Lance Berkman may or may not be done fore the rest of the 2012 season, we're just not sure yet. Ryan Braun --- so much for the concerns that he wouldn't be able to produce this season because of the off the field stuff that was swirling around him. Dee Gordon has been awful this season, so much so that he's lost his spot in the Dodgers order. Who is likely to hit atop the lineup? Roy Oswalt wants to pitch for a contender near his Mississippi home. He might get his wish. I'll also give you three names of players who have been tearing it up at the dish the past two weeks.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
Lance Berkman's outlook with his injured knee is muddled. Reports have varied from him needing a minor arthroscopic procedure to him being out for the rest of the season and potentially taking a seat for his career. Here's what we know for sure.
Berkman will have arthroscopic knee surgery.
Berkman will miss at least 6-8 weeks.
However, Berkman still is cautioning the media that he has received differing opinions on the status of his knee so there is still a chance that damage to his ACL could require a more invasive procedure when he is operated on this week (his ACL is “stretched” leading to some instability in the knee). The bottom line is that a best case scenario would have him out for six weeks but the specter of an ACL issue that might knock him out for the rest of the 2012 season, and possibly his career, still exists.
The date was April 20th. Ryan Braun was hitting .245 with one home run an a .704 OPS through 13 games. I was getting it, from all sides, as everyone in the fantasy baseball universe was castigating me for my stupidity at suggesting to anyone that Braun should be the #1 pick in fantasy baseball. Clearly he was going to struggle all year, either because he wasn't taking steroids anymore or because he was being crushed under the weight of the media who was continually harassing him about his failed drug test.
What's happened since that low point? Ryan Braun has reminded everyone why he could be the most complete offensive force in the game. Over the past 28 games Braun has hit .370 with a .438 OBP an a .750 SLG leading to a 1.188 OPS. He's also blasted 11 bombs, knocked in 26 batters, and scored 24 times. All of that makes him a special player, and when you add in six steals in that time, Braun becomes the elite of the elite. All told Braun is hitting .331 with 12 homers, 31 RBI, 30 runs scored and eight steals. He's the best player in the NL and on pace to .331 with 45 homers and 30 stolen bases. So much for him taking a nosedive this year because of pressure or a lack of artificial supplementation. As I said all spring, the guy is simply outstanding.
The moral of this story? Well, besides the fact that I'm always right (well, a good deal of the time), is that baseball is a loooooong season. Even at this point we aren't even a third of the way through the campaign. Stay patient with players who have a track record. Sooner or later they usually come around.
CAN I GET A WALK?
Dee Gordon has been demoted from the leadoff spot with the Dodgers, and who can blame manager Don Mattingly for making that call. Dee G. is batting .208 on the season with one homer and nine RBI. He's been so awful that his OBP has dropped to .250 on the year. Again, that's not his batting average, that's his OBP. Pathetic. Through 373 at-bats in his big league career Dee is hitting .265 with a hideous .294 OBP. But what about the speed? The total of 36 steals in 94 games is fantastic and leaves one to wonder how many bases he could steal if he could even get on base at a big league average rate. Alas, his last steal was on May 5th meaning he's gone 12 appearances without swiping a bag. The 12 steals on the year are nice, but they just aren't enough to have him active in any lineup at the moment, save an NL-only league.
So who will hit leadoff for the Dodgers? Right now that job has fallen to Tony Gwynn Jr. who has a hit in 9-straight games pushing his average up to .298. Still, he's a support player and not someone who is going to be in the lineup on a daily basis when everyone is healthy. That means when Matt Kemp returns from his hammy injury in a few days, Gwynn is likely going back to his 4th OF role which would seem to leave the leadoff role to... Bobby Abreu. After hitting .254 the past two years, Abreu hit .208 in his brief time with the Angels this year. He was then dealt to the Dodgers and guess what – he's performing like it's 2008 as Abreu has hit .333 with a .418 OBP in 17 games with the Dodgers. He really doesn't profile as a strong leadoff option at this point of his career, though he's still a safe bet to have an OBP that is .100 points better than Gordon, but it sounds like his hot start with the club might lead him to fill that role soon as he continues to be a solid NL-only option.
THE RETURN II?
Nothing is official at the moment, but Buster Olney is reporting that there is “full expectation” amongst some baseball executives that Roy Oswalt will sign with the Rangers. While this looked like a no-go a week ago, we've now got the issue with Neftali Feliz and his wonky elbow. What is that issue with Feliz? The Rangers are saying that he's merely dealing with some inflammation in his elbow, but they've decided to shut him down from throwing for four weeks. Given the time that he will miss – again he's not going to throw a ball for a month – he'll likely need at least a couple of weeks to get back to the point where he will be able to throw 100 pitches. That means he could be out until the All-Star Break. Yeah, tough break for Feliz owners who had watched the young righty go 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 37 Ks in his first 42.2 innings.
So the Rangers have two sound options. First, they could put Alexi Ogando back in the starting rotation. After all, the guy did make 29 starts last season leading to 13 victories, a 3.51 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He's been just about the best middle reliever in the AL this year though with a 1.13 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and 25 Ks in 24 innings. The Rangers apparently don't want to mess with a good thing, I totally understand that, but still, why not just move Ogando into the rotation? If the Rangers are to make a move to add a player, Oswalt makes a lot of sense. It's sounded like all along he wanted to play near his home in Mississippi. He also stated that he wanted to go to a team that had legitimate World Series aspirations (obviously the Rangers fit that requirement). Oswalt also figures to still be an effective big league pitcher as he posted a 3.69 ERA an a 1.34 WHIP over 139 innings with the Phillies last season.
When Oswalt signs with someone give him about four weeks before you should expect to see him on the field. At that point he should also become a solid end of the rotation option in mixed leagues.
BETTER THAN YOU THINK?
Here are some numbers from a few fellas who are actually performing better than you think they are this year.
Nick Markakis – The last two weeks have brought a bounty of production for the long time Orioles outfielder. Markakis is hitting .304 with a .590 SLG over his last 56 at-bats as he's gone deep four times leading to 11 RBI and eight runs scored. On pace to hit .264 with 30 homers, I'm going to go on record and say he won't be sitting at either of those numbers by the time the year is over. Markakis last hit 20 homers in 2008 and he owns a career .294 batting mark. This recent hot streak could propel him back into the mid 20's in homers, and the batting average is going to climb – bank on it.
Sean Rodriguez – Hitting just .248 with a .670 OPS on the year, you may have overlooked the fact that SRod has been pretty darn effective in the month of May. In 70 at-bats in May he has hit .300 with three homers, nine RBIs and nine runs in 21 games. With his eligibility all over the infield, he's been a solid play in mixed leagues for about a month now.
Dayan Viciedo – He has holes in his swing (34 Ks in just 132 at-bats) and never met a pitch he didn't think he could hit (the guy has walked only three times this season – not this week but this season), but it's all come together for Viciedo the past two weeks. Viciedo has hit .302 with four bombs and 10 RBI for the White Sox. Oh he hasn't walked in the two weeks, and he's struck out seven times, but at least he is being productive when the club needs him with Paul Konerko dealing with his facial injury.
WHY AM I ALWAYS HURT?
J.J. Hardy is dealing with a “barky” right shoulder (the shoulder that has bothered him going all the way back to spring training). Hardy has nine homers, 21 RBI and 25 runs scored, so his production really hasn't been hindered at all thus far, but remember this salient point – the guy is a constant injury risk. The last three years he has appeared in 115, 101 and 129 games meaning that for three year's running he's missed an average of 47 games a season which equates to roughly two months a year on the shelf. That's an awfully long period of time out of the lineup wouldn't you say? Now might be a good time to investigate what you could get for Hardy on the trade market.
Pablo Sandoval took 25 swings off a batting tee today Wednesday and felt no pain in his surgically repaired left hand. The Giants hope he will be able to return to action in about three weeks and they could certainly use his All-Star caliber bat in their weak lineup.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius 210, XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT. You can also follow his work at BaseballGuys.com and over on twitter at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
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