Jay Bruce just may be the new Ryan Braun, so it was only fitting that while Bruce was setting the league on fire in his first week with Cincinnati, Braun was making sure everyone knew that he's hardly yesterday's news – he's hitting .455 with two home runs in 22 at bats since Bruce's call up. But there's nothing quite as alluring in fantasy like a "New" tag – see Cueto, Kershaw, Scherzer, et al. So it made me wonder if anyone playing in a Yahoo! league was already so caught up in the Bruce buzz that they were willing to deal Braun for Bruce.
A look at Bruce's latest trades didn't show any straight up arrangements, but there was an owner who was willing to deal Braun and Aaron Laffey for Joey Votto, Mark Reynolds and Bruce, which I'd argue is close. Bruce, in one-for-one deals this past week, has returned a Hanley Ramirez, Jonathan Papelbon, Nate McLouth and Cole Hamels (Bruce was packaged with non-factor Jeremy Guthrie for Hamels). At that kind of price, Bruce pretty much has to produce close to the level that Braun did last season, which are some lofty expectations. Personally, I fully understand the depth of Bruce's talents but, if I'm a Bruce owner, I'm looking for that one owner in my league who is ready for the whatever-it-takes deal to acquire Bruce's services.
On to the rest of this week's Skinny, where we start in Minnesota …
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• Michael Cuddyer, Min, OF
I'll admit, I expected more from Cuddyer to this point of the season. I had him down as a prime bounce-back candidate after thumb and back injuries helped spoil his '07 campaign. He showed what he was capable of in '06, when he pounded out 24 home runs, drove in 109 runs and scored 102 times – he also hit a respectable .284. A finger injury once again landed Cuddyer on the DL in early April, but he's finally starting to pick up some momentum for the first time since his return to the lineup in late April. For the past week, Cuddyer is fourth in the league with nine RBIs. And that's really what it comes down to for Cuddyer – Runs Batted In. Batting fifth for the Twins, Cuddyer gets to clear the table behind OBP machines Joe Mauer (.403) and Justin Morneau (.379). If you're not looking for RBI production, the 39-percent owned Cuddyer is probably not your man. But if run production is what ails you, his situation all but forces you to consider him.
• Francisco Liriano, Min, SP
Liriano has put together a promotion-worthy past month for Triple-A Rochester. In six May starts, Liriano has pitched 39 innings, allowing just 32 hits, and 15 earned runs (3.46 ERA). He's also produced a 27:10 K-to-BB rate. The Twins have a surplus of starting pitchers at the moment, especially with Scott Baker expected to come of the DL (groin) and pitch Thursday, but Liriano has the highest upside of any Twin currently in the rotation and we've all seen what a healthy Liriano can do with that talent. If he continues to progress as he has, Liriano can't be more than a couple weeks away from a return to the land of lakes. Like Brad Evans advised in Sunday's Weekly Rundown post, those with a bench spot to play with should consider picking up the 32-percent-owned lefty sooner than later.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
Homer Bailey, Cin, SP (ETA – June 4)
I'm not at all bullish on Bailey, at least for the near-term, but when a consensus top 15 minor league prospect is on the verge of getting recalled to the majors, it's worth a shout out. Word is that Bailey will start on Thursday for the Reds, according to Triple-A Louisville manager Rick Sweet. Scouts rave about Bailey's stuff, but the command/control side of the equation definitely still needs a lot of work. Bailey's ERA currently sits at 4.15 with Louisville, and he's walked an unhealthy 31 batters in 69.1 IP, including 17 free passes in his past 18.2 IP. In his past six outings for the Bats, Bailey has just one quality start. All of this is to say that, in 12-team mixed leagues, I wouldn't run out and grab Bailey, especially since he'll be pitching at Philadelphia in his '08 Cincy debut. But, a guy with his ability (big-time fastball and curve) should at least get some radar love from the fantasy masses.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Jerry Hairston Jr., Cin, 2/3/S/O (32 percent owned) – Hairston has become a fixture in this space as he continues to rip it up while remaining widely available. For the past week, Hairston finished behind only teammate Jay Bruce for the most hits in the league (11). His .458 week included three more steals, raising his total to 10 in 32 games.
Ryan Spilborghs, Col, OF (4%) – Filling in for injured outfielders Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe, Spilborghs has been raking since Memorial Day weekend. In his past seven games, he's 9-for-23 (.391) with three home runs, six RBIs and a steal. He bruised his wrist this past weekend, which has contributed to limited at bats the last couple of games.
Aubrey Huff, Bal, 1/3 (46%) – Huff has dusted off his power stroke, collecting nine hits in his past 30 at bats – six of them going for extra bases (three doubles, three home runs).
Rod Barajas, Tor, C (2%) – Barajas is the No.3-ranked catcher in the Y! game for the past month, and in his past 35 at bats, he's collected 14 hits (.400), four home runs, 13 RBIs and eight runs. The 32-year-old journeyman hit 21 home runs for Texas in '05, but he's never hit above .256 in a season – he's currently at .298.
Jose Contreras, ChW, SP (71%) – Havana Joe (Ok, Las Martinas, to be exact) is the No. 3 pitcher in Y! for the past month. And since April 16, Contreras is 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA and a 43:12 K-to-BB ratio. He allowed just one home run in May (43 IP).
Jesse Litsch, Tor, SP (57%) – If you're good with a pitcher that doesn't offer much help in strikeouts, Litsch is your man. The crafty righty (which is another way of saying he gets by on less than dominating stuff) has pitched at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or less in 16 of his 30 career starts. In his past seven starts, he's 5-0 with a 1.96 ERA and a 21:2 K-to-BB ratio.
Jorge Campillo, Atl, P (45%) – Another "crafty" righty, Campillo currently sits as the No. 20 pitcher overall in the Y! game. After excelling in the bullpen to open the year, the Mexican League veteran is 2-0 with just one run allowed (0.60 ERA) in three starts since moving into the rotation. In 23.2 May innings, he walked just one batter.
Andrew Miller, Fla, SP (25%) – The No. 6 pick in the '06 draft, Miller is 3-2 for the Marlins over his past six starts, sporting a 2.60 ERA with 29 Ks in that 34.2 inning span.
Vladimir Guerrero, LAA, OF – Vlad may have added insult to an insulting fantasy performance, thus far, in '08. In addition to a batting average that has dipped to .249, he's on pace for a career-high 105 strikeouts and a career-low (full season) of 20 home runs. And, on Sunday, he jammed his knee sliding into third base – he was expected to have the knee examined further on Monday.
Carlos Pena, TB, 1B – In his past six games, last year's breakout slugger is 2-for-23 (.087) with 13 Ks.
Rick Ankiel, StL, OF – Ankiel is on a nine-game slide that has produced just four hits in 29 at bats (.138), no home runs and a 11:1 K-to-BB ratio.
Coco Crisp, Bos, OF – Crisp owns baseball's longest current hitless streak – no hits in his past 23 bats.
Jair Jurrjens, Atl, SP – An April revelation, Jurrjens hasn't been able to pitch more than five innings in four of his past five outings. A blister on his thumb is being blamed for the 17 hits, eight walks and nine runs allowed in a combined nine innings over his past two starts. And, after allowing just one home run the entire season, Jurrjens gave up three bombs in those past two appearances, lending more credibility to the blister being the issue.