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MLB Skinny: National rentals

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

I'm playing with a new look for the '09 MLB Skinny debut. This year I'm moving the hots and nots, pickups and prospects to watch into a position-at-a-glance look. To paraphrase Pop Fisher from "The Natural" when scrutinizing Roy Hobbs' bat, I expect you to weigh and measure the column and, if it meets specifications, I'll keep with the format. Here we go …


CORNER INFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Mike Lowell, Bos, 3B – past 12: 20-for-51 (.392), 3 HR, 18 RBI, 9 R
Adam LaRoche, Pit, 1B – 1.016 OPS in April (previous April career-high of .747 in '06)
Mark Reynolds, Ari, 3B – past 13: 13-for-46 (.283), 5 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R

Edwin Encarnacion, Cin, 3B – past 13: 4-for-47 (.085), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 15 K, placed on the DL on Tuesday
Miguel Cabrera, Det, 1/3 – past 8: 5-for-27 (.185), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R
Lance Berkman, Hou, 1B – past 6: 1-for-22 (.045), 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R, 8 K

Wire flier (top pickups among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Nick Johnson, Was, 1B (16%) – He's got a body by Bud and he's as durable as a wet paper towel, but you can't deny that Johnson can hit the ball – his OPS for his three-plus seasons in Washington is over .900. Johnson is coming off a recent 11-game hitting streak in which he had 17 hits in 42 at bats (.405), including home runs in two of his past five games. Add him while he's hot, and healthy, even if the move produces a few guffaws from some of your other league members.

Prospecting
Mat Gamel, Mil, 3B – It's getting to the point where something has to give with Gamel. At 23, he's tearing up Triple-A pitching, with seven home runs and a 1.294 OPS (second-best in the PCL) through his first 18 games with Nashville. Last season, he produced a .932 OPS in 127 games for Double-A Huntsville. Of course, the rub with Gamel is his atrocious fielding (he's committed seven errors already in '09). So, as long as Bill Hall continues to hit and field well, Gamel is going to, unfortunately, remain on the farm.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Edgar Renteria, SF, SS – past 10: 11-for-35 (.314), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 6 BB, 4 K
Clint Barmes, Col, 2/S – past 8: 7-for-22 (.318), 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB
Alberto Callaspo, KC, 2/S – past 11: 16-for-39 (.410), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, 0 K

Mark Ellis, Oak, 2B – past 8: 4-for-29 (.140), 0 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R, 1 XBH, placed on DL on Tuesday
Kelly Johnson, Atl, 2B – past 11: 4-for-39 (.103), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 0 XBH
Jhonny Peralta, Cle, SS – past 8: 2-for-29 (.069), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 0 XBH, 12 K

Wire flier (top pickups among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Cristian Guzman, Was, SS (42%) – I'll continue with the Washington waiver theme … Guzman came off the DL Tuesday after being sidelined with a strained hamstring. Prior to the injury, he posted a ridiculous .515 BA (17-for-33) over the first seven games of the season. In his past 187 games with the Nats, Guzman is batting .330 with 11 HR, 73 RBI, 116 Runs and 9 SB. He'll return to the leadoff spot, which should help boost the RBI totals for Nick Johnson (above). There's only nine SS-eligible players currently ranked in the top 200, which is to say that there's not too many good reasons for Guzman to be available in a standard, 12-team, mixed-universe league.

Prospecting
Eric Patterson, Oak, 2B – Corey's brother has been blazing a trail through the PCL this season, ranking third in SBs (9), 12th in OPS (.983) and 7th in Runs (16). With Mark Ellis and Nomar Garciaparra landing on the DL on Tuesday, Patterson's efforts have been rewarded with a promotion to Oakland. The A's production from its infield has been next-to-nothing this season, so Patterson should get a fair shot to provide a spark. He possesses decent pop, good speed and, unlike his brother, he's adept at drawing a walk. If you have 2B issues, put Patterson on your radar.

CATCHERS

Three Up/Three Down

Jesus Flores, Was, C – past 10: 11-for-35 (.314), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 4 R
Kurt Suzuki, Oak, C – past 6: 10-for-21 (.476), 1 HR, 7 RBI, 2 R
Pablo Sandoval, SF, C/1/3 – past 8: 14-for-31 (.452), 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 K

Dioner Navarro, TB, C – past 11: 6-for-42 (.143), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, 0 XBH
Geovany Soto, ChC, C – '09 season: 5-for-42 (.119), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 1 XBH
A.J. Pierzynski, ChW, C – past 7: 2-for-22 (.091), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 R, 0 XBH

Wire flier (top pickups among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Tex, C (49%) – Since opening the season with a .148 BA through the first seven games, Salty has turned the beat around with 12 hits in his past 30 at bats (.400). The overall 20:2 K-to-BB ratio is worthy of a Mr. Yuck sticker, but you still have to take notice when one of the league's more promising young catchers, hitting in the third-best offense in MLB, starts to heat up.

Prospecting
Matt Wieters, Bal, C – Who else? I think it's safe to assume, since he's still owned in 73 percent of Yahoo! Plus leagues, that there are plenty of owners with a vested interest in how Wieters is performing for Triple-A Norfolk. Through 11 games, the game's consensus top prospect has been relatively ho-hum, sitting on a .270 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI and 13 strikeouts through 11 games – he also missed five games because of a strained hamstring. Seat-warmer Gregg Zaun is doing what he can for Wieters' owners, hitting a miserable .120 BA for the O's. Expect regular updates until Wieters finally gets the call.

OUTFIELDERS

Three Up/Three Down

Jay Bruce, Cin, OF – past 8: 10-for-28 (.357), 4 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R
Shane Victorino, Phi, OF – past 11: 16-for-47 (.340), 1 HR, 11 RBI, 9 R, 3 SB
Dexter Fowler, Col, OF – past 5: 8-for-20 (.400), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 7 R, 6 SB

Chris Dickerson, Cin, OF – past 10: 4-for-26 (.154), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 15 K
B.J. Upton, TB, OF – '09 season: 8-for-53 (.151), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 7 R, 2 XBH
Carlos Quentin, ChW, OF – past 8: 4-for-29 (.138), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R, 0 XBH

Wire flier (top pickups among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Jose Guillen, KC, OF (27%) – There's no shortage of viable outfield candidates owned in less than half of Yahoo! Plus leagues, but you have to put Guillen among the more intriguing of that class. After landing on the DL early in the season with a hip injury, Guillen returned to the cleanup spot in the Royals' lineup this past weekend and delivered a 3-for-4, two-home run effort in his third game back. He's averaged 22 home runs and 98 RBI over his past two seasons and is a solid bet to deliver something in the neighborhood of a .280 batting average.

Prospecting
Matt LaPorta, Cle, OF – LaPorta is off to a scorching start with Triple-A Columbus – 5 HR, 14 RBI, 1.182 OPS, 7 BB, 6 K, 18 games – yet Indians manager Eric Wedge recently poured cold water on the idea of LaPorta getting the call with left fielder Ben Francisco struggling (.222 BA). Said Wedge, "The reality is that the people here are the ones who have to make the difference for us. LaPorta is so young, just out of college. He's off to a good start, and his day will come." Can you say, "Lip service?" Contrary to Wedge's comments, LaPorta is not that young for a prospect of his ilk (24) – for comparison's sake, Jay Bruce just turned 22 a few weeks ago. You don't leave 24-year-old top prospects that are tearing up Triple-A down on the farm for too long, especially when a struggling fringe starter like Francisco is the only thing standing in his way.

STARTING PITCHERS

Three Up/Three Down

Cliff Lee, Cle, SP – past 3: 22 IP, 1-1, 21 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 14 K, 1.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Jeff Niemann, TB, SP – past 3: 17 IP, 2-1, 15 H, 5 ER, 7 BB, 10 K, 2.65 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
Brian Bannister, KC, SP – past 2: 13 IP, 2-0, 5 H, 1 ER, 8 BB, 3 K, 0.69 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Jake Peavy, SDG, SP – past 3: 16 IP, 1-2, 19 H, 14 ER, 11 BB, 14 K, 3 HR, 7.88 ERA, 1.88 WHIP
Clayton Kershaw, LAD, SP – 9 IP, 0-2, 16 H, 15 ER, 6 BB, 7 K, 3 HR, 15.00 ERA, 2.44 WHIP
Matt Garza, TB, SP – past 2: 11.1 IP, 0-2, 10 H, 11 ER, 9 BB, 10 K, 2 HR, 8.73 ERA, 1.68 WHIP

Wire flier (top pickups among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Mike Hampton, Hou, SP (29%) – Hampton, trying to pitch a full season for the first time since '04, has passed the eye test, so far. He's pitched at least six innings in three of his four outings, fanning at least five hitters in three of four, as well. Looking at his pitch chart, he's throwing less fastballs this year, and has increased the amount of cutters and changeups. You can't argue with the results, as opponents have touched him up for just three extra-base hits through 23.1 IP. Other than his stint in Colorado, Hampton has an established track record of keeping his ERA below 4.00. Considering the meager offering of starters available in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! Plus leagues, Hampton is someone I'd be willing to roll the dice on.

Prospecting
Carlos Carrasco, Phi, SP – Philadelphia's top pitching prospect is representing that he's good to go if the Phillies want to end the Chan Ho Park experience. Despite getting roughed up in his last outing, Carrasco is sitting on a stellar 23:3 K-to-BB ratio for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Before his recent misstep against Pawtucket, he'd run off three consecutive quality starts to open the season. If he bounces back strong and continues to command the strike zone, it's easy to imagine him getting an opportunity in Philly by the start of summer.

RELIEF PITCHERS

Wire flier (top pickups among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Joe Beimel, Was, RP – Beimel went on the DL on April 21 because of a strained hip flexor. When he returns in early May, he's got a good chance to land ninth-inning opportunities out of the pen now that closer Joel Hanrahan has been demoted. For now, the Nats are talking about a closer-by-committee approach. But Beimel could wind up seizing the role as he has good success against both righties and lefties, and he keeps the ball in the park – 462 at bats against him since '07, just 1 HR allowed. Yahoo! Plus league owners have already started jumping on the Beimel bandwagon, as his ownership percentage is now up to 21 percent and climbing.

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