Can we rely on Utley, Hamilton and Cruz? 

May, 23, 2011
The Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies might have set offensive baseball back about 30 years in Philly this past weekend, combining for nine runs between them in three games. Yet there is good news: Both teams welcome back arguably their best offensive players Monday. The Rangers are scheduled to activate outfielders Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz from the disabled list, while the Phillies finally get to see second baseman Chase Utley make his season debut after he missed 46 games.

Not to take anything away from the terrific pitching this weekend, as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Matt Harrison were borderline dominant and the closers did their job as well. But these pitchers also got to face the likes of Endy Chavez, Craig Gentry and Wilson Valdez. Hamilton, Cruz and Utley are obvious upgrades. Concerned about run support for your Rangers and Phillies pitchers? Well, it's about to get better. That's especially notable for the Phillies, who haven't scored more than three runs in a game in 10 contests yet have the best record in the National League.

[+] EnlargeNelson Cruz
AP Photo/Gail BurtonNelson Cruz hit seven homers in 30 games before hitting the DL because of a quad injury.
I'm more optimistic about Hamilton and Cruz playing up to the same lofty standards we have enjoyed in the past than with Utley, who is dealing with a degenerative knee condition. Hamilton broke his right shoulder blade on an ill-advised headfirst slide at home plate April 12. His rehabilitation has gone so well that he's returning quicker than expected, and the defending AL MVP even homered for Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday. He says he's ready, and I have no concerns about him being able to hit. His durability is another matter, but you knew that when you drafted him in the second round. Cruz also homered in the minors Saturday. He also has seen his share of trips to the disabled list, but he has proclaimed his strained right quad muscle ready for action. I have little doubt Hamilton and Cruz will hit, run and produce big numbers, and fantasy owners shouldn't hesitate to activate them this week. They were top-10 outfielders on draft day, and they remain so.