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The Skinny: Wily Mo, Snow and more

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1st Chair: Shawn Camp
2nd Chair: Jaime Cerda
Skinny: Jeremy Affeldt struck out the side Sunday for Triple-A Omaha to earn his second save in as many appearances during his rehab assignment. The Kansas City Star reports that Affeldt may rejoin the Royals as soon as Aug. 20. The smart fantasy play is to wait for Affeldt's return. Manager Tony Pena refuses to go with the same guy in back-to-back chances. One guy who is certainly out of the rotation is Nate Field, who was placed on the DL Saturday and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
1st Chair: Dustin Hermanson
2nd Chair: Jason Christiansen
Skinny: Hermanson is 3-for-3 with saves on the line after retiring the Phillies in order Sunday to preserve a 3-1 win. He's not overpowering hitters, but in recording those three saves he has allowed just one hit in 3.2 innings. He could be a difference-maker down the stretch in many fantasy leagues. Christiansen bailed out Matt Herges on several occasions and remains a viable left-handed option for manager Felipe Alou.
1st Chair: Greg Aquino
2nd Chair: Mike Fetters, Mike Koplove
Skinny: Aquino struck out Mike Cameron with a runner on base to preserve a 2-0 win for Randy Johnson Sunday. It was his fourth successful save conversion in as many tries since assuming closer duties. Jose Valverde was roughed up in a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tucson Friday. He allowed six baserunners and four earned runs in one inning. He may return to the Diamondbacks bullpen as early as Aug. 20.
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Damaso Marte
Skinny: Takatsu allowed three singles and a walk in the ninth inning Sunday, but managed to hold on to tally his 12th save in a 5-4 win over Boston. He was shaky, but did record a key strikeout of David Ortiz who represented the tying run. Takatsu notched two saves over the weekend despite allowing four earned runs. Manager Ozzie Guillen defended his closer, telling the Chicago Tribune that poor setup work forced him to bring Takatsu in during the eighth inning twice against Boston. He prefers to have his closer pitch the ninth only.
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Mike Remlinger, Ryan Dempster
Skinny: Hawkins will be eligible to return from his three-game suspension Tuesday for the opener of a three-game series at Milwaukee. Mike Remlinger recorded the only save for the Chicago bullpen while Hawkins was unavailable. Manager Dusty Baker told the Chicago Sun-Times he has confidence in Remlinger as a seventh-, eighth- or ninth-inning option. He can't profess the same confidence right now in struggling setup men Kyle Farnsworth and Kent Mercker.
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Luis Ayala
Skinny: The Canadian Press reported that Cordero was surprised he didn't get the call in the ninth inning Sunday in a game Montreal would lose 5-4 to Houston. Manager Frank Robinson went with Ayala, who suffered his third blown save of the season. Cordero had allowed homers to Jeff Kent and Morgan Ensberg Friday while blowing a save of his own. Cordero has converted 11 of his last 12 save chances, so it would be hard to believe that Robinson would allow one blowup to alter his ninth-inning strategy.
1st Chair: Bob Wickman
2nd Chair: Bob Howry
Skinny: Wickman recorded a scoreless inning Sunday and now has five saves to go along with six shutout innings in August. He'll be closing games as long as Cleveland remains in the pennant chase. Manager Eric Wedge went with Howry in the eighth inning to set up four of the five saves. He stands to inherit closer duties if Wickman suffers a physical setback as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
1st Chair: J.J. Putz
2nd Chair: George Sherrill
Skinny: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Wednesday that J.J. Putz would take over closer duties for Seattle after Eddie Guardado was lost to a torn rotator cuff. Putz pitched a scoreless ninth inning against the Yankees Sunday in a non-save situation. He is 2-for-2 this month with games on the line. The Post also reported that Sherrill, Scott Atchison and Shigetoshi Hasegawa would share setup duties.
1st Chair: Tim Worrell
2nd Chair: Felix Rodriguez
Skinny: Billy Wagner played catch Saturday for the first time since August 5 and experienced no pain. He was scheduled to throw again Sunday and then re-evaluate his situation Tuesday according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Worrell has two blown saves and a 6.43 ERA in August, but this looks like his job until Wagner returns.
1st Chair: Jorge Julio
2nd Chair: B.J. Ryan
Skinny: It looks like B.J. Ryan owners will have to wait until 2005 to see how their guy shapes up as a closer. Saturday's Baltimore Sun reported that both Ryan and Julio were claimed via waivers this month, forcing the Orioles to pull both players back. That means Julio is staying put, leaving Ryan to continue posting closer-like numbers in a setup role.
1st Chair: Armando Benitez
2nd Chair: Guillermo Mota
Skinny: Benitez struck out Lyle Overbay and Russ Branyan while pitching a 1-2-3 10th inning Sunday to earn his first save since July 22. He now has four strikeouts in two innings since returning from the DL. Fantasy owners shouldn't be alarmed to see Mota pick up the occasional save in August. Before moving to the DL, Benitez was on pace to set a new career-high in innings pitched.
1st Chair: Troy Percival
2nd Chair: Francisco Rodriguez
Skinny: Percival bounced back from a rough outing to record his 23rd save of the season on Sunday. He had allowed two runs Friday and was tagged with a loss. Manager Mike Scioscia will continue to guard against overworking his closer. Percival had pitched five times in eight days, so Scioscia allowed Rodriguez to pitch the ninth Saturday. K-Rod has two saves and 13 strikeouts in 5.2 August innings.
As you stare at this page today, only three weeks remain until the fantasy playoffs in Head-to-Head leagues. Rotisserie leagues are winding down as well. Everything seems backwards these days. If the numbers add up right, Ryan Freel can be more valuable to you than Barry Bonds. Five homers and 16 RBIs in a single day can do you no good in a roto league. Now more than ever it's time to examine your team category-by-category. The Skinny is here to help once you've found your weaknesses.

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

  • Barring a trade, Richard Hidalgo has once again become useless. He was hitless Sunday and is now batting .204 with two homers in August. It has become a familiar pattern with Hidalgo. He hit four homers in his first eight games with Houston this year, then embarked on a 52-game homerless tour of the N.L. Central. After he was dealt to the Mets he binged again, pounding out eight homers in his first 16 games with New York. Since then: seven homers and only five multi-hit games in 35 contests.

If you're looking for some outfield alternatives, take a look at Brad Wilkerson (.343, 31 runs scored over last 30 days), Kevin Millar (.402, 8 HR, 24 RBIs same span), Bernie Williams (5 homers, 20 RBIs) or Tike Redman (.347, 6 stolen bases). Seems like it takes opening day or a change of scenery to recharge Hidalgo's batteries. Since neither is on the horizon, The Skinny recommends shuffling between hot hands rather than staying on this sinking ship.

  • Several weeks ago it was Bucky mania sweeping through the fantasy baseball world, now everyone is crying for more Wily Mo. Cincinnati's center fielder was all over the highlight reels this weekend – blasting a tape measure homer (one of two on the night) one minute, then making a Griffey-like daredevil catch against the center field fence the next. It was enough to make Wily Mo Pena the most added batter in all Yahoo! leagues on Sunday. More than 6,000 managers bought into the hype.

Given my own propensity for riding the hot hand, I can't advise against giving Wily Mo a shot. However, fantasy owners should know what they are getting. Since Griff made his last start on Aug. 4, Pena is batting just .268 (11-for-41). Two of his five homers this month were hit at Coors Field. There is no denying Pena's potential as a power hitter, but at this stage of his development, he's prone to hot and cold streaks. As a replacement for Griffey, he is a viable option. Just don't expect a savior.

  • A pair of remarkable individual efforts grabbed the attention of Yahoo! fantasy owners this weekend. Most remarkable was J.T. Snow, who hit three moonshot home runs Friday in what was his best performance at the plate since he saved Dusty Baker's son from sure harm during the 2002 World Series. First the numbers: Snow is batting .403 with six homers, 24 runs scored and 16 RBIs in the last month. Now the reality: Snow is no more valuable today than he was during batting practice on Friday. The Giants remain in the wild card race because players have stepped up at various times all year – now happens to be Snow's time. Like Pedro Feliz and Edgardo Alfonzo before him, he'll come down to earth shortly.

Also noteworthy is the current run of Cleveland's Ben Broussard, who hit his third grand slam of the season Thursday and followed it with a three-run blast Friday. Broussard is now hitting .410 with 13 RBIs in 15 August games. Before you run to check his availability, remember that he's still not an every day player. The Indians acquired Josh Phelps to play first base against lefties, so you'll have to settle for what he can produce as a pinch hitter in those games.

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

  • Nook Logan, DET, CF – Logan is a good short-term add for managers looking to steal a category win or a rotisserie point in the stolen base category. With Alex Sanchez once again on the DL, Logan is getting a chance to play every day. Hitting out of the No. 9 position, Logan is batting .390 (16-for-41) on the season. He has 38 steals for Triple-A Toledo in 2004. He may well get optioned when Sanchez returns, so watch this situation closely.
  • Bronson Arroyo, BOS, SP – Arroyo is a nice strikeout option for managers who have soured on Detroit's Nate Robertson after his recent struggles. Arroyo has punched out 62 batters in his last 67 innings. In 10 of his last 12 starts, Arroyo has allowed three or fewer earned runs. Hard luck has kept his win total down, but his numbers in the remaining categories are favorable. The wins will come if he can maintain his effectiveness (0.97 WHIP in July, 1.11 in August).

SPEED-O-METER: Checking the latest movements on the basepaths

  • Luis Terrero, ARI, OF (2 steals last week) – With Luis Gonzalez sidelined for the rest of the season, Terrero has an everyday spot in the lineup. He was caught stealing Sunday, but is hitting .320 in August. He stole 15 bases at Triple-A Tucson this season.
  • Corey Patterson, CHI, OF (Doing it all) – Patterson has a home run or stolen base in eight of the 13 games he has played this month. He's batting .364 in August.
  • David DeJesus, KAN, OF (Run-scoring machine) – DeJesus stole his fourth base of the season Sunday and scored two runs. He is batting .383 in August with 11 runs scored and two stolen bases.
  • Larry Walker, STL, OF (4 steals/last 6 games) – Walker was transformed into Willie McGee when he was moved to the No. 2 spot by St. Louis. He has four steals, two homers and six RBIs in six games in that slot.
  • Scott Podsednik, MIL, OF (Fantasy value dwindling) – Podsednik was benched again last week – this time for a mental error on the basepaths. Since sitting out back-to-back games last weekend, he is just 3-for-19 with no runs scored.
  • Joey Gathright, TB, OF (Back up again) – Gathright was recalled once again by Tampa Bay, this time when Rocco Baldelli was placed on the DL. He immediately made an impact, collecting three hits and attempting two steals over the weekend. He was caught Saturday but recorded his sixth steal in seven tries on Sunday.
  • B.J. Upton, TB, SS (No tries yet) – Upton is 11-for-23 with five runs scored in his last six games. He stole 20 bases in 25 tries in the minor leagues this year.
  • Juan Pierre, FLA, OF (1 steal/last 15 games) – Another frustrating run for Pierre owners (no pun intended). To make matters worse, he's 1-for-20 at the plate since Wednesday.
  • Jose Reyes, NYM, SS (Back on the shelf) – Only Jose Reyes could break a leg in mid-August and not be done for the season. He has been teasing us all season, but The Skinny isn't going to wait around this time.
  • Omar Infante, DET, SS (3 steals/last 8 games) – Infante is batting .318 with three stolen bases and five RBIs in August.
  • Jeff DaVanon, ANA, OF (Activated from DL) – Speed-O-Meter favorite Jeff DaVanon is back in the Anaheim lineup after missing three weeks with a bad wheel. He had three steals in five games prior to going on the DL.
  • David Newhan, BAL (3 steals/last 9 games) – Newhan had his second four-hit game of the month Sunday. He's now batting .344 in August with 11 runs scored in 14 games.
  • Rafael Furcal, ATL, SS (8 steals/last 11 games) – Trying to run away from the bust tag after stealing only five bases from May through July.

PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm

  • Mark Teahen, KC, 3B (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
    In the book "Moneyball," Oakland prospect Mark Teahen drew comparisons to Jason Giambi. In 53 games with Double-A Midland this season, he made Billy Beane proud, posting a .419 on-base percentage with six homers and 36 RBIs. There is one major flaw with the Giambi comparisons, however. Teahen plays third base – and that's where Oakland has Eric Chavez and his growing collection of Gold Gloves. So the A's traded Teahen in the Octavio Dotel deal. He hasn't stopped hitting since. Teahen homered Thursday and Sunday and how has seven long ones in 43 games since joining Triple-A Omaha. Look for Kansas City to give Teahen a long look down the stretch as they prepare for Joe Randa's eventual departure.
  • Jeff Francis, COL, SP (Triple-A) – ETA: August 25
    The Skinny will stick with this developing story again this week, as Francis' situation is the most likely to have an immediate fantasy impact. He was at it again Saturday – allowing only one hit while striking out seven in six innings to earn his third Triple-A win of the season. Colorado prevented him from playing for Canada in the Athens games in order to accelerate his arrival in the majors. He's expected to debut with the Rockies next week at Atlanta.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
28 Consecutive scoreless innings recorded by Joe Nathan entering play this week. Nathan, who hasn't been scored upon since June 6, has blanked opponents in 50 of 52 appearances in 2004.

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