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Finder's Keepers: Some Young Players to Consider

For those of you who, like myself, won't be finishing first in your keeper league this season, this is a good time of year to start combing the waiver wires for players who've been dropped either due to injury, lack of playing time, or poor performance. The fallout from an active trade deadline, coupled with other factors like the upcoming September roster expansion, can make this an opportune moment to speculate on players who could be receiving a boost in value soon.

One sort of player to focus on, in particular, is the former prospect who, for whatever reason, has lost his glossy sheen but is still young enough to show improvement if given playing time.

Recently, I went through the free agent list in my twenty-team, mixed-league keeper league and was able to find some available players who fit that profile. Obvious caveats apply in re keeper rules and stat categories.

The chosen few are, in no specific order:

Elijah Dukes
Dukes is a bad man – both in the Muhammad Ali way and also sometimes in the actual, breaking-the-law way. The latter is regrettable, of course, but Dukes has handled himself better of late and, as Shakira says, "OBP don't lie"|STAR|. Dukes was sidelined for part of the year with hamstring issues and was relegated to part-time status (and the minors) by the glut of outfielders villainous GM Jim Bowden left in his wake. With the departures of Nick Johnson and Lastings Milledge to Florida and Pittsburgh, respectively – along with the DL-ing (and relative incompetence) of Austin Kearns – Dukes's future as Washington's center fielder looks secure for the time being. At 25 years old and with a .264/.386/.478 line in his recent past, he's a reasonable bet for success.

|STAR|Note: Shakira might not actually say this.

Fausto Carmona
A groundball pitcher who can post above-average strikeout rates is a rare commodity, and that's exactly the sort of player Carmona was in 2007. Since then? Yeesh. He still induces a lot of grounders (62.1|PERCENT| for his career), but the strikeout rates have fallen. Carmona seems to be the victim of his own stuff, getting such movement on his two-seamer that it's hard to wrangle it into the ol' strike zone with enough regularity to be effective (which, if Bernie is reading, I'd actually like to hear his opinion on the matter.) If Carmona is able to regain the control he exhibited in 2007, he could be a very effective pitcher. At 25 years old, it's not out of the question.

Andy Marte
Him again? I know you might be thinking as much, but it's hard not to hold out hope for the 25-year-old third baseman. Marte has fallen into the (pre-2009) Edwin Jackson category of player: one who posted crazy numbers at a young age – including a line of .276/.373/.508 as a 21-year-old at Triple-A Richmond – but who's failed to deliver on the promise of that performance. Marte is still in his pre-peak years, though, and was having a great season in the minors, posting a park- and luck-adjusted line of .337/.378/.607 at Triple-A Columbus. The third base job is his to lose on a Cleveland team which, as their recent spate of moves demonstrates, is intent on developing its young players.

The Rest of Cleveland's Entire Roster (and Pittsburgh's, too)
The Indians and Pirates are similar in that they both a) have young, smart general managers and b) have recently overturned their rosters rather significantly. Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington actually served as an assistant to Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro, which, that makes it less surprising that both teams have taken the re-building tack in re player movement. For Pittsburgh, Lastings Milledge is still only 24 and is still a physical specimen with some hitting skills. As I've noted in an earlier post, if Jeff Clement is able to qualify as a catcher in years to come, he'll be quite a valuable commodity.

In the Cleve, middle infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena profile as similar sorts of hitters, both showing signs of plate discipline and line drive power to go along with probable shortstop eligibility. Lou Marson was trapped behind Carlos Ruiz in Philadelphia – which, yes, I recognize the absurdity of that statement – and he might not have it much easier with current starter Kelly Shoppach around and prospect Carlos Santana raking at Double-A. That said, if it looks like he'll start getting some PT, he's a decent gamble.

Michael Saunders
Ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Seattle organization by Baseball America prior to the season, Saunders is different than the other players on this list in that he hasn't been around in the majors long enough to fail. That said, I feel – albeit, quite anecdotally – I feel as though his name has been absent from a lot of fantasy chatter. He's been starting in left field regularly, though, is able to play center field on days that Franklin Gutierrez can't, and his park- and luck-adjusted line of .325/.391./.570 at Tacoma is nothing to sneeze at|STAR|. Endy Chavez is an obstacle for Saunders going into the 2010 season, but with the sharp Jack Zduriencik in charge, youth is a good bet on this Seattle team.

|STAR|Although, I don't know why you'd be sneezing at someone's slash stats anyway. That's just weird.