WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- The Skinny has patiently awaited the delivery of two things this year: season two of Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD and Tampa Bay super-prospect B.J. Upton. The second finally arrived Sunday when the Devil Rays promoted the shortstop from Triple-A Durham. To borrow a phrase from Larry David, this guy should prove to be pretty, pretty, pretty good. Just 19, Upton is already drawing comparisons to a young Derek Jeter.
Manager Lou Piniella told the Tampa Tribune that Upton will see plenty of playing time down the stretch. He'll probably make his Major League debut as a designated hitter batting near the bottom of the order, but will gradually become the team's everyday shortstop. Upton hit .315 with 14 homers, 51 RBIs and 20 steals in 88 combined games between Durham and Double-A Montgomery. He will hit the waiver wire shortly and deserves immediate attention in AL-only leagues. Julio Lugo moves to second base to make room for the former No. 1 draft pick.
- If you miss out on the Upton sweepstakes, another shortstop for AL-only managers to keep an eye on is Seattle's Jose Lopez. He was called up Saturday and recorded his first Major League hit Sunday. Widely regarded as the top position player in the Seattle system, Lopez hit .295 with 13 homers and 39 RBIs with Triple-A Tacoma this year. He posted similar power numbers along with 18 steals in 2003 at the Double-A level. Manager Bob Melvin told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Lopez would get a long look the rest of the way. He doesn't arrive with Upton-like fanfare, but could fit in nicely in a young lineup that already includes breakthrough fantasy contributors Bucky Jacobsen and Justin Leone.
- How did Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball PLUS managers react to the trade deadline? Well, Sunday they jumped all over Orlando Cabrera. Batting third in the Boston lineup, he homered in his first American League at bat. He also made a crucial error, but Yahoo! owners are banking on a change of address to jump-start his season. Passing him in the other direction were Jose Contreras and Dave Roberts. Roberts becomes a part-time role player with Boston and deserves a trip to the fantasy scrap heap. The Skinny will give Contreras one start with the Sox before passing judgment.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Aaron Miles, COL, 2B – If you are a young player who receives any degree of pre-season hype, you had better deliver on that promise in a hurry or fantasy owners will forget all about you. That's exactly what has happened with Miles, who is owned in barely 15 percent of leagues after limping out of the gate with 11 runs and 11 RBIs in the season's first two months combined. We hardly noticed when he hit .361 in June. In July alone he scored 19 runs, drove in 14 and stole four bases, yet we couldn't be bothered. Sunday he collected three hits, a home run, two RBIs and a stolen base. OK, Aaron, you've got our attention.
- John Lackey, ANA, SP – Like teammate Bartolo Colon, Lackey is enjoying a resurgence after a slow start. Since June 6, he has won six of eight decisions. He has allowed three or fewer runs in eight of his last 10 starts. Fantasy owners are just starting to catch on after he held Texas scoreless over eight-plus innings on Wednesday, striking out seven in the process. Lackey was 4-1 in July with 28 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. Anaheim fans and fantasy owners alike will be hoping for a repeat of the 2002 season when Lackey went 7-2 down the stretch for the eventual world champions.
SPEED-O-METER: Checking the latest movements on the basepaths
- Alexis Rios, TOR, OF (3 steals/last 5 games) – In five games as a leadoff hitter, Rios is 6-for-17 with a home run and two stolen bases.
- Corey Patterson, CHI, OF (The next Lou Brock?) – Patterson led off for the first time this season Sunday and responded with two hits and a stolen base. It was his fifth steal since July 21. Manager Dusty Baker told the Chicago Tribune the move could be permanent, and compared Patterson's combination of speed a power to that possessed by Lou Brock.
- Marcus Giles, ATL, 2B (3 steals/last 3 games – Giles tested the patience of fantasy owners by hitting .259 in July.
- Cesar Izturis, LA, SS (3 steals/last 6 games) – Perhaps the most under-appreciated shortstop on the fantasy market, Izturis posted the following numbers in July: .328, 17 runs, 15 RBIs, five stolen bases.
- Jose Reyes, NYM, SS (Back in lineup) – Reyes returned to action Saturday after missing two games with an ankle injury. This latest setback came at the worst possible time for Reyes owners, as he was finally paying dividends with nine steals in an eight-day span.
- Aaron Rowand, CHW, OF (2 steals/last 3 games) – Rowand was 7-for-13 with a homer, three runs and two stolen bases over the weekend. Now batting .400 (22-for-55) as a leadoff hitter.
- Alex Sanchez, DET, OF (First SB since 6/20) – Sanchez hit .378 in July, but missed most of the month due to injury. His stolen base Sunday was his first in more than a month. Speedster Nook Logan was returned to Triple-A upon Sanchez' return.
- Adam Everett, HOU, SS (3 steals/last 7 games) – In his last 11 games, Everett is batting .347 with 14 runs, four homers and nine RBIs.
- Joey Gathright, TB, OF (Back to Triple-A) – Gathright was returned to Triple-A Durham Sunday when B.J. Upton was recalled. Gathright was 5-for-5 stealing bases with Tampa Bay and has a combined 44 steals at three levels this season.
- Tony Womack, STL, 2B (Back on the move) – After a stretch of 20 games without a steal, Womack has swiped four bases in his last six games.
- Tike Redman, PIT, OF (3 steals/last 4 games) – Redman went 0-for-4 Sunday to break a string of five straight games with at least two hits. Tike stole six bases in July to compliment a .364 average.
PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm
- Jason Kubel, MIN, OF (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
If you believe the rumors, it was Minnesota's unwillingness to part with Kubel that prevented them from acquiring Kris Benson from Pittsburgh. Sunday, Kubel gave Twins fans a reason to be relieved rather than disappointed at the turn of events. He hit a pair of three-run homers in a 9-7 loss to Syracuse. In his last 23 games, Kubel is hitting .389 with 25 RBIs. With Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Lew Ford already with the big club, Minnesota is stacked with young talent. He won't play a significant role in the 2004 pennant chance, but we should get our first look at Kubel after September call-ups.
- Jesse Foppert, SF, SP (Single-A) – ETA: September 1
In early July the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Foppert's rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery was way ahead of schedule and that he hoped to return to the majors by September. He took a step in that direction Thursday by pitching two scoreless innings in a start for Single-A San Jose. In two appearances with San Jose he has allowed three hits and struck out four in three innings. Foppert was inconsistent yet occasionally brilliant during his rookie season with the Giants in 2003. Getting back to San Francisco this season would be a huge boost for an organization already encouraged by the progress of prospect Matt Cain.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
23 – Career wins for Gred Maddux against the San Francisco Giants in 41 career starts. He'll go for career win No. 300 this weekend against the Giants. He is 2-1 with a 1.25 ERA at SBC Park.