Bud Norris | Houston | SP
YTD: 12.0 K/9, 4.0 K/BB, 3.00 ERA
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Baseball America called Norris the Astros’ No. 2 prospect, and he’s earned that label in 2009, putting up some nice ratios (8.4 K/9, 2.11 K/BB, 2.62 ERA) for Triple-A Round Rock. He needs to control his walks (4.0 BB/9), but otherwise he’s been one of Houston’s best minor-league arms this year. When Oswalt strained his back this week, the Astros called up Norris to start in his place. It now looks like Oswalt might not miss a start, but Houston released Russ Ortiz Thursday, so Norris could slide into that rotation spot instead.
Whatever happens, Norris should be up to stay and get regular work, but his value is obviously higher as a starter. Keeper leagues should be all over Norris, while NL-only teams deeper than 10 teams could make him a speculative pickup. With 120 innings in the minors already, he won’t see heavy usage down the stretch, but should offer strikeouts and a good shot at some wins.
Julio Lugo | St. Louis | SS
True Talent: .264/.331/.369
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .266 BA, 0.8 SB
Forgotten among the Holliday trade, Lugo may ultimately be just as important to the Cards, at least defensively. He gives them a solid glove up the middle, but what fantasy owners are interested in are his offensive skills, which aren’t significant. He’s been on fire since joining St. Louis, hitting .400/.423/.760 in his first five games, though that’s clearly not going to continue. His days of double-digit steals and cracking a .400 SLG are past, so he’s going to slip slowly into the west, but he’s got a bit of value in a strong Cardinals lineup. Ride him in the short term if you dare, but he’s best suited for NL leagues with 14 teams and deeper.
Ryan Garko | San Francisco | 1B
True Talent: .274/.348/.441
Next Week Forecast: 1.0 HR, 3 Runs, 4 RBI, .278 BA, 0.0 SB
I’ve followed the Giants’ spinning Wheel of 1B Fortune in this column, and the trade for Garko indicates he’s currently The Man at first. You might think he’d be on the short end of a platoon with lefty Ishikawa, but San Francisco didn’t trade prospect Scott Barnes for a player who’s going to hit a third of the time. Expect Garko to see action against all left-handed pitchers and a good chunk of right-handed pitchers, boosting his value considerably. Paul Singman sees him as a good add for 12-team mixed or deeper league, but I’m not quite that optimistic. True Talent pegs him as the 17th-best NL 1B in OPS; that and a shared playing time situation makes him rosterable for 12-team NL leagues and mixed leagues deeper than 15 teams.
Jon Garland | Arizona | SP
YTD: 4.0 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 4.42 ERA
True Talent: 4.4 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.62 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 Wins, 3 K, 4.54 ERA
Garland’s overall numbers this year haven’t been stellar, but he’s on a nice run, with quality starts in 7 of his last 8 starts, and a 2.92 ERA. The problem is, the anemic Arizona offense hasn’t supported him enough, and he’s only won twice in that stretch. True Talent shows you he’s not going to offer much in the way of strikeouts, and his ERA could rise a tad. He’s one of the Diamondbacks starters who’s on the trading block, but any deal is likely to come after the deadline, but playing for a better team could be just the thing to boost his value. Unless and until that happens, he’s best suited for NL-only leagues deeper than 10 teams, or the deepest of mixed leagues; in either league, he might help your ERA, but not much else.
Ronny Cedeno | Pittsburgh | SS
True Talent: .253/.302/.378
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .253 BA, 0.4 SB
Looking at Pittsburgh’s various acquisitions, you’d think Cedeno would be penciled in at starting shortstop, but Pittsburgh fans—and fantasy owners—hope that’s not the case. Not only is it a mistake to start a relative veteran on a team in the middle of a youth movement, Cedeno’s put up an unimpressive .238/.276/.339 line in his five MLB seasons. He’s decent enough with the glove, but has no business wielding a bat for either the Pirates or your fantasy team. There’s no reason to expect him to improve suddenly in Pittsburgh’s lineup, one of the few offenses in MLB that might be weaker than Seattle’s. The slight rebound that would bring him up to True Talent levels is still only good enough to make him a worthy shortstop in 18-team NL-only leagues; he’s not the pickup you want in the Pittsburgh infield.
Delwyn Young | Pittsburgh | 2B/OF
True Talent: .276/.337/.435
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .277 BA, 0.1 SB
The Pirates’ roster dump opened up opportunities for both middle infielders and outfielders, and Delwyn Young would fit either spot. He could get a long look at second base, depending on how soon Pittsburgh gives up on Cedeno and shifts Vazquez over to short. With six games at second under his belt already, Young qualifies at that spot in some leagues, which is what counts for fantasy owners, whether he ends up playing there full-time or not. What’s key is his overall playing time, and he should be getting a good chunk of time somewhere on the field, though his power potential makes him best for in one of your MI slots. He’s performing very close to True Talent levels, a good sign that he should retain his value as a MI in 10-team NL leagues or 14-team mixed leagues.
Ramon Vazquez | Pittsburgh | SS
True Talent: .254/.337/.371
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .256 BA, 0.0 SB
Ignore the OPS that Vazquez put up in Texas last year, which was almost entirely due to his red-hot first half. Instead, see him for what he is: a guy who’s going to produce adequate numbers at short, while qualifying at 2B and possibly 3B, too. The Pirates are going to play him in one of those spots most of the time; that Next Week Forecast was created before the trade removed the competition in front of him. He’s got value mostly as an NL-only SS, where he’s a good play in 12-team or deeper leagues. Much deeper mixed-league teams can take him if they must—his OPS is only 22nd best among all MLB shortstops.
Mike Adams | San Diego | RP
YTD: 10.0 K/9, 6.7 K/BB, 1.00 ERA
True Talent: 8.5 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 3.25 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.15 ERA
The big deal that everyone’s waiting for is a swap for Heath Bell, which would open the Padres’ closing job up, probably for Adams. Those eye-popping ratios Adams has put up so far have been over just 18 innings, so they’re clearly going to drop. But he’s still going to maintain some nice secondary stats, which is why he’d slide nicely into that endgame role. It’s a gamble as to whether Bell gets traded, but Adams is still going to help your ratios either way. Since he’s coming back from labrum surgery, the Padres have worked him carefully, gradually increasing his workload with no ill effects. If anything, he’s been getting better, with 12 strikeouts in his last 6.1 innings. A trade makes him an instant pickup in all leagues, but any league that counts holds should also consider him for their roster. Those strong secondary ratios and an ERA projected to be in the top 10 among NL relievers means even a speculative pickup won’t burn you.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.