Brad Hand – The Marlins will need a starter Thursday following Chris Volstad’s demotion to the minors, and though no official announcement has been made, Hand appears to be a logical choice. Hand was profiled twice already this year, the first time when he was called up in early June to replace the injured Josh Johnson, and then again in early July. Hand had control issues in the middle three starts he made with the Marlins, but he bookended those with brilliant outings, including his best start July 7 before being sent back to he minors. Hand improved his control while maintaining his K/9IP rate as a 20-year-old last year at High-A Jupiter, and as a result put himself firmly in the Marlins' future plans. He projects to have three solid pitches – low-90s fastball, hard curve and change-up - although none of them is exceptional, which makes him a mid-rotation starter at best. Hand made two solid starts after being demoted prior to the All-Star break, but we’ll see if his struggles in his latest start Saturday influence the Marlins’ plans. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (speculative bid).
Roy Oswalt – Oswalt, who has been out since June 24, had a series of injections on July 8 to reduce the inflammation in his back caused by a bulging disc. Those injections seem to have done the trick, as Oswalt threw a 48-pitch bullpen session Tuesday followed by a three-inning simulated game Friday, during which he threw all of his pitches and appeared to have good life in his arm. Assuming he experiences no further issues, Oswalt will throw another bullpen session Sunday and then head out for a minor-league assignment starting Tuesday or Wednesday. He likely will make at least two starts in the minors and then, possibly by the end of the first week of August, replace Kyle Kendrick in the Phillies’ rotation. Mixed: $6; NL: $17.
Micah Owings – Owings, who has been working in a long relief role, will start Sunday against the Rockies. Owings started two games earlier this season, but he will get another shot in the rotation after both Zach Duke and Barry Enright were unable to secure the fifth starter's spot. Owings has thrown the ball well this year, posting a 2.76 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 21:9 K:BB ratio over 29.1 innings. Though he has only started two games with Arizona this season, Owings did make seven starts with Triple-A Reno, posting a 3-1 record and a 4.85 ERA. He showed better control and limited the home runs he allowed, two areas that hurt him in the past. The move to the rotation should give Owings a bump in fantasy value, but temper your optimism about his change in roles given his 5.08 career ERA as a starter. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Johan Santana – Santana is still recovering from Sept. 14 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, but he has made quite a bit of progress in recent days. Santana threw a successful bullpen session Sunday, and if he feels good Monday, the team will likely send him out on a rehab assignment as early as Wednesday. While Santana has steadily progressed through his rehab, save for a minor setback in early June, the Mets will continue being cautious with him given their current place in the standings and the money still owed to Santana. Whenever Santana is given the green light to begin a rehab stint, look for him to spend the maximum 30 days in the minors before returning to the major league rotation in August or September. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (very early speculative bid).
Jonathan Sanchez - The Giants will reevaluate Sanchez, who has been out since June 25 with biceps tendinitis, after his next rehab start with Triple-A Fresno. Sanchez struck out eight over his five innings in a rehab outing with Fresno on Friday, and he said afterward that he feels ready to return. Thus, if Sanchez makes it through his next start without issue, he could be back with the big club in the first week of August. Hopefully the time spent recuperating gave Sanchez an opportunity to work through the mechanical issues that caused him to walk a league-high 59 batters, including 25 in five starts in June. When he does return, look for Sanchez to replace Barry Zito in the Giants’ rotation. Mixed: $6; NL: $17.
Rex Brothers – Brothers has gained manager Jim Tracy’s confidence and has settled into a setup role, and he may now be next in line, behind Huston Street, to close games. After some initial difficulties, Brothers allowed just one run and posted a 20:7 K:BB ratio in 12.2 innings over his last 15 appearances. The walks are a concern, but his ability to get strikeouts helps mitigate that a bit. Street is entrenched as the team’s closer, but he has been the speculation of some trade rumors, so don’t be afraid to take a chance on Brothers if he is available. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Kenley Jansen – Jansen has not allowed a run in 13 innings since being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque on June 18. In that time, he has struck out 21 batters while walking seven. The control problems that plagued him earlier in the year remain an issue, but the strikeouts indicate he could wind up with the closer’s role in his future. Javy Guerra, who has done a good job with six saves and a 2.08 ERA, has a hold on that job for now, but Jansen could still be a factor in the ninth-inning later this year. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Brad Lidge – Lidge, who had been out all season with a shoulder injury, was activated from the disabled list Friday. He was hitting the high-80s with his fastball and occasionally touching 90 mph during his rehab assignment. He’s clearly not throwing as hard as he used to, but he might be able to get by as long as his slider is sharp and his location is good. Lidge returns to the Phillies' bullpen in a late-inning role, but he's likely behind both Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo in the ninth-inning pecking order. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (drop from last week due to role clarification).
Lance Lynn - St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan has confirmed that Lynn, who has a 27:6 K:BB ratio and a 1.75 GB:FB ratio in 25 innings, is now the primary setup man for Fernando Salas. Lynn's usage – he has pitched in the eighth inning in nearly all of his appearances - should have clued us in to this designation already, but it's nice to hear the pitching coach confirm it. Lynn was used as a starter earlier this year, but now that he is locked into the setup role, expect him to rack up the holds and possibly be next in line to close if Salas loses his hold on the job. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Ryan Doumit – Doumit, out since May 30 with an injured left ankle, is set to begin a rehabilitation assignment with High-A Bradenton on Friday. Rehab assignments for position players can last a maximum of 20 days, so as long as he proves he's recovered from his broken left ankle he'll likely join the Pirates in early August to help with their playoff push. When he does return, Doumit may compete for playing time with Mike McKenry, who has done a solid job in his stead. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (early bid).
Nick Hundley – Hundley, who missed a month with an elbow ailment, finally underwent surgery on July 8, during which doctors removed bone fragments and cleaned up a bone spur. Hundley believes he is a head of schedule in his recovery and expects he will be able to return closer to the shorter end of his 4-to-6 week timetable, so he should be back with the team sometime in mid-August. Hundley will likely reclaim his role as the Padres’ regular catcher when he returns, which will enable the team to end the Rob Johnson/Kyle Phillips/Luis Martinez rotation. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (early bid).
Brandon Belt – Belt, who had been up and down a few times year, was called up again Tuesday. The last time Belt was with the big club, in May, he suffered a hairline fracture that sidelined him for more than a month. Belt struggled in his first stints by the Bay, though the lack of regular playing time prevented him from finding a rhythm. He used his time in the minors to regain the stroke that made him a top prospect, posting a .324/.462/.549 line with seven home runs and 29 RBI , along with a 42:38 K:BB ratio, in 142 at-bats. Belt made a couple of starts at first last week with Aubrey Huff sidelined with a back injury, but with Huff back in the lineup, San Francisco should give Belt consistent PT in left field while Pat Burrell is out, though that could squeeze out Cody Ross. Belt is a must-add when you consider the likelihood of a regular role this time around, but temper your expectations a bit until seeing if he gets the playing time necessary to be a fantasy regular. Mixed: $8; NL: $22.
Kyle Blanks – Blanks was a big-time sleeper heading into 2010, but he fell on his face, hitting.157/.283/.324 in 102 at-bats before suffering a major elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Blanks made a full recovery and opened the year at Double-A San Antonio before being moved up to Triple-A Tucson when Anthony Rizzo was promoted. Blanks put up huge numbers, posting a .351/.421/.716 mark with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 35 games with Tucson, to earn himself a call-up last week when Rizzo was sent back to the minors. Though Blanks’ production will take a hit thanks to Petco Park, he showed in 2009 that he is able drive the ball out of the park in the majors. Blanks will likely start off behind Jesus Guzman, but he could also see time in right field – or left if Ryan Ludwick is moved before the July 31 trade deadline. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Jesus Guzman – With Anthony Rizzo back in the minors, and Kyle Blanks able to play outfield as well, Guzman figures to be in the lineup a lot moving forward. Since being brought up from Triple-A Tucson, Guzman has hit .306 with a .860 OPS in 62 at-bats. All the caveats regarding small sample size apply, but with that production, it's pretty hard to keep him out of the lineup right now. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Steven Pearce – I profiled Pearce last week, but he warrants another mention after being activated Friday. Pearce showed good power during his minor league rehab stint and could battle Lyle Overbay for playing time at first base, where he started Saturday. In addition, he could see some time at third, as well as in the outfield. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Jose Altuve - With Jeff Keppinger getting traded to San Francisco this past week, the Astros called up Altuve to give him a look in what is likely to be an everyday role at second base for the rest of the season. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound, 21-year-old carried a 1.017 OPS between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi this season and should at least provide stolen bases at the big league level even if he's far from able to maintain the .389/.426/.591 line he put up at the two minor league stops to this point. Altuve has good speed and sprays the ball all over the field while also making solid contact. The main question with him is experience - his breakout campaigns came in good hitting environments and he had just 144 at-bats above Single-A before being promoted. That said, Altuve profiles as a true number two hitter, which is where Houston is currently using him. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Clint Barmes – Barmes was profiled two weeks ago when he was on an 18-for-45 tear, during which he had seven extra-base hits and four RBI. While he is not as hot, he has gone 7-for-25 with a home run and three RBI since July 9. Barmes qualifies at short and second, but he will likely continue playing shortstop primarily following the promotion of Jose Altuve. Mixed: $4 (likely owned in all NL-only formats).
Yuniesky Betancourt – In danger of losing playing time to Josh Wilson, Betancourt quickly responded with a six-game hitting streak. In that span, he went 10-for-22 with two home runs, four runs scored and six RBI. It's hard to say whether or not he will continue to perform well the rest of the way, but perhaps if the Brew Crew threatens him with a trade to a non-contender or more time riding the pine, he will keep this momentum going. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Willie Bloomquist/Cody Ransom – The season-ending injury to Stephen Drew created a huge hole at shortstop for Arizona – as well as my fantasy team – that will be filled – at least by the D-Banks – by Bloomquist and Ransom. Bloomquist saw heavy action earlier in the year before being sidelined by a hamstring injury, and he moved into a utility role following his return to action. With Drew now out for the year, Bloomquist should see the majority of starts at shortstop and be a decent source of steals. He will occasionally be spelled by Ransom, who was killing the ball in the minors, hitting .330 with 25 home runs and nine steals. He is best known for filling in for Alex Rodriguez while he was sidelined in 2009, but has been a journeyman for much of his career. Ransom may also see some action at third, depending on how he hits with the big club. Bloomquist - Mixed: $4; NL: $11; Ransom – Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Edgar Renteria - Renteria went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI after replacing the injured Zack Cozart in the Reds’ win over the Braves on Saturday. Renteria's playing time in July has been negligible thanks to Cozart's promotion, but he could see an uptick in at-bats if Cozart needs to sit for a while due to his hyperextended left elbow. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Pedro Alvarez – Alvarez was disappointed after the Pirates optioned him to Triple-A when his rehab assignment ended, but he has reacted the way the team hoped and is absolutely raking in the minors. Over his last 10 games through Saturday, Alvarez hit .405/.488/.676 with three home runs and eight RBI. The Pirates opted to call up Steve Pearce last week, but now that Alvarez is healthy and has regained his confidence at the plate, a call-up should be fairly imminent. His power should be a nice boost to the team’s offense. Mixed: $7, NL: $18 (if you believe he will be promoted soon).
Casey Blake – Blake, limited to playing catch for the first two weeks he was on the disabled list with an arthritic neck, started fielding ground balls and took soft-toss batting practice Tuesday after hitting off a tee Monday. Blake is eligible to come off the disabled list whenever he is ready, but it looks like he will need a rehab assignment prior to being activated. If he proves he is healthy soon, he may become a trade chip, despite his health issues, with the Dodgers out of contention. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Miguel Cairo/Todd Frazier – Scott Rolen was placed on the disabled list Friday with a strained left shoulder that had been bothering him for weeks. Cairo, as he has done in the past with Rolen out, is expected to see most of the action at third. He will provide a decent batting average and some counting stats, but doesn’t expect much from him. Frazier made his big league debut earlier this year, but he received only one pinch-hit appearance before being sent back to Louisville. Frazier hit .260/.340/.467, in line with his 2010 numbers, with 15 home runs, 46 RBI, and 17 stolen bases in 90 games with Louisville this season, but his best asset may be his ability to play both the infield and the outfield. Frazier figures to serve in a super-utility role for the Reds, but if he gets hot, he could steal the starting job from Cairo while Rolen is out. Cairo - Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Frazier – Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (based on upside potential).
David Wright – Wright, who had been sidelined since May 16 with a stress fracture in his lower back, was activated from the disabled list Friday. He went 10-for-21 in a six-game rehab stint with High-A St. Lucie and should finally be 100 percent. Wright was struggling mightily at the time of his injury, partially due to his contact rate falling for the third straight year and a depressed BABIP, and he struck out 43 times in 146 at-bats. One positive was the 25 walks, but the jury is still somewhat out on what type of production Wright will provide given his various struggles the past three years – lack of power in 2009, increased strikeouts in 2010 and both this season. That said, given his position and the numbers he has put up in the past, a high bid is warranted. Mixed: $85; NL: $95 (just to keep some $ left).
Jason Bourgeois – I profiled Bourgeois last week, but now that he has been activated, he is getting the full treatment again. Bourgeois, who was on the disabled list from June 29 with a strained right quadriceps, was finally activated Friday. The Astros gave Bourgeois some extra time to heal, as this injury was a flare-up of a previous ailment. He played seven games in the Gulf Coast League, Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City, proving that he is 100 percent. Prior to being sidelined, Bourgeois was hitting .353 with 17 steals in 102 at-bats, and the Astros were a much better team with him in the lineup (9-10) than they were without (24-55). However, with Jose Altuve now manning second base and the Astros outfield basically set - unless Houston deals Carlos Lee or Hunter Pence - Bourgeois may be limited to pinch-hit and spot duty. Mixed: $2, NL: $7 (due to stolen base potential).
Brett Carroll – Carroll was recalled last week to replace the injured Carlos Gomez on the Brewers roster. Carroll had not played in the majors this year, but Milwaukee decided to bring him up after he hit .281 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in 93 games with Triple-A Nashville. Carroll takes over Gomez's backup outfielder role, likely starting in center field when the Brewers face a left-handed starter. Mixed: No, NL: $2.
Mark DeRosa – DeRosa, out since May 18 with a partial tear of the tendon in his left wrist, said he was "pleasantly surprised" by how good he felt singling and doubling in five at-bats during two rehab games for High-A San Jose on Monday. DeRosa has advanced to Triple-A Fresno, but while he has had no pain in the wrist, there's still no timetable for his return. When DeRosa is able to come back, look for him to be used in a utility role. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Brett Jackson – If the Cubs manage to deal Kosuke Fukudome or (less likely) Alfonso Soriano, Jackson could receive a call up. Jackson posted a .256/.373/.443 line with 10 home runs and 32 RBI at Double-A Tennessee to earn a promotion to Triple-A Iowa. He has good speed and power and decent plate discipline, though he has struggled a bit in that regard since his promotion. Jackson has a mixture of the five tools, and if he is not promoted around the trade deadline, he should be up in September. Long-term, Jackson could possibly end up manning an outfield spot in the Windy City to start the 2012 season. Mixed: $2, NL: $7 (speculative bud).
Jon Jay – With Colby Rasmus sitting against most lefties, Jay was collecting the starts in center field when the Cards faced a southpaw. Beyond that, his at-bats were coming when Lance Berkman or Matt Holliday needed a day off, or on the rare occasion where Albert Pujols moved across the diamond to play third. However, with Rasmus now slumping and riding the pine, Jay has been in the lineup nearly every day lately in center field. In addition, if Rasmus, the subject of trade rumors, is dealt, Jay would be the primary beneficiary and become the permanent starter in center field. Mixed: $4, NL: $11 (upgrade based on role).
Reed Johnson – Johnson went 3-for-5 with two doubles in the Cubs' loss to the Phillies on Tuesday. In a healthy Cubs outfield, Johnson has become the right-handed counter to Kosuke Fukudome in right field, posting a .336/.372/.567 line in 134 at-bats. He would see an uptick in playing time should the Cubs trade one of his outfield-mates (Fukudome, Marlon Byrd or Alfonso Soriano), unless Chicago opts to call up Brett Jackson (see above). Mixed: $1, NL: $5.
Ryan Spilborghs – The injury to Carlos Gonzalez could open the door for Spilborghs to see consistent playing time in left field. Spilborghs has been both hot and cold this year, but that might be a function of his inconsistent playing time. However, there is still no guarantee he sees regular playing time with Gonzalez out since manager Jim Tracy could also turn to Ty Wigginton or Eric Young Jr. in left. However, Spilborghs might be worth a speculative bid because he has shown in the past he can put up decent numbers when in the lineup consistently. Mixed: $2, NL: $7.
Andres Torres – Heading into 2011, the big question surrounding Torres was if his breakout season was a fluke or reality. As recently as three ago, it looked like more fluke, as Torres was hitting just .217 and platooning in the outfield. Since then, the switch has flipped, and Torres looks more like the offensive weapon he was last year. Torres’ average is up to .235, and though his power is still lacking, he has picked up his stolen base production as well. Even if his struggles against lefties keep him in a platoon, Torres should be on the positive side of any time share. Mixed: $7
Eric Young Jr. - The Rockies recalled Young from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Friday. Young will take the roster spot of Carlos Gonzalez (wrist), who was placed on the disabled list Friday. While Young can play both second base and outfield, he will likely see most of his action in the outfield this time around with Mark Ellis entrenched at second base. The Rockies figure to use several outfield combinations with Gonzalez out, but they may give Young regular playing time in the short term to showcase him for a potential trade. At a minimum, Young will be used as a pinch-runner to provide speed off the bench. Mixed: $1, NL: $5.