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Santana entered Monday's game second among pitchers on our fabled ESPN Player Rater, behind only machine Zack Greinke, and begins Tuesday with the same fine ranking. While Santana lost his second game this season without allowing an earned run, his ERA is a Greinke-like 0.78, and his WHIP is 0.96. He's on pace for more than 300 strikeouts, which would also be quite a feat since pitchers just don't do that anymore. There's more to fantasy than wins, and Santana is delivering. Plus, four wins isn't nothing, and it could be worse; Randy Wolf is a top-30 starting pitcher with a 2.95 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, and only one win. Put simply, Santana brings out the best in his opposing starter as well.
Including the end of last season, Santana has 13 consecutive starts allowing two or fewer earned runs, a remarkable stretch, and something that can't be overlooked despite Greinke's heroics and Tim Lincecum earning the NL Cy Young award. The fact Santana has eight wins in that span isn't really his fault. "It's crazy that it happened twice already," Santana said of his losses. "There's not many things I can do."
There isn't, so fantasy owners need not worry about it, nor belabor the point. While Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz have certainly stabilized what had been a beleaguered Mets bullpen the past few seasons, the flawed team has still cost Santana in his losses and no-decision. In his second start, infielder, um, left fielder Danny Murphy dropped a fly ball to allow two unearned runs in a 2-1 Marlins win. In Santana's fifth start, he left with a lead and Putz blew the game in the eighth inning. And on Monday, Santana permitted a first-inning run and nothing else until a Jose Reyes error and pitchers Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano and Brian Stokes opened the floodgates with a man he left on for the Braves in the seventh. The Mets gave up seven runs in the final three innings. Only three times this season has a starting pitcher lost a game in which he didn't allow an earned run, and Santana owns two of those starts (the other is Ted Lilly).
Maybe Santana won't win 20 games, just like 2008 when one bullpen misadventure after another doomed him to "only" 16 wins with a 2.54 ERA, but fantasy owners have learned they can't control how many wins they get. I generally draft starting pitchers for strikeouts and peripheral numbers, not Jon Garland types (check his line Monday!) who tend to win but not pitch well. Santana's career numbers show a better second-half pitcher than first, so maybe you can steal the ace from a fellow owner by pointing out his lame 4-2 record. Good luck!
• For much of April, Ryan Zimmerman was merely getting a base hit per game, and wasn't much of a run producer, so his hitting streak wasn't noticed. In May, he's flat-out raking. Now up to 29 consecutive games with a hit, Zimmerman had four more Monday, including a pair of home runs, and knocked in four. This hitting streak is the longest by a third baseman in a quarter-century, since Peter Edward Rose in 1978, and Zimmerman is hitting .511 this month. Maybe he won't make it to 56 straight games, but Zimmerman looks like he'll be a terrific fantasy option all season.
• The Indians broke out the bats with nine runs against the White Sox, as Shin-Soo Choo and Jhonny Peralta each knocked in three runs. For Choo, there are few concerns if he stays healthy, as he's become a strong OPS guy and is on pace for 30 stolen bases. Peralta is on ESPN's most-dropped list, however, a year after the productive shortstop hit 23 home runs and knocked in 89 runs. Peralta's recent mental break, in which he received a few days off, might be working, and your time to buy low is ending.
• Even I am starting to wonder if Alexei Ramirez will ever hit, but patience is a virtue. Ramirez singled in four at-bats Monday, and he knocked in a pair of runs, giving him 13 RBIs on the season. Look, don't even click on the Ramirez player page. He's struggling. At least he's on pace for 74 RBIs and 34 stolen bases while he hits like Mario Mendoza.
• Ramirez isn't the lone member of the White Sox betraying his fantasy owners. Gavin Floyd won 17 games a season ago, but his latest pounding -- eight earned runs and 11 hits in five messy frames -- raised his season ERA and WHIP to 7.32 and 1.88, respectively. Ouch. Floyd remains owned in more than 30 percent of ESPN leagues, so apparently his owners are really patient, or really not paying attention. This is the Floyd we thought we'd see in 2008.
• On the injury front, it's good news for Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee as the bulging disc in his back is apparently not serious enough to send him to the DL, but fantasy owners would be advised to use caution in trading for a player clearly hurt. Lee is hitting .209 with three home runs, and backup Micah Hoffpauir probably has more power at this point. Lee claims he'll play Tuesday, but this might not be a very productive week for him.
• Speaking of injured NL first basemen, the Mets could be without Carlos Delgado for a few days as he deals with more right hip inflammation. Delgado isn't like Lee; he's been productive anyway, hitting .298 with 23 RBIs in 26 games. Fernando Tatis, now hitting .356, should get a few starts in Delgado's place.
• And now speaking of injured NL corner infielders, Chipper Jones owners know they will get more days off from the defending batting champ than most hitters, but that's OK if he hits .350. Jones left Sunday's game in Philadelphia early with a sore elbow, and missed Monday's game at Citi Field, with Martin Prado replacing him in the field and in the No. 3 lineup spot. It was interesting to see Kelly Johnson playing over Omar Infante with the lefty Santana on the mound, so maybe that prospective time-share is over. Jones could be back in action Tuesday, but regardless, assume he sits 30 or so games this season.
Willy Taveras, Reds
The leadoff speedster stroked five hits in five chances, scored four runs and in the familiar stat to fantasy owners, stole his eighth base. Taveras raised his batting average 32 points to .315, and note that he's knocked in a run or more in four of five games. Alas, watch the steals; that's why we own him.
Derek Lowe, Braves
All hail the man who conquered the great Johan! On a night when starting pitchers not named Johan fared poorly, Lowe won his fifth game -- one more than Johan -- and lowered his ERA to 3.80. Lowe has won four straight games and is on pace for a career best in strikeouts as well.
Say what you will for Carl Pavano -- and you probably will anyway -- but the right-hander threw 17 first-pitch strikes to start Monday's game, and 23 of 27 overall, certainly a key in earning his third victory of the season. Pavano threw 87 pitches, 67 of them strikes, and has walked only eight hitters in seven starts.
• Jose Contreras was actually helping fantasy owners a year ago, with a 3-1 record in May and a 2.09 ERA. Then things fell apart, he kept getting hurt and he hasn't endeared himself to anyone since then. This season, Contreras is 0-5 in six starts with an 8.19 ERA, and the 37-year-old was demoted to Triple-A Charlotte. Lefty Jimmy Gobble got the call to the bigs, and Clayton Richard makes the Tuesday start. At least there's upside there.
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Tristan H. Cockcroft: BJ, remember that in the chat, I've got about 30 seconds to formulate you an answer, so in such cases, I think it's understandable that one big sleeper is going to come to mind, and I'm going to harp on that one as a result. And that one is Nolan Reimold. Look at what he's doing in Triple-A ball: .381 BA, 8 homers, 25 RBIs, 28 games. And it's not like the Orioles are totally set in left field. I think he'll be up before long at this pace.
-- Full chat transcript
AJ Mass: Not much. I have to admit I'm quite disappointed in Beltre. I thought he'd come out of the gate like gangbusters, but so far he's barely rosterable. Get out the rosary beads.
-- Full chat transcript
Tuesday's fantasy chat schedule:
AJ Mass, 11 a.m. ET
Brendan Roberts, 3 p.m. ET
• The Twins have rotation reinforcements in the minors if necessary, and right-hander Anthony Swarzak is high on the list. Swarzak threw six scoreless innings Monday to even his record at 3-3, but check out his 1.70 ERA. He's nearly Johan Santana-like! Swarzak has allowed one home run all season. He and Kevin Mulvey, the latter a key part of the Santana trade, each look ready for the majors. Incidentally, demoted second baseman Alexi Casilla played his fourth game for the Red Wings, and hit his second triple. He's hitting .412 with an RBI in each contest. His return to the majors doesn't appear far away.
• Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew, on the DL with a strained hamstring, batted third for Triple-A Reno and hit a pair of singles in his first two at-bats. It was Drew's second game on his rehab assignment. He could return to the Diamondbacks later this week.
• Finally, the sad tale of Lastings Milledge took another turn: He broke a finger trying to bunt Monday. Not that Milledge was anywhere near making it back to the big leagues, as noted in Monday's Leading Off column about young center fielders, but this stalls any progress he might have been making. Hey, he tried to bunt. That's a good sign, right?
• Well, Royals fans and fantasy owners have whined about Luke Hochevar being stuck in Triple-A, but now he's up and scheduled for two starts this week. There's no more Sidney Ponson to kick around, though we probably haven't seen the last of him. Hochevar was 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA for Omaha, but remember he had a 5.51 ERA in 22 starts for the Royals last season. I'd use him solely because he faces the lowest-scoring AL team in Oakland, then worry about his weekend start against the Orioles.
• Clayton Kershaw has won once in six starts, faring far worse in road games. He's in Philly on Tuesday, but note much of the Phillies' power is left-handed. Kershaw has allowed three singles and nothing else to lefties all season. He'll face fifth starter Chan Ho Park, who allowed one hit in six innings his last time out (against Johan Santana, naturally), but always seems one bad outing away from losing his rotation spot.
• For more on Tuesday's games, check out Daily Notes.