|ESPN.com: Eric Karabell||[Print without images]|
The New York Yankees will welcome back future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter to their lineup Thursday afternoon, and not a moment too soon. No offense to Jayson Nix and pals, but Yankees shortstops weren’t helping the team much offensively, featuring a lowly .211 batting average with a .269 on-base percentage. While statistical expectations for Jeter should be held in check in relation to the 216 hits he produced in 2012, the fact is the reason I recommend him for ESPN standard 10- and 12-team mixed leagues is similar to why the Yankees are so desperate for him: The position is seriously lacking quality alternatives in fantasy as well.
So I’m surprised Jeter remains available in roughly half of ESPN’s standard leagues, though I expect by Friday morning that will have vastly changed. Look, if Dozier is your middle infielder, I’m not trading a top-20 starting pitcher to upgrade to Jeter. It’s not like that. If Jeter is a free agent, though, he’s worth adding in case he resumes his fine play from a year ago. Frankly, the guy became so overrated in fantasy circles that he’s now underrated, and I mean that in a nice way. We don’t care how he fields, and that was the main issue Wednesday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. At the plate, Jeter was only 1-for-9 in four rehab games, but that I wouldn’t read much into. Other than the team’s hurlers seeing the defensive downgrade and outfielder Brett Gardner likely pushed out of the leadoff spot -- he could hit second and do just fine there, too -- Jeter’s return is a win-win for everyone. Fantasy owners should embrace this.
Box score bits (AL): Baltimore Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen came off the disabled list Wednesday and allowed only one run in seven innings to the Texas Rangers, winning his fourth game. Chen’s numbers are better than in 2012, and while some regression seems likely, this is a safe pitcher. Teammate Nate McLouth singled and walked in five plate appearances, but his last stolen base was June 19. Just something to watch if that’s the only reason you own him. Hey, Michael Bourn stole a base Wednesday! He has all of four in the past month. Not exactly what we drafted him for. Toronto Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen ran into some trouble closing out Wednesday’s win, and Steve Delabar -- who might make the All-Star team -- earned a one-pitch save. Janssen didn’t lose the role, but Delabar is having the better season. Hopefully nobody is relying on Kansas City Royals right-hander Wade Davis. His season ERA rose to 5.89 after he permitted eight earned runs at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. He’s showing no signs of being good. Three more hits for Detroit Tigers catcher/DH Victor Martinez, and he’s hitting .254. Perhaps you gave up on him a month ago, but he’s hitting .414 in July. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton launched two home runs and knocked in five at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. The guy is certainly streaky, so hopefully this is the beginning of him salvaging his season. Buy low to a degree, and he should bust into my and colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft’s top-50 hitters next week.
Box score bits (NL): Miami Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner continued his fine work by beating the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, tossing seven innings of two-run ball. Turner boasts a 2.33 ERA through eight starts, three of them wins. He’s not a big K guy, but he seems legit. San Francisco Giants right-hander Matt Cain is legit as well; it’s not real cool that he was pulled in the first inning Wednesday, having permitted only three runs, but note the 1.18 WHIP for the season. It’s more telling than the 5.06 ERA. Buy low, no matter what Giants manager Bruce Bochy thinks. Speaking of managers, I’d think J.J. Putz of the Arizona Diamondbacks would merely need to be upright to usurp the closing role from Heath Bell now, but who knows what manager Kirk Gibson believes. Bell blew his fifth save Wednesday. Keep mocking Marlon Byrd of the New York Mets; his homer Wednesday was his 15th, only five short of a career high. And he’s been around a while. He’s going for 25 blasts! St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller walked five Houston Astros on Wednesday, and he has only one quality start in a month. Is the rookie tired? I’m sticking with him, not selling.