MLB Skinny: A change is gonna come

July is upon us, meaning that the MLB trading deadline is officially one month away. As an owner of a very bad team with the No. 1 waiver priority in an AL-only league and an owner of a struggling NL-only team with the third-richest FAAB bank roll remaining, I'm hoping for a flurry of deals that will send players across league boundaries – I already lost out in the bidding for Mark DeRosa(notes) on Monday, which is why I'm now the third-richest NL-only squad as opposed to the fourth-richest.

So who are the names I'm pining for? Here's a list of some of the players that are prominently rumored to be available for the right price in the coming weeks: Vernon Wells(notes), Alex Rios(notes), Matt Holliday(notes), Victor Martinez(notes), Jermaine Dye(notes), Adam Dunn(notes), Garrett Atkins(notes), Aubrey Huff(notes), Nick Johnson(notes), Mark Teahen(notes), Juan Pierre(notes), Felipe Lopez(notes), Ty Wigginton(notes), Roy Oswalt(notes), Cliff Lee(notes), Erik Bedard(notes) and Jose Valverde(notes).

Alright, while I dream about potential future fantasy windfalls, here's a look at the latest market movers:


Three Up/Three Down
Jake Fox(notes), ChC, 3/O – Elite eight: 12-for-31 (.387), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 4 R in past 8
Adam LaRoche(notes), Pit, 1B – Past week: 11-for-28 (.393), 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, SB, 7 games
Alex Rodriguez(notes), NYY, 3B – Seven up: 8-for-23 (.348), 2 HR, 11 RBI, 5 R, 9 BB in past 7

Mark Teixeira(notes), NYY, 1B – Power outage: 12-for-54 (.222), 0 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, SB in past 14
Nick Johnson, Was, 1B – Weak week: 1-for-21 (.048), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 R in past 6
Mark DeRosa, StL, 3/2/O – Past eight: 2-for-25 (.080), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 1 SB

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Kendry Morales(notes), LAA, 1/O (57%) – I'm going to cheat a little bit on this recommendation by going over the 50 percent ownership threshold. My reasoning is simply that Morales' ownership needs to be ratcheted up considerably. In terms of season-to-date production, Morales has outperformed the 90-plus percent owned corner infield contingent of Aubrey Huff, Jorge Cantu(notes), Derrek Lee(notes), Chipper Jones(notes) and David Ortiz(notes). His 13 home runs since April 22nd ranks as the 21st-best mark in the league for that span. And his OPS has improved in each month of the season. On the down side, Morales has been a complete non-factor against southpaws, who he owns just a .445 OPS against (0 HR) in 49 at bats. Owners that have the roster flexibility and the available micro-managing time necessary to add Morales and play him when he's facing a right-handed starter would earn a nice return on the investment.

Danny Valencia, Min, 3B – The Twins have produced just a .241 batting average from the hot corner this season and, let's face it, Joe Crede's(notes) durability ranks in the same class as Styrofoam coolers – a sore back kept him out of Monday's contest. For these reasons, Valencia becomes someone to put on your radar. Blessed with an exceptionally quick bat and the ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field, he entered the season ranked fifth among Twins prospects, according to Baseball America. And, after posting a solid .855 OPS and 31:40 BB-to-K ratio in 57 games for Double-A New Britain, Valencia debuted this past week for Triple-A Rochester by going 11-for-31 (.355) with two home runs in his first eight games. This past spring, Valencia caught the team's attention by hitting .429 in eight games and, as it stands, it appears he's the likely front-runner to man third base in Minnesota entering 2010. That being the case, it would make sense for the Twins to give him some big league seasoning before then.


Three Up/Three Down
Felipe Lopez, Ari, 2/3/S/O – Past 8: 12-for-34 (.353), 0 HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, 2 SB
J.J. Hardy(notes), Mil, SS – Dandy dozen: 16-for-46 (.348), 3 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R in past 12
Emilio Bonifacio(notes), Fla, 2/3 – Last week: 9-for-26 (.346), 0 HR, 3 RBI, 8 RBI, 4 SB, 7 games

Brian Roberts(notes), Bal, 2B – Four on the floor: 0-for-14, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB, 6 K in past 4
Kelly Johnson(notes), Atl, 2B – June swoon: 9-for-72 (.125), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB, 22 games
Marco Scutaro(notes), Tor, 2/3/S – Marco Mendoza: 14-for-70 (.200), 4 XBH, HR, 3 RBI, 11 R, SB in past 17

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Casey McGehee(notes), Mil, 2/3 (44%) – A couple Sunday's ago, I wrote about McGehee in our Closing Time nightly blog feature, stating that regardless of how you feel about his pedigree and past production, sometimes you just have to jump on board and ride a player's hot streak. McGehee, at the time I wrote that piece, was already on a torrid streak in which he'd hit .396 in the first 15 games of June. Since then, he's tacked on an additional seven hits in 24 at bats (.292), including three home runs and nine RBIs, in seven games. For the past month, McGehee has been the seventh-best middle infielder in standard 5x5 Yahoo! leagues. Certainly luck has played a helpful role in McGehee's current .336 batting average mark, but as the Bleacher Report's Nathaniel Stoltz points out, he's unfairly been saddled with a Quad-A label. Certainly his bat is capable of fantasy staying power at a middle infield position.

Reid Brignac(notes), TB, SS – With shortstops Jason Bartlett(notes), Ben Zobrist(notes) and the organization's top prospect, Tim Beckham, there doesn't seem like much need or room in Tampa Bay for Brignac, who Baseball America deemed the Rays' No. 4 prospect entering the season – BA also ranked Tampa Bay as the fourth-most stocked farm system in the majors. Brignac brings nice pop to the position, averaging 21 home runs per 162 minor league games in his career (533 games). He also has the speed to steal in the neighborhood of 15 bases if given regular playing time and the license to run. He's currently hitting .302 at Triple-A Durham sandwiched around a 21-game stint in Tampa Bay filling in for the injured Bartlett – he hit a respectable .271 in his 59 at bats during that span. In his past six games with the Bulls, he's produced four three-hit performances and a .394 batting average. It seems like a perfect time for the Rays to shop him for a player that they feel could better serve them down the stretch and beyond.


Three Up/Three Down
Miguel Olivo(notes), KC, C – No. 2 Y! catcher past month: 25-for-81 (.309), 9 HR, 19 RBI, 15 R, SB, 26 games
Jason Varitek(notes), Bos, C – Past 7: 9-for-23 (.391), HR, 6 RBI, 5 R
Kurt Suzuki(notes), Oak, C – Past 15: 18-for-58 (.310), 3 HR, 10 RBI, 9 R, SB

Dioner Navarro(notes), TB, C – Eight to hate: 6-for-30 (.200), 0 XBH, 0 RBI, 3 R in past 8
John Baker(notes), Fla, C – Past 9: 5-for-31 (.161), 1 XBH, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 R, 11 K
Yadier Molina(notes), StL, C – Deep six: 4-for-25 (.160), 0 XBH, 1 RBI, 0 R in past 6

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Miguel Montero(notes), Ari, C (2%) – Trailing only Joe Mauer(notes) with 12 home runs from the catcher position, the other Miguel – Olivo – remains the best under-50 percent pickup in Y! PLUS leagues. But for those in deeper leagues or leagues in which Olivo is gone, Montero is not a bad fallback option. In the past month, the D-Backs backstop has placed a modest 18th at the position in fantasy production, but he has four multi-hit games and seven RBI in his past 11 outings. And, with Chris Snyder(notes) unlikely to see much action until after the All-Star break – he's currently on the DL with a lower back strain – Montero will continue to log heavy innings for at least the next week or two. In that span, Montero's schedule sets up pretty well, as he'll travel to offensive parks in Cincinnati and Colorado for the next two series and return home to face San Diego (4.65 team ERA) and Florida (4.39 team ERA) in the final two series before the break. If all the obvious catchers were gone in my league and I was forced to dredge the bottom of the free agency pool for some help, Montero is someone I'd be willing to roll the dice on for short-term help.

Jeff Clement(notes), Sea, C – Although his knees may prevent him from ever again catching at the major-league level, Clement's bat should find its way back to Seattle in some capacity, and likely in the not-too-distant future. The Mariners will soon lose Adrian Beltre(notes) to shoulder surgery, and the team is being rumored as one of the teams likely to be active in the coming month leading up to the trade deadline. Catcher-eligible in the Yahoo! game, Clement would warrant immediate consideration in medium-sized leagues and deeper, as the catching crop in fantasy this season is woefully lacking in impact players. Clement has averaged 25 home runs per 162 games at the Triple-A level, including 24 in his past 115 games for Tacoma. He's caught fire of late, going 10-for-27 (.370) with 3 HR, 6 RBI and 10 R in his past seven games. He's disappointed in previous (limited) opportunities with the Mariners, but he's 26 years old and it's high time Seattle figured out what they want to do with the former '05 No. 3 pick overall. Consider his recent streak at Triple-A as an audition for some major league team, be it Seattle or someone else.


Three Up/Three Down
Nate Schierholtz(notes), SF, OF – Six packed: 14-for-25 (.560), 2 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R in past 6
Willie Harris(notes), Was, O/2/3 – Past 9: 11-for-35 (.314), 3 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R, 3 SB
Gary Sheffield(notes), NYM, OF – Past 13: 18-for-45 (.400), 5 HR, 10 RBI, 10 R

Corey Hart(notes), Mil, OF – Hart-less: 4-for-31 (.129), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, SB in past 9
Hunter Pence(notes), Hou, OF – Seven down: 5-for-28 (.179), 0 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 0 SB in past 7
Alex Rios, Tor, OF – Past 10: 6-for-39 (.154), 0 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 SB

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Nolan Reimold(notes), Bal, OF (37%) – The fantasy community loves to pile on the next big thing, which is why it's surprising that Reimold's ownership percentage remains below 50 percent. He's a boomerang candidate for this spot after I wrote him up here a couple weeks ago. As a reminder, Reimold is the guy who hit nine home runs and produced a 1.228 OPS in 51 games at Triple-A Rochester to earn a promotion to Baltimore in May. Since May 20, he has been the 65th-most valuable offensive fantasy contributor in the league, according to Baseball Monster. In that 36-game span, he's hit .291 with nine home runs, 18 RBI and 18 R. In the past four games, he's been moved up to fifth in the order, where he's gone 5-for-14. If he sticks in that spot, he's in a very good position to increase what has been just modest RBI production to date.

Lastings Milledge(notes), Pit, OF – You have to think that Milledge, who did not endear himself to management in Washington – attitude was a big part of the reason for his demotion seven games into the season – gets a clean slate to start with in Pittsburgh. And after the Pirates purged themselves of Eric Hinske(notes) and Nyjer Morgan(notes) (in the Milledge deal), you'd also have to assume that Milledge, who garnered ridiculous fantasy buzz heading into '09 (guilty as charged) after hitting .299 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases in 58 second-half games for the Nationals last season, won't have to wait too long to don a Bucs uniform. In the 14-team Yahoo! Friends and Family League, I went to make a speculative Milledge add today, only to be beaten to the punch by neurotic micro-manager Craig Falzone, who has made 100 more roster moves than all but one team in the league – to which I say, get a life, Falzone! Milledge is close to concluding his rehab for a broken finger. Once his digit gets an official clean bill of health, expect talks of a promotion to heat up considerably.


Three Up/Three Down
Aaron Cook(notes), Col, SP – Past 5: 5-0, 1.75 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 22 K in 36 IP
Brad Bergesen(notes), Bal, SP – Past 6: 4-0, 2.23 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 22 K in 44.1 IP
Chad Gaudin(notes), SD, SP – Past 3: 2-1, 2.33 ERA, 0.76 ERA, 28 K in 21 IP

Carlos Zambrano(notes), ChC, SP – Past 3: 0-1, 4.65 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 10 K in 19.1 IP
Derek Lowe(notes), Atl, SP – Past 3: 0-3, 12.30 ERA, 2.83 WHIP, 2 K in 11.2 IP
Justin Verlander(notes), Det, SP – Past 3: 1-1, 5.29 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 18 K in 17 IP

Wire flier (best pickup among players owned in less than 50 percent of Y! Plus leagues)
Kevin Correia(notes), SD, SP (44%) – OK, folks, past be damned, it's time to take the plunge with Correia. He's been lauded by his manager Bud Black for his ability in recent weeks to spot his pitches where he wanted, and a 29:3 K-to-BB ratio in his past five starts backs up that claim. In that stretch, he's gone 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA. After he beat Oakland on June 21st with 6.2 strong innings, I suggested in that night's Closing Time that fantasy owners may want to wait and see how he did in his next turn at Texas to better gauge the validity of his current hot streak. Well, this past Saturday, Correia whiffed nine Rangers en route to a seven inning, three-run victory performance. If you need a little extra nudge to dip your toes in the Correia pool, check out this tidbit from FanGraphs, which explains how Correia was able to recently put together a streak in which he faced 52 consecutive hitters without a man on base. Like McGehee (above), sometimes you just can't labor too much about the past when the present is so fruitful.

Wade Davis(notes), TB SP – There doesn't seem to be room for Davis in the Rays' rotation at the moment, but if he keeps pitching the way he has been for Triple-A Durham, something is going to have to give soon. Davis is 7-4 with a 2.90 ERA for the Bulls this season and now owns a combined Triple-A mark of 11-6 with a 2.83 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 143 innings from last season to present. Blessed with a mid-90s fastball and power breaking ball, Davis is an intimidating presence standing 6-foot-5. The main area that he needs to work on is his command, as his walks total (35 in 90 IP this season) is too high. That said, he should be the next in line if there is an injury in the Rays rotation, always a strong possibility when you're talking about a staff with Scott Kazmir(notes) in it.


As in the past, I defer to my colleague, Andy Behrens, on this one. He puts out an excellent bullpen roundup – "Closing Thoughts" – each Monday in the Roto Arcade blog. And, of course, all bullpen tremors are recorded in our nightly Closing Time piece.

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