideration.

With Hamilton out, Murphy has been starting against right-handers. He batted .275 with 15 homers and 74 RBI as a rookie last season, but he hasn't lived up to that billing in 2009 (.259, two homers, 12 RBI). He has improved this month (.368 and two RBI), but you'd have to really need outfield help to consider him.

And you'd have to be playing in a 16-team AL-only league to consider Jones, who has decent numbers (.269, five homers, 15 RBI in 92 at-bats), but usually only starts against lefties and has only seven at-bats in June.

The playing time of the Rangers' starting center fielder (Marlon Byrd) and right fielder (Nelson Cruz) shouldn't be affected much by Hamilton being on the DL. The impressive Cruz (.291, 17 homers, 42 RBI, nine steals) is a fantasy starter, and Byrd (.299, four homers, 26 RBI, two steals) is useful strictly in AL-only leagues. Even then, he's only going to help you in batting average and possibly RBI.

If you own Hamilton and need outfield depth, the four who follow are all owned in fewer than 50 percent of the leagues on (ranked in order of projected effectiveness the rest of the season): 1. Jose Guillen, Royals (.255, six homers, 25 RBI, 9.5 percent ownership); 2. Jason Kubel, Twins (.304, seven homers, 31 RBI, 45.1 percent); 3. Melky Cabrera, Yankees (.304, six homers, 23 RBI, four steals, 25.9 percent); 4. Aaron Rowand, Giants (.309, six homers, 27 RBI, four steals, 22.5 percent).

Looming ...

-- John Smoltz will make his fifth (and last) minor-league rehabilitation start for the Red Sox on Thursday. Smoltz, who is coming back from 2008 shoulder surgery, is 42 and hasn't pitched in the big leagues in more than a year.

Then there's this: Smoltz has the following career numbers: 210 wins, a 3.26 ERA and 3,011 strikeouts in 3,395 innings. He was also effective before the injury ended his 2008 season in Atlanta (3-2, 2.57 ERA, 36 strikeouts in 28 innings).

Clearly, the latter paragraph is beating out the concerns from the prior graph. When Smoltz is ready to join Boston's starting rotation (warning: scoop to follow), someone has to go, and that pitcher could be Brad Penny, who's won five games.

If Smoltz is available and you play in a 10- or 12-team league, he's worth a look. Don't expect huge results -- WEEI reported Monday that the Red Sox might occasionally skip his starts to keep him healthy -- but if he gets the call twice in a week, he should be an effective play.

Penny, who is owned in 12.2 percent of ESPN leagues, has too high of an ERA (5.85) and too few strikeouts (39 in 60 innings) to be a regular fantasy starter. He is an asset, however, and a return to the National League likely would boost the fantasy value of the 31-year-old who won 16 games with the Dodgers in both 2006 and '07.

If Boston doesn't trade Penny, there's a chance Tim Wakefield (7-3, 4.50 ERA) could be moved to the bullpen, which would wreck his fantasy status faster than you can say "Spencer Pratt."

Penny or Wakefield would have to be the odd man out when Smoltz returns, since Josh Beckett and Jon Lester certainly aren't going anywhere, and Daisuke Matsuzaka's hefty contract does for him what his results do not (1-4, 7.33 ERA).

-- Brandon Webb, who has started all of one game since he was selected as one of the top two or three pitchers in almost every draft, is targeting Friday for his first throwing session on the mound. Webb expects to return from a shoulder injury before the All-Star break, which would mean you wouldn't get Arizona's ace back in your lineup until about Week 15 (July 6-12).

Webb's ownership percentage in ESPN leagues is 98.8, meaning some guys and gals out there are getting sick of holding his roster spot. If someone in your league is so foolish, take the gift and hope you get a pitcher who at least slightly resembles the player who won a combined 40 games and struck out 377 batters the previous two seasons.

Not so fast

Matt Wieters' big-league debut was hyped as the catcher's version of a young Alex Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr. with the Mariners.

Thus far, the Oriole has more closely resembled Kelly Shoppach. Wieters is 4-for-28 with zero RBI in eight games.

That will change. Wieters, after all, became one of MLB's top prospects because he tore up the minor leagues (.343, 32 homers, 121 RBI, 67 extra-base hits and a 1.014 OPS in 578 at-bats), and he eventually will hit in the majors.

Already, he's owned in 84.2 percent of the ESPN leagues -- a surprisingly high number when you consider Jim Thome is owned in only 81.1 and Todd Helton 74.6 -- which means he's probably starting in most leagues.

I wouldn't make that move in mixed leagues. Until Wieters has a good week, I'd play someone else -- unless your alternative is Shoppach.

Tomorrow, we'll be back with a Pick Three for the week, and Saturday we'll break down what's sure to be a very difficult decision in football drafts late this summer: Who should be drafted No. 2, after Adrian Peterson? That story will be published in print editions and on the N-H's online sports section.

Until then, good luck and remember it's OK to hope Joe Buck's new HBO show fails.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Pick Three and Sizemore update

We're really digging with this week's edition of Pick Three -- the three players who follow are owned in 11.2 percent or fewer of the leagues on Each could be an asset in deeper leagues.

Scott Hairston, OF, Padres (owned in 11.2 percent of the ESPN leagues): Entering Tuesday, he had homered in three consecutive games, and half of his home runs this season have come at spacious Petco Park (four in 72 at-bats). Hairston, once a highly rated Diamondbacks prospect, has a less-than-impressive .257 career batting average. But he hits for power (25 homers in 471 at-bats with the Padres since the start of last season), he's batting .331 this season, has an OPS of .969 and he's even stolen six bases. I wouldn't expect him to continue to hit .330, but he has very productive in the minor leagues (.322 with 93 homers and 352 RBI in 1,806 at-bats) and is playing too well to ignore. He's worth starting in NL-only leagues and is a decent No. 3 outfielder in deeper mixed leagues.

Matt Palmer, SP, Angels (4.7 percent): The ownership percentage is surprisingly low for a pitcher who won his first five starts. Palmer is winless in his last three appearances (one of which was a relief outing that occurred between May 24 and May 30 starts). He's 30 years old and a career minor-leaguer, but his last start was impressive (seven shutout innings in a no-decision May 30 against the Mariners) and he's pitching for a team that should win more than it loses. Palmer won't help much in the strikeout department (27 in 44 1/3 innings), but I would consider him in deeper leagues when he's starting twice in a week.

Scott Feldman, SP, Rangers (1.9 percent): As I said, we're really trying to find guys who are available in most leagues. This 26-year-old has been a reliever for the majority of his major- and minor-league career. That should change with his seven-start tenure in 2009: 4-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 41 2/3 innings since April 25. Feldman's strikeout-to-walk ratio in that span (20-to-13) is a cause for concern, but he is backed by an offense that leads all of baseball in home runs and is ranked sixth in runs scored, which should help him reach double figures in wins. Like Palmer, he's not going to rack up a lot of strikeouts (Feldman had 153 in 289 1/3 innings in the minors). And Like Palmer, he's not a bad option in weeks in which he is scheduled for a couple of starts.

Sizing up Sizemore's chances: Owners who spent a first- or second-round selection on Grady Sizemore should begin to consider what their outfield is going to look like without the Tribe center fielder for the next eight weeks. As you know by now, Sizemore has an inflamed left elbow. If two weeks of rest don't help, Sizemore might need surgery, which would keep him on the DL for another four to six weeks. All of which means he might not return until late July.

The only good news here is Sizemore's position does at least afford the deepest pool of talent while searching for possible replacements. The aforementioned Hairston would be an ideal sub in mixed leagues. In AL-only leagues and mixed leagues of at least 12 teams, the player who is manning center in Sizemore's absence -- Ben Francisco -- is another option if you really need help. Francisco has stolen a career-high nine bases and had a good May: .295, three homers, 13 RBI and six steals. He's owned in only 4 percent of the leagues on (although all of that 4 percent might be because of leagues in Northeast Ohio).

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Carl Pavano and more Tribe tidbits

Carl Pavano's 5.29 earned-run average isn't going to interest you. Neither will his 1.37 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched). Same goes for his track record, which, since 2004, has prominently included "overpaid" and "oft-injured."

Never one to shy away from a monthly split, a look at Pavano's May numbers tell a different story: a 5-1 record, with a 3.60 ERA, eight walks and 34 strikeouts in 45 innings. If the Indians' bullpen would have held the lead Pavano handed it Sunday, the 33-year-old right-hander would have had six wins last month.

More May numbers for Pavano: He allowed three runs or fewer in six of seven starts, and he gave up four runs or fewer in all seven. He's also struck out 24 in 25 1/3 innings in his last four starts.

Does all of this mean you should rush to the free-agent waiver to acquire the pitcher on whom the Yankees wasted $40 million? No. But if you're in an AL-only league or a 14- or 16-team mixed league, Pavano is worth considering.

He's no longer the 18-game winner from 2004, and he's not a big strikeout asset (his 139 K's with Florida five years ago are his career high). But he has been effective, and it doesn't hurt that he's pitching for his next contract.

If he's starting two games in a week, he's certainly worth a look.

We all know the wheels could fall off at any time. Until they do, you could do a lot worse (think Fausto Carmona).

Speaking of Fausto: Why owners continue to start Carmona is more puzzling than LeBron James guarding Rafer Alston instead of Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu. The young righty is is 2-5 with a 6.60 ERA and is on pace to walk more batters than he strikes out for the second consecutive season. In 10-team mixed leagues, I'd drop him if I needed the roster space, and I wouldn't start him in any format.

Tribe tidbits: If you're hurting at shortstop and continue to start Jhonny Peralta, you can at least feel good about his batting improvement in May (a .297 average, compared to .211 in April). Still, he hit only one homer last month and scored all of eight runs. In deeper leagues, I'd sit him until he regains the power stroke that accounted for a combined 44 homers in 2007 and '08.

-- A sure sign this Indians season isn't going as planned: The Tribe's top two fantasy players have been Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo. Cabrera, who is batting .318 with 38 runs, 27 RBI and seven steals (he had a combined four stolen bases the previous two seasons), should be started in all formats. I would consider Choo a productive No. 3 outfielder, one who is on pace to hit more than 20 homers, drive in 90-plus runs and steal 18 bases.

-- Cliff Lee's 2-6 record certainly warrants a spot on your bench, but I wouldn't make that move. The 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner has given up three earned runs or fewer in nine consecutive starts, and he has a 3.16 ERA for the season. The only reason he hasn't matched Pavano's win total is the Tribe's production during that nine-start span: 13 runs. His luck has to turn around, and you don't want him to be a reserve when it does.

We'll be back tomorrow with a Pick Three for the week. Until then, good luck and don't even think about reserving a spot in your lineup for Travis Hafner.

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