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Monday, August 16, 2010
Jhoulys Chacin a solid start

By Adam Madison
Special to ESPN.com

It's the return of Jhoulys Chacin! It seems as though every hotshot pitching prospect who has been called up has made immediate noise, and Chacin was no exception. He boasted a 2.71 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, striking out 23 batters, before being forced into the bullpen in mid-July. He's been getting stretched out the past few weeks in the minors, which has also had the benefit of keeping his innings low. It also means you can put him to immediate use, as he shouldn't be on any kind of pitch count. Available in 98 percent of the ESPN universe, he could be the missing piece to your stretch run.

For starters

Selected notes:

Brandon Morrow is Kerry Wood reincarnated. OK, now what? Morrow's biggest problem is inconsistency, and while throwing him into the fire as a starter and letting him figure it out has been the right choice, one amazing start doesn't throw any of that out the window. He averages fewer than 5 2/3 innings per start, so the four consecutive wins he's picked up are not something you should get used to. That said, Morrow is still my boy; I'm just saying all you new owners should temper your expectations. He still makes a great option against the Athletics.

• I'll miss you, Jeff Francis, but I'm not going to lie: I'm taking Jhoulys Chacin all day, every day. Chacin was already proving himself a capable third (real life) or fourth (fantasy) starter, racking up 74 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings (12 starts). He won't pitch deep into games and his WHIP could be on the high end, so he's not for everybody, but I would be all over him when he faces the Dodgers.

Scott Baker just got touched up by the White Sox -- on the road -- but I'll take the blame for that one. I never should have recommended him, as the White Sox have a good offense, especially at home, where their park has been the most favorable one to home runs this season. But Baker will be at home in the rematch, and Target Field has been the least favorable park to home runs this season. Now it makes sense that Baker has allowed just five of his 19 home runs at home.

• In reality, though, Tuesday's matchups are more about whom to avoid than whom to start. And there's a lot to avoid, starting with Jaime Garcia. If you still have that image of Garcia as an elite starter, let me shatter it: He's gradually been slipping the past two months and it wouldn't be surprising to see him implode soon. Avoid him when he faces the Brewers, one of the best offenses in the league.

• Much of the same applies to Barry Zito, Justin Verlander and John Danks. Zito has allowed eight home runs his past five starts, so I wouldn't feel comfortable keeping him active on the road against the Phillies, even potentially missing their two best hitters. Verlander faces the Yankees, and if that's not self-explanatory to you by now, I don't know what to tell you! Danks may throw a wrench into things -- he dominated the Twins his last time out, so why not play him in the rematch? -- but for better or worse I refuse to be results-oriented. As a team, the Twins actually pound Danks, boasting a .294 AVG/.354 OBP/.449 SLG in 245 at-bats, a significant sample size as far as these things go.

Randy Wells, I still like you, I promise. But you burned me and anyone who listened to me (I'm sorry!) in your latest start, allowing three home runs. Now you've allowed 10 walks and six home runs in your past four starts (21 2/3 innings). We will meet again in the (hopefully near) future, but for now you're unplayable.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners: He's just a one-trick pony, but a home run is a pretty good trick, right? He has a solid shot at going deep Tuesday versus Kevin Millwood, a right-hander he's gone 2-for-8 with a pair of home runs against.

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Ortiz may be 0-for-8 the past two seasons against Jered Weaver, but his career numbers are still solid, with Big Papi going 7-for-23 (.304) with two homers and a double. He's in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, and he's already gone deep twice and chipped in two doubles, so leave him active even against the major league leader in strikeouts.

Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: Diaz is 1-for-6 with three strikeouts against Scott Olsen this season, but that one hit did leave the park. He normally rakes against Olsen, going 12-for-31 (.387) with four homers and four doubles, so make sure to start him.

Carlos Lee, OF, Astros: Lee is 11-for-35 (.314) against Johan Santana in his career, and while you may not have batted much of an eye before the season because performances like that are expected of Lee -- it's pretty much the best you'll get nowadays. He's also gone deep three times, adding three doubles as well, so if you own him there's little reason not to play him.

Michael Cuddyer, 1B/3B/OF, Twins: Maybe John Danks should start intentionally walking Cuddyer, as the slugger is 20-for-41 (.488) against the southpaw, blasting five home runs as well as four doubles.

Pitchers' count:

Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Yankees: It depends how desperate you are for power, as Swisher has taken Justin Verlander deep three times in 38 career at-bats. But he's also struck out 14 times, batting .184 overall, so is that home run power worth a sub-Mendoza Line average?

Johnny Damon, OF, Tigers: Still looking for his first home run or stolen base against a left-hander, it's doubtful it happens against CC Sabathia. Damon's 5-for-21 (.238) with zero extra-base hits or walks versus the southpaw.

Chone Figgins, 2B/3B, Mariners: With twice as many strikeouts (12) as hits (six), Kevin Millwood definitely has Figgins' number. Overall, Figgins is just 6-for-43 (.143) in his career against Millwood.

Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies: He's faced Barry Zito quite a bit -- 47 at-bats to be exact -- but has as many strikeouts as hits (eight apiece). Four of his eight hits have gone for extra bases, including one home run, but that still leaves Ibanez with a paltry lifetime average of .170.

Jorge Cantu, 1B/3B, Rangers: Cantu has received a litany of bad matchups, and although you wish you could say it'd get better, the reality is this: Welcome to the AL. He'll face Matt Garza on Tuesday and it doesn't get any easier; Cantu is 1-for-11 (.091) with four K's against Garza lifetime.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Ichiro Suzuki, RF, Mariners: Batting better than .400 in his career against Kevin Millwood, Ichiro is a slam-dunk choice for Tuesday. He's 30-for-74 (.405) with seven extra-base hits, including two home runs, off Millwood.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (15-day DL, side)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Lance Berkman, 1B, Yankees (ankle)
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (hamstring)
J.J. Hardy, SS, Twins (wrist)
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (knee; probable)
Bobby Jenks, RP, White Sox (back)
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs (back)
Matt Lindstrom, RP, Astros (back)
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays (foot): Pena was activated off the disabled list Monday.
Jose Valverde, RP, Tigers (abdomen)

Weather concerns

Three contests will be weatherproof: the Rangers-Rays, Mets-Astros and Reds-Diamondbacks.

Kansas City (Indians-Royals) is virtually guaranteed thunderstorms, and possibly a delay or postponement. Atlanta (Nationals-Braves) is also at risk of scattered storms.

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