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Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
8/04/2006 06:45:00 PM

More on backup running backs

To expand on the discussion about handcuff picks, I just did a mock draft that will appear in Sports Illustrated in a couple of weeks, and while I won't spoil things too much, not many "handcuff" type backs (like Maurice Morris or Michael Turner) were taken. Only the recently acquired Michael Bennett got some attention, and his past performance had as much to do with it as his new role in Kansas City. There were other backup running backs drafted, but they were either goal-line guys or No. 2 backs in sticky situation.

And as another poster mentioned, the "handcuff" technique usually works if you decide to take a key backup very late in the draft (depending on how deep your draft is) where it's worth gambling on a guy who likely will ride your fantasy bench. If you need to cut him later on for a better free agent, you're free to do that as well. The Larry Johnson situation last year was a huge exception as many Priest Holmes owners seemed forced to take him in the middle rounds (between 3-6), although it paid off in the end.

But while we're on the topic of backups, I'll open the floor to this question: Which backup running back (at least right now on the depth chart) is most likely going to have an LJ-type breakout performance this season? Will it be a rookie like DeAngelo Williams, Laurence Maroney or Joseph Addai? The handcuff guys I've mentioned before (Morris, Turner, Bennett)? Somebody else?

Which leads me to one final query: Will you watch the first preseason game on Sunday between the Eagles and Raiders? If so, how much will it affect your draft strategies?
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8/03/2006 05:11:00 PM

Instant dividends for Lidle, Chacon

It does say something about the market that Cory Lidle and Shawn Chacon were among the biggest-name pitchers to switch leagues at the trade deadline. And maybe not too surprisingly, both made their first starts for their new teams Thursday afternoon with decent results.
Cory Lidle
Cory Lidle survived the heat to win his Yankees debut.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Lidle pitched six solid innings for the Yankees, allowing just one run, four hits with two walks and five strikeouts in an 8-1 win over the Blue Jays. Jason Giambi gave Lidle a quick lead with a three-run homer, which probably eased some of the pressure of making his first start in Yankee Stadium. You can't be too sure if he'll keep this up, but at least it's a promising start for Lidle -- so expect his FAAB price to go up just a bit because of it, if he hasn't already been claimed.

As for Chacon, who lost his job in the Yankees' rotation to Sidney Ponson, who then lost his job to Lidle, he also won his first start for his new team, allowing just one run in five innings in the Pirates' 3-2 victory over the Braves. He gave up just three hits (only one after the first inning); however, he walked four and struck out just three, so keep an eye on future starts to see if you really want to add him to your team.

Mixed leagues don't really need to get them, but AL- and NL-only leagues could see some extra attention. Just remember that it's just one start, and neither screams out "must have" based on past performance.
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8/02/2006 02:04:00 PM

Spotlight on Bennett, Pennington

A couple of recent news items to try to get some discussion going on this blog:
Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett will be a popular choice among Larry Johnson owners this season.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

-- Chiefs acquire Michael Bennett from Saints for 2007 draft pick: With Priest Holmes' future in doubt, Bennett likely takes the role as the primary backup running back in Kansas City -- a position that worked out nicely for Larry Johnson last season.

The question here is where do you take Bennett as your "handcuff" pick to Johnson -- much like Maurice Morris to Shaun Alexander, and Michael Turner to LaDaininan Tomlinson? Bennett does have starting experience (and a 1,296-yard season in 2002) and could step right in should something happen to Johnson, although the Vikings had no problems letting him go this offseason. He was considered a backup to Deuce McAllister in New Orleans before Reggie Bush fell into the Saints' lap.

A related question that was brought up earlier last week: How much does Willie Roaf's retirement affect Johnson's fantasy value this year? Is he your No. 1 overall pick? The departure of Steve Hutchinson in Seattle may have dropped Alexander's value. Does the same happen to Johnson?

-- Report: Chad Pennington wins Jets starting QB job: Apparently his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery is going well enough that he'll be leading the way -- unless something else happens during training camp.

The question here is: Does this supposed announcement really have any fantasy significance? Pennington's health will continue to make him a major fantasy risk, and the offense doesn't seem to have a lot of dynamite contributors -- top wideout Laveranues Coles was so-so last year and Justin McCareins wasn't a whole lot better in his second season with the Jets (although the patchwork quarterback situation last year didn't help).
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7/31/2006 05:53:00 PM

Trade analysis: Deadline deals

There was plenty of talk, plenty of rumor, but in the end, Alfonso Soriano and Barry Zito stayed put. However, these were the trades that went down and how they might affect the fantasy landscape:
Julio Lugo
Julio Lugo moves to L.A. where he likely will play second base.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

-- Dodgers get Greg Maddux from Cubs for Cesar Izturis: The future Hall of Famer has been mediocre since a dynamite April, but moving to pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium should improve his value for the rest of the season. As for Izturis, he'll take over at short, with Ronny Cedeno replacing the departed Todd Walker (see below) at second. However, he doesn't offer a lot from a fantasy perspective (although he had 25 steals in 2004).

-- Dodgers get Julio Lugo from Devil Rays: He likely plays second for now with Jeff Kent on the DL, with fellow newcomer Wilson Betemit at third replacing Izturis. However, what happens when Kent and Nomar Garciaparra return from the DL? Playing in Dodger Stadium might not help Lugo's power numbers, but he can still offer up decent speed (18 steals this season) and average stats.

The Devil Rays did get a top prospect in Joel Guzman in the deal, although he's still looking for a position to call his own (he came up as a shortstop and has tried his hand at third, first and the outfield). He might play for Tampa Bay this season. At the least, keeper league owners should keep eye on him. Plus, it's possible top prospect B.J. Upton comes back up to take Lugo's place at shortstop in Tampa Bay.

-- Tigers get Sean Casey from Pirates: Casey can hit for average (.302 career hitter) but doesn't offer a lot of power. Just a little warning there. Also, the Tigers sent April power sensation Chris Shelton to the minors to make room for Casey. So if you have Shelton, you might as well get Casey -- since April, the power hasn't been there.

-- Mets get Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez from Pirates for Xavier Nady: The Mets lost top setup man Duaner Sanchez for the season after dislocating his shoulder in a taxi cab accident on Sunday, so Hernandez will fill that role and may get a couple of vulture wins and saves down the stretch. Perez has been horrible this year and hasn't been much better in the minors, but he's still got a live arm, so he might get a shot next year. Nady finally got a regular place in the lineup and he's come through with a career-high 14 homers. He'll probably get into the middle of the lineup in Pittsburgh (possibly replacing Casey at first) and might get a few more RBI chances behind Jason Bay. The Nady trade means Lastings Milledge returns to the majors, where he'll share time with Endy Chavez.

-- Yankees get Craig Wilson from Pirates for Shawn Chacon: Wilson could see some time at first, DH and the outfield, although the bench and lineup are rather crowded now after Sunday's Bobby Abreu deal. Wilson could be a cheap source of power off the bench, though, much like Aaron Guiel has been recently. Chacon (5-3 but 7.00 ERA) was expendable after Cory Lidle came over from the Phillies, and if you're desperate for a serviceable starting pitcher, you could do worse.

-- Rangers get Kip Wells from Pirates: Chacon has a spot in the Pittsburgh rotation because the veteran Wells, who is just 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA and 1.76 WHIP but has improved in recent weeks, was sent to Texas to "bolster" the rotation. Wells is recently removed from surgery on a blocked artery in his arm. When healthy, he's an OK pitcher. Right now with his health and his new home park, he's a marginal AL-only play.

-- Padres get Todd Walker from Cubs: As I mentioned last week, Walker's power numbers are down and going to Petco won't help that out. However, Walker likely will get regular work at third base where San Diego needs it (although he hasn't played there since 1997 when he was with the Twins), so his value rises all so slightly.

-- Royals get Ryan Shealy and Scott Dohmann from Rockies for Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista: Shealy's path in Colorado has been blocked by Todd Helton, so now he'll fight for time at first and/or DH with Mike Sweeney and Doug Mientkiewicz, but he could be a nice underrated play for the end of this season and the start of 2007. Shealy's got a big bat, although Kansas City seems to have a glut of those types of big-hitting first base/DH types. Affeldt and Bautista have had their moments in recent years, but they'll either be in the bullpen or the minors for now, so there's no rush to get either of them on the roster.

-- Rangers get Matt Stairs from Royals: He gives Texas a lefty bat off the bench. Playing in Ameriquest may give him an extra couple of homers down the stretch for deep AL-only fantasy teams.

-- Reds get Kyle Lohse from Twins: Lohse is just 2-5 with a 7.12 ERA this year and was replaced in the Minnesota rotation by Francisco Liriano. Lohse could start for the Reds, but pass. The Reds also got reliever Rheal Cormier from the Phillies.

-- Cardinals get Jorge Sosa from Braves: Sosa was a big surprise as a starter last year but struggled to find his way this season. He could be used as a starter or reliever in St. Louis, but he's probably not worth picking up at this point.
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7/30/2006 11:30:00 PM

Trade analyses: Bobby Abreu, Ronnie Belliard

First we had the Carlos Lee deal, now comes another big move as the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle from the Phillies for four minor leaguers. Obviously, this comes as a big blow for NL-only leagues and a boon for AL-only ones yet again.

Abreu has just eight homers and a .277 average this season, but does have 65 RBIs, 20 steals and a whopping .427 on-base percentage (great if your league counts that as a stat). He'll have plenty of RBI chances in the middle of that loaded Yankees lineup, and maybe the power returns (or maybe it doesn't -- he's more of a 20-25 homer guy over the course of a season, as opposed to that Home Run Derby performance last year). Even if he doesn't hit a lot of homers, the steals make him a very attractive FAAB target in AL-only leagues. The move likely also means reduced at-bats for Bernie Williams and/or Melky Cabrera as Abreu takes over right.

As for Lidle, he's been adequate (8-7, 4.74 ERA) this season, although he'll likely be the Yankees' No. 5 starter, and there isn't much of a fantasy demand for those types of pitchers. Still, he (and the Yankees) hope he could turn in a performance like Shawn Chacon or Aaron Small last year.

Also going down Sunday is the Cardinals acquiring Ronnie Belliard from the Indians for Hector Luna. Belliard solves St. Louis' second-base platoon (Luna and Aaron Miles had shared time) and adds a decent bat to the lineup, although his power numbers are off from his career-high 17 homers last season. Belliard is a nice pickup for any NL-only team trying to fill a middle infield hole, and Luna is actually not too bad for AL-only leagues as well (.291 in limited action) if he becomes Cleveland's starting second baseman.
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