MLB Skinny: Green Apple

Brad Evans
Yahoo Sports
CLOSER HOT SEAT
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES HOT
1st Chair: Undefined
2nd Chair: Arthur Rhodes, Ryan Madson
Injured: Tom Gordon
Skinny: The Flash has dimmed in the City of Brotherly Love. With Gordon on the shelf nursing a strained right shoulder, Rhodes and Madson have been a lethal one-two punch out of the pen, each tallying two saves over the past week. According to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, Gordon's healing process has progressed well and he should be activated when eligible to come of the DL on Tuesday. However, Manuel stressed he wants to ease Gordon back into the role and may not use him until the weekend. For those trying to squeeze another save or two out of either Rhodes or Madson, keep them active.
CINCINNATI REDS HOT
1st Chair: Undefined
2nd Chair: David Weathers, Scott Schoeneweis, Bill Bray
Injured: Eddie Guardado
Skinny: In the merry-go-round Cincinnati bullpen, it appears Weathers is the leading BPBC horse with Guardado still hampered by forearm tendonitis. On Saturday, "Maybe in a few days" Eddie played catch for the first time in over a week and complained of pain. Sidelined since August 20, it appears he may not return until mid-September if the injury lingers. Weathers closed the door impressively on San Francisco on August 24 tallying a two-strikeout save. He has not allowed a run or a walk in seven straight appearances and is Jerry Narron's first weapon of choice in the ninth. On Saturday, Narron still defined the situation as a committee, stating, "We're going to go with match-ups more than anything." Available in 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues, add Weathers if you're attempting to catch up in saves. He has the most end-game experience of anyone in the pen and will probably be called upon a majority of the time. But, Schoeneweis and Bray will also see an occasional opportunity.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS HOT
1st Chair: Justin Duchscherer
2nd Chair: Joe Kennedy
Injured: Huston Street
Skinny: As 80s Reggae band Musical Youth said, it's time to, "Pass the Dutchie." Duchscherer looks to be entrenched as the regent closer after slamming the door on Toronto and Texas for two saves. On Saturday, Street played catch for the first time since landing on the DL with a groin injury on August 19, but will likely return an extra day or two after when he's eligible on September 3. The A's are winners of 18 of their past 22 and face a downtrodden Boston bunch this week, making Duchy a fantastic No. 3 closer play.
CLEVELAND INDIANS HOT
1st Chair: Thomas Mastny
2nd Chair: Rafael Betancourt, Fernando Cabrera
Skinny: The out-of-nowhere Mastny story continues to baffle the mind. Not yet officially named the closer by Indians manager Eric Wedge, Mastny logged two more saves this week. The 25-year-old reliever commented, "I don't know what's going on. Maybe I'm the closer, but [Wedge] hasn't told me anything. You can't sit there and worry about it. When they call my name, I have to go out there and do my job. I'm not going to change my approach." With a sparkling 7:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past four appearances, maybe Wedge doesn't want to jinx the youngster. Owned in less than five percent of Yahoo! leagues, Mastny is a must add in all formats 12-teams and larger. With the Indians young, high-octane offense playing well, he could see ample save opportunities down the stretch.
HOUSTON ASTROS HOT
1st Chair: Undefined
2nd Chair: Brad Lidge, Dan Wheeler
Skinny: Still labeled a committee by Astros manager Phil Garner, Lidge may have found his way back in the saddle. In Pittsburgh on Saturday, the frustrating stopper logged his 27th save of the season, blowing away three Buckos in one inning of work. Lidge seems to have calmed down with eight strikeouts and zero walks in his past four appearances. Wheeler has been equally as dominate with a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past four games. Look for Garner to continue to interchange the two, especially with Lidge performing so well under less pressure. If Lidge was dropped in your league, snag him off waivers.
Whether you're talking about the Boston Celtics frontline of the 80s, the Dallas Cowboys' triplets of the 90s, or hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys – "License to Ill" still rocks at any party – the old adage that "good things come in threes," really is true.

For fantasy baseball followers, good things come three times each season. First, the anticipation of warm weather and Opening Day drowns us in optimism. Then in July, the trade deadline Santa Clause gives nice little boys and girls in "only" leagues additional ERA and RBI help. And finally in September, roster expansion completes the rawhide gods' trio of goodwill, as owner's get a sneak peak at future fantasy all-stars.

Last year, 2006 stars Francisco Liriano, Ryan Zimmerman and Jose Lopez gave us a taste of their potential in September and this year upstarts like Cincinnati flamethrower Homer Bailey, Tampa Bay lumber tosser Delmon Young and Chicago Cubs five-tooled dessert Felix Pie could all get their shot to shine. For those fighting for diamond glory in deep leagues, these future lineup titans could carry you to the land of milk and honey this season and beyond. Don't be afraid of the inconsistencies of youth. They could win you a championship. Here are the news and notes that went around the horn over the past week:

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

  • The Big Apple has changed from a red delicious to a Green Granny Smith. On August 22, two-time All-Star outfielder Shawn Green was traded from Arizona to the New York Mets for cash and Triple-A starter Evan McLane. Mets general manager Oscar Minya said, "I think he's going to help us this year, I think he's going to help us next year. We're getting a proven veteran. Rumored to be on the trade block for several weeks, a relieved Green stated, "I'm definitely excited for the opportunity. I really like the Mets' chances to go to the postseason and have a chance at the World Series." So far, Green is 5-for-15 with five RBIs as a Metropolitan.

Just when you thought the Mets offense couldn't get any better, Minaya went out and snared the outfielder with the most Shiksa appeal. Although a shadow of his former 40 homer, 20 stolen base days in Toronto and Los Angeles, Green is a solid fantasy contributor that could provide significant batting average, RBIs and a handful of homers over the remaining 30 days of the season. Only batting .236 since the break, Green is a career .290 hitter in September who should thrive batting sixth behind studly third baseman David Wright in a lumber-heavy Mets lineup. Bank on September totals around a .310 batting average, five homers and 12 RBIs.

Meanwhile for Green's old team the Arizona Diamondbacks, Carlos Quentin gets a major boost in value, becoming the everyday right fielder in the desert. A future perennial 30 home run bomber, Quentin has struggled in August notching a meager 11 hits in his past 59 at-bats (.186 BA). With a respectable 16:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 77 at-bats, he should improve with regular playing time. Available in just over 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues, pick him up as a No. 5 outfielder with homer upside in NL-only and deep mixed formats.

  • The down and out Devil Rays were stung over the weekend with news that number one starter Scott Kazmir could be sidelined the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Placed on the 15-Day DL on Saturday, manager Joe Maddon said, "The last couple outings, we're concerned that he's starting to change his arm stroke a little bit because of the tightness in his shoulder on occasion. So we don't want to risk him doing anything improper by throwing in a different manner. It's possible (his season is over), but if he feels really good, I'd like him to (pitch)." J.P. Howell was recalled to take the befallen starter's place in the rotation.

The loss of the 22-year-old southpaw couldn't have come at a worst time for many owners. This year, Kazmir took another step forward, cutting his walks totals down significantly. His 3.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio currently ranks eighth-best in the American League. Back in March, Kazmir sported a bargain basement 170.9 ADP (14th Round in 12-team mixed leagues) and turned quite a profit in auction leagues. Based on his improved control, continued development and high strikeout potential, he will easily command a seventh or eighth round selection in 2007. Don't worry too much about his recurrent shoulder problems. The constant inflammation is caused by a mechanical flaw in his delivery and will undoubtedly be addressed in the offseason. Although probably done this year, Kazmir is a terrific keeper and someone I will break my arm for in drafts in March.

  • Injury News and Notes: Francisco Liriano threw 50 pitches from 90 feet without pain on Friday. He is scheduled to throw on a mound for the first time since early August mid-week, but there is no timetable set for his return. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire noted, "It's a good feeling, knowing that he isn't feeling anything. But we're still guarded on everything we do with him." The best case scenario has the Dominican dandy back on the hill by mid-September, but likely as a long reliever … Jim Thome missed his fourth straight game on Sunday with a strained hamstring. Although not believed to be DL bound, Ozzie Guillen said, "I'm not going to rush him and set him back another two weeks. I'm not going to set a date for him because that's not fair, but the way he is now he should be ready in another two or three days." Expect Thome to pinch-hit early in the week and return to action no later than Thursday. If you're in a head-to-head league and entering week one of your playoffs, keep him benched … Manny Ramirez was out of the lineup for the third time in four games on Sunday, nursing a sore right knee. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, "I don't think it's a setback. I think it was bothering him during the game. We were hoping a couple of days off would be enough. When he played he didn't feel good, so where it stands now, I don't know." An MRI on Thursday revealed no structural damage. Willy Mo Pena and Kevin Youkilis will continue to split time in left and in the clean-up spot with Man-Ram out. Concerned Ramirez owners may want to go with a healthier option for this week's slate of games … Consensus fantasy first-rounder Derrek Lee could return to the lineup by Wednesday. Cubs' manager Dusty Baker said, "He's pretty close, real close. He's swinging the bat good and doesn't feel any pain. It's a matter of him seeing some off-speed, breaking stuff. He'll probably be on fastballs, that's more a reactionary pitch." Baker also noted that Lee was "hitting balls to the moon" during batting practice late last week. For those of you who've been patiently holding out for Lee's return, now's the time to activate him … Setback by a bizarre numbness in his left ring finger, Mets old-timer Tom Glavine had a positive bullpen session on Saturday and should return to the rotation against Houston on Friday. Glavine commented, "It's all based on my finger, because everything else felt good. I had no problems with anything else, so as long as my finger feels better than it did or no worse than it did, that's going to be my barometer. It feels better than it did a week ago, so that's a good sign. I'm on target to pitch Friday barring something unforeseen. I feel good." The southpaw has a 2.99 ERA versus the Astros in 38 career starts.

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

  • Ryan Shealy, KC, 1B
    If the Maloof family ever wanted to move the Sacramento Kings back to Kansas City, they have a potential power forward in Shealy. At 6-foot-5, 250-pounds, Shealy is an intimidating plate presence built in the mold of Seattle's Richie Sexson. The lanky first baseman has benefited tremendously from the July 31st trade from Colorado. Over the past two weeks, Shealy has driven in 12 runs and slapped the third-most hits (23) in the Majors. A two-time home run champ in the minors, his power has yet to come, but it's only a matter of time. Historically, Shealy has hit bombs in bunches, averaging a homer every 17.7 at-bats in the minors. That would put him above perennial bashers Alex Rodriguez (18.4 HR/AB) and Vladimir Guerrero (18.4 HR/AB) this season. With six multi-hit games in his past 10 contests, crown this Royal before the power surge starts. Available in an outlandish 99.7 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Shealy will be a difference maker in the baseball season's midnight hour.

PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm

  • Homer Bailey, Cin, SP, (ETA: September)
    Quite possibly the most hyped pitching prospect in Reds history, this Bailey doesn't need to be mixed with coffee to pack a killer buzz. Only 20, Bailey is a future top-of-the-rotation fantasy starter. At 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, he is an exceptional athlete with an effortless release. Scouting reports boast about his blazing mid-90s fastball that can touch 97 MPH and his knee-buckling 12-to-6 curve, arguably the best in the minors. In 25 starts between Single and Double-A this season, Bailey has amassed a jaw-dropping line – 132.2 IP, 2.31 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a ridiculous 148:46 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The power righty could make a similar splash as the Phillies Cole Hamels if recalled this week. Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said on August 23, "I'm not ready to say yes or no," in regards to a September call-up. With Cincy in the midst of a tight wildcard race, its doubtful Chris Michalak will be depended upon as the Reds fifth starter. Grab Bailey now, before the lid pops off on the next "big thing" in fantasy baseball.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Nick Markakis, Bal, OF – Outside of ChiSox slugger Jermaine Dye, no one has been hotter than Markakis. Since August 14 he has gone yard seven times and driven in 13 runs. Too bad he hasn't hit in the two spot all year long.

Ryan Garko, Cle, 1B/C – The former Stanford All-American is quietly tearing it up in C-Town. Seeing pitches the size of beach balls hitting behind masher Travis Hafner, he has gone 11-for-29 with two homers, eight RBI and nine runs since August 19. Catcher eligible in Yahoo! leagues, AL-only and deep mixed leaguers need to beat the tribal drum for Garko.

Gary Bennett, StL, C – If Bennett keeps hitting like this, he will be the subject of a Nelly rap. Going 11-for-18 with four homers and nine RBI in his past six games, Bennett might obliterate his career-high of four homers this week. If you are in dire straits for a second catcher in NL-only leagues, grab him as a short-term option.

Mike Sweeney, KC, 1B/DH – Sweeney is finally healthy and has nine hits and nine RBIs in his past six games. When not on the DL, he is a great contributor of batting average, homers and RBIs. Amazingly, he's available in 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Andy Pettitte, Hou, SP – See, all Pettitte needed was a future Hall of Fame friend. Since the Rocket's return, he is 6-4 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and stellar 75:22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Pettitte will post insanely good numbers in September.

A.J. Burnett, Fla, SP – Burnett has finally ironed out the kinks after missing nearly two months with an elbow injury from May-June. In his past four starts, the Toronto bazooka is 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. Despite the high number of walks, he will be a fantastic No. 3 starter in 12-team leagues over the remainder of the year.

Oliver Perez, NYM, SP – Perez has made me feel like a soap opera lover scorned with his excessive walks and home run lollipops. After totaling seven strikeouts, five walks and five runs in five innings on Saturday Willie Randolph said he pitched well enough to earn another start. With a high-powered offense behind him, take the risk in NL-only leagues.

Wilson Betemit, LAD, SS/3B/1B – Reports surfaced out of the city of plastic this week that Betemit will lose time at third to Julio Lugo, especially against lefties. Since joining the Dodgers in late July, he has hit a paltry .215. Bench him in shallow mixed leagues when a southpaw takes the mound.

Jose Contreras, ChW, SP – Torched by the Twinkies for five earned in 2.2 innings on Saturday, Contreras has a 7.50 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in his past three. Despite the string of rocky starts, his respectable 3.70 career ERA in September means a turnaround is near.

Russell Martin, LAD, C – Martin appears to have crashed into a late-season brick wall. With an uncharacteristic 10 strikeouts in his past 10 games, expect the talented backstop to make the necessary adjustments at the plate and right the ship soon.

Yahoo! Experts League Update
RotoWire_liss holds a 13.5-point lead over second place Y!Buser as the clock clicks down to the final month of the season. Y!-Romig and KFFL-Wasserzieher also hold a Hail Mary chance of pushing for the league crown, but Liss' hold on the lead is looking more and more insurmountable. Recent league-wide player additions include Cla Meredith, Ryan Madson, Brad Hawpe, Ryan Shealy, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer.