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MLB Skinny: Major movers

If I needed a reminder of how fast the fantasy baseball world can move, I got it while working up this latest Skinny column. In the time it took me to finish writing, two players (Matt Wieters(notes) and Fernando Martinez(notes)) that I had chosen for this week's "Prospecting" sections got called up, forcing me to re-work those graphs. The way things were going, I thought about prolonging the column even longer in hopes that news that Tommy Hanson(notes) was headed to Atlanta developed. Alas, Hanson remains in Gwinnett County (which is about a 30-minute commute to Atlanta) and now takes Wieters' place as most enticing '09 fantasy prospect on the farm. Better luck next week, Tommy …

CORNER INFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Joe Crede(notes), Min, 3B – Power source: 13-for-47 (.277), 5 HR, 14 RBI, 6 R in past 12
Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes), Cin, 3/2/S/O – 25-for-78 (.321), 4 HR, 10 RBI, 21 R, 4 SB in past 19
Todd Helton(notes), Col, 1B – Five alive: 8-for-20 (.400), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 4 R in past 5

Chris Davis(notes), Tex, 1/3 – 1-for-29 (.034), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 2 BB, 13 K in past 9
Adrian Gonzalez(notes), SDG, 1B – 6-for-35 (.171), 2 HR, 2 RBI, 6 R in past 9 games
Evan Longoria(notes), TB, 3B – 14-for-56 (.250), 0 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, swollen elbow (beaned) in past 15

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Andy LaRoche(notes), Pit, 3B (4%) – Heading into the '09 season, LaRoche was one of my favorite post-hype sleepers. I drafted him in the Y! Friends and Family League, dropped him after he went hitless in his first seven games, reacquired him after a mini-run in early May, dropped him after another lackluster week on my roster and finally brought him back once again on May 21, six games into his current 10-game hitting streak. In other words, he's someone that I've tracked very closely. Some forget that he was considered one of baseball's top prospects as recently as a year ago and entered this season having posted a .310 batting average with 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 125 runs and a sterling 88:101 K-to-BB ratio in a combined 167 games at the Triple-A level from '06-'08. Ineptness and injury marred his major league stints the past two seasons, but he looks like he's starting to finally hit a groove for the Pirates, going 16-for-35 (.457) with 10 RBI on his current 10-game hitting streak. He has just two home runs, thus far, but I suspect the confidence he's gaining on his current streak could soon lead to a boost in that department.

Prospecting
Kila Ka'aihue(notes), KC, 1B – Like Chicago Cubs prospect Jake Fox(notes), profiled here last week, Ka'aihue is seemingly blocked at the major league level with Mike Jacobs(notes) (.835 OPS) and Billy Butler(notes) (.794) performing reasonably well for the Royals. A late bloomer, Ka'aihue served notice last season by launching 37 home runs in 124 games split between Double- and Triple-A. He also walked 104 times compared to just 67 strikeouts. This season, after a sluggish April, Ka'aihue is back on track with a 1.040 OPS in May, including five home runs in his past 12 games. Something needs to give for Ka'aihue to get a call from the parent club, but with the Royals sitting in second place in the AL Central, it's doubtful the team is going to mess with what they got at first base or DH for the time being. If a trade or injury eventually clears a path for the Hawaiian slugger, his power upside offers plenty of fantasy intrigue.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Adam Kennedy(notes), Oak, 2/O – A-mazing: 24-for-48 (.500), HR, 12 RBI, 5 R, 3 SB in past 12
Freddy Sanchez(notes), Pit, 2B – Memorial Day: 6-for-6, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, SB
Dan Uggla(notes), Fla, 2B – Bouncing back: 9-for-34 (.265), 4 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R, SB, 9 BB, 9 K in past 13

Troy Tulowitzki(notes), Col, SS – 6-for-32 (.188), 0 HR, 1 XBH, 3 RBI, 4 R, 1 SB in past 9
Stephen Drew(notes), Ari, SS – 4-for-32 (.125), 0 HR, 1 XBH, 6 RBI, 4 R, 0 SB in past 9
Cristian Guzman(notes), Was, SS – 5-for-29 (.172), 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB in past week

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Kelly Johnson(notes), Atl, 2B (39%) – Johnson recently sought the hitting advice of teammate Chipper Jones(notes), and it appears that the veteran's words of wisdom are paying immediate dividends – Johnson is 6-for-14 (.429) with a couple home runs in his past three games. Historically, Johnson tends to be very streaky – he's batted .326 or better in four of 12 months over the past two seasons, and has delivered a sub-.260 batting average in seven of the remaining eight months during that span. His recent surge has pushed his '09 May mark to .299. If Jones' sage advice continues to resonate with Johnson, he's a 20/15 club-capable second sacker with the ability to positively impact the runs category out of the Braves' leadoff spot – he's scored 90 times in 135 career games batting first for Atlanta.

Prospecting
Gordon Beckham(notes), ChW, SS – Asked for his rationale for starting prized prospect Beckham at third base on Friday for Double-A Birmingham, White Sox GM Kenny Williams responded, "I'm thinking I want to see some production out of some people or I'm going to start making some changes." Josh Fields(notes) has good reason to run for cover after Williams' shot, as the 22-year-old Beckham continues to heat up on the farm. In his past six games, he's 12-for-26 (.462) with three doubles, two home runs and just one strikeout. For the season, his .882 OPS ranks 13th in the Southern League – one of only two middle infielders in that group. And his 17 doubles is tops in the league. The scouting report on Beckham gives him high marks for bat speed and plate recognition, and Baseball America draws a comparison to Texas' Michael Young(notes). Considering the ChiSox haven't been able to generate serviceable production at second base, shortstop or third base this season, all positions that Beckham is capable of playing, Beckham's MLB debut is no longer looking like a 2010 scenario. Don't put it past Williams to make a bold move with Beckham soon, assuming their infield mess doesn't just suddenly fix itself.

CATCHERS

Three Up/Three Down

Chris Snyder(notes), Ari, C – Seven up: 8-for-22 (.364), 4 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 6 BB in past 7
Dioner Navarro(notes), TB, C – Baby steps: 10-for-24 (.417), HR, 4 RBI, 4 R in past week
Jason Varitek(notes), Bos, C – Seven up, too: 7-for-24 (.292), 4 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R in past 7

Bengie Molina(notes), SF, C – Seven up(chuck): 2-for-30 (.067), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R in past 7
Kurt Suzuki(notes), Oak, C – 5-for-34 (.147), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R in past 7
Ivan Rodriguez(notes), Hou, C – 2-for-19 (.105), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, sprained knee in past week

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Ryan Doumit(notes), Pit, (74%) – I'm going to veer from the usual 50 percent ownership threshold here. Let's face it, there's not much to talk about among the backstops owned in less than half of Yahoo! Plus leagues – Rod Barajas(notes), at 49 percent, would be the choice if I was holding to the usual standards. I thought it worth mentioning Doumit this week as he plans to get a CT scan on his broken right wrist on Thursday. If his wrist looks good, he could start almost immediately on a rehab schedule that could put him back in Pittsburgh in a couple weeks. If you are stuck in a less-than-desirable situation at catcher, and Doumit is floating around in your league's waiver wire, now would be the time to grab him, obviously.

Prospecting
Matt Wieters, Bal, C – Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Connolly speculated that Wieters will be called up to Baltimore on the O's West Coast trip that begins on June 1, or that he'll be promoted after they return home on June 9. But Baltimore GM Andy MacPhail made Connolly look conservative by announcing later on Tuesday that Wieters is going to be called up this Friday. Wieters is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak for Triple-A Norfolk while I whither away in the basement of the Y! League Brandon blog league, waiting with bated breath for Wieters imminent arrival.

OUTFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Michael Cuddyer(notes), Min, OF – Elite eight: 14-for-33 (.424), 5 HR, 13 RBI, 11 R in past 8
Nelson Cruz(notes), Tex, OF – Full Nelson: 11-for-24 (.458), 5 HR, 10 RBI, 5 R in past 6
Shin-Soo Choo(notes), Cle, OF – Choo-Choo train: 18-for-45 (.400), 2 HR, 8 RBI, 12 R in past 11

Nick Markakis(notes), Bal, OF – 12-for-59 (.203), 1 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB in past 14
Alfonso Soriano(notes), ChC, OF – Weak week: 2-for-24 (.083), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 R, 0 SB, 10 K in past 6
Kosuke Fukudome(notes), ChC, OF – 17-for-68 (.250), 0 HR, 3 RBI, 10 R, 3 SB in past 21

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Randy Winn(notes), SF, OF (32%) – Winn belongs in that class of veterans, like Jose Guillen(notes), that fail to excite the fantasy masses despite regularly delivering respectable fantasy numbers. In fact, last season, Winn ranked as the No. 30 outfielder in the Y! game, yet fell outside the top 50 outfielders drafted, on average, in '09 Yahoo! Plus leagues. In his past 15 games, Winn is 24-for-61 (.393) with 13 runs and four stolen bases. In terms of power, there's not much to talk about – he's only once hit more than 14 home runs in a season. But he's hit .300 or better in each of the past two seasons and is trending that way once again. He's also on pace for a career-high 30 stolen bases. Admittedly, there's not a ton of upside with Winn, but if you took too many draft-day fliers or have been plagued by injuries, Winn is one of those hard-hat types that never gets hurt and, outside of home runs, delivers at least serviceable numbers across the board.

Prospecting
Fernando Martinez, NYM, OF – The team's top prospect, according to Baseball America, has gone 11-for-30 (.367) in his past seven games and has five home runs in his past 10 contests for Triple-A Buffalo. He's still only 20 years old and, until recently, his lofty prospect ranking had more to do with the projection of his ample talents rather than actual on-the-field production. But he's starting to see tangible results from his excellent skills makeup, as his 91 total bases ranked third in the International League. I was going to mention in this space Carlos Beltran's scheduled MRI being a key in whether Martinez was going to get a call soon from the Mets. But it turns out that it's the poor health of Ryan Church(notes) and Jose Reyes that provided the impetus for Martinez being promoted on Tuesday. GM Omar Minaya has made it known that he didn't want to promote Martinez if there wasn't regular playing time to be had, so expect F-Mart to see steady work in what is an above-average offense. I don't know that I feel that strongly about his ability to impact my Yahoo! Friends and Family League roster right away, but I had an open spot available, so I decided to take a flyer on him. He'll have a pretty short leash, though.

STARTING PITCHERS

Three Up/Three Down

Phil Hughes(notes), NYY, SP – Past 2: 2-0, 2.08 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 9 H, 2 BB, 15 K, 13 IP
Chris Young, SDG, SP – Past 2: 2-0, 2.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 3 BB, 10 K, 13 IP
Brett Anderson(notes), Oak, SP – Past 2: 2-0, 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 2 BB, 9 K, 12 IP

Francisco Liriano(notes), Min, SP – Past 2: 0-2, 13.50 ERA, 2.63 WHIP, 18 H, 8 K, 8 IP
Ervin Santana(notes), LAA, SP – Past 3: 0-2, 7.82 ERA, 2.13 WHIP, 21 H, 6 BB, 9 K, 12.2 IP
Andy Pettitte(notes), NYY, SP – May: 2-0, 5.46 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 40 H, 7 HR, 12 BB, 17 K, 31.1 IP

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Kelvim Escobar(notes), LAA, SP (50%) – Escobar, coming back from right shoulder surgery, pitched 4.2 innings for Single-A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga on Friday in his first minor-league rehab assignment. He allowed just one hit and struck out four, while hitting a high of 95 mph on the radar gun. If he doesn't hit a snag in rehab, he figures to return to the Angels rotation in early June. The last time he was a starting fixture for Los Angeles, he produced 18 wins and a 3.40 ERA in '07. He's proven he can come back from an arm injury, as elbow issues wiped out most of his '05 season. Escobar has had an elite-level season (or two) with the Angels, so definitely roll the dice if your pitching situation is dire.

Prospecting
Tommy Hanson, Atl, SP – This is a repeat appearance here for the Braves' top pitching prospect, who currently leads the minor leagues with 73 strikeouts (53.2 IP). He's pitched 13 scoreless innings over his past two outings to drop his ERA to 1.51 for Triple-A Gwinnett County this season. The hard-throwing righty is likely going to need some outside help to get a near-term promotion to Atlanta, though. First, Kris Medlen(notes), who gets his second big league start on Tuesday, is going to have to continue his struggles. And Tom Glavine's(notes) injury rehab is going to have to be uninspiring. When Hanson does finally get the call, fantasy owners will want to be ready to act. The anticipation of his vast talents has already pushed his ownership to 55 percent in Yahoo! Plus leagues. In the Yahoo! Friends and Family League, I've got Rick Porcello(notes) and Jordan Zimmermann(notes) on my roster. I'd trade either one for Hanson, when he arrives.

RELIEF PITCHERS

As in the past, I defer to my colleague, Andy Behrens, on this one. He puts out an excellent bullpen roundup – "Closing Thoughts" – each Monday in the Roto Arcade blog.

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