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MLB Skinny: Yo, Adrian!

CLOSER HOT SEAT
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS RED HOT
1st Chair: Al Reyes
2nd Chair: Dan Wheeler
Skinny: Wheeler, who has allowed just one run in his past 11 IP, landed in Tampa Bay over the weekend in exchange for Ty Wigginton, but there are rumors he could be on the move again (Seattle has interest). Reyes is also a target of the Mariners, among other clubs. If Wheeler is dealt, Reyes would remain the closer for the D-Rays, obviously. But if Reyes is dealt, it's likely that Wheeler, who saved 11 games for Houston, would become the team's new end-game option.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS RED HOT
1st Chair: Joakim Soria
2nd Chair: Zack Greinke
Skinny: Atlanta has reportedly swung a deal to land Octavio Dotel, which makes Soria the logical choice to take over the closer role in Kansas City. He handled the job capably, picking up 10 saves in 13 chances while Dotel worked himself back from the disabled list to start the season. However, Greinke is an intriguing option. He has a 2.00 ERA in nine innings of work since the All-Star break. Expect Soria to take over here, but don't drop this situation off your radar.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES RED HOT
1st Chair: Jamie Walker
1st Chair: Chad Bradford
Injured: Chris Ray
Skinny: Walker has filled in for the injured Ray with three saves since June 22. Walker, who has yet to allow a run in 10.2 July innings, was available in nearly 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues as of Monday morning. Bradford has been nearly as effective in July (0.90 ERA in 10 IP), and he's also in the saves mix, having closed out the Yankees on Friday, his first save of the year. He's also been a topic of trade rumors. Meanwhile, Ray is likely out until September while trying to overcome a sprained ligament in his elbow.
OAKLAND A'S HOT
1st Chair: Alan Embree
2nd Chair: Huston Street
Skinny: Street has returned from the DL (ulnar nerve), and he's being worked slowly back into the bullpen mix. Embree retains the closer title for the time being. Street absorbed the loss on Sunday, allowing two earned runs (four total) in the eighth inning of what was a tie game at Seattle. Embree continues to get it done as the stop-gap stopper. He's saved all three of his opportunities in July with a 1.23 ERA. Don't be surprised if at least another week goes by with Embree handling ninth-inning chores.
COLORADO ROCKIES HOT
1st Chair: Manny Corpas
2nd Chair: Jorge Julio, Jeremy Affeldt
Injured: Brian Fuentes
Skinny: Corpas has been outstanding as the replacement closer for the struggling (and injured) Fuentes. In his past 14 outings (13 IP), Corpas has allowed just one run and is a perfect six-for-six in save opportunities. Fuentes is rehabbing a mild back strain, and you can bet Colorado will bring him along slowly. If Corpas keeps throwing the way he has, it's conceivable that Fuentes won't close again this season.
HOUSTON ASTROS WARM
1st Chair: Brad Lidge
2nd Chair: Chad Qualls
Skinny: Houston dealt Dan Wheeler, completely clearing Lidge's path back to the closer role. Lidge didn't allow a run in his first eight outings post AS break (8 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 13 K, 6-for-6 in save chances) before allowing three runs in 1.2 IP in an 18-11 loss to San Diego on Sunday – it was a non-save situation. Qualls now seems like the logical fill-in should Lidge's fragile psyche rear it's ugly head again. Qualls has a 0.73 ERA in 12.1 July innings.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES WARM
1st Chair: Brett Myers
2nd Chair: Tom Gordon, Antonio Alfonseca
Skinny: Myers pitched a perfect ninth inning on Saturday in his first game off the DL list (shoulder) – it was a non-save situation with the Phillies nursing a five-run lead. Expect him to return immediately to the closer role.
Sunday was like a Thanksgiving feast for fantasy owners. The scoreboards saw ten teams score nine-plus runs, while another seven teams scored one run or less. It was a day of extremes, and fantasy owners reaped the benefits. In addition to Sunday's stat explosions, the league is just a day away from the trading deadline and at least one juicy deal has already went down. Let's take it all in as we look at the weekend that was on, and off, the diamond

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

  • Atlanta has reportedly landed the biggest treasure during this year's MLB swap meet, convincing Texas to send slugger Mark Teixeira its way in exchange for top prospects Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus and change. From a fantasy standpoint, this deal should help Teixeira. Landing amidst a lineup of veteran hitters like the Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones will give him the protection he hasn't had in Texas this season. But it's Saltalamacchia that appears to gain the biggest boost in value. Out from the shadow of Brian McCann, he should become the everyday catcher for the Rangers. The Braves top prospect heading into the season, according to Baseball America, Saltalamacchia is a true switch hitter, able to drive the ball from both sides of the plate. His power side is from the left, where he has hit all four of his home runs this season, but he's solid, at least from a batting average standpoint, from the right side, too. And he's headed to one of the most favorable hitting parks in the league in Rangers Ballpark. Playing regularly for Texas for the final two months of the season, Saltalamacchia could very easily produce like a top 10 catcher the rest of the way. This deal makes him ownable in almost all league formats. The catching position has been incredibly anemic this season and Saltalamacchia offers the upside to give the backstops class a big shot in the arm.
  • In Seattle, Adrian Beltre hasn't come close to matching his .334, 48 HR, 121 RBI effort in his final season in Los Angeles in '04. But he did show some semblance of that runner-up MVP season after the All-Star break last season, swatting 18 home runs to go with 54 RBI and a .285 batting average. The past month, he's kicked things into high gear yet again following a ho-hum first few months, ranking No. 7 overall in the Yahoo! game for the past 30 days – including a league-high 31 RBI. As a Seattle native, I watch Beltre on a regular basis, and the confidence and calm he's showing at the plate is evident. He smacked 16 home runs in the final two months of '06, and he looks primed for another strong closing effort. Beltre's one-for-one trade value of late has varied. For some, he's cost a sizeable premium. But three of the last four straight-up deals in Yahoo! leagues (dealt in separate deals for Travis Buck, Chris Capuano and Dontrelle Willis) prove that not everyone has clued into what he's been up to. If you need some Corner Infield help, inquire about Beltre's availability. You might be surprised how cheap he can be had.
  • Notable Notes: After tossing 6.1 no-hit innings in his last appearance with the Yankees back on May 1, rookie Phil Hughes is expected to rejoin the New York rotation this coming Saturday after nursing a strained hamstring back to health these past two months … The ever-popular oblique injury has claimed Carlos Beltran as its latest victim. Beltran is expected to soon land on the DL … Shane Victorino left Monday's game at Chicago with a strained right calf, suffered while running to first base after grounding into a double play … Carl Crawford is still day-to-day with a wrist injury, but he took batting practice on Monday is reportedly is very near a return to game action … Cubs utility knife Ryan Theriot is one start away from adding 3B-eligibility to his current 2B/SS designation.

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

  • Billy Butler, KC, OF
    As the No. 62-ranked player in the Yahoo! game for the past month, Butler has been an RBI machine, driving in 24 runs in his past 21 games. He's also hitting .352 in July with a .952 OPS. After hitting just one home run and five extra-base hits in his first 65 at-bats, the Royals rookie clean-up hitter has three home runs and 10 extra-base hits in his past 83 at-bats, evidence that his tremendous raw power is starting to take hold. Despite Brad Evans slobbering all over this guy at the All-Star break in his Bringin' the Noise column, Butler is still available in more than 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Evans' post-AS break prediction for Butler – .289 BA, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 36 R – is starting to look conservative.

PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm

  • Alexi Casilla, Min, 2B (ETA – Now)
    With Luis Castillo headed to the Mets in a deal for prospects, Casilla is slated to take over at second base in Minnesota. He had a 14-game run with the Twins in April, when he hit just .233. But he stole four bases in four attempts, flashing his true value to fantasy leaguers – speed. In 396 career minor league games, Casilla has swiped 177 bases, which works out to a 162-game average of 77 steals. The Twins No. 7 prospect for '07 according to Baseball America makes good contact and has hit near .300 for his minor league career. But much like his predecessor, he has no power whatsoever. Simply put, as someone who will see regular at bats for the foreseeable future, he's purely a SB add. Only those with a need for speed need apply.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Kenny Lofton, Cle, OF – Lofton will platoon with Jason Michaels, but he'll bat second behind Grady Sizemore and in front of Victor Martinez in the fourth-highest scoring offense in the league.

Mike Piazza, Oak, C – A candidate to be dealt, Piazza has hit .400 with 2 HR and 11 RBI since returning from the DL on July 20.

Ross Gload, KC, OF – Gload hit a cool .500 (12-for-24) this past week with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 7 R.

Morgan Ensberg, Hou, 3B – Once a notable name in fantasy circles, Ensberg was designated for assignment by Houston when they acquired Ty Wigginton in a deal for Dan Wheeler.

Travis Hafner, Cle, 1B – Fantasy owners aren't exactly getting to bask in Hafner's added 1B eligibility this season. He's hitting .178 in his past 12 games, dropping his season BA to .258.

Yahoo! Sports Blog Funston League Update
It finally happened. After spurning numerous offers for Jose Reyes, I finally relented and traded the Mets' mega roto star. Bleach168, sitting 6.5 points out of first and standing to make a significant gain in SB with the addition of Reyes, offered up Michael Young and Francisco Cordero for Reyes. I also mulled another deal – Rafael Furcal and Erik Bedard for Reyes. Both deals made sense – I need serious pitching help and I'm firmly locked in with 11 points in SB, so Reyes' primary value has become moot for me. When Bleach168 agreed to take on Sammy Sosa in exchange for Jose Guillen as part of the package, I became amenable to consummating the deal. Realistically, I'm just trying to save some face at this point. My eleventh-place standing has been one of the more frustrating experiences of my fantasy career. Just like winning the Blog football league last season was one of the more satisfying experiences.

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