Fantasy Skinny: Prior, Eaton and more

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports
CLOSER HOT SEAT
CHICAGO CUBS RED HOT
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Joe Borowski
Skinny: Dusty Baker is fiercely loyal, so when he told the Chicago Sun-Times he needed to "think about" Borowski's status as closer after Friday's blown save, his comments carried the weight of a demotion to Triple-A. It was the first time Baker publicly questioned his confidence in Borowksi, and Saturday it was Hawkins warming up with a save chance looming before the Cubs broke it open. Sunday's choice was easy as Borowski was placed on the 15-day DL before Hawkins earned his fourth save.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS RED HOT
1st Chair: Arthur Rhodes
2nd Chair: Jim Mecir, Justin Duchscherer
Skinny: Rhodes stays in the first chair because he's the last Oakland reliever to record a save. Of course, that was back on May 20. The dreaded "committee" word has been uttered by Oakland management, which means matchups will dictate who gets the ball in the ninth. That gives Rhodes the edge as the A's don't have another effective left-handed option. Mecir and Duchscherer figure to split opportunities when circumstances favor righties.
MONTREAL EXPOS RED HOT
1st Chair: Rocky Biddle
2nd Chair: Chad Cordero
Skinny: Welcome to the hot seat, Rocky Biddle. He avoided the burner through May by remaining effective in save situations, but his meltdowns on Tuesday and Sunday were his second and third blown saves in his last nine appearances. Rookie Chad Cordero has cut down on his walks and fanned 15 batters in his last 8.2 innings. Of course, he also was touched for three earned runs in a Biddle-like effort Saturday.
CLEVELAND INDIANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jose Jimenez
2nd Chair: Rafael Betancourt
Skinny: It's never easy with Jimenez. After blowing two of his first three save chances, he allowed the tying run to come to the plate while protecting a three-run lead Friday. His strikeout of Raul Mondesi may well have saved his job, but how long can he hold it? Eric Wedge already has demoted two closers this year, so managers desperate for saves could do worse than hold on to Betancourt.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS HOT
1st Chair: Jose Valverde
2nd Chair: Scott Service
Skinny: Scott Service lost his job without appearing in a save situation. A mere week after handing Service the job, manager Bob Brenly told MLB.com that a "gut feeling" led him to give the job back to Valverde. Brenly did not specify whether this was the same feeling that led him to go with Byung-Hyun Kim in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series. The Skinny has a hunch this job may change hands again, though Valverde has converted two straight.
ANAHEIM ANGELS WARM
1st Chair: Francisco Rodriguez
2nd Chair: Troy Percival
Skinny: Rodriguez saw his ERA more than double after allowing three earned runs on Friday, but his fantasy stock continues to rise as concerns surface about the health of Percival. Opponents hit .372 against Percival in May, and he allowed two earned runs in his only appearance this month. He reportedly was ready to go Friday after a cortisone shot to his elbow, but Monday he was placed on the DL by Anaheim.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES WARM
1st Chair: Billy Wagner
2nd Chair: Tim Worrell
Skinny: Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Wagner would return from the DL Tuesday after responding positively to bullpen sessions last week. His return ends Worrell's longer-than-expected reign as fill-in closer. He converted eight of nine save chances and is worthy of maintaining his roster spot until Wagner settles in.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jason Frasor
2nd Chair: Kerry Ligtenberg
Skinny: Frasor still hasn't allowed an earned run since April 28 – a span of 16 appearances – but manager Carlos Tosca continues to guard against overusing his rookie. He pitched two innings on Wednesday and Ligtenberg appeared in five games in a span of six days, allowing Vinnie Chulk to record his first career save on Thursday. Frasor is still the guy.

Who would have thought that with the fates of Johnny Sack, Christopher and Cousin Tony hanging in the balance, it would be the Los Angeles Lakers that got clipped on Sunday? Between closing the book on season five of "The Sopranos" and pulling for Smarty Jones to close out the Triple Crown, there were a lot of diversions out there last weekend. Not to worry, The Skinny kept an eye on the proceedings, and what you need to know is below.

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

  • The conditions at Wrigley Field on Friday – a light breeze blowing in from center field and an opponent in town averaging just two runs over their previous five games – were perfect for Mark Prior's first start of the season. Prior owners got everything they could hope for during his six innings of work. He struck out eight, walked none and threw each of his pitches like this was just another start in June. Joe Borowski's blown save drained some of the fantasy value from the outing, but owners should be no less encouraged. This was a game Prior would finish in September.
  • Someone needs to remind major league rookies of the Yankee Stadium mystique. In April it was Boston's Bronson Arroyo who acted like he owned the town when he debuted at Yankee Stadium. Saturday it was who appeared on baseball's grandest stage and did everything short of earn a key to the city. In eight innings of work, he struck out five, walked only one and allowed a lone run on a Ruben Sierra solo homer. He was 5-1 with a 3.13 ERA at the Triple-A level and is the fourth-best prospect in the Texas organization according to Baseball America. He gets a slightly more favorable matchup on Wednesday against Pittsburgh.
  • Adam Eaton owners – if there are any left – had to be encouraged by his outing on Sunday. Eaton's 8.16 ERA in May went a long way toward erasing memories of draft day when he and teammate Jake Peavy were high on everyone's sleeper list. Eaton allowed only three hits over six innings while shutting down Milwaukee to earn his second win of the season. Pitching-desperate owners could do worse than giving Eaton a look. At his worst he still doesn't walk anyone and San Diego is, at least for now, staying in just about every game.

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

  • Nick Johnson, Mon, 1B – Long ago cast off and dismissed in most leagues due to the glut of fantasy value at first base, Johnson has emerged as a viable option for managers scrambling to fill the voids left by the injured Richie Sexson and Jason Giambi. In nine games though Sunday, Johnson had five multi-hit games and RBIs in three of his last four contests. Look for a spike in run production when Montreal's team batting average makes an inevitable move upward toward the .250 mark.
  • Tony Armas Jr., Mon, SP – Thank Rocky Biddle for allowing Armas' sparkling return from more than a year off fly under the radar. Armas allowed only two runs on three hits while striking out seven in 5.1 innings Tuesday, and then sat by as Biddle allowed back-to-back moon shots to blow the lead. Tuesday's matchup against Kansas City and rookie phenom Zack Greinke is one for all fantasy owners to watch closely.

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

  • Juan Pierre, Fla (Back on top) – Pierre is back atop the Florida lineup as of June 4. He is now 0-for-3 on steal attempts in June.
  • Luis Matos, Bal (Will his power come around?) – Matos' stolen base on Sunday was his third in his last six games. Still waiting for that 20-20 power to emerge.
  • Brian Roberts, Bal (Still on the move) – Went 12 games without scoring a run, and then responded by scoring 10 in his next seven. His steal on Sunday was his first of the month.
  • Carlos Beltran, KC (Still waiting) – Stolen base drought now stands at 11 games. Seems tolerable compared to his 18-game homerless stretch.
  • Jeff DaVanon, Ana (Put him in, coach) – Swiped bases in back-to-back games to start the weekend, then sat Sunday. Such is life with Raul Mondesi in town.
  • Chone Figgins, Ana (Nice wheels at hot corner) – Just earned eligibility at third base and is 6-for-6 on steal attempts since May 26.
  • Randy Winn, Sea (Keeping up with Ichiro) – Has three steals in June after attempting only two thefts in April. Teammate Ichiro Suzuki has seven steals in the last 11 games.

PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm

  • Andy Marte, Atl, 3B (Double-A) – ETA: Sept. 1
    Marte had a fairly typical weekend, hitting a pair of doubles on Saturday after banging out a double on Friday in the opener of a three-game set for Double-A Greenville. On the season he has 29 extra-base hits in 50 games, including 11 homers. You'll be hearing from Marte at the major league level no later than Sept. 1, but with the current state of affairs in the Atlanta infield, the call could come any time.
  • Justin Lehr, Oak, RP (Triple-A) – ETA: Aug. 1
    Lehr picked up his 11th save of the season Saturday for Triple-A Sacramento, which will do little to quiet speculation that eventually he will be recalled to solve Oakland's bullpen woes. In 28 innings through Sunday, Lehr has allowed only five earned runs while striking out 33 – numbers that would look great anchoring the Oakland pen. For now, management says he won't be recalled this season, but eventually they need an answer and it may not be found on their current roster.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
77 – Number of games, through Sunday, since Jason Kendall's last home run. With six stolen bases and a batting average better than .300, he still is having a respectable fantasy year for a catcher. With nine doubles and no triples on the season, however, his on-base percentage currently eclipses his slugging percentage by about 20 points.