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Fantasy Skinny: Prior, Garciaparra and more

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CLOSER HOT SEAT
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS RED HOT
1st Chair: Scott Service
2nd Chair: Elmer Dessens
Skinny: He's 37 years old and has appeared in just 33 games since the 2000 season, but Scott Service is the man for now in the Arizona bullpen. Service was 5-0 with 8 saves at Triple-A Tucson before getting the call. Elmer Dessens notched a save Friday with Service warming up in the pen, so he's the likely successor over Jose Valverde, who has two losses and two blown saves in his last six appearances.
COLORADO ROCKIES RED HOT
1st Chair: Shawn Chacon
2nd Chair: Brian Fuentes
Skinny: Chacon's recent struggles won't cost him his closer job - at least not yet. Saturday's Rocky Mountain News reported that manager Clint Hurdle would stick with Chacon after he blew back-to-back saves last week. Chacon took the ball in three straight games for the first time in his career and the results were not pretty (2 blown saves; 8 earned runs).
CLEVELAND INDIANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jose Jimenez
2nd Chair: Rafael Betancourt
Skinny: Jimenez needed just three games on the job to record the closer hat trick: a win, a save and a blown save. Jimenez converted 102 of 123 save chances with Colorado but his move to closer here was a curious one. Manager Eric Wedge told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he returned Betancourt to a setup role because he wasn't getting enough work as closer. Not the greatest endorsement for Jimenez.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS RED HOT
1st Chair: Arthur Rhodes
2nd Chair: Jim Mecir, Rich Harden?
Skinny: Saturday's blown save was forgivable. Rhodes was victimized by a throwing error and he hadn't pitched in five days. He only had himself to blame Sunday as he unleashed a wild pitch that resulted in his fourth blown save in 12 chances. Mecir has allowed only one earned run since May 1 and is a more reliable option for a team that doesn't have the offense to put opponents away. Harden is a rumor that won't go away.
CHICAGO CUBS HOT
1st Chair: Joe Borowski
2nd Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
Skinny: The best thing Borowski owners could have hoped for after his meltdown on Friday was a save in the second game of the doubleheader. They got the next-best thing - watching LaTroy Hawkins blow a save in the nightcap. Manager Dusty baker continues to focus on Borowski's recent streak of 22 straight saves. Good thing because there are a lot of ugly numbers to overlook.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jeremy Affeldt
2nd Chair: Nate Field
Skinny: It hasn't been easy for Affeldt. He blew his first save chance after Oakland was down to its last strike. Then his first save was secured only after a bizarre interference call nullified the tying run. Things have settled down considerably since and Nate Field has struggled, so we'll turn the burner down on Affeldt for now.
TORONTO BLUE JAYSLUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jason Frasor
2nd Chair: Terry Adams
Skinny: I'll admit it, The Skinny has been slow to look past Frasor's rookie status and take note of the fact that he's unhittable. No more. This guy hasn't allowed a hit since May 18 and he was last touched for an earned run on April 28. Keep giving him the ball, Carlos.
All things considered, it was a nice opening week for The Skinny. We're still encouraging reader feedback, but from what we've heard you like the new format and the easy access to need-to-know information. Bargain-bin picks Mark Bellhorn and Nate Robertson continued to deliver and Zack Greinke got another no-decision as predicted. New look or not, it helps to be right every once in a while. Let's hope we can keep it going.

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

  • The wait is finally over for Mark Prior owners. Those of you who were seduced by the thought of owning Nomar Garciaparra in a contract year will have to be patient, but he is a step closer to the big leagues as well. Sure the stats don't count, but when you're talking about the No. 2 fantasy shortstop and pitcher from draft day, even rehab starts are important enough to lead the news.

Prior struck out 10 in 5.1 innings Sunday for Triple-A Iowa and will make his season debut for the Cubs Friday against Pittsburgh. Garciaparra, who is at least a week away from a return to Boston's lineup, was 2-for-6 over the weekend for Triple-A Pawtucket. If you own either player, start thinking about how you will clear room for them now. This may be a good time to propose some 2-for-1 trades to upgrade your roster elsewhere.

  • The Skinny is a sucker for a good major league debut, and for the second consecutive week there was an impressive one to report on. This one belonged to Pittsburgh prospect Sean Burnett, who held the Cubs to one run on five hits in five innings Sunday. Burnett, the second-best player in the Pittsburgh system according to Baseball America, allowed only one run in 8.2 spring training innings. Seems like this kid isn't intimidated by big league hitters.
  • Something is definitely underway in San Francisco, but is there any fantasy value to be found in the midst of their 10-game winning streak? The answer is yes, but it's a bit of a stretch. Edgardo Alfonzo hit .315 in May and is starting to deliver in the clutch again. He's driven home six during the streak. Pedro Feliz hit .286 in May and through Monday was one game away from earning eligibility at shortstop in Yahoo! leagues.

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

  • Jeff DaVanon, Ana, OF – DaVanon owners can only hope that the signing of Raul Mondesi won't cut into his playing time just as he's finding a groove. DaVanon's six-game hitting streak entering Tuesday included three multi-hit games and four RBIs. Given a chance, he can be explosive. Last season he stole six bases in May as a warm-up to launching eight homers in June.
  • Josh Fogg, Pit, SP – It wasn't all that long ago that Pittsburgh's roster was nearly void of fantasy talent. Suddenly, there's value to be found up and down their lineup, which is good news for their young pitching staff. The prime beneficiary of late has been Fogg, winner of his last three starts. If you exclude the four runs he allowed Chicago in the first inning of a game he went on to win, his ERA over those starts is 2.16.

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

  • Adam Everett, Hou (4 steals/last 6 games) – Not spectacular, but leads all shortstops in runs scored. Recent stolen base binge just a bonus.
  • Jerry Hairston Jr., Bal (Is his bat catching up?) – Stole bases in three straight games last weekend, flashing his 30-steal form of 2001. Six combined hits Sunday and Monday raised his average nearly 70 points.
  • Bobby Abreu, Phi (Perfect on 10 tries this year) – Steal Sunday was his 10th of the month. Simply having a monster May.
  • Dave Roberts, LA (Hitting the ground running) – Roberts returned from the DL with a stolen base in his second game back Sunday, his 16th of the season. Still can't hit.
  • Edgar Renteria, Stl (Legs, not lumber, getting it done) – Still not justifying his steep draft-day price tag with the bat, but six steals in 11 games helps take the edge off.
  • Lew Ford, Min (2 steals/last 3 games) – Ford has had a lot of meaningless hits since moving to the top of the order, so a few green lights are a welcome sign for fantasy owners.
  • Carlos Beltran, KC (Riding the brakes?) – Just one steal in his last 17 games and one homer since May 12. Please, Carlos, one or the other but not both.
  • Brian Roberts, Bal (On borrowed time?) – Stolen base Saturday was his first sign of life in almost a month. How can a leadoff man go 11 games without scoring a run?

PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm

  • B.J. Upton, TB, SS (Triple-A) – ETA: July 4
    B.J. Upton may well have enjoyed his last holiday as a minor leaguer. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft hit his sixth home run in just 65 Triple-A at bats Saturday. He followed that effort with two hits Sunday to raise his average to .362. The only holdup here is defense - Upton has 14 errors this season - but it's a good bet that he'll celebrate his 20th birthday in August as a member of the Devil Rays.
  • John VanBenschoten, PIT, SP (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
    How does a starting pitcher with a 1-6 record get the attention of The Skinny? Well, it helps that he won Friday so we could at least point to a winning streak, but you could argue that he previous three starts were stronger. Since losing on May 7, VanBenschoten has allowed only four runs on 16 hits in 28.2 innings. He's a September call-up, for sure, but could get a promotion earlier if Pittsburgh trades any starters.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
4.12 – Combined ERAs of Joe Borowski and Rocky Biddle in save situations this year. The number falls to 1.89 if you exclude Borowski's performance on Rob Mackowiak day in Pittsburgh Friday. Each pitcher begins the week with a season ERA over 7.00.