Bringin' the Noise: Opportunity Knocks

Brad Evans

If you've ever had ambitions of upgrading your Hyundai to a Honda, your dinosaur projection picture box to a sleek plasma HDTV or your flabby wife to a hard-bodied, athletic Jessica Biel, you understand the importance of making a good trade.

For those fantasy owners in a desperate search to enrich their rosters for a stretch run with a couple of able-bodied Jessica Biels, the door of opportunity has flown wide-open after a plethora of deadline deals were struck.

Rather uneventful the past couple of seasons, this year's nail-biting, gut-wrenching, eye-squinting deadline left us all on the edge of our seats as the final grain of sand settled at the bottom of the hourglass.

Marquee fantasy forces Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagne and Ty Wigginton found new addresses. Meanwhile, several underappreciated names, including Tadahito Iguchi, Octavio Dotel, Luis Castillo and Kenny Lofton, donned new threads. And, of course, it wouldn't be right not to mention the bloated WHIP and ERA greatness that is Kyle Lohse – he was dished to Philadelphia for southpaw prospect Matt Maloney in a completely forgettable transaction.

With a snorkel in hand, this week's flames and lames cannonballs into the waiver pool to investigate several unheralded players whose names didn't grab deadline headlines, each of whom could make a lasting impact on your fantasy team over the remainder of the season.

Fantasy Flames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Tadahito Iguchi 2B 286 47.6
'07 Stats: .259 BA, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 49 R, 10 SB, 67:49 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy
Lowdown: "The Gooch" knows how to use his equipment against NL pitching. As a member of the South Siders, Iguchi slapped a terrific .302 BA with seven homers, 29 RBI and five steals in 175 inter-league at-bats. Extrapolate those numbers with the expected 100 or so at-bats he'll accumulate with Chase Utley on the shelf and you're looking at a one-month line in range of .300 BA, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 20 R and 3 SB. While adorned in Philly red, Iguchi has already roped six hits, with two doubles, a homer, two RBI, four runs, two steals and a patient 2:4 K:BB split in 13 at-bats. With Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn logging spa time over the next couple of weeks, Charlie Manuel will likely cement Iguchi in the two-spot ahead of Jimmy Rollins and Subway sandwich scarfer Ryan Howard to generate runs. Fearless Forecast (150 at-bats): .300 BA, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 24 R, 4 SB.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 1B 952 4.7
'07 Stats: .284 BA, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 11 R, 28:10 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy
Lowdown: The Sultan of Sodium will be more toxic to AL hurlers than he is to backyard slugs. The switch-hitting Saltalamacchia drives laser beams to all-fields from both sides of the plate with regularity (19.3 LD%) and generates natural loft on the baseball, which will eventually translate to 20-plus homers annually – especially in the launching pad at Arlington. As for the remainder of this year, he'll be an every-day player switching off between catcher and first base. Although his lowly 6.6 BB% is disconcerting when compared to his 19.9 K%, the Rangers are slated to face four decrepit staffs 19 times (ChW, KC, Sea, and TB), each of whom rank in the bottom half of MLB in ERA. Look for Salty to be inserted in the middle of the Texas lineup and finish alongside Ivan Rodriguez and Kenji Johjima in fantasy productivity in August/September. Pick him up in all 12-team leagues. Next year, he's a top-five catcher. Fearless Forecast (150 at-bats): .310 BA, 5 HR, 23 RBI.
Nelson Cruz OF 947 0.13
'07 Stats: .208 BA, 6 HR, 18 RBI, 17 R, 0 SB, 42:12 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy
Lowdown: If you're in the market for power numbers and enjoy ice-cold, colorful umbrella drinks, hop aboard this Cruz. The once highly-touted prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers system has mimicked Barry Bonds in the minors this season. In a miniscule 162 at-bats at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Cruz raked a .352 BA, launched an insane 15 homers and drove in 45 RBI. For those non-math majors out there, that's a stupid one homer in every 10.8 at-bats. More importantly, Cruz has dramatically improved his plate discipline, registering an 11.5 BB% at OKC, significantly better than his 6.8 BB% he posted earlier in the year with the parent club. A thick-legged monster at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Cruz's raw, natural power will eventually make him a perennial 30-HR threat. His newly installed open-stance has evoked comparisons to "The Big Cat" Andres Galarragga and has greatly aided Cruz in picking up breaking pitches, an albatross for him in the past. The new approach has worked flawlessly. Since being recalled on July 28, he's gone 5-for-10 with three bleacher shots, six RBI and zero punchouts. Expected to roam RF every day with Kenny Lofton now in Cleveland, the 27-year-old's time to shine is now. Fearless Forecast (175 at-bats): .270 BA, 12 HR, 29 RBI, 24 R.
Alexi Casilla 2B 1127 0.03
'07 Stats: .261 BA, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R, 4 SB, 8:1 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: Casilla in English translates to "younger, yet more attractive, fraternal twin of Luis Castillo." Eight year's Castillo's junior, Casilla is a slap-happy top-of-the-order igniter who lays consistent wood on the baseball and exhibits "Andale, Andale!" speed on the basepaths. At Triple-A Rochester he stole 24 bases in 320 plate appearances and logged a respectable 9.6 BB%. Although Ron Gardenhire penciled Casilla into the ninth spot in his second-half debut on July 31, he will likely be a fixture in the leadoff spot once Jason Tyner cools off. Speed and run needy owners should pick him up in all 12-team leagues. Fearless Forecast (175 at-bats): .275 BA, HR, 13 RBI, 26 R, 15 SB.
Danny Richar 2B 1149 N/A
'07 Stats: .222 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI, R, 0 SB, 0:0 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: With Iguchi running after cheesesteaks in Philly, Richar could have fantasy owners singing "Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so." A former middle-of-the-road prospect in the Arizona system, Richar was sent to the White Sox for outfielder Aaron Cunningham in a under-the-radar mid-June deal. Larger than most two-baggers at 6-foot, 170 pounds, Richar was a stat-stuffing box score behemoth between Triple-A Tucson and Charlotte this season, tallying a .305 BA with 13 bombs, 61 RBI, eight steals and a satisfactory 9.2 BB% in 400 at-bats. With Alex Cintron batting a despicable .229, Richar will kick the dirt at second nearly every day over the rest of the season. Because of his all-around potential he warrants an immediate grab in all AL-only and very deep mixed leagues (14 teams and greater). Keep a close eye on him in shallower mixed leagues. For those saving a high waiver priority for Justin Upton, Richar loses his waiver tag on August 3 in Y! games. Fearless Forecast (160 at-bats): .276 BA, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 16 R, 4 SB.
Joaquin Benoit RP 846 0.43
'07 Stats: 4 W, S, 55.0 IP, 3.11 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 56:16 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: The trade of Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka's nagging forearm inflammation could catapult Benoit from middle-reliever to closer. Benoit has always had the stuff to dominate – mid-90s fastball and a filthy slider – but has been bewildered by his lack of command. This year he has solved that riddle, shaving 1.67 BB/9 from his deplorable '06 mark of 4.29. Add that with a significant slide in FB% ('06: 44.1, '07: 37.7) and a sparkling 9.16 K/9 rate and you have all the ingredients of an end-game maestro. Southpaw C.J. Wilson picked up a situational save – he faced the switch-hitting Victor Martinez and lefty Travis Hafner – in Cleveland on July 31, but Benoit is the guy you want. Whispers of Tommy John have been bantered about as a possible solution for Otsuka, which means Benoit could have a prolonged role as the closer if he proves successful. Snatch him off waivers in 12-team leagues and see what transpires. Fearless Forecast (Aug/Sept): W, 7 S, 2.90 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 26 K.
Fantasy Lames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Eric Gagne RP 124 99.7
'07 Stats: 2 W, 16 S, 33.1 IP, 2.16 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 29:12 K:BB
Market Value: Hold
Lowdown: The Canadian's fantasy value has officially been bound and Gag-ed. Gagne's teaming up with Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima forms the most vicious end-game punch in the bigs. In reality baseball, it's a brilliant move, but in terms of fantasy it's devastating to his overall worth. Prior to the move, Gagne, who was at one time one of the most untouchable pitchers in the game, reprised his ninth-inning dominance (16 for 17 in save chances) in Texas red, white and blue. Although he's droppable in shallow yearly leagues, disgusted owners in other formats should not turn him loose. Even in a setup role he will be an invaluable source of ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, and will notch an occasional save when Papelbon is unavailable. There is a chance Gagne, who is a free agent after this season, could be re-signed by the Red Sox and enter '07 as the primary end-game option. Remember, Theo Epstein and company had ambitions of turning Papelbon back into a starter prior to spring training. Hang onto Gagne in all keeper leagues. Fearless Forecast (Aug/Sept): 3 W, 4 S, 2.01 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 24 K.
Bob Wickman RP 246 97.8
'07 Stats: 2 W, 17 S, 36.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 29:15 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell
Lowdown: Beluga Bob could be a beached whale soon. At times this season, watching Wickman's end-game efforts have been more torturous than enduring two minutes of word-acrobatics from Eduardo Perez on "Baseball Tonight." Much of his adventurous troubles in the ninth can be blamed on poor command (3.72 BB/9) and a sickening 55.4 percent jump in HR/9. The Braves acquisition of Octavio Dotel is a clear indication that Wickman blown saves (five total) will not be tolerated. The portly stopper, traded recently for flame-throwing rookie Matt Garza, Atlanta teammate Chuck James and Colorado crusher Brad Hawpe in Y! Plus leagues, will command a fair amount of trade value, because there's always one owner desperate to climb the ladder in saves. If Wickman was removed from his current line of employment, look for Bobby Cox to install a two-man rotation of Rafael Soriano and Dotel in the ninth, with Dotel (11-for-14 in save chances in KC) earning a bulk of the nods. Fearless Forecast: W, 5 S, 4.80 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 16 K.
Casey Blake 1B, 3B, OF 149 82.1
'07 Stats: .268 BA, 14 HR, 50 RBI, 61 R, 2 SB, 84:43 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Sell
Lowdown: The Roger Dorn of the Cleveland infield, Blake's value took a "Major League" tumble with the Indians re-acquisition of Willie Mays Hayes doppelganger Kenny Lofton. In order to utilize Lofton's speed, Blake, mired in a 4-for-25 slump with zero RBI since July 24, has been demoted by Eric Wedge from his customary slot in the two-hole behind Grady Sizemore to the sixth spot. On July 31, he was sent further south, batting eighth in the order. Because Blake suffers from nervous convulsions with runners in scoring position (.159 BA), he's currently less valuable than a Josh Fields, Edwin Encarnacion or Pedro Feliz – all of whom are owned in some 60-to-78 percent fewer leagues than Blake. Swapped in the past week for Nick Markakis, Ryan Dempster and, ironically, Kenny Lofton in Y! Plus Leagues, it's time to package Blake for an upgrade. Fearless Forecast (170 at-bats): .240 BA, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 19 R.
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B 707 1.07
'07 Stats: .281 BA, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 41 R, 17 SB, 36:13 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: The Padres purchase of utterly worthless fantasy moose Morgan Ensberg could Bullwinkle "The Kooz's" value. After starting off the season with a dismal .113 BA and 22:4 K:BB in 77 April at-bats, the Padres youngster has compiled a respectable .273 BA with 10 HR and 40 RBI since May 1. More importantly, Kouzmanoff has laced the ball with more regularity (18.0 LD% since June 1) and has concentrated more at the plate (April BB%-K%: 5.6, 30.9, Since: 7.7, 21.4). Pads GM Josh Towers noted that the pansy-hitting Ensberg would be confined to a bench role and would not wrestle away a significant portion of Kouzmanoff's at-bats. But another prolonged Kouzmanoff drought would certainly give Ensberg an opportunity for additional playing time. Hopefully, Ensberg's presence can light a fire under the 26-year-old. Recall, he hit .344 in three minor league seasons in the Cleveland system. Although owned in a small fraction of Y! leagues, Kouzmanoff is one to watch down the stretch. Fearless Forecast: .285 BA, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 23 R.

Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Adam LaRoche? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?

Brad, I read your columns every time they come out and despite what some Screech Powers would like to believe, you are mostly accurate with your predictions. The trick is sticking with your gut, which you obviously do. With that said, we readers need to stick with our gut and realize that just because you mention a player as a strong sell, we don't actually HAVE to sell him. I kept one of your strong sells, Robinson Cano, like my gut told me to and I'm reaping all the benefits like Jon Lovitz in "The Wedding Singer." I just wanted to tell you, because you must be sick of these H.R. Huffenstuff's e-mailing you while wiping Funyon crumbs off their basement-dwelling, unshaven faces. BTW, your comment on "The Max" was gold. Gold, Jerry, gold!

Kyle, London, Ontario

Brad, wanted to let you know I love the "Noise." Please, keep the hilarious culture references coming. Haters are going to hate, the heck with them. I can do research on my own to find info on Julio Lugo's BA post ASB or Matt Cain's K/9, but I like fantasy served with a side of "Saved by the Bell" or ideas for new drinking games. Keep the analysis deep and the laughs frequent. Oh, and absolutely keep the one-for-one trade examples. They have helped me on more than one occasion.

Jason, Anchorage, AK

That Felix Millan started for the New York Mets in the 1973 World Series (years before Bon Scott asphyxiated on his own vomit) does not grant you an excuse to say "Who?" He had two Gold Gloves and three All-Star appearances and was a master of the hit-and-run. Sure, not much of a hitter – really only 1970 stands up as a fantasy-worthy season, but this was the Joe Morgan era, during which most mid-infielders hit like Stephen Drew. Spare us the lame grasps for wit and spend more time with the history of the game.

Gary, Portland, OR

Noise: Thank you Dumbledore for the stirring history lesson on Millan. To be completely honest, the only Felixes I have barred witness to or cared about are Felix Jose, Junior Felix, Felix Hernandez and, of course, future Chicago Cubs legend Felix Pie. Yes, Millan did finish 16th in the National League MVP race in 1973 and was an excellent glove at 2B in his career (.980 FLD%), but the 1970 season that you labeled "fantasy-worthy" – .310 BA, 2 HR, 37 RBI, 100 R, 16 SB – doesn't exactly rouse the loins. Maybe his Keith Hernandez/Davey Lopes moustache has magical powers over you, but in statistical terms he wouldn't even garner a roster spot on my fantasy Quidditch team. Flash-forward 24 years and he's nothing more than a cookie duster version of Luis Castillo – ironically, now a Met.

Excellent work as always, BE. After missing out on Aaron Rowand last week, I was all over Casey Blake when you wrote "strong sell" next to his name. Since your "work" was published, Casey has posted a red-hot .391 BA! The runs and RBI could be better, but the average is worth it. Oh, and Jeremy Hermida is a robust 2-for-15 in the same time. So disappointed you made it to sixth place in the Y! Friends and Family League. You're so awful. You'll be back in tenth in no time. Regards, King Nick.

Nick, Evansville, AR

Noise: Wow, do you wear your Burger King kid's meal crown to special occasions around town there in rural Arky? As mentioned in the Lames section above, Casey's upchuck-worthy .159 BA with RISP means he's not well-suited batting sixth now that Kenny Lofton will see time in his customary two-spot. Although his BA might have had a short-lived spike after my strong sell label three weeks ago, he's a pathetic 4-for-25 with zero RBI since July 24. Oh, and if you haven't noticed, Hermida is 10-for-his-past-21 (.476 BA) with five doubles, four RBI and five runs. Sometimes the pistons of prognostication take a while to reach maximum horsepower. Kind of like your dial-up connection, eh?

You would drop Matt Cain to pick up Buddy Carlyle? Seriously? That's just idiotic!

Doug, Atlanta, GA

Noise: No, what's idiotic is bypassing home run glamour boy A-Rod at the sixth pick for Carl Crawford. To prove that I'm not completely insane, let's play a little numbers comparison game. Stat lines denote each pitcher's past five starts:

Player A: 3 W, 30.2 IP, 3.23 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 19:4 K:BB, 1.19 BB/9, 5.66 K/9
Player B: W, 26.0 IP, 6.58 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 20:15 K:BB, 5.19 BB/9, 6.92 K/9

This is like comparing Jessica Alba to Kathy Bates, is it not? As you probably guessed, Player A is my boy Carlyle and Player B is Doug's man-crush, Cain. Of course, Cain has more long-term upside, but the abhorrent amount of walks he's issued coupled with minimal run support (3.66 RS) makes him droppable in 12-team yearly leagues. Carlyle has a healthy offense that just added Big Tex behind him (6.03 RS), is reaching the mid-90s consistently with his fastball and has exhibited impeccable command. Sorry, Doug, but as you can see my justification is far from idiotic.

In regards to Billy Butler. I agree that he is going to develop into a great hitter but his average is going to be a bit lower than the .289 you suggested. Looking at his K/AB ratio, I'm not impressed with his patience at the plate. In addition, his seven walks in 120 at-bats speaks volumes. I'm sticking with Cust … He has been (from what the stats state) more patient at the plate. Cust has been averaging a BB for every four at-bats in the month of July and his OBP is .398. Yes, Cust's BA will probably be in the .250-.260 range, but his power offsets that.

Keith, Clueless, KY

Noise: … and watching your team's BA go up in a towering inferno. Keith, I know your idea of a raucous Friday night involves licking the pages of "Moneyball," but let's be realistic here. Butler has driven in a run in 20 of his past 24 games (24 total RBI in July), smacked six multi-hit contests in July (.352 BA this month) and has reached base safely in all but four games since July 6. Oh, and his 8.6 July BB% is a stark improvement over his 5.5 BB% on the season. Since July 6, Cust has been dwarfed by Butler, registering a lowly .150 BA with two HR and six RBI. Sure, Cust has notched a gaudy 22.6 BB% over that span, but his whiff-heavy 49.0 K% contrasts dramatically to Butler's 14.2 K%. At this point, my projected .289 BA, 11 HR, 49 RBI second-half for Butler is looking a bit modest. Sorry to hear you missed the boat on the KC "Benson" …