While many eyes will be on the events at Yankee Stadium this weekend, in part because the two best teams in baseball will meet but also due to the planned celebrations to honor George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, I'll also be checking out that other AL East series, as the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Baltimore Orioles. From a fantasy baseball standpoint, even as the Blue Jays join the last-place Orioles in merely playing for next year -- or maybe 2013 -- there's still a lot to watch.
The Blue Jays' starting rotation seems awfully underrated to me, and a series like this against a disappointing offensive team should inspire some fantasy owners to become more interested. Lefty Ricky Romero, scheduled to pitch Friday, is one of the most dropped pitchers in ESPN standard (10-team) mixed leagues, despite being eighth in the American League in strikeouts. He was bombed in his past two outings, but those were against the feared New York Yankees and still-dangerous Boston Red Sox. Prior to that, his ERA was 2.83 and his WHIP 1.24. The Orioles are not the Yankees or Red Sox. I don't buy into the theory that since Romero was so awful in the second half last year, he will be again. He's not a rookie anymore. Two weeks ago, he was a top-20 pitcher.
On Saturday and Sunday, right-handers Brandon Morrow and Shaun Marcum are next in line, and I remain surprised at how many fantasy owners are either ignoring these guys or never wanted any part of them in the first place. Morrow remains a work in progress, I admit, but if you're going to take a chance on someone like that, make it a guy on pace for 202 strikeouts in 33 starts. Morrow was always supposed to be good. How come Seattle Mariners fans don't rue trading him for Brandon League?
Morrow still allows a few too many hits for someone with his stuff, which is surprising, but make no mistake, he's going to figure things out at some point. Maybe he'll always issue walks and garner high pitch counts, but the strikeouts are legit. I always compared him, when they should have been starters, to the New York Yankees' Joba Chamberlain. Clearly Morrow is more valuable now, and kudos to the Blue Jays for making him a starter. He's available in 83 percent of leagues, and that number has risen over the past week.
Then there's Marcum who, as expected when he went on the disabled list two weeks ago just as much for precaution and rest as anything else, found himself dropped in leagues. Marcum did have some elbow inflammation, but be sure he's not the only one dealing with that issue in July. The fact he missed the 2009 season with Tommy John surgery should have the Blue Jays handling him carefully, especially when he started Opening Day, but fantasy owners should seize the opportunity to add him. Marcum is the rare right-handed pitcher who absolutely destroys left-handed hitters; his .177 batting average against versus lefties and .503 OPS are terrific statistics. His overall numbers are worthy of No. 3 fantasy starters.