In fantasy, it's better to be proactive than reactive. I say this as I consider Chris Carpenter's ownership rate in Yahoo! leagues – 45 percent. Clearly, many fantasy owners want to see how St. Louis' former ace looks in his return to the Cardinals on Wednesday, which will be his first Major League appearance in nearly 16 months because of Tommy John surgery. I'm assuming some are leery that Carpenter will be able to recapture much of the stuff that made him a 51-game winner for the Cards in the three seasons from '04-'06. I'm also assuming there are some that haven't yet realized that Carpenter is on the brink of a return. Regardless, there's a much slimmer chance that either group will be able to lay their hands on Carpenter if he comes out smoking against Atlanta on Wednesday – there'll no doubt be a fantasy feeding frenzy if that happens. So, for the next 48 hours, owners in more than half of Yahoo! leagues have a wide-open opportunity to take a small gamble – clearing a roster spot – that could pay big-time dividends. You can't figure out how to open up a spot for a guy that has produced a 3.14 ERA and 552 Ks in 651.1 IP in St. Louis? C'mon …
Let's turn our attention to those that have been streaking and slumping since the All-Star break:
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• Chris Davis, Tex, 1B
The Rangers' No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America, heading into '08 has been slow to take root in Yahoo! leagues – just 20 percent owned. That low number is a bit head-scratching if you consider that he made his Texas debut after hitting .333 with 23 home runs and 73 RBIs in 77 games split between Double- and Triple-A. And he's hardly slowed down since arriving in Arlington. He's hit .290 with 10 home runs and 20 RBIs in 26 games for the Rangers, and hasn't gone more than three games without a deep shot. With his 33 home runs in 99 total games this season, Davis now has 84 home runs in 297 career games as a pro – that's Ryan Howard-esque. His power is legit, and he gets to display it in one of the most hitter-friendly environments in the league. If you're in need a home run push, regardless of your league size and universe, Davis is as good a help as you can hope to find.
• Paul Maholm, Pit, SP
Maholm is on an impressive 11-start streak in which he's 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 51 Ks in 78.1 IP. The lefty mix-master, a former top 10 pick out of Mississippi St. in '03, currently sits among the top 10 starters in GB% (51.4%). In addition, July has seen his K rate rise (31 K in 37 IP). Maholm, owned in just 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues, is deserving of at least a two-start roto contract. His only non-quality start in his past eight outings came at Colorado (6 IP, 5 ER) a couple weeks ago.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Wladimir Balentien, Sea, OF (ETA – August)
Balentien crashed-and-burned in a promotion to Seattle earlier this season – .196, 4 HR in 107 ABs. And he carried his slump with him to Triple-A Tacoma in mid-June after being demoted. But July has seen a resurgence of the power that contributed heavily to his initial call-up. He's hit seven home runs in 21 games for the Raniers this month while maintaining a near 1:1 K-to-BB rate. Balentien has been a prolific whiff king in past years, so the plate recognition improvement is as important as anything. You can expect Balentien to get another turn with the Mariners if the team deals hot commodity Raul Ibanez in the coming days. And when he does finally get another opportunity, he'll warrant only AL-only league consideration initially. But he possesses 30 home run upside and he can run pretty well, which means he should be on everyone's radar.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Note: The Skinny will be on vacation next Monday but will return the following week.