We're having some issues posting articles to the site right now, so as a temporary fix, here's this week's NL FAAB Factor, written by Jan Levine.
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY
David Bush - Bush, who was bumped from the rotation when Yovani Gallardo was activated, was called back up from Triple-A Nashville and re-inserted into the rotation following Gallardo tearing his ACL. That stint in the minors did not seem to do Bush any good as he was ineffective in Wednesday's loss to the Marlins, giving up six runs over six innings, allowing five hits (including two homers) and two walks. It's hard to use Bush with any degree of confidence right now. He's in danger of losing his rotation slot once Jeff Weaver builds up his arm strength a little more at Nashville. Mixed: No; NL: $0
Aaron Cook - Cook owns one of the best sinkers in the game that consistently hits the low 90's, but because he pitches to contact and doesn't strike out many, he is overlooked in most leagues. This season, Cook has shot out of the gate like a man possessed, notching a 6-1 record with a sterling 2.26 ERA. Eventually the lack of strikeouts, poor K:BB ratio and warm weather in Colorado, which turns Coors Field into a better hitters park, should catch up to him. However, his ability to generate groundballs, 2.21 GB/FB ratio, will help him wiggle him out of situations that would hurt most pitchers. If you're looking for a pitcher to take a flier on, Cook may well be your man. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Ryan Dempster - Dempster has seamlessly and astonishingly transitioned from struggling closer to thriving starter. After being beaten around in 2007 while closing games, Dempster has gotten off to a 4-2 start along with a 2.72 ERA and 1.070 WHIP in hi first seven starts to the year. He has benefited from a 1.50 GB/FB ratio to help extricate whenever he gets out in danger. Two signs of caution are his .200 BABIP and 29:20 K:BB ratio, so look for a rise in his ERA and WHIP, especially when balls start flying out of Wrigley this summer. The Cubs don't have a lot of available starters at Triple-A, so even if Dempster does struggle, look for him to have a decent leash to remain in the rotation. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Phil Dumatrait - Dumatrait has surpassed bigger odds in his career than starting his major-league service as 0-5, as he overcame missing all of 2004 and much of 2005 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but it was nice to see him get his first win this past week. Dumatrait was clearly not ready for his promotion in Cincinnati last season, getting cuffed around in his six starts. The Pirates claimed him off waivers from the Reds in October and he earned a bullpen job with a solid spring. He possesses a low-90s fastball, and after not missing a lot of at-bats early in his career, he is doing a better job of racking up strikeouts with 22 in 30.1 innings this year. With John Van Benschoten up in Pittsburgh, Dumatrait will need to pitch well to keep his rotation spot. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Chuck James - The James Richmond-Atlanta shuttle has made another stop in the city of the tomahawk chop with James giving up five runs over six innings with seven strikeouts Saturday. The two pieces of good news in James' favor are that the partial tear in his rotator cuff does not appear to be a major issue, and the injury to Mike Hampton and expected move of John Smoltz to the bullpen open a rotation spot that James should fill. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Wilfredo Ledezma - Ledezma replaced the struggling Justin Germano in the Padres rotation for at least one turn Thursday with Germano going to the bullpen to take over Ledezma's long relief role. Ledezma pitched four innings and allowed just an unearned run against the Braves in his first start of the season Thursday and may have bought himself at least one more turn with the solid showing. Before you go hog wild in bidding, remember Ledezma is a 26-year-old tweener that struggles with his control (194:138 K:BB ratio in 306.2 career major league innings) and has a 5.28 career major league ERA. That said, pitching in San Diego should help the latter number even if his control is below par, so consider bidding on Ledezma if you are desperate for a starter and a believer. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Ted Lilly - Lilly's poor start to the season and 5.24 overall ERA may have turned off a few owners, so if you are in league where he might have been waived, jump on him now. Lilly has now posted four straight quality starts for the Cubs, in which he has lowered his ERA from 7.30 to 5.24 and struck out 25 hitters in 26 innings. He is back to painting the corners with his fastball and buckling knees with his curveball, a sure sign that he has turned the corner to his poor start. Lilly has also regained the velocity on his fastball and should be active in all formats. Mixed: $9; NL: $30.
Ricky Nolasco - Elbow trouble limited Nolasco to just 21.1 ineffective major league innings, and the Marlins seemed inclined to move him to the bullpen full-time, where he'll be able to get a little more out of his fastball and keep hitters off his merely decent breaking pitches. Relieving is where Nolasco began the year, but he was moved back into the rotation early in the year, where he has been up-and-down. Nolasco has incorporated a split-finger fastball into his repertoire and has thrown three quality starts in his past four outings, though they have come against a struggling Milwaukee team, Pittsburgh and Washington. What this may mean is that Nolasco should be spotted in your lineup based on the match up. Mixed: $0; NL: $4.
Mike O'Connor - O'Connor had a good spring training and pitched well as a starter in the minors before being called up in late-April when Ray King was optioned down. O'Connor made his first start Saturday after replacing Matt Chico in the Nationals' rotation and that outing did not go particularly well, as O'Connor surrendered nine runs on six hits and walks in just 3.1 innings against Florida. He was already expected to be on a short leash with Jason Bergmann pitching well in Columbus and that poor outing could accelerate a move. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Tim Redding - Redding revived his career last season with the Nationals, starting more major league games than he had since 2004 and topping his previous best ERA. He no longer has the big fastball he flashed in the Astros system, and his strikeouts have consequently dwindled, but in a forgiving ballpark like RFK he was able to get away with his mediocre stuff. The move to the team's new ballpark hasn't impacted Redding too badly, as he was cruising prior to his poor outing Friday against Florida, who seem to be hitting everyone these days. However, three troubling stats to keep in mind when bidding are: his middling 30:18 K:BB ratio in 44.2 innings, .238 BABIP, compared to last year's .280 and strand ratio of .708 versus .786 in 2007. When those last two numbers rise coupled with his poor K:BB ratio, look for an uptick in his ERA, though Redding still should remain in the Washington rotation and is worth a look as a back-end of the rotation starter. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Greg Reynolds - Reynolds, the second overall pick of the 2006 draft, is expected to be called up to start Sunday against the Padres. Looking at Reynolds' Triple-A numbers - 4.86 ERA and 1.66 WHIP at the Triple-A level - one would think that Colorado is making a big mistake with this move. However, a further look reveals that the ERA is skewed by a seven-run inning, which when removed, shows a 3.06 ERA and coupled with his solid control - nine walks in 33.1 innings - may bode well for the future. Reynolds possesses a low-90s fastball, solid curveball and change-up and appears to be over the shoulder inflammation that cut short his sterling 2007 season and ultimately required arthroscopic surgery. With the team's rotation in a state of flux, he could remain up in the majors with a few good outings. Mixed: $1; NL: $7.
Jo-Jo Reyes - Reyes earned a call up after his strong start - 1.17 ERA with a 25:8 K:BB ratio in 23 innings- for Triple-A Richmond. Reyes had a solid first start for the Braves against the Reds but was struggling in his second before leaving the game with a blister. Reyes went 12-1 with a 2.72 ERA and 110:47 K:BB ratio in 109.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season. His first major league season didn't go as well, but he was 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA in his final four starts. Reyes can be erratic and needs to watch his weight, but at his best he confuses hitters with a 90 mph fastball, a solid curveball and an effective changeup. He has just 23 starts above High-A, so he could use some more seasoning, but the Braves' injuries may force him to stay up in the team's fourth rotation spot as long as the blister is not too bad. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Yhency Brazoban - LA called up Brazoban from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace Esteban Loaiza prior to Friday's game. Brazoban's stint may be short as the LA Times speculates that Clayton Kershaw would then replace Brazoban or another reliever the next time the Dodgers need a No. 5 starter on May 17. While up in LA, Brazoban will pitch in middle relief. Mixed and NL: No.
Bill Bray -Bray was called up to make his second stint with the Reds after being sent down less than a week ago as Kent Mercker was placed on the disabled list. Bray tossed four scoreless innings prior to being demoted and will again be used by Cincinnati in middle relief. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Taylor Buchholz - Buchholz has surpassed Manny Corpas as Colorado's top eighth-inning option. He picked up his first career save last Sunday in a non-traditional save situation, as Brian Fuentes is still clearly the Rockies' closer. Buchholz spent the start of 2007 trying to find a role on the pitching staff. After a few ineffective spot starts, he settled into a long-relief role and flourished in the second half posting a 3.48 ERA in 33.2 innings. Buchholz has been a rare bright spot in Colorado's bullpen; he has a 1.74 ERA and 0.871 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 20 innings, and is worth a look in deep mixed and all-NL only leagues. Buchholz: Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Sean Burnett - The Pirates called up Burnett this week from Triple-A Indianapolis, where he had a 0.98 ERA and three saves, with 15 strikeouts and eight walks in 17.1 innings. He's will be used in a middle relief role by Pittsburgh. Mixed and NL: No.
Juan Cruz - After getting mixed results from Cruz as a starter in 2006, the D-Backs opted to keep him in a relief role for all of 2007 and the results were highly favorable. He abused right-handed hitters, posting a 53:8 K:BB ratio and a paltry .143 BAA. Cruz has struggled with his command this year, walking 12 hitters in 13.2 innings but he struck out 17 and posted a 1.98 ERA though he is behind Tony Pena and Chad Qualls as set-up men for Brandon Lyon. Mixed: $0. NL: $2.
Shawn Estes - The Padres recalled Estes from Triple-A Portland on Thursday, to fill their open roster spot after placing Kevin Cameron (elbow) on the disabled list. Estes was 4-2 with a 3.67 ERA in six starts with Portland, but he will be pitch out of the bullpen for the Padres initially and could end up replacing Wil Ledezma in the rotation. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Scott Eyre - The Cubs activated Eyre, who had been out all season after experiencing elbow soreness during spring training, off the disabled list this past week. Eyre made seven minor league rehab appearances across three different levels, and posted a 6.75 ERA. Although he won't get you any saves, Eyre has posted pretty solid K/9 numbers over the last four years. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Ryan Franklin/Russ Springer/Kyle McClellan - The early season implosion by Jason Isringhausen has thrown the Cardinals' closer role into a flux. Franklin picked up a save in Saturday's 5-3 win over the Brewers with Russ Springer pitching the eighth to get the win, so it appears Franklin, who has 12 holds this year, may be the de facto closer at this stage of the game. Franklin got off to a phenomenal start last year before wearing down late; posting numbers more in line with his career, but his overall numbers were still solid. Springer, who turns 40 this November, has set a career-high in appearances in each of his last three seasons, so it is possible that his arm will finally fall off after his 16-year career. He seems better suited to a set-up role but could also factor in the mix if Franklin struggles. One of the wild cards here is McClellan, who has a 2.89 ERA and 1.125 WHIP along with 11 holds. McClellan, who had never pitched above Double-A before this year, has five holds and a save in his last six appearances and appears to have the stuff and stomach to handle closing if needed. If ranking the possible options until Izzy is re-installed in the role, go Franklin, McClellan and Springer with Chris Perez, who has been lights out of late at Triple-A Louisville, a possibility. Franklin - Mixed: $5; NL: $17; Springer - Mixed: $2; NL: $7; McClellan - Mixed: $3; NL: $10.
Tom Gordon - After a horrific start to the year, Flash has put together a very nice run. Gordon allowed five runs in just two-thirds of an inning on March 31, but since then he has surrendered just two runs - none since April 13 - on eight hits and seven walks while striking 15 in 15 innings. Brad Lidge is locked into the role as the Phillies' closer but Gordon should be a solid source of ERA, WHIP, Ks and holds as his set-up man. Mixed: $3; NL: $8.
Matt Herges - Herges, who was the Giants' closer in 2004 with 23 saves, seemed to be at the end of his career when the Rockies signed him to a minor league contract in 2007. By midseason, Herges was playing a vital middle-relief role, pitching 48.2 innings with an impressive 2.96 ERA and 1.007 WHIP. He re-signed with the Rockies in the offseason and is filling a same role, though a repeat performance seemed a long shot. So far, he has made Colorado look good, posting a 2.11 ERA and 1.031 WHIP with 20K over 21.2 innings over 18 appearances and has moved into a seventh inning role. Mixed: $0; NL: $4.
Damaso Marte - After giving up six runs in his first two outings, Marte has righted the ship, surrendering just four runs - three in one outing - in his last 15 appearances. Marte's ERA is skewed by that poor start, but he still has notched a 1.140 WHIP along with 20K in 16.2 innings despite those two bombings and is locked in as Matt Capps' set-up man. Marte is death on left-handed hitters and should end up with solid numbers across the board. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Guillermo Mota - We covered Mota two weeks ago but Eric Gagne's blowup again Saturday and his pronouncement that he shouldn't be closing games at this time could force manager Ned Yost to make a change. Mota has pitched well this year, giving up four runs - three in one outing - in 16 innings over 14 games and would appear to be first in line to assume the closer mantle. Mota does have a 1.500 WHIP and has walked 11 batters in 19 innings, but much of that damage was earlier in the year, as he has walked just one in his last five appearances. Other options for Yost, if he does make a change, are David Riske and Salomon Torres, but Mota would appear to have the leg up on getting the first shot. Mixed: $3; NL: $10.
Chan Ho Park - Park has pitched well out of the bullpen, posting a 2.45 ERA and 1.364 WHIP along with nine strikeouts in 22 innings. His K:BB ratio of 10:9 leaves a lot to be desired but there is a possibility that Park might replace Esteban Loiaza as the Dodgers' fifth starter, though Clayton Kershaw is expected to get that nod on May 17. Mixed: $0; NL: $0.
Billy Sadler - Sadler, who was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 16 innings at Triple-A Fresno, was called up to take the roster spot of fellow righty Brad Hennessey, who was sent down Wednesday. Sadler has solid stuff but has consistently struggled with his command and will be a middle reliever for the Giants. Mixed and NL: No.
David Weathers - On Monday, the Reds activated Weathers, who had been out since April 20 with inflammation in the ulnar nerve in his right elbow. In three minor league rehab starts, Weathers did not allow a run in three innings pitched while striking out four and walking none and he should be in the mix to be Francisco Cordero's set-up man. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Wesley Wright - Wright has come out of nowhere to play a key role in the Astros' bullpen. He has a 3.75 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 12K in 12 innings and earned three vulture wins while posting two holds for good measure. With the Houston relief crew behind Jose Valverde not set in stone, it would not be surprising to see Wright in a set-up role sometime during the year. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Luke Carlin - San Diego purchased the contract of Carlin from Triple-A Portland to replace Colt Morton as Josh Bard's backup. Carlin earned the promotion by posting a .387/.574/.742 line in 11 games at Triple-A, which was completely out of line from his career numbers. Look for him to see one stat a week until Michael Barrett is ready to return to action. Mixed and NL: No.
Ramon Castro - The Mets activated Castro, who has been sidelined since late March with a hamstring injury, off the disabled list Friday. Castro set a new career-high last year in home runs and would have established the same in RBI, but lower back arthritis sidelined him for six weeks beginning in August. The 11 home runs came in just 144 at-bats but his back ailment is one that may not fully go away, which could adversely affect his overall numbers this year. Castro takes over from Raul Casanova as Brian Schneider's backup but if he proves he is healthy and Schneider reverts back to his prior offensive woes, he could see more time behind the plate than he has in the past. At worst, he'll see plenty of action versus left-handed pitching and in day games following night contests. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Jesus Flores/Will Nieves - Both are expected to split time behind the plate with Paul Lo Duca landing on DL with broken left hand that will sideline him 4-to-6 weeks and Johnny Estrada landing on the DL with elbow soreness. Flores, who was hitting .153 with one homer and seven RBI for Triple-A Columbus, hit .244 for the Nationals as a rookie Rule 5 draftee in 2007. Flores held his own in his first stint in the majors and convinced the Nationals that he could be their catcher of the future as his defense is solid and he's got nice power potential. Nieves has played over his head, batting .342 while spelling and filling in for Lo Duca and Estrada, and is better defensively than Flores. That said; look for the playing time split to be at least 60-40 in favor of Flores, and if he gets off to a strong start, that could widen. Flores - Mixed: $2; NL: $7, Nieves - Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Steve Holm - Holm, who won the backup catcher job for the Giants to start the year when Eliezer Alfonzo was sent to Triple-A Fresno, is probably locked in the role with Alfonzo suspended for 50 games for taking a performance-enhancing substance. Holm had nine home runs and hit .272/.387/.433 last season and will continue to see minimal time backing up Benjie Molina. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Chris Iannetta - Iannetta, who started five straight games for the first time in his major-league career, saw that streak end Friday as manager Clint Hurdle inserted Yorvit Torrealba back into the starting lineup. Despite that change, Iannetta should remain a key part of a platoon with Torrealba, seeing anywhere between 40-50 percent of the playing time as he has proven to be a better offensive catcher. Mixed: $2; NL: $10.
Jose Bautista - Bautista, who has hit 31 home runs the past two seasons, found his stroke toward the end of April, and carried that over into early-May. In that eight game stretch, Bautista went 12-for-32 with three home runs, nine RBI and seven runs scored. He has struggled this year with his fielding and has always had issues with his plate discipline, but Neil Walker is not ready to be promoted, so Bautista should keep his job all season. Keep his name in mind for activation in mixed-leaguers if reels off another hot streak. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Pedro Feliz - Feliz got off to a very slow start and was hitting just .202 as of April 27, which might have caused some owners to give up on him. Since then, Feliz has gone 12-for-39 with two homers, four runs and five RBI over the course of Philadelphia's last 11 games. Up until this season, Feliz had spent his entire career in San Francisco and averaged 21 homers and over 83 RBI in last four years with the Giants. It would not be surprising to see Feliz improve on both of those totals this season in the more friendly hitter's ballpark and higher-powered lineup in Philadelphia. Mixed: $7; NL: $20.
Chase Headley - Headley almost made the Padres out of spring training but was sent down the minors to get more seasoning as he was making the switch from third base to left field due to Kevin Kouzmanoff being firmly entrenched at the hot corner. After a slow start, Headley has gone 19-for-41 (.463) with a homer and six RBI over his last 10 games at Triple-A Portland. Just a couple of weeks ago, he was looking like an early-season disappointment, but now Headley is nearing a promotion to San Diego where Jody Gerut's roster spot and Paul McAnulty's at-bats will be in jeopardy and Scott Hairston will likely be permanently shifted to center field. Mixed: $4; NL: $15.
Greg Norton - Norton, who had a poor 2007 after a surprising 2006 campaign with Tampa Bay, was traded to Atlanta from Seattle for a player to be named later. Norton will serve as a backup infielder and pinch-hitter for the Braves. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Ronny Cedeno - With Mark DeRosa struggling in the field, Cedeno could be in line for more starts at second base. DeRosa hasn't lost the job yet, but Cedeno has hit very well when given the opportunity, and he's a far better fielder than DeRosa. It's easy to forget that at one point, Cedeno was one of the club's top infield prospects, but in recent years, he slipped behind Ryan Theriot and even Mike Fontenot. In 2007, Cedeno tore up Triple-A Iowa for the second time in three years, and he won't turn 25 until just before spring training, so his fine start makes him worth a flier in deeper leagues. Mixed: $0; NL: $5.
Callix Crabbe - Crabbe, who was claimed by San Diego from Milwaukee in the Rule 5 draft, has played all over the diamond so far this season, getting five games at 2B shortstop and three more games at second base and in the outfield. In the minors, he had a solid OBP and showed he could steal bases with his speed, so he could be a source of both in deep, single leagues. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Mike Fontenot - Fontenot came out of the gate on fire last year, but cooled off substantially down the stretch. Fontenot's got a smidgen of power for a middle infielder, and his on-base skills are about average. He did a good job filling in at second base when Mark DeRosa played left field when Alfonso Soriano was out and third base when Aramis Ramirez sidelined. However, with both Soriano and Ramirez back and DeRosa playing second base, Fontenot has returned to his utility role. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Chris Gomez - Gomez spent most of 2007 with Baltimore before joining Cleveland in August. Gomez signed with Pittsburgh this offseason and is capable enough with the glove to handle all four infield positions, which is where he has already played this year. His bat is nothing to write home about but he will see time across the diamond giving him some value. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Jon Herrera - A contact hitter with some pop and a lot of speed, Herrera spent 2007 at Double-A Tulsa. He struggled a little at the plate hitting .257/.315/.338 with 18 stolen bases in 30 attempts. This season, he got off to a strong start, posting a .310/.356/.429 line with two home runs and 17 RBI in 22 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs to earn a call up when Troy Tulowitzki went on the disabled list. Herrera started two games in a row at second base but has been on the bench the past four games and may be sent down shortly as Clint Barmes and Omar Quintanilla have taken control of the Rockies' middle infield. Even if Herrera stays with the Rockies, his playing time should be very limited in the near term. Mixed and NL: No.
Chin-Lung Hu - Hu had a breakout year for the Dodgers, batting .325/.364/.507 between Double-A and Triple-A after adding 10 pounds of muscle prior to the year before hitting .241 in 29 at-bats in a late-season cup of coffee with the big league club. He's always been known more for his defensive skills, but the 5-9 Hu showed enough potential with the bat, ironing out some mechanical flaws and displaying better plate coverage and a line drive stick, for some to consider him as Rafael Furcal's (free agent-to-be) potential successor. Hu has started the past four games while Furcal sat out with a stiff lower back, and while Furcal is expected back shortly, Hu clearly is first in line to fill in at shortstop whenever the injury-prone Furcal missed time. His value is obviously much higher in keeper leagues. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Omar Infante - Infante, who broke his left hand in January during winter league play, went 4-for-11 during a three-game minor league rehab stint with Triple-A Richmond and was activated from the 15-day DL before Thursday's game. Infante started at second base and hit leadoff for the second time in three games in Saturday's loss to Pittsburgh, going 3-for-4 with a double. Infante could move into a platoon with Kelly Johnson at second base if he gets hot, but these two starts were more likely to get him going after coming back from the DL, and he should settle into the role as the Braves' primary utility infielder with Martin Prado on the DL. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Omar Quintanilla - Quintanilla is a light-hitting, slick-fielding infielder, who can play shortstop and second base. He was shuffled between the majors and Triple-A in 2007 but never got consistent playing time with the Rockies. He began the year in the minors, but got off to a strong start and was called up when Troy Tulowitzki went on the DL. With Jayson Nix being released, Quintanilla has seen the majority of playing time at second base and was 10-for-25 in his first six games there. Since then, he has reverted to form as he has usually struggled in the majors, by going 0-for-12 in his last three contests. Quintanilla will need to at least hit for average or play sterling defense to hold off Jeff Baker at second base. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Luis Rivas - Rivas had a big spring training to make the Pirates Opening Day roster as a backup infielder. Through the first five weeks of the season, he has seen most of his playing time at shortstop not second base and has not impressed either offensively or defensively. With Jack Wilson out a few more weeks, Rivas gets a reprieve but it will be interesting to see when Wilson returns if Pittsburgh keeps him, Brian Bixler or Chris Gomez up and Gomez could have the edge as he too can play both middle infield spots. Mixed and NL: No.
Omar Vizquel - In 2007, Vizquel posted a .621 OPS, which was a drop of more than 120 points from 2006, and ranked as one of the lowest of any position player in baseball. The 14 stolen bases were also his lowest total since 2003 and while he's still a fine defender, his play in the field has declined as well. For some reason, the rebuilding Giants gave him a one-year, $5.5 million contract, and a sore left knee in spring training required surgery that sidelined him till Saturday. Vizquel has kept himself in top shape, but as a 41-year-old, a full bounceback year seems unlikely and he will be eased back into action early in his return. That being said, starting shortstops in single leagues do not grow on trees, so his runs, modicum of steals and possible decent batting average has some value. Mixed: $2; NL: $8.
Michael Bourn - If you are in a league where Bourn has been dumped or available on the cheap, run; don't walk, to grab him. Despite his poor start, Bourn still has 16 steals and has hit safely in six of his last seven games while being hurt by a ,239 BABIP, compared to his .330 mark last year and better numbers than that in the minors. Bourn needs to improve his walk ratio but has shown a better BB:K ratio in all of his previous stops than the .42 he has posted so far this year. What do all these numbers mean then? As Bourn's numbers in these categories normalize towards his career average, a rise in batting average to .250 seems within reach, which should result in a subsequent increase in steals and runs, enhancing his value in all leagues. Mixed: $10; NL: $25.
Elijah Dukes - While Dukes showed great tools in 2007, he was in a 4-for-50 slump at the time of his suspension by Tampa Bay for personal issues. The Rays traded him to Washington for a Low-A prospect at the winter meetings; and at the time it was thought he could compete for a regular outfield role in spring training. Dukes, who strained his right hamstring on Opening Day and hit .211 in a 13-game rehabilitation stint with Single-A Potomac and Triple-A Columbus, was activated on Friday. Dukes was to be the Nationals' fourth outfielder originally, and manager Manny Acta said he would return to that role, though with Wily Mo Pena, Lastings Milledge and Austin Kearns all struggling, he could see more than expected action in the short term. Mixed: $2; NL: $7
Ryan Freel - Between a nasty concussion suffered as a result of a collision with teammate Norris Hopper in May and a season-ending knee injury in August, it was a lost year for Freel. Even when healthy, he abandoned the patient approach at the plate that made him a valuable on-base asset in previous years. This season, Freel has been healthy and despite his lack of patience at the plate, he is among the hottest hitters on a very cold Reds team at the moment. Freel seems to have surpassed Corey Patterson as the team's starting center fielder and has been making good contact lately, so it may only be a matter of time before the runs finally start pouring in. The one caveat is that manager Dusty Baker could turn back to Patterson and eventually Jay Bruce will be up, but as a short-term move, you could do worse than Freel. Mixed: $2; NL: $9.
Jody Gerut - The release of Jim Edmonds has opened up the center field job in San Diego and Gerut looks like he will get the first chance to fill it as he was called up from Triple-A Portland Friday. Gerut, who finished second in AL ROY voting in 2003, hasn't played regularly in the majors since 2005 thanks to injuries and is not really a center fielder, but did post .308/.382/.570 line with five homers and 18 RBI in 27 games at Triple-A to earn the promotion. He will need to impress quickly as Scott Hairston may also get a look, especially against lefties, and Chase Headley could get the call shortly to play left field, meaning that Gerut or Paul McAnulty may be on a short lease. If Gerut does stick, he could be a cheap source of power and RBI Mixed: $2; NL: $10.
Mark Kotsay - Kotsay had his 2007 season with Oakland ruined with continued back problems, hitting just .214/.279/.296 in 206 at-bats. It was a continuation of a rather rapid decline, and entering the year, there was little reason to think he'd rebound to a level of fantasy significance. However, he seems to have been rejuvenated as Atlanta's starting center fielder, hitting in 10 of his last 11 games, compiling a .417-2-10-9-2 stat line in that stretch and he has posted an OPS near 1.000 since April 17. The specter of him losing the job midseason to Jordan Schaefer is now not an issue due to Schaefer's suspension but his poor .200 batting average against left-handed pitching could cost him some playing time as the year wears on if that does not improve though his hitting against right-handers makes him worth owning in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues. Mixed: $4; NL: $15.
Ryan Ludwick - Ludwick's first year with the Cardinals was a resounding success, as he hit 14 home runs and 22 doubles in just 303 at-bats in 2007. He finished the season on a high note, hitting .314/.422/.488 as an everyday player in September. With So Taguchi and Juan Encarnacion out of the picture, Ludwick was supposed to take on a bigger role in the St. Louis outfield this season and he has not disappointed. Ludwick has a .351/.413/.722 line in just 95 at-bats and if he can find a way to cut down on his strikeouts and continues to hit lefties better than he usually has in the past, his playing time should to rise. Ludwick is murder on righties and always had power in the minors, but needs to remain hot as the rest of the St. Louis outfield has been productive. That makes it difficult at times for Ludwick to play, though manager Tony La Russa seems to have taken a shining to him while Chris Duncan has struggled. At worst, Ludwick will be a fourth outfielder who sees more action that most in that role. Mixed: $3; NL: $10.
Jason Michaels - Cleveland traded Michaels to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later or cash considerations with Nyjer Morgan optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis as a result. It's not clear that Michaels will get more playing time with the Pirates than he had with the Indians as the team's starting outfield is pretty well set but he might spell Nate McLouth against certain lefties. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Scott Podsednik - Podsednik dealt with abductor and rib cage injuries for much of the season and was limited to just 62 games for the White Sox. He's never shown much power but he stole just 12 bases last season after stealing at least 40 in four straight seasons. Chicago grew tired of wondering when he'd be healthy and designated him for assignment in the offseason and Colorado signed him in early-March. He had a strong spring to beat out Cory Sullivan for the back up center field and pinch-runner job and has used his speed to steal six bases in limited playing time. As long as Willy Taveras hits, Podsednik will see most of his time against left-handed pitching, which cuts down on his plate appearances, but his speed makes him an intriguing player in NL-only leagues, especially those with daily transactions. Mixed: $0; NL: $5
Cody Ross - Ross got off to a horrible start at the plate but with Hanley Ramirez getting more down to the three-hole, someone has to leadoff, and lately it's been Ross. There is no guarantee Ross stays in that spot or even remains as a starter, but he did post a .411 on-base last year, and could be worth a flier in deeper leagues as Alfredo Amezaga is also struggling and Alejandro De Aza is not ready to return to action. Mixed: No; NL: $3.