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MLB Barometer: Panda Watch!

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

UPGRADES:

Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants - Finally Panda is starting to hit, going deep Saturday for the second time in three games. I went back and looked at Pandaís disappointing season to see what the problem is. Final answer? Heís been unlucky. His .296 BABIP is down 34 points from his career mark while his LD, GB, and FB percentages havenít fluctuated by more than a couple of percentage points. His last year/this year strikeout rate (14.5%/14.0%) and walk rate (8.2%/8.3%) are the same and the only number out of whack is his FB/HR rate (last year - 14.0%, this year - 5.6%). So is he this yearís disappointment or the guy who hit 25 homers and batted .330 from a season ago? The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle and Iíd guess outside of a miraculous comeback the rest of this season heíll come at a discount next year.

Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners - With the Mariners in the middle of a disappointing season, theyíve decided to check out the in-house options they have for next year. Enter Saunders, who interim manager Daren Brown has publicly stated will get a long look for the rest of the season. Saunders has only hit .231 in the bigs but since the All-Star break heís lowered his strikeout rate (33.8% to 17.8%) and batted .268. The AL-only/deep league caveat applies here.

Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks - Montero went deep twice on Saturday and now has four home runs over his last four games. His knee appears to be completely healthy and with Chris Snyder in Pittsburgh, heís consistently been getting four-to-five starts per week.

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox - Pedroia said his foot felt good after his Saturday rehab start and is on track to return to the Boston lineup on Tuesday. Get him back into your lineup.

Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies - Utley is also on track to return to the Philadelphia lineup on Tuesday about two weeks ahead of schedule.

Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays - Until Saturday, the Rays have struggled mightily to score runs and will hopefully get a jolt to the offense with Pena set to return on Monday. Heíll be inserted right back into the lineup and should hit cleanup or in the five hole.

Ted Lilly, P, Dodgers - Lilly has hit the ground running since his trade, winning his third game for LA on Saturday. Heís been spectacular as his 1.89 ERA and 0.632 WHIP indicate. His xFIP (3.71) suggests that heís been somewhat lucky but three home runs explain why itís much higher than his actual ERA. Luckily for Lilly heís always been a low-walk guy and his HR/FB rate during the three August starts (12.5%) is higher than his overall mark (10.8%). Heís obviously not going to continue his 100% LOB rate with the Dodgers, but he should still post solid numbers from here on out. This shouldnít surprise anyone after the rejuvenation teammate Vicente Padilla had a season ago.

Bud Norris, P, Astros - OK, this is my softball over the middle of the plate this week. Norris was filthy on Saturday, striking out 14 Pittsburgh batters en route to his fifth win. Nothing about Norrisí numbers show heís deserving of a 5.42 ERA (xFIP 3.75). He strikes out a lot of batters (9.75 K/9IP), doesnít allow a lot of home runs (1.17 HR/9IP), has a three-year low 62.6% strand rate and a 43.5% GB rate. You get the picture. Keep him in mind next year when youíre picking late in drafts.

CHECK STATUS:

Carlos Zambrano, P, Cubs - Zambrano put together his second straight decent start on Saturday, giving up only two runs over 5.2 innings. In his previous start he allowed two runs also but over five innings. Heís done it in typical Zambrano fashion, posting a 6:9 K:BB over those two starts. Iím not ready to upgrade him quite yet until he shows some consistency but heís definitely worth keeping an eye on if you need starting pitcher help for the stretch run.

Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies - Howard has been working on cutting and hopes to return to the Phillies on Tuesday, if manager Charlie Manuel gives him the OK. Iím not a doctor but a sprained ankle doesnít sound too bad. A good wrap job from the training staff should enable Howard to make it back on the field some time this week. Remember though once an ankle is sprained, it is more susceptible to future sprains.

Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers - A night after a walk-off homer to win the game, Cruz left Saturdayís game after aggravating his hamstring. Cruz downplayed the injury after the game stating he was removed as a precautionary measure so he may still be OK to start this week.

Homer Bailey, P, Reds - Bailey was activated from the DL to start for the Reds on Sunday. He was sharp in three starts for Triple-A Louisville (2.37 ERA, 1.053 WHIP over 19 innings) and has the potential to make an impact on your fantasy team if heís completely healthy.

Eric Young Jr., 2B, Rockies - Young was given the starting nod over Clint Barmes on Saturday and could be in line for significant playing time if this continues. Iím guessing they didnít call him up from Triple-A to sit on the bench and albeit a small sample size he has five steals in 37 at-bats for the Rockies. He may get sent down Tuesday when the team addresses the rotation with Jeff Francis landing on the DL, but if he stays and plays heís worth a look if you need speed out of your second base position.

DOWNGRADES:

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox - Ellsbury landed back on the DL with a new injury and 2010 is going to end up a year of frustration for owners. Itís unfortunate, especially since he was off and running since his last DL stint, stealing five bases over a nine-game span since his return. Next year there shouldnít be any debate as to who to take first between him and Carl Crawford considering his new-found fragility.

Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves - Chipper (is that really an upgrade from Larry?) is out for the season and will attempt to come back next year from a torn ACL. Jones wasnít exactly lighting it up this year before the injury and with his injury past and age (39, next year) itís tough to recommend him in standard mixed formats next year.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers - Kinsler still hasnít even started taking batting practice as he recovers from his groin injury. Heís stated heíll be back come September 1 even if heís not completely healthy. This doesnít sound good and he likely wonít be running too often when he does return. His power numbers are down substantially from last season and Iíd cut bait with him if you could use a productive player in place of his roster spot.

Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Rangers - Not to pick on the Rangers, but Vlad is also getting the old downgrade this week. He started off the year as hot as any player batting at least .330 in each of the first three months and has come back to earth with averages of .210 in July and .220 in August. Itís hard to pinpoint whatís been wrong with him; is he injured, is father time catching up or are the hot Arlington nights affecting him? Iíd bench him for time being until he shows signs of returning to the player he was earlier this season.