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Fantasy Skinny: Garcia, Olivo and more

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CLOSER HOT SEAT
COLORADO ROCKIES RED HOT
1st Chair: Shawn Chacon
2nd Chair: Brian Fuentes, Tim Harikkala
Skinny: We may never know how close Chacon came to losing his job on June 23. Clint Hurdle has been very patient with his novice closer, but would he have stuck by his man if Chacon's seventh blown save had come courtesy of grand slams in back-to-back appearances? That's just the scenario Chacon was facing with the bases loaded and one out on Wednesday. Thankfully for his fantasy owners, he avoided a repeat of last Sunday's meltdown by retiring Lyle Overbay and Brady Clark to earn the save, his first of three on the week. Harikkala continues to sparkle at Coors Field, posting a home WHIP of 0.66 to compliment a .155 opponent's batting average.
CLEVELAND INDIANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jose Jimenez
2nd Chair: David Riske, Bob Wickman
Skinny: Jimenez earned his eighth save of the season Sunday, but not before yielding one run and allowing the tying run to come to the plate. In his previous two outings, Jimenez gave up home runs to Larry Walker and Jose Valentin and was tagged with two losses. Sunday's Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Jimenez would keep his job, but that General Manager Mark Shapiro was looking at Bob Wickman as a possible closer after the All-Star break.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS RED HOT
1st Chair: Nate Field
2nd Chair: Scott Sullivan
Skinny: With closer Jeremy Affeldt out at least two weeks and perhaps as long as two months, Field once again becomes an attractive pickup for owners suffering from save deprivation. Field struggled through a tough stretch in early June, but has rebounded to allow only one hit and no runs over his last 6.1 innings.
MONTREAL EXPOS HOT
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Luis Ayala
Skinny: Cordero has settled down nicely to earn a win and two saves in his last three appearances, allowing only one baserunner in the process. Like Cordero, Rocky Biddle and Luis Ayala each have streaks of three or more appearances without allowing a run, marking a rare run of success for this volatile bullpen.
CHICAGO CUBS WARM
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Mike Remlinger, Kyle Farnsworth
Skinny: The Skinny was waiting for Hawkins to deliver while protecting a one-run lead and he did just that on Tuesday, retiring St. Louis in the ninth to preserve a 5-4 win. He backed up that effort by striking out Joe Crede in a key eighth-inning situation on his way to earning his 10th save Thursday.
ANAHEIM ANGELS WARM
1st Chair: Francisco Rodriguez
2nd Chair: Troy Percival
Skinny: Percival returned to action Sunday, striking out two while recording a scoreless eighth inning against Los Angeles. During his one month as closer, Rodriguez converted six of seven save chances and punched out 22 batters in 14 innings. Considering Percival's ineffectiveness prior to his stint on the DL, it's a good bet that Anaheim will not allow too many late-inning leads slip away before turning back to K-Rod.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS WARM
1st Chair: Mike Koplove
2nd Chair: Randy Choate, Elmer Dessens
Skinny: Koplove was roughed up a bit in a non-save situation Sunday. Arizona has lost 11 of 12 entering play on Monday, so we haven't had much of a chance to see how manager Bob Brenly will handle a late-inning lead. There is not much value here - but Koplove is still the guy to add if you are fishing for saves and don't mind waiting a few weeks between bites.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES WARM
1st Chair: Jorge Julio
2nd Chair: B.J. Ryan
Skinny: Non-save situations continue to spell disaster for closers. The latest victim was Julio, who entered Saturday's game with a two-run deficit and promptly allowed three doubles, four total hits and three earned runs. The June numbers are ugly: 9.72 ERA, 2.28 WHIP and a .385 opponent's average. Meanwhile, Ryan has 13 strikeouts during his current streak of 10.2 scoreless innings.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Octavio Dotel
2nd Chair: Justin Lehr
Skinny: There is cause for concern here. Dotel's blown save in his Oakland debut was his fourth in his last 12 opportunities. Opponents are hitting .283 against him in June, his worst month in that category since April of 2001. Having said that, Oakland didn't package prospects to acquire a set-up guy and Billy Beane rarely misses on mid-season pickups. Dotel will be a difference maker in AL-only leagues. Lehr issued a walk with the bases loaded Saturday but has yet to allow a run in four big league appearances.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jason Frasor
2nd Chair: Vinnie Chulk
Skinny: Toronto doesn't win very often and they don't want to overwork their young closer, so while Frasor remains the guy, his fantasy value remains limited. Toronto has used Frasor on back-to-back days just once since he took over as closer in late May. This cautious approach has allowed Chulk and Kerry Ligtenberg to steal a few saves in June. Chulk has allowed an earned run in only one of 12 trips to the mound this year. Also on the radar is Adam Peterson, recently recalled from Double-A New Hampshire where he recorded 15 saves and 38 strikeouts in 28.1 innings.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Damaso Marte
Skinny: Chicago is loading up for the stretch run and one of the beneficiaries figures to be Takatsu. He's done everything asked of him - allowing only nine hits during his current streak of 23 consecutive scoreless appearances. One thing he can't do is turn a slugfest into a pitcher's duel. Enter Freddy Garcia, the recently acquired ace who should help deliver a few more close games to the Chicago bullpen. Marte has quietly put together a solid June (1.80 ERA/0.67 WHIP) and remains a candidate to close when the situation calls for a lefty.
In Washington, they say you can't get anything heard once the public catches wind of a political scandal. The same holds true in baseball when a blockbuster trade is announced. Sure, there was action on the field last weekend, but when big names are changing addresses, it's all anyone can talk about. The Skinny is no exception.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

  • Just days after the biggest prize in the trade market was reeled in by Houston, the Chicago White Sox landed the best available arm by acquiring Freddy Garcia (with Ben Davis) from Seattle in exchange for Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed. What should fantasy owners do in response to this trade? First, AL-only owners should keep an eye on the spot vacated by Garcia in the Seattle rotation. They could go with Matt Thornton (profiled below in the prospect watch) or they could promote Travis Blackley (featured by The Skinny last week). Blackley struck out eight in six innings Tuesday to improve to 7-2 at Triple-A Tacoma. He's the better prospect, but Thornton is already with the team and may get the first shot.

Either way, don't expect huge returns from anyone in Seattle's rotation. Garcia's numbers were solid across the board but he was rewarded with only four wins in 15 starts. Miguel Olivo should challenge Dan Wilson immediately for time at catcher. Wilson has the veteran edge defensively, but has no homers and only five RBIs in his last 30 games. Olivo is younger and more explosive – and youth matters when you're rebuilding. Finally in Seattle, the Jeremy Reed wait begins. He's got the speed/power combination that fantasy owners love. A trade involving Randy Winn or Raul Ibanez would be a precursor to his arrival with the big club.

  • The Chicago side of the deal will be met with relief from fantasy owners. First, Garcia owners can rest easy knowing that they won't lose his services in a deal to a National League team. The Mets and Dodgers were rumored to have inquired about Freddy. Sure, he moves from a pitcher's park to a hitter-friendly home field, but any ill-effects there will be offset by his dramatically improved run support. The departure of Olivo means more playing time for Sandy Alomar Jr. and Jamie Burke at catcher. Neither deserves attention outside of AL-only leagues. Finally in Chicago, the departure of Reed signals a vote of confidence for Aaron Rowand, who is batting .393 with 11 runs scored in June.
  • Catching up with another recently completed trade, it appears that Richard Hidalgo has found his stroke, at least for the time being, in New York. Since joining the Mets he has four multi-hit games, three homers and six RBIs. His homer on June 20 broke a string of 53 consecutive games without a bomb. Hitting behind Jose Reyes, Kazuo Matsui, Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd, the potential exists for a monster second half from Hidalgo, again assuming he can maintain the focus that was so elusive in Houston.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • Jason Bay, Pit, OF – In keeping with the trade theme of this week's effort, we revisit Pittsburgh's prize acquisition from the deal that sent Brian Giles to San Diego last season. Bay essentially fell off the fantasy map after a predictably slow start following off-season surgery. Well, he's heating up. In his last 10 games, Bay has six homers and 12 RBIs.
  • David Riske, Cle, RP – The trouble with waiting for a closer job to change hands is that all 11 of the managers you're competing against are doing the same thing. That's why speculative moves are required every now and then. Jose Jimenez can't hold this job for long and Bob Wickman won't be ready until after the All-Star break at the earliest, which leaves Riske as the next logical choice. He's earned the shot. After a miserable start, Riske has rebounded to allow only on earned run while striking out 22 in his last 14 innings.

SPEED-O-METER: Checking the latest movements on the basepaths

  • David DeJesus, KC (First career steal) – DeJesus is 5-for-14 at the plate since taking over for Carlos Beltran in center field for Kansas City. He stole his first base Sunday, but was only 7-for-13 on steal attempts at Triple-A Omaha.
  • Aaron Rowand, CHI (Job secure) – Prospect Jeremy Reed was dealt to Seattle, so it looks like center field is Rowand's for now in Chicago. He stole his eighth base of the season Sunday and is now hitting .393 in June.
  • Jose Reyes, NYM (Leading off) – Batting leadoff as of Thursday's game, Reyes stole his first base of the season Saturday and then was caught stealing Sunday. At this point, it's just good to see him on the move.
  • Ray Durham, SF (.327 since return) – With two steals since returning from the DL, it looks like Durham is not quite ready to settle into the Shannon Stewart mold of leadoff hitter.
  • Ryan Freel, CIN (3 steals/last 7 games) – Freel is now 5-for-6 in June on stolen base attempts. He's doing just enough to stay on a lot of fantasy rosters out there.
  • Alex Sanchez, DET (Day-to-day) – Sanchez sat out Sunday after leaving Saturday's game with a strained hamstring. With his value tied directly to those legs, this may be a good week to bench him in head-to-head leagues.
  • Luis Matos, BAL (2 steals/last 3 games) – Matos is now 5-for-6 on the basepaths in June. We've been waiting for his bat to catch up. His recent streak of 11 hits in seven games is a good start.
  • Jerry Hairston Jr. BAL (Dry spell over) – Hairston was caught stealing three times during his 14-game stolen base drought. The wait for fantasy owners ended on Sunday with his 10th steal of the season.
  • Lew Ford, MIN (3 steals/last 8 games) – Ford was an RBI machine in April (17), but is doing most of his fantasy damage on the basepaths these days.

PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm

  • Jeremy Reed, Sea, OF (Triple-A) – ETA: August 1
    He certainly won't be the first to the majors, but Reed is unquestionably the prize acquisition in the Freddy Garcia trade. His career with the White Sox organization ended rather quietly with four hitless at bats for Triple-A Charlotte Sunday. On the season, he hit .275 with 12 stolen bases, eight homers and 37 RBIs in 73 games. Last year in 131 combined games at two levels, Reed piled up 11 homers, 95 RBIs and 45 stolen bases to earn minor league player of the year honors. As recently as two weeks ago, Chicago was saying he was off limits. He'll stay in Tacoma for now, but Reed is a guy to keep an eye on in AL-only leagues if another deal opens a vacancy in the Seattle outfield.
  • Matt Thornton, SEA, SP – ETA: Currently in Seattle
    Judging from media coverage and fan weblogs, it looks like citizens of Seattle will be crying in their collective coffees for some time to come over the loss of Garcia. They won't soon forget him, but nothing would restore faith in the organization quite like an impressive debut by his replacement. That man may be Matt Thornton, who pitched four innings of shutout relief in his major league debut Sunday. In his final start for Triple-A Tacoma on June 20, he struck out 11 in six innings to improve to 6-4 on the season. A power pitcher, the lefty was regularly clocked at 95 mph Sunday according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. As of Monday morning there was no official word on who would take the ball for Garcia's next scheduled start.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
9.23 – Run support enjoyed by Mark Buehrle this season, tops in the American League. That's a full seven runs better than the 2.19 per game scored by Seattle for Freddy Garcia prior to his trade Sunday.

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