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MLB Skinny: A bird in the hand

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. In other words, to quote the meaning from Phrases.org, "It's better to have a small actual advantage than the chance of a greater one." At this time of year, this cliché is applicable to fantasy baseball. In my AL LABR league this week, I've been sitting on my full allotment of free agency dollars (FAAB). My squad is contending for the league lead, but the David Ortiz injury really crippled my team's power output – now in the bottom two in home runs. So, with Texas prospect Chris Davis up for silent auction this week, I decided to make a can't-lose bid for his services. It cost me any chance at a star NL player that might move over to the AL prior to the trade deadline, but that's likely to be nearly a month from now, if it happens at all. Which brings me back to the bird in the hand thing … waiting for the dare-to-be-great situation leads to frustration and regret more often than not.

In the Yahoo! Friends and Family League, I cut myself out of the action for any future buzz prospects like Davis, or Mat Gamel (see Prospect Watch below) because I used the No. 1 waiver spot a couple weeks ago on Howie Kendrick, who was surprisingly dropped. My offense has been abysmal and I felt Kendrick's bat was a notch above the best of what the typical waiver wire has to offer. So, rather than dream of far-off scenarios that my No. 1 waiver spot could land me, I opted for the immediate help. And, although my team is still struggling, I have no complaints with the .305 batting average that Kendrick has produced as a member of my squad.

Alright, let's take a look at the notable names on the diamond of late:

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Skip Schumaker, StL, OF
Last week I espoused the virtues of Kansas City outfielder David DeJesus. This week, it's time to plug the NL's version of DeJesus. Schumaker currently ranks No. 95 in the Y! game, just two spots behind DeJesus (No. 93). Both are getting it done with a batting average north of .300, middling home run and stolen base totals and a combined RBI/R total north of 75 – DeJesus has the better RBI number (41), while Schumaker has contributed more Runs (52). Also like DeJesus, Schumaker is red-hot right now, ranking No. 36 in the Y! game for the past month – 10 multi-hit games. If you missed out on the now 45-percent-owned DeJesus, look for the 20-percent-owned Schumaker. You probably won't even notice the difference.

Kevin Slowey, Min, SP
Many of you are already on top of this, as Slowey sits atop the most added players in the Y! game for Monday. But it's going to take a big push to get Slowey, owned in just 9 percent of Y! leagues as of Sunday, over the 50 percent ownership hump – so I'll take another turn driving his bandwagon to help the cause. Simply put, Slowey has been fantastic over his past four starts – 3-0, 0.93 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 24/2 K-to-BB ratio. If not for an implosion against the White Sox in his second June start (3 IP, 10 ER), his string of solid outings would extend all the way back to Memorial Day weekend. Brad Evans summed up Slowey well in Sunday's Closing Time, so I won't get long-winded about his abilities. Just go pick up this control-master, if you still can.

PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm

  • Mat Gamel, Mil, 3B (ETA – late July)
    After mentioning Texas prospect Chris Davis here last week, he was called up shortly thereafter. Let's see if I can mine that kind of lucky timing once again with Gamel. Until now, I'd resisted placing, arguably, the minors' current top hitting prospect here. I figured I'd wait until he really pulled into range of a legitimate chance to get called up. And with the trade deadline a month away, and Gamel sitting on a 1.078 OPS at Double-A Huntsville, the timing just seems right … especially after reading this story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which claims that Milwaukee is the most likely trade destination for C.C. Sabathia given its need for a starter, its contending position in the standings and its bevy of top prospects, like Gamel. Regardless of what shakes out before the trade deadline, Gamel's big-time bat is major league-ready and is likely to arrive in The Show some time in the next 4-6 weeks.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

J.J. Hardy, Mil, SS (52 percent owned) – Hardy just missed out on Bargain Bin placement this week as he's just above the less-than-50 percent-owned eligibility criteria. But, he needs to be talked about. This is a guy who hit 18 home runs from April 4 through June 25 of '07 (67 games). That makes his recent awakening – four home runs in his past 16 games – that much more significant. If Hardy is about to go on a tear, you'll want to be a part of it. His .923 OPS in June suggests you may want to want to grab your surfboard and see where this wave takes you.

Jeff Clement, Sea, C (2 percent owned) – A 5-for-18 (.278) run over his past five games represents major progress for the .176-hitting Seattle youngster. But, he's catcher-eligible these days and his prodigious power is starting to show up (two of those five hits left the yard). There's big-time power potential in his bat, much more than what typically exists on the waiver wire. He's a no-brainer flyer for those with coupled backstop/power issues.

Aaron Miles, StL, 2/3/S (2%) – Miles is riding an 11-game hitting streak that his produced 20 hits in 48 at bats (.417). Unfortunately, it's been a hollow streak beyond the BA (1 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R, 1 SB).

Jose Lopez, Sea, 2B (62%) – Lopez is also on a streak, having produced a hit in seven straight, with multi-hit efforts in six of those games. For June, Lopez is hitting .327 with three home runs, 15 RBIs, 18 runs and a steal in 25 games.

Scott Rolen, Tor, 3B (42%) – Rolen has banged out seven extra-base hits in his past games, including three home runs (and nine RBIs).

Jonathan Sanchez, SF, SP (60%) – This is likely that last call on Sanchez. He's too talented and has been pitching too well to not get gobbled up soon by the remaining leagues in which he not owned. With five wins and 39 Ks in 40.2 IP, Sanchez has been the fifth-best pitcher in the Y! game for the past month – he's produced a quality start in eight of his past nine outings.

Mark Buehrle, ChW, SP (44%) – Like Sanchez, Buehrle has also produced eight quality starts in his past nine outings. He's been most impressive in his past five starts, going 4-0 with a 1.15 ERA. However, Buehrle's splits have been significantly worse post All-Star break in each of the past three seasons, so don't over-commit to his recent surge.

Ricky Nolasco, Fla, P (24 percent owned) – There's upside to Nolasco's game, which makes his current four-start run – 3-0, 1.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 27 K, 29.2 IP – even more intriguing. Nolasco is a command guy who is best when he's mixing and spotting his low 90s fastball and solid off-speed stuff (curve and change). He was the Marlins' No. 8 prospect, according to Baseball America, just two years ago. And, at that time, Florida was considered to have one of the richest farm systems in the league.

Jimmy Rollins, Phi, SS – Rollins entered June hitting .301. He's about to exit the month nearly 40 points worse for the wear (.264). He's been particularly bad in his past 10 games, hitting .132 with no home runs, three RBIs, one run and three steals.

Nate McLouth, Pit, OF – In his past eight games, McLouth is just 6-for-37 (.162) and has just one RBI and two runs. After posting an OPS of .920 or better in each of the first two months, McLouth's June OPS sits at a lowly .621.

Javier Vazquez, ChW, SP – Vazquez has allowed at least four earned runs in each of his five June starts. Control and the long ball have been problems of late. Through his first 10 starts, he'd issued just 13 walks and allowed a mere four home runs (65.2 IP). In the seven starts since, he's served up 19 free passes and nine home runs (40.2 IP).

Randy Johnson, Ari, SP – In addition to being one of the most hittable pitchers in MLB this past month (41 H in 30.1 IP), Johnson has lost all five of his June starts, posting a 6.82 ERA in the process.