As if being a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates wasn’t tough enough, there was this gemfieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyh to deal with from Bucs’ GM Neal Huntington after the latest rounds of trades stripped the franchise of most of its remaining Major League talent.  “We don’t feel like we’ve broken up the ’27 Yankees.”  Maybe not, but they’re certainly on there way to assembling the ’62 Mets.  While it is the bane of the small market team that it must eventually dump promising players that become too expensive, most still manage to be cyclically competitive.  Not the Pirates, though. They resemble the guy in your Fantasy Baseball League that buys his preview magazines on his way to the draft. During Pittsburgh’s current streak of 17 consecutive losing seasons, the Twins, A’s, Marlins, Brewers, Reds, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Rays have all managed at least one playoff appearance.  What have they done differently than the Pirates?  They’ve actually developed the prospects they’ve received in exchange for their stars.  But, in Pittsburgh, there exists a revolving door through which even young and relatively inexpensive talent is dispatched.  It is not uncommon for a struggling franchise to request the patience of its fans as it rebuilds.  Hell, watching young, exciting players earn their stripes is a lot of fun.  The Pirates, however, have stripped their fans of even that bit of enjoyment by trading away the very players they said they were building upon just last winter.  As for Huntington’s crack about the ’27 Yankees, he has a point.  However, while he may not have had this era’s equivalent of Murderer’s Row, a lineup featuring Nate McLouth, Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Doumit, Aramis Ramirez and Nyjer Morgan would absolutely be a contender in the NL Central… The White Sox acquisition of Jake Peavy smells of desperation, especially since the former Cy Young winner won’t be available for another month… Alex Gordon is back in the Royals lineup but is admittedly not at full strength, as evidenced by his sub-Mendoza BA… Ben Zobrist is now the Rays’ cleanup hitter…  With the departure of Nick Johnson to the Marlins, Washington recalled OF Elijah Dukes, who will likely see regular playing time… NL Rookie of the Month, Greg Jones of Pittsburgh, had 10 HR and just 17 RBI… Love Felipe Lopez, playing for a contract, at the top of the Brewers’ lineup… Cleveland will use the newly acquired Justin Masterson as a starter… Brandon Inge has yet to hit a dinger since the All Star break.  As predicted here, he’s tailing off but still a prime player if you can use him as a catcher… Andre Ethier, the Dodgers’ leading RBI man is now their #2 hitter…

 

BUY LOW- John Danks has raised his record to 9-7 in giving the White Sox 3 solid starts since the break… Love Orlando Cabrera’s potential for R, BA and even a few HR hitting in front of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in Minny… The Tigers skipped rookie Rick Porcello’s turn once before the break and then slotted him into the back end of the rotation afterward, essentially giving him more than two weeks off.  The rest has done him wonders, as he’s been dominant in his last two outings… Jarrod Washburn should see his W total get a nice bump now that he’s in Detroit… D’Backs OF Gerardo Parra leads all NL rookies in RBI… Adam LaRoche spent a week in Boston before returning to Atlanta, where he can resume his annual assault on the season’s second half…

 

SELL HIGH- Were it not for his HR prowess, Tampa’s Carlos Pena would be listed in the Drop Zone instead.  As it is, unless you’re desperate for power, dump his .216 BA… All Star closer, Andrew Bailey, leads AL rookies with 14 S but may not see a lot of opportunities the rest of the way if the A’s rotation continues to struggle.  Their ERA for July was 6.34…

 

GRAB BAG- With manager Dave Trembley souring on Melvin Mora, Ty Wigginton will likely get regular playing time at 3B… The Royals recalled Kyle Davies, who struggled early in the season but went 4-2, 2.14 in AAA Omaha… Sean O’Sullivan, fresh off a AAA no-hitter, may be an option to supplant Joe Saunders in the Angels’ rotation. He’s 3-0, 3.72 for Los Angeles this year…  Rangers’ rookie Neftali Feliz, he of the 100 MPH fastball, will be used out of the pen and could get a look in the ninth inning if Frank Francisco continues to deal with health issues… Jason Frasor is Toronto’s first choice as closer with Scott Downs on the DL… Love Nick Johnson in the middle of the Marlins’ order.  He’s a great OBP option…

 

DROP ZONE- Milwaukee’s Braden Looper has become a BP pitcher since the break, going winless while watching his ERA balloon to 5.16… Pull the plug on Detroit’s Armando Gallaraga before Jim Leyland does and chalk up last season’s numbers as a fluke… Minnesota’s Glen Perkins gave the Twinkies one solid start after coming off the DL and then reverted back to his struggling form in his next outing.  Can’t wait on a guy with a 5.42 ERA that’s on the rise… Melvin Mora has lost his starting job in Baltimore and has started whining about a lack of respect from the manager…

 

SICK BAY- Kansas City’s Gil Meche may return from a back problem this weekend.  Remember, though, back is a four letter word… Blue Jays’ stopper Scott Downs is on the 15 day DL with a foot injury… Carlos Zambrano left his last start with a bad back, something that will likely continue until he addresses his large front… Astros’ OF Willy Taveras missed four starts with a bad wrist…  Milwaukee place OF Corey Hart on the DL after an appendectomy…

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

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