For better, for worse: The curious (head) case of Oliver Perez

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Do want a pitcher that that has struck out more than a batter an inning in 7-plus seasons? And has held batters to only a .242 average during his career? And won 26 games since 2007? And best of all, he's a young veteran in his prime at 27. You may have guessed I'm talking about Oliver Perez. Perez is available in about ¾ of leagues despite unquestionable raw talent. The always-wild lefty took it to another level in 2009. In five starts he walked 21 batters in 21 innings. It would be incorrect to say that Perez has "Steve Blass disease" -- A World Series hero in 1971, Blass suddenly lost his command between the '72 and '73 seasons. Unlike Blass, Perez' meltdown was neither sudden nor surprising. Anyone that drafted Perez knew he was a high risk/high reward proposition.

Manager Jerry Manuel finally had enough and removed Perez from the Mets' rotation. Perez is banished to long relief for now, which is the worst thing for him and his fantasy prospects. He needs to pitch to get his head screwed on straight. Perez' former teammate, Steve Trachsel, began the 2001 in similarly horrid fashion. Trachsel, a bit of a head case himself, was nevertheless man enough to do the right thing. He volunteered to go to the minors to work out his problems. Trachsel did just that and returned to the Mets later that season and pitched well. Perez needs to work on his mechanics and confidence.

Is a talent like Perez worth keeping on a fantasy roster? Fantasy owners have voted "no" in large numbers, and I have to agree. Pitching infrequently will prolong his problems.

Perez is not the only talented 20-something that's taken a turn for worse this season. Unlike Perez, a number of them did end up in the minors.

Chien-Ming Wang, SP, Yankees: Wang lasted only three starts and six innings before getting the hook. Officially Wang is on the Disabled List with hip and foot problems. The truth is that Wang really had whiplash from watching his pitches scream past him. Wang is doing well in extended spring training games, which are essentially minor league games. A late-May return is expected. However, it is much too early to think about reserving a spot for Wang. Even at his best, Wang is not that good a fantasy pitcher. He will give you wins if the Yankees are scoring for him, but the strikeouts will be low and ERA high.

Lastings Milledge, OF, Nationals: Milledge has the raw talent to be a 5-category roto-stud. He started the season in centerfield for Washington but played himself not only out of the lineup but also all the way out of D.C. The Nats sent Milledge down to AAA Syracuse to learn some plate discipline. He was hitting .167 with a .397 OPS when he was demoted. Milledge is apparently a slow learner -- hitting only .269 with a .655 OPS in AAA. He is also griping about management. Milledge is 24, and a very immature 24. He learned nothing from his poor attitude in New York. If there is one thing the Nats have, it's outfielders: Adam Dunn, Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns and...

Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: So they won't feel pressure to call up a malcontent. Milledge is still owned in 20% of leagues, but you can forget about him for 2009.

There are some guys toiling away in the minors that deserve better...

Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox: The 24-year old found himself crowded out of the Red Sox starting rotation this spring. He had options left, so the easy decision was to send him to AAA until the inevitable time when one of the veteran Boston pitchers went down. Daisuke Matsuzaka obliged with a sore shoulder after only two starts. Unfortunately Buchholz had a sore hamstring and wasn't ready when Dice-K went down so Justin Masterson got the starts instead. Buchholz appears to be fine now, pitching 5.1 innings of shutout ball last Sunday. If Brad Penny (7.61 ERA) continues to struggle, Buchholz will get another shot.

David Price, SP, Rays: Why send down Price when he pitched lights-out as a late-season call-up in 2008? It was to keep his service time low and delay his arbitration eligibility by a year. Price is not pitching all that well in AAA but may get the call anyway since the Rays are off to a slow start. They don't want to fall to far behind in a very competitive A.L. East. Price is owned in close to 60% of leagues.

Matt Wieters, C, Orioles: The Orioles' top prospect was sent to the minors to make room for the immortal Gregg Zaun. Seriously, Wieters is in Norfolk for the same reason that Price is in Durham: money. Now that the arbitration clock is delayed, Wieters should be in Baltimore soon, replacing Zaun and his .152 average. Wieters is hitting .288 in AAA. At a thin fantasy position, Wieters must be owned in all leagues -- He is available in nearly half.