Admit it, there were some of you that still held out hope that Mark Prior would experience a renewed vitality in San Diego. I'll admit it. I was so bowled over by Prior during his first couple seasons in the league that I've had a really hard time letting go. I wasn't silly enough to draft him this season, but I've been in a habit of keeping tabs on him well after his fantasy relevance faded to grey. The latest from the Prior camp is that he experienced discomfort in his surgically-repaired shoulder this past weekend, a development that greatly increases the unlikelihood that we'll see Prior return this season. In a study of contrast, Prior's teammate (in theory, anyway) Greg Maddux picked up his 350th career win on Saturday. Maddux has made 715 starts and has a career 3.12 ERA despite a fastball that rarely topped 90 mph. So, as we take a look at the weekend that was, raise your metaphorical glass for a 42-year old veteran who is still going strong, and observe a moment of silence for a 27-year-old with all the talent in the world who just can't catch a break.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• Chris Iannetta, Col, C
A post-hype sleeper, Iannetta was squarely on fantasy radar screens heading into the '07 season. At that time, he was "Baseball America's" eighth-ranked prospect in the Colorado organization, coming off a '06 campaign in which he hit a combined .320 with 16 home runs in 112 games spread out between Double-A Tulsa, Triple-A Colorado City and an August call-up by the Rockies. Basically, he was the J.R. Towles of '07, failing to deliver on expectations (.218, 4 HR in 67 games). A year later, Iannetta is starting to show signs that he's major-league ready. Since April 29, he's 10-for-27 (.370) with six extra-base hits (2 HR) and nine RBIs. Iannetta possesses a sound approach at the plate and makes solid contact. He also has 20 home run upside. Most importantly, Iannetta, who is available in more than 90 percent of Y! public default leagues, is getting a bulk of the playing time of late in the catching platoon with Yorvit Torrealba. If your backstop has holes in it, Iannetta's got the hot bat to help right now.
• Adam LaRoche, Pit, 1B
It's no longer April, so it's safe to pick up LaRoche if you need corner/power assistance. LaRoche's struggles in the opening month are well-chronicled in the fantasy baseball universe. He's a career .179 hitter in April but hits .275 in May and is above .250 in every other month. In fact, his career 162-game averages from May 1 on are .289, 27 HR and 91 RBI. In his past seven games, LaRoche has hit .320 with two home runs and six runs batted in. LaRoche's months of June, July and August have yielded an average of 16.5 home runs combined the past two years. In deeper mixed leagues, now would be a good time to take a flyer on the 38-percent owned lefty.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Jay Bruce, Cin, OF (ETA – June)
As a Seattle-area resident, I can tell you that the rumor of Seattle's growing interest in Ken Griffey Jr. makes sense. Seattle desperately needs an infusion of offense and good PR – and, believe me, the fans would love to bring "The Kid" back. A Griffey move would save Cincinnati money and open up room for Bruce, the consensus top minor league prospect in baseball headed into this season. Bruce is currently eating Triple-A pitching alive, connecting for six home runs and a .924 OPS in his first 35 games at Louisville – He's also swiped seven bases. The Reds are currently the second-worst team in the NL (15-23) and hope to purge the contracts of both Griffey and Adam Dunn this season. I think the team will ultimately work something out for both players, with Griffey the likelier of the two to be gone before the summer solstice. Look for Bruce to be in a Reds uniform inside of a month, maybe sooner. Andy Behrens added the six-percent owned Bruce today in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League (damn him) and, if you have some loose change on your bench, I suggest you do the same.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Milton Bradley, Tex, OF (11 percent owned) – Since April 27, Bradley is among the top 10 in the league in RBI (13), Runs (11) and HR (4). The oft-injured 30-year-old has been healthy and steadily productive from the Rangers' cleanup spot this season.
Akinori Iwamura, TB, 2/3 (22%) – Iwamura is on a nine-game hitting streak in which he's hit 16-for-37 (.432) with nine runs scored. The Runs category is where he really lends a helping hand to fantasy owners – he's scored 104 Runs in the 159 games he's played since migrating from Japan to Tampa.
Randy Winn, SF, OF (3%) – Winn has been sneaky-solid this season. He ranks 23rd in the league with six steals, and he's on a 12-game tear in which he's collected 17 hits in 44 at bats (.386).
Emil Brown, Oak, OF (46%) – The unlikely source of 33 RBIs (fourth in the league), Brown is among the top eight in the league in Hits (28) and RBI (23) from April 18 to present.
Ryan Ludwick, StL, OF (58%) – Currently ranked No. 25 in the Y! game, Ludwick is hitting .448 (13-for-29) with four home runs and 10 RBIs in his past nine games. In his past 134 regular-season games, the 29-year-old is hitting .296 with 22 home runs.
Ryan Franklin, StL, RP (36%) – Franklin appears to be the chairman of the closer committee in St. Louis now that Jason Isringhausen has stepped down. Franklin picked up a save on Saturday in his typical finesse fashion – he has just eight strikeouts in 19 IP. Chris Perez is considered the Cards' closer of the future, and he's been nails this season for Triple-A Memphis (2.16 ERA, 21 K, 8 SV, 16.2 IP). But, at the moment, it appears that it's Franklin's job to lose.
Guillermo Mota, Mil, RP (7%) – Salomon Torres didn't inspire confidence on Sunday in Milwaukee's first save opportunity since Eric Gagne begged out of the closer role. With a solid 2.25 ERA and 19 K in 16 relief innings this season, it seems highly likely that Mota's end-game shot will come next.
Mike Mussina, NYY, SP (27%) – Moose hasn't issued a free pass in May (11 IP). In fact, in his past four starts, Mussina is 4-0 with a 3.13 ERA and a 13:3 K-to-BB ratio in 23 innings.
Derrek Lee, ChC, 1B – Lee broke an eight-game home run drought with two home runs in the series with Arizona this past weekend. Even still, Lee is under the Mendoza Line for May (.195) and has just three RBIs in 41 at bats.
Chase Utley, Phi, 2B – Showing his human side, Utley is just 4-for-28 (.143) with no home runs and 2 RBIs in his past eight games.
Nick Swisher, ChW, OF – There's been nothing sweet about Swisher's performance in May (.139, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 36 AB).
Curtis Granderson, Det, OF – In his past six games, Granderson is 3-for-24 (.125) with 1 RBI, 0 R, 1 SB and a 10:1 K-to-BB ratio from the leadoff spot.
Felix Hernandez, Sea, SP – Hernandez has lost his past three outings, allowing 14 earned runs in a combined 17.2 IP (7.13 ERA). During this three-game slide, he's more than doubled his season ERA (from 1.67 to 3.42).