Play Like the Pros: Fishing for saves

ESPN Expert League

Jeff Francoeur: $10 Pete Becker (losing bid $5)

Fresh meat!: After being dumped last week for Randy Wolf by Matthew Berry, Francoeur wasted no time finding a new dance partner in Pete Becker. Batting .301 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs on the season, Francoeur's time on the waiver wire was destined to be a very short.

Kevin Gregg: $3 Ron Shandler
Boof Bonser: $2 David Young

Where's the Wolf?: Just like Lisa "Boof" Marconi from "Teen Wolf", John Paul "Boof" Bonser seems to have hit his stride. Consider this his "seven minutes in heaven" moment: 23 strikeouts in his past three starts (17 innings), and an ERA that has dropped from 4.33 to 3.88 in that span. Get him now, and look forward to his climactic kiss with Scott at the end of the basketball game after he defeats Mick. Figuratively speaking, of course.

David Weathers: $2 Young
Dan Johnson: $1 Shandler

With only three out of a possible 10 points in the home run category, and the disappointing Carlos Delgado manning first for him, Ron turns to Dan Johnson, Oakland's slugger who has been lost in the hype surrounding the Jack Cust explosion. Johnson has five home runs in 93 at-bats, with 20 runs scored and an OPS that only recently dipped below 1.000.

AL Tout W -- wait wait wait… where's Ryan Braun?
Braun was officially called up after the bid deadlines for the ESPN Expert League.

AL Tout Wars

Tyler Clippard: $17 Lawr Michaels of CREATiVESPORTS.com 17 (Losing bids: $16, $10, $5, $3)

The Yankees Clippa -- ah man, I just can't do that pun: Clippard came out of the gates blazing, with a strong performance against the Mets in his major league debut. But given another start on Friday night, the Angels touched him for three runs in four innings. His ERA still stands at a respectable 3.60.

Ramon Vazquez: $10 Jason Grey of FantasyBaseball.com ($9, $5)

"He sucks": Grey's words, not mine. Care to hear more? "If you need me to elaborate, he sucks, but he's better than a void. Maybe. Possibly." Jason shouldn't sell himself short on this, though. With Hank Blalock out for an extended amount of time, Vazquez will be seeing a decent amount of time at third base, and could score some runs just by being in the dugout. Two other bidders obviously felt the same way.

Shawn Riggans: $1 Sam Walker, author of "Fantasyland"

Let the "Chone Riggans" jokes begin!: With Josh Paul on the disabled list, and Dioner Navarro batting a sparkling .195, Riggans may be a possible pickup in the deeper mixed leagues in the weeks to come. A former top prospect in Tampa Bay's farm system (laugh all you want, but their prospects have been fantasy gold), Riggans now has a chance to make the most of this situation and usurp the catcher throne from the former Yankees' prospect Navarro.

Marco Scutaro: $1 Jeff Erickson of Rotowire.com
Donnie Murphy: $1 Mike Siano of MLB.com
Tommy Murphy: $0 Dean Peterson of STATS, Inc.

In all of major league baseball, there are but two Murphys. They are not related, and neither happens to be the son of former all-star Dale Murphy. So how do you tell them apart if you find yourself facing "Current Baseball Players With The Last Name Murphy" as a Double Jeopardy question next week? Here is a quick reference guide:


24 years old

Second Baseman
Last played in the majors in 2005 with Kansas City
Has a .163 career batting average
Called up to take Milton Bradley's roster spot.

27 years old
Last played in the majors in 2006 with the Angels
Has a .221 career batting average
Called up to replace Garrett Anderson
Enjoys long walks on the beach and cuddling by the fire.

In short, if the Murphys have any value, it will most likely fall within the realm of AL-only leagues. They will play sparingly, and probably won't see an extended look in the majors. If you are forced to choose one at gunpoint, Tommy is the Murphy who has been getting more starts.

NL Tout Wars

Sean Marshall: $14 Cory Schwartz of MLB.com ($13, $6, $6, $3)
Mike Bacsik: $1 Schwartz

Nothing gets by Zola: Tout Wars uber-commissioner Todd Zola said it best when he mused that it was odd Bacsik "got one bid while Marshall got several."

MLB.com's Cory Schwartz managed to get both starters, so the point is essentially moot. But it's still worth asking: Why did Marshall get more attention than Bacsik?

Between the two of them, Bacsik and Marshall have three starts. Bacsik has a 1.98 ERA after two, and Marshall has a 2.57 after one. Marshall's start was flashier, with eight strikeouts, while Bacsik has just five in his two appearances.

So it must be the career numbers, right?

Maybe not.

In 24 career starts, Marshall sports a 5.59 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP. Bacsik has a 5.88 ERA with a 1.54 WHIP in 15 starts.

Roster stability?

Bacsik is starting for Washington, so we should just stop there. He wins. Even if the Cubs lost their other four starters for the rest of the season in a DVD pirating sting, Bacsik would probably still have more stability than Marshall. Plus, he has shown skill in two starts, while Marshall has only had one go-round.

So it comes down to this: potential. Marshall is 6-foot-6 and strikes out a batter per inning. Bacsik is a command lefty who won't strike a lot of guys out, and whose suitcase is littered with stickers from places like Norfolk, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Scranton, Tucson, Columbus and Washington. While Marshall was groomed through the Cubs system, Bacsik has bounced from organization to organization, finally finding a home in Washington.

And what will become of Cory's team, the "Schwartz Stops"? Let's take a closer look:

Team: MLB.com
9th place, 57 points (leader, Scott Pianowski, has 107.5)
NEEDS: strikeouts (2 points), ERA (3 points), WHIP (5 points), runs (2.5 points)
CAN SPARE: saves (12 points), steals (9.5 points)

So that FAABing makes sense. Cory has a starting rotation of ... Jason Marquis and Jeff Francis. Out of nine pitchers, only two are starters, thanks mostly to, "Brett Myers going from the rotation to the DL to join Jason Schmidt," as Cory put it. He has surrounded Marquis and Francis with a bevy of relievers, most likely to get his ERA and WHIP down, and just watched Tony Armas get demoted to the bullpen in Pittsburgh. Bacsik and Marshall address his needs: Marshall can contribute strikeouts, while Bacsik can, potentially, help lower his ERA and WHIP. He has a long road ahead of him. The strikeout leader, Trace Wood's Long Gandhi team has 309 strikeouts to Cory's 229, but it's a long road for the entire league right now, as the closest team to Pianowski's is currently 18 points down.

Still, Cory makes no bones about his moves this week. "I simply needed two warm bodies and here they were."

Ryan Spilborghs: $8 Jason Collette of RotoJunkie.com ($7, $4, $3)
Antonio Alfonseca: $7 Scott Pianowski of FantasyGuru.com (Losing bids: $6, $1)

Alfonseca Port: Even though the Fantasy Guru, Scott, is an admitted believer that Ryan Madson will get the save opportunities in Philadelphia ("I'm not that stupid," to believe Madson won't, he told me), he still thinks that Charlie Manuel may just look to Alfonseca, and muses that the "six-finger discount might get save chances anyway." For a man who holds an 18-point lead in an expert-league, it might be wise to follow his logic, and at least put Alfonseca on your watch list.

Martin Prado: $4 Peter Kreutzer of AskRotoman.com ($4)

"Because Gail Wears the Prado Shoes!": Originally thought to be just a utility player upon being called up, Martin Prado had -- as of Saturday -- started at second base in three of five games. His minor league numbers show a decent average, but little in the way of power or speed, so the fact that only two experts bid on him this week may be a combination of fear that he won't be more than a utility player, coupled with indifference at his lack of production in four of the five scoring categories.

Justin Miller: $2 Trace Wood of LongGandhi.com ($1)

Why not just go ask the man himself?: Trace Wood, of the inimitable LongGandhi.com:
"I've always liked Justin Miller. A real rebel and I'm sure you'll find lots of stories about his tattoos. I watched him pitch against the Phillies and loved the movement of his fastball ... and he still has a nice slider. I'm not a big fan of [Kevin] Gregg or [Matt] Lindstrom (too many free passes) or [Henry] Owens (stuff is not that dominating) so I figure he's worth a shot."

Now would be a good time to mention that Trace has won two of the past three AL Tout Wars championships.

Julio Franco: $0 Kreutzer
Yhency Brazoban: $1 Mike Lombardo of Wise Guy Baseball
•Tony Abreu: $2 Kreutzer 2 ($1, $0)

Way to go Bobb -- I mean -- Tony!: Abreu was called up, it seems, to force Wilson Betemit into strictly pinch-hitting situations, in which he has hit three home runs. He will take at-bats away from Andy LaRoche, but doesn't stand to do much more than that.

Still, as a service to the reader, who may face a lot of confusion with all the Abreus and LaRoches, here is how it all plays out:

Bobby Abreu: Starts for the Yankees.
Tony Abreu: Will share playing time at third base with Andy LaRoche for the Dodgers.
Andy LaRoche: Dodgers stud prospect who is hitting .233 and is pinch-hit for by Wilson Betemit.
Adam LaRoche: Disappointing first baseman for the Pirates who was traded for Mike Gonzalez.
Mike Gonzalez: About to have Tommy John surgery; naturally, on Cory Schwartz's pitching staff
Adrian Gonzalez: Former first base prospect who hit his stride as a Padre

Kevin Bacon: appeared in "Footloose" with Adrian Gonzalez

Gary Majewski: $0 Scott Wilderman/John Muckler of The Roto Times
•Rob Hammock: $0 Rob Leibowitz of FantasyBaseball.com

Rob Hammock Trivia Time!: As noted by commissioner Zola: "Robby Hammock is the last player Rob Leibowitz will acquire while still single." Congratulations to both of the Robs!

Mixed Tout Wars


We had two this week, involving the first (Schechter) and second (Salfino)place teams:

•Larry Schechter (Sandlot Shrink) trades Magglio Ordonez to Craig Leshen (Ask Rotoman) for Brandon Webb.

And the rhyming Italian names made this deal:

•Mike Salfino (RotoAction.com) trades Wandy Rodriguez, Jason Jennings, Derek Jeter and Adrian Beltre to Nando Di Fino (ESPN) for Sammy Sosa and Bobby Abreu

Salfino: "I feel I stabilized my pitching staff with Tim Lincecum and Boof Bonser. I also like the Mets defense and get El Duque back to join Oliver Perez this week, so the pitchers didn't have any value to me. They and Beltre were candidates to get cut as some of my nine DL guys start coming back and claiming roster spots. I'm speculating that Abreu equals Jeter going forward. And I've believed in Sosa since March and he's a huge power upgrade over Willy Taveras, who isn't helping me compete in steals."

DiFino (As a tribute to Wade Boggs, I'm referring to myself in the third-person): I needed some average and strikeout help, and had plenty of power to spare, so I scooped up Jeter, took a gamble on Beltre and will put Wandy on my bench until he behaves. Jennings goes right to the DL, so I didn't even have to worry about the roster spot. I find Abreu maddening, but will be sad to see Sammy Sosa part from my team.


Mike Napoli: $11 Alex Cushing of MLB.com (Losing bids: $10, $4, $2)

Che buono!: To say Napoli has been "heating up" would be like saying Memorial Day "is a couple hours off from work." He entered May batting .192, and could leave it batting as high as .265. His power stroke has suddenly appeared, with three home runs in his past five games, and the 25-year-old catcher, who is obviously benefiting from having former catcher Mike Scioscia as his manager, elicited four bids in the FAAB process. Consider him this month's John Buck.

Scott Baker: $9 Dave Adler/Jock Thompson of BaseballHQ ($8, $6)
Edwin Encarnacion: $1 Schechter

"I swear I saw him playing third base, dude": It's not a ghost. Edwin Encarnacion was recalled from Triple-A after Josh Hamilton fell ill this past week, and resumed his third-base duties. His defense still drives Jerry Narron crazy, but this move offers the team flexibility in moving Ryan Freel back to the outfield and leaving Norris Hopper on the bench until Hamilton returns from his DL stint.

Pedro Feliz: $1 John Hoyos of RotoJunkie.com
Tony Gwynn, Jr.: $1 Leshen
Cha Seung Baek: $1 Hoyos
•Ryan Madson: $1 Hoyos

All you need is a dollar and a dream: With Brett Myers out, and Tom Gordon's return date up in the air, the pitcher who will get the lion's share of save for the Phillies is a crapshoot. Everyone from Antonio Alfonseca to Troy Percival has been mentioned, but the smart money (in the form of a John Hoyos bid) is on Madson. It probably speaks volumes that Alfonseca wasn't bid on in this league and that his bid winner in NL-only bemoaned the fact he had to add him to his roster, so close your eyes, plug your nose and grab Ryan Madson now, before he gets his first save.

Justin Germano: $1 Leshen
•Tyler Clippard: $1 J.P. Kastner of CREATiVESPORTS.com
Xavier Nady: $1 Kastner
Matt Morris: $1 Kastner
Trot Nixon: $1 Hoyos
Matt Diaz: $1 Hoyos

"And a partridge in a pear treeee…": John Hoyos FAABed two pitchers, two outfielders, and a Pedro Feliz this week.

Are they mixed-league worthy?

Nixon's average is almost at .300 but his power is down (only two homers), and he tends to have days off in a time-share situation.

Matt Diaz could be one of the more underrated players in the major leagues. He's hitting .350 with four homers and two steals in limited playing time. However, he has seen extended looks in left field ever since Ryan Langerhans was sent packing.

Cha Seung Baek has a 5.51 ERA, but seems to be showing signs of improvement, regaining in his control, and lowering his WHIP over his past few starts.

Pedro Feliz is no longer eligible at every position (just third base and the outfield), but he has the most home runs of this group (six to four to two) and benefits from having Barry Bonds in the lineup.

So the answers? Diaz and Nixon are definitely "yes." Feliz is "sure." Madson is "you have to if you want saves," and Baek is, "perhaps," as you stroke your chin pensively.

Alan Embree: $1 Cushing

Angel Guzman: $0 Cushing

More cushion for the Cushing: Already leading the league in saves, Cushing just can't let anyone else in. Embree seems to be the new favorite for save opportunities in Oakland, while Guzman's name has been floated as a possible Ryan Dempster replacement, if the Cubs decide to move their closer back into a starting role.

Jim Edmonds: $0 Di Fino
Fred Lewis: $0 Cushing
Yadier Molina: $0 Kastner
•Jeff Francis: $0 Salfino

So where's Ryan Braun?

On the reserve roster of Sportsline's David Gonos. Two months ago, in the auction, Gonos saw this day coming and scooped him up in the reserve round. He has held on to him ever since, and Braun's call-up leaves Homer Bailey as the leading minor league prospect still on a reserve roster in the mixed-tout leagues. So keep that in mind if you have an empty roster spot and want to stash a sure-bet rookie on the back of your bench.

Nando Di Fino is a fantasy analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at Nando@TalentedMrRoto.com