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MLB Skinny: Big Hurt

Brad Evans
Yahoo Sports
CLOSER HOT SEAT
Milwaukee Brewers RED HOT
1st Chair: Francisco Cordero
2nd Chair: Derrick Turnbow
Skinny: The arms-length leash Ned Yost had on Turnbow evidently was that of a little person, as Cordero was named the team's new stopper early last week. Since coming over to Milwaukee in the blockbuster Carlos Lee trade, Cordero is a perfect 3-for-3 in save opportunities, allowing just one hit. The former Ranger has regained a great deal of confidence and as long as he can maintain pinpoint control he should yield an 8-10 save return over the remainder of the season. Remember, he was one of the game's elite closers coming into this season, averaging 34 saves per year since 2004, the fourth highest mark in the Majors. Unbelievably, he is still available in nearly 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
CLEVELAND INDIANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Fausto Carmona
2nd Chair: Jason Davis
Skinny: After a two-game meltdown in Beantown, Carmona will never drink another Sam Adams again. The 22-year-old blew three total saves last week, two in Boston – allowing a two-run homer to buzz-saw David Ortiz on July 31 and a game-winning double off the Green Monster to Mark Loretta on August 2 – and one in Detroit after an Ivan Rodriguez two-run, two out, walk-off homer. On Friday, Cleveland manager Eric Wedge originally backed his stopper, but later retracted his statements after Satruday's demise in Detroit, noting, "We're not going to make a decision like this on a whim … 10 minutes after the game. We'll meet and see what's best for Carmona. We still have confidence in him." Another converted starter, Jason Davis, could be in line for additional save opportunities in the next few days. Davis has not allowed a run since June 21 and successfully nailed down his only save chance of the season on August 3 in Boston. AL-only and deep mixed leagues should comb the waiver wires for his services, but don't give up yet on Carmona. The kid has shown flashes of brilliance at times and, with additional experience, will gain the confidence to be a successful finisher at the big league level.
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS HOT
1st Chair: Brian Meadows
2nd Chair: Seth McClung
Skinny: What will come first? Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson will file for divorce, or fast-riser Seth McClung will become the next closer in Tampa? I would like to think the former, but it appears the latter is just around the corner. On August 4, the top-secret Joe Maddon closer plan took a bizarre twist when current stopper Brian Meadows said, "That was the plan the whole time, and that's fine … let (McClung) get his feet wet coming out of the pen a couple games. It's his. He can have it." Meadows has been shaky of late allowing four earned in his past 5.2 innings, and, obviously, appears uncomfortable in the role. Converted starter McClung has good velocity and movement on his fastball, regularly hitting in the mid-90s, but has had inconsistencies with his command. Look for him to overtake the job within the next couple of weeks. For those in dire need of saves, stash McClung immediately. However, he could supplant Ambiorix Burgos as the king of ugly saves. Don't overpay.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS HOT
1st Chair: Armando Benitez
2nd Chair: Mike Stanton. Brad Hennessey
Skinny: There's a new saying in San Francisco: "Armando Benitez, the opposing hitter's treat." Despite showcasing a sharp 2.76 ERA, the Giants stopper has blown three straight save opportunities, losing a great deal of confidence in the process. After facing only one batter – he walked Austin Kearns – on August 2, Felipe Alou gave Benitez the hook and called in veteran middle reliever Mike Stanton for cleanup duty – he notched his first save since 2003. Stanton was a closer for the Atlanta Braves in 1993, polishing-off 23 games and has 77 saves in his career. Although Alou will keep a short leash on Benitez, he has continued to stand behind him, stating, "We can't ostracize Benitez. It's obvious that we need him right. And the only way to get him right is to send him out there." Stanton is an attractive option in NL-only formats for those looking to vulture saves. Don't cut Benitez in shallower leagues just yet, but owners concerned about their third closer may want to explore a trade upgrade.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Takashi Saito
2nd Chair: Jonathan Broxton
Skinny: For those that believed the "Kamikaze" crashed and burned for good a week ago, you should have sipped on the sake. Beefcake Jonathan Broxton's July 29 save made many Saito owners feel the short-lived ride was over, but the Japanese import responded well last week, tallying three saves while compiling a sick 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Saito's bull's-eye control and nasty slider will continue to make him one of the unsung bullpen heroes in fantasy capable of an additional 10-12 saves over the remainder of the season.
Lost in the frenzied hysteria of the trade deadline, baseball carried out its yearly Hall of Fame induction ceremonies last weekend. In a class led by split-finger master Bruce Sutter, a record 18 members were added to hallowed hall of heroes. Always a topic of discussion, the call to Cooperstown turns baseball fans into stern politicians, as ballpark bars become debate forums on what current players are worthy of the distinguished honor.

Living near the rawhide-and Vienna hot dog-hungry fans of Chicago, one potential nominee in the twilight of his career has been the focal point of Hall of Fame discussions in local newspapers and on radio air waves in recent weeks – Frank Thomas. Does the "Big Hurt" deserve a first-ballot bid?

Coming from a Cubs fan that would rather belly-flop into the frigid January waters of Lake Michigan than root for the South-Siders, without a shred of doubt, Thomas deserves the esteemed accolade in his first year of eligibility. Why? Just compare his numbers to some of the giants of the game.

At his peak, he dominated the AL for nearly a decade. From 1991-1997 he had seven consecutive seasons of a .300-plus average, 20 homers, 100 RBI, 100 runs and 100 walks. Greats Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and some guy named Babe Ruth never accomplished that feat. Also, the Oakland slugger is one of 11 players in Major League history that has compiled a .300 career average, 400 homers, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 runs and 1,000 walks. Those that accompany Thomas on that short list are legends fit for a field of dreams-Aaron, Foxx, Gehrig, Mays, Musial, Ott, Ruth, Williams, Manny Ramirez and Jeff Bagwell (another good debate).

Some purists would argue that the DH deserves no notoriety and that Thomas' selfish attitude is an unattractive quality. They are terribly misguided. Regardless of personality or position viewpoints, he is arguably one of the greatest hitters in Chicago and baseball history whose accomplishments were done with consistency and zeal.

Still truckin' at age 38, his resurgent 24-homer season proves the former college tight end is far from done. With a World Series ring, over 2,200 career hits and just 28 homers shy of 500, he deserves to be immortalized in bronze. Just don't tell that to White Sox general manager Kenny Williams. Here are the news and notes that rounded third over the weekend:

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

  • The chow-da in Boston has a certain wicked awesome taste this week after Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox front office slipped one past the Yankees last Thursday. Passing through waivers on August 4, veteran catcher Javy Lopez was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to Boston for $1.3 million and the always curious player to be named later. "He's an experienced catcher. I know he hasn't caught much (this season), but he has caught for a long time," Boston manager Terry Francona said. Elated to feel wanted again, Lopez added, "This is the opportunity that I pretty much was looking for this year. It is a good feeling. It's exciting. This is something that I can get back on track. I haven't been in the playoffs for so long and I'm trying to get back." Lopez is 0-for-10 thus far in BoSox red.

With Jason Varitek out 4-6 weeks after having surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee on Wednesday, this was a brilliant move. Lopez goes from wavier wire fodder to catcher treasure with the switch to a park conducive to his hitting, albeit fading, skills. In 28 career games at Fenway, Lopez has a solid .281 batting average, four homers and 21 RBI. Out of the shadow of Ramon Hernandez, he will be an adequate power numbers contributor at a very thin position in 12-team mixed leagues. Well protected in the six-spot and a career .305 hitter in September, look for Lopez to tally two-month totals around: .280 BA, four homers and 20 RBI.

Lopez's fantasy impact isn't just limited to the lumber. From a defensive standpoint, he leaves a great deal to be desired. So far this season he has thrown out just four runners on 20 attempts and only 20-percent of base burglars since 2004. Heck, sloth catcher Josh Paul stole his first base in two years off Lopez on August 5. Now that's bad. With Doug Mirabelli out for the next few days with an ankle injury, those in daily transaction head-to-head leagues may want to exploit Lopez's defensive flaws to gain an edge in stolen bases. It's obvious why the Orioles didn't want Javy wearing a chest protector.

  • Two golden-armed pitching gods with injury concerns gave many fantasy owners small heart-attacks last week. Arizona Diamondbacks sinker-baller Brandon Webb had an MRI on his sore right elbow on August 3. Luckily, the exam showed no structural damage and a DL stint is highly unlikely. "He's obviously a guy we can't be too careful with," manager Bob Melvin said. "He wants to pitch and feels like he can, but as long as there's some soreness in there we're just going to go the extra yard and make sure he's healthy." The potential NL Cy Young winner threw a positive side session on Friday and reported no pain. Anticipate a late-week return to the starting rotation, possibly on Friday against Florida. Owners in all formats should keep him benched this week as a precaution.

On the junior circuit, libido driver Francisco Liriano was scratched from his last start on August 1 with an elbow injury. Thankfully, MRI results revealed that the injury was muscle-related and not a direct cause of ligament discomfort. The flame-throwing marvel commented that he felt "fine" and was "ready to go" after a pain-free bullpen session on Friday. On Monday, Liriano faces a Detroit team he lit up for 12 strikeouts in eight innings in his last start. Look for Ron Gardenhire to keep a strict 85-95 pitch count on his treasured starter in his next couple of outings to be safe. With two-starts this week, keep him active in all formats. And thank your lucky stars.

  • Injury News and Notes: The super-sized Bartolo Colon is likely out for the season with a right rotator cuff tear. Angels manager Mike Scioscia commented, "It's tough news. Understandably, we know what Bart has meant to our club and to our rotation the last couple of years. It certainly explains a lot of the issues he's been having." Did anyone think the extra doughnuts could also be an issue? Rookie Joe Saunders, a must grab in all leagues 12-teams and deeper, will fill the rotation void … All-Star second baseman Jeff Kent is expected to return to the lineup from an oblique strain early this week. "He said he feels like he's ready to go. He's been talking about [returning] the last couple of days. If it's not by Monday, he'll probably come in the office with a shotgun, and it won't be a casual conversation," said manager Grady Little. With Nomar Garciaparra also expected to return this week, Julio Lugo will become a super-utility player, as previously feared … Tampa young stud Scott Kazmir had his return start postponed until Friday at Oakland to get some additional bullpen work. D-Ray's manager Joe Maddon added, "He just needs to get back throwing his breaking ball. He has not done enough of that." Kazmir's has a 3.32 career ERA against the A's in four starts. Activate him with confidence … Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, sidelined since late June with a hamstring injury, is expected to return to the revamped Bronx Bomber's lineup on Tuesday. On a three-game rehab assignment at Double-A Trenton, he went 5-for-10 with two RBI. This is your last call to buy low … For the second time this season, Oakland A's shortstop Bobby Crosby was placed on the 15-day DL with a back muscle strain. General manager Billy Beane anticipates Crosby to return to the lineup when he's eligible on August 14. Until then, Marco Scutaro will get some extra work at shortstop … Milwaukee Brewers glass vase Ben Sheets is out indefinitely with a pectoral strain. Injuring the chest muscle after a one-inning outing in St. Louis on Saturday, Sheets commented, "I'm a little sore, not bad though. The muscle is sore where it cramped. We're just hoping it's going to go away." Ned Yost has pushed his ace's start back a couple of days for Sheets to get some extra rest, but is not sure he will take the mound at all. The Sheets news and the banishment of Chorizo for the remainder of the season have not curdled the cheese for Brewers fans this week.

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

  • Mark Teahen, KC, 3B
    Not since a group of Mohawk-disguised patriots raided three ships in Boston Harbor has there been a "Tea" party quite like this. The man that has made the "Heart of America" go pitter-pat over the last month, Teahen was recently named the AL Player of the Week from July 24-31. Since July 1, this Royal has been the king of fantasy hearts, sporting a .324 average with eight homers and 30 RBI. Much of his success can be attributed to a stark improvement in plate patience. From April thru June, Teahen was impatient at the dish totaling a 34:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, since July 1, that mark is 25:22. The consistent eagle-eye should continue to bode well for the KC third basemen given his raw 20 home run power. At a position with a shallow talent pool, expect him to be a top-15 three-bagger over the remainder of the season hitting third in the Royals lineup. One of the hottest pick-ups in Yahoo! leagues with over 20,000 adds last week, he is surprisingly still available in 70 percent of leagues. For those of you frustrated by Eric Chavez, have a spot of "Tea."

PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm

  • Rich Hill, ChC, SP (ETA: Now)
    If this Hill could ever be consistent at the Major League level, he would be a fantasy Mount Everest. One of the Cubs prized pitching prospects, Hill is a hard-throwing lefty with one of the sickest 12-to-6 curveballs in the game. Since 2005, the talented youngster has dominated Triple-A batters compiling a line that has caused Wrigleyville rats to drool uncontrollably – 165 IP, 2.51 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and an unfathomable 227:35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. A Mr. Hyde at the big league level, Hill has had difficulty finding the strike-zone, walking an uncharacteristic 38 batters in 61.1 career innings. He has also been torched by the longball in the Majors, allowing a home run every 5.5 innings. In his past two starts, the 26-year-old turned a corner, going 15 strong innings, allowing four earned with an impressive 15:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If his command remains consistent, he has the stuff to be the NL version of Barry Zito. With the Cubs well out of contention and looking toward the future, he will continue to audition for a permanent '07 rotation spot. NL-only and 12-team and deeper mixed league owners in search of a high upside strikeout pitcher for a stretch run should climb this Hill.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Carlos Guillen, Det, SS – On August 1, Guillen became only the third Detroit player since 1951 to hit for the cycle. The veteran shortstop also has four stolen bases in his past 10 games and could be a very surprising 20/20 candidate this season.

Jeff Francis, Col, SP – The Coors Field humidor has erased the assumption that confiding in a Rockies starter is fantasy suicide. The man I predicted would break the Coors curse last year, has been on fire of late with six quality starts in his past seven. With a 3.02 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and .188 BAA at home, Francis is an excellent No. 4 starter available in 55 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

David Dellucci, Phi, OF – Hopefully you took note from last week's Skinny when I mentioned, "NL-only leaguers in search of a fourth outfielder need to click the "add" button pronto for Dellucci." Going 11-for-21 with two homers and five RBI since the Abreu deal, he will continue to thrive with the additional at-bats. Mixed leaguers in need of power numbers at utility or as fifth outfielder need to rope this Philly.

Orlando Hudson, Ari, 2B – Hudson has snake-bitten opposing NL pitchers in his past 10 contests sporting a lofty .416 average. During his hot-hitting stretch, the two-bagger has two homers and 12 RBI. A career .305 hitter in August, Hudson is a great middle infield pick-up in mixed leagues 12-teams and deeper.

Stephen Drew, Ari, SS – Arguably the most venomous snake since the break, Drew has really come into his own with five multi-hit games in his past six games with two homers and seven RBI. Now hitting a stout .333, he will be a top-10 fantasy shortstop over the remainder of the season.

Casey Fossum, TB, SP – Impressively, Fossum has 13 straight scoreless innings and a ridiculous 15:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past two starts. If he can continue to limit the walks, he has the ability to be a fantastic source of Ks as a No. 5 in 12-team leagues. He is still available in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Chris Coste, Phi, 3B – Although nine years younger than the oldest rookie in baseball history, Negro League legend Satchel Paige, the 33-year old Coste could be a two-month flash-in-the-pan as a semi-regular catcher for the Phillies. The former Independent Leaguer has hit safely in six of his past seven games and has a .357 average in 84 season at-bats. Mike Lieberthal's chronic right knee makes Coste a serviceable second catcher in deep NL-only leagues.

Bronson Arroyo, Cin, SP – Go back to the braids, Bronson. His recent string of performances matches his abilities as a singer, allowing 16 earned in his past 18.1 innings. With a 5.90 ERA since July 1, hopefully you sold high.

Mike Napoli, LAA, C – Napoli's batting average has been more hideous in recent weeks than an 80s Houston Astros uniform. Just 11-for-76 (.144 BA) since July 1, his solid 63:39 strikeout-to-walk ratio indicates a possible rebound. Although he hasn't homered since July 15, the Angels backstop is a great power buy-low target in AL-only leagues.

Jorge Cantu, TB, 2B – The "can-do" man is one of the biggest busts of 2006. Limited by a foot injury for several games in June, Cantu is batting just .209 since the break. He hit .327 in August last season so there is hope for a turnaround. If you need power help at middle infield, pitch a six-pack and a bag of pretzels for his services.

Yahoo! Experts League Update
Y!-Romig is slowly chipping away at what was once thought to be an unsurmountable lead for RotoWire_Liss. Romig currently sits 11 points back of the lead, roughly half the distance from where he sat last week. The rest of the pack remains 20-plus points back of the top spot, so this league is shaping up as a two-man race. The latest waiver wire additions across the league include Joe Saunders, Craig Monroe, Mark DeRosa, Seth McClung, Shawn Green and Aaron Rowand.