While wishing that my ongoing draft was for this fantasy football league instead of for a keeper league with a bunch of my fellow dorks from Baseball Think Factory, here are some notes from around baseball .
* Nelson Cruz's huge season at Triple-A finally got the Rangers' attention and he's expected to be called up Monday. Despite a strong minor-league track record Cruz fell out of the Rangers' plans after hitting just .231/.282/.385 through his first 477 plate appearances in the majors and his stock fell so far that the one-time top prospect actually cleared waivers at the end of spring training. After failing to make the Opening Day roster, he went down to Triple-A and crushed the ball.
Cruz batted .342 with 39 homers and 24 steals in 102 games to lead the Pacific Coast League in homers, total bases, slugging percentage, and OPS while ranking second in on-base percentage and steals. With the Rangers out of playoff contention and the combination of Frank Catalanotto and Brandon Boggs providing little production in left field, Cruz is expected to get regular playing time down the stretch. Don't expect miracles, but he should have solid value in AL-only leagues.
* Victor Martinez's now two-month stint on the disabled list has given Kelly Shoppach a chance to start regularly behind the plate for the first time in his career and he's responded by putting up big power numbers. Shoppach homered and drove in three runs Saturday night as the Indians pulled off a comeback against the Mariners and is hitting .260/.333/.506 with 15 homers and 42 RBIs in 301 plate appearances overall this season.
Combined with his work backing up Martinez in 2006 and 2007, Shoppach has hit .259/.321/.473 with 25 homers and 88 RBIs in 598 trips to the plate with the Indians. For comparison, Martinez has hit .304/.375/.462 during that span. A 43-point gap in OPS can't be ignored, but Shoppach makes up for much of that by being superior defensively. Even if Martinez returns from the DL in September it's tough to imagine him bumping Shoppach back into a reserve role now or in 2009.
* Out since early July, Julio Lugo suffered a setback in his recovery from a quadriceps injury last week and underwent an MRI exam Sunday. Barring surprising results the Red Sox are likely to shut him down, because between Lugo's poor play before the injury and Jed Lowrie's great play since taking over at shortstop there's little reason to revert back. Lugo has hit just .247/.314/.343 in 937 plate appearances since signing a four-year, $36 million deal with the Red Sox last winter.
Meanwhile, Lowrie is hitting .299/.364/.474 in 178 plate appearances since being called up from Triple-A, providing about 25 percent more offense than Lugo. Beyond that, Lowrie has also been an upgrade defensively despite some previous questions about his ability to handle shortstop on an everyday basis. Lowrie's .833 Revised Zone Rating is right at the MLB average for the position and ranks significantly ahead of Lugo's .782 mark with the Red Sox.
* John Maine tossed five shutout innings in each of his first two starts back from the disabled list, but got knocked around by the Astros for eight runs Saturday and may be headed back to the DL. Maine revealed after his ugly start that he's planning to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder following the season and manager Jerry Manuel hinted Sunday that the Mets may shut him down for the year if his between-starts bullpen session doesn't go well Wednesday.
* Vernon Wells was more or less duplicating his career averages by hitting .287/.329/.449 when a hamstring injury in early July knocked him out for a month. Time on the sidelines apparently agreed with Wells, because he's come off the shelf swinging a very hot bat. Wells homered three times over the weekend and is now hitting .314 with four homers, three doubles, 11 runs, and 15 RBIs in 13 games since returning from the disabled list.
AL Quick Hits: Mark Teixeira went 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday and is now hitting .386 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 23 games with the Angels . Felix Hernandez held the A's to three runs over six innings Sunday, winning for the first time since July 18 . Rocco Baldelli homered Sunday for the second time in three days and may soon get as much playing time as his health allows . After losing Saturday, Jarrod Washburn is 0-5 with a 6.75 ERA this month following the Mariners' misguided decision not to dump his contract at the July 31 trading deadline . Ervin Santana racked up a season-high 10 strikeouts Sunday and has now fanned at least seven in 11 of his last 14 starts . Luke Hochevar (ribs) was moved to the 60-day disabled list Sunday, so the disappointing former No. 1 overall pick ends his rookie season at 6-12 with a 5.51 ERA . Justin Morneau went 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday, joining Harmon Killebrew as the only hitters in Twins history to crack 100 RBIs in three straight seasons . Robinson Cano went 4-for-5 with a homer and two doubles Sunday, but is still hitting 45 points below his career mark coming into the year.
NL Quick Hits: Rich Harden tied a season-high with 11 strikeouts Sunday, reaching double digits for the fifth time in eight starts with the Cubs . C.C. Sabathia allowed one run over six innings for another good start Sunday, but Salomon Torres' blown save kept him from moving to 9-0 with the Brewers . Johnny Cueto left Sunday's start after three innings with triceps soreness, potentially ending the promising rookie's season . After going 2-for-2 with a homer and two walks Sunday, Albert Pujols moved into a tie with Chipper Jones for the batting title along with leading the NL in on-base percentage and slugging percentage . Chris Young (forearm) threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Saturday and is still hoping to pitch again this season . Kosuke Fukudome smacked a pinch-hit homer Sunday, going deep for the first time this month and second time in his last 155 plate appearances . Mike Cameron had a huge game Sunday, going 5-for-5 with a homer and a steal . General manager Jim Bowden said Sunday that Shawn Hill (forearm) won't return before mid-September . After going hitless in five at-bats Sunday, Jimmy Rollins is in a 4-for-46 slump.