Yahoo! Sports' MLB front page reminded me today that the league trade deadline is getting near enough to start thinking about it. Tim Brown suggests names like C.C. Sabathia, Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, Adam Dunn and Erik Bedard will be much sought-after commodities. While Steve Henson speculates on which teams will be the biggest players as the deadline nears. In fantasy, if ever there is a time to be acutely aware of what is going on around the league, now is that time. In addition to the ramifications that major names being dealt across leagues will have on those owners in AL- and NL-only formats, the next month will also reveal which teams have decided to pack it in for '08 and look to the future. Those teams that decide to waive the white flag can afford to get cavalier with their lineup, dipping more readily into the prospect well in addition to experimenting more with the lineup. Opportunity is definitely going to come knocking in the next month. Be sure you're ready to answer the door.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• David DeJesus, KC, OF
This has been a popular spot for Kansas City hitters as Jose Guillen (twice) and Mike Aviles (still only 17 percent owned!) have surfaced here in past weeks. This week, DeJesus gets the nod based on his production over his past 31 games. In that span, DeJesus' 43 hits trail only Johnny Damon, Orlando Cabrera and teammate Guillen. Those 43 hits have delivered a .347 batting average over that stretch to go with five home runs, 21 RBIs, 22 runs and two steals. Speaking to how well he's currently seeing the ball, DeJesus has struck out just seven times, compared to 10 walks, in his past 29 games. The 28-year-old, owned in less than a quarter of Yahoo! leagues, is on pace for a career year of .309, 19 home runs, 88 RBIs, 81 runs and 14 steals. DeJesus won't jump out at you when you're sorting through the waiver wire because he doesn't excel at any one thing, but his steady, serviceable across-the-board production has been good enough to land him just outside the top 100 in the Yahoo! game, thus far.
• Jeff Keppinger, Cin, SS/3B
There's really no way to justify Keppinger being owned in just a smidge more than 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues. The shortstop position just doesn't offer enough in the way of viable fantasy talent. Out since May 14th with a fractured kneecap, Keppinger returned on Sunday with a 1-for-4 effort against the Yankees. He's now played exactly 162 games in his career, posting totals of .313, 13 home runs, 70 RBIs, 76 runs and six steals. While he may be given a few days off here and there to ease his knee back into every-day action, Keppinger is likely to be penciled in regularly back in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, as he was on Sunday. You'd be hard pressed to convince me there are 12 other shortstops out there more worthy of being rostered right now than Keppinger.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
Chris Davis, Tex, 1B (ETA – late July)
Davis has been begging for Texas' attention as he has laid waste to minor league pitching at both Double-A and Triple-A this season. The team's No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America, is hitting a combined .343 with 23 home runs, 73 RBIs and 68 runs in 75 games between Frisco (AA) and Oklahoma (AAA). If the former third baseman continues to rake as he has, it's hard to imagine that he won't see time with the big club sometime in the next month or so. Hank Blalock is close to returning to Texas, and he'll be moved to first base when he comes back. But, Davis could be used at DH or, not hard to imagine, Blalock could land on the DL again and push Texas into a Davis move.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Marcus Thames, Det, OF (30 percent owned) – Thames is in the midst of a Bondsian power binge, having hit 12 home runs in his past 20 games. He's long been a peaks-and-valley type, but his power is legit. He's hit 58 home runs in his past 244 games with the Tigers.
Russ Branyan, Mil, 3/O (21 percent owned) – Branyan has nearly matched Thames in recent long-ball production, pounding out 10 home runs in his past 20 games. He's a classic all-or-nothing type who is hitting well above his head (.300).
Aubrey Huff, Bal, 1/3 (64 percent owned) – In the past month, Huff has hit .314 with eight home runs, 18 RBIs and 19 runs, numbers that land him at No. 27 in the Yahoo! game for the past 30 days. And, since June 10th, no player has more than Huff's 20 hits.
Jeff Baker, Col, 1/2/O (10 percent owned) – In his past 13 games (A Baker's dozen, if you will), Baker has hit .419 with five home runs, 11 RBIs, 13 runs and a steal. Baker has been playing second base, but will likely be used out of the DH spot for inter-league action this week with Clint Barmes coming off the DL. After that, Baker's playing time prospects get sketchy. He has legit pop in his bat, though, and the Rockies may have no choice but to figure out how to keep the NL Player of the Week in the regular lineup.
Coco Crisp, Bos, OF (9 percent owned) – Afforded regular playing time after David Ortiz went on the DL, Crisp is coming off a week in which he pounded out three home runs, collected seven RBIs, scored five times and swiped two bases.
Jose Bautista, Pit, 3B (2 percent owned) – Bautista, who hit .313 in May and is at a .311 clip in June, has four home runs, 10 RBIs and six runs in his past eight games.
Kurt Suzuki, Oak, C (38 percent owned) – Kurt has been baseball's best Suzuki in June, hitting .367 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. Ten of those RBIs have come in the past seven days, which trails only Jermaine Dye (13) for the past week.
Brian Buscher, Min, 3B (1 percent owned) – Sometimes, timing is everything. That might explain how Buscher can have 11 RBIs in seven June games (recalled June 14th) despite producing just one extra-base hit. He's 10-for-26 (.385) since re-joining the team.
Manny Parra, Mil, SP (17 percent owned) – Parra's craftiness is paying off in the Win column as the rookie is 5-0 in his past five starts. He owns a 2.97 ERA and 23 Ks in the 30.1 IP covering those five outings. His last loss came on May 3rd.
Seth McClung, Mil, SP (3 percent owned) – This hard-throwing Tampa Bay castoff has been a June treasure for Milwaukee, posting a 3-1 mark with 2.55 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 19 Ks in 24.2 IP this month.
Michael Young, Tex, SS – In his past 12 games, Young is just 6-for-52 (.115). Just one of those six hits went for extra bases.
Ryan Ludwick, StL, OF – It's been easier to buy into Ludwick's power than his .300-plus batting average. And we're finally starting to see the expected regression to the mean as he's just 7-for-40 (.175) with 12 strikeouts in his past 10 games, dropping his average below .300 (.297) for just the fourth time this season.
Jay Bruce, Cin, OF – Well, the dream honeymoon appears to be over for Bruce. Since rocking the baseball world by hitting .457 with three home runs, 11 RBIs and 14 runs in his first 12 games in the majors, Bruce is just 9-for-54 (.167) with one home run, one RBI, two runs and 19 Ks in his past 14 games.
Bobby Abreu, NYY, OF – Few know power slumps better than Abreu, who has just one home run in his past 23 games. In addition, he's just 4-for-37 (.108) in his past nine contests.
Mark DeRosa, ChC, 2/3/1/0 – Fantasy's favorite utility knife has been extremely dull in his past nine games – 3-for-31 (.097) with just one RBI and one run in that span.
Todd Helton, Col, 1B – In his past nine games, Helton has hit a Rocky Mountain low of .100 (3-for-30). He has no home runs or runs scored in that span, and just one RBI.
Chase Utley, Phi, 2B – Utley smacked a double on Sunday, which was significant for the fact that it ended an 0-for-24 skid. He also has just one home run in his past 17 contests, which has allowed fellow second sacker Dan Uggla to pass him for the league-lead in homers (Uggla 23, Utley 22).
David Murphy, Tex, OF – The Rangers' breakout RBI machine is just 4-for-33 (.121) in his past nine games. He did manage to drive in five runs during this stretch, however, to keep him among the top 20 in the league (51) in the RBI category.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Tex, 1/C – Considering the recent call-up of catcher Max Ramirez, who was sitting on a fat 1.121 OPS for Double-A Frisco before getting the call, it's a bad time for Salty to be struggling. In his past 10 games, Salty is 4-for-35 (.114) with just one RBI and 14 strikeouts.