CLOSER HOT SEAT
MILWAUKEE BREWERS RED HOT
KANSAS CITY ROYALS RED HOT
HOUSTON ASTROS WARM
CHICAGO WHITE SOX WARM
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS LUKEWARM
CLOSER HOT SEAT
MILWAUKEE BREWERS RED HOT
KANSAS CITY ROYALS RED HOT
HOUSTON ASTROS WARM
CHICAGO WHITE SOX WARM
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS LUKEWARM
Store July 27, 2006 into long-term memory as the day Bernie the Brewer found his Hispanic hetero life-mate. Last Thursday, the Milwaukee Brewers didn't trade away Carlos Lee to a contender (that happened on Friday) nor announce that Derrick Turnbow finally visited a barber. Instead, they held a press conference for Chorizo, the racing sausage. Cheeseheads everywhere went ballistic.
In a bold move that will forever change the way baseball fans look at costumed meat, Chorizo joined the pantheon of processed pork as the fifth member of the famed Klement's sausage races alongside mustard-clad goliaths the hot dog, polish sausage, Italian sausage and crowd favorite bratwurst. With the Italian sausage nearly unstoppable logging 19 wins on the season, Chorizo better be Speedy Gonzalez incarnate. In his inaugural race on Saturday, he finished third, likely due to the poor aerodynamics of a two-foot sombrero. Let's hope the spicy rookie doesn't inject himself with performance-enhancing processed cheese to get an edge. Here are the news and notes that hit a very busy concession stand this weekend:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Did you think George Steinbrenner would only be satisfied with Sal Fasano? The inevitable Bobby Abreu trade came to fruition on Sunday when the Philadelphia Phillies traded the right fielder and starter Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees in exchange for four mediocre prospects: shortstop C.J. Henry, southpaw reliever Matt Smith, catcher Jesus Sanchez and right-hander Carlos Monasterios. With Hideki Matsui expected to return within the next two-to-three weeks and Gary Sheffield, potentially, in September, the 21st century's version of Murderer's Row is here. Can you imagine a lineup with Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Sheffield, Abreu, Alex Rodriguez, Matsui, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano? That could instigate an anxiety attack for any AL pitcher. Suddenly, the Yankees are in a prime position to coast into the playoffs despite being written off by many baseball analysts at the All-Star Break.
For the Bronx Bombers, Abreu gives them yet another middle-of-the-order left-handed run producer. Sixth in the league with an outstanding .427 on-base percentage, he should bat fifth behind A-Rod and will instantly see an increase in runs and RBI in a lineup full of table-setters. With more protection surrounding him than Fort Knox, you should see two-month totals around: .310 BA, 8 HR, 40 RBI, 40 R and 9 SB.
Lidle also receives a jump in value. A winner of four straight with a 3.74 ERA and a stellar 25:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in July, he should be a sound source of wins and strikeouts as long as he can maintain consistency. Consider him a topflight No. 4 starter over the remainder of the season in 12-team and deeper leagues. Available in 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues, pluck him off the wire. You can expect an ERA around 4.00, a 1.25 WHIP and eight wins.
Meanwhile, in the City of Brotherly Love, David Dellucci will benefit greatly from additional playing time in right. In 136 at-bats this season, the former 29-home run Texas Ranger is batting .309 with seven homers and 21 RBI. Likely to continue hitting in the two-spot, he should be an adequate source of homers and runs batting in front of Joe DiMaggio chaser Chase Utley and behemoth Ryan Howard. NL-only leaguers in search of a fourth outfielder need to click the "add" button pronto.
As for the cornucopia of average prospects involved in the deal, 20-year-old shortstop C.J. Henry has the most long-term upside. Son of former Kansas basketball standout Carl Henry, the youngster is an unrefined speed and combo threat. In 76 games at Single-A Charleston he has a .233 average with two homers, 33 RBI and 14 steals. Many scouts believe his raw power will eventually translate into 15-20 homer success at the big league level, but his 86:32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 274 at-bats proves he needs more seasoning. With Jimmy Rollins signed through 2010, he will likely be moved to another position before making a 2009 debut.
With the sands of the deadline hourglass running down, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays traded wheel-churning shortstop Julio Lugo to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prized infield prospect Joel Guzman and minor-league Sergio Pedroza. Although heading to a more pitcher-friendly park, Lugo's value takes a short-term leap because he will gain second base eligibility filling in for the injured Jeff Kent. However, once Kent and Nomar Garciaparra return to 100 percent in about two weeks, Lugo will likely become a platoon player overtaking the role vacated by Cesar Izturis, who was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Greg Maddux. Given the expectation that Kent and Garciaparra can remain healthy, NL-Only owners should keep bids conservative for Lugo. Shallow mixed leaguers counting on Lugo will need to explore long-term options at an already razor-thin shortstop position.
For Tampa Bay, this was a brilliant deal. Joel Guzman is one of the most cherished shortstop prospects in baseball. The 20-year-old rising star is an above average athlete with 20-homer potential, but still needs to learn a great deal of plate discipline before being a trusted fantasy player. Prior to the trade, he posted terrific numbers at Triple-A Las Vegas – 317 at-bats, 11 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB. With only Tomas Perez ahead of him on the depth chart, look for the talented youngster to be an everyday player very soon. AL-only owners looking for pop at middle-infield should give the kid a look.
Injury News and Notes: Atlanta Braves fragile third baseman Chipper Jones was placed on the 15-day DL on Sunday with a strained oblique. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox vaguely noted, "It's going to take some rest." Thanks for the insightful observation Bobby. Jones is expected to miss two-to-six weeks. Newly acquired third baseman Willy Aybar will fill in for the five-time All Star … Milwaukee youngster Rickie Weeks will be sidelined for the next 15 days with a wrist injury. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said that "it's a possibility" the second baseman could be out for the rest of the year. Surgery is a necessity at some point, but Ned Yost remains optimistic noting, "Rickie has a real high tolerance for that type of stuff. If he can handle it once the soreness is out of there, he can play. Right now, they don't know." Anytime the "s" word is bantered about is not a positive sign. Make preparations as though he will be out for the remainder of the season. Tony Graffanino, acquired on July 25 from Kansas City, will fill Weeks' role … Buffet closer Bartolo Colon is out for the next two weeks with tendonitis in his right triceps. Angels manager Mike Scioscia commented, "Right now at this part of the season for Bart to miss any starts becomes tough. But we'd rather have him as close to being whole than to keep limping." Even years are quickly becoming Colon's nemesis. Rookie Joe Saunders is expected to fill the rotation vacancy … Gold Glove Minnesota Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter is expected to return to the lineup from a stress fracture in his left foot either Monday or Tuesday. "He ran the bases, ran around good and everything is looking good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "His legs felt good, his feet felt good, and he did everything. So he is on track." Activate him with confidence. Sparkplug Jason Tyner – batting .340 since Hunter's departure on July 16 – will return to an outfield utility role … Tampa Bay Devil Rays power source Ty Wigginton will be out for 4-6 weeks after catching a Shawn Chacon fastball on Saturday. B.J. Upton – hitting .270 with 45 steals in 387 Triple-A at-bats – was recalled on Monday and will finally get his chance to showcase his wares as the everyday third baseman … Infirmary poster-child Nomar Garciaparra returned to the 15-day DL, this time with a strained ligament in his right knee. The Dodgers first basemen added, "I think it's the best thing. My knee was making some progress, but running the bases was the most difficult thing." This is the eighth time in his 11-year career he has carved out a spot on the wounded list. Recalled rookie James Loney will split time with Olmedo Saenz for the next couple of weeks … Cursed Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee will be out a minimum of two more weeks due to wrist inflammation. Cubs' athletic trainer Mark O'Neal noted, "It's still as achy as it was when we put him on [the DL] in Washington. We're not going to do anything until he feels good. We're going to be overly cautious about it … We're not saying that he's done for the year." It sounds more and more like Lee will be sidelined for a large chunk of August. Phil Nevin and John Mabry will continue to split time with Lee recovering. Somewhere in Chicago a goat is laughing.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Josh Barfield, 2B, SD
Son of former Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jesse Barfield, Josh is the sole reason why California temperatures have soared in recent weeks. Third in the league in July hits with 40, Barfield has tallied an astounding 13 multi-hit games, raising his batting average 41 points since July 1. The 23-year-old two-bagger also ranks second among second basemen in July steals with seven. Although hitting eighth for most of the season, Padres manager Bruce Bochy has toyed with the idea of moving the NL ROY frontrunner to the two-spot. Showing improved plate patience with a 9:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the past 30 days, that move could come soon. Unbelievably, he is still available in a bewildering 80 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues. What else does this guy have to do to earn some respect? Get him now.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
Nelson Cruz, OF, Tex (ETA: September)
If you're a fantasy owner that likes to sip on an umbrella drink and watch across-the-board stats roll in, this is the Cruz for you. The Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Player of the Year in 2005, Cruz is a rising star that just caught a big break. Greatly overshadowed by Carlos Lee in the Rangers/Brewers blockbuster deal last Friday, the 26-year-old outfielder is a sensational combination of power and speed that needs to be noticed. Before packing his bags for the junior circuit, Cruz posted explosive numbers at Triple-A Nashville – 371 at-bats, .302 BA, 20 HR, 73 RBI, 68 R and 17 SB. Similar in skills to Toronto's Alex Rios, Cruz's 100:42 strikeout-to-walk ratio is indicative of his overt aggressiveness at the dish, but his raw power and wheels suggest he is a perennial 20/20 threat. For now, Texas manager Buck Showalter plans on using the hidden gem as a semi-regular corner outfielder, used primarily against lefties. With Brad Wilkerson batting a paltry .230, Cruz will not be a temporary player for long. Grab him off the wire in all AL-only and canyon-deep mixed formats. His stock will pay huge dividends by September.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Carlos Lee, Tex, OF – Just when you thought El Caballo couldn't get any better, he gets to play a large chunk of games at Ameriquest Field, the sixth-best ballpark for homers in the league. With mercury-spilling temperatures in Texas in August and September, his second-half numbers will swell. Lee is 7-for-13 as a Ranger.
Kevin Mench, Mil, OF – Known for his voracious appetite for the longball – and probable fondness for bratwursts – you know Shrek will become an instant Cheesehead favorite. Permanently out of Buck Showalter's doghouse, expect a rebirth as an everyday player. Hitting .321 in July, give him a shot in 12-team mixed leagues if you need a fourth outfielder with power.
B.J. Upton, 3B/SS, TB – Recalled on Monday to fill the void left by the injured Ty Wigginton, Upton gives fantasy owners instant speed at a position where only four players – Chone Figgins, David Wright, Adrian Beltre and Maicer Izturis – have swiped 10 or more bags. He and Joel Guzman will be a sensational left field combination in Tampa for years to come. Fish for this D-Ray in all formats.
Wilson Betemit, 2B/3B, LAD – Traded to the city of plastic on Friday, Betemit finally nets an everyday job. Going 3-for-4 in his debut, look for the flexible switch-hitter to be a top-15 middle-infielder during the dog days of summer.
Oliver Perez, NYM, SP – Once the envy of many fantasy minions just two short years ago, Ollie will look to regain his high-K form in the Big Apple. Prior to the trade, Perez had a 5.64 ERA and 34:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis. Although highly unlikely to return to the bigs this season, Perez is a very intriguing discount keeper for NL-Only owners.
Xavier Nady, Pit, OF – Traded from the best team to the worst in the NL, Nady will likely become the everyday right fielder in Pittsburgh with the Craig Wilson trade to the Yankees. He has a .294 BA and six RBI in his past 10 games. Endy Chavez will see an increase in at-bats with Nady's exit.
Sean Casey, Det, 1B – Move over Kwame Kilpatrick, there's a new mayor in the Motor City. Traded from Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Brian Rodgers, the smooth hitting Casey gets a substantial boost in value. Expect him to hit third and be an excellent source of RBIs and batting average down the stretch.
Ryan Shealy, 1B, KC – The mammoth first baseman finally gets his shot as an everyday player, traded from Colorado to Kansas City for starter Denny Bautista. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, he has enough raw power to blast 10-15 homers over the rest of the season. AL-only and deep mixed leaguers in need of power numbers need to bow down to this slugging Royal.
Greg Maddux, LAD, SP – The control maestro proved in his past start as a Cub that he can still paint the corner with the best of them, giving up only one earned in six innings against St. Louis. A rejuvenated Dodgers offense and the heavy air of Chavez Ravine make him a dependable No. 4 in 12-team and deeper mixed leagues.
Kip Wells, Tex, SP – Hampered by shoulder and walk problems over the past couple of seasons, Wells could thrive in Texas. In his past start with the Pirates, Wells went seven innings allowing zero runs with three walks. If his command can remain consistent, he is one to watch. AL-only owners desperate for a sixth starter need to take a flier.
John Maine, NYM, SP – Maine has made Mr. Met's rawhide grin stretch from stitch-to-stitch after throwing 16 straight scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in his past two outings. Willie Randolph will likely keep him in the lineup one or two more starts, making him a great short-term add in deeper leagues.
Jeremy Sowers, Cle, SP – Three weeks ago I talked very highly of this kid for a reason. Now he's posted back-to-back complete game shutouts. With only two walks in his past 25 IP, make him a part of your tribe.
Dmitri Young, Det, 1B/DH – After nearly becoming someone's jailhouse mistress a month ago to emerging as an important puzzle piece for a Tigers team in the midst of a playoff run, the "Meat Hook" has had a year suited for an E! True Hollywood Story. Batting .400 with three homers and seven RBI since his return on July 21, AL-only owners need to cage this Tiger.
Willy Aybar, Atl, 3B – Coming over in the Wilson Betemit deal, Aybar is the new Hot-Lanta three-bagger with Chipper Jones out for the next 3-6 weeks. Hitting lead-off in his Braves debut the 23-year-old corner-man went 4-for-6 with two runs and two RBI. He is a great August addition in deeper leagues.
Clint Barmes, Col, SS – Hot as a pistol, the Rockies shortstop has hit safely in 20 of his past 23 games, raising his average by nearly 30 points. Available in 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues, snatch him off waivers if you need a middle-infield upgrade.
Josh Willingham, Fla, C/OF – Willy-nilly is another fish that has headed toward the frying pan in recent weeks. Mired in a 12-for-53 (.226 BA) slump, the Marlins catcher hit is first homer in 21 days on Saturday and has now gone yard in three straight. Continue to buy low.
Hanley Ramirez, Fla, SS – Han-Ram. Oh, Han-Ram! Where art thou April and May versions of you? Demoted to the seventh spot on Friday, Marlins manager Joe Girardi attempted to instigate a mean streak for his struggling shortstop who has hit a pathetic .219 since June 1. His speed still makes him valuable. Better days are on the horizon.
Craig Wilson, NYY, 1B/OF – Yet another 25-homer bat in the Yankees arsenal – coming over to New York for pitcher Shawn Chacon – Wilson's playing time will take a significant hit unless injuries accumulate in the Yankees outfield. Just 8-for-38 in July, Wilson has only one homer since June 28th. Bid minimally for him in AL-only formats.
Geoff Jenkins, Mil, OF – Hitless in his past 16 at-bats, Jenkins has floundered after the break. A .318 career hitter in August, you might want to buy low in deep NL-only and mixed formats hoping for a quick turnaround.
Chris Shelton, Det, 1B/DH – The man I labeled "pasty white goodness" back in April is now minor league fodder. Demoted on Monday after the Tigers acquired Sean Casey, Shelton's incredible demise signifies why you should never overpay for a hot start.
Yahoo! Experts League Update
In what has become this column's greatest redundancy, RotoWire_Liss remains a healthy 20-plus points up on the competition. Y!-Romig has further established himself as the runner-up, with his 83 points good for a 6.5 point buffer between third place KFFL-Wasserzieher. Roster moves have been frequent of late, with Ian Snell, Frank Thomas, Orlando Hernandez, Maicer Izturis, John Maine and Anibal Sanchez the latest additions.