MLB Skinny: League Hopping

1st Chair: Eddie Guardado
2nd Chair: Todd Coffey
Skinny: Jerry Narron believes he has finally found a reliable colt in a stable full of quarter horses with the acquisition of Guardado. Todd Coffey is the Cincy closer of the future – what happened to you Ryan Wagner? – but obviously has a few rough edges to smooth out after seeing his ERA balloon from 1.73 to 3.20 in the past 30 days. If Guardado were to continue his futile ways, Coffey would certainly get opportunities again. Deeper leagues should hang onto his services just in case, but Eddie G is clearly the man.
1st Chair: Brian Meadows
2nd Chair: Shawn Camp
Skinny: Reason number 1,121 why you never, ever draft a closer until the middle-rounds, Meadows has gone from regent to king of the D-Rays bullpen after Tyler Walker ended his season, opting for Tommy John surgery early last week. Since becoming the closer on June 21st, Meadows has converted on five of six chances allowing just one run in the process. He is no Mariano Rivera, but his fantastic 20:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio means he could be a second-half sensation as the D-Rays permanent stopper. Available in 86 percent of Yahoo! leagues, its time to pluck him off the waiver wire.
1st Chair: Takashi Saito
2nd Chair: Danys Baez
Skinny: Turn the oven to 400. Stick a thermometer in the breast. And watch the Gagne bird cook to perfection. On Saturday, the Canadian Goose had season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. As predicted by yours truly four weeks ago in the Skinny, Saito is and will remain Grady Little's primary option. Although shaky in two of his past three outings, allowing three earned in 2.1 innings, the end-game kamikaze did manage to tally two saves. His outstanding 57:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42 innings and an unblemished conversion rate – he is 8-for-8 in save ops – makes Saito a strong tier-two closer capable of 13-16 saves in the second half. There are whispers in Dodgerland that a trade for additional bullpen help could be imminent, but Saito is firmly entrenched in the job for now.
1st Chair: Unknown
2nd Chair: Ken Ray, Jorge Sosa
Skinny: Every time Sosa takes the mound, children begin to cry. The man I call "serve 'em up" blew another save this week giving up a two-run blast to the Reds Javier Valentin on July 6th. The following night, beefy Bobby Cox turned to the less volatile Ken Ray in the ninth. Ray unplugged the Big Red Machine, striking out two to earn his fifth save of the year. As I've said all along, Ray is and has been the answer to the Braves bullpen woes. Another couple of strong outings and he will clearly be the default closer. Available in a whopping 80 percent of Yahoo leagues, now is the time to jump back on the bandwagon.
1st Chair: Ambiorix Burgos
2nd Chair: Mike MacDougal
Skinny: In four days fantasy followers across the nation can finally drop that guy with the unpronounceable first name. With MacDougal recuperating well at Triple-A Omaha, Burgos will certainly be moved to a setup role after blowing two saves in July. Manager Buddy Bell said he would "prefer that MacDougal goes right back into the closer's role, but I don't know if that's the right thing to do." Pitching well in two consecutive outings over the weekend – he struck out three in two scoreless innings – it will be an easy decision for Bell to make. This will be your last opportunity to buy low.

The apocalypse is here. Mark Redman has made the All-Star team. Excluding the 10 members of the official Royals fan forum, devout baseball followers everywhere are asking the same perplexing question: You can't be serious? Sporting an ERA (5.27) higher than Mike Sweeney's medical bills and an equally deplorable 32:32 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Redman is the best starter on a staff that is an embarrassment to Triple-A affiliates everywhere. For level-headed baseball fans, George Brett couldn't come out of retirement soon enough.

Major League Baseball should feel ashamed. The purpose of an all-star exhibition is to see the league's elite talents regardless of uniform. It’s a travesty that long-distance dialer Travis Hafner will not be in Pittsburgh despite ranking third in the AL with 74 RBI and sixth in batting average hitting a robust .322. In order for the game to really mean something, it's time for the baseball think tank to tighten their belts and eliminate the outdated player per team rule. You hear me, Mr. Selig? This year, the Midsummer Classic is a Royal joke. Here are the news and notes that hit for the cycle over the weekend:

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

  • Two tilt-altering trades went down late last week. The first sent tumbling starter Jeff Weaver from the Los Angeles Angels to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for cash and power-hitting outfield prospect Terry Evans. The 29-year-old Weaver had a 6.29 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, .309 BAA and three wins in 88.2 awful innings this season for the Angels. Cardinals' general manger Walt Jockety felt that "Weaver is someone who can come in and lend immediate help and depth to our rotation. One of the scouts who saw him thought he was using his breaking ball too much and wasn't using his fastball. He's got a pretty good fastball, and there might be a chance we can make a change that makes him better." Weaver is expected to make his St. Louis debut July 17th against Atlanta.

Oh to be a fly on the Jell-O mold at the Weaver family picnic. Replaced in the Angels rotation by budding superstar sibling Jered Weaver, Jeff is hoping to defibrillate his career in a city that reversed the pitching fortunes of Mark Mulder, Woody Williams and Jason Marquis in previous seasons. This year, Weaver has been plagued by the long-ball, giving up 18 homers thus far – one shy of his entire total in 34 starts in 2004. If St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan can retool his approach, Weaver could be a very profitable player capable of an ERA around 4.00, 1.25 WHIP and seven or more wins. Rostered on a mere 45 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he will turn a nice profit in the second half for those willing to take the risk. The best part of the deal: Sidney Ponson has finally been harpooned. Good riddance to the beluga whale.

  • Deal numero dos sent "Everyday" Eddie Guardado from Seattle to Cincinnati in exchange for cash and a guy who probably enjoys Sex and the City reruns, minor league pitcher Travis Chick. One of the AL's most accomplished closers since 2002 averaging 35 saves per year and a sparkling 2.84 ERA, Guardado has flopped terribly this season, allowing eight homers and 11 walks in just 23 innings. The 36-year-old stopper commented jubilantly, "It's going to be fun. We're going to have fun. No matter what, I have fun. I'm excited." Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky wasted no time in determining Guardado's new role saying, "He's our closer. He's going to close as many games as possible for us." The Reds newly appointed stopper looked sharp in his debut on July 7th, striking out one while walking none in one-inning of work against Atlanta.

Guardado sounds like a giddy school girl who just scored tickets to an Ashlee Simpson concert. The first true Reds closer since Danny Graves vacated the spot two years ago, Guardado's high-80s cheese couldn't overpower your grandmother, but his fearless yet "fun" attitude will get the job done in the Queen City. Pitching better of late, allowing just three walks since May 8th, he could be very fruitful in his new threads. NL-only leaguers in search of saves should blow a significant amount of FAAB cash for his services. For the rest of you, pick him up immediately and trust him as a No. 3 closer capable of 12-15 saves down the stretch.

  • Injury News and Notes: Speed racer Jose Reyes was sidelined over the weekend with seven stitches in his left pinky after belly-flopping into first-base on Friday. "X-rays were negative. Everything is fine. The doctor says `Let's see how it feels in the next couple of days.," said Reyes. Although he is out for Tuesday's All-Star game, it appears the missed time was only a precaution as he pinch ran twice against the Marlins. Keep him active for the short week … Reyes' teammate Pedro Martinez was placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 29th with an injured hip. Pedro was confident he could have taken the mound in his last start stating, "If there was any kind of emergency, without a doubt I would have taken the ball. My teammates pulled me aside and said, 'Let's play it safe. We need you for the long haul." He is eligible to return July 14th, but will likely have his spot skipped to get some additional rest. Lanky rookie Mike Pelfrey will get another chance to showcase his stuff … Brewers injury-plagued sensation Ben Sheets made a rehab start on Sunday for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. He threw 65 pitches giving up three runs in three innings. After the start Sheets said, "I just needed to get some innings in. Confidence in my fastball is the biggest key, and my location was off a little bit. I was rushing through my delivery, but overall I felt about 99.5 percent. Once I get my fastball located, I'll be good to go." His next start will be for Phoenix of the Arizona League on Friday. If all goes well, he could be activated approximately July 20th. If you need a marquee starter for the stretch run, Sheets is the solution … Toronto phenom Alex Rios was released from the hospital on Friday where he had been for a week recovering from a staph infection in his lower left leg. On crutches and 10 pounds lighter, Blue Jays bench coach Ernie Whitt said that Rios is "on the road to recovery. Now it's just a healing process." With no timetable set for his return it could take an additional two weeks for Rios to regain full strength. Unless a miraculous rebound occurs, look for him to struggle when he returns. Realistically, it may not be until early August before Rios is fantasy starter material … Notorious cry baby Milton Bradley went 4-for-6 in a rehab game with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. Out of action since June 6th with a shoulder injury, he is likely to be activated sometime late next week. But temper your expectations. Ken Macha has indicated Bradley will split time with the red-hot Jay Payton in right … Much-maligned starter Mark Prior strained an oblique in batting practice on Sunday and was scratched from his scheduled start. Cubs' trainer Mark O'Neal said, "These things are very tricky. You have to be able to sneeze, cough, normal things without any soreness. It's really not that sore, but there's enough soreness that whenever he rotates – it's on the left side. He has to hit here. It's unfortunate we had to pull him out today, but it's better today than cost us four to six weeks." Prior added "The goat's curse is starting to look real." You're gosh darn right it is, Mark. Keep him benched until more definitive information hits the wire … Last and certainly least, Kerry Wood is again done for the year with a partial thickness tear of the infraspinatus tendon – what the heck is that? – and a rotator cuff strain. Well, at least we know he's consistent at something. Wood is in the final year of his contract with the Cubs and will likely become an all-star with someone else next season.

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

  • Chuck James, Atl, SP
    If only his middle name were Rick. Inserted into the Braves rotation back on June 25th, James has won his first three decisions while tallying a respectable 3.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP as a starter. The top left-handed pitching prospect in the Atlanta organization, James is a command maestro with an incredible change that offsets his low-90s fastball very effectively. The biggest knock against him is his proneness for serving up homers, giving up four in his past 20 innings. If he can keep the rawhide down and continue to exude the superb command he showcased at Triple-A Richmond – he had a 25:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33.2 IP – James will be a super freak capable of a sub 4.00 ERA, 6-8 wins and a WHIP around 1.25 after the break. Owned in only 7 percent of Yahoo! leagues, tomahawk-chop one of your struggling starters for his services.

PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm

  • Jeremy Sowers, Cle, SP, (ETA: Now)
    Ignore the 7.47 ERA, Sowers will be an AL-only power in the very near future. The reigning Indians minor league pitcher of the year, Sowers is one of the brightest pitching prospects in baseball. Projected to become a high-tiered No. 2 starter capable of winning 15-20 games annually, the southpaw has a solid slider, but an average fastball that only hovers around 90 MPH. To compensate for his lack of velocity, he uses a cerebral concoction of quick wit and intelligence to get outs. In 15 starts at Triple-A Buffalo, the 23-year-old yielded a line that would make any fantasy owner's heart go pitter-pat – 97.1 IP, 1.39 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 54:29 K:BB. Although tagged for seven runs versus Baltimore July 8th, his previous effort against the Yankees demonstrates his true potential – 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K. Although still learning the ropes like St. Louis' Anthony Reyes, Sowers is a great addition to benches in keeper leagues. Plug him into your lineup when the matchup is favorable.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Jason Jennings, Col, SP – Jennings has given fantasy risk takers a Rocky Mountain high since June 15th. He has logged five straight quality starts, giving up a miniscule five earned runs in his past 37 innings. Ride him while he's hot.

Ray Durham, SF, 2B – One of fantasy baseball's radiant stars from 1997-2001, Durham has rediscovered some lost magic. Smacking a hit in 9 of his past 10, he has raised his average by nearly 20 points. On pace for a career high 22 homers and 85 RBI, be smart and take a profit.

Todd Hollandsworth, Cle, OF – Hitting .348 with five multi-hit games, three homers and 14 RBI over the past two weeks, the former NL ROY has made AL-only owners holla back. If Jason Michaels struggles, Hollandsworth may see additional at-bats once he fully recovers from a minor hamstring pull.

Doug Davis, Mil, SP – Feasted upon in April and May, posting a 5.59 ERA, Davis has drastically cut back on his walks – excluding Sunday's six free passes blip – compiling four quality starts in his past six outings. Since 2001 he has averaged a superb 3.23 ERA after the break.

Mike Lamb, 1B, Hou – Getting consistent at-bats over the past couple of weeks, Lamb has sheered the opposition slapping 14 hits while driving in five runs in his past nine games. Hitting in the two-spot, he is a great add in 14-team and larger leagues as a utility option with pop.

Melky Cabrera, OF, NYY – On a torrid streak with 17 hits and 10 RBIs in his past 10, Cabrera suddenly thinks he's Don Mattingly. Equipped with average offensive skills, sell high to a Yankees fan before reality sets in.

David DeJesus, OF, KC – DeJesus has touched the heavens since June 21st, logging a .385 BA and 10 multi-hit performances. If you need a kick-start in batting average, bow down to the DeJesus.

Prince Fielder, 1B, Mil – The Brewers buffet expert has turned into a pauper going 4-for-35 thus far in July. Crashing into a mid-season wall, expect the rookie to finish with second half numbers around: .275 BA, 11 HR, 35 RBI. Buy low.

Derek Lowe, SP, LAD – Lowe has been shelled in his past 15 innings, allowing 18 earned runs. In the top 10 in ERA in the NL just two weeks ago, now is the time to pitch an offer. He posted a solid 3.17 ERA in 16 starts after the break last year.

Carlos Delgado, 1B, NYM – Batting a pitiful .063 with one RBI in July, Delgado's average has plummeted to .252. A bounce back is coming soon – he has a stout .292 career average after the break. Get him at a discount if an owner is nervous about his bruised right hand.

Yahoo! Experts League Update
A log-jam remains behind the vapor trail that is RotoWire_Liss, who has reached new heights this week with a point tally above the century mark (103). Meanwhile, see-saw battles continue for spots 2-5, with Y!-Romig, Y!-Funston, KFFL-Wasserzieher and KFFL-Anderson the teams jockeying for those positions. League additions made just prior to the All-Star break include Juan Rivera, Alex Escobar and Andre Ethier. A trade was also executed, with RotoWire-Erickson trading Brandon Webb, Brett Tomko and Ryan Freel to FantasyGuru-Pianowski for Tadahito Iguchi, Akinori Otsuka and Tom Glavine.