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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.
8/24/2007 06:26:00 PM

Closer change in Atlanta

My colleague Brooks Peck already discussed the subject as a hypothetical, which became a reality as the Braves designated closer Bob Wickman for assignment. It’s a stunning move for a contender to cut ties with their closer like this, especially since he hasn’t been downright awful -- although giving up a 12th-inning game-winning homer to the Reds on Thursday apparently was the final straw.

What makes the move even more intriguing is that the Braves don’t have a slam-dunk option at closer to replace him right now. They did have a bunch of options before, but Mike Gonzalez was lost to Tommy John surgery early in the season, Rafael Soriano has been ordinary lately and recent acquisition Octavio Dotel is on the disabled list. As Peck mentioned in his piece, Oscar Villarreal and Peter Moylan may be options to close in the interim if Soriano doesn’t get the job right now. And there’s a good chance Dotel will be given the job whenever he returns from his injury.

For now, Villarreal and Soriano look to be the guys to target now, and then stashing away Dotel just in case. If you’re really desperate, maybe Moylan is an option.

Wickman’s future is obviously up in the air, and depending on where he lands, he might still be a contender for saves. But that’s obviously a big if right now.
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8/24/2007 03:08:00 PM

More preseason risers, sliders

Donald Driver
Donald Driver left Thursday's game early with a sprained foot.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Now we're getting somewhere with preseason games and other practice news actually affecting draft boards. Let's update some situations where your draft lists might be shaken up:

-- Donald Driver getting carted off the field is definitely not a good sign. Driver sprained his foot in Thursday's game against the Jaguars, although it was originally thought to be an ankle injury. His status, especially for Week 1, is up in the air, so No. 2 wideout Greg Jennings and rookie James Jones (the early favorite for the No. 3 job) move up the charts a little bit.

-- Lance Moore isn't the only under-the-radar Saints receiver to impress this preseason. Veteran David Patten, a bust in Washington, had a touchdown on Thursday. He is one of many players, along with Moore and Terrence Copper, to be in the running for New Orleans' No. 3 wideout slot. There's a lot of depth here, and that doesn't even include first-round pick Robert Meachem, who has yet to find a good spot with the team. While Marques Colston is the No. 1 guy, Devery Henderson can still be challenged for the No. 2 job, and a lot of these other guys could have a good game or two in their future this season. There's a lot of potential late-round sleepers in this bunch.

-- Warrick Dunn's fantasy value is on the rise again after returning from a back injury. While second-year back Jerious Norwood is battling a stomach ailment this week, it's likely given the veteran Dunn the edge again in the Falcons running back race. Dunn will start Monday night's preseason game and play into the third quarter. Head coach Bobby Petrino told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he might get Dunn more looks as a receiver out of the backfield, which would enhance his value even more. The youngster Norwood still has plenty of upside and is hoping to play his way ahead of Dunn, but for now, he may have to be content with a slight increase in carries instead being the primary back.

-- Brodie Croyle looked to be the Chiefs' opening day starter, but after going 5-for-17 for just 45 yards and an interception against the Saints on Thursday, it's a big question mark. Damon Huard didn't play with a leg injury, but that might've helped him instead of hurt him. Either way, you probably don't want any Chiefs quarterback, and the value of veterans like Tony Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison may be down a bit.
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8/24/2007 01:44:00 PM

Top closers crumble

Billy Wagner
It was a strange couple of games this week for the usually reliable Billy Wagner.
To continue on the week of strange baseball occurrences, we now have Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman blowing saves on the same night for only the second time ever (both this season). However, the weird thing is that both of them did it in the same game as the Padres eventually outlasted the Mets in 10 innings.

It was a strange series for both Hoffman and Wagner, but hopefully they were just bumps in the road. Hoffman had save chances in all three games, blowing two and converting one. Hoffman lost Tuesday's game by allowing two runs and four hits and getting just one out. Then he pitched 2/3 of an inning Wednesday to bail out Kevin Cameron, who made a 7-2 rout look way too close in the ninth. Finally, he gave up a run in the ninth on Thursday but got the win when the Padres scored in the 10th.

Wagner gave up the go-ahead run in a 5-5 game on Tuesday, but was bailed out when Hoffman allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth. And then Wagner gave up two runs in the ninth on Thursday to blow the save, but was spared a loss when Hoffman had his issues. Aaron Heilman would eventually pick up the loss, while Heath Bell came in to get the save for the Padres that Hoffman couldn't.

With both teams still in the thick of the race, it's hard to think they'll get much rest in September and let other pitchers pick up more saves. I guess the Mets' best option at this point after Wagner is still the inconsistent Heilman, although Jorge Sosa has pitched well in middle relief. The Padres have a strong bullpen this season, and it's possible Bell might see another chance or two if Hoffman needs the rest.

Other notes heading into the weekend:
-- Jonathan Broxton's streak of 96 2/3 innings without allowing a homer ended on Thursday when Tadahito Iguchi went deep in the eighth inning.

-- Albert Pujols' homer streak ended at five games, as the Marlins shut down the Cardinals. However, Josh Willingham had a big game with two homers and six RBIs.

-- The Cubs made an interesting move in picking up Craig Monroe, who had been designated for assignment by the Tigers. Monroe has power, although his average can be somewhat suspect, and probably will see time against left-handed hitters. The potential for some homers off the bench will make him a nice pickup in NL-only leagues as long as you keep your expectations reasonable.

-- The Dodgers will become the latest stop on the David Wells' tour. The veteran lefty likely will start this weekend against the Mets after getting dropped by the Padres earlier this month. I'm not sure how much Boomer still has in him, given he was 5-8 with a 5.54 ERA. In his last four starts before getting cut, Wells allowed 26 runs in just 16 2/3 innings. However, Wells was still moderately effective in pitcher-friendly Petco, going 3-2 with a 3.91 ERA, but 2-6 with a 7.99 ERA and 2.03 WHIP on the road.

-- While Edgar Renteria is back on the DL, there's a good chance Chase Utley could be back with the Phillies this week, which is great news for fantasy owners needing him down the stretch.

-- Not only is Chone Figgins struggling with a wrist injury, Casey Kotchman may miss time this weekend with a finger injury suffered in the Yankees series. Kendry Morales was called up from the minors to spell Kotchman.
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8/23/2007 11:33:00 AM

Highs and lows

Travis Metcalf
Travis Metcalf had a grand slam in the 30-3 rout then followed up with four more RBIs in the second game against the Orioles.
So you thought Garret Anderson's 10-RBI night was amazing. Then comes the Rangers' ridiculous 30-3 whooping of the Orioles in the first game of yesterday's doubleheader. I know some fantasy owners in leagues with daily transactions may have scooped up some Orioles and Rangers because of the doubleheader, but did anyone expect anything like this? Let's take a look at some of the bizarre fantasy implications from this record performance.

-- Jarrod Saltalamacchia finally showed a little stick since joining the Rangers, hitting two homers and driving in seven and scoring five runs. Despite hitting just .219 since being traded, Salty now has exactly the same number of homers (4) and RBIs (12) in 73 at-bats for Texas as he did in 141 at-bats for the Braves.

-- Ramon Vazquez matched Salty with the two homers and seven RBIs, and the two of them were the 8 and 9 hitters in the Rangers order. Vazquez had exactly two homers and seven RBIs combined since May 26.

-- Despite all the runs scored, Michael Young surprisingly had no RBIs. He did have two hits in five at-bats. Nelson Cruz also had no RBIs, the only other part of the lineup to have that honor. Cruz also went 2-for-7. Everyone in the Rangers lineup had a hit and scored a run.

-- Travis Metcalf was called up earlier in the day and hit a grand slam off the bench in the first game. He then drove in four more runs in the nightcap for an eight-RBI day. Welcome back, Travis.

-- Definitely lost in the shuffle was another decent performance from Kason Gabbard, who is now 6-1 overall this season.

-- However, more amusingly, Wes Littleton pitched three scoreless innings for his first save of the season. There are tough saves that players such as Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera get with regularity, and then there are silly saves like one in a 30-3 game.

-- Because it was the first game of a doubleheader, the Orioles did try to conserve their bullpen, which would explain why only four pitchers were used, although this could've been a place for a position player to get an inning in. The reliever hit hardest was veteran Paul Shuey, who gave up nine runs in two innings and saw his ERA balloon from 6.75 to 9.49. But Brian Burres allowed eight runs in 2/3 of an inning, and Rob Bell allowed seven in 1 1/3. Starter Daniel Cabrera had another one of his up-and-down games, allowing a team-low six runs and striking out four in five innings.

While it was a great day if you had just about any Rangers hitter, it was a pretty bad day in terms of injuries to big stars:
-- Cole Hamels went on the DL with an elbow strain and will miss at least his next two starts. He was backdated to Aug. 17, so that means he'll probably be activated right around Sept. 1, whether he pitches or not by then is another question.

-- Gary Sheffield is out indefinitely with a nagging shoulder injury, and it's possible he won't be back until at least September as well. The injury does solve the dilemma of playing time for both Marcus Thames and Cameron Maybin.

-- The Padres' Chris Young returned to San Diego to get his ailing back checked out. The NL's ERA leader left Tuesday's start after just five innings may miss his next turn.

-- Edgar Renteria came off the DL on Wednesday, then aggravated the ankle injury that got him there in the first place and had to be replace by Yunel Escobar. So much for the quick return.

But there were some bright spots as well:
-- Albert Pujols now has homers in five straight games. He's picking the right time to peak.

-- Brandon Webb's scoreless streak ended in a flash at 42 innings against the Brewers, but he still won his 14th game, giving up just two runs in seven innings.

-- Joba Chamberlain has yet to give up a run since being called up, and he struck out three Angels last night, including making Vladimir Guerrero look bad.

-- There have been plenty of surprising pitchers this season, but what do you make of the Royals' Brian Bannister, who picked up his 10th win of the season. Bannister has five wins in his last seven starts, allowing no more than three runs in any of them.
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8/22/2007 01:55:00 PM

Garret's big night

Garret Anderson
Garret Anderson's 10-RBI night boosted his season total to a whopping 50.
The Angels seem to have the Yankees' number the past couple of seasons, but who knew one of those games could quickly catapult some teams up the RBI charts.

Garret Anderson torched the Yankees for 10 RBIs, which included a three-run homer and a grand slam, in the Angels' 18-9 rout. However, how many teams (especially in mixed leagues) even had Anderson on their rosters? While Anderson had been known as an RBI man in the past (he averaged nearly 120 RBIs a season between 2000-2003), he came into the game with just 40 -- so those 10 were a good 25 percent of his total. Talk about having a great month in one night.

Anderson definitely isn't the same hitter he was earlier this decade, so don't all go rushing for him on the wavier wire right away. Before Tuesday's outburst, he had just five extra-base hits throughout August. However, he can be streaky, and anyone taking a chance on Anderson can only hope for one last burst down the stretch.

But while Anderson's game really surprised everyone, it also highlighted Mike Mussina's struggles once again. After winning four straight starts, Mussina has been hammered in his last two outings, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) in just 6 2/3 innings (including only 1 2/3 on Tuesday). His ERA is back over 5, and is looking like less and less reliable for fantasy owners these days.

And while Mussina keeps struggling, Erik Bedard keeps rising, tying Moose's Orioles team record for strikeouts in a season with 217, which leads the American League. Bedard has pitched himself into Cy Young consideration with all the K's, as well as going 9-0 since June 15. He was already highly regarded going into the season, but Bedard appears to be among the top pitchers drafted in all fantasy leagues next season.

Other notes for Wednesday:
-- After slow starts, both Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard are proving to be valuable as the season goes on. Pujols, a No. 1 pick in many drafts this year, has homered in four straight games and is now up to 29, although he'd still need a big run over the final six weeks to continue his streak of 40-homer seasons. Ryan Howard also shook off some early injuries to lead the NL in RBIs, although the .260 average is disappointing.

-- Lost in the Anderson outburst is Alex Rodriguez hitting two more homers, extending his major league lead to 42. A-Rod was the last player to have 10 RBIs in a game before Anderson, doing so in 2005. Among the numerous A-Rod questions heading into next year is will he be the No. 1 fantasy pick?

Also lost in the heroics was Chone Figgins leaving early with a sprained wrist. He was replaced by Robb Quinlan at third. The Angels also called up Brandon Wood for bench help with Figgins likely to miss a couple of games.

-- Hunter Pence is back from the DL after missing a month with a wrist injury. So get him back in the lineup as he makes a last push for Rookie of the Year honors. Pence rejoined the team as the Astros lost Jason Jennings for the season with a torn tendon in his elbow. Jennings struggled in his first season in Houston, so now it's completely safe to get him off your roster.

-- Edgar Renteria appears ready to come off the DL today after showing plenty of progress in recovering from a sprained ankle. Some thought he might've been out until early September, but Renteria is ready to resume his resurgent season. That probably means fewer at-bats, though, for rookie Yunel Escobar, who has put up big stats all over the infield this season.

-- And congratulations to Arizona's Mark Reynolds for tying a major league record with strikeouts in nine straight at-bats before being hit by a pitch Tuesday. He's definitely a streaky hitter because just before that streak, he had gone 12-for-22 with three homers and seven RBIs in a five-game stretch last week. And now he's hitless in his last four games.
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8/21/2007 02:56:00 PM

LJ’s back; other unsettled positions

Larry Johnson
Is Larry Johnson an injury risk thanks to last year's record workload and recent holdout?
Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Larry Johnson's holdout is over, so you can't use that as an excuse to drop him on your draft charts. However, last year's workload and a potential to break down (partly because of said holdout) is a reason to be suspicious of him at that No. 3 pick. And if you're wondering about backups, Michael Bennett still appears the Chiefs' choice instead of Priest Holmes, who has yet to be cleared to practice. So much for the sleeper potential there.

With LJ's status seemingly cleared up, let's look at other position situations that have seem some movement since the start of the preseason.

Atlanta QB: Now that it's clear Michael Vick won't be playing this year (and maybe not ever), and that Joey Harrington will have to carry the load. With backup D.J. Shockley out for the year with a knee injury, veteran Chris Redman is the backup now, but don't be surprised to see a trade for another quarterback.

Tennessee RB: Chris Brown leads the Titans in rushing in the preseason so far and now might be the starter ahead of LenDale White and Chris Henry. This situation could change again as the preseason continues, but for now Brown may have the slight nod over White in your drafts.

Cleveland QB: Brady Quinn played well against the Lions' third-stringers this weekend, but he's still third on the depth chart behind Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson. However, he is working his way up to be a No. 3 fantasy QB and a definite high pick in keeper drafts.

Denver RB: Lots of fantasy owners got a scare when Travis Henry hurt his knee this weekend, but he looks ready to go for the season opener. However, Mike Bell is out of action with a hip injury, which means some extra looks for Cecil Sapp, who'll get some attention late in some drafts.

New Orleans WR: Last year, Marques Colston came out of nowhere to put up big numbers for the Saints. This year, Lance Moore is trying to follow in his footsteps. The 5-foot-9 Moore leads the Saints with 13 catches for 131 yards in the preseason and is pushing the wide array of wideouts for a spot opposite Colston.

Minnesota RB: Adrian Peterson has remained healthy this preseason and looked solid against the Jets on Friday, going for 70 yards and a TD. He's still going to split time with Chester Taylor, but Peterson is at least showing he can be a goal-line back.

Minnesota WR: This situation is also a mess, although it appears Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson will begin the season as starters, with rookie Sidney Rice seeing time as the No. 3 wideout. However, the Vikings may also bring in Robert Ferguson to get significant playing time.

Chicago QB: Rex Grossman is in no danger of losing his starting job, but three fumbles against the Colts on Monday night should have Bears fans nervous again.

Oakland QB: JaMarcus Russell still isn't signed and his chances of being a fantasy contributor of any sort this year is fizzling away. Daunte Culpepper has been impressive so far and is making it a decent competition with Josh McCown to start the opener.

Oakland RB: LaMont Jordan is looking like a nice player to have at least in September with Dominic Rhodes suspended for the first four games. He had 67 yards on eight carries in his first preseason game this weekend, and a change in coaches should revitalize his game after last year's injury-plagued campaign.

Kansas City QB: Brodie Croyle seems to have done enough in the preseason to secure the Chiefs starting job over Damon Huard (who's dealing with a calf injury), although he's not highly recommended except in the deepest of leagues.

Green Bay RB: Rookie Brandon Jackson is playing his way to becoming the Packers' top ball carrier, especially with Vernand Morency still sidelined this preseason.

Green Bay WR: James Jones has 10 catches in the preseason and looks to earn more playing time in the Packers offense. He may not supplant Greg Jennings as the No. 2 guy, but he could be a late-round flier as the No. 3 receiver since Brett Favre will be throwing a lot this year.

New York Jets RB: Thomas Jones' calf injury will keep him out the rest of the preseason, giving Leon Washington more chances to show his stuff. Jones, though, looks to be ready for the opener, so don't downgrade him because of this injury.

Houston WR: Kevin Walter still appears to be the No. 2 guy opposite Andre Johnson, but rookie Jacoby Jones has impressed, leading the team with 79 receiving yards in the preseason. Something to note for the back end of your draft if you're fishing for sleepers.
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8/20/2007 02:50:00 PM

20/20 vision

Chris Young
Chris Young is the first rookie to have 20 homers and 20 steals in a season since Carlos Beltran in 1999.
Rhona Wise/Icon SMI
One big way to succeed in your fantasy league is to get hitters who can contribute big numbers in both the power and speed categories. Of course, most of them will come at a premium, but if you can snag a couple of them, you've done a good job. Even better if you can find the guys who put up those numbers, hitting the magical 20-steal/20-homer milestone, at a cheap price.

And it's possible that Arizona's Chris Young could be one of those lower-priced 20-20 guys. Thanks in part to five solo homers this past week, Young has reached the level that many thought he had an outside shot of reaching this year. He's shown power and lots of speed this year, although you'd like to see his average about .240. That's the only thing keeping his value down slightly. Meanwhile, teammate Eric Byrnes is just two homers away from joining Young in the club (he has 33 steals already), proving his 2006 was no fluke. Add Justin Upton to the mix, and you could have one ridiculous outfield next year.

Some of the other guys already at 20-20 came at high prices and have at least lived up to those expectations: David Wright, Jimmy Rollins, Grady Sizemore. Both Brandon Phillips and Hanley Ramirez are a slight surprise to have reached 20 homers already, although both were very close to that mark last year. However, I'm not sure how many people would've guessed Gary Sheffield to have a team-leading 20 steals to go with 24 homers.

As for people coming close, Alfonso Soriano (18 homers, 18 steals) may still get there whenever he gets off the DL, but Corey Hart (18 homers, 19 steals) should get there soon as another pleasant surprise this season. Carlos Beltran's recent hot streak (five homers since coming off the DL) put him at 24 homers, but he still has work to do to improve upon his 16 steals. Alex Rodriguez also has 16 steals, and should run enough to get to 20 -- as if his value needs to get any higher.

Bobby Abreu (14/17) needs some work on the power, but he has hit nine homers since the All-Star break. Ian Kinsler (15/16) is running more this year, but he has just six homers since April. Mike Cameron (15/14) and Curtis Granderson (16/14) also need a little work to get the 20-20 mark.

Other notes from Monday:
-- So much for thinking Johan Santana hasn't been as dominating as he used to be after the break. Santana struck out 17 Rangers and allowed only two hits in eight innings in a tight 1-0 pitchers duel against Kevin Millwood. This is the type of performance fantasy owners had hoped to see more of this year.

-- Meanwhile, in the NL, Brandon Webb is establishing himself as the Cy Young front-runner with his streak of 42 consecutive scoreless innings. The impressive part is that he's now gone the distance in three straight games to get those shutouts - hard to do in these days where complete games are rare.

-- Mark Teixeira is now up to seven homers since joining the Braves, making him one of the best trade deadline pickups. Of course, he's been historically strong in the second half, so maybe this isn't as huge a surprise as you might expect.

-- Cameron Maybin had an up-and-down first series for the Tigers, but he did hit his first homer Saturday against Roger Clemens. The Rocket has allowed the first major league homer for seven players. Hopefully Maybin will be more like Sammy Sosa or Robin Ventura, and not Beau Allred, Sandy Martinez, or Pedro Swann. The seventh player to hit his first homer against Clemens? Nationals reliever Jon Rauch. Go figure.

-- Since his two homer-game last week, Rick Ankiel is just 3-for-15 with a couple of walks but seven strikeouts in that time, and no homers. I supposed this is what to expect from Ankiel given his minor-league numbers this year.

-- And speaking of homers from somewhat unexpected sources, Mike Jacobs has finally started to hit, batting .417 and slugging three homers this week. His average had dropped down to .243 not too long before this recent surge.

-- Chris Capuano still has not won a game since May 7, a string of 16 starts. Even more startling is that the Brewers are 0-16 in those games.
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