The Marlins’ decision to send Ricky Nolasco to the minors earlier in the year is fieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyhpaying tremendous dividends right now as Nolasco is leading Florida’s charge to the top of the NL East. Sunday, Nolasco continued his hot streak with 12 K over 8 shutout IP… I’ve been asked more than a few times if Tigers’ 3B Brandon Inge is a Sell High candidate. At the hot corner, he might be, but his eligibility behind the plate makes him a keeper…Chicago’s Jermaine Dye, already with 20 HR and 51 RBI, is not only one of the more consistent performers in the game, he’s also one of the most underrated in most fantasy baseball rankings… While the Rockies try to convince themselves and others that Garrett Atkins will turn things around in the second half, the fact that the third baseman’s numbers have not improved a bit while Colorado has become the NL’s hottest team is enough to make me stay away… Mike MacDougal, 5 for 5 in S opportunities since becoming Washington’s closer, is this week’s example of why you should never reach for closers in your fantasy baseball draft… Baltimore’s Matt Wieters 3 H, 1 HR performance on Sunday raised his BA to .277 during a hot streak that started on Father’s Day when I got my Wieters t-shirt from my kids… Derrek Lee and David Ortiz have spent the month of June proving that players with hand or wrist injuries need warm weather more than anything in order to return to form… Seattle’s Brandon Morrow has strung together three solid performances as he readjusts to the starting rotation… Be careful if you have Alex Rios on your fantasy baseball team. You might be inclined to try and time Rios’ hot streaks, especially now that he’s been dropped to seventh in Toronto’s order. Don’t… In St. Louis, Colby Rasmus has 10 HR and 32 RBI in limited playing time. Keep an eye on him, though, as he’s still struggling to gain Tony LaRussa’s confidence and may lose AB when Mark DeRosa returns to the lineup… Tigers’ rookie hurler Rick Porcello, after a sensational start, may be hitting a wall, as indicated by two straight tough outings. Don’t give up on him… Vladimir Guerrero returned to the Angels’ outfield this weekend after serving exclusively as the team’s DH to this point… Dan Haren has issued just 15 BB in 17 starts… In his last 43 plate appearances, Lance Berkman has reached base 25 times… Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have combined for 134 RBI to this point and the anemic Brewers have needed every one of them… Only Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire, Ralph Kiner, and Harmon Killebrew hit 300 HR in less AB than Adam Dunn, who reached the plateau this weekend…

Buy Low- With his A’s in the basement and the trade deadline approaching, look for Billy Beane to move Matt Holliday soon. A move out of Oakland’s spacious ballpark could be just what he needs… Might be your last chance for David Ortiz, as his 8 HR in June indicate his hand is all the way back…

Sell High- Now that the Padres have traded Scott Hairston, no one is left to protect Adrian Gonzalez, who had 21 BB while Hairston was on the DL… 3B Aramis Ramirez is expected to return to the Cubs’ lineup today, signaling the likely end of regular playing time for Jake Fox… Alfonso Soriano is on this list instead of the Drop Zone only because he has a recognizable name. He’s carrying a .226 BA and has been dropped to sixth in the Cubs’ order…

Grab Bag- Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera has been performing capably in the leadoff spot with a .304 BA… Ben Francisco, after posting a .141 June BA, hit .409 over the Indians’ nine game homestand… Tony Gwynn is the Padres’ only true CF and should remain in the leadoff spot for awhile… Pittsburgh’s Virgil Vasquez has turned in a quality start in each of his two starts since being called up from AAA…

Drop Zone- Just because the Yankees are obsessed with force feeding Joba Chamberlain into their starting rotation doesn’t mean you should. He can’t get out of the fifth inning… Josh Fields is out of a job as the White Sox have given Gordon Beckham the 3B spot…

Sick Bay- Kansas City’s Mike Aviles is through for the season after Tommy John surgery…Randy Johnson left his last start with a left shoulder strain…

Farm Fresh- Milwaukee’s Manny Parra, who struggled mightily early in the season, is 1-2 with a 2.92 ERA in four AAA starts since being sent down.

by Moonlight Graham

2008 NL All Fantasy Sleeper Team

No matter how much preparation goes into a Fantasy season, no matter how many numbers are crunched and analyzed, no matter how much money is spent on gathering information, no one ever wins a championship without one or two players falling into his lap through no other means than dumb luck. The rookie pitcher selected with the last pick who suddenly becomes his team’s closer, the veteran coming back from injury that lands a spot with a new team or a player who suddenly realizes his potential are every bit as important to a Roto team’s chances as the players selected in the first few rounds. Simply put, you can’t win without them. Here is the 2008 Moonlight Graham All NL Sleeper team. All of them sure to have gone late or not at all in any draft. Hope you had a few of them on your squad.

Catcher

Ryan Doumit’s time as the Pirates’ backstop in waiting seemed to have come and gone. He’d shown flashes of his potential but had been moved to other positions to make room for Ronnie Paulino. When Paulino got hurt, Doumit took over and never looked back, posting a .318 BA, 15 HR, 69 RBI season.

First Base

Don’t even try to say that you saw this year coming out of Carlos Delgado. However, if you used a throwaway farm pick on him, you and the Mets laughed all the way to the bank on the heels of his 38 HR and 115 RBI. He even scored 96 R.

Second Base

Not only did Mark DeRosa reward fantasy owners with a career year but his multi position eligibility allowed them to move the versatile Cub and his 21 HR, 87 RBI, 103 R all over the field.

Third Base

It’s only been three years since Jorge Cantu posted 117 RBI for the Rays but it seems much longer. Last year was a complete bust as he only played in 52 G. Florida took a shot on him in ’08 and ended up with a three hole hitter that rang up 29 HR and 95 RBI.

Shortstop

After having lost all of ’06 to injury and playing a mere 46 G in ‘07, Cristian Guzman came into spring training battling for the Nats’ SS job. He prevailed and had his owners smiling all year with a .316 BA and 183 H.

Outfield

Prognosticators who had the Cards at the bottom of the Central division could not have foreseen the breakout season of Ryan Ludwick who more than doubled his previous career highs; logging a .299 BA with 37 HR and 113 RBI. In Pittsburgh, Nate McLouth used his strong ’07 finish as a springboard to a career year. That his 26 HR and 94 RBI came mostly from the leadoff spot was even more remarkable. Not many players achieve the vaunted 20 HR 20 SB Daily Double. Especially not from the waiver wire, where Jayson Werth of the Phillies was likely plucked by most of his owners.

Starting Pitcher

There was a lot of buzz in Reds’ camp last spring about a rookie pitching phenom. However, while Johnny Cueto was getting all of the attention it was another rook, Edinson Volquez, who emerged as the Cincy ace with 17 W and 206 K.

Relief Pitcher

Some preseason forecasts set the Giants’ win total only slightly higher than the 41 S recorded by stopper Brian Wilson. While his 4.62 ERA was nothing to write home about, he did post 67 K in 62 IP.

Next Week: 2008 AL All Sleeper Team

By Moonlight Graham

Fantasy baseball standings: Details, Details

The first week of September usually finds only three or four fantasy baseball teams in contention.  Many of the also-rans have long since turned their attention to fantasy football, leaving all but a few scrambling for that extra point or two that could make the difference between second place and a fantasy baseball league title.  One way that you can pick up an easy point or two might be to stay on top of the aforementioned fantasy owners at the bottom of the standings.  Make sure they keep their fantasy baseball rosters current.  Even though they may have fallen out of the race long ago, they still have a bearing on the way things finish.  For instance, the eighth place team in your league might be trailing the leader by just two SB.  It then becomes incumbent upon him to replace an injured base stealer.  Unfortunately, owners buried in the standings sometimes look to keep their transaction totals down in order to save money and end up adversely affecting those in the title chase.  There is absolutely nothing more frustrating then watching a rival get a free point due to another’s negligence.

Any other miniscule point gains are garnered by old fashioned attention to detail.  Keep a watchful eye on MLB September callups, especially those made by rebuilding teams like the A’s , Giants and Nationals; all of whom may take a look at minor leaguers who could fit into their 2009 plans.

RISING

One player who jumps out as one who could be immediately helpful in the SB category is Oakland OF Najeh Davis who has already accumulated 24 SB in just 165 AB.  He registered his first 4 hit game last weekend and looks like he’ll get regular playing time throughout the rest of the season.  After spending much of the last two seasons unhappy with his role, Brett Myers has turned in three straight dominating performances for the Phils.  While he has struggled mightily for most of the year, don’t forget that he has been a 200+ K pitcher in the past.  Mark DeRosa is enjoying a career season with the Cubs and has been hot of late, recently homering in four straight games.  Raul Ibanez is staging his annual hot September in Seattle as he and Adrian Beltre seem to be the only M’s not playing out the string.

FALLING

Tigers’ 3B Carlos Guillen sat out a few games last week to rest a sore back that has been troubling him all year.  He has a mere 10 HR and only 54 RBI while not running at all on the basepaths.  While the Cubs have been marching through the NL Central, someone seems to have misplaced Derek Lee’s power bat.  The big 1B has endured a long and severe power drought.  Brandon Lyon has allowed 10 R in his last 5 1/3 IP.  With the D’Backs in a pennant race and Jon Rauch and Chad Qualls as options, Lyon is a bad outing away from being replaced.

GRAB BAG

The Rockies have chosen to keep Jorge De La Rosa in the rotation after two solid performances.  Brandon Morrow returns to Seattle after being sent down for a conversion to starter.  His outstanding K ratio could give your staff a quick boost.

DROP ZONE

Livan Hernandez has been relegated to the Rockies’ bullpen.  Aaron Heilman has been unable to step forward as the Mets’ closer and will get fewer opportunities as rosters expand.

SICK BAY

- Evan Longoria is targeting an early September return to the Rays’ lineup.  Justin Upton returns this week to the D’Backs roster having K’d 22 times in 51 rehab AB.  Reds’ hurler Johnny Cueto is suffering from elbow soreness and could miss a start.

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