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Line 'Em Up: The Zoo Crew

Lane Rizzardini

Lane Rizzardini writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Itís a zoo out there this week in major league baseball. The Moose has finally wandered out of the vast wilderness of Omaha, Nebraska and into the Royals' major league lineup. There could be a Panda sighting behind the plate, and a slumbering Godzilla has awoken and been placed in the thick of the lineup. Finally, a first-year Oriole flies to the top of the order, and...well, Michael Brantley has certainly been a fantasy animal this season.

Royals top prospect Mike Moustakas was promoted to the majors last week, and he didnít waste any time generating hype by belting a home run in his second game. It is obviously too early to make any judgements, but it was nice to see Moose pick up a hit and a walk in each of the first three games he appeared in. Moustakas was already owned in keeper leagues thanks to his .322/.369/.630 slash line - along with 36 home runs and 124 RBI - a year ago, but considering he batted a mediocre .287 at Triple-A Omaha heís not a must-own option right now in mixed leagues. He appears to be locked into the sixth spot in the lineup at the moment, having started there every game since being called up.

There have been rumors that Pablo Sandoval may see some time at catcher upon his return from the disabled list this week. The added position eligibility would be huge for fantasy owners, but letís not get our hopes up just yet. The Giants' injury issues may prevent this experiment from getting off the ground - the loss of Freddie Sanchez makes the Giants roster awfully shallow in the infield - and without many other options, and team will likely need Sandoval to continue playing third, and maybe some first base as well. Still, with Eli Whiteside batting .200 and Chris Stewart not exactly an intriguing backup option, Sandoval, who has started 12 major league games as a catcher, could get a shot behind the dish if/when the team gets healthy again.

New manager Bob Melvin has already made a couple significant changes to the Oakland lineup, shifting Cliff Pennington to the two hole and installing Hideki Matsui as the everyday DH. Though these moves still leave Oakland with one of least exciting lineups in the league, they should boost Matsui's fantasy value since he was primarily only starting against righting before. The consistent playing time and primo spot in the lineup will help - and it should be noted that Matsui has five RBI in his last four games - but considering he has only batted .216 this year, he still doesnít have much if any value in mixed leagues.

Pennington provides more in the batting average category (.270), but with only three home runs and 18 RBI heís not exactly a desirable option either.
The Baltimore Orioles are giving J.J. Hardy a shot in the leadoff spot, a big move up from the nine hole in the order. This will give him another valuable at-bat every game, and considering he has hit .287 through 36 games this season, he could post even better numbers in the counting categories. Unfortunately Hardy is not the base-stealing threat major league teams generally like to have at the top of their lineup, so he will be in danger of losing the top spot in the order if he doesnít continue to hit. In the meantime, he should have more opportunities to both score runs and create them.

There has been a lot of movement in the Indians lineup of late. The team called up second baseman Cord Phelps last week and sent OF/DH Shelley Duncan down to the minors. Phelps strikes out quite a bit but should still be an offensive upgrade over the woeful Orlando Cabrera, who is batting just .254. Phelps has batted seventh in every game he has started and could be worth a look in deep AL-only leagues. The big highlight has come more recently, with manager Manny Acta slotting Michael Brantley in the three-hole on Monday and, moving Grady Sizemore back to the leadoff spot, and batting Asdrubal Cabrera cleanup. This may only last until Shin-Shoo Choo figures himself out at the plate, but is still a testament to how well Brantley has played this season - an impressive 35/5/27/8/.286 line over 263 plate appearances. At just age 24, Brantley is someone that should already be owned in all keeper leagues in the hope that he continues to develop and continues providing multi-category production.