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Sunday, August 8, 2010
Mike Minor to debut for Braves

By Adam Madison
Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes
Play this game long enough and you learn a couple of general trends. One of them: The Cardinals, and especially pitching coach Dave Duncan, revive careers, so get Jake Westbrook while you still can. And always keep the careers of pitchers such as Manny Parra, Bud Norris and yes, even Justin Masterson, in your back pocket, because you never know when they'll find a modicum of control and turn into a strong No. 3 starter.

The promotion of Atlanta's Mike Minor brings to mind another golden rule: The Braves know prospects. What's Jarrod Saltalamacchia been up to anyway? Exactly. They're not perfect, but it's a good rule of thumb, and it's why you should be excited for Minor's major league debut Monday.

For starters

Selected notes:

• As I said above, more often than not, the Braves know what they're doing when it comes to prospects, so consider me all aboard the Mike Minor bandwagon. When he was taken with the seventh-overall pick in the 2009 draft, many people strongly felt he was drafted too high. One year later, it appears the Braves had it right. Minor has fanned nearly 11 batters per nine innings in the minors, and this coming from a guy most scouts considered to be as major league-ready as it gets. He's a great spot start against the Astros on Monday.

• For whatever reason, Ervin Santana's 3 2/3-inning, nine-run implosion against the Orioles last week just doesn't make me bat an eye. I liked Santana before, and sure, with the benefit of hindsight, you could say, "Well, he allowed 12 baserunners in six innings at home in his previous start against the Rangers, so you could have seen this coming," but the fact is that these outings just happen anyway, despite any efforts to avoid them. Why own Santana in the first place if you're going to bail as soon as the going gets rough, as 10 percent of the ESPN fantasy universe did? A fly ball pitcher like Santana is going to have one of these games every now and then, but I still think he'll bounce back nicely versus the Royals.

• The Cubs actually have a better OPS against left-handers than the Rockies, so you might want to think twice about starting Bumgarner. It seems that too often, especially in the case of top prospects, we wait until disaster strikes before we show restraint in what matchups to start or sit them against. The Cubs actually rank fourth in the entire majors in OPS against lefties, with a .786 mark, so start Bumgarner at your own risk.

Carlos Zambrano and Brian Matusz are today's two high-risk, high-reward options, although both are fairly unique cases. Little should be expected of Zambrano until he proves he can actually remain in the rotation; he'll need to build arm strength for a turn or two and is expected to be limited to 75-80 pitches Monday. He's nothing more than a flier in fantasy leagues right now, but with any success you can expect him to be snapped up quickly, so keep a close eye on him. As for Matusz, he has enough talent that, any time he throws a gem of an outing, you know his owners are crossing their fingers, hoping he has finally figured it out. But you know what? Make him prove he has figured it out first. He actually allowed three extra-base hits and struck out only three on Aug. 4 against the Angels and, so he wasn't exactly dominating.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Ryan Kalish, OF, Red Sox: The top prospect has made an immediate impact since his call-up, batting .429 with a home run in seven games, and as long as he keeps it up, he should continue to see regular playing time. The six strikeouts in seven games suggest he still has some kinks to work through, but take a flier on him versus Dustin Moseley, as lefties are slugging .523 off him.

Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Rays: Zobrist had quite an interesting July, swiping a season-high nine bases despite batting .195, thanks in part to drawing 19 walks in 21 games. He might not steal any bases off the Tigers' Gerald Laird, who has thrown out 35 percent of attempted thieves, but Zobrist is 3-for-6 with a pair of home runs against pitcher Armando Galarraga. Considering Zobrist hasn't gone deep since June 9, his owners would sure appreciate it.

Rick Ankiel, OF, Braves: It's a small sample size, of course, but Ankiel is batting .282 with four home runs in 78 at-bats against right-handers this season, so don't let his poor start with the Braves get you down too much. He's a great fourth outfielder in deeper mixed leagues or a solid starter in NL-only play, and he could break through Monday with a big game against Bud Norris, who has allowed lefties to slug .480 off him.

Pat Burrell, OF, Giants: A great June turned into an awful July, but the real Burrell is probably somewhere in between those two extremes. Four of his six hits in August have gone for extra bases, including one home run, so make sure not to overlook him against Carlos Zambrano. He's 3-for-12 (.250) with a home run and a double off Zambrano, which sums up Burrell in a nutshell.

Pitchers' count:

Jorge Posada, C, Yankees: Although Posada sports a robust .289 AVG/.385 OBP/.533 SLG stat line against lefties this season, he actually has been horrendous in his 18 career at-bats versus Jon Lester. Not only is he batting a weak .167 with zero extra-base hits to his name, he has struck out six times to boot.

Johnny Damon, OF, Tigers: The next left-hander to take David Price deep this season will also be the first one; they're slugging a paltry .287 against Price in 129 at-bats. That doesn't bode well for Damon, who is slugging just .381 with zero home runs versus southpaws this season.

Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: It's looking less and less likely that Bruce will ever live up to his enormous potential, and he has been flat-out awful since July, with zero home runs and 35 strikeouts in 32 games. Shallow mixed leaguers should cut bait, and if you're league is too big to make cutting Bruce a viable option, at least keep him benched against Chris Carpenter, whom he's 3-for-16 (.188) against in his career.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: Ervin Santana allows his fair share of gopher balls, and Butler has capitalized. He has only four hits off Santana in their 18 at-bats, but he has made them count, with three of them leaving the park.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers (15-day DL, concussion)

Torii Hunter, OF, Angels (suspension; eligible to return Aug. 11)

Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays (15-day DL, foot)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Bobby Jenks, RP, White Sox (back)

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds (foot)

Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Diamondbacks (head)

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (shin)

Geovany Soto, C, Cubs (shoulder)

Weather concerns

Contests between the Braves-Astros, Diamondbacks-Brewers and Athletics-Mariners have the benefit of being weatherproof. Otherwise expect clear skies for the rest of the major league cities with games in them Monday.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.