Lots of new names this week. Study the moves, make them in your league, and then claim them as your own. I give you this week's Expert Leagues ...
Why, Pete? Why?
"It's all about the flexibility, not the stat-for-stat exchange, which I lose hands down. But no matter how good Adrian Gonzalez is, he wasn't helping me much from the bench. I had Derrek Lee, Travis Hafner and Gonzalez, but only two spots to play them in. I drafted Piazza, but with his injury, I was staring at six weeks of Bengie Molina. McCann will be my everyday guy, and I'll drop both Molina and Piazza and go FAABing for some pitching or another bench bat this weekend."
...And Mr Karablog?
"I drafted two catchers for the sole purpose of ripping another owner off for one of them, and this seemed like the perfect time to do so. Basically, I felt Brian McCann stuck around in the draft too long. The only controversy here is that I chose Adrian Gonzalez over Derrek Lee, which I believe was wise, but who really knows? Yo, Adrian , hit me another 30 home runs!"
Shane Victorino $5 Ron Shandler
Victorino has 13 steals after a tear this past week where he swiped two in three consecutive games. With Ron's grab of the speedster, he can now officially join the list of successful Rule V draftees, a group that includes Johan Santana, Josh Hamilton, and Joakim Soria.
His name isn't "GAGNEDL"?
Back from a hip injury, Gagne was immediately handed the closer's role, with Akinori Otsuka sliding back to middle relief duties. If you feel like waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and rushing to ESPNews to look for reports of your closer going back on the disabled list, this is your man. Still, for a $1 bid, Tristan may have just gotten 3/4 of a season's worth of saves.
Tout Wars NL-only
Anthony Lerew: $19 Brian Walton ($18, $12, $6)
Lost in the shuffling of the bigger names (Tim Lincecum, Andy LaRoche, rumors of Homer Bailey), Anthony Lerew quietly snuck up to the major leagues on Tuesday, and struck out seven in six innings for the Braves. He had been impressive so far this season in Richmond, but has had a relatively modest minor league career, and a disastrous 2006 (7.48 ERA, 1.80 WHIP in 71 innings) in Richmond.
Jorge Sosa: $18 Trace Wood (Losing Bids: $17, $13, $12, $6)
Back in 2004, Trace Wood brought Tampa Bay reliever Jorge Sosa on board his eventual AL-Only Tout Wars championship team. The young fireballer struck out 94 in 99 1/3 innings. His re-incarnation with the Mets will see him throwing considerably fewer strikeouts, but with plenty more command and poise. After Friday night's gem, Sosa is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. And to make Trace Wood look even better? FAAB bids have to be in by 5 p.m. on Fridays; a full two hours before this latest start.
Fred Lewis: $15 Trace Wood ($14, $12, $6, $3)
That was Al Lewis.
Fred Gwynne, yo!
No. But that would be awesome. Fred Lewis is an outfielder for San Francisco. He got called up when Dave Roberts was put on the DL and he'll get some at-bats.
Ryan Ludwick: $9 Trace Wood ($8, $8, $0)
Wait ... the dude from Cleveland?
Just four years ago, Ludwick was a promising young masher in the Cleveland system. Somewhere along the way, he pulled a Jack Cust and got lost in the minor league systems of the Rangers, Indians, Tigers and Cardinals. When Preston Wilson went on the DL, Ludwick was called up, and has started every game so far. He had 36 RBIs this season in the minors, and -- by Saturday -- had three in four games.
My backup outfielder has a last name, it's O-R-T-M-E- ...
Dan Ortmeier or Fred Lewis? Becker and Wood will forever be at odds with each other over which mediocre minor league call-up will get the most playing time in the San Francisco outfield while Dave Roberts is out.
But it's pronounced differently.
After the Felix Pie (also not pronounced like we would have hoped) experiment turned sour for the Cubs, they turned to Pagan, who had six steals for Iowa this season.
John Gall: $1 Rob Leibowitz
Let's take a look at why Rob felt the need to sign a 29-year-old with 49 career at-bats.
5th PLACE, 77.5 points (leader, Scott Pianowski, has 116)
NEEDS: Home runs (2.5 points), Saves (3.5)
CAN SPARE: Average (12), Wins (12), Runs (11)
In a convenient twist, Leibowitz was able to activate both Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence last week, as well as Micah Owings, who was activated from the DL, immediately improving his fifth-place team. How did he get so lucky? By filling out his roster with rookies during the auction, and eschewing the 25th-man roster-fillers that other teams were scrambling to acquire.
By taking the early hit in having holes for the first week in Pence and Lincecum's spots (and smartly FAABing backups to fill those spots, instead of wasting auction dollars on them), Leibowitz now has a stud starting pitcher and full-time outfielder instead of, well ... someone like John Gall (a pox on that Kevin Kouzmanoff!).
But it was still a sound strategy, according to Leibowitz:
"In the draft, I spent $3 on Lincecum and took Pence for one of my last hitting spots in similar fashion. Ownings, I took in the reserve round as he had been pitching well that spring and it was pretty certain he was going to be the fifth starter with Randy Johnson on the DL. Given his upside compared to Edgar Gonzalez, it was pretty simple to deduce who would eventually end up with the job."
Unfortunately for Leibowitz, the players he added to his roster last week will most likely pad the categories where he already has a lot of points. Pence will hit a few home runs, but his immediate value is mainly in average and runs scored. Lincecum and Owings will get him strikeouts, and they both play for teams with relatively strong bullpens and can see gains in win totals.
The moral of this story, according to Leibowitz: "Buy or draft skilled players with good upside who are likely to have a very good chance of getting the call to the majors and good things may happen sooner than you expect."
Tout Wars AL-only
A note from Tout Wars League Commissioner Todd Zola:
That guy on a minor league contract in the Yankees farm system is not available for a couple reasons:
1. He is not active on a major league roster
2. Jeff Erickson already owns him.
Keep this in mind if your league necessitates a player being on a major-league roster.
Matt DeSalvo: $2 Jason Grey (Losing bid: $1)
DeSalvo allowed three hits in seven innings in his major-league debut, so it's somewhat surprising that only two owners bid on his services. His minor league numbers, however, indicate that DeSalvo can tend to be maddeningly inconsistent, following up a sparkling 2005 season with a horrific 2006.
Of the two, Stewart backs up a struggling Gerald Laird, and will probably see a few more at-bats than Kenji Johjima's backup, Burke.
Franklin Gutierrez $0 Dean Peterson
What does Dean know that the rest of us do not?
Gutierrez was batting .373 with 18 runs scored and five steals in Triple-A, but faces a loaded outfield in Cleveland.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a bunch of middle relievers who were picked up for the purpose of lowering WHIP and ERA:
Tout Wars Mixed
Tim Lincecum: $6 Mike Salfino (Losing bid: $5)
Claudio Vargas: $4 John Hoyos ($ 3)
Andy LaRoche: $3 John Zaleski ($2)
Not to be confused with Adam LaRoche
The Wilson Betemit era came and went without much fanfare. Or home runs. Or decent batting average. Or lack of errors. LaRoche was batting .235 in the minor leagues and got the call, if that gives any indication of how little faith the Dodgers had in Betemit turning it around.
Jason Marquis: $1 David Gonos
Jack Cust: $1 John Zaleski
All Puppies and rainbows ... until Piazza comes back
Four homers, nine runs batted in and five runs scored. Poor Jack Cust has been kicked around by so many teams, and been buried in Triple-A for so long, it's really a lovely story to see his elevation to "mixed-league worthy" status. When Piazza returns and demands his DH spot back, we could have a situation. This could actually lead to a diminished role for Jason Kendall, as Piazza may be asked to catch in order to keep Cust in the lineup. For now, however, revel in the beauty of the Jack Cust story.
Figgins or Willits?
Willits has show great speed and patience while serving the role of little Chone Figgins these past few weeks. There is room for both of them on the Angels, thanks to some roster flexibility and clever lineup-making by Mike Scioscia, and the combo could be the poor man's version of the Los Angeles Juan Pierre-Rafael Furcal steals machine that speedphiles drooled over.
Another possible closer in Toronto?
Downs is the latest to have his name floated as a B.J. Ryan replacement. He will, most likely, not be the last. For what it's worth, Jeremy Accardo struck the first blow by nailing the save on Saturday, striking out the first two batters he faced on six pitchers, then getting a ground out for the final out. He'll get the next few opportunities.
Hideki Okajima: $1 Nando Di Fino
Carlos Pena: $1 John Zaleski
Will Jorge Cantu ever be relevant again?
According to John Zaleski, the answer is "no." Pena's late-season tear for Detroit in 2005, when he hit 15 homers in 38 games after a minor-league stint, is still fresh in his memory.
I remember him!
After a horrific start to the season, Bonser's ERA topped out at 6.89 on April 15. Since then, he has lowered his ERA to 3.89 (while, strangely, raising his WHIP from 1.47 to 1.55), and struck out 24 in 23 innings.
Kevin Kouzmanoff: $0 Alex Cushing
Hope springs eternal
Even with Russell Branyan on a hot streak, Kouzmanoff will remain in a quasi-platoon role, and not be optioned to the minors to work out his problems at the plate.
Nando Di Fino is a fantasy analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at Nando@TalentedMrRoto.com