Jay Bruce just may be the new Ryan Braun, so it was only fitting that while Bruce was setting the league on fire in his first week with Cincinnati, Braun was making sure everyone knew that he's hardly yesterday's news – he's hitting .455 with two home runs in 22 at bats since Bruce's call up. But there's nothing quite as alluring in fantasy like a "New" tag – see Cueto, Kershaw, Scherzer, et al. So it made me wonder if anyone playing in a Yahoo! league was already so caught up in the Bruce buzz that they were willing to deal Braun for Bruce.
A look at Bruce's latest trades didn't show any straight up arrangements, but there was an owner who was willing to deal Braun and Aaron Laffey for Joey Votto, Mark Reynolds and Bruce, which I'd argue is close. Bruce, in one-for-one deals this past week, has returned a Hanley Ramirez, Jonathan Papelbon, Nate McLouth and Cole Hamels (Bruce was packaged with non-factor Jeremy Guthrie for Hamels). At that kind of price, Bruce pretty much has to produce close to the level that Braun did last season, which are some lofty expectations. Personally, I fully understand the depth of Bruce's talents but, if I'm a Bruce owner, I'm looking for that one owner in my league who is ready for the whatever-it-takes deal to acquire Bruce's services.
On to the rest of this week's Skinny, where we start in Minnesota …
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• Michael Cuddyer, Min, OF
I'll admit, I expected more from Cuddyer to this point of the season. I had him down as a prime bounce-back candidate after thumb and back injuries helped spoil his '07 campaign. He showed what he was capable of in '06, when he pounded out 24 home runs, drove in 109 runs and scored 102 times – he also hit a respectable .284. A finger injury once again landed Cuddyer on the DL in early April, but he's finally starting to pick up some momentum for the first time since his return to the lineup in late April. For the past week, Cuddyer is fourth in the league with nine RBIs. And that's really what it comes down to for Cuddyer – Runs Batted In. Batting fifth for the Twins, Cuddyer gets to clear the table behind OBP machines Joe Mauer (.403) and Justin Morneau (.379). If you're not looking for RBI production, the 39-percent owned Cuddyer is probably not your man. But if run production is what ails you, his situation all but forces you to consider him.
• Francisco Liriano, Min, SP
Liriano has put together a promotion-worthy past month for Triple-A Rochester. In six May starts, Liriano has pitched 39 innings, allowing just 32 hits, and 15 earned runs (3.46 ERA). He's also produced a 27:10 K-to-BB rate. The Twins have a surplus of starting pitchers at the moment, especially with Scott Baker expected to come of the DL (groin) and pitch Thursday, but Liriano has the highest upside of any Twin currently in the rotation and we've all seen what a healthy Liriano can do with that talent. If he continues to progress as he has, Liriano can't be more than a couple weeks away from a return to the land of lakes. Like Brad Evans advised in Sunday's Weekly Rundown post, those with a bench spot to play with should consider picking up the 32-percent-owned lefty sooner than later.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Homer Bailey, Cin, SP (ETA – June 4)
I'm not at all bullish on Bailey, at least for the near-term, but when a consensus top 15 minor league prospect is on the verge of getting recalled to the majors, it's worth a shout out. Word is that Bailey will start on Thursday for the Reds, according to Triple-A Louisville manager Rick Sweet. Scouts rave about Bailey's stuff, but the command/control side of the equation definitely still needs a lot of work. Bailey's ERA currently sits at 4.15 with Louisville, and he's walked an unhealthy 31 batters in 69.1 IP, including 17 free passes in his past 18.2 IP. In his past six outings for the Bats, Bailey has just one quality start. All of this is to say that, in 12-team mixed leagues, I wouldn't run out and grab Bailey, especially since he'll be pitching at Philadelphia in his '08 Cincy debut. But, a guy with his ability (big-time fastball and curve) should at least get some radar love from the fantasy masses.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values