|ESPN.com: 2009||[Print without images]|
With Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Dan Haren and Matt Cain, Monday will feature four of baseball's most valuable hurlers. But what makes this time of the year so great for baseball is that now we begin to see the future, too, as rookie pitchers like Brett Anderson, Mat Latos and Chris Tillman are brimming with potential. The first four pitchers are known commodities, but just a few years ago (well, except Haren), they, too, were just earning their stripes. Where will this promising trio place in our daily pitcher rankings? Let's find out.
Selected notes: Few pitchers are throwing the ball better than Brett Anderson right now, as only Tommy Hunter and Jarrod Washburn had a lower ERA than Anderson's 1.87 mark in July, and those two didn't come close to Anderson's 33 strikeouts. Since the beginning of June, Anderson has 58 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings, with only 16 walks and four home runs allowed. Anderson may have his innings limited in the near future -- he pitched 105 innings in the minors last year and is at 108 this season -- so the time to capitalize on his performance is now. Anderson faced awfully tough offenses in July, too -- the Red Sox (twice), Rays and Yankees all on the road, plus the Angels -- so a matchup versus the Rangers is a relief of sorts, as the team hits only .237 on the road. Scott Kazmir should be brimming with confidence after his performance versus the Yankees; he limited the game's best offense to five hits en route to one earned run in seven innings and fanned four batters. Most importantly, he walked only one, especially impressive considering the Yankees are behind only the Rays in terms of walks earned. The Royals are much easier in that regard -- 28th in walks -- and every other regard, frankly, and hopefully Kazmir can use the favorable matchup as a catalyst to get his season on the right track once and for all. Fantasy owners keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with regard to Randy Wells, as that's the only explanation for his paltry 25.1 percent ownership. And sure, he won't continue pitching like an ace, but he also won't turn into a pumpkin, as his peripherals suggest a competent midrotation starter. Against offenses like the Reds, those types of starters can masquerade as aces. After all, the team is battling the Giants for the worst OPS against right-handed pitching in the majors, and as of now, the Reds (.694) have a slight "lead." In the meantime, expect Wells to keep chugging along. Now that Mat Latos is going to face a legitimately tough offense -- the Braves finished with the best OPS in the National League in July -- owners should exercise caution. He's coming off a one-hitter, but it was against the Reds, so we know how much that is worth; more important, that one hit was a home run, his fourth allowed in 16 2/3 innings. Such a propensity for gopher balls doesn't portend particularly well against the likes of Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. Aaron Harang just cannot keep the ball in the park, as he allowed two more dingers to the Padres in his most recent start. If he's not careful, he could approach the 35 home runs he allowed last season. It won't get any easier against the Cubs; Harang has allowed five homers to Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee alone, and the Cubs swatted 36 long balls in July, tops in the NL.
• Garrett Jones, OF, Pirates: Although it's been more than a week since Jones' last home run, he's hit a couple of doubles and stolen a couple of bases, so he hasn't fallen off quite yet. He's a left-handed hitter, so it's no surprise he hits much better against righties; he had a .934 OPS against righties in Triple-A, and in the majors he's hitting .344 off them, with all five of his steals also coming against right-handers. That makes a matchup against Garrett Mock, who has allowed 16 runs (11 earned) and three home runs in his three starts this season, particularly enticing.
• Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals: Guzman has seven consecutive multihit games, with four doubles and two homers in that span. As a result of his hot hitting and presence near the top of the Nationals' lineup, he's scored 11 runs in those seven games, making him one of the hottest fantasy players the past week.
• Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers: Normally awful against left-handers, Blalock has gone 4-for-4 with a home run against Brett Anderson. Indeed, it's against lefties that Anderson has struggled the most against in his rookie season, allowing them to bat .288 in 118 at-bats.
• Casey Blake, 1B/3B, Dodgers: A must-start versus lefties, with a .370 average this season. Blake is also 3-for-3 with a double and a home run against Manny Parra.
• Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: He's 6-for-13 with a home run and two doubles in his past four games, and considering Cameron tends to run hot and cold, it could be a sign of things to come. It also helps that he's 3-for-6 with a home run and a double versus Clayton Kershaw.
• Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: All Crawford has been able to muster against Zack Greinke is two walks and one hit in 18 plate appearances, with three strikeouts. In case you're wondering, Crawford has yet to steal a base off Greinke, and so far this season Greinke has helped catch six of eight would-be thieves, making him especially tough to run on.
• Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: Justin Verlander has left Roberts without a hit in 11 of his 12 at-bats, and the one hit Roberts did earn was a lousy single. Although he's been on first base three times -- Roberts has worked two walks -- he's yet to attempt a steal against Verlander.
• Hunter Pence, OF, Astros: The summer months are often kind to sluggers, but July was Pence's worst month, with a season-worst .357 slugging percentage. He draws Matt Cain on Monday, who is only allowing .77 home runs per nine innings, and to make matters worse Pence is slugging only .428 versus right-handers.
• Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: It may seem odd to bench any hitter who's facing Manny Parra, but until Ethier can breach the Mendoza Line when facing left-handed pitchers, that's the grim reality. Parra, for all his struggles, is still holding lefties to a .400 slugging percentage and has yet to allow a home run to a left-handed hitter.
• Alberto Callaspo, 2B, Royals: Callaspo has torn through left-handed pitching this season, hitting .398 in 118 at-bats while piling up 13 doubles and two homers. He's hit lefties so hard that only three of his 27 walks have come against them. When you hit everything in sight, there's no need to take a walk.
• Mike Fontenot, 2B/3B, Cubs: He has a history of success against Aaron Harang, going 5-for-15 with two home runs and a double. Fontenot hit one of those home runs earlier in the season, and if there's one thing Harang has a problem with, it's keeping the ball in the park.
• Ryan Garko, 1B, Giants: As long as Garko's facing a left-hander (career .317 average against), he's a good bet, and Mike Hampton should make things even easier considering righties are hitting better than .300 against him, slugging .468 in the process.
• Kyle Blanks, 1B/OF, Padres: Blanks has reached base in each of his past 11 starts, launching five homers along the way. The slugger figures to get a couple more balls to hit against Kenshin Kawakami, as right-handed batters have touched Kawakami up to the tune of a .497 slugging percentage.
Injury list: Out
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Ryan Church, OF, Braves (elbow)
• Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (wrist)
• Frank Francisco, RP, Rangers (pneumonia): Francisco is expected back either Sunday or Monday, and manager Ron Washington plans to ease him back into the closer's role. C.J. Wilson owners take note.
• Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (hamstring)
• Kevin Millwood, SP, Rangers (glute): Millwood was scratched from his start Monday, the third straight time his glute has pushed back his start. It's unknown whether that means a stint on the disabled list is in the cards for Millwood.
• Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (knee): Sanchez has yet to make his Giants debut because of his bum knee, but there's hope he could return Sunday or Monday.
• Willy Taveras, OF, Reds (wrist)
• Mark Teahen, 3B/OF, Royals (back): Teahen was removed from Saturday's game in the fifth inning with back tightness, although the team is saying it was precautionary.
• The Royals-Rays and Giants-Astros are the two weatherproof games Monday. With only nine games on the schedule, Detroit (Orioles-Tigers) is the only city that may be threatened by rain, with a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms.Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.