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A.L. weekly fantasy planner

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The National League owned the spotlight last week as Stephen Strasburg and Mike Stanton were called-up and played exceptionally well in their first tastes of major league action. I bring this up because Cleveland FINALLY called up Carlos Santana on Friday. What were they waiting for? Oh yeah, Labor Day apparently. Really? Why? Santana was batting .316 with a 1.044 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), .281 isolated power (ISO), and a solid 39:45 K:BB ratio at Triple-A Columbus. What's not to like? Compare that to the Indians previous backstop Lou Marson, who was sporting a .191 BA, .530 OPS, 0.71 ISO and a 36:14 K:BB rate. Apparently, Santana needed to work on his throwing, but the Indians have Sandy Alomar on staff; could the kid ask for a better teacher? While Santana will have his growing pains, he will be a breath of fresh air in Cleveland and have the Indians front office kicking themselves in the hind parts for not promoting him sooner.

Anyway, let me get off my soapbox for a minute and get on with the planner.

Packin' heat

Shaun Marcum @ SD; @ SF: If you take away his last start against the Rays (seven ERs), Marcum is having a heck of a season after missing all of 2009 to recover from Tommy John surgery. While it is true that he has never faced the Padres, you cannot look past his season stats or the fact that he will pitch at PETCO Park. How pitcher-friendly is PETCO? Consider this, the Padres five starting pitchers have a 2.61 ERA, a 0.62 HR/9, 7.11 H/9 and a .226 batting average against (BAA) at PETCO this season. On the road, they have a 4.66 ERA, 1.12 HR/9, 9.55 H/9 and a .275 BAA. As far as the Giants go, Marcum has never faced them. While opposing pitcher Jonathan Sanchez has been pitching well, Marcum will win the duel.

Kevin Millwood @ SD: Millwood is off to the worst start of his career (0-7), and some of his struggles can be attributed to a lack of run support. However, he has been dreadful during his previous three starts (8.31 ERA, 26 hits, six HRs and 10 BBs over 17.3 IP). That said, he has owned the Padres over his career, posting a 6-1 record with a 2.95 ERA, 1.09 walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) and a .215 BAA. Over two IP at PETCO, he allowed two ERs on four hits. Keep in mind that this was in '04 when he was with the Phillies and can be chalked up to just a poor outing, so I would not be overly concerned about the aforementioned stats at PETCO.

Ervin Santana vs MIL: Santana is exceeding expectations this season with no sign of slowing down. Over his past five starts (40 IP), he is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 33 Ks. Santana has never faced the Brewers, but you have to like his solid five game run. In addition, opposing pitcher Dave Bush is on his own five game run, but headed the opposite way (0-2, 6.62 ERA, 1.99 WHIP and 14 BBs over 23.1 IP). Yeah, the Angels should be able to provide plenty of run support for Santana.

Brett Cecil @ SD: Cecil has been dominant over his past five starts, going 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and one HR over 35.4 IP. Couple these stats with a start at PETCO Park and you have a match made in heaven.

Scott Feldman @ HOU: Feldman has not been great against the Astros (1-0 allowing nine earned runs on 17 hits over 16 IP) or at Minute Maid Park (1-0 allowing nine earned runs on 15 hits over 13.1 IP). However, opposing pitcher Wandy Rodriguez has lost four of his last five and has a 5.27 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, and allowed 11.53 H/9 during that span. Oh, by the way, the Rangers are batting .280 with 13 HRs over the past eight games.

Jake Peavy @ PIT: Don't let his rough start this season scare you away, as he is a must start this week. In eight starts against the Pirates, Peavy is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .216 BAA, 12.34 K/9 and 2.19 BB/9. In three starts at PNC Park, he is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .213 BAA, 12.60 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9.

Andy Pettitte vs PHI: Since giving up six earned runs on nine hits and three HRs to the Rays on May 20, Pettitte has gone 2-0 (three starts) and has allowed five earned runs on 17 hits and a 13:3 K:BB over the past 20.2 IP. Over his past four starts against the Phillies, Pettitte is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 7.47 H/9.

Keep em' in the pen

Wade Davis @ ATL: As of June 10, Davis still has a spot in the rotation, but I am not sure how much longer that will last as Davis has been horrendous over his past seven starts, posting a 6.82 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 11.88 H/9, 3.53 BB/9 and 2.27 HR/9 over 35.6 IP. On the other hand, Jeremy Hellickson is ready to make the jump. In 13 starts (75.2 IP) at Triple-A, he is 8-2 with a 2.50 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and allowed only three HRs. Davis should not be in your lineup for three reasons; his status in the Rays rotation, he has pitched horribly of late, and the opposing pitcher is Tommy Hanson, who has been solid over his past four games (3-0 and has allowed seven ERs on 19 hits over 23.3 IP).

Francisco Liriano vs COL: Liriano started the season off on fire, going 3-0 (four starts) with a 0.97 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP over 29 IP. However, in his next seven starts, he has gone 2-3 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. That said, his last two starts have been dominant. Before you get excited, his start next week will come against Colorado, which is not all that bad, until you hear that Ubaldo Jimenez will be on the mound (11-1, 0.93 ERA and 0.93 WHIP). At this point, there are very few pitchers that I would put up against Jimenez and look for a win. Yes, Liriano may very well have a solid outing, but I would expect Jimenez to have an even better outing as this kid is unstoppable right now. For what it's worth, his only loss was due to a lack of run support as he still dominated the game (one ER on two hits over seven IP).

Gavin Floyd @ WAS: Many owners felt that Floyd could very well replicate his '08 numbers this season. Instead, what we're getting is an inconsistent pitcher on a White Sox team that has struggled (.245 BA which is ranked 26th). In four games against the Nationals, Floyd is 1-1 with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. Not great, but not terrible either. The deciding factor for me is opposing pitcher Stephen Strasburg. We all know he dominated the Pirates last week and I would expect another solid outing from the rookie this week.

Dallas Braden @ CHC; @ STL: Since his no-hitter on May 9, Braden has gone 0-4 (six starts) with a 4.84 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 11.21 H/9 over 35.3 IP. Braden has never faced the Cubs, but he will do so at hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. He has never faced the Cardinals either, but his 5.79 ERA and 1.50 WHIP on the road this season is enough to keep me away from both of these matchups.

Jeremy Bonderman vs ARI: In five games against Arizona, Bonderman is 0-2 with a 7.33 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and a .318 BAA.

SI Recommends

Justin Masterson vs NYM; @ PIT: Masterson pitched a gem against the Red Sox on June 9, pitching nine shutout innings, allowing two hits and six Ks. That said, he is still the same pitcher who went 1-5 with a 5.48 ERA, 1.82 WHIP and 5.02 BB/9 over 59.1 IP to start the season. Opposing pitcher Johan Santana has gone 1-0 with a 0.74 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP in his previous five starts (36.2 IP). Masterson has never faced the Pirates and who knows how rookie Brad Lincoln will fare, so this game is a toss-up.

Ian Snell @ STL; vs CIN: Career at Busch Stadium; in eight starts, he is 3-4 with a 5.52 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP over 44 IP. The opposing pitcher is Adam Wainwright, which is not a great sign for run support as the Mariners are batting .243 on the season (28th in the majors). Career against the Reds; in 12 starts, he is 4-7 with a 5.02 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP. Opposing pitcher Aaron Harrang is 1-0 and has allowed zero ERs and four hits over 14.1 IP at SAFECO.

Two-start pitchers

You have all heard the saying, "two is better than one," right? There could not have been a truer statement spoken as the two-start pitchers below are excellent options and are must-starts this week.

Clay Buchholz: vs ARI (06/15); vs LAD (06/20)Shaun Marcum: @ SD (06/14); @ SF (06/20)David Price: @ ATL (06/15); @ FLA (06/20)CC Sabathia: vs PHI (06/15); vs NYM (06/20)

The following pitchers are decent options, and while you should get a solid game out of them, there is a chance they could burn you during one of their outings.

* Note: The pitcher has the best chance at a win against the team in bold

Justin Masterson: vs NYM (06/15); @ PIT (06/20)Joe Saunders: vs MIL (06/14); @ CHC (06/20)C.J. Wilson: @ FLA (06/15); @ HOU (06/20)Freddy Garcia: @ PIT (06/15); @ WAS (06/20)Carl Pavano: vs COL (06/15); @ PHI (06/20)

Disregard what I said earlier about "two is better than one," in this case, erase that quote from your brain-housing group for the moment. You would be better off with one solid pitcher, than these unfulfilling options:

Dallas Braden: @ CHC (06/15); @ STL (06/20)Chris Tillman: @ SF (06/14); @ SD (06/20)Kyle Davies: vs HOU (06/15); @ ATL (06/20)Rick Porcello: vs WAS (06/15); vs ARI (06/20)Ian Snell: @ STL (06/14); vs CIN (06/20)

Start 'em if you got 'em

Bobby Abreu, OF: Abreu has been playing decent this season, but his average (.258) and on-base percentage (.343) are still not where owners would like them to be. That said, he has a great opportunity this week when he faces the Brewers at home and the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Over 225 at-bats against the Brewers, he is batting .311 with a .961 (OPS). He is solid against the Cubs (.332 BA, 1.115 OPS over 205 at-bats), but he will really find his groove at Wrigley Field. Over 108 at-bats at the hitter friendly field, Abreu is batting .352 with a 1.192 OPS. What's more, he has hit 12 HRs, which equates to a HR every nine at-bats. The HRs makes sense, as Wrigley has a 126 homer index for lefties from '07 to '09, which is the highest in the majors.

Chone Figgins, 2B/3B: Figgins has been on a tear as of late, batting .343 (11-for-32) and has stolen three of four bases over the past 10 games. Figgins will face the Cardinals at pitcher friendly Busch Stadium before heading back west to host the Reds. In three career games against the Cardinals, Figgins is batting .470 (8-for-17) with three RBIs and a perfect 5-for-5 in the stolen base department. If you were concerned about Figgins hitting in a pitcher-friendly park, don't be, as his three career games against the Cardinals were at Busch Stadium. In three career games against the Reds, he is batting .384 (5-for-13) with two walks and zero Ks. While it is tough to determine how he will play based off of limited at-bats against these teams, his solid play makes him a nice start.

Russell Branyan, 1B:Shin-Soo Choo has been the lone ranger in C-Town for much of the season, but it is high time that Branyan starts to shoulder some of the load. The Indians will host the Mets and then shoot down to Pittsburgh for a series with the Pirates. In 15 games against the Mets, he is batting .313 with a 1.325 OPS and four HRs (HR every eight at-bats). Over 131 at-bats against the Pirates, he has 11 HRs and a .955 OPS. In 23 games at PNC Park, he is batting .280 with a 1.008 OPS. Even though PNC plays neutral, the advantage goes to lefties, who have a 107 homer index from '07 to '09. That said, if the lefty can revive his power stroke, it could pay dividends for his owners.

Carlos Guillen, OF/3B: Since returning from the DL on May 28, Guillen has gone 12-for-43 (.279) with two HRs and eight RBIs. Guillen is 8-for-24 with two HRs and eight RBIs against the Nationals and in 15 games against Arizona, he is batting .368 (21-for-57) with a .954 OPS.

J.D. Drew, OF: Over 227 at-bats against Arizona, Drew is batting .339 with a 1.060 OPS. However, he has not fared as well against the Dodgers (.277 BA and a .818 OPS over 101 at-bats), but he still needs a start this week.

Vladimir Guerrero, OF/DH: Career against Florida; .311 BA, .921 OPS and an 86 percent contact rate (CT%) over 350 at-bats. Career at Minute Maid Park; .283 BA and a .533 Slugging percentage (SLG) over 167 at-bats.

Alexei Ramirez, 2B/SS: In six games against the Pirates, Ramirez is 8-for-23 (.348) with two HRs and six RBIs. Ramirez has never faced the Nationals, but I would still give him the nod based on his solid play over the past 10 games (.324 BA, two HRs and two RBIs).

Look away ... far away

Alex Gonzalez, SS: If you have considered sitting Gonzalez on your bench this season, now is the time ... really, you need to plug in someone else at SS this week. His first series will be against the Padres at pitcher friendly PETCO Park. If you thought Gonzalez struggled against the Padres over his career (.165 BA, .510 OPS and 45 Ks over 188 at-bats), take a look at his horrid stat line at PETCO; 5-for-42 (.119) with a .350 OPS and 11 Ks. The misery will continue when San Francisco visits the Rogers Centre, as he is batting .202 with a .571 OPS and 29 Ks over 129 at-bats against the Giants.

Austin Kearns, OF: Even though Kearns has been hot over the past nine games, (11-for-32, two HRs and five RBIs), I think his time would be better spent on your bench. Over 217 at-bats against the Mets, Kearns is batting .212 with a .668 OPS. Over 218 at-bats against the Pirates, he is batting .220 with a .691 OPS and 54 Ks. His struggles continue at PNC Park, where he is batting .216 with a .698 OPS over 88 at-bats.

Ty Wigginton, 1B/2B: Wigginton has been the saving grace of many owners in search of an option off the waiver wire in the early going and he continues to play well for a poor Orioles squad. Wigginton will pack his bags for a week long stay on the left coast in a series against the Giants at AT&T Park (neutral) and the Padres at PETCO Park. Wigginton is batting a stout .147 (5-for-34) with a .475 OPS at AT&T Park, but he improves at PETCO, batting a terrific .192 (10-for-52) with a .491 OPS.

Brandon Inge, 3B: His solid play over the past 10 games (14-for-39) is about to come to an abrupt halt. Career against Washington; 5-for-22 with 7 Ks. Career against Arizona; 7-for-38 with 14 Ks.

Milton Bradley, OF: Over 100 at-bats against the Cardinals, Bradley is batting .200 with a .292 OBP and 29 Ks and in five games at Busch Stadium, he is 1-for-10 with zero RBIs. Over 106 at-bats against the Reds, he is batting .208 with a .317 OBP.

Jose Bautista, 3B/OF: For those experts who have been expecting Bautista's bat to cool off, the time has come. Over 54 at-bats against the Padres, he is batting .204 with a .573 OPS, one HR, three RBIs and 17 Ks. In limited duty at PETCO, he is 3-for-21 with 4 Ks. Even though he is better against the Giants (.237 BA with a .779 OPS over 59 at-bats), he is still not worthy of a spot this week.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B: Kouzmanoff is currently riding an 11-game hitting streak (17-for-42), with three HRs and eight RBIs. That said, don't jump on the Kouz train quite yet. Over 63 at-bats against the Cubs, he is batting .222 with a .286 OBP and is 3-for-25 with zero RBIs and five Ks at Wrigley Field. Over 65 at-bats against the Cardinals, he is batting .215 with a .585 OPS and is 9-for-37 with a .653 OPS at Busch Stadium.

If you find yourself with a player who is not making the cut on your team and you are in need of a replacement, take a look at the players below who are owned in less than 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues. While they will not take you to the promised land, they should be a decent fill-in for the time being.

C Jason Kendall, KC: With Kendall, you are not going to get power, but you will get a consistent backstop, which are hard to find these days. Over the past 10 games, he is batting .263 (10-for-38) with seven RBIs, three BBs, and three Ks.

1B Justin Smoak, TEX: It seems as though the rookie is starting to figure things out. Over the past 10 games, he is batting .400 (12-for-30) with two HRs, 10 RBIs, seven BBs, and nine runs scored.

2B Carlos Guillen, DET: Since returning from the DL on May 28, Guillen has gone 12-for-43 (.279) with two HRs and eight RBIs.

SS Yuniesky Betancourt, KC: Betancourt is batting .300 (9-for-33) with three RBIs, three BBs and three Ks over the past 10 games.

3B Maicer Izturis, LAA: Over the past six games, Izturis is 7-for-23 with a HR, three RBIs, three BBs, and six runs scored. His triple eligibility (2B, 3B, SS) can't hurt either.

OF Delmon Young, MIN: Over the past 10 games, Young is batting .325 (13-for-40) with three HRs, 10 RBIs, and only three Ks.

* All stats are current as of 06/10/10

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