While Major League Baseball marks its trade deadline tomorrow afternoon at 4 fieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyhPM, many Fantasy Baseball owners have a little more time to digest the MLB moves and act accordingly.  In the Hausier’s Krowedum Fantasy Baseball League, owners have until August 5th before trades are no longer an option for improvement.  The deals started last week as players like Roy Halladay, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard turned up on the rosters of the teams at the top, acquired from those out of the running.   With many fantasy leagues facing deadlines over the next few weeks, it seems like a good time to discuss trade strategy and protocol from both sides of the transaction.

Contenders should always target statistical categories when making a trade and factor potential monetary gains into a player’s valuation.  For instance, if you find that there is potential for a bump of three points in a tightly bunched ERA category and the prize for winning your league is $500, you should give up significantly more for Joel Pineiro or Jarrod Washburn than you would have back in April or May.  They may not be players worthy of a high draft pick or stud keeper under normal circumstances but they are when you can win.  Don’t underbid.

Be alert for peripheral deals that can help you by hurting your opposition.  Earlier this week in the HK League, Bobby Carr found his Skippy Shakes looking up at the Shady Gradys.   Carr saw that he had a big lead in HR and was locked into 6th place in SB; 20 behind and 20 ahead of his closest rivals.  The Gradys however had a slim 2 SB lead over the Four Horsemen.  As Carr is just 6 points behind the second place Gradys in the overall standings, he sent Alex Rios to the Horsemen, hoping the addition would vault the Horsemen to the top of the category and take a valuable point away from a rival.  A deal like this can be more valuable to you than an acquisition.

If you’re back in the pack and find yourself selling instead of buying, act quickly, as the contenders will be willing to give up only so much and you could be left holding the bag.  Such is the case for Ken Jankowski of GMoney, who came out of the HK Fantasy Baseball draft with a team full of studs that would soon end up on the DL.  Disappointed, Kenny set out to improve draft position for next year.  The problem was, the four contenders had already made a number of deals for high draft picks and there wasn’t a lot left.  He moved Alex Rodriguez for a 2nd rounder and as of this writing was still holding Mark Teixeira without a deal in sight.

Finally, if you are a seller, don’t just turn your attention to your Fantasy Football Draft as soon as the deadline passes.  Keep an eye on your team as it is your responsibility to help maintain the integrity of the standings.  You don’t have to grab free agents every day, especially if it’ll cost you money, but you owe it to the rest of the league to replace injured player

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Buy Low- Don’t let Cliff Lee’s record fool you.  After a rough April, he’s spent the last three months throwing every bit as well as he did in winning the Cy Young last year.  Now that he’s in Philly, look for the W to pile up… Despite a seven game win streak, Rockies’ starter Aaron Cook remains a free agent in some mixed leagues.  Even if he’s not, see if his owner’s been paying attention… Cole Hamels has put three strong starts together since the break and might be a nice deadline pickup for your squad… Might be your last chance to

Sell High- The Orioles are actively looking to move George Sherrill with the Dodgers as one of the destinations.  With Jonathan Broxton entrenched in the closer’s role, Sherrill would no longer be a source for S… Tampa’s James Shields is winless in his last 7 starts… Rangers’ 2B Ian Kinsler has struggled for two months while his BA has dropped to .242.  If you’re NOT in a keeper league, he’d bring a boat load of draft picks… Clint Barmes’ slump has gotten so bad that Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy recently dropped him from 2nd to 8th in the batting order…

Grab Bag- Cubs’ C Koyie Hill has started every game since Geovany Soto went down with an injury. OF/3B is his only backup… Bronson Arroyo has put together quite a few solid starts over the last two months and could see his value leap if he’s traded to a contender… This might be your last chance to pick up the red hot Josh Willingham. Hope you read Moonlight two weeks ago…

Drop Zone- No room at the inn for Ben Francisco, who moves from the Indians’ OF to the Phillies’ bench… Magglio Ordonez needs just 130 plate appearances for a 2010 option for $18 million kicks in.  The way he’s hitting, can’t see the Tigers allowing that to happen… Royals’ reliever, Juan Cruz, is 0-2 with two blown saves since the All Star break… Despite the Angels’ success, Joe Saunders continues to struggle with a 6.58 ERA over his last 11 starts… Chad Tracy is no longer an option in even the deepest of NL only leagues as the D’Backs look to the future…

Sick Bay- Carlos Beltran estimates he is 2-3 weeks away from a return to the Mets lineup after sitting out with a bone bruise in his knee… Yanks’ hurler Chien Ming Wang will undergo season ending surgery, as will Twins’ starter Kevin Slowey… Seattle 3B Adrian Beltre is expected back from a shoulder injury in two weeks… Houston’s Lance Berkman is on the 15 day DL with a strained calf…

fieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyhIf I may, I’d like to get up on my Bullpen Soapbox again. Last week, the Royals lost three straight to the Rays after taking leads into the eighth inning. In all three games, premier closer Joakim Soria was warming up but was never summoned. Why? Because it was the eighth inning, that’s why. Forget the matchups, it was the eighth inning. Manager Trey Hillman explained that he didn’t want to push Soria, who’s had Tommy John surgery, by asking him to get five outs. Fine. But if he can only get three, why do they have to be in the ninth? Why can’t he start the eighth? Why can’t he come into the middle of an inning? Why does no one else ask these questions? Tony LaRussa strikes again…It’s interesting that the ineptitude of the Mets, Marlins and Braves may be the reason behind Roy Halladay remaining in Toronto. Since the Phillies emerged as the front runner for Halladay’s services, they’ve opened up a huge lead over the aforementioned teams and may now feel that they don’t need Halladay… A word of caution to fantasy owners patting themselves on the back for selecting All Star hurler, Jason Marquis: He is 60-43 lifetime in the first half and 30-37 in the second half… Despite hammering the ball at every opportunity, Jake Fox may see his AB reduced because he is serving as the Cubs’ backup C. His three hits Sunday, including his 5th HR should be an indication to Chicago that they need to find another backup… Dodgers’ closer, Jonathan Broxton, will deal with a toe injury for the rest of the year. He missed a few games recently but will not go on the DL. Off season surgery is possible… Cardinals’ hurler Joel Pineiro, the latest to receive a career makeover from pitching coach Dave Duncan. He hasn’t walked a batter in over 33 IP and has his ERA below 3.00… Jeremy Guthrie gave the Orioles a strong 8 IP in his first start since July 7th. He had been suffering from a viral infection… The Red Sox, disappointed by their lack of production at the top of the lineup, will continue to shuffle J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in the leadoff spot… Look for the A’s to run more over the course of the second half in order to create some offense. They could be a cheap source of SB… Have to give credit where it’s due. Despite terrible reviews in this column, (and peripheral stats to back them up), Detroit closer Fernando Rodney is 20-20 in S.

Buy Low- Felipe Lopez, traded this week from Arizona to Milwaukee, should become a fixture at the top of the Brewers’ lineup as they search for production from anyone not named Braun or Fielder… Yunel Escobar, despite a few trips to manger Bobby Cox’s doghouse, is leading the Braves in RBI… Royals’ hurler Luke Hochevar struck out nine on Sunday and seems to be completely over his rough start. Right now, he’s throwing better than Zach Greinke…

Sell High- In Cleveland, Kerry Wood’s 5.23 ERA is not the biggest problem faced by his owners. Wood has just 16 save opportunities to this point. Deal him to someone desperate for saves but not all that attentive to statistics… Red Sox OF Jason Bay is still leading the AL in RBI but has seen his BA drop to .254. He might bring a bunch of help in a trade… While still carrying a respectable .285 BA, Jorge Cantu has seen his power numbers fall…

Grab Bag- San Diego called up top pitching prospect, Mat Latos who gave up 2 R on 3 H over 4 IP in his debut. Latos was 8-1 over two Minor League levels with a miniscule 1.36 ERA… The Twins, looking for a little offense from the 2B position, signed Mark Grudzielanek, who might be a nice addition in an AL only format… There may not be a hotter hitter in the majors then Seattle OF Franklin Gutierrez. He’s a FA in many mixed leagues… With Frank Francisco on the DL, Texas will give most of its save opportunities to C.J. Wilson

Drop Zone- What does Dusty Baker have against Aaron Harang? He ruined him last year by using him in relief on a “throw day” and tossed him right back into the mud this year by bringing him back after a two hour rain delay; just to qualify for a win. Hope Harang enjoyed it as he hasn’t had one since. He’s 0-6, 5.08 in his last ten starts… In Florida, Andrew Miller, the Marlins’ prize in the Miguel Cabrera deal, just does not look ready for the big leagues… The Brewers sent Mat Gamel down to AAA to make room for Felipe Lopez… It’s time to get rid of Boston’s Nick Green in your AL only league as Jed Lowrie will get most of the time at SS now that he’s healthy…

Sick Bay- Reds’ C Ramon Hernandez finally succumbed to the pain in his knee and had arthroscopic surgery this week… Astros’ 1B/OF Lance Berkman has missed a number of recent games due to a strained calf… Joel Zumaya is out indefinitely with pain in his right shoulder… Kansas City’s Gil Meche remains on the DL with a bad back… The Twins’ Kevin Slowey, eligible to come off the DL, is still not ready… Tampa P Scott Kazmir is still experiencing cramping in his left forearm…

Farm Fresh- Perhaps establishing himself as the proverbial “4A” player, Ian Snell has dominated since being sent down to AAA by Pittsburgh. He’s 2-1, 0.34 in four starts after going 2-8, 5.36 with the Pirates…

by Professor Wagstaff

Well, here we are.  The first NFL training camp opens on Saturday in Buffalo, Horsefeathersperhaps because the Bills can’t wait to immerse themselves in the glow and warmth of newly acquired Terrell Owens.  Whatever the reason, the first whistle will also serve to alert Fantasy Owners that their drafts are just a few weeks away.  In most of those drafts, running backs will dominate most of the first two rounds so; the position seems as good a spot as any to start our 2009 previews.

Fantasy Football Running Backs

Studs

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson carried the ball 363 times last year.  363!  The NFL’s leading rusher probably won’t carry the same load this season but will still be the first pick in your draft… Michael Turner emerged from LT’s shadow in San Diego and became a superstar in Atlanta.  He ran for 220 YDS on Opening Day and never looked back. Ironically, he’ll likely go before Tomlinson in most Fantasy drafts…  It took a year but DeAngelo Williams finally showed the panthers the talent they expected when they drafted him.  His 1,500 YDS were a team record and 20 TD boosted him to an elite Fantasy ranking…  Jaguars’ star Maurice Jones Drew ran for less YDS than anyone in this group but made up for it with better than 500 YDS receiving.  Look for his rushing total to increase in ’09 as he’ll no longer be splitting time with the departed Fred Taylor… Not a bad rookie year for Matt Forte, who quickly became the focal point of the Bears’ offense.  The addition of Jay Cutler won’t hurt him at all since he’s probably Chicago’s best receiver, as well.

Stars

Talk to Fantasy owners that drafted Marion Barber in the first or second round in ‘08 and they’ll tell you they were somewhat disappointed.  Slowed in the final four games by a toe injury, Barber’s production fell off.  Healthy now, don’t look past the fact that he still managed 1,300 total YDS and 10 TD… Frank Gore, slowed in the latter part of the season by a concussion, had 1,500 total YDS and 8 TD.  A new O Coordinator with a reputation for running the ball will give the 49’ers star a huge boost…  Houston’s Steve Slaton went undrafted in many leagues last year (including mine) and was happily grabbed as a FA early on.  He’ll be the starter out of the gate this year so, expect bigger numbers… Brian Westbrook suffered through a litany of injuries last season yet, the Eagles star still had 14 TD and 1,300 YDS.  He’s had off season surgery on his ankle and knee so, be careful but the risk reward for drafting him is huge.

Sleepers

How does one of the greatest RB in the history of the game end up on a Fantasy sleeper list?  When he’s coming off an injury riddled season and he’s over 30, that’s when.  San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson is Wagstaff’s pick for steal of the draft in ’09 as he’ll probably go late second or early third round in a year where he’ll show everyone how great he is when healthy… Injuries and the emergence of LeRon McLain made for a tough rookie year for the Ravens’ Ray Rice.  However, McLain will be moved to fullback while Rice will split time with Willis McGahee…  We’re going out on a limb here with Arizona’s Beanie Wells, as he’s slated to split time with Tim Hightower.  The thought, however, is that Wells has more breakaway potential; enough to give him the bulk of the carries and some late round value… Given the history, how can you not want a Denver RB?  Knowshon Moreno will quickly become the Broncos’ go to guy, especially as they gently work Kyle Orton into the offense.

Slippers

A decent sleeper pick in ’08, LenDale White became nothing more than a short yardage specialist for the Titans as the season wore on with Chris Johnson taking the reins.  Don’t get sucked in by his TD total… Age and the Browns’ ineptitude have conspired to rob Jamal Lewis of his Fantasy value.  His totals last year were his lowest in four years and the Browns don’t look like they’ve worked out too many of their problems…, Willis McGahee seems to have hit the infamous RB wall; and the Ravens apparently think so, too.  They’re looking to work Ray Rice into the rotation… The Colts’ Joseph Addai was a first rounder in most Fantasy leagues last year but struggled mightily.  So much so, that Indy used its first pick on Donald Brown, who will definitely take touches from Addai.

Stiffs

  Larry Johnson has asked the Chiefs for a trade and will lose touches to Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith… In Tampa Bay, Earnest Graham is returning from an ankle injury that cost him the last five weeks of an already disappointing season while battling the newly signed Derrick Ward for playing time… In Baltimore, LeRon McLain became a viable option when Willis McGahee went down.  However, he’s being moved to FB, making him the Ravens’ third option at best.

Fantasy Football Picks: Wagstaff’s Top 20 Running Backs

  1. Adrian Peterson                            
  2. DeAngelo Williams                    
  3.  Matt Forte                                         
  4. Michael Turner                             
  5. Maurice Jones Drew                  
  6. Steve Slaton                                    
  7. LaDainian Tomlinson               
  8. Brian Westbrook                         
  9. Marion Barber                              
  10. Frank Gore                                     
  11. Steven Jackson
  12. Clinton Portis   
  13. Brandon Jacobs   
  14. Knowshon Moreno
  15. Thomas Jones
  16. Marshawn Lynch
  17. Ryan Grant
  18. Joseph Addai
  19. Kevin Smith
  20. Willie Parker                                    

I blame Joe Torre. Ever since he took five American League shortstops to the 2002 All Star game in order to accommodate his own, Derek Jeter, managers fieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyhon both sides have deemed it their right to favor their players over the rest of the league. This year, however, Joe Maddon and Charlie Manuel took it to a new level. Maddon managed to squeeze his entire infield on to the AL team, naming 1B Carlos Pena as a replacement for 2B Dustin Pedroia and ignoring Ian Kinsler. Manuel not only nominated an undeserving Shane Victorino for the fan voting that would determine the NL’s last player but then named him as the starting CF when Carlos Beltran bowed out. The problem with this baseball nepotism is that, now, the All Star game determines home field advantage in the playoffs. By allowing the league managers to act like Little League fathers, MLB is compromising the integrity of the process while potentially putting one of the League Champions at a disadvantage heading into the Fall Classic… With Geovany Soto on the DL, Jake Fox becomes the Cubs’ backup catcher … The Marlins will continue to alternate Leo Nunez and Dan Meyer to close games while Matt Lindstrom is on the DL… Milwaukee skipper Ken Macha was thrilled with Manny Parra’s first outing since returning from the minors, especially his confidence… While David Ortiz has been heating up, he has only managed 1 HR on the road… ChiSox starter Clayton Richard has a 10.80 ERA over list last 5 starts and will be given one post-break chance to stay in the rotation… The Royals will welcome 3B Alex Gordon and SS Yuniesky Betancourt back from rehab assignments as early as Friday… The Mariners unexpectedly shipped Brandon Morrow to the minors and may bring him back the next time they need a fifth starter on July 25th.

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As Fantasy owners prepare for the second half, let’s take a look at some of the players who’ll contribute to that championship run and some others who’ll serve as roadblocks.

CATCHER- Colorado’s Chris Iannetta has struggled through an injury plagued first half, as have many who participated in the WBC. However, his power numbers are all ahead of last year’s breakout pace. Roll the dice that he’ll stay healthy. Houston’s Pudge Rodriguez has reverted to the disastrous form that got him waived in Detroit. Swinging at everything, he has just 11 BB in 245 AB while his BA has dipped to .245. It’ll get worse the rest of the way.

FIRST BASE- Adam LaRoche of the Pirates is simply and inexplicably a late season stat machine. He’s averaged 24 HR and 88 RBI over the last three seasons with the bulk of those numbers coming after the break. That’s 12 HR and 50 RBI probably sitting on your waiver wire. After a hot start, Adrian Gonzalez has faded as pitchers refuse to throw him anything in the strike zone. Now he’s pressing, as evidenced by his .250 BA. If the Padres can’t protect him, he’s worth moving in your Fantasy League.

SECOND BASE- Inserted into the third spot in Seattle’s order, look for a big second half from this 25 year old Jose Lopez who’s on pace for career highs in HR and RBI. Don’t expect the Angels to be too patient with Howie Kendrick. With no pop, his BA was his only asset and that’s now hovering around the .240 level.

THIRD BASE- For the same reason telling you to stay away from Adrian Gonzalez, you should take a look at Kevin Kouzmanoff. The Padres’ third sacker has benefited from batting ahead of Gonzalez and fashioned a hot streak that has raised his RBI total to 47. While San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval has had a wonderful season to this point, he’s likely to hit a wall around the 400 AB mark in his first full season; especially with that body. He’d bring a lot in a trade right now. (Disregard these remarks if he’s eligible @ C in your league.)

SHORTSTOP- J.J. Hardy has one great half for the Brewers every year. After his putrid performance to this point, the bet here is that he finishes strong. He’s had three multi hit games in his last seven. Does anyone really think that the Astros’ Miguel Tejada, at his unconfirmed, advanced age, can continue at this clip for the rest of the year? I don’t. Move him now.

OUTFIELD- B.J. Upton spent most of the first two months working his way back from wrist surgery. He hit .324 in June and will probably top 60 SB. Don’t forget his power surge in last year’s post season, either. In Washington, the Nats have finally sorted their OF situation and Josh Willingham has taken full advantage. He’s on a tear right now and has a .419 OBP. Michael Cuddyer is healthy again in Minnesota and looks very much like the guy with 109 RBI in 2006. The Indians’ Grady Sizemore will need elbow surgery in the off season. With his BA sagging and the Tribe in the AL Central cellar, it’s possible they’ll pull the plug on his season at some point. Adam Jones is another young sensation who’s a good bet to hit the wall at some point in the second half. He’s been terrific so far for the Orioles and would bring a boatload of help in a trade. Chris Young teased the D’Backs a few years ago with his 32 HR 27 SB debut season. They’re almost completely out of patience with his .196 BA, however, and you should be, too.

STARTING PITCHER- Look for John Lackey to reclaim his dominant style after the break as he’s been slowly but surely rounding into form over his last few starts for the Angels A few weeks ago we warned that Aaron Harang could be in trouble after Dusty baker brought him back following a one hour rain delay. A similar gaffe by the Reds’ manager last year sent Harang spiraling downward. Since that column, Harang has posted a 7.00 ERA.

RELIEF PITCHER- One of the top relievers in the game last year, Joakim Soria is still relatively unknown outside of Kansas City. He’s fresh off the DL and fling under the radar. Grab him. Kevin Gregg lost the closer’s job twice while he was with the Marlins and hasn’t exactly lit things on ire for the Cubs. Don’t get caught with him on your roster when the meltdown comes.

Sick Bay- Geovany Soto could miss up to a month with a strained oblique… Jonathan Broxton pulled out of the All Star game because of an injured toe and could be out through the weekend… Matt Cain, another no show in St. Louis because of a bruised forearm, should be able to make his first start after the break… Royals’ starter Gil Meche has been bothered by back problems all year and was removed from his last start in the 4th inning… Kevin Slowey may not be ready to return from a sprained wrist when he’s eligible to come off the DL… If Justin Duchscherrer does return to the A’s this season, it’ll be as a reliever.

HorsefeathersThe calendar says it’s early July, time for most to enjoy a summer that is just beginning.  For an ever increasing contingent of Fantasy Football players, however, the calendar tells them there’s three weeks until training camps open as they count down the days of summer in anticipation of the coming football season.   The Fantasy preview magazines have hit the stands, there are fantasy rankings to consider and draft cheat sheets to be written.  There is also the very important business of deciding where to house your online fantasy football league and what kind of players should be a part of it.

In its infancy, Fantasy Football appealed to its participants for a number of reasons.  It allowed them to pit their knowledge of the game against one another, compete for cash prizes and stay connected with friends.  Back in the day, anyone that wanted to play fantasy football had to first assemble at least nine others with a common passion; not always an easy task. Next, one of the members needed to agree to be the “stat guy”, diving into the NFL summaries each Monday morning in order to update the league’s standings.  Weekly transactions became problematic if league owners were remiss in phoning in their lineups.  Not a perfect system but, all in all, better than the alternative: no league at all.

Before the advent of online fantasy football, many who wished to be participants found themselves on the outside looking in.  Simply put, if you couldn’t find enough guys to play, you couldn’t play either.  Until CBSSportsline, Yahoo and ESPN came to the rescue.  Now, individuals have the ability to link up with each other regardless of their geographic location and experience the same enjoyment as those in a friends’ league.  With the new technology, however, comes a number of choices to be made regarding statistics, rankings and drafts.

Of the three, I prefer CBSSportsline.  While free leagues are offered, their premium leagues offer quite a bit more than Yahoo and ESPN for the fee charged.  Mock drafts, player updates, rankings, cheat sheets, injury reports roster grids and a player comparison tool are all featured on a site more easily navigated than its competitors.  YAHOO and ESPN offer more than enough to satisfy the Fantasy Football Fanatic and do so mostly at no cost.  The one thing each has over CBS is the ability to tailor free friends’ leagues, something not available on CBS,

Finally, for Mock Drafts, the pick here is Mock Draft Central, as it offers free signup for once daily drafts and membership options that range from monthly to yearly.  Essentially, for a few bucks, you can sign up for one month in July and get unlimited mocks until your draft in August.  Also, members are allowed to create drafts, giving you an opportunity to simulate the draft circumstances that exist around your own tailored leagues.

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