Fantasy Baseball Tonight,4/27: Verlander Returns, Hughes Coming Up, and More

Todd Farino@truegurufarinoCorrespondent IApril 28, 2009

TORONTO - APRIL 6:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers delivers the pitch during the Opening Day game against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre April 6, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Justin Verlander got into a time machine tonight and went back to 2007 when he was a quality major league pitcher. He has been frustrating his fantasy owners for just over a full season now with his flashes of brilliance before falling apart and taking a loss.

Bringing a 9.00 ERA into this game against the Yankees, I can't say I felt much confidence in him.

Oh, but ye of little faith, Verlander was back to his masterful self, shutting the Yankees out over seven innings, walking nobody, and striking out nine. It would be nice if you could feel good that he can do this again, but this is a nice sign for a guy who has struggled for quite a while.

After a rough start to the season, this was a third straight great outing for Cliff Lee. The 2008 AL Cy Young Award Winner was the center of many a preseason fantasy debate after his 22 win season.

Those on the side against Lee were calling to the rooftops about him being a fluke.

Well, Kerry Wood might have blown the save, but Lee was masterful over eight innings against the Red Sox. Lee allowed just five hits, no walks, and struck out five. He has now allowed only three runs over his last three starts.

Now, I don't think he will be as dominating as he was last season, but it appears he will be at worst a top 20 pitcher.

Is this the breakout season of Johnny Cueto?

Another pitcher who won't get the win, Cueto was tough to hit as he allowed only one run and struck out five. After allowing four runs in his first start, Cueto has been scorching hot since.

He has allowed one run or less in his last three, and is now sporting a 2.19 ERA. He also has 20 Ks in 24 innings, which was the one category we knew that he would help you in.

He won't keep this pace up, but if he can keep his ERA under 3.50, Cueto will be a big time pitcher.

How in the world does Tim Wakefield keep doing this?

The Boston knuckleballer had one of his signature games on Monday, allowing one hit over seven innings, walked four, and struck out five.

Unfortunately, Wakefield, on some days, just doesn't have it. There usually isn't a lot of middle ground with him, either he has a game like tonight, or he is in the shower by the third inning.

But so far, Wakefield has an ERA of 1.86 and hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his first four starts. He isn't someone that I have ever really owned in all of my years of fantasy except over short periods of time.

He is just so unpredictable.

But against weaker opponents, Wakefield is a guy that you can pick up for a spot start.

The New York Mets have a reason to feel a little better about their situation tonight.

So far this year it has been Johan Santana and pray for four days of rain.

But Mike Pelfrey was able to return from injury, and now John Maine had a very solid outing. Maine allowed just one hit over his six innings, no earned runs, walked three, and struck out four.

If he is healthy from his offseason surgery, Maine could win you 12-13 games if the Mets ever start hitting with runners in scoring position.

Phil Hughes will step in tomorrow for Chien-Ming Wang, and if you have anyone who is floundering on your team, I would certainly consider picking him up if he is available.

Hughes has all the potential in the world, but it hasn't manifested itself at the major league level yet, as he won exactly ZERO games last year. However, most prospects who are as highly touted as Hughes don't miss, and it seems that it is just a matter of time before he is successful.

Is it now?

Tough to say, but I wouldn't mind taking the chance on him.

Ryan Franklin saved his sixth game for the season tonight for the Cardinals, and since being installed as the closer, he has not allowed a run.

I had a conversation with a friend tonight about Franklin and whether or not he has turned a corner and will be an effective closer.

As a Cards fan, I certainly hope so.

As a fantasy player, I'm not ready to make that statement just yet.

Franklin still seems to be an ideal sell high candidate, but the way St. Louis is playing, it COULD come back to bite you.

Jair Jurrjens is the definition of a hard luck loser.

In five starts, Jurrjens has a sparkling 1.72 ERA, but is only 2-2 to show for it.

The Braves did score eight runs in one of his starts, but in the other four, they have scored a grand total of seven runs.

He isn't a huge strikeout pitcher, but he isn't Chien-Ming Wang either.

If the Braves could ever get straightened out, Jurrjens could have some real fantasy value.

I forgot to mention the spectacular pitching of Red Sox prospect Michael Bowden.

In his first appearance in the big leagues, Bowden was on ESPN against the hated rival Yankees.

So how did the kid do?

Ah, not bad.

Two no hit innings, and struck out two.

Now don't get excited, he was immediately sent back down to the minors to make room for Julio Lugo, but Bowden is certainly a name to remember for later in the season.

Clay Buchholz will probably get the next turn if there is a long term hole in the rotation, but it is certainly possible that Bowden spends some time inn Bean Town in 2009.

Raul Ibanez continues his absolutely ridiculous start.

In a game that included seven home runs, including two grand slams (one by Ibanez, other by Ryan Howard), Ibanez had three more hits and brought his season home run total to six and RBI to 16.

While I am on the fence about the rest of the season for Ryan Franklin, I feel quite secure in advising to sell high on Ibanez and here's why:

We are about one tenth of the way through the season.

If you can tell me, with a straight face, that he is going to stay anywhere near this pace, then I have some beachfront property in Alaska to sell you.

Get a more established star for Ibanez now.

In that same game, Ryan Zimmerman connected twice on his third and fourth homers of the year. He's hitting .295 and having the kind of season that we had hoped for.

Zimmerman will never be an elite power option, or be a real high average guy, but at a position that has grown increasingly thin, he is a nice consistent guy to count on.

Has Jason Bay joined the elite outfielders?

Ever since coming over to the Red Sox, Bay seems to have found another gear, and he is off to a very strong start in 2009.

Bay connected on his fifth homer of the season, a game winner off of Kerry Wood. He is now hitting .344, and has 19 RBI.

It is hard to believe, but he is making it much easier for Red Sox fans to cope with the loss of Manny Ramirez bat in the Boston lineup.

Don't look now, but Andy LaRoche has a hit in 11 straight games and is looking like he might be worth owning in NL only or very deep mixed leagues. He was once a highly touted prospect in the Dodgers' organization, but he has fallen far off the prospect radar.

Over this streak he has brought his average from .000 all the way up to .262. He is still yet to hit a home run, so he is merely a role player on even the deepest leagues.

But he is worth keeping an eye on.

Since starting the season like a house of fire, Nick Swisher has come back to earth.

Over the last nine games, Swisher has just six hits and 13 strikeouts. He hasn't hit a home run since Apr. 14, and he has only driven in three runs over that stretch.

I don't think I would send him packing just yet (unless you are in an eight team league or something similar), but I would certainly be scrutinizing his play over the next week.

Rockies' rookie outfielder, Dexter Fowler, had one of the more incredible games.

Fowler had just two hits, both singles.

That wasn't the incredible part.

Fowler stole a whopping FIVE bases in the game. After being deemed the fourth outfielder to start the season, Fowler has played himself into starting nearly everyday at this point.

He won't bring you a ton of power (probably top out at about 15 homers), but he has great speed at the top of Colorado's order. He stole at least 20 bases in each of his minor league seasons, and is nearly halfway there already after tonight's remarkable speed display.

Troy Tulowitzki rode the pine tonight, and it might not be the last time he does so.

After having a good first week, Tulowitzki went six straight games without a hit. For the season he has nine hits and 17 strikeouts. He had three home runs in his first five games, and hasn't even driven in a run since.

He is currently leading the team in Ks, and his average is all the way down to .167. Tulo struggled to start the season last year too, so he could just be a slow starter. He is going to take some extra batting practice to see if they can find out what is wrong with him, and there has been no determination how many games he might sit.

He could be in there tomorrow, or might miss a few; there has been no clear indication of the plan.

Injury News

Hanley Ramirez was hit on the hand/wrist by a John Maine pitch tonight and was forced to leave the game. X-rays were thankfully reported to be negative.

Ramirez said that it was just bruised and hurt a lot. Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said it would be a day to day thing. He also noted that if he felt better tomorrow he would play Hanley.

With the Marlins on a seven game slide, I'd be surprised if Hanley was out too long.

The swelling in Jose Valverde's injured calf has not gone down, and he will miss at least a few more games and might be headed to the Disabled List. It is likely too late to sit him for those of you in leagues with weekly roster moves, but in daily move leagues, get him out of your lineup until further notice.

Hopefully he can avoid the DL.

Finally, I would like to take this time to post a link to one of the newest baseball blogs, The Fantasy Windup.

Steve Gardner, who has been with USA Today for over 15 years, has recently started his own blog about everything baseball that is updated multiple times a day.

I especially liked the post from early this morning in which he was good enough to mention my site and link to my article from 4/26.

Thanks Steve!

I invite all of you to check out the Fantasy Windup and to get involved in the comments and forums with some of his great readers.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome at

I guarantee a response within 18 hours. Also, don’t miss “The Fantasy Baseball Gurus Show” every Wednesday night at 10pm EST on Blog Talk Radio. The show is co-hosted by Todd Farino of, RC Rizza of and myself, Ryan Hallam at To hear the show go to The Fantasy Baseball Scouting Report is also back! Join me with Jeff Mans every Tuesday night at 10pm EST for all the news, free agent pickups, minor leaguers, and injuries. A can’t miss if you plan on winning your league. I also just met the people over at Baseball Trade Rumors and I invite you to visit their site. They have a page for rumors for every major league team, constant updates on the latest rumors, interactive polls, and overall some great content.


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