Fantasy Notes: Sorry, Charlie
Charlie Morton clearly isn’t the answer for the struggling and injury-riddled Atlanta Braves. The rookie, recalled from Triple-A Richmond to replace Tim Hudson, who was put on the DL, was pounded for seven hits, eight runs and four walks in just 3 2/3 innings Monday as the floundering Braves dropped their third straight. Morton’s inability to locate his pitches has been his undoing, as he’s walked 11 batters in 14 2/3 IP over his last three starts with Atlanta. We recommended Morton last month, and judging by the 24-year-old’s results at Triple-A this year (5-2, 2.05, 79 IP, 51 hits, 0 homers, 27 BB, 72 Ks), he’s got a bright future, but it’s obvious Morton can’t be trusted on anyone’s fantasy team for the time being. Dump him immediately.
The Cards, meanwhile, needed that win big time, having lost six of seven to drop to third in the NL Central. And when they need a W they turn to – who else? – Albert Pujols, who continued his recent hot streak with three RBI and two runs. In the past three games, Phat Albert is 8-for-14 with six runs, seven RBI, a double, two homers and two walks. Although he’s hit very well this month, Pujols hadn’t been walking much and his power had slipped until this week, so it’s a great sign for his owners that he’s going to pick things up in the home stretch. Worries that Pujols was an injury waiting to happen this season have proved unfounded, as he’s enjoyed an excellent campaign. The power is down, yes, but with dingers in back-to-back games on the weekend, there’s definite reason for optimism.
One Card who has been dying for a win is Braden Looper, who won for the first time since June 24 after tossing seven strong innings Monday. Heading into the start, Looper was 3-2, 6.48 in 25 career games at Turner Field. Sounds like a good bet, right? So, naturally, he goes out and shuts Atlanta down for the first 5 1/3 IP, surrendering just two earned runs in all. He’s been getting cut loose from plenty of leagues, but after tossing back-to-back strong outings (12 IP, 14 hits, three runs, two walks, eight strikeouts), I’d say he’s worth another look. Looper has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, alternating good months with crappy ones, but he’s due for a rebound in August, so if you need pitching help, consider picking him up.
Joe Mather, who’s been mostly invisible since coming up from Triple-A Memphis to replace the injured Chris Duncan, exploded for his first career three-hit game Monday, an effort that included the third homer of his young career. We know he’s got pop, with a .630 SLG in 211 at bats in the minors, so he’s worth keeping an eye on in NL-only leagues if he can get regular PT. Who couldn’t use some more power on their team?
Ryan Ludwick’s dream season continued with another three hits and two RBI Monday. He cooled significantly in June, prompting most to presume the bubble had burst, but to his credit, Ludwick has bounced right back in July, batting .313 with seven homers and 16 RBI. The fact that, to an extent, he’s learned to take a walk suggests to me that the improvements he’s shown this year are for real. Hey, call him a late bloomer if you like, just make sure to call his name on Draft Day next year.
Atlanta’s recent skid has pretty well put its NL East hopes on life support, so it’s time to start watching what moves it plans to make heading up to this week’s trading deadline. In addition to Hudson’s potentially season-ending elbow injury, Chipper Jones’s hammy has necessitated a trip to the DL and Brian McCann (concussion) is out for a few games. The injury to major-league leading hitter Jones has allowed Omar Infante to play every day. Looking for some short-term help for your NL-only league? Pick him up. Infante hasn’t had a chance to play much this season, but he’s done well when he’s been called upon, and with a seven-game hitting streak, grab him while he’s hot.
With McCann getting knocked out Sunday, the Braves recalled Clint Sammons , and he got the start Monday. Don’t expect much; Sammons was only getting on base at a .295 clip at Richmond, and he’s really struggled offensively as he’s moved up the ladder in the Atlanta system.
Yunel Escobar has been snapping out of his July slump with hits in four of his last five games, but as good as he’s been defensively this season, his error Monday led to three runs and helped start the Card avalance, which ended in a 12-3 drubbing. Escobar hasn’t been able to duplicate his fine rookie season, but he’s made good strides in his batting eye and, as mentioned, is showing signs of reversing his slump. He’s been cut loose from plenty of leagues, but I think he could be a fine pickup for those who need middle infield help down the stretch. If last year is any indication, he really picked things up in the second half, increasing his OPS by 125 points after the break.
Can someone please explain to me why Yadier Molina, who had two hits, two runs and two RBI Monday while extending his hitting streak to four games, is owned in so few leagues? Alright, I get that power isn’t his thing, but Molina is batting .325 with 12 RBI this month, taking him over .300 for the season. He’s shown significant improvements at the plate in each of the last two seasons, but isn’t getting much fantasy love. How many catchers have a higher average than Molina in the entire majors? Uh, try one. Joe Mauer, at .316.
Rick Ankiel (abdomen) has missed the past two games, and with Manager Tony La Russa being unsure how long Ankiel will be out, the Cards optioned reliever Mitchell Boggs to Triple-A and brought up Nick Stavinoha from Memphis. Stavinoha struggled last month when he was recalled, and he took an 0-for-2 Monday, but the 26-year-old has enjoyed a breakout season at Triple-A, batting .343 with 14 homers and 66 RBI in 95 games, and any player capable of throwing up those kind of numbers cannot be ignored.