July 2008 Archives

The Browns were the surprise of the NFL last year. Forever clumped with the Clippers, Royals, Pirates, and Arizona Cardinals as a perennial loser, all that changed when Derek Anderson led Cleveland to a 10-6 record. They did it with a blitzkrieg offense, which means they have a lot of desirable players for fantasy teams. Braylon Edwards will be the first Brown taken in fantasy leagues, but Anderson and tight end Kellen Winslow won't be far behind.

A post in which we advise you to pick up a member of the- gulp- Kansas City Royals.

New York Jets fantasy preview

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Everything that you will read below may change in the very near future if a certain someone from a certain city in Wisconsin ends up on the New York Jets.

His name?

Brett Favre.

Chances are Favre won't be playing for Jets and reportedly the team didn't even ask the Packers for permission to talk to the disenfranchised QB. But the truth of the matter is the Jets are still in a rebuilding mode under head coach Eric Mangini and that position is certainly lacking in New York.

But at the other skill positions the Jets aren't looking too bad and at least three of them will be selected in the first ten rounds of your fantasy draft.

These are the guys you need to know about:

Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings

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Here are the top thirty fantasy baseball players overall based on stats and overall performance this season only. Promise, potential, soothsaying and reputation do not play a factor into them because they didn't earn you points yesterday and they won't earn you points today.

Here goes with their previous weeks' ranking in parentheses:

The Ravens have long been known for their tenacious defense, which means one thing: they don't have a lot of valuable fantasy players. Running back Willis McGahee, a second round pick in most leagues, is the Ravens' most desirable player, but the pickings are slim after that. The Baltimore team defense, however, will again be one of the first defensive crews selected.

The offense could take a jump in coming years now that John Harbaugh has replaced Brian Billick as head coach. Much will depend on the development of Joe Flacco, the rookie signal caller that could be thrown into the fire right away.

While the White Sox were taking two of three from the Tigers over the weekend, they also managed to have a big impact on fantasy teams.

Miami Dolphins Fantasy Preview

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The Big Tuna is in town to try and resurrect the Dolphins franchise that has fallen on some very hard times in recent years. As usual, he's cleaning house and trying to rid this roster of personalities that won't adhere to the work ethic he demands from his players.

Already he's made a shrewd move, ridding the Dolphins of their best defensive player, DE Jason Taylor, sending him to the Redskins last week.

The Dolphins narrowly avoided finishing the season 0-16 by defeating the Baltimore Ravens in an overtime game in Week 15.

As bad as they may have been, and as bad as they may be in 2008, there are a few viable fantasy options on this roster you will hear called on draft day. So pay attention and don't overlook these guys just because the team itself would have a tough time handling the Appalachian State Mountaineers.

Fantasy Baseball: Ugly after the break

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Today we're going to take a look at some fantasy players that have been ice cold since coming off the All-Star break. It's not unusual for a player to need some time to get back in the groove, but these guys are stretching the limits of our patience:

While some bloggers think the Eagles are set up for failure this season, their track record under Andy Reid would prove otherwise. Always a staple in the race for the NFC East crown, Philadelphia has only not finished above .500 three times in Reid's nine seasons as head coach. One of those times was last year, when the Eagles closed out their season with three straight wins, but it wasn't enough to get them into the playoffs at only 8-8.

As always, the Eagles will be led by quarterback Donavon McNabb, who has gone from a young, exciting, elusive signal caller to a savvy veteran seemingly overnight. While the Mt. Carmel product is the face of the franchise, running back Brian Westbrook is the team's most coveted fantasy player. He will be a top five selection in most leagues.

With the first half behind us, here are some AL players to keep in a eye on in the second half.

Team Preview: Indianapolis Colts

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Since Peyton Manning became the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, this team has become a fantasy gold mine.

Manning has consistently been either the number one, or number two rated fantasy QB and his offensive counterparts have also vaulted to the fantasy elite.

The skill positions are extremely strong fantasy options and are all ranked in the top ten at their respective positions. Pay attention to these players because 2008 will be another great year for the Colts.

While hyping up the post-Tommy John surgery return of Marlins starter Josh Johnson today, Yahoo's Brandon Funston also points out that another Tommy John victim, Twins starter Francisco Liriano, is owned in 40% of Yahoo leagues.

After dealing with the murder of their best player and, to a lesser extent, a season ending injury to their starting quarterback, the Washington Redskins went on one of the most inspirational runs in recent NFL history. The Redskins blew the first game after Sean Taylor's death because of a gaffe by head coach Joe Gibbs, but they rallied to win their final four games, secure a winning 9-7 record, and making the playoffs.

In fantasy terms, the Redskins are not one of the NFL's most attractive teams. Quarterback Jason Campbell is young and still unknown, and though Clinton Portis was extremely productive last year, he has a history of disappointing fantasy owners. If nothing else, Chris Cooley may be the only player in your league who is a blogger.

Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Preview

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You remember the play.

Fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Playoffs and the Jacksonville Jaguars desperately needed a first down. Things were looking bleak as quarterback David Garrard dropped back from center, wide receivers blanketed like they stole something as the pocket collapsed around him.

Garrard did the only thing he could and rumbled his way upfield, picked up the improbable, no, impossible first down and led the Jags to an amazing comeback victory.

The Jags' season would end the very next week, but from that game alone we learned quite a bit about the team and its leader under center. There's a lot to like up and down this lineup for fantasy football purposes and today we'll take a look at each one of them:

New York Giants Fantasy Preview

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New York Giants

The Giants created the year's defining sports moment by knocking off the previously undefeated Patriots in February. While an encore seems unlikely, New York again should be in the thick of things in the NFC East. They lost three notable defensive players, but none of that should matter much to fantasy teams. Eli Manning is still throwing to Plaxico Burress, and Brandon Jacobs is still hammering in touchdowns from the one-yard line.

Tennessee Titans Fantasy Preview

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Tennessee Titans

The prevailing thought amongst many NFL know-it-alls was that the Titans would attempt to surround franchise QB Vince Young with more help at the wide receiver position through the draft in the offseason. Instead the team decided to go running back - again - and are counting on free agent tight end Alge Crumpler to become Young's favorite target. Head coach Jeff Fisher's teams are predicated upon a tough defense and an offense that manges the clock and the ball, trying to avoid turnovers.

That kind of mentality is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard to fantasy owners who worship the bomb and detest the dive. Under normal circumstances I'd suggest you run and hide from the Titans, but the wildcard Vince Young makes this team more of the intriguing variety than the vanilla kind:

No one has ever accused Dallas of being the most, um, conservative franchise in the NFL. They take flyers defenders with checkered pasts, own the sport's most outrageous personality, and have a quarterback who gets more attention from US Weekly than Sports Illustrated. Still, it's a team that returns nearly everyone from last year's 13-3 NFC East division champs, and has valuable fantasy players throughout the roster.

Houston Texans Fantasy Preview

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Houston Texans

Maybe they knew what they were doing after all. Two years removed from the Reggie Bush/Mario Williams debacle, it seems as if the Houston Texans actually made the correct decision in making Williams the number one overall pick in 2006.

They made some strides in head coach Gary Kubiak's first season with the Texans franchise and have some pieces in place to do some good things in 2008. Just like any other team in the NFL, their success hinges upon their skill players staying healthy for most of the season, primarily on the offensive side of the ball.

But there are certainly some fantasy options on this team worth your consideration and here's a position-by-position breakdown of who they are and what you can expect from them in 2008:

Three up

Jermaine Dye- Chicago White Sox (RF)
Vs. Texas Rangers
4-for-5, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, BB

When the Sox’ offense is clicking on all cylinders- as it was yesterday- few teams can match their explosiveness. Dye may not be an All-Star but he has been as important as any Sox player this first half. Is there an AL team with a more potent 3-4 combo than Dye and Carlos Quentin? As long as the pitching can keep it up, the Sox will be a contender down the stretch.

AJ Burnett- Toronto Blue Jays
Vs. New York Yankees
Win: 8 1/3 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 8 K

Toronto has outscored their opponents by more runs (23) than Anaheim has (21) this season, but have ten fewer wins. Such are the perils of playing in the AL East with those mighty Rays.

Chad Billingsley- Los Angeles Dodgers
Vs. Florida Marlins
Win: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 13 K

Who is the worse free agent signing (and fantasy player!) in the NL West: Andruw Jones or Barry Zito. No wonder no team in that division is over .500 at the All-Star break.

One down

Josh Willingham- Florida Marlins (LF)
Vs. LA Dodgers
0-for-4, 3 K

Willingham has been as dependable as always since returning from a lengthy DL stint three weeks ago, yesterday just wasn’t his day. Before that, his last five games, Willingham tallied five hits and three walks.

Fantasy Baseball: Pickup of the Week

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At this time of year it may seem as if the waiver wire is bare bones, filled only with guys who rarely see the field and pitchers who could give Barry Zito a run for the title of 'Worst Pitcher in Baseball'.

But don't fret my fantasy friends, because I have spent an inordinate amount of time with my statistician Min Joon Kim poring over rosters and statistics to help you find that pitcher nobody in your league has even noticed yet despite a string of dominating performances lately.

His name, you ask?

Dave Bush- Brewers
Vs. Colorado
Win: 8IP 4 H, 0 R, 13 K

CC Sabathia is supposed is to be the ace, but Bush has been lights out lately.

Howie Kendrick- Angels
@ Tex
3-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R

The Angels are the best team in the AL West,and Kendrick is a big reason why.

Justin Morneau- Minnesota Twins
Vs. Tigers
5-for-5, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB

Morneau has been on a tear lately. The Twins are as dangerous as any team in the AL Central.

Fantasy Football Preview

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Yes my friends, it's that time of year again. Either you've spent the past seven months gloating about your fantasy football championship or trying to figure out how it all went wrong.

No matter what the case may be, on Monday The Fantasy Factor will begin its coverage of all things fantasy football with team-by-team previews of every one of the 32 NFL franchises by conference. Every day you can find a new team preview, starting with the AFC North and AFC South next week.

We'll give you the lowdown on every quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and defense that you need to know about, complete with last year's stats and outlook for the upcoming season.

Soon after you can expect position by position and composite rankings of players to help you make those tough decisions in the offseason.

Eventually we'll be conducting a mock draft so that you have a handle on what to expect when your draft day comes around in the very near future.

Once the season begins, we'll have regularly occurring features on a daily basis that will include start or sit, fantasy mailbag, matchup previews and a host of others along the way.

Make sure to check back with us daily, or subscribe to our free news feed so that you can be alerted whenever new content is available.

Three up

Carlos Zambrano- Chicago Cubs
Vs. Cincinnati Reds
Win: 8 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 5 K

Zambrano’s second straight strong start since his return from the disabled list will appease fantasy owners as much as Lou Piniella. Really, Zambrano is one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball, and fantasy players know what they’re getting from him every time he takes the mound. You can tell Carlos I said all these nice things about him, but just read that last sentence aloud instead of sending him a link. We know surfing the web has given him trouble in the past.

Garrett Atkins- Colorado Rockies
@ Milwaukee Brewers
3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R

Anytime a Rockies hitter rakes on the road, fantasy owners just consider it a bonus. No matter where he’s playing, Atkins has been one of the NL’s top third basemen for three consecutive years now. Though he’s owned in 100% of ESPN fantasy leagues, you may want to look at trading for him. In nine June games, Atkins has 17 hits and 12 RBI.

Carlos Quentin- Chicago White Sox
@ Kansas City Royals
2-for-3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, BB

Though nothing as remarkable as a two-run sac fly happened last night, Quentin was the Sox’ only offensive force for most of the game. He’s been a fantasy All-Star this year and is certainly in contention for waiver wire pickup of the year.

One down

Paul Konerko- White Sox
@ Kansas City Royals
0-for-4, 4 K

Yeah, it doesn’t get much worse than that. Unfortunately for the Sox, the former World Series hero seems to be losing more than his hair.

There have been some big changes to our rookie rankings this week, thanks in large part to some comments made by our readers who pointed out some rookies we missed.

So, with your input and ours, here's a look at the updated top 10 rookies in fantasy baseball based upon their performance up until this point with (previous weeks' ranking in parentheses):

Three up

Justin Duchscherer- Oakland A’s (SP)
Vs. Seattle Mariners
Win: CG, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 K

Get your bags packed Justin. Since Duchscherer is leading the AL in ERA right now, I’m sure Oakland GM Billy Beane could get a king’s ransom in return for the 30-year old. A’s fans hope that if Duchscherer is traded, Oakland can get more in return than Sean Gallagher and a few spare parts. Seriously, how do the Cubbies get Harden without giving up Josh Vitters, Tyler Colvin, or Felix Pie? If Harden is healthy, the Cubs made a great move.

Andy Pettitte- New York Yankees (SP)
Vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Win: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 5 K

It’s pretty remarkable that Pettitte was able to put all the preseason steroid talk behind him and turn in a very solid first half. With an ERA under 4 and a nearly 3-1 strikeout to walk ratio, Pettitte has been as reliable as any AL pitcher so far. Still, the Yankees are going to need a lot more from everyone else to catch the Rays and Red Sox.

Miguel Cabrera- Detroit Tigers (1B)
Vs. Cleveland Indians
4-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R

It’s about time Cabrera turned in a performance like this. Though his .291/.356/.495 line is good, the Tigers were expecting more from the man they gave $153 million to. With the Tigers pitching looking wobbly, it’ll be up to Cabrera and the rest of the Tigers offense to live up to expectations and start raking for Detroit to catch the White Sox and Twins.

One down

Jermaine Dye- White Sox (RF)
Vs. Kansas City Royals
0-for-6, 2 K

As we’ve pointed out on here endlessly, Dye has been scorching hot lately. Is this a sign that he’s cooling down or just a one-game aberration? We’ll see.

Lots more throughout the Olsen-O'Donnell blogosphere today:

Check out TUP for reaction on the Rich Harden trade and a breakdown of last night's Sox victory.

Go to TTCS to see why we are excited for the NFL to return.

Hiroki Kuroda, LAD SP

By the time you read this, there is a very good chance someone in your league may have already picked up Mr. Kuroda. That's because Kuroda was one Mark Texiera double away from throwing a perfect game last night and ESPN has been running replays of it ever since. It's natural instinct to want to rush and pick up a guy like Kuroda after he puts on such a dominating performance.

But there are a few questions you need to ask yourself before clearing a roster spot for Kuroda today.

Three Up

Torii Hunter- Los Angeles Angels (CF)
Vs. Texas Rangers
3-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R

As a Sox fan- yeah, this blog is written by two Sox fans, get over it- I really feel like the stars are aligning this season. Take away Hunter, Johan Santana, and CC Sabathia, and the AL Central isn’t as scary as it once was. Of course, the Sox will likely have to tussle with Hunter’s Angels to get anywhere meaningful, and LA looks like a juggernaut right now. Hunter has just been ok offensively so far, and the Angels already have a 6.5 game division lead. If he gets hot, watch out.

Hiroki Kuroda- Los Angeles Dodgers (SP)
Vs. Atlanta Braves
Win: CG, 1 H, 0 ER, 6 K

The Dodgers may have been the real loser in the Sabathia trade. The NL West lacks one real good team, and acquiring the big lefty could have turned the Dodgers into that. Still, if Kuroda, a 33-year old who’s having a fine season, keeps pitching like this, Sabathia would be an afterthought. Kuroda took a perfect game into the eighth inning.

Ricky Nolasco- Florida Marlins (SP)
Vs. San Diego Padres
Win: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 7 K

I’m not sure if normal people do this, but I automatically root for anyone named Ricky in sports. While Rick Nash is probably the top Richard around right now, Nolasco is making a strong push towards the top. Don’t be so surprised by yesterday’s performance either: Olsen told you the ex-Cub farmhand was someone to keep an eye on a week ago.

One down

Adrian Gonzalez- San Diego Padres (1B)
Vs. Florida Marlins
0-for-4, K

Adrian Gonzalez really is one of baseball’s most underrated forces, so don’t expect many stat lines like last night. Oh well, I guess everyone occasionally has an off-day. Except for Olsen.

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Week Two

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Here are the top thirty fantasy baseball players overall based on stats and overall performance this season only. Promise, potential, soothsaying and reputation do not play a factor into them because they didn't earn you points yesterday and they won't earn you points today.

Here goes with their previous weeks' ranking in parentheses:

1. (1) Alex Rodriguez, NYY 3B - The guy is still killing it, but this divorce issue has got to be weighing on him.

2. (2) Lance Berkman, HOU OF/1B - We have finally found something that can slow him down: pink eye.

3. (3) Hanley Ramirez, FLA SS - June's player of the month looks like he'll be a candidate in July as well (2 HR, 7 RBI).

4. (7) Ian Kinsler, TEX 2B - Absolutely on fire during his current 18-game hitting streak.

5. (5) Albert Pujols, STL 1B - Hit his 300th career homer Friday, unfortunately it was a solo shot.

6. (4) Chase Utley, PHI 2B - The long ball is a rarity lately, but he's been more consistent overall.

7. (8) Josh Hamilton, TEX OF - Still homerless June 17 but he's an RBI machine (84).

8. (12) Grady Sizemore, CLE OF - Leads AL with 22 HR, top ten in BB , SLG, R, SB, and OPS.

9. (9) Jose Reyes, NYM SS - Starting to pick up steam heading into the All-Star break.

10. (10) Matt Holliday, COL OF - Absolutely dominant performance during latest homestand (.429, 3 HR, 10 RBI).

11. (11) David Wright, NYM 3B - Had back-to-back three hit games last week, liking what we see.

12. (6) Ryan Braun, MIL 3B - Hit his first HR since June 17 on Saturday. The hand is definitely an issue.

13. (13) Carlos Quentin, CHW OF - No HR or RBI in July so far. Looking for more from Quentin.

14. (14) Adrian Gonzalez, SD 1B - Stuck in a horrendous slump at the moment.

15. (15) Prince Fielder, MIL 1B - The big man went through a tough stretch at the end of June.

16. (16) Dan Uggla, FLA 2B - Very good chance he won't be back until after the All-Star break.

17. (17) Chipper Jones, ATL 3B - Crazy stat line from last night's 17-inning game: 3-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 4 BB.

18. (18) Milton Bradley, TEX OF/DH - Knee tendinitis forced Bradley out of the lineup Sunday.

19. (19) Cliff Lee, CLE SP - Had his 12th win basically sewn up, before blowing it against the Twins.

20. (NR) Roy Halladay, TOR SP - This guy is one of baseball's elite players stuck up North.

21. (20) Dan Haren, ARI SP - Drops not because of any one thing he did, just bad luck in the wins dept.

22. (22) Derrek Lee, CHC 1B - Has had a multi-hit game in every contest in July except for one.

23. (23) Jermaine Dye, CHW OF - Since June 18, JD has been held hitless only once.

24. (24) Brandon Webb, ARI SP - Named the NL All-Star starter, and deservedly so.

25. (25) Tim Lincecum, SF SP - Just keeps getting better and better.

26. (26) Carlos Lee, HOU OF - Looking good in July, hopefully the break won't mess him up.

27. (27) Edison Volquez, CIN SP - Hasn't had more than 3K in a game since June 9.

28. (28) Carl Crawford, TB OF - Batting average back to .288 for the first time since May 13.

29. (29) Mariano Rivera, NYY RP - Made made Manny Ramirez look clueless Sunday night. Still got it.

30. (30) Justin Duchscherer, OAK SP - Chicago fans saw what all the fuss is about on Forth of July.

The Good


J.J. Hardy, MIL SS
vs. PIT
3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB

Maybe he was in a good mood after hearing that C.C. Sabathia is on his way to becoming a short-term member of the Brew Crew. Hide your snacks gents, Sabby loves him some snacks.

Chipper Jones, ATL 3B
vs. HOU
3-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 4 BB

As far as I'm concerned, you should have a pretty decent fantasy line after playing a 17-inning marathon game in which you had nine at bats. Chipper's holding steady with a .388 BA, however, don't kid yourself. The elusive .400 is a pipe dream and is a record that won't ever be broken.

Cody Ross, FLA OF
vs. COL
3-5, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 R

While you may not have heard of Ross, this kid is doing some very good things down in the albatross that is Florida Marlins baseball. More on him later.


Jon Garland, LAA P
vs. TOR
9 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 K

That's the Johnny G that the South Side of Chicago had become used to seeing. Only problem is that Garland is one of those guys that is a very good pitcher in real life, but in fantasy his stats don't translate into the same success. Not a high strikeout guy with average WHIP and ERA, Garland won't ever win you a fantasy matchup, but then again he most certainly won't lose it for you either.

Randy Johnson, ARI P
vs. SDG
6 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 10 K

The old man's still got it. We weren't sure heading into the season what, if any, Johnson had left in the tank, but those questions have been answered. Johnson has had a few shaky starts, but the old man can still deliver a 10 strikeout gem like yesterday and is a nice option to have on your staff.

The Bad

Ryan Howard, PHI 1B
vs. NYM
1-6, 0 BB, 0 RBI, 0 R, 4 K, 5 LOB

If you've been reading the Fantasy Factor, you might think I'm picking on the big guy. But in a game against the division rival New York Mets, Howard absolutely disappeared. The Phillies have a two-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East and would have liked to extend their lead in a big way. But like I told you before, Howard is horrendous against lefties and you seriously have to consider benching him when the Phils go up against a southpaw in the future.

Jesse Litsch, TOR P
vs. LAA
5.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER

Too bad Roy Halladay couldn't start every game for the Jays. I can't wait for the next round of A.J. Burnett to the Cubs talks.

Fantasy baseball: The injury watch

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Is it me or has it been a crazy season for injuries?

Some of the biggest names in baseball like Albert Pujols, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Paul Konerko, Felix Hernandez, etc...have spent some time on the disabled list and some are even still on it.

It's important to keep a close eye when dealing with injuries and that's what the Fantasy Factor is here to help you with. Here are some of the latest players to come down with some ailment that could potentially have an impact on your season from now until the very end.

Matt Capps, PIT P - The two words fantasy baseball players dread most of all have just been used to describe the ailment Pirates pitcher Matt Capps is facing: shoulder problems. Capps has bursitis in his right shoulder and is expected to miss at least the next eight weeks. Luckily enough, it appears Capps will be able to rehad the injury as opposed to having season ending surgery. However, shoulder issues rarely are resolved in one season and it looks like Capps may be out later into the season than the team is letting on.

Three up

Grady Sizemore- Cleveland Indians (CF)
Vs. Chicago White Sox
3-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, BB, SB

Something tells me Mark Chmura would enjoy Grady Sizemore’s fan club a little more than Grady Sizemore does.

Dustin Pedroia- Boston Red Sox (2B)
Vs. Tampa Bay Rayz
4-for-5, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R

I doubt Pedroia is doing much dancing after that sweep.

Jay Bruce- Cincinnati Reds (CF)
Vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
2-for-3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, BB

“Tenth! Tenth? Olsen ranked ME tenth!? What the….”

One down

Jeff Francoeur- Atlanta Braves
Vs. Philadelphia Phillies
0-for-4, 3 K

Finally, a man Philli fans won’t boo and shower with batteries.

Fantasy Rankings: The Rookies

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It's been a very impressive year for the rookies of MLB. Some were expected to perform up to this level, while others simply came out of nowhere and are now coveted by fantasy players everywhere.

Here's a look at the top 10 rookies in fantasy baseball based upon their performance up until this point:

1. Evan Longoria, TB 3B - The AL Player of the Week (.433, 3 HR, 10 RBI) is just getting started.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS OF - Swipes bases constantly (35) but needs to break out of current slump.

3. Kosuke Fukudome, CHI OF - Injuries are slowing him down, but he's still Mr. Consistent.

4. Geovany Soto, CHI C - Could earn ROY honors and has a lot of power at the plate.

5. Joey Votto, CIN 1B - June was his worst month yet, but still hit .257 with a couple of HRs.

6. Joba Chamberlain, NYY P - He's a strikeout machine, needs to last longer in games.

7. Johnny Cueto, CIN P - Bounced back after a tough stretch, shutout Cleveland last week.

8. Alexei Ramirez, CHW 2B - Been a pro from day one, finds a way to impress every game.

9. Micah Owings, ARI P - Dealing with a back injury that will cause him to miss next start.

10. Jay Bruce, CIN OF - Despite slumping badly in June, Bruce remains a good fantasy option.

Three up

Matt Cain- San Francisco Giants
Vs. Chicago Cubs
Win: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K

Cain was brilliant last night, and had to be because, as always, he received little run support. Cain's real problem? He isn’t pitching in 1996. Throw together a lineup of Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham, Omar Vizquel, and Dave Roberts then and you’ve got a juggernaut.

Matt Cain: A man clearly ahead of his time.

Aaron Cook- Colorado Rockies
Vs. San Diego Padres
Win: CG, 5 H, 0 ER, 4 K

In the all-time Cook Rankings, Aaron finds himself somewhere below Beano and above Dane. Seriously, I could listen to Beano Cook talk all day.

John Danks- Chicago White Sox
Vs. Cleveland Indians
ND: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 8 K

Let’s run down all the wonderful things White Sox fans must love about John Danks.

1. He’s quietly become the ace of the Sox’ staff.
2. The man he was traded for, Brandon McCarthy, hasn’t done anything in Texas and is currently on the 60-day DL.
3. Proclaimed Wrigley Field is a "(bleep)hole" that wreaks of urine.

Because of all this- before the age of 23, I may add- I propose the nickname ‘John Tanks’. Now if only he could play quarterback…

One down

Randy Johnson- Arizona Diamondbacks
Vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Loss: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 6 K

The Big Unit is unquestionably the coolest pitcher of his generation. Even when he gets rocked, like last night when he couldn’t get out of the fourth, he still strikes out six guys.

- Saves have always been a tad overrated in fantasy baseball, but it’s hard to ignore the pace Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez is on. The Bobby Thigpen Watch is officially on, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and if Rodriguez can close out 58 games, a small part of Matt’s childhood will die.

- Speaking of closers, Chad Cordero, one of baseball’s best the last three seasons, is done for the year with a shoulder injury. Jon Rauch will continue to get the save chances in his absence.

- SI’s Tom Verducci hands out some midseason awards, and he has Carlos Quentin taking home the AL MVP.

- Juan Pierre to the DL. Now may be a good time to take a look at Andre Ethier.

Pitchers to pick up, or keep an eye on

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Here's three starting pitchers that could serve as a replacement for an injured starter or existing pitcher that is performing below your fantasy standards.

1. Ricky Nolasco - Florida Marlins

Talk about flying under the radar.

Most of the time when you hear anything about this young Marlins team, it centers around stud shortstop Hanley Ramirez or second baseman Dan Uggla.

But the guy you need to start paying attention to is Ricky Nolasco, the Marlins best pitcher you don't know about.

He leads the team in wins (8) and strikeouts (67) with a 1.31 WHIP in 17 starts this season.

Nolasco has especially started to heat up in his last four starts, all wins for the Marlins. Against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 15, he went 8.2 innings and struck out 12 while allowing only two earned runs against the team with the best record in baseball.

And in his start last Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Nolasco lasted eight innings, struck out nine and gave up one earned run.

With a talented young offense behind him, Nolasco could prove to be an absolute steal for any fantasy squad.

2. Andy Sonnanstine - Tampa Bay Rays

If you're in need of a dependable starter that will give you about five strikeouts, six innings and the win, Andy Sonnanstine is your guy.

The beauty of having a guy like Sonnanstine on your team is that he pitches for the best team in baseball and you'll walk away with more wins than you probably should. He takes the ball every fifth day and keeps his team in the ball game and has had some very nice performances along the way.

Back in April he threw and complete game shutout against the White Sox. In May he went eight innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up a single earned run.

And last Sunday, Sonnanstine went seven innings against the Pirates, gave up one earned run and struck out four.

Personally, I'd be inclined to pick up the Rays' janitor based upon how good they're playing right now.

Kyle Lohse - St. Louis Cardinals

I hesitated to put Lohse on this list because he's been outstanding for the Cardinals all season.

But anyone without the last name Pujols on the Cardinals seems to go without mention. Add in the fact that most expect this team to fall apart any day now and it becomes a little easier to understand the apprehension that comes along with picking up a Cardinals player.

With Lohse, you can leave those worries behind.

After dominating the New York Mets last night (7 IP, 0 ER, 4K), Lohse improved to 10-2 on the season and has been nothing but solid for the Cardinals.

However, Lohse doesn't do anything in one area that stands out. Sure, his win total is quite impressive. But he's not a high strikeout guy (4.28 K per 9 IP) and his ERA (3.67) and WHIP (1.27) don't jump out at you either.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't pick him up, it simply means that you shouldn't expect crazy numbers from him.

Three up

Roy Halladay- Toronto Blue Jays
Vs. Seattle Mariners
Win: CG, 4 H, 0 ER, 6 K

Apparently Halladay is better at pitching than money management.

Jhonny Peralta- Cleveland Indians
Vs. Chicago White Sox
5-for-5, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R

Jhonny? Really? Was that a mistake or did his parents do that on purpose?

Mark DeRosa
Vs. San Francisco Giants
3-for-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, BB

Yeah, but since he did it against Barry Zito, it shouldn’t really count.

One down

Milton Bradley- Texas Rangers
Vs. New York Yankees
0-for-4, 4 K

Thanks for killing my fantasy team last night Milt! I thought I was in for a monster day after that Swisher grand slam, but nope.

About the bloggers

Matt Wood is a web editor for suntimes.com and editor of CenterstageChicago.com. He is also a contributor for satirical sports publication The Heckler. Have a fantasy question? E-mail him.

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