MLB Skinny: Where's the beef?

Brandon Funston

Finally, Adam Dunn! Eight home runs and 21 RBIs in his past 18 games, including a home run in five straight. As a multi-team Dunn owner, I can't say I was worried about a start that included just three home runs and a .192 batting average in his first 24 games. But, as one who has often left himself short on power in fantasy leagues in recent years, I was getting a little anxious about categorical free-falls in HR and RBI. Alas, to paraphrase Denny Green, former Arizona Cardinals head coach, Adam Dunn is still who we thought he was.

A Dunn and Prince Fielder combo was my insurance plan this season to guard against a power shortage repeat. I figured 90-plus home runs out of two players ought to keep me in business. Dunn's finally holding up his end of the equation. Now it's time for Fielder to step up. And, folks, I hear your concerns about Fielder's new vegetarian lifestyle. Last year's 50-home run hitter has just six long balls through 43 games this season. Milwaukee doesn't employ a dietician on staff, like some teams, but you'd think that that would have been the first thing they would have done when they heard their prize slugger had sworn off dead animals. Fielder does have four extra-base hits (including a home run) in his past three games, so perhaps he, too, is about to start proving that he still is who we thought he was. But, I think we'd feel a lot better if we knew that the Brewers were secretly starting to mix bacon grease into the salad dressing in the clubhouse buffet. That said, let's take a look at some of the meatier developments around the league in the past week:

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Jose Guillen, KC, OF
The less-than-20 percent owned Guillen has been cleaning up in the Royals' clean-up spot over the past month. He ranks No. 48 in the Y! game during that span, and his 24 RBIs in the past month are good for fourth-best in the league. Guillen is an established run producer with mid-20s power (he's hit 20-plus home runs for four different teams). In fact, since mid-April of '03, Guillen's 162-game averages are .285, 28 HR and 102 RBI. Don't let an anemic start to the season (.162, 0 HR in first 17 games) camouflage the good thing that Guillen has going right now. He's offering power production for those in the market.

Hong-Chih Kuo, LAD, P
Kuo, the Dodgers' hard-throwing lefty hybrid long reliever, seems to have tackled his control issues that have plagued him in the past. This month, he has an 18:1 K-to-BB ratio in 13-plus innings to go with three wins and a 1.38 ERA. Overall, he's the fourth best set-up man in the Y! game, with only Carlos Marmol, and Oakland's Santiago Casilla and Joey Devine ahead of him. And because he occasionally fills in as a starter, he owns that eligibility in the Y! game, which makes him a convenient guy to plug into a SP spot when owners don't have a player starting on a particular day.

PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm

  • Chase Headley, SD, 3B/OF (ETA – late-May)
    You can't say Headley doesn't have good timing. He's hit four home runs this past week for Triple-A Portland, this coming just prior to San Diego GM Kevin Towers' recent comments that he is considering making wholesale changes to the last-place (16-30) lineup. Considering left-field options Scott Hairston, Paul McAnulty and Justin Huber have combined to hit near the Mendoza Line this year, you can bet one of those changes would be to call-up Headley and let him play regularly. Headley, who has been moved from third base to the outfield because he's blocked by Kevin Kouzmanoff at the hot corner, was ranked as the Padres' top prospect heading in to the season by "Baseball America." The switch-hitter has 20-plus homer upside and shows a nice ability to draw walks. But he strikes out too much and offers nothing on the basepaths. When he arrives, he'll be worth a speculative add in NL-only leagues and very deep mixed leagues. But his 12-team mixed league impact may take a while to develop.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Jon Lester, Bos, SP (62%) – That number in parentheses after Lester's name is probably a moot point. That's his percentage-owned number in Y! leagues as of Monday morning. Of course, Lester threw a no-hitter Monday night against Kansas City, and if his ownership rate hasn't already hit 90 percent, I'd be shocked. In fact, the Buzz Index shows him as today's most added player, by a long shot. What's worth noting about Lester, though, is that in his previous four outings leading up to Monday's no-no, the BoSox lefty had compiled a 2.13 ERA with 17 Ks in 25.1 IP.

David Murphy, Tex, OF (12%) – Murphy's upside is modest – think 15-20 HRs, 10-15 SBs, .280-ish BA – but hitting fifth in the Rangers lineup, with solid OBP guys like Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Milton Bradley and Josh Hamilton in front of him, Murphy has been an RBI machine. Since April 24, Murphy's 23 ribbies rank third in the league, behind teammate Hamilton (29) and Lance Berkman (27).

Akinori Iwamura, TB, 2B, 3B (35 percent owned) – Over his past 11 games, Iwamura has 28 total bases, eighth-best in the league during that span. He has a hit in 16 of his past 17 games, producing multiple hits in 10 of those contests. But where Iwamura makes his biggest fantasy impact is in the Runs category. In his 167-game major-league career, he's scored 108 times

Garret Anderson, LAA, OF (66%) – Anderson has pushed his realized value near to the top 100 in the Y! game (110) thanks to a current 13-game run that includes 3 HRs, 13 RBIs and a .458 BA (22-for-48).

Juan Pierre, LAD, OF (75%) – Fears of a job squeeze haven't materialized for Pierre in May, where he's second in the league in steals (11) and 13th in Runs (13).

Matt Joyce, Det, OF (1%) – Taking advantage of playing time opened up by the release of Jacque Jones, the Tigers' rookie has four home runs in his past six games.

Clint Barmes, Col, 2B/SS (33%) – Barmes has been a coin-flip bet to get a hit each time he has come to the plate in his past 13 games, hitting .500 with two home runs and two steals in that span. He's hit 55 points higher at home in his career, but a .359 road batting average this season is a very encouraging development.

Mike Mussina, NYY, SP (50%) – The AL's version of Greg Maddux has won five straight decisions, posting a 2.76 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in the process. Moose has walked just four batters in his past 45 IP.

Aaron Laffey, Cle, SP (20%) – Laffey hasn't allowed an earned run in 21 May innings. The Indians' No. 5 farm prospect, according to "Baseball America," stays out of long-ball trouble by staying low in the zone with a heavy mix of sinkers, sliders, and changeups.

Vicente Padilla, Tex, SP (30%) – In his past five starts, Padilla is 4-0 with 1.60 ERA and 24 Ks (33.2 IP)

Tim Redding, Was, SP (28%) – Redding has pitched at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or less in four of his past five outings. With six wins, a 3.16 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, Redding now sits at No. 105 in the Y! game.

Brad Penny; Derek Lowe, LAD, SP – Penny and Lowe's combined numbers for May: 1-5, 9.41 ERA, 22 BB, 28 K, 43 IP. Slap a Mr. Yuck sticker here.

Brett Myers, Phi, P – In his past six starts, Myers is 0-4 with a 7.08 ERA. He's still offering up respectable K numbers (50), but a league-high 15 home runs allowed have done him in.

Alex Rios, Tor, OF – Rios has just one home run and six ribbies in his past 26 games, lowering his batting average 71 points (from .324 to .253) during the drought.

Michael Cuddyer, Min, OF – Cuddyer hit .100 (3-for-30) this past week and has gone 20 straight games without a home run.

Jeff Francoeur, Atl, OF – Much was made of an offseason workout regimen that added 17 pounds of rippling muscle to Francoeur's frame but it's been much ado about nothing, at least as far as fantasy is concerned. Francoeur has gone 33 games without a home run and he's just 3-for-20 (.150) in his past five games.