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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Here come the hot shots

Scott Pianowski
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We waited for Weiters, we waited for Price, we waited for Godot, and yes, the waiting truly is the hardest part when it comes to stash-and-hold blue-chip prospects. But thanks to a glorious 12-hour burst of activity Wednesday, we now have three more exciting kids to plug into our fantasy lineups.

Come on down, Tommy Hanson(notes). Get ready for your close up, Andrew McCutchen. It's showtime, Gordon Beckham.

Anyone who fancies themselves a competitive rotisserie gamer already has a good working understanding of all three of these kids, but we're not doing our job if we don't discuss what went down in this exciting sequence. Let's give a friendly wave and hello to three prospects worth an immediate plug-and-play.

Hanson's pending recall from Triple-A (he'll start Saturday against Milwaukee) was a side note to the big trade of the day; Nate McLouth(notes) heads to Atlanta, while the Bucs collect three prospects (Triple-A righty Charlie Morton(notes); Single-A lefty Jeff Locke; Double-A outfielder Gorkys Hernandez). McLouth is a significant upgrade for the Braves versus the overmatched and recently-demoted Jordan Schafer(notes), and Hanson's arrival should put a bounce in the step of any legitimate baseball fan, no matter where your allegiances lie. Hanson's showing in the Arizona Fall League in 2008 was almost too good to be true, he was dazzling during spring training, and as everyone expected, he's been dominating Triple-A batters this year (1.49 ERA, 90 strikeouts in 66.1 innings). If you can get in front of a TV Saturday night, the Hanson era tips at 7:10 pm eastern.

As for the Pittsburgh side of the deal, Morton is having a strong year at Triple-A and might join the Pirates rotation immediately; Hernandez has leveled off some after a strong splash in rookie ball in 2007; and Locke is a long way from being anything more than a project. But the McLouth swap also creates a spot in the outfield, a vacancy the Bucs immediately filled by promoting top prospect McCutchen from Triple-A. McCutchen brings a .303/.361/.493 line from Indianapolis, along with four homers and 10 steals. He's worth grabbing in even the shallowest of mixed leagues as a spec play.

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While the news about Hanson and McCutchen didn't come as any kind of shock – we knew we were going to see both kids fairly soon – the Beckham recall in Chicago was a mild surprise. It's not a question of talent, mind you; Beckham was the eighth overall pick in last June's draft and was considered the organization's top prospect. But there were plenty of context clues that suggested the White Sox seemed to prefer keeping Beckham in the minors for most of the summer, if not the entire season. Ultimately his strong start at Double-A (.299/.366./.497) forced a move to Triple-A last week, and Beckham went bonkers when he touched down in Charlotte (13-for-28).

The White Sox didn't recall Beckham to have him rot on the bench – he'll play – but it's not clear where Ozzie Guillen wants to use the young phenom. Beckham was primarily a shortstop at Double-A but six of his seven Triple-A starts over the last week came at third. He's also done some work at second base. Guillen could easily start Beckham over Josh Fields(notes) at the hot corner, he could give the kid a look at second, or he could slot Beckham at shortstop and slide Alexei Ramirez(notes) back to second. We won't worry about that just yet, let's just focus on the fun stuff, watching Beckham swing the bat.

Jeff Niemann's(notes) quiet little breakout has been an under-reported story in Tampa (3.77 ERA over 11 starts), but the cover might be blown for good after a gem against the Royals on Wednesday (9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K). Keep in mind there's a pedigree here, Niemann was the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft. I'm not necessarily confident that he can keep it rolling at the Yankees in his next turn, but I'll use him at home in 10 days, looking to pick on the visiting Nationals.

Phil Hughes(notes) has been impressive during his last three turns (21 whiffs, three walks), but nonetheless he's headed back to the bullpen while Chien-Ming Wang(notes) rejoins the Yankees rotation. Wang will get the call Thursday against Texas but he's unlikely to throw more than 80 pitches.

Josh Outman(notes) continues to be effective for the A's (6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K), albeit that's not exactly a line of true dominance. The Oakland bullpen had no problem holding his lead; Mike Wuertz got a pair of outs, then Andrew Bailey(notes) cruised past the last five hitters (two strikeouts, save No. 3)

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You know the insecure fantasy baseball expert, he needs your approval. With that in mind, here's a look at the flurry of trades that went down in the Friends and Family League over the last 24 hours; while you'll be presented them without context, please weigh in:

1. Chris Liss trades Carl Crawford(notes), Jorge Posada(notes), Jayson Werth(notes) and Gil Meche(notes) to Mike Salfino for Hanley Ramirez(notes), Carlos Quentin(notes), Roy Oswalt(notes) and Geovany Soto(notes). Back story: Liss has a gigantic lead in steals.

2. Mike Salfino trades Kelly Johnson(notes) and Johnny Damon(notes) to Michael "Lowball" Ghelken for Aaron Hill(notes).

3. Gordon Edes trades Orlando Hudson(notes) and Juan Pierre(notes) to Michael Ghelken for Michael Cuddyer(notes) and Carlos Zambrano(notes).

4. Brad Evans trades David Ortiz(notes) to Scott Pianowski for Rafael Furcal(notes). Back story: We were driving to the Dodger game, gridlocked in traffic, and bored out of our skulls.

Not an Injury Blog: A bruised ankle kept Mark Teixeira(notes) out of the lineup Wednesday. … Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) is going to miss 2-4 weeks as he deals with a separated shoulder. … Carlos Beltran(notes) (stomach) was set to play for the Mets before the game was rained out. … A strained hip took Shane Victorino(notes) out at San Diego; he'll get a day off, then be re-evaluated on Friday. … Kyle Lohse(notes) had an abbreviated start Wednesday when his forearm started to hurt again. … Scott Hairston(notes) (bicep) hit the DL Wednesday, much to the chagrin of Hairston Homers everywhere. … Milton Bradley(notes) (calf) is in that middle ground again, too nicked up to play for a while, but perhaps not so badly hurt that a DL trip is needed. … Chipper Jones(notes) didn't start Wednesday as the Braves faced a left-handed starter; the nagging toe injury is more painful to Jones when he bats right-handed. He eventually got into the game and went 1-for-2.

Speed Round: Chad Billingsley(notes) and the Dodgers held off the Diamondbacks 1-0, impressing the five Yahoo! scribes in attendance. Joe Torre's crew is now 15-10 since the Manny Ramirez(notes) suspension. … Tom Glavine's(notes) release paved the way for the Braves to speed up Hanson's arrival; it's not clear if Glavine will look to sign on with another club. … Cliff Lee(notes) quietly has 10 straight quality starts, and he actually got a win Wednesday as the Indians exploded for 10 runs. … Randy Johnson's(notes) 300th victory is inevitable, but Mother Nature had the last word Wednesday, washing out the Giants and Mets. … Josh Beckett(notes) had three pitches working for him and got within four outs of a no-hitter in Detroit before tiring in the eighth. The Red Sox still rolled to a comfortable victory, and Beckett (7.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K) trimmed his ERA down to 4.09. … Sammy Sosa's(notes) formal retirement announcement is coming soon, if you wanted to know. … J.J. Putz(notes) is no longer the eighth inning man for the Mets; that's a one-way ticket to drop city. … The scuffling Soto is going to get a couple of days on the bench, Lou Piniella told the Chicago Sun-Times. "A few days watching might do him a little good," Piniella said. … Ben Zobrist(notes) hit his 10th homer of the year Wednesday; Zobrist Mafia, take your victory lap in the comments.

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