Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the deal that sent All-Star Carlos Beltran from Kansas City to Houston. Fantasy owners who drafted Beltran as high as No. 2 in 2005 drafts will tell you it feels like a lifetime ago that he hit eight homers to lead the Astros to the brink of the World Series, but that's not the point of observing this anniversary. As we approach the 30-day countdown to the trade deadline, it is important for rotisserie managers to keep an eye on the transaction wire. Until the deals start trickling in, however, the focus remains on the field where once again there was some great action to follow:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Back in 1982, Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas and Ben Oglivie each hit 30-plus homers for the Brewers. Though the franchise has had its share of sluggers since, no trio has been able to keep Bernie Brewer busy at the same frequency. If Saturday's results are any indication, that may change very soon. Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder both hit their first Major League homers and Carlos Lee drove in two runs as Milwaukee defeated Johan Santana and the Twins, 7-6. Fielder's homer, a pinch-hit, opposite-field blast in the sixth inning, traveled an estimated 426 feet. Third baseman Bill Hall, who has seven homers in June, also drove in a run for the Brewers.
For fantasy owners, the most intriguing guy is Weeks. Since making his 2005 debut on June 11, Weeks has singled off Roy Halladay, doubled off Greg Maddux and touched Santana for a triple and a homer. That is quite a cycle for anyone, let alone a 22-year-old rookie trying to justify his promotion. Yahoo! owners, it appears, are already sold on this prospect. Weeks, who also has three stolen bases to his credit, is owned in 75 percent of Yahoo! default leagues. As for Fielder, though he closed the week with a homer and a single off the bench, he's likely headed back to the minors once Russell Branyan returns from his Triple-A rehab assignment.
- Had I known what Oakland batters had in store for Brett Tomko and the rest of the Giants pitching staff on Sunday, I would have taken the weekend off and printed the box score as a Market Movers section of its own. It would also double nicely as a bargain bin. Nick Swisher, owned in fewer than 10 percent of Yahoo! default leagues, homered from both sides of the plate as part of Oakland's 16-run onslaught. In his past 10 starts, Swisher has five homers and 13 RBIs from the eighth position in the A's lineup. Also providing pop from near the bottom of the order has been Dan Johnson, who is 11-for-27 with seven runs scored and seven driven in since June 18. He hit 27 homers at Triple-A Sacramento last season and could get another month of solid playing time as Erubiel Durazo isn't close to returning from his elbow injury.
Of course, hot bats aren't the only thing that has propelled Oakland to within five games of the .500 mark. Take a look at Joe Blanton's June numbers: 4-1, 2.02 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .196 BAA. He was nearly as sharp in April, back when the A's were incapable of providing run support. You'll still find Blanton available in most leagues. The same can't be said for Dan Haren, who after a 4-0 June (0.88 WHP, .207 opp. avg.) is owned in more than 75 percent of leagues. Even Kirk Saarloos is getting in on the act. Though he's still a statistical curiosity with more walks than strikeouts, he boasts a 3-0 record this month to go along with a 2.08 ERA.
- About the only question left unanswered by Mark Prior on Sunday was whether his injured right elbow can hold up when throwing from the stretch. Less than a month after his career was nearly ended by a Brad Hawpe line drive, Prior returned to action with six masterful innings against the White Sox. He threw 71 pitches, 50 for strikes, and allowed only one baserunner. By the time he struck out Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko with mid-90s heat in the fourth inning, those fantasy owners who feared he rushed back to action let out a collective sigh of relief.
Just two days before Prior's gem, Kerry Wood struck out nine in 5.2 near-perfect innings in his final rehab start for Triple-A Iowa. He'll return to the Chicago rotation on Wednesday when he starts against Milwaukee. Though MLB.com reported on Saturday that Jerome Williams was the favorite to remain in the rotation as the Cubs return to health, he came out of the bullpen on Sunday. Williams pitched seven strong innings on Tuesday in his debut with the Cubs.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Garrett Atkins, 3B, Col
With four hits on Sunday, Atkins raised his batting average at Coors Field to .402. Not even Clint Barmes can boast home-cooking splits that high. In 24 home games, the third baseman has four homers, 22 RBIs and 17 runs scored. Atkins hit .397 in spring training and was set to bat second in the Colorado lineup before suffering a hamstring injury that cost him most of the season's first month. He struggled for much of May, but has fought his back to the No. 2 position in the Rockies lineup, batting ahead of Todd Helton and Preston Wilson. Now would be a good time to get on Atkins, as Colorado plays 10 of its next 14 games in Denver.
- Ervin Santana, SP, LAA
It's usually one extreme or another with Santana, and Saturday's start against the Dodgers was no different. Facing Jayson Werth leading off the second inning, the 22-year-old rookie gave up a home run. The two crossed paths again in the following frame, this time with the bases loaded. Santana blew him away with a 96-mph fastball. Such is life with this rail-thin youngster. In his three quality starts, the righty is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 22 innings. His two other starts: 13 earned runs and three homers allowed in just over six innings. The Angels need Santana to find his groove. The team announced on Saturday that Kelvim Escobar needs elbow surgery that will sideline him for at least two months.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Justin Huber, 1B, KC (ETA – Recalled June 21)
Huber is a patient hitter in the Moneyball mold. At Triple-A Wichita, he had a .420 on-base percentage to complement nine homers and 50 RBIs in 67 games. He was recalled when Mike Sweeney landed on the DL, and he promptly drove in three runs in his first five big league games. Scouts project him as a 20-homer, .300 hitter at the Major League level. Sweeney's ongoing battles with injuries are well-publicized, but the Royals may still find takers as the trade deadline nears.
- Lee Gronkiewicz, RP, Tor/Double-A (ETA – August 1)
Gronkiewicz struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth inning for Double-A New Hampshire on Sunday, earning his 22nd save and lowering his ERA to 0.83 in the process. The 26-year-old has converted 32 straight save chances if you include his 2004 numbers. The next logical step is a promotion to Triple-A, but the Blue Jays may just give him a look at the big league level if closer Miguel Batista is dealt before the July 31 deadline.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Wilson Betemit, 3B, Atl – The Braves sent Andy Marte back to Triple-A on Saturday, meaning Betemit will continue to start while Chipper Jones is on the mend. Betemit is batting .358 in June and has two homers, two triples and a stolen base in his last seven starts.
Robinson Tejeda, SP, Phi – Season-ending surgery for Randy Wolf means an extended stay in the Philadelphia rotation for Tejeda. In his past three starts, the rookie has allowed only one earned run on nine hits in 16.2 innings.
Junior Spivey, 2B, Was – Spivey homered on Sunday and stole his ninth base of the season. The homer extended his hitting streak to nine games, and the second baseman has eight runs scored in that span.
Russ Adams, SS, Tor – Just a few days after the club announced that Adams would start playing more against lefties, they inserted him in the leadoff spot for the first time this season. He'll split time atop the Toronto batting order with Reed Johnson.
Brad Hawpe, RF, Col – Hawpe took Wandy Rodriguez deep on Tuesday for his first-career homer against a lefty. Success against southpaws is key if Hawpe is going to hit his way out of a platoon situation in the Colorado outfield.
Jayson Werth, RF, LAD – Werth homered twice off Paul Byrd on Sunday, capping a week during which he homered four times and drove in six runs. He hit a homer every 18 at bats last year for the Dodgers, but has been slowed by injuries in 2005.
Doug Davis, SP, Mil – A winner of five of his past seven starts, Davis matched his career-high with nine strikeouts on Wednesday against the Cubs.
So Taguchi, OF, StL – Persistent neck pain has limited Larry Walker's playing time of late and even when he plays, he's not himself. Taguchi has taken advantage of the opportunity, going 15-for-39 with three homers and eight RBIs in his past 10 games.
Robert Fick, C, SD – Two words: catcher eligible. Fick picked up the extra position last week, which boosts his value when coupled with his .309 average in the month of June.
Scott Olsen, SP, Fla – Olsen struck out seven in 5.2 strong innings while making his Major League debut on Saturday against Tampa Bay. The lefty was 6-4 with a 3.92 ERA at Double-A Carolina.
Joe Nathan, RP, Min – Since May 1, Nathan is 0-3 with a 6.61 ERA. Thankfully, he reserves his work for non-save situations, but he's just a blowup or two away from the Hot Seat.
Brett Myers, SP, Phi – Nearly unhittable for the season's first two months, Myers is suddenly allowing opponents to hit safely at a .339 clip in June. He is 1-1 with a 6.18 ERA this month.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Atl – Though he had two hits on Sunday, Furcal's June average remains below .220. According to MLB.com, the Braves would consider moving Wilson Betemit from third to shortstop when Chipper Jones returns from the DL.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
24 Consecutive scoreless innings pitched by Mark Prior in games that follow a stint on the DL. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Prior's WHIP in post-DL starts is an incredible 0.46.