Successful rotisserie play is all about looking ahead, especially in daily leagues, so let's get you something good for Friday. You find the droppable guy, we'll give you the addable piece.
Oakland's Tommy Milone is currently free to grab in 66 percent of Yahoo! leagues, a puzzling number. I know he's not a big strikeout source (63 punchouts in 101.1 innings), but he's not a complete zero in that area, either. And his six home starts have been exquisite: 5-1 record, 0.99 ERA, 0.77 WHIP. The unthreatening Mariners are his opponent Friday, with Kevin Millwood on the mound.
Big park, punchless matchup, quick worker who's around the plate. Sign me up.
There might be a rent-to-own case with the lefty as well; this doesn't have to be a one-night stand. Milone hasn't been much fun during his 10 road starts (3-5, 5.98, 1.54), but I'll give him a partial pass for that resume. The schedule hasn't been too kind to him: he's worked in Boston, Tampa (good park, tricky opponent), Arizona, Colorado, and Texas twice. When he's worked on the road against his non-Texas division mates, the results have been useful (two wins, 18 IP, 18 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 13 K).
Bottom line, this is someone you can probably use 60-70 percent of the time in many mixed leagues; just keep Milone away from the extreme environments. I probably wouldn't use him at Toronto or Baltimore later in July, or in New York in September. Arlington doesn't rear its destructive head again until the last full week of the season.
• Mike Leake was my streaming pick for July 4, and he didn't have a smooth takeoff in LA. The first four Dodgers reached (double, single, single, single) and the hosts eventually plated three runs (two earned) in the first inning.
I actually hadn't changed over to the game yet — I was working on a project at the time — but I was aware of Leake's early struggles. I had no choice. Dissatisfied tweets and emails came from all directions; some members of the Stream Police were not happy. The catcalls stopped when Leake settled into his start, and although he didn't finish with a win, he gave us a very serviceable, useful line (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K). He easily could have gone deeper in the game (pitch count was a modest 86), but unfortunately his Reds mates couldn't do much with Aaron Harang and a pinch-hitter was needed in the top of the eighth.
Trust me when I say I offer this note for you, not for me: it's time to change this type of knee-jerk reaction. You can't judge anything based on four batters or one inning. No one walks out of a movie in the first five minutes. No one wins their fantasy football game at 1:07 pm ET. Let games breathe. Let stories develop. Settle in, settler. Try to learn from what you're seeing, and for the love of all things holy, try to enjoy the game, period. Baseball's supposed to be fun. Roto's supposed to be fun.
And while I welcome respectful disagreement on any of my picks, slants and opinions, offer it to me before a game starts. Everyone knows the winning ticket after the lottery numbers are drawn. Everything looks easy after the fact. The reason we have a fake baseball game in the first place is because calls aren't easy to make before they play the games.
• Gloria Estefan has signed off on the deal and it's official: Carlos Lee is the newest member of the Miami ballclub. Houston didn't get a lot back for Lee, just two mild prospects; Matt Dominguez is a good-glove, no-hit third baseman, while Rob Rasmussen is a 23-year-old lefty who the Astros will immediately promote to Double-A.
(In one silly sense I'm bummed to see Lee leave the Astros, given how well his persona fit the franchise. His nickname is El Caballo and he wears uniform No 45 — that's a perfect match when you're playing for a franchise previously known as the Colt 45s. Ah, I digress.)
You'd like to think Lee's fantasy value gets a boost from this move, given the Marlins have considerably more star power in their lineup. Alas, the Astros have actually outscored the Marlins this year, 334-321. Perhaps the excitement of a pennant race will bring some extra juice and production to Lee; no one can ever quantify that sort of thing, but sometimes a trade to a contender reinvigorates a veteran player.
Fantasy owners won't miss Gaby Sanchez, the Miami first baseman who is now out of a job. It's not clear yet how the Astros plan to handle the vacancy at first base. Brett Wallace could be the eventual pick, but he'll need to show some results before we bother to react in a mixed league.
• I've been getting a few questions on Alexi Amarista, the second baseman (and occasional left fielder) of the Padres. He's been hot of late, putting together a 12-for-25 run with four homers. Bud Black shows no inclination to take the mighty mite (5-8, 150) out of the lineup.
I like believing in stories out of nowhere — if I can find background information that supports the case. There's not much in Amarista's minor-league profile that excites me.
I've seen some internet pundits calling Amarista a new Tony Phillips type. The comparison makes sense strictly from a versatility standpoint: Amarista, like Phillips, can play almost anywhere on the diamond. He doesn't have a great arm so you might not want to make him a permanent outfielder, but he's capable there. He's a plus guy in the infield. Whatever gets you into the lineup.
But Amarista isn't Phillips on offense, not even close. Phillips was a walk-drawing OBP machine who also had power. Amarista's minor-league record shows good averages and contact, a mediocre walk rate, little power, and a disappointing stolen-base percentage (despite plus speed). Perhaps Amarista will eventually figure out what to do on the bases (he's still just 23), but this doesn't look like someone who will give us much category juice in the majors (the recent power binge to the side). I don't see any long-term mixer traction to this story.
• Dee Gordon dislocated his right thumb late in Wednesday's victory over Cincinnati, putting the damper on a snappy fantasy night (double, walk, two steals, one run). An MRI is on the way for Thursday.
I've been concerned about Gordon's fantasy stock for a while, even with his nifty steal total: a .229/.280/.282 slash line is a joke, and Gordon's been a mess in the field, too (17 errors and horrible defensive metrics, for whatever they're worth). At what point might the Dodgers consider this position in dire need of an upgrade? Your leadoff man is an out-making machine and he can't field his position. Speed doesn't magically fix everything.
If you can find a steal-desperate opponent who isn't too worried about Gordon's physical status, I'll sign off on an immediate trade. Or perhaps you can wait until Gordon steals another base or two (restoring consumer confidence), then work on a deal at that point. I don't think this story will have a happy ending in 2012. It's nothing personal, Papa Flash; we're just in it for the numbers.
• Miami's Justin Ruggiano represents an out-of-nowhere story that I'm willing to chase a little bit. The unheralded outfielder is off to a blistering 66 at-bat start with the Marlins (.409, 13 runs, five homers, three steals) and he's ready to add in 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Ruggiano isn't some up-and-coming rookie or prospect, he's already 30. We're talking about a player that's primarily kicked around the minors since 2004, logging 805 games in the bush leagues for a handful of organizations. The Rays gave him a brief spot of playing time in 2007 and 2008 and Ruggiano didn't do much, so the Quad-A label was immediately attached. That's how quick and cruel the business can be when you're not considered a top-shelf prospect.
Ruggiano spent plenty of time at Triple-A Durham through the years (he probably has a good Annie Savoy story or two), showcasing some skills. Ruggiano collected 61 homers and 93 steals over 433 games with the Bulls, and his complete Triple-A slash comes out to a solid .291/.365/.480. There's some talent here, it's just a matter of seeing what it can do with a legitimate chance in the big leagues.
The Marlins certainly could use a boost of offense, as we alluded to in the Lee section. Ruggiano is getting run in center field while Emilio Bonifacio rehabs his thumb injury, and perhaps Ruggiano will receive an extended shot in left field when Bonifacio eventually returns (Bonnie's target date is July 13). Logan Morrison might be a prolific Tweeter, but he's been a bust at the plate this year and he's a carnival act in the field.
Kick the tires on Ruggiano for the rest of the week, maybe you can catch lightning in a bottle. He might have enough ability to carve out a role here.
Speed Round: Casey Janssen continues to cruise while Sergio Santos gets healthy. Janssen is 10-for-10 on save chances since Santos got hurt, and for the year he has a tidy 2.48 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 32 strikeouts against five walks. I can't imagine why Santos would get the ninth inning back. … Carl Crawford (elbow) and Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) have moved their rehab assignments up to Double-A Portland. Barring setbacks, they'll be back in Boston soon. … The Cubs have told Carlos Marmol that he's no longer allowed to shake off the catcher's sign, and so far, so good. Marmol feels the new approach keeps him from thinking too much. As Crash Davis used to say, "Don't think, Meat, you're hurting the club." … Jonny Venters (elbow) is now on the disabled list, reminding us how it's often a mistake to chase last year's middle-relief hero. Yeah, I know, Kenley Jansen worked out fine. Nothing's perfect. … Yasmani Grandal clubbed his fourth home run in Thursday's win at Arizona, enjoying the road life in the majors. Sorry kid, Petco Park awaits your arrival. But you might be a Top 12 fantasy catcher the rest of the way, nonetheless. … I tracked just about every Adam Wainwright pitch Wednesday because that's what I do (next time, I'll salute Wainwright by eating his sandwich of choice). It was frustrating to watch Matt Holliday play a bloop single into a gift triple, but we all know the Cardinals have major problems with their corner-outfield defense. Temporary first baseman Allen Craig did bail out Wainwright in the sixth, starting a snappy double play to squelch a Colorado threat. All in all, this was the Wainwright (6 IP, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K) that you signed up for in March. He's really close to being a star again.