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NL FAAB Factor: Cueto Returns From Injury

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

Happy Mother's Day to my wife, mom, mother-in-law and to all the mothers, each of whom do so much for us.

Starting Pitching:

Joe Blanton - Blanton, who reportedly had been bothered by a bad elbow for a while, finally landed on the DL in late-April with a medial impingement in his elbow. The good news was that an MRI showed no structural damage and Blanton treated the injury with rest. Blanton is eligible to come off the DL Monday and it looks like he will come back at that time without needing a rehab start. Vance Worley had two excellent starts in his absence, sparking the Blanton trade rumors once again, which will likely come to fruition at some point this year given how good Worley looked. Mixed: $6; NL: $18.

Chris Capuano - Capuano has pitched much better than his numbers so far this year, as hitters have a .352 BABIP against him. When that number normalizes (his career .299 BABIP is a near league average), Capuano's ERA will likely drop into the low-4.00's or high-3.00's. In addition, his strand rate is a bit below par at .681 and FIP ERA is slightly more than a full run above his regular ERA, lending further credence to the argument that he may be a good buy-low candidate. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (in case he was dumped due to his poor numbers)

Johnny Cueto - Cueto, who was originally diagnosed with biceps tendinitis, which then was changed to mild shoulder inflammation, landed on the disabled list to start the season. He made four rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville, the last showing some promise, which prompted the Reds to change their plans and have him start in the majors Sunday rather than make another in the minors. Cueto, who was beaten off the DL by Homer Bailey, will push Mike Leake to the bullpen. Cueto's numbers show that he has made an effort to become more pitch-efficient at the cost of a few extra strikeouts. He has also lowered his walk rate and his home run rate two years in a row, so the tradeoff has been worth it - he lowered his ERA below 4.00 and threw more innings than he did in his previous two seasons. Cueto may struggle his first outing or two until he builds up stamina and command, but should be back on the beam before too long. Mixed: $7; NL: $22.

Dillon Gee - Gee, who seemed to be on the verge of being sent down in order to move back to starting, was forced into starting Saturday when Chris Young was scratched, as Young was unable to get loose. Against the Dodgers, Gee allowed just two runs over 5.1 innings in a no-decision. Young's shoulder stiffness, which will be examined via an MRI Sunday, has landed him on the disabled list, and Gee, who had been working out of the bullpen, will be the primary beneficiary as he remains in the rotation. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Tom Gorzelanny - Over seven innings Saturday against the Marlins, Gorzelanny allowed two runs on two hits and four walks while striking out six and earned the win. He now owns a 2-2 record on the season to go along with a terrific 2.87 ERA and 0.913 WHIP. Gorzelanny, who features a 90 mph fastball, a slider and a changeup, also pitched fairly well last season with the Cubs. One caveat is that his FIP ERA is a 1.50 higher than his regular ERA, so some regression is likely coming, but he still is worth a look in mixed leagues. Mixed: $5.

James McDonald - After a horrific opening to the season, McDonald has strung together back-to-back excellent starts. McDonald, who came over to Pittsburgh last year from LA, posted a 10.13 ERA in his first four starts but has surrendered just two runs over 12 innings in his last two outings. He seems to be rounding into shape after missing the latter half of spring training with injury. McDonald's ability to pinpoint his low/mid-90s fastball and keep his curveball low in the strike zone will go a long ways toward determining whether he will remain hot. Mixed: $5; NL: $17.

Clayton Mortensen - Mortensen was promoted to start for the Rockies on Saturday against San Francisco. Over six innings, he limited the Giants to just one run on four hits and four walks while striking out three. Mortensen has actually struggled in Triple-A this season, only lasting a total of 8.2 innings in three starts and walking six batters, but in the majors, he has allowed merely one run in 14 innings of work. The Rockies called up Mortensen because Esmil Rogers was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a strained right lat muscle. Colorado has an off-day Thursday, so they can skip Mortensen, but he should remain as the fifth starter with Rogers and Aaron Cook out. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Julio Teheran - Teheran was called up to make his big league debut against the Phillies on Saturday, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks in 4.2 innings. With the Braves having a doubleheader earlier in the week and Mike Minor having pitched Thursday for Triple-A Gwinnett, Teheran, who hadn't pitched since April 30, was given the call. His stay was brief as he was optioned back down Sunday, due to Atlanta's rotation being healthy at the present time. Teheran used his mid-90s fastball, plus changeup and developing curveball, along with a baseball IQ rare for his age to move up three levels and climb to Double-A last season. He entered the year as one of the best pitching prospects in the minors and has done little to tarnish that view, going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 25:8 K:BB in five starts for Gwinnett this season. Mixed: $2; NL: $7. (In case you can grab and stash even though he was sent down Sunday.)

Jake Westbrook - Like McDonald, Westbrook got off to a horrible start but seems to be righting the ship. Westbrook posted a 9.82 ERA through his first four outings of the year, with the majority of the damage done in his first and fourth starts, when he surrendered 15 runs in 7.3 innings. Since then, Westbrook has reeled off three straight quality starts, allowing just five runs in 18.3 innings. He seems to have picked up some velocity and is showing better command, enabling his K:BB ratio to move into the black. Like Capuano, part of Westbrook's poor ERA can be attributed to a weak strand rate (.639), and his FIP ERA is 1.52 below his current ERA. Mixed: $4; NL: $11. (In case he was dumped while he struggled.)

Relief Pitchers:

Josh Collmenter - Collmenter appears to be a likely candidate to move into Arizona's rotation with Barry Enright's demotion to Triple-A. He pitched at three levels last season before an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League. As his tumbling strikeout rate at Triple-A Reno (6.1 K/9IP) suggests, Collmenter's skill set may be best utilized in the bullpen at the big league level, which is where he had been utilized to now. Neither manager Kirk Gibson nor GM Kevin Towers have confirmed the move, but the D-Backs still have approximately a week before they need a fifth starter again. Collmenter has an 11:1 K:BB in 14 innings since being called up and placed in the bullpen, but he hasn't pitched more than 2.1 innings in his last three appearances and it will be interesting to see how the D-Backs intend to stretch him out. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Mark Melancon/Wilton Lopez/Jeff Fulchino - Things can turn on a dime in both real and fantasy baseball and that is the case in Houston, which is why Melancon is being profiled for the third time this year. Melancon, who has a good fastball-curveball tandem, will step in as the Astros' closer while Brandon Lyon is sidelined with biceps tendinitis and a partial tear of his rotator cuff. Lyon is not expected to need surgery but will be sidelined for at least a few weeks. Melancon hasn't been dominant, posting 6.48 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9 ratios but he does have a 1.62 ERA while posting a 4.29 GB:FB ratio and has been the Astros' most consistent reliever to this point. As a result, he'll get the first crack at save chances, which was the case Friday as he closed out the Astros' win. Lopez or Fulchino are the fallback options if Melancon struggles. Lopez just came off the disabled list, after being sidelined by ulnar nerve irritation, and struggled prior to being out. However, he was dominant last year with a 2.96 ERA, unworldly 0.67 BB/9 and 6.9 K/9 ratios while getting two groundballs for every flyball. Fulchino was great in 2009, fell back to earth last year but looks like he is back to his 2009 form. His mid-90s fastball has allowed him to rack up 14 strikeouts in 15 innings while already making 18 appearances. Melancon - Mixed: $7; NL: $22; Lopez - Mixed: $2; NL: $7; Fulchino - Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Vicente Padilla/Hong-Chih Kuo - I profiled Padilla and Kuo last week, but the injury to Jonathan Broxton results in another mention and change in value. The MRI on Broxton's right elbow revealed bone spurs, which is not expected to be resolved via surgery. For now, the Dodgers are going to wait a few days before deciding whether Broxton will go on the DL, and if he does, he likely will receive a cortisone injection and miss a few weeks. In the interim, Padilla has been named as the closer while Kuo will be the next in waiting. What I wrote last week still applies. Padilla has pitched well since coming back from his forearm injury, posting a 5:3 K:BB ratio and 1.50 ERA in six innings. If Padilla sees an uptick in velocity in the move to starter to bullpen, he could be an interesting option especially if his control is like 2010 and not 2009. Kuo may have the better stuff, but his injury history has to raise a red flag. In addition, he is the main lefty in the pen, making it more likely he would be used before the ninth inning. Others in the mix are Mike MacDougal and Kenley Jansen, who was busy trying to right the ship at Double-A but was called up to replace Broxton on the roster. Padilla - Mixed: $6; NL: $18; Kuo - Mixed: $3; NL: $11. (Both should already be owned in NL-only leagues but each get a bump in value based on role change with Broxton out.)


Rob Johnson/Kyle Phillips - Nick Hundley, who injured himself on a swing Wednesday, landed on the DL Friday with a strained oblique. Johnson, a career backup, should see most of the action behind the plate, but don't expect much given his history. Phillips takes Hundley's roster spot and will backup Johnson behind the plate for the next few weeks. Johnson - Mixed: $0; NL: $3; Phillips - Mixed: No; NL: $0.

First Basemen:

Brad Hawpe - Hawpe has hit in seven of his last eight games to raise his average from a miniscule .098 to just a woeful .183. After hitting at least 22 home runs and driving in 84 runs in four straight seasons, Hawpe plummeted to earth last year, hitting just nine home runs and driving in 44 runs between Colorado and Tampa Bay. The Padres signed him to serve as a bridge to Anthony Rizzo, and given how poor he started the year, one could argue that the bridge was out of order. Hawpe still has a long way to go, but at least he has made some progress. He needs to keep it up with Jorge Cantu already in SD and Rizzo on-fire at Triple-A and a call up candidate before too long. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Juan Miranda - Miranda started again Saturday, the fourth straight time he has been penciled in to the starting lineup at first and is 4-for-13 with a home run and three walks in that span. Manager Kirk Gibson says that he's still going with a three-man rotation at first, which consists of Miranda, Xavier Nady and Russell Branyan, but hopefully he will just ride the hot bat and leave Miranda in for as long as he is hitting like this. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Carlos Pena - Pena suffered through a nightmarish April, partially due to a sore thumb, but seems to be righting the ship in May. Pena has hits in four of his last five starts and has homered in three straight. He won't hit for a high average and strikes out a lot, but draws a lot of walks, improving his OBA. He should also be a solid source of power going forward given his 46.2 FB%, which is in line with his career numbers. In addition, his .122 ISO is way below his career-norm, which also bodes well for some future success. Mixed: $7; NL: $17. (Possibly dumped due to nightmarish April.)

Second Base:

Logan Forsythe/Eric Patterson - Forsythe was called up this week to replace Orlando Hudson, who was placed on the DL on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. Forsythe has played well in Triple-A this year, posting a .417 OBP and .500 SLG, but he didn't show nearly that much power in Double-A. His main asset is plate discipline, which doesn't translate well to fantasy baseball. Hudson will likely miss the minimum and it looks like Patterson will see most of the time at second base while he is out. Patterson has historically put up good numbers in the minors but struggled when given a chance in the majors. Even though he homered in consecutive games this week, speed remains Patterson's best asset and chance for contribution on your fantasy team. Forsythe - Mixed: No; NL: $0; Patterson - Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Joe Inglett - The Astros purchased Inglett's contract from Triple-A Oklahoma City Sunday. Inglett, who the Astros had designated for assignment on April 29, gets a reprieve with Jason Bourgeois landing on the DL due to a strained oblique Sunday. Inglett will back up Bill Hall and Angel Sanchez at second base, and even if he plays, doesn't provide much offense. Mixed: No; NL: $0.


Jerry Hairston Jr. - Hairston, who has been splitting time with Alex Cora at third base with Ryan Zimmerman is on the DL, also saw time this past week in center field while Rick Ankiel was sidelined. Ankiel finally landed on the DL Saturday due to his sprained right wrist with the Nationals calling up Roger Bernadina. Bernadina should see most of the action in center field, but Hairston should continue to play third for about six more weeks while also seeing occasional action in left. Mixed: $3.

Third Basemen:

Allen Craig/Daniel Descalso/Tyler Greene/Nick Punto - Third base in St. Louis was in the capable hands of David Freese, but all that changed Sunday, April 24. A Scott Linebrink fastball broke Freese's hand, sidelining him for 8-12 weeks and creating a flux at the hot corner in the Arch City. There are several possible candidates for the role, as listed in the start of this post, but Craig may get a chance to run with the job. Craig, who was just activated off the disabled list after being sidelined with a strained groin, was expected to return to his role as fourth outfielder and occasional starter. However, the injury to Freese resulted in Craig starting at third Tuesday and Wednesday. One caveat is that even when Craig starts at third base, he's likely to be removed in later innings if the score is close, which will somewhat hurt his value. Descalso and Punto have seen some action at third as well as second - along with Greene - with Skip Schumaker still out and expected to miss 2-to-4 more weeks. Descalso has seen most of the time at second and would like to have the inside track to keep most of his playing time while both Freese and Schumaker are out. Craig - Mixed: $4; NL: $11; Descalso - Mixed: $2; NL: $7; Greene - Mixed: No; NL: $2; Punto - Mixed: No, NL: $0.

Ian Stewart - Stewart, who struggled mightily to start the season, with just two hits in his first 26 at-bats - 11 of them strikeouts - was called back up to the majors this week to take the roster spot of the injured Ty Wigginton. Stewart was mashing the ball at Triple-A Colorado Springs, going 13-for-36 (.361) with three homers and 13 RBI in 11 games, though he did notch 11 more strikeouts in those 36 at-bats. Jose Lopez has done little to show Colorado he deserves to play every day, so while Wiggy is out, look for Stewart to play nearly every day. If he hits well, he could move Wiggy back to his planned utility role when he returns. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.


Roger Bernadina - Bernadina was added to the Nationals' roster Saturday to take the place of the injured Rick Ankiel, who landed on the DL to his sprained right wrist. Bernadina was hitting .270 with a .352 on-base percentage and a .381 slugging percentage at Triple-A Syracuse at the time of his promotion. He started in center field and batting leadoff Saturday night. Given the team's lack of center field options, Bernadina could see extended action at that spot until Ankiel returns and does have some power and speed. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Willie Bloomquist - Bloomquist is eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday, but the club has not decided when he will return to the field. Bloomquist, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring retroactive to April 22, ran the bases before Tuesday's game against the Rockies. He faced live pitching against the rehabbing Aaron Heilman and Zach Duke this week, and it looks like he won't need to go on a rehab assignment before being activated. Bloomquist saw solid playing time earlier in the year but with Ryan Roberts playing third and Geraldo Parra in left, he may not see as much action when he returns. However, if Stephen Drew's groin/abdomen issues sideline him, Bloomquist could be plugged in at shortstop. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Emilio Bonifacio - Bonifacio, who has been moved up to second in the batting order, saw his seven-game hitting streak, during which he went 12-for-32, end Thursday. He's been getting steady work in left field, but even after Logan Morrison returns from the DL expect Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez to keep finding playing time for Bonifacio as long as he stays hot at the plate. That playing time could come at third base, which is now being handled by Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms, as Bonifacio has played there in the past. Mixed: $5.

Jay Gibbons - Gibbons, who had been out with vision problems, was activated from the DL this week. With Marcus Thames going on the DL with a strained quad, Gibbons could immediately begin to see playing time in left field with Jerry Sands slowly eating into James Loney's at-bats at first base (particularly against left-handed pitching). Gibbons hit well in a 14-game rehab stint at Triple-A Albuquerque and did a solid job when he got semi-regular time in LA last August and September. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.

Carlos Gomez - This part of the column was supposed to be about Nyjer Morgan, but he broke his right middle finger bunting and will miss 2-to-4 weeks. Morgan was all set to usurp the job from Gomez, who gets another reprieve from riding the pine due to the injury. If that's enough for you to own Gomez, be our guest. Mixed: $1; NL: $5. (In case he was waived when Morgan returned.)

Chris Heisey - Heisey made his third straight start Thursday against the Astros. He spelled Drew Stubbs in center Thursday, and then was in the lineup for the second time of the week in place of Jonny Gomes on Saturday. Heisey singled in the Reds' ninth-inning rally against Brandon Lyon on Wednesday, went 1-for-3 with a run Thursday but was 0-for-3 Saturday. If Heisey is going to earn more regular playing time, it would seemingly come at the expense of Gomes, who sits when he struggles due to his subpar defense. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Raul Ibanez - After looking washed up and left for dead, Ibanez refuses to let the door shut on the coffin. He may have resurrected his season against Washington, capped by going 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI Thursday. Ibanez had been mired in an 0-for-35 slump, but went 8-for-12 in those three games with three doubles, a pair of homers and five RBI. It may just be a temporary reprieve from losing action to John Mayberry and/or Domonic Brown, but manager Charlie Manuel has shown that he will stick for longer than expected with Ibanez, who in the past has responded well to the support. Mixed: $6; NL: $17.

Fred Lewis - Lewis, who started the year on the disabled list due to an oblique injury and then played 15 games in the minors on a rehab assignment, was activated and promoted this past week. He has assumed the role of a reserve outfielder for the Reds (perhaps as the fifth option behind Chris Heisey), with the activation prompting the club to option outfielder Jeremy Hermida to Louisville. If Jonny Gomes continues to struggle and Heisey doesn't get the shot or prove to be the answer, Lewis could be next in line in center field. Mixed: No; NL: $3.

Jason Michaels - Michaels, who has been on the DL since April 25 with a subluxation of his left shoulder, will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday. Michaels has progressed quickly this week from taking his first swings since the injury, to batting practice twice leading to heading out on a rehab stint. Michaels appears ahead of schedule as he was originally expected to be out a month, but less than 10 days after going on the DL he's already heading off on a rehab assignment. He has some pop as a right-handed bat off the bench, and when he returns, he likely will go back to his usual fourth outfielder role. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Bryan Petersen - Petersen was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on Monday. Donnie Murphy was sent to the DL, necessitating the roster move. Petersen struggled in spring training, but he hit .342/.455/.562 at Triple-A with a 14:14 BB:K so far this season. He will be used a pinch-hitter and could see a spot start. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Jason Pridie - Pridie should remain with the Mets for at least the next two weeks with the news that manager Terry Collins believes that Angel Pagan, who had a setback while rehabbing his oblique injury, won't return for at least that long. Pridie has shown more power than expected, with three home runs already and is batting .293 after his 3-for-4 performance Saturday. As we have seen, oblique injuries are tricky, so Pagan could be out more than two weeks. If you are looking to take a short-term flier on an outfielder, especially in NL-only leagues, Pridie might be a nice option. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Will Venable - After an extremely rough start, Venable appears to be turning the corner. He has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games to up his average from .176 to .208. Despite the slow start, Venable still has 10 stolen bases and might be a good, buy-low candidate due to his power-speed combination. Mixed: $7.