Fantasy Skinny: Crawford, Sizemore and more

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports

CLOSER HOT SEAT

CLEVELAND INDIANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Bob Wickman
2nd Chair: Matt Miller, Rafael Betancourt, Bob Howry
Skinny: In case you missed last week's installment of The Closer, manager Eric Wedge did his best Donald Trump and fired David Riske - again. It was the fourth time Wedge has dismissed a closer this year. Taking over this time is Wickman, though he probably won't pitch on consecutive days as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Riske is out of the ninth-inning rotation entirely. When Wickman can't go, Wedge will choose between Miller, Betancourt and Howry.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS RED HOT
1st Chair: Ryan Bukvich
2nd Chair: Nate Field, Shawn Camp
Skinny: Since Jeremy Affeldt was sidelined in early June, Kansas City relievers (Field, Camp, Bukvich) have combined for exactly three saves. In other words - it simply doesn't matter. If you're thinking of signing one of these guys, it might be time to punt the category entirely. Camp was recalled from Triple-A Friday and responded with five shutout innings in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS RED HOT
1st Chair: Matt Herges
2nd Chair: Felix Rodriguez, Jason Christiansen
Skinny: Q: Why did Herges build his house without any closets? A: Because he doesn't save anything. OK - bad jokes aside, Herges is all but done as the Giants closer. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday that while the club pursues trade options, they will use matchups to dictate who pitches the ninth inning. Christiansen earned the last two saves, but it's a safe bet that by July 31 you'll see an acquisition (Mesa, Urbina or Guardado) closing games for the Giants.

CHICAGO CUBS RED HOT
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Kyle Farnsworth
Skinny: Hawkins walked two batters in 31 combined games in May and June. He issued his fourth free pass of July in the ninth inning Sunday and the run eventually scored as Hawkins was tagged with his second loss in three games. July has been miserable for LaTroy, and with the trade deadline looming the slump may well cost him his job. The Skinny sees Chicago looking for help elsewhere rather than turning to Farnsworth or anyone else in their current bullpen.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES HOT
1st Chair: Jorge Julio
2nd Chair: B.J. Ryan
Skinny: The good news for Julio owners is that he is a perfect 5-for-5 on save chances this month. The bad news: The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Julio may be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline. Worse, the teams showing interest are looking for a set-up man. The Sun also reported that Ryan is practically untouchable. Don't forget unhittable. His scoreless streak was recently snapped at 22 innings, but Ryan responded with seven strikeouts over his next 3.1 innings.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS HOT
1st Chair: Vacant
2nd Chair: Mike Koplove, Greg Aquino, Mike Fetters, Randy Choate
Skinny: With so few leads to protect, it is hard to say who has taken the lead in Arizona's bullpen-by-committee approach. Sunday it was Fetters and Choate who teamed to spoil Randy Johnson's 14-strikeout gem by allowing three runs. Aquino surrendered three runs the night before. Koplove was rocked the previous night. And so on, and so on.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES WARM
1st Chair: Billy Wagner
2nd Chair: Tim Worrell
Skinny: Wagner was shut down for the weekend due to shoulder pain, allowing Worrell to step in and earn his 10th save of the season Saturday. Given Wagner's injury history, Worrell is a good speculative add at this point. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that Wagner wouldn't rule out another trip to the DL. More will be known after he attempts to throw again on Monday.

DETROIT TIGERS WARM
1st Chair: Ugueth Urbina
2nd Chair: Franklyn German
Skinny: Urbina surrendered a walk-off homer to Joe Crede Saturday. Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski may soon follow suit by waving the white flag. Several teams have expressed interest in Urbina, but the Tigers were hesitant to put him on the market while still in the thick of the AL Central race. Now 8.5 games out, a deal is imminent. German saved two more games for Triple-A Toledo last week and stands to inherit closer duties when Urbina is shipped, probably to San Francisco.

MONTREAL EXPOS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Luis Ayala
Skinny: Ayala picked up a save Sunday, but only because Cordero was unavailable after pitching on three consecutive days. Cordero is still the guy. He has converted eight straight save chances, allowing no earned runs during his last seven conversions. Ayala hasn't been scored upon in his last 17 appearances, which leaves fantasy owners wondering why Frank Robinson stuck with Rocky Biddle as long as he did.

BOSTON RED SOX LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Keith Foulke
2nd Chair: Scott Williamson
Skinny: Boston can't afford to lose close games, and that's just what they've been doing lately when entrusting a lead to Foulke. In July alone he has suffered three blown saves and two losses. Don't forget he's only one full season removed from losing the same job in Chicago. Williamson was very effective in June and could factor into the late-inning relief mix if he can stay healthy when his latest DL stint ends this week.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Damaso Marte
Skinny: Take a look at Takatsu's numbers in save situations: 8.1 innings, 1 hit, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts, 8 saves. When they call you Mr. Zero, you need those kind of numbers to live up to your name. With two wins and a save in July, Marte remains a valuable fantasy set-up guy.

CLOSER HOT SEAT

CLEVELAND INDIANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Bob Wickman
2nd Chair: Matt Miller, Rafael Betancourt, Bob Howry
Skinny: In case you missed last week's installment of The Closer, manager Eric Wedge did his best Donald Trump and fired David Riske - again. It was the fourth time Wedge has dismissed a closer this year. Taking over this time is Wickman, though he probably won't pitch on consecutive days as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Riske is out of the ninth-inning rotation entirely. When Wickman can't go, Wedge will choose between Miller, Betancourt and Howry.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS RED HOT
1st Chair: Ryan Bukvich
2nd Chair: Nate Field, Shawn Camp
Skinny: Since Jeremy Affeldt was sidelined in early June, Kansas City relievers (Field, Camp, Bukvich) have combined for exactly three saves. In other words - it simply doesn't matter. If you're thinking of signing one of these guys, it might be time to punt the category entirely. Camp was recalled from Triple-A Friday and responded with five shutout innings in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS RED HOT
1st Chair: Matt Herges
2nd Chair: Felix Rodriguez, Jason Christiansen
Skinny: Q: Why did Herges build his house without any closets? A: Because he doesn't save anything. OK - bad jokes aside, Herges is all but done as the Giants closer. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday that while the club pursues trade options, they will use matchups to dictate who pitches the ninth inning. Christiansen earned the last two saves, but it's a safe bet that by July 31 you'll see an acquisition (Mesa, Urbina or Guardado) closing games for the Giants.

CHICAGO CUBS RED HOT
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Kyle Farnsworth
Skinny: Hawkins walked two batters in 31 combined games in May and June. He issued his fourth free pass of July in the ninth inning Sunday and the run eventually scored as Hawkins was tagged with his second loss in three games. July has been miserable for LaTroy, and with the trade deadline looming the slump may well cost him his job. The Skinny sees Chicago looking for help elsewhere rather than turning to Farnsworth or anyone else in their current bullpen.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES HOT
1st Chair: Jorge Julio
2nd Chair: B.J. Ryan
Skinny: The good news for Julio owners is that he is a perfect 5-for-5 on save chances this month. The bad news: The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Julio may be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline. Worse, the teams showing interest are looking for a set-up man. The Sun also reported that Ryan is practically untouchable. Don't forget unhittable. His scoreless streak was recently snapped at 22 innings, but Ryan responded with seven strikeouts over his next 3.1 innings.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS HOT
1st Chair: Vacant
2nd Chair: Mike Koplove, Greg Aquino, Mike Fetters, Randy Choate
Skinny: With so few leads to protect, it is hard to say who has taken the lead in Arizona's bullpen-by-committee approach. Sunday it was Fetters and Choate who teamed to spoil Randy Johnson's 14-strikeout gem by allowing three runs. Aquino surrendered three runs the night before. Koplove was rocked the previous night. And so on, and so on.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES WARM
1st Chair: Billy Wagner
2nd Chair: Tim Worrell
Skinny: Wagner was shut down for the weekend due to shoulder pain, allowing Worrell to step in and earn his 10th save of the season Saturday. Given Wagner's injury history, Worrell is a good speculative add at this point. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that Wagner wouldn't rule out another trip to the DL. More will be known after he attempts to throw again on Monday.

DETROIT TIGERS WARM
1st Chair: Ugueth Urbina
2nd Chair: Franklyn German
Skinny: Urbina surrendered a walk-off homer to Joe Crede Saturday. Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski may soon follow suit by waving the white flag. Several teams have expressed interest in Urbina, but the Tigers were hesitant to put him on the market while still in the thick of the AL Central race. Now 8.5 games out, a deal is imminent. German saved two more games for Triple-A Toledo last week and stands to inherit closer duties when Urbina is shipped, probably to San Francisco.

MONTREAL EXPOS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Luis Ayala
Skinny: Ayala picked up a save Sunday, but only because Cordero was unavailable after pitching on three consecutive days. Cordero is still the guy. He has converted eight straight save chances, allowing no earned runs during his last seven conversions. Ayala hasn't been scored upon in his last 17 appearances, which leaves fantasy owners wondering why Frank Robinson stuck with Rocky Biddle as long as he did.

BOSTON RED SOX LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Keith Foulke
2nd Chair: Scott Williamson
Skinny: Boston can't afford to lose close games, and that's just what they've been doing lately when entrusting a lead to Foulke. In July alone he has suffered three blown saves and two losses. Don't forget he's only one full season removed from losing the same job in Chicago. Williamson was very effective in June and could factor into the late-inning relief mix if he can stay healthy when his latest DL stint ends this week.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Damaso Marte
Skinny: Take a look at Takatsu's numbers in save situations: 8.1 innings, 1 hit, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts, 8 saves. When they call you Mr. Zero, you need those kind of numbers to live up to your name. With two wins and a save in July, Marte remains a valuable fantasy set-up guy.

These are the days that can make or break your fantasy year. Just ask anyone who drafted Ricky Williams or Julius Jones. Just ask Matt Herges owners or Randy Johnson owners in NL-only leagues. Ditto for those carrying Jose Mesa, Ugueth Urbina or Danny Kolb. If you're holding the No. 1 waiver priority in your league, you have to be excited about the prospects of inserting B.J. Upton into your middle infield. For the next several days, it is trade trackers and not box scores that will dictate fortunes in fantasy leagues. As is customary, The Skinny will be keeping score.

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

  • Carl Crawford owners got a glimpse of the future Friday as the American League stolen base leader hit second in the Tampa Bay lineup behind Joey Gathright. He was right back at leadoff Saturday (after striking out four times in the No. 2 spot), but manager Lou Piniella told the Tampa Tribune that he sees Crawford hitting in the middle of the Devil Rays lineup in the future. Look for further tinkering after B.J. Upton is recalled as Piniella tests 2005 lineup combinations.

What does this mean for Crawford owners? A move would actually play to Crawford's strengths. With only 20 walks and a mediocre .337 on-base percentage, he doesn't set the table like a traditional leadoff hitter. Gathright and Upton each carried OBPs over .400 at Triple-A and profile better at the top of the lineup. Crawford ranks fourth in the AL in hits and could be a 75-plus RBI guy hitting doubles and triples behind a strong leadoff batter. Tampa Bay is committed to speed and manufacturing runs, so he'll get his steals from any position in the order.

  • While the Upton wait continues, Cleveland fans are enjoying a look at the player Baseball America labeled as the top prospect in their system, Grady Sizemore. After a solid Double-A campaign in 2003, Sizemore didn't exactly tear it up for Cleveland's top developmental affiliate this year. He needed to shake off a slow start to reach .292, seven homers and 49 RBIs before getting the call.

No matter - he has already made quite a splash. Saturday he came off the bench to deliver a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth. Sunday he got the best of Kansas City again, taking Zack Greinke deep in the seventh inning for his first Major League homer. Sizemore is a watch-list guy only for now even in AL-only leagues. Baseball America reports that he has 20/20 potential, so he's worth keeping an eye on if only to gauge his 2005 draft value.

  • Lost somewhere beneath the A-Rod/Varitek fracas in the weekend headlines was a solid performance by Detroit's Marcus Thames. Beginning Wednesday, Thames went 7-for-16 with three homers and eight RBIs. The big blow was delivered Sunday when he drove a 3-2 pitch from Chicago's Mike Jackson for his first-career Grand Slam. He now has five homers in 61 at-bats this season.

The 27-year-old, who has seen previous action with the Yankees and Rangers, hit 24 homers in 64 games at Triple-A Toledo this year. With Craig Monroe on the shelf, Thames has a chance to prove that his recent power burst isn't just a Daryle Ward-like flash in the pan.

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

  • Bucky Jacobsen, SEA, DH – From the prospect watch last week to today's bargain bin, The Skinny just couldn't let Bucky-mania die after just one column. Jacobsen homered again Sunday, this time off Anaheim's Ramon Ortiz, and now has four bombs in 31 big league at-bats. Position eligibility is a factor that will scare off a lot of fantasy owners. He's eligible as a utility player only, a designation that will change only in the unlikely event he records 15 games at first base. However, like Minnesota's Justin Morneau, he may just keep hitting and force us to figure out a way to make room for him.

  • David Bush, TOR, SP – You may remember Bush as the guy who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the A's last week in a game Toronto eventually lost 1-0 in the 14th. Well, Bush finally got his first Major League win Sunday, extending his scoreless inning streak to 17 in the process before allowing three runs (2 unearned) in the sixth against Tampa Bay. Bush has now made four starts this year and allowed one or fewer earned runs three times. Only one full season removed from working out of the bullpen as a closer at Wake Forest, Bush should only get better as he gets more innings under his belt.

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

  • Nook Logan, DET (First Major League steal) – Recently recalled by the Tigers, Logan was leading the International League with 37 steals for Triple-A Toledo. That's the good news. The bad news? He's never hit particularly well at any level and was batting .266 with 97 strikeouts before getting the call.

  • Aaron Rowand, CHW (10th steal Sunday) – Continues to make the Freddy Garcia deal look good. Now hitting .353 with 17 runs scored in July.

  • Joey Gathright, TB (2 steals/last 6 games) – All he needs is playing time. He's now 5-for-5 stealing bases for Tampa Bay after swiping 39 bags in the minors this year.

  • David DeJesus, KC (Setting the table) – If scoring runs is the measure of a good leadoff hitter, DeJesus is beginning to make strides. Carlos Beltran's replacement in center field has 10 runs scored and six RBIs in his last 13 starts.

  • Jose Reyes, NYM (Patience rewarded) – Reyes was picked off by Mike Hampton Sunday, but has six steals in New York's last six games. His four hits Sunday upped his July average to .326.

  • Corey Patterson, CHI (3 steals/last 5 games) – This is a welcome streak for fantasy owners who endured a 27-game stolen base drought that ended in mid-July. Needs to heat up at the plate to deliver on 20/20 potential.

  • Ryan Freel, CIN (5 steals/last 11 games) – Best stolen base bargain on the market. Batting .320 in July to go along with five steals. Position flexibility a plus.

  • Tike Redman, PIT (Waking up) – Hit a three-run bomb Sunday and how has three steals, 13 RBIs and a .342 average in July.

  • Shannon Stewart, MIN (First SB attempt since May) – Stewart was caught stealing Sunday, but the attempt was a good sign. Batting .333 with six runs scored in 10 July games.

  • Brian Roberts, BAL (3 steals/last 8 games) – Pronounced dead by The Skinny last week, Roberts responded with three steals and 10 hits over eight games.

  • Jeff DaVanon, ANA (Placed on DL) – DaVanon stole three bases last week, peaking fantasy interest once again, but was just as quickly placed on the DL with back spasms.

PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm

  • Freddy Guzman, SD, OF (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
    The San Diego Padres have a Bash Brothers lineup in a ballpark that begs for a small-ball approach. They have used six leadoff hitters in 2004. Combined, they have accounted for six stolen bases. How bad is San Diego's team speed? Pitcher Adam Eaton ranks fifth on the club with two steals. Meanwhile, Triple-A prospect Freddy Guzman is giving minor league catchers fits. In 2003 he stole 90 bases. He stole a base Sunday for Portland and now leads the Pacific Coast League with 32 steals despite playing 35 games at Double-A Mobile Bay, where he was responsible for 17 thefts. Look for San Diego to give this switch hitter an audition soon for the 2005 leadoff/center fielder job.

  • Nelson Figueroa, PIT, SP (Triple-A) – ETA: August 1
    Pittsburgh has three options when it comes to filling the void that will be created when Kris Benson is traded. They could go with Ryan Vogelsong, who struggled mightily in 14 starts earlier this year. They could promote John VanBenschoten, widely regarded as the top prospect in the organization. Or, they could go with their system's hottest hand. Currently, that belongs to journeyman Nelson Figueroa, who threw seven-plus shutout innings Friday to earn his 10th win of the season. In his last 15.2 innings, Figueroa has allowed one run on seven hits while punching out 19 batters. Whoever gets the call, this is a situation to be watched closely. The Pirates have won 15 of 21 games and at least this year have made all the right decisions with their young pitchers.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
6 – The number of stolen bases recorded as a team by the Baltimore Orioles in July. The O's combined for 27 steals in May and 20 in June. Brian Roberts, Jerry Hairston and Luis Matos have each seen their fantasy value drop considerably during the slowdown.

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