What a bust. If I wanted hours and hours of debate and negotiations without seeing any deals consummated, I would have spent the weekend trying to swing a trade in my keeper league. Efforts would have been similarly futile, but at least I would have come away with an entertaining e-mail or two. Some big names were tossed around all weekend, but in the end the trade deadline came and went with a whimper. Without any impact trades to analyze, we'll start the week by updating some other big stories in fantasy baseball:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Prospect watchers are already very familiar with the name Felix Hernandez. For the uninitiated, just think about how crazy the hype surrounding Dwight Gooden would have been had the internet existed when he debuted in 1984. That's what you have with Hernandez. The kid is only 19 and has made just 14 starts above the Double-A level, but already he is being compared with some all-time greats. Can he deliver? We may find out sooner than later. Among the many rumors flying around Sunday was one that speculated Seattle would call up the hard-throwing righty as early as this week.
He pitched four innings of no-hit ball Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma, striking out seven and walking two in what could be his last minor league start. No official announcement had been made as of Monday morning, but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer speculated that a promotion was eminent. According to the report, he would debut out of the bullpen. For fantasy owners, it will be hard not to claim Hernandez when he hits the waiver wire. Scouts say he has three big-league ready pitches and a fastball that reaches 96-97 mph. At Tacoma, he was 7-3 with a 2.25 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 88 innings – numbers accumulated in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
- The injury suffered by Torii Hunter Friday left a hole in the Minnesota lineup and sent more than a few rotisserie owners scrambling for help. Though he's rarely mentioned among elite fantasy outfielders, Hunter has been a reliable 20/20 threat for several years. The run production had slowed a bit in July, but he was still on his way to a 90-run, 90-RBI, 30-steal season before his left foot met the outfield wall at Fenway Park. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, team doctors fear that Hunter has a torn tendon in his left ankle. If Monday's MRI backs up that diagnosis, season-ending surgery is a very real possibility.
Curiously, Minnesota didn't address the void at the trade deadline. That means the club is prepared to play out the season with Lew Ford as their regular center fielder. A year ago, Ford scored 89 runs and stole 20 bases, though he spent most of the year batting in the top third of the Twins lineup. He batted seventh Sunday after hitting in the third position Saturday. Ford is watch-worthy, but widely available outfielders who can make a more dramatic impact are: Matt Holliday, David DeJesus, Luis Matos and possibly even Gary Matthews Jr., if he can keep up his recent tear.
- Dustin McGowan hasn't won a professional decision since very early in the 2004 season. How, then, does he find his way into The Skinny? Simple – he struck out six in his major league debut, the most ever by a Toronto pitcher making his first start. McGowan was starting in place of the injured Ted Lilly. So how did he get here despite his year-long win drought? First off, 2004 wasn't his fault. He started 2-0 at Double-A New Hampshire, but his season was cut short by Tommy John surgery. He had been effective in 11 minor league starts this season, but had only a 0-3 record to show for it.
The hard luck, sadly, may have followed him to Toronto. He was borderline brilliant at times against the Rangers – reaching the mid-90s consistently while holding Texas to two hits and a single earned run over five innings. The result: another no decision. According to the Toronto Sun, manager John Gibbons would like to see McGowan get at least one more start before returning him to the minors. Fantasy owners should use that start to scout this youngster for a potential September call-up. That is, of course, assuming he doesn't pitch his way into the rotation right now.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Juan Uribe, SS, ChW
Last year in July and August, Uribe hit .323 with 10 homers and 34 RBI in 44 games. In 2005 Yahoo! leagues, he was drafted ahead of the likes of Bobby Crosby, Pedro Feliz and Julio Lugo. Today, he's an afterthought – cast aside by all but the most patient of rotisserie owners after a prolonged slump that carried into early July. Is the worst behind him? Recent results hint at a strong recovery. Uribe collected three hits Sunday to improve his July average to .250. Not all that impressive, but he does lead all shortstop-eligible players with 18 RBIs over the past 30 days. He looks like a great buy-low candidate for the stretch run.
- Brad Halsey, SP, Ari
Halsey pitched six strong innings at Chicago Thursday to improve to 3-0 on the road in the month of July. He needed only 73 pitches to keep the Cubs scoreless before he was removed for a pinch-hitter. Arizona's key acquisition in the Randy Johnson trade, Halsey finished the month with an ERA of 2.20, a 1.07 WHIP and a .243 opponent's average. June was a disaster from start to finish for this kid, but if you exclude that month he's 7-3 on the season with favorable WHIP and ERA totals. He should be one of the top sleepers for the season's final two months.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Matt Diaz, OF, KC (ETA – August)
Despite hitting .332 with 21 homers and 93 RBIs at Triple-A Durham in 2004, Diaz was let go by the Devil Rays during the offseason. The release was a courtesy more than anything. The Tampa organization was deep in outfielders and the move gave Diaz a chance to catch on elsewhere. In this case, "elsewhere" happens to be with an organization desperate for corner outfielders. Diaz was up with the Royals earlier this season, and the way he's hitting lately he'll get another shot soon. He was 5-for-5 with two homers Sunday, just a few days after going 6-for-6. Overall, he is batting .411 with 16 doubles and eight homers in 33 games for KC's top developmental affiliate.
- Jon Papelbon, SP, Bos (ETA – debuted Sunday)
Papelbon began his big league career Sunday by striking out the first two batters he faced. He was forced to battle here and there over the course of his five-plus innings of work, but overall the debut was a success. The hard-throwing righty struck out seven Minnesota batters before leaving in the sixth. He has pitched at three levels this season, the longest stint coming at Double-A Portland where he went 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA. According to Baseball America, he has the best fastball in the Boston system.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Jeff Francoeur, RF, Atl – If you haven't already jumped on this kid, you might be too late. The rookie is nine for his last 20 with three homers and eight RBIs.
Claudio Vargas, SP, Ari – Vargas has won four of his past five decisions and he finished July with some impressive splits: 2.01 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .222 opponent's average.
Rich Hill SP, Chi(N) – News that Kerry Wood will join the Chicago bullpen when he returns from the DL means that Hill can, at the very least, continue to rack up some decent strikeout totals. In his past three outings, Hill has allowed only four runs while striking out a batter an inning in 15 innings of work.
Jason LaRue, C, Cin – Since mid-May, LaRue is batting .323 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in just over 40 games. He's 6-for-12 with two homers and five RBIs in his past four games.
Chip Ambres, LF, KC – Though the club views him as a fourth outfielder, Ambres is performing like a guy who wants a featured role. He stole a base Tuesday and hit his first major league homer two nights later. He had 10 homers and 19 steals this season with Triple-A Pawtucket in the Boston organization.
Chris Duffy, CF, Pit – With only Jason Bay getting the job done below him in the lineup, but it should be noted that Duffy is 10 for his last 20 with four runs scored and two stolen bases. He was hitting .308 in the minors before Pittsburgh recalled him.
Conor Jackson, 1B, Ari – Jackson is expected to platoon at first base with Tony Clark for the time being. The heralded prospect hit .354 with 38 doubles and eight homers at Triple-A Tucson before getting the call.
Jeff Francis, SP, Col – Ever heard the phrase, "make sure this pitcher is in your lineup when he plays AT Coors Field?" That's exactly the case with Francis, who improved to 8-2 at home with a win Sunday.
Jay Payton, OF, Oak – Payton hasn't stopped hitting since joining the A's. His home runs Sunday gave him four for the month to go along with 13 RBIs in 15 games.
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Mil – As they say, it doesn't take long for the book to get published. Weeks is just two for his last 22 after a hot start.
B.J. Ryan, RP, Bal – His job is secure for now, but it's hard to ignore the 8.68 ERA over the past month.
Aaron Hill, 3B, Tor – Like Weeks, Hill has seen a dramatic drop-off in productivity. The rookie hit just .209 in July with one homer and seven RBIs.
Yahoo! Experts League Update
FantasyGuru will lead this league in moves if not the standings. Jeff Francoeur and Fernando Rodney are two of the latest to be brought into the fold. Dropping Matt Clement seems like a risk given his quick recovery from last week's brutal injury.