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MLB Skinny: Deadline diamonds in the rough

If you've followed along with us the past week, you've already gorged yourself on fantasy spins involving the A-listers that traded places – Hunter Pence(notes), Michael Bourn(notes), Carlos Beltran(notes), Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), Colby Rasmus(notes), et al. So for this week's Skinny exercise, I thought I would touch on some of the lesser-publicized players on the move in addition to trade-induced roster developments that may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

With that said, here's what caught my eye as the trade deadline week unfolded:

CORNER INFIELDERS
Pirate booty –> Derrek Lee(notes): In the past month, Lee has been a top 100 player in the Yahoo! game. After hitting just .230 with four home runs through the first two months of the season, even his most staunch supporters could no longer stomach his meager production and his ownership rates dwindled to bargain bin territory. Now, after hitting six home runs with 19 RBIs in the past 30 days, both top five numbers among eligible first basemen, Lee is still available in 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Traded to Pittsburgh before the deadline, Lee returns to the familiar territory of the NL Central. And he does so at a time when his bat is heating up, which parallels what he has done the past two season – his OPS has jumped an average of over 200 points from the first half to the second half in '09 and '10. He's someone to consider over struggling, but more highly-owned, players like Carlos Pena and Aubrey Huff(notes).
Reboot the system –> Chris Davis(notes): If anyone could use a fresh start in a different locale, it's Davis. It'll be hard to match the ripe offensive environment of Texas, but Davis' rollercoaster past (read: contact issues) with the Rangers had wore thin there and most everyone deemed a change of scenery to be a good idea. If not Texas, Davis couldn't have landed in much greener pastures. Baltimore will give him every opportunity to be its first baseman of the present and future. And Camden Yards has played very favorably to left-handed power hitters. While Davis is residing on the post-hype sleeper block, he's still only 25 years old and has a per 162-game average of 26 home runs at the MLB level. And, in 254 combined games at the Double- and Triple-A level, he's delivered a .325 batting average and 55 home runs. Davis was slotted in the No. 5 spot in the lineup in his first game with the Orioles, a spot ahead of Mark Reynolds(notes), who shares Davis' extreme contact issues. It should be heartening for Davis that Baltimore has not wavered on Reynolds despite his 28.3% K rate, third highest in the league behind Adam Dunn(notes) and Drew Stubbs(notes). Among 3B-eligible players owned in 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues or less, Davis has the upside that I'd be rolling the dice on right now.
MIDDLE INFIELDERS
Pocket rocket –> Jose Altuve(notes): Altuve has flown under the radar since Houston called him up a couple weeks ago. And he was an afterthought as a prospect entering the season as far as Baseball America was concerned, rating him as the No. 28 prospect for an Astros farm system that it rated as the having just the 26th-best talent in the minors among MLB teams. Altuve is discounted heavily for his size – he's listed at 5-foot-7, but that might be generous. But he's shown consistent pop in his bat throughout his minor league career, and after hitting 15 home runs in 125 games last season, he was frequently shopping at the gap in 87 minor-league games this season, tallying 22 doubles, 10 triples and 10 home runs. As Baseball America said, his plate approach – strong on contact, short on strikeouts – is ideal for a No. 2 spot in the lineup, which is where he's mostly played with Houston. Altuve has hit .359 with the Astros, hitting safely in 10 of his first 11 games. But he's yet to flex his greatest fantasy asset, which is his speed – he owns a 162-game average of 50 steals in his minor league career. Count on the stolen bases to start kicking in soon. At two percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, he's someone to consider if you are a Rickie Weeks(notes) owner (DL – ankle), or if you just have a speed need.
Flash forward –> Dee Gordon(notes): Gordon, owned in just three percent of Yahoo! leagues, doesn't have the plate pop of Altuve, but his speed certainly hasn't been AWOL. Before being recalled following the Rafael Furcal(notes) deal with St. Louis, Gordon had stole nine bases in 22 games with the Dodgers. And while he lacks power and his batting average sits at a meager .233, there is at least hope that he can be more than a one-trick roto pony. He caught fire in 20 games for Triple-A Albuquerque in July while waiting for his return trip to LA, batting .375 with four triples and eight steals. Hitting eighth in the Dodgers lineup won't help in the Runs department, but if he can catch fire at the plate, the Dodgers have a leadoff spot for the taking. And, certainly, hitting in front of Andre Ethier(notes) and Matt Kemp(notes) would brighten his outlook considerably. Alcides Escobar(notes) and Jason Bartlett(notes) owners may want to consider the LA alternative.
OUTFIELDERS
The Duda abides –> Lucas Duda(notes): As his Yahoo! player note mentions, Duda has played every game since the Mets dealt Carlos Beltran to San Francisco. The Mets' 2010 minor league POW, and No. 7 prospect according to Baseball America, produced a .310 batting average and 27 home runs in his past 108 games at Triple-A Buffalo spread over the past two seasons. He owns a keen batting eye, drawing plenty of walks and making consistent hard contact. The 25-year-old hasn't looked overmatched at the MLB level and he produced a .911 OPS for the Mets in July, with 10 walks compared to just 7 strikeouts. I'd put Duda with Chris Heisey(notes) (helped by the trade of Jonny Gomes(notes) to Washington) as my favorites among the outfielders owned in 10 percent or less of Yahoo! leagues.
Pocket rocket, part II –> Jason Bourgeois(notes): For good reason, Bourgeois has been the most added player in the Yahoo! game for the days of July 31st and August 1st. Even after the fire drill of the past couple days, Houston's other pocket rocket (see Altuve above) can still be had in a vast majority of leagues, which shouldn't be the case for the league's most prolific base stealer – he has 22 SBs in 127 ABs; no other player with under 200 ABs has stolen more than 15 bases. In addition to his prowess on the bases, Bourgeois owns the second-highest BA mark (.354) among those with at least 125 plate appearances – Adrian Gonzalez(notes) is first at .357. Certainly Bourgeois can't keep that kind of pace, but he's a lightning-fast contact hitter with a career .295 BA in 500 career games at the Triple-A level, so he shouldn't be expected to be a batting average liability when the correction happens. Get in line with the fantasy masses and make a move for Bourgeois.
PITCHERS
National pride –> Brad Peacock: The Nats dealt Jason Marquis(notes) to Arizona before the deadline and the 68-percent-owned Jordan Zimmermann(notes) is closing in on an imposed 160-IP cap – for those with lower ethical standards, you might want to make a trade pitch to an unsuspecting owner. Both developments should help Peacock, named to Baseball America's midseason top 50 prospects list, find the Washington rotation soon. Said manager Davey Johnson about Peacock and Triple-A teammate Tom Milone, as lesser-regarded prospect: "We have a couple guys that are knocking on the door. Depending on what happens the next couple days, you may see a young arm up here. Right now, the starting pitching, we've got to have some improvement there." Peacock owned a 2.01 ERA and 129/23 K-to-BB rate in 98.2 innings at Double-A before his recent promotion to Triple-A Syracuse. And after getting roughed up in his first outing with the Chiefs, he's gone 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 11 Ks in 12 IP over his past two starts. As with all rookie pitchers, you should tread lightly with Peacock. But when he arrives, you'll want to keep close tabs. If you are in a deep, highly competitive league, you may want to be even more proactive.
CATCHERS
Power play –> J.P. Arencibia(notes): In his past eight games, Arencibia has hit .346 with five home runs. His 17 home runs for the season rank second among catchers to Brian McCann(notes), who just landed on the DL because of a strained oblique. Of course, his extreme K rate and resulting low batting average (.222) are a problem, but less so in the '11 fantasy world of catching where half the backstops with at least 10 home runs are hitting .231 or less. With Arencibia, owned in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues, dodging the Chris Iannetta(notes) bullet – Toronto was trying to land the Rockies catcher before the trade deadline – there's no reason Arencibia should be available in even a quarter of Yahoo! leagues let alone half of them.
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