This past weekend, I drafted a mid-season league with 14 other Yahoo! users – the Y! Sports Blog – Funston league. I had particular interest in this league because I haven't participated in a mid-season draft for quite some time, and I was curious how this draft's results jibed with the baseball Big Board I keep updated throughout the year – the stated intention of the Board is that it is a cheat sheet for the fantasy owner who is drafting "today."
I picked No. 13 (out of 15) and when it came to my pick, players No.1 through 11 and No. 13 were off the board, leaving me with Big Board No. 12 Miguel Cabrera, who showed his appreciation for being selected by "The Funhouse" by shortly following with a home run. Overall, I felt some validation by the fact that only three players on the current Big Board (top 50) weren't selected among the top 55 picks – Jason Bay (72), Jacoby Ellsbury (74), Carlos Quentin (78).
I was the one to take Quentin, but I had contemplated the NL's breakout equivalent of Quentin, Ryan Ludwick, with this pick. Ironically, he was taken one pick ahead of me. This morning I told colleague Brad Evans about this interesting draft-day dilemma, and he landed in the Quentin camp with me mostly because he plays in a better hitter's park. But, regardless of whether you like Ludwick or Quentin better, it's nice to see how these surprise fast-starters are valued for the rest of the season – for instance, among those currently ranked in the top 50 in the Y! game, Xavier Nady (I took him with pick No. 198) was the latest to be taken, and by a fairly wide margin. If this kind of stuff interests you, have a look at the draft results – and, for the record, my ninth round pick (Victor Martinez) was an auto-draft casualty. I had kid duty on Saturday, and my one-and-a-half-year-old son decided to start painting the walls with guacamole right before my pick. It was one of those weekends …
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• Mike Aviles, KC, SS
Aviles was only ranked as the No. 29 Royals prospect by Baseball America heading into '08, but BA's ranking is based upon reality, not fantasy. In reality, Aviles isn't much to write home about defensively, which is the main reason he fell so far down the team's list. In fantasy, his defense matters about as much as the brand of shampoo he uses. There's only two things roto owners need to care about: Can he hit? Can he steal bases? The answer on Aviles is "yes" and "yes-ish." Aviles has hit .297 in nearly 2,500 minor league at bats. His quick, compact stroke generates plus-power for a middle infielder – 27 home runs in his past 184 games at Triple-A Omaha. As a runner, he's shown the potential to swipe 10-15 bases – serviceable, but not a huge impact. Aviles made his big-league debut on June 6, and the 27-year-old is making up for lost time – through 11 games, he's hitting .341 with two home runs (8 XBH), 11 runs and a stolen base. After starting out at the bottom of the order, the Royals recently bumped Aviles up to the No. 2 hole. With a sweeter spot in the lineup and a shortstop tag after his name, fantasy owners with issues at the depth-thin shortstop spot should definitely take a flyer on Aviles, available right now in more than 95 percent of Y! leagues.
• Randy Wolf, SD, SP
Wolf is on quite a roll. The 31-year-old lefty has posted six consecutive quality starts. In his past five starts, he's 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA and a 30:5 K-to-BB ratio in 33 IP. It should be noted that four of those starts have come at the friendly pitching confines of Petco Park, where he owns an ERA (2.45) nearly three runs better than his road mark (5.31). That said, Wolf hasn't been a complete disaster on the road. Four of his seven road outings have produced quality starts. But two poor outings back-to-back in early May (a combined 12 runs in 10 innings) can be blamed for the inflated road ERA. Control issues were at the root of his early May problems but, as that 30:5 K-to-BB ratio in his past five starts shows, he's harnessed his stuff nicely since then. Wolf is still available in 60 percent of Y! leagues, but he's currently the most added pitcher in the Y! game for Monday – act now, the window is closing fast.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
Brandon Jones, Atl, OF (ETA – now)
As Atlanta's No. 4 rated prospect (by BA) heading into '08, Jones' recent promotion (June 11) is intriguing. The 24-year-old has a nice blend of 20/20 skills and he's 6-for-13 for the Braves in his first four games. With Mark Kotsay and Matt Diaz on the DL, and Josh Anderson headed back to Triple-A, Jones should see regular playing time for the next few weeks, at least. Anderson, another of the Braves' young outfield prospects, had been playing well in Atlanta (.318 in 11 games), but the Braves decided they wanted Jones' more powerful bat in the lineup. There's also some rumors that Jones is being showcased for a potential deal. If that's true, then his playing time is assured. Jones is an excellent athlete who scores high with scouts for his approach to the game. He's worth a gamble in deeper mixed leagues. In the Y! Friends and Family League, I've had a fifth outfield spot that I've been playing the waiver wire carousel with all season. Today, I sent Adam Jones back to waivers in favor of a Jones with a first name I can really get behind.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Ben Francisco, Cle, OF (3 percent owned) – Francisco has eight hits in his past 15 at bats over his past four games, driving in seven runs during this stretch. His 20 June hits rank 10th in the league for the month.
Jesus Flores, Was, C (2%) – Flores' nine RBIs in the past week tied Ryan Howard for the league lead. Flores now ranks fourth among catchers (100 AB min.) with a .311 batting average, and he's tied for ninth with 25 RBIs.
Ronnie Belliard, Was, 2B (1%) – Since coming off the DL on June 10, Belliard has gone 8-for-24 (.333) with two home runs, four doubles and six RBIs in six games.
Jason Kubel, Min, OF (2%) – In his past 10 games, Kubel is hitting .361 with four home runs, nine RBIs and eight runs.
Luke Scott, Bal, OF (10%) – Scott's the No. 54 ranked player in the Y! game for the past month. He's done much of his damage in the past week – 10-for-24 (.417) with four home runs and nine runs in his past seven games.
Kenny Rogers, Det, SP (4%) – Rogers has allowed just three runs in his past 29 IP (0.93 ERA) covering four starts. Surprisingly, though, he has only no-decisions to show for his fine work of late.
Mark Buehrle, ChW, SP (30%) – Buehrle has produced five quality starts in his past six trips to the mound. In four of those starts, he pitched at least 6.2 innings and allowed just one run.
Kyle Lohse, Cin, SP (40%) – Lohse has won has past five starts and has run off six consecutive quality starts. In the past month, he's lowered his ERA from 4.91 to 3.77.
Carlos Gomez, Min, OF – Gomez leads the league in June at bats (67), but he's hitting just .239 for the month and has just one steal – he had 17 steals coming into June.
Justin Upton, Ari, OF – Upton is in the midst of a major slump, hitting just .091 in June. He also has the sixth-most strikeouts for the month (16). And, for a player with plenty of speed, his one steal on the season is yet another thing to be disappointed about if you're an Upton owner. Arizona, however, seems intent to let him work out his issues at the major-league level rather than send him down.
Jesse Litsch, Tor, SP – After running his record to 7-1 with seven shutout innings in his last start of May, Litsch has gone winless (0-2) in three June starts with a 5.60 ERA and the second-most hits allowed for the month (28 in 17.2 IP)
Randy Johnson, Ari, SP – The Big Unit has lost each of his three June starts, allowing a combined 14 runs in 16.1 IP (7.71 ERA).
Matt Capps, Pit, RP – Capps was a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities on June 9. Since then he's blown three of four chances.
Billy Wagner, NYM, RP – Wagner is tied with Capps for the June lead in blown saves (3). He had blown three straight before picking up the save on Sunday.