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Fantasy owners who think Carl Crawford is a demonstratively better fantasy option than Ellsbury haven't really been paying attention. Yes, Crawford homered Sunday as well (his 14th of the season), and thanks to a similar batting average and only four fewer stolen bases, the difference in Crawford's power is the reason he's ahead of Ellsbury on the Player Rater (Crawford is third). But think about where they went in preseason drafts and are likely to go next season. The difference in their actual statistics is small, yet Ellsbury is the one still improving.
For a young hitter in his second full season, Ellsbury is making a huge difference in fantasy baseball, and I'm guessing he'll go at a large discount to Crawford in 2010 drafts. Why is that? Well, it's name value and reputation more than anything else. Crawford did get off to a wonderful start this season, hitting .355 and stealing 21 bases in May alone, giving him 30 stolen bases through two months, while his fantasy owners had hopes of 100 steals dancing in their heads. Since then, Crawford hasn't topped 10 in any month.
Ellsbury, meanwhile, stole 11 or more bases in May, June and July, and he still has a shot to do so this month, as he's 7-for-8. Ellsbury also has hit at least .287 every month this season and has topped .300 in four months including September (so far), giving fantasy owners yearlong consistency. This isn't a dig at Crawford, but Ellsbury has been the better fantasy option since the All-Star break.
Look, Crawford is a wonderful fantasy player and likely to be a first-round pick in most leagues in the spring. Ellsbury, who went No. 69 overall in ESPN.com drafts this season (Crawford was 37th) is just as good and still improving, while Crawford isn't. Both played well Sunday, but if a big part of fantasy baseball is value, Boston's young base stealer is the one who provides it.
• Meanwhile, Chamberlain owners aren't pleased. The ridiculous "Joba Rules" are one thing, but Chamberlain allowed seven earned runs in three unproductive innings in Seattle. Not only hasn't the touted right-hander won in eight starts, but the Yankees also are 4-4 in his outings and have had to use many relief innings in the process. Chamberlain has 10 strikeouts in his past five starts combined! He also has become the first pitcher to make six consecutive starts of four innings or fewer in one season since Mike Johnson did so for the Orioles and Expos in 1997. The bottom line remains that Chamberlain isn't worth owning if kept on such strict pitch counts.
• You might have missed it, but Orioles rookie catcher Matt Wieters is having a very good September, so much so that he was moved up to the third spot in the lineup for Saturday's and Sunday's games. He might stay there for the next decade. Wieters went 6-for-9 in those two games, raising his batting average to .282. He remains a strong catching option the final two weeks, and I'm calling him a top-five catcher in 2010.
• Before the season, nobody would have guessed the San Diego Padres would have only one starting pitcher hurl enough to qualify for the ERA title and that he'd be Kevin Correia. However, with seven shutout innings against the Pirates on Sunday, the very available right-hander (owned in 6.3 percent of leagues) leads the Padres in starts, wins, strikeouts and every other positive stat. The 11-10 record might not excite, but a 4.08 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 131 strikeouts are useful.
• Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo finished 2009 with five shutout innings and his 13th win against the Astros, but overall, this season probably wasn't what fantasy owners expected. (The team has shut him down for the season.) Gallardo ends up with a 3.73 ERA and, thanks to a major league-leading walk total, a 1.31 WHIP. Only the 204 strikeouts have made fantasy owners smile. With better control and more run support in 2010, Gallardo could be that fantasy ace we expected.
• Giants ace Tim Lincecum continued with his recent road woes, as the Dodgers handed him his worst outing since early April, touching him for five earned runs and eight baserunners in four innings. The defending NL Cy Young winner is 0-4 with a 5.90 ERA in his past five road starts, and he had never lost to the Dodgers. Lincecum is slated to pitch against the Cubs, Diamondbacks and possibly the Padres the final weekend, if it matters. Don't sit him in fantasy.
• Closer follies: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel continues to shove Brad Lidge into the closing role, like a square peg into a circle. Lidge did save Sunday's win, but it was another messy outing. Lidge has three saves in the past seven days but has allowed a run in each. His last scoreless save was seven appearances ago. And for the record, he now has allowed a run in 10 of his saves this season. The last pitcher to do so was Bobby Jenks in 2006. Franklin Morales finished off a 5-1 win, and the lead was too large to earn a save. He might be finished as closer because Huston Street is expected back any day. The Rays' J.P. Howell earned his first save of September, getting only the final out in a 3-1 win. Right-hander Russ Springer, of all pitchers, started the ninth and induced two outs. Joakim Soria hasn't given up a run this month, and Sunday was his first save of more than three outs. No pitcher blew a save Sunday until Kevin Gregg in the final game of the day. Think about how rare that must be for any fully scheduled day.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels
Kendrick homered and knocked in five runs against the Rangers, continuing a torrid stretch in which the second baseman has 16 hits in his past 33 at-bats with a pair of home runs and nine RBIs. Kendrick ultimately might be a season disappointment because he hasn't played enough, but with a .302 batting average, he offers future promise.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
Jimenez outdueled Dan Haren to win his 14th game, striking out eight and allowing only one run in seven innings to bounce back from one of his worst outings of the season. The right-hander probably hasn't gotten his fantasy due, as he remains available in one-quarter of ESPN.com leagues, but 181 strikeouts, a 3.47 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP are very nice.
Roy Halladay was beaten by the Rays, which is no surprise because he's 3-7 against the defending AL champs since the start of 2008. Against all other teams, Halladay is 32-14. Halladay allowed more hits than innings once again, and he's allowed double-digit hits in four of his past 10 outings.
• In a move that seemed inevitable, on Sunday the Cubs suspended angry outfielder Milton Bradley for the rest of the season after he recently made remarks that ripped the organization. Bradley didn't hit as expected this season, with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs to go with a .257 batting average. Those numbers made him a fantasy bust, even as the No. 42 outfielder off the board in ESPN.com average live drafts this season. Bradley didn't play all weekend. Micah Hoffpauir would appear to benefit from playing time in right field. Who knows which uniform Bradley will wear in 2010, but fantasy owners can avoid him regardless.
• The Yankees recalled right-hander Ian Kennedy from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this past weekend, and he'll provide depth as a long reliever and possible spot starter. Kennedy got fantasy owners excited with a 1.89 ERA in three late-season starts with the Yankees in 2007 but followed up with an 8.17 ERA in 10 games last season. Kennedy earns the call-up after pitching five scoreless innings in two outings last week. He missed four months this season with an aneurysm in his pitching arm but could compete for a big league rotation spot in 2010.
• Remember David Freese? The Cardinals' third-base prospect was given some opportunity in April and failed, then spent most of the season either hurt or in the minors. The Cards are expected to call up Freese, Tyler Greene, Jaime Garcia and possibly others later this week after Triple-A affiliate Memphis Redbirds, the Pacific Coast League champions, face the International League champs from Durham. Keep an eye on Freese; Mark DeRosa is playing third base now, but he can play anywhere.
Jerry Crasnick: Bob, I've talked to a lot of baseball people about Upton lately. He's got bad body language and doesn't seem to care half the time. It's a maturity issue, I guess -- although he's 25 years old now. He did have shoulder surgery in the offseason, so you can't discount the physical aspect. But something is missing with that kid.
-- Full chat transcript
Jayson Stark: One of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. I think he has definite top-of-the-rotation upside, and he's no worse than a No. 3. But there are bigger names in that rotation and on that roster, so it's only natural that they get most of the pub. That's how the media game works. But did I write enough good stuff about him to make you feel better? That's my aim -- to spread good cheer throughout the land in every chat!
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's baseball chat schedule:
Buster Olney, 1 p.m. ET
• It's been a lost season for the Cleveland Indians, but at least the organization can celebrate an Eastern League title, as Double-A affiliate Akron won its second championship in five years Saturday by topping Connecticut. Catching prospect Carlos Santana punctuated a strong season with a home run and three RBIs in the clincher. During the regular season, Santana hit .290 with 23 home runs and 97 RBIs. Lou Marson likely will start 2010 as the Indians' main catcher, but Santana is the superior prospect for beyond.
• Giants first-base prospect Angel Villalona, a 19-year-old slugger who spent this season in high Class A California League, has a bigger problem than hitting only .267 and drawing nine walks in 74 games. Villalona, whom Baseball America rated as the organization's No. 3 prospect before the season, has been detained in connection with a fatal shooting in the Dominican Republic on Saturday. Villalona turned himself in Sunday and is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
• The only game among 10 on Monday that will involve two teams better than .500 features the Yankees at the Angels, with Andy Pettitte slated to return to the Yankees' rotation after missing a turn and fellow lefty Joe Saunders waiting for him. Both pitchers have 13 wins. Pettitte hasn't pitched in 10 days, and his last official quality start came in August. Saunders has lost once in his past nine starts.
• Two more lefties start in Arizona, with Barry Zito facing Doug Davis. Don't laugh, but Zito has thrived since the All-Star break, ranking seventh among pitchers who've thrown at least 60 innings with a 2.36 ERA since then, and he fanned nine Rockies in his past outing. Davis, meanwhile, last won eight starts ago.
• Wandy Rodriguez has done yeoman's work against the Cardinals this season, with a 2.25 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in four starts against the NL Central leaders, but he has one mere win to show for it. Rodriguez is scheduled to oppose Joel Pineiro, who is 2-0 in two starts against the Astros.
• Tim Wakefield hasn't pitched since Sept. 5, but the knuckleballer with the balky back says he'll be ready to go Monday in Kansas City. Wakefield is 11-4 and earned an All-Star berth this season, but he's way too risky for this start, even against the Royals. Hey, the Royals scored 11 runs Friday night.
• For more on Monday's games, check Daily Notes.