Fantasy Skinny: Bucky, Morneau and more

Matt Romig
1st Chair: David Riske
2nd Chair: Bob Wickman
Skinny: Riske blinked first in the closer showdown, allowing three meaningless runs in an 18-6 win over Seattle Friday. To make matters worse, he and manager Eric Wedge had words after the game over how Riske reacted to getting yanked. Wickman faltered next, yielding two runs on four hits in a game Riske eventually saved Saturday. This is a situation to watch, but The Skinny thinks Wedge will get more long-term benefit out of sticking by Riske.
1st Chair: Ryan Bukvich
2nd Chair: Nate Field
Skinny: Bukvich used a fastball in the mid-90s to strike out Torri Hunter Thursday while earning his first Major League save. Manager Tony Pena told the Kansas City Star that Bukvich is a little different than everyone else in the Royals bullpen. What exactly he meant by that is unclear, but with a save under his belt and 4.1 hitless innings on the season, maybe the difference is that he can actually get guys out.
1st Chair: Matt Herges
2nd Chair: Felix Rodriguez
Skinny: The Skinny went on record last week at the Yahoo! compound and said that Herges would not last the month as Giants closer. This was after he was pulled from Thursday's game but before he allowed homers to Preston Wilson and Jeremy Burnitz Sunday. Felipe Alou has had to yank Herges in consecutive appearances, which could be a signal for general manager Brian Sabean to go out and get him a legitimate closer
1st Chair: Mike Koplove
2nd Chair: Randy Choate, Brian Bruney
Skinny: Koplove blew a save Saturday, hitting two batters and walking another in the process. After the game manager Al Pedrique told the Arizona Republic that Koplove was his closer, but that the team may have to go in another direction. Unfortunately, you can look any direction you want in the Arizona bullpen. You're not going to find a better option right now.
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Kyle Farnsworth, Francis Beltran
Skinny: Hawkins closed out Milwaukee Thursday and is now 12-for-15 on save conversions in 2004. The Cubs are rumored to be interested in several closers, including Detroit's Ugueth Urbina. A move would almost certainly return Hawkins to his setup role, so now is a good time to test his value on the trade market.
1st Chair: Shawn Chacon
2nd Chair: Tim Harikkala
Skinny: Given what he's already put up with, there is no reason to think that manager Clint Hurdle will make a change after Chacon suffered his seventh blown save of the season Thursday. It was his first slip-up after a string of seven straight conversions.
1st Chair: Jorge Julio
2nd Chair: B.J. Ryan
Skinny: Julio made it 4-for-4 in July Friday by retiring Jose Cruz Jr. on a weak pop fly after allowing a solo homer to Aubrey Huff that brought the tying run to the plate. The heat is still on, however, as Julio has allowed two homers and six total baserunners in his last three outings. Ryan's shutout streak now stands at 22 innings. He's allowed only five hits and seven walks while fanning 27 during the stretch.
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Luis Ayala
Skinny: Non-save situations have spelled disaster for Montreal closers all season. When compared to some of Rocky Biddle's meltdowns, Cordero got off easy Friday when he allowed two hits and two runs (one earned) against Atlanta. Ayala is working on a 14-inning scoreless streak and is the main reason why Cordero hasn't been excused from the hot seat all together.
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Damaso Marte
Skinny: Manager Ozzie Guillen created all kinds of confusion Saturday when he appeared to signal for Takatsu in the eighth inning with Marte on the hill and a lefty at the plate. He stuck with Marte, forcing a confused Takatsu to return to the bullpen. For now, Guillen is leaving no doubt about who he wants out there in the ninth inning. Takatsu is 3-for-3 converting saves since he got the hook in the ninth inning on July 4.
1st Chair: Troy Percival
2nd Chair:Francisco Rodriguez
Skinny: Percival hadn't piched since July 11, so he got an inning of work Sunday in a 6-2 loss to Boston. K-Rod struck out the side in the ninth inning Saturday to close out the Sox in a non-save situation. We know Rodriguez can handle the closer duties. It's just a matter of whether he'll get another shot.
1st Chair: Jason Frasor
2nd Chair: Vinnie Chulk
Skinny: Frasor has been scored upon only once in his last eight trips to the mound. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, Toronto has been equally stingy when it comes to delivering save chances to the bullpen. He's inherited only seven save opportunities since June 1. Chulk surrendered a grand slam to Mark Teixeira Sunday. He's allowed runs in three of his last four outings after blanking opponents in 14 of his first 15 trips to the mound.
1st Chair: Ugueth Urbina
2nd Chair: Esteban Yan
Skinny: Urbina struck out Gary Sheffield and Ruben Sierra in the final frame Sunday to preserve a 4-2 win over the Yankees. Talks of a trade may be on hold as Detroit is suddenly only 4.5 games out of first in the AL Central. It's still not a bad idea to shop him around, as a deal could turn him into a setup guy if the Tigers falter. German earned his 19th and 20th saves at Triple-A Toledo last week and stands to inherit Urbina's role if a deal is struck.

It was a good weekend for The Skinny. Friday began with an experts football draft hosted by Yahoo! Sports. You'll be hearing plenty more about that in and around this space in coming weeks. Saturday my no-name bullpen (Takatsu, Riske, Smoltz) came through with a trio of saves. Sunday Nate Robertson beat the Yankees. At least for this weekend, The Skinny was looking more like an expert and less like a guy who won a spot in the league by being the 11th caller. The rest of the week that was:

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

  • Having devoted so much time to tracking the progress of minor league third basemen Andy Marte (Braves), Dallas McPherson (Angles) and David Wright (Mets), The Skinny managed to allow a solid Major League debut sneak by unnoticed. This one belonged to Justin Leone, a Seattle prospect who was promoted after hitting 21 homers and driving in 50 runs in 68 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Leone got his first Major League hit on July 7, but didn't make his big splash until last weekend. Thursday he hit a two-run homer to break up Jake Westbrook's shutout bid. Friday he once again accounted for all the runs allowed by an opposing starter, taking Cliff Lee deep for a three-run shot in the fourth inning. Between Leone and Bucky Jacobson (profiled below), Seattle fans and fantasy owners have at least a couple things to get excited about during the stretch run.

  • Justin Morneau hit his first homer since May on Saturday, a solo shot off Kansas City's Jimmy Gobble. Fantasy owners have been waiting for this guy to get his shot, and that's just what he has with Doug Mientkiewicz on the disabled list. Mientkiewicz is great with the glove, but he has only three homers and 11 RBIs since May 13. That's a typical weekend's worth of production from Morneau, who has 22 homers and 63 RBIs in 72 games at Triple-A Rochester. Get him on your watch list now.
  • Carl Everett was acquired once again by Chicago Sunday, a move that caused a serious spike in sales of batteries and bleacher seats in the Oakland area. Unfortunately for A's fans, all that soft-toss in the parking lot went to waste, as Everett was not with the team yet. Everett has been slowed by injuries this year, but he is only one season removed from hitting 28 homers and driving in 92 runs. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Everett will start in right field until Magglio Ordonez is ready to return to fielding duties. The Sox are not expecting to have Frank Thomas back this season, so Everett is a good bet to stick at DH the rest of the way.

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

  • Ryan Klesko, SD, 1B – The run production hasn't started to spike yet, but Klesko is finally finding his stroke. Sunday he homered off Houston's Brad Lidge. For the month he's hitting .360 with 10 runs, two homers and seven RBIs. He won't return to his 2001 form (can you believe this used to be a 20/20 guy?), but if he stays hot he can add value at both first base and outfield on your fantasy roster.
  • Ricardo Rodriguez, TEX SP – Rapidly solidifying his position in the Texas rotation. Shutout Cleveland on July 8 and then won his second straight start Saturday by holding Toronto scoreless over six-plus innings. He'll face a tough test this week against Anaheim. He likely won't survive long on the free agent list if that start is a successful one.

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

  • Luis Terrero, ARI, OF (First Major League steal) – Terrero has seven hits in his last 15 at-bats. He stole his first base last Sunday.
  • Randy Winn, SEA, OF (3 steals/last 5 games) – Now batting .373 with four homers, 14 RBIs and five steals in July.
  • Omar Vizquel, CLE, SS (5 steals/last 9 games) – Continued his fantasy resurgence with a steal and two hits Sunday. Now hitting .382 with 13 runs scored in July.
  • Joey Gathright, TB, OF (Back in the Bigs) – Gathright re-joined the Devil Rays over the weekend, scoring two runs and delivering an RBI single in Sunday's win. He stole three bases in his first six major league games in late June.
  • David Eckstein, ANA, SS (Nine-game hitting streak) – Has scored 10 runs during the streak.
  • Ryan Freel, CIN, 3B (3 steals/last 4 games) – Also hitting .391 in July. Splitting time between center and third base after the Griffey injury.
  • David Newhan, BAL, 3B (2nd stolen base) – Collected two hits and a stolen base Sunday and continues to produce well beyond expectations.
  • Brian Roberts, BAL, 2B (0 steals in July) – If he's not available in your league, it's probably because he's on your roster and you're holding on to him too long.
  • Aaron Rowand, CHW, OF (Prefers to jog) – In eight games as a leadoff hitter, Rowand has three homers and a .346 average. Also has two stolen bases when sitting atop the lineup.
  • Dave Roberts, LA, OF (6 steals/last 7 games) – As only Dave Roberts can do it – he has only five hits during the same stretch.
  • Lew Ford, MIN, OF (2 steals/last 4 games) – Hitting only .228 in July, so recent speed burst is a welcome bonus.
  • David DeJesus, KC, OF (5 runs/last 5 games) – Carlos Beltran's replacement in KC stole a base Thursday and is starting to look more comfortable at the plate.
  • Jolbert Cabrera, SEA, OF (6-for-6 this year) – Hitting .313 with seven runs and two stolen bases in nine July games.

PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm

  • Bucky Jacobsen, SEA, 1B – ETA: Currently with Seattle
    Jacobsen won the home run contest at the Triple-A All-Star game July 12, hitting a Roy Hobbs-like blast that broke the window of a television truck in the process. Like the man he beat in the finals, Minnesota's Justin Morneau, he'd find himself in the Major Leagues the next day. What you have with Jacobsen is your prototypical strapping power hitter. With Triple-A Tacoma he blasted 26 homers and drove in 86 runs. In his second Major League start, he hit a 420-foot homer off Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia. Sunday he took Scott Elarton deep just two pitches after the righty had buzzed his head with a fastball. They are already talking about Bucky-mania in Seattle, which will likely touch off some waiver activity in many Yahoo! leagues.
  • Jeff Francis, COL, SP (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
    Francis has one test left to pass – maintaining his dominance in the thin air of Colorado Springs. Saturday the 23-year-old lefty made his Triple-A debut at New Orleans and struck out 12 in seven one-hit innings to earn the win. His numbers at Double-A Tulsa speak for themselves: 13-1, 1.98 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 147 strikeouts in 113.2 innings. If you include his numbers from Single-A in 2003, Francis has now won 24 of his last 26 decisions. Uh, that's pretty good. Francis will get a shot with the Rockies this year. Whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
2.5 – Number of seconds it took The Skinny to draft Priest Holmes after LaDainian Tomlinson went No. 1 in an experts draft Friday. Ahman Green went No. 3.