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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fantasy baseball: Oswalt trade analysis

If you're a Roy Oswalt owner, this is the reprieve for which you've been waiting.

If you're a bitter Indians fan, this is almost as bad as the guy who showed up at Progressive Field on Wednesday night wearing a LeBron James Heat jersey.

Oswalt has been traded to the Phillies, and the Astros received 27-year-old pitcher J.A. Happ -- the 2009 runner-up for the National League Rookie of the Year -- and two prospects. What that says about the Indians' haul in the 2009 Cliff Lee trade to Philly, we'll leave to Indians beat writer Jim Ingraham (a guess: It makes the Lee deal look much worse than trading Jhonny Peralta for a lineup card and a large container of sunflower seeds).

From a fantasy perspective, this is a big boost to Oswalt's value.

The 32-year-old righty is 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Both his ERA and WHIP are slightly better than his numbers from 2008 (3.54 and 1.18, respectively), when he was 17-10 with the Astros.

Oswalt, though, has lost twice as much as he's won this season because the Astros have been shut out in five of his 20 starts and scored a total of 17 runs in his 12 defeats.

In May, he had a 2.82 ERA and was 1-4. This month, his ERA is 2.88, and his record is 1-2.

Now, he'll be pitching for the Phillies, who enter Thursday night's game against the Diamondbacks at 55-46 and riding a seven-game winning streak.

Philly ranks third in the National League with 478 runs scored in 101 games. Houston, meanwhile, is 15th in the 16-team league with 364 runs in 101 games, and the Astros have the worst batting average in the league at .240.

If Oswalt continues to pitch as he has this season, he could be among the top 10 starters in the next two months.

The same certainly can't be said for Happ, who was 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA with the Phillies last year.

This season, the lefty started twice, then missed more than three months because of an elbow injury. He returned Sunday and received a no-decision for Philly, allowing three runs in five innings.

He'll spend the rest of the season pitching for the 42-59 Astros, reducing his value strictly to NL-only and very deep mixed leagues.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fantasy baseball: Strasburg's declining value

If you're a Stephen Strasburg owner, you already know time is running out.

With that in mind, two-start weeks -- as this seven-day stretch was supposed to be -- are as valuable as a schedule that has Albert Pujols playing every day.

By now, you're probably aware Strasburg was pulled from his start Tuesday night because of inflammation in his pitching shoulder. An MRI exam and an X-ray showed no further damage, and the Nationals' rookie phenom needs "a couple days' rest and anti-inflammatories," according to GM Mike Rizzo.

And you need to start planning for pitching help in the fantasy playoffs.

Washington's original plan was for Strasburg to pitch no more than 160 innings this season between the major and minor leagues. He's already at 109 2/3, and Tuesday was a clear indication he might be lucky to reach 140.

The Nationals, as they should, will be extremely cautious with a pitcher who has struck out 75 in his first 54 1/3 big-league innings.

Stasburg's original timetable would have put him in line to be done by early September. Tuesday's development could push that back -- or could mean a significant drop in the original estimate of 160 innings.

If Strasburg makes his Aug. 2 start, he would be in line to pitch Aug. 7, 13, 19, 24 and 29. If he was allowed to get near his innings limit, he could also start Sept. 4, 10 and 15 -- which would mean he would be available once in both Weeks 23 and 24, which mark the first round of the postseason and the semifinals, respectively, in most leagues.

That's the glass-half-full analysis.

The pessimistic side of me says Strasburg won't get near 160 innings and might not pitch at all in September.

Next year, the kid gloves hopefully will be removed. This season, the Nationals have to protect their investment in a right-hander who might be the game's best in the next two years.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fantasy focus: The declining values of Chone Figgins and Jose Lopez

Chone Figgins and Jose Lopez switched positions to start the season.

What we didn't know at the time was they wouldn't be any better than Jason Donald and Jhonny Peralta.

Figgins is playing second base after signing with Seattle, and he's been so bad he's been dropped in almost 8 percent of the leagues on

I wouldn't make that move yet, but I certainly wouldn't start him unless I was desperate for stolen bases, since Figgins is doing nothing else.

Entering Thursday night's game against the Red Sox, Figgins had scored only 40 runs in 94 games. He was batting .230 with a .597 OPS, no homers, 22 RBI and 25 steals.

After playing decently in June (.271 average, 13 steals), he's been awful in July (.221, seven runs, three RBI and two steals in 68 at-bats).

Lopez, meanwhile, has been even worse.

Since shifting from second to third base to make room for Figgins, Lopez is batting .238 with a .268 on-base percentage, .606 OPS, 29 runs, six homers and 39 RBI.

A player who averaged 21 homers and 93 RBI in 2008 and '09 batted .226 in April, .240 in May, .264 in June and .211 in July.

His ESPN ownership percentage is down to 55, and it's difficult to argue with any owner who has given up on Lopez.

I wouldn't do the same with Figgins.

In category leagues, he has some value. In points leagues, he's on par with Peralta.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fantasy focus: Asdrubal Cabrera's impact

A shortstop returning from injury who has one home run and seven RBI might seem like another ho-hum July transaction, but this one could be different.

Asdrubal Cabrera is no Hanley Ramirez, but he's no Everth Cabrera, either.

The Tribe shortstop played Tuesday night at Minnesota, his first major-league action since he made the mistake of getting near Jhonny Peralta on May 17, a move that resulted in a broken forearm for Cabrera when Peralta clumsily fell on him.

Cabrera is a career .287 hitter who was surprisingly productive in 2009. Last season, he batted .308 with 81 runs, 52 extra-base hits, six homers, 68 RBI and 17 steals.

I wouldn't expect him to reach double figures in steals this season, considering in his other three major-league seasons (2007, '08 and '10), Cabrera has five steals in 194 games. But I would expect him to hit for a quality average, score runs and drive in more runs than most shortstops.

There's also this: Entering Tuesday, only four shortstops had more than nine homers, and six had 42 RBI or more this season. Even Derek Jeter, a career .315 hitter, was struggling to bat .270.

At the position, there is Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Jose Reyes, Jeter .. and not much else, at least until Troy Tulowitzki is healthy (the Rockies shortstop is expected to return from a wrist injury in the next eight days).

After those five, Elvis Andrus, Alex Gonzalez and Erick Aybar are certain fantasy starters. Alexei Ramirez has rebounded from an awful start, and Clint Barmes is hitting for power in place of Tulowitzki in Colorado.

I would slot Cabrera in the No. 10 range at the position, meaning he's an everyweek starter in most formats.

At least until the next time Peralta thinks he should be the first to get to a ground ball between third base and shortstop.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fantasy baseball: Midseason top 100 overall

If you joined a fantasy baseball league that was drafting this week -- as teams reached the 81-game mark (the official midseason point, not the All-Star break) -- whom would you take first? Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez or Miguel Cabrera?

Whom would you take with the 12th and final pick of the first round?

How excited would you be to exchange your second-round pick of Grady Sizemore for Alex Rios?

That was the idea for the list that follows. The following players are ranked in order based on how I think they will perform the rest of the season. What they've done to this point is important, but doesn't mean everything -- see Bautista, Jose and Greinke, Zack.

I wouldn't be surprised if Bautista had a poor second half and Greinke a great one. Heck, we shouldn't be surprised if Rafael Furcal is the best shortstop not named Hanley Ramirez in the last three months of the season.

Injured players were dropped in the rankings for obvious reasons.

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is expected to be out through at least Week 17 (this is the start of Week 14) with a wrist injury, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia likely is out through Week 19 and Phillies second baseman Chase Utley might miss two more weeks than Pedroia. The news is more encouraging for Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez, who could return from a fractured thumb after the All-Star break.

Tribe outfielder Shin-Soo Choo would've cracked the top 30 if it wasn't for a recent thumb injury that could require surgery. Finally, Jake Peavy likely would've been in the top 100 if not for a back injury that landed the White Sox pitcher on the DL this week.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
4. Carl Crawford, OF, Rays
5. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers
6. David Wright, 3B, Mets
7. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
8. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
9. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
10. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees
11. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
12. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
13. Jose Reyes, SS, Mets
14. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals
15. Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies
16. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
17. Cliff Lee, SP, Mariners
18. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies
19. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers
20. Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox
21. Joe Mauer, C, Twins
22. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
23. Alex Rios, OF, White Sox
24. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
25. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres
26. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds
27. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
28. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox
29. Torii Hunter, OF, Angels
30. Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Rangers
31. Josh Johnson, SP, Marlins
32. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
33. Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers
34. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees
35. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies
36. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees
37. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies
38. David Price, SP, Rays
39. Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals
40. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Red Sox
41. Martin Prado, 2B, Braves
42. Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
43. Michael Young, 3B, Rangers
44. Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies
45. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals
46. Mat Latos, SP, Padres
47. Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees
48. Brennan Boesch, OF, Tigers
49. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
50. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels
51. Jimmy Rollins, SP, Phillies
52. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers
53. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers
54. Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks
55. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
56. Billy Butler, 1B, Royals
57. Phil Hughes, SP, Yankees
58. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners
59. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers
60. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
61. Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins
62. Corey Hart, OF, Brewers
63. Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees
64. Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks
65. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox
66. Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees
67. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers
68. Zack Greinke, SP, Royals
69. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels
70. Brian McCann, C, Braves
71. Victor Martinez, C, Red Sox
72. Aubrey Huff, OF, Giants
73. Billy Wagner, RP, Braves
74. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
75. Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
76. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
77. Jonathan Broxton, RP, Dodgers
78. Rafael Soriano, RP, Rays
79. Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals
80. Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox
81. Denard Span, OF, Twins
82. Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks
83. Ben Zobrist, OF, Rays
84. Chone Figgins, 2B, Mariners
85. James Loney, 1B, Dodgers
86. Matt Cain, SP, Giants
87. Matt Garza, SP, Rays
88. Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals
89. Carlos Santana, C, Indians
90. Buster Posey, C, Giants
91. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
92. Jason Bay, OF, Mets
93. Casey McGehee, 3B, Brewers
94. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
95. Trevor Cahill, SP, Athletics
96. Adam Dunn, 1B, Nationals
97. Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers
98. Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers
99. Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox
100. Heath Bell, RP, Padres

Five who just missed the cut: 101. Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays; 102. Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays; 103. Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins; 104. Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels; 105. Kelly Johnson, 2B, Diamondbacks.

Top 100 by position: Outfielders 27, starting pitchers 24, first basemen 13, second basemen 9, third basemen 8, shortstops 7, catchers 5, relief pitchers 5, designated hitters 2. NOTE: Players are listed at their current position with their "real" team, not where you or I play them on our fake teams.

Click here for the preseason breakdown of the top 100.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fantasy baseball: Second base replacement options

The likes of Robinson Cano, Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, Ty Wigginton, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Martin Prado and Howie Kendrick have made up for the fact that three of the preseason top five players at second base have suffered major injuries.

Twelve players who are eligible at second base in many leagues have hit at least nine home runs this season, 14 have compiled 35 RBI or more, and 11 have scored at least 42 runs.

This week, however, was not one for feel-good stories, puppies and long walks on the beach.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is on the disabled list with a broken left foot. The injury won't require surgery, but the 2008 American League MVP likely will miss about six weeks. That leaves his return in the Aug. 7 range -- the end of Week 18 of the regular season.

The Phillies' Chase Utley joined Pedroia on the DL on Tuesday, and Thursday it was disclosed Utley has a broken thumb that could sideline him for eight weeks. That might mean Utley will be out of your lineup through Week 21.

Then there's the case of Baltimore's Brian Roberts, whose infrequent injury updates get more gloomy each time. At best, he'll be back in August, but I wouldn't plan on Roberts helping you the rest of the season.

If you're among the affected, the players mentioned in the first paragraph were drafted or are long-gone waiver-wire acquisitions.

That leaves you searching for a bargain. Here are 10 players who could be decent starters in deeper mixed and AL- and NL-only leagues. All stats are through Wednesday:

1. Sean Rodriguez, Rays (owned in 22 percent of the leagues on The third-year player earned regular at-bats by hitting .289 with four homers, 15 RBI, 12 runs, five steals and an .828 OPS in June.

2. Carlos Guillen, Tigers (40.7 percent): He moved to second base upon returning from the DL on May 28. The switch made Guillen relevant in fantasy again, as he batted .293 with three homers, 12 RBI and an .803 OPS in June. He's no longer a stolen-base threat, but Guillen can help you in batting average, homers and RBI.

3. Clint Barmes, Rockies (19 percent): He's playing shorstop in Troy Tulowitzki's absence, and he's a powerful option no matter which middle-infield spot you select. Barmes had 23 homers and 76 RBI in 2009, and he hit .313 with 14 RBI and an .858 OPS in 80 June at-bats. For the season, he has six homers and 38 RBI, but beware his batting average (.247).

4. Gordon Beckham, White Sox (37.7 percent): He's been a bust thus far -- .207 average, two homers, 20 RBI and 29 runs in 246 at-bats. In 2009, Beckham batted .270 with 14 homers, 63 RBI, 58 runs and seven steals in 378 at-bats. He seems to regaining that form of late. Beckham is 6-for-18 (.333) with five runs scored, one homer, two doubles, a triple and four RBI in his last six contests.

5. Mike Aviles, Royals (29.1 percent): He will be a boost to your batting average and runs scored, but not much else. Aviles, a career .300 hitter, batted .317 in May and .333 in June. But he hasn't homered since May 9 and has 12 RBI and two steals in 180 at-bats.

6. Freddy Sanchez, Giants (19.8 percent): A .299 career hitter, Sanchez has similar assets as Aviles. Since he was activated from the DL on May 19, he is hitting .291 with 18 runs, one homer, 19 RBI and zero steals in 141 at-bats.

7. Cristian Guzman, Nationals (29.4 percent): He's also eligible at shortstop, and was surprisingly productive in 2008 and '09 (combined averages of .301, eight homers, 54 RBI, 75 runs and five steals). Guzman struggled in June (.236) and has only one homer and 21 RBI on the season.

8. Felipe Lopez, Cardinals (3.5 percent):
Since he is filling in for an injured David Freese at third base, Lopez likely would be a temporary aid. In his last four games, he is 7-for-16 (.438) with four runs. In 2009, Lopez batted .310 with nine homers, 57 RBI and 88 runs with Milwaukee and Arizona.

9. David Eckstein, Padres (4.6 percent): This would strictly be a desperation move. Eckstein is a decent hitter (.281) and might steal 10 to 15 bases (he has five this season).

One really long shot

Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera hasn't played second base since 2009, but he is eligible there in some leagues and his broken forearm caused many owners to drop him. He's available in more than 73 percent of the ESPN leagues.

He could return in late July -- just in time to help you for a month until Utley comes back.

For fantasy updates, follow Kevin Kleps on Twitter.

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