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Thoughts on Ubaldo, Danny Espinosa ...

5/6/2011

There's plenty to watch for this weekend (and not just how Kansas City Royals first-base call-up Eric Hosmer does in his first foray against major league pitching). Let's get right to it.

Hitters to watch

&#8226 A few weeks ago, fantasy owners, as well as the Tampa Bay Rays, swore by outfielder Sam Fuld. He wasn't just one of the best stories in the game, he was one of the top players. And now he's slumping, with just four hits over his past 45 at-bats, dropping his batting average from .366 to .261. Fuld is unceremoniously the fifth most-dropped outfielder in ESPN leagues heading into the weekend, though I would try to wait a bit longer before cutting him because his opportunity remains. Friday night's pitching opponent is a difficult one in lefty Zach Britton, but Fuld should do better against right-handers Jeremy Guthrie and Brad Bergesen. For those thinking the Rays might pull a Hosmer and bring up their big-time prospect early, in this case Desmond Jennings, I don't see it. Not yet, anyway. Stick with Fuld a bit longer.

&#8226 I'd also keep a close eye on Houston Astros outfielder Jason Bourgeois, Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, Florida Marlins infielder Omar Infante and seemingly half of the Cleveland Indians. (For instance, Grady Sizemore is scheduled to play all weekend with no rest.)

Pitchers to watch

&#8226 I'll be watching Colorado Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to see what he does Friday night in San Francisco, though I'm not particularly concerned about him. The wins and strikeout potential are so great that I find it hard to believe his owners would give up so soon.

&#8226 With Boston Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, however, there's a bit more on the line. He's not a strikeout guy. In fact, he enters Saturday's Fenway Park outing against the sputtering Minnesota Twins -- still no Joe Mauer! -- with more walks than strikeouts, which is awful for someone with his command. Perhaps the Red Sox do have more rotation issues than earlier believed, with John Lackey pitching poorly, Daisuke Matsuzaka inconsistent and The Nation still a bit concerned that Josh Beckett could revert back to 2010 form. Buchholz is starting to be dropped in standard leagues, and while I'd be more patient, another Saturday disaster and I could be persuaded there's not as much upside there as we think. After all, many of us named him an obvious regression candidate, notably in wins and ERA, and so far he has been worse than anyone could have expected.

Other rookie to watch

Fantasy owners seem to be giving up on Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa. Many think he already has proven to be the batting average drain many of us were concerned about, and Espinosa's three-run homer in the ninth inning Wednesday didn't appear to halt the giving-up process. This is an intriguing player with the potential for 15-20 home runs and similar stolen bases, and a weekend series against three Florida Marlins right-handers doesn't make things easier, as Espinosa is batting .203 against right-handers. A season ago in 103 at-bats, Espinosa hit .214 with six home runs, and he didn't walk. So far this year in 104 at-bats, he's hitting .221 with three home runs ... and he isn't drawing walks. I think there has to be more than this.

Closer to watch

I defended Brandon Lyon for his Opening Day disaster, and even last week it seemed that he had turned things around. Alas, his health was clearly compromised, and it played a role in his poor performance. Say what you will about Lyon, but he was more than passable in 2010. Anyway, he's on the DL now, and the Houston Astros will turn to former New York Yankees prospect Mark Melancon to close games, and there's not much else waiting in the wings (Wilton Lopez?).

Melancon doesn't have special stuff, but someone has to close, and even though the Astros have won a mere 12 games the team has generated a league-average number of save opportunities. Every closer should be owned in a Roto league, even in a standard, 10-team league. Brandon League of the Seattle Mariners still isn't at 100 percent yet. Don't make that mistake on Melancon. Perhaps Melancon isn't merely holding the job for Lyon, just the same way a recovering David Aardsma -- not recovering as quickly as you might think -- could find himself in setup duty upon his return.

Have a great weekend, and Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!